Friday, June 28, 2013

Learning Joy

Wanna know my favorite thing about joy? That it comes from God. Not from circumstances, not from possessions, not from people. Which means that mere circumstances, possessions (or lack thereof) and people CAN’T take joy away.
It is a fruit produced when living in the Spirit. It is a gift given by God.

I met a lady recently who didn’t have much in this life, except for the beautiful hope of salvation in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Even without the best circumstances or possessions, she had a remarkably sincere, peaceful joy that I’ve been struggling in prayer to ask for since I met her.
She is a perfect example of what Paul prays in Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” She was abounding, and I long to abound as well.

Here’s what I know and believe and am asking for faith to believe more and more:
That my dear Savior, Jesus has called me to abide in His love by obeying His commands, and promises that His joy will be in me and my joy will be full. (From John 15)

This means that wherever I am, with whatever and whomever, when I am abiding in Him, I will experience the joy I’m called to have in Phil 4:4- “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” How beautiful is that?

This Summer, I believe I’ve been tested/am being tested to reveal if I have this abiding joy all the way to the deepest part of my soul- not just knowledge about it in my head and a mouth that says I believe it. Some of the tests, I’ve passed. Others, I’ve needed to heart-check and retake. God is refining me.

God has called me to participate in wonderful things for His kingdom. It is my responsibility to make sure my joy is coming not from the wonderful things for God’s kingdom, but from the God who called me to those things. (So, when the wonderful things change to other wonderful things, the joy is still there... you see?!)

God is so gracious and faithful to me as I learn and relearn truths from His Word. 
I’m sure I’ll experience downhearted days every once in a while, but as I’m abiding in Jesus, there should be many, many joy-filled days for every downhearted one. 
Thank God for His provision for us:
You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Abiding in His presence,

Friday, June 7, 2013

All Over the Place

Today, I was out running errands for only an hour and it was astounding to me how many expressions of blatant selfishness I saw- even more than normal, whether by drivers on the road or customers in stores. But not only that, watching the rude reactionary responses of those they came in contact with was absolutely disheartening.
It caused me to do my own personal heart-check, to look at my actions. Are they self-serving or selfless? How are my responses to others selfish actions? Do I respond in love and patience, or react with ugly thoughts and actions?

Honestly, at one point I found myself thinking ill of a complete stranger whose words to me had been uncalled for and rude. I immediately was convicted of how my attitude reflected not a heart set on God, but a heart bent on self.
I asked God for forgiveness and became more intentional about living love and hopefully being light to the people around me for the rest of my trip.

It really felt like I was weaving in and out of scenes from a movie as I watched broken people interact with other broken people in a very broken way over and over again.

It brought to my mind the verses I have been studying with our World Changers team:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.              Philippians 2:1-11

That’s the beautiful way life is supposed to be lived- in harmony with one another, considering others more significant than ourselves, looking out for others’ interests above our own to the glory and praise of Jesus Christ our Lord and God our Father.

I was so profoundly convicted by how easy it is for me to slip into the ever-popular attitude of our culture: entitled,  “me” focused, looking out for number “1”. Our Enemy tries to feed us the lie, “If I don’t look out for myself, no one will.”
But God teaches us very differently. His way says, “As part of loving and serving Me, everyone should look out for everyone else. Then, everyone will be taken care of.”

If I am looking out for you, and you’re looking out for me, we’re both being looked out for. That’s the mended way God has graciously given us to live in this broken world.

I feel I’m rambling a bit, but just hang with me for a few more seconds…
Something developed in the minutes between my errand running and my writing this post. A very dear friend and brother in Christ passed away. My heart is full of aches to know that I will not see him anymore on this side of eternity, but after all I’ve seen out in the world today, I’m rejoicing in the fact that He is free from this brokenness and I’m also rejoicing in the legacy he leaves behind.
I can hardly think of another person who more beautifully looks out for the interests of others than he did. Whether it was offering encouragement just because, leading others to know Christ in a deeper way, or serving in whatever capacity was needed, he continually put Jesus first and put others above his own self. I miss him excruciatingly and I cherish his memory.

I am inspired, in light of my errand running, the Word of Truth that the Holy Spirit brought to my remembrance, and my dear friend’s passing to strive all the harder to keep my eyes focused on God and keep my actions selfless toward others so that my legacy might one day be a beautiful example of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of this broken human being.

God showed up all over the place in my life today.
And I just thought I’d share.


Friday, March 29, 2013


Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”... And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. Matthew 27:45-46,50-51

One of my most cherished images from Scripture is when the temple veil tore in two. When Jesus received the wrath of God as punishment for sin in your and my stead, he created a way for us to be in the presence of the Holy God. Before Christ’s death, the temple veil separated nearly all men, save a select group of Levites, from directly entering the presence of God in the Holy of Holies. The beauty and significance of the massive woven cloth veil ripping apart is anchored in that history. Jesus is enough. No more need we offer blood sacrifice for our sins. No more need we send someone else to offer that sacrifice to God on our behalf. We have direct access to the Father through the completed work of the Son.

“Therefore...we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” (Hebrews 10:19-20)

Today, I’ve been meditating on Romans 5.

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We have been given such a marvelous gift. It is for all who will believe.
Be blessed this Resurrection weekend, in the knowledge and hope that Christ has completely paid the debt for our sins. God’s wrath has already been poured out. It is finished. We are justified.

 I am forever grateful that Christ took my place and that He offers eternal life in the presence of God in place of the eternal death and separation I deserve. I cannot even describe the depth of the gratitude, love and awe within me as I reflect on these truths. “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor 9:15)

Looking forward to Sunday, when I will celebrate the day He defeated death and rose to life again,

Monday, March 11, 2013

Flashback to HS

Pastor Brian’s sermon yesterday triggered countless memories from the times I buried myself in ( and prayed out) the Psalms of Ascents during my High School years.

Here are just four of the many memories I’ve been reflecting on:

I remember saying Psalm 121 over and over to myself during the hardest moments of medical uncertainty, choosing to believe my help comes from the LORD, and my keeper didn’t slumber nor did he sleep. He was in the midst of my trials, providing shade at my right hand.

I remember hearing Psalm 124 recited with deep conviction by a dear sister in Christ, “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side- let Israel now say- if it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us, they would have swallowed us up alive... Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken and we have escaped! Our help is in the name of the LORD.” These words were the proclamation of my heart through many ins and outs and ups and downs.

I remember when God penned a melody in my heart for Psalm 130, so that I could sing his own words to him. My heart simultaneously overflowed in awe of His amazing forgiveness and redemption, and begged, “Hear my voice, let your ears be attentive to my pleas for mercy!”.

I remember when God revealed to me in an overwhelming way that as youth from around Houston gathered together in my home church, we were living out Psalm 134, standing by night in the house of the LORD, lifting up our hands to bless the LORD. Getting to speak those words over our gathering was an incredible privilege.

There are so many other instances where the Psalms of Ascents impacted my life. I honestly don’t know how, or IF I would have gotten through my High School years without the truth from these passages of Scripture.

Take a moment to read some Scripture for yourself and worship the Author of it all. He is amazing indeed!

God is so faithful and His Word is such a firm foundation and refuge for my soul.


P.S. If you'd like, you can watch/listen to the sermon at just as soon as it goes up :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Plans? What Plans?

Were I to show you my calendar/planner for the year 2013, it would be emptier than it’s been in a long time on a new year’s day. Usually I know some summer plans, some travel plans, some something. But at this point this year I know literally NOTHING for sure other than some general assumptions and my new ministry start date- one week from today. 

It got me to thinking this morning, how I wonder what God sees when He looks at my planner. Does he see right through my plans, to the ones He’s made?
I realized that, while my book might be empty, His sure isn’t. He has a plan, He’s numbered my days. His planner for me is full of just the right amount of investments, places, people, activities, ministries and even those tricky crossroads that come up every once in a while. He has designed a year that, should I chose to follow, will grow me and bless others.
It’s somehow comforting to picture my planner already full of the things He planned for me, and it’s only my job to seek them out and accomplish them through His strength in me. I know He doesn’t play hide and seek or do any smoke-and-mirrors tricks. He will be where He says He is. He will do what He says He will do. No tricks, no mistakes, no “I’m running late”s. Because that’s not who He is.

Last night my heart fell on a sweet portion of scripture, where John recorded Jesus’ words of comfort and instruction to His closest friends, His disciples. He spent time painting a picture of the glorious place where He was going to prepare a place for those who put their trust in Him. He reinforced His promise to come back and receive unto Himself those who belong to Him. He promised they would do works greater than what He had done, that the Father would be glorified through the power of the Son in them. He promised a Helper to be in and work in them until He returns. He defined all over again the way to recognize those who love Him - if they keep His commandments. He promised that the Helper would teach them and remind them of all He had said. (found in John 14) John 14- ESV

And then, he gave these beautiful words, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I will come to you.’ If you loved me you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” (John 14:27-31; emphasis mine)

He might not have shared with them, “Next monday, you will wake up and have a coffee with so-and-so, read such-and-such material, attend this-and-that.” But He did say, “I am going to the Father by the way which He has ordained, no matter if it looks like the ruler of the world (Satan) has triumphed. Until I return, I leave with you my peace. Keep the commandments I have spoken unto you, for it is the evidence of your love for myself and the Father. You will have a Helper, the Spirit of Truth, to remind you of that which I have spoken. And you will do greater things than I have done, if you ask it in my name. For I desire that the Father be glorified in me, through you.”




The craziest thing, is that this doesn’t just apply to Jesus’ disciples. It applies to all who love God and are called according to His purpose! That means me, and hopefully you as well!
 He mapped out the “schedule” for our lives and even threw in some bonus promises until the calendar He spoke of reaches His return.

And, I don’t know if you caught it, but HE SET THE EXAMPLE. He wasn’t just speaking at us, He was about to demonstrate following God’s will and showing our love, as He moved ever-closer to giving up His life on the cross. 

What a leader to follow this year. What a shepherd to guide. What a blessed Savior to worship.

My heart often comes back to Jesus’ promise found later in this sermon, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”(John 16:33)

So dear friends, take heart! So, my own soul, take heart! He has overcome this world. We serve a mighty God. We do not walk alone. He has great things planned for us to do this year. Things that bring Him glory and renown.

As for me, I’ll start with today. I'll do my best listen for the Spirit’s leading and forge ahead into the wild beyond that is twenty-thirteen. I want my schedule to say this, when you boil it all down in a big pot: Bethany loves God. 

Happy and Blessed New Year to you all,