Cut the chain

I don’t know who told you you were dumb or stupid. I don’t know know who told you you were worthless and wouldn’t amount to anything. I don’t know who told you you were ugly or fat.

I don’t know who told you these things. But I know this. You most certainly are not any of those things.

You are loved. You are precious. You are beautiful. You have a Father who loves you, a Father who, though He abides in the heavens, is yet right beside you.

It’s time to cut the chain link on the lies you’ve believed for so long. Each time you choose to believe the truth, a link falls. Klink.

God is love. Klink. And Love doesn’t lie. Klink.

Ellie Holcomb – As Sure as the Sun

Blessings,

Angie signature

Read it again

My family and I attended our church’s Good Friday evening service. Though it is Easter, and Easter happens every year, the service is never the same. It’s one of the things I appreciate the most about our pastor. He strives diligently to make every year’s message powerful, to make it fresh and new. He didn’t disappoint this year, either.

Pastor Dave took us “From the Garden to the Tomb,” reading from the book of Luke. With passages on each page of the service booklet, we intentionally reflected on the last hours of Jesus’ life. Each scripture reading ended with the opportunity to reflect. These simple, but profound questions lent much to the service.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

When have you fallen asleep on Jesus? (Luke 22:39-46

What fears cause you to distance yourself from Jesus? (Luke 22:47-54)

Under what circumstances are you tempted to deny Jesus? (Luke 22:54b-62)

Reflect upon Jesus’ courage and commitment. (Luke 22:63-23:25)

Reflect upon Jesus’ willingness to forgive. (Luke 23:26-38)

Reflect upon your response to Jesus. (Luke 23:39-45)

Luke 23:55 “The women…followed…and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.” (Luke 23:47-55)

As I read along with the passage from Luke 22, a passage I’ve read many times before, verse 43 struck me. “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Here is Jesus, praying, asking God to remove the difficult circumstances He was in. Here is Jesus, struggling with what God had asked Him to do. Here is Jesus, needing strength to face what’s ahead. And God provides. An angel appears to him and strengthens him.

My word, if Jesus himself needed “outside” strength, then why on earth do we try so often to go about dealing with the tough stuff of our lives in our own strength? Jesus, who is God, needed help. He was without strength for what He faced. Friends, there is absolutely nothing wrong, nothing shameful, about asking for help.

A few verses further, in verse 45, again, another verse I’ve read many times before, it says, “…he [Jesus] found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.” Exhausted from sorrow. Are you exhausted from sorrow, dear friend?  I know I have been.

The disciples fell asleep because sorrow is exhausting.

Sorrow also opens the door to temptation, as seen at the end of verse 46. Sorrow can cause a person to fear, to become bitter, to be unforgiving. But it is also an opportunity to stay close to Jesus, to kneel beside Him in the garden of one’s own Gethsemane.

Gethsemane in Hebrew means an olive press or a “winepress of oils.” Jesus sweat drops of blood while at the Mount of Olives.

You and I, too, have had our share of pressing.

Sorrow can crush a person, but God doesn’t intend to crush us. He intends that in the pressing we would spill forth, not bitterness, but richness. A richness reflective of pure oil, of sweet wine.

A cross stood in the middle of our sanctuary as we read the verses from Luke, and I couldn’t help but stare at it. Death is horrific, and nothing speaks of hopelessness more than placing a body in a tomb. Or a casket.

“The women…followed…and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:55-56)

And that’s how Luke chapter 23 ends. The women leave. The day of rest dawned, and they rested out of obedience. I keep re-reading these two chapters in Luke, just staying here because, sometimes, we need to just sit. Sit and reflect. Sit in the midst of our hopelessness and wait.

Wait for God to show up.

Wait because God isn’t done yet.

Tomorrow I will read Scripture again…with new wonder, deep gratitude, and overwhelming joy.

Easter Blessings, dear friends.

Angie signature

 

Easter

You smile politely and speak little. Your thoughts remain hidden from those around you. They are oblivious to the quiet turmoil in your head. How are you going to survive? How are you ever going to get through this? The weeping has lasted far longer than a night, and joy has not come. (Psalm 30:5) Where is the promise for me, you wonder?

Precious one, do not despair. Your tears have been seen, for Jesus, also, wept in pain and agony. He, too, pleaded with His Father to remove the hardship. “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me…” (Luke 22:42)

You’ve prayed the same.

However, Jesus followed His petition with, “…yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

Your circumstances are hard, and speaking those words is even harder. How can you say “Not my will, but Yours, Father?” How could Jesus say that? What you’re facing is unbearable. What Jesus faced was unbearable.

Except. Except for this: He endured.

You will endure, as well, if you remember this: “…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2)

Friday is almost here. Agony at its peak. But look up, look ahead. Believe it. Sunday is coming. Joy is on the horizon. Wait for it. Endure as He did.

May your Easter overflow with joy, dear friends.

Blessings,

Angie signature

Be still

When you can’t do this anymore. When you just want to quit, give up

Be still.

Be still.

Your Father knows you don’t have the strength. He knows your struggle. He knows the pain that consumes you.

Be still.

Be still.

When your tears have swollen shut your eyes and your heart lies hopeless,

Be still.

Be still.

Your Father sees you. He is not blind to your despair. He has heard your lament.

Be still.

Be still.

The LORD whispers, “Put your hope in Me, for I will never disappoint. I will never leave you nor forsake you, for you are mine. And I am yours.”

Be still.

Be still. And know that He is God.

 

Blessings,

Angie signature

Love and death

God didn’t answer your prayer. It was a big, fat, painful “NO.” And your heart broke. And you wondered why. Why did God allow this? Why? Why? Why? You thought He loved you. How could He? That’s not love, you say. But it is. It is. Because Love gave up His life for you. Love died for you. Love allowed His own Son to die an agonizing death on a cross for you. It doesn’t make any sense.

It doesn’t make any sense to us, however, because we forget that “…He first loved us.”(1 John 4:19) Our definition of love is worldly. It’s based on circumstances and conditions. But God’s love is based on His character. He shows us what love really is. Love is not giving us everything we want, but giving us what we need. We think we can’t live without certain things or without a loved one. Indeed, it is as if our very hearts are ripped out when a loved one leaves this earth before us.

So why does God allow pain and loss? Listen as Pastor John Piper gives insight into a familiar passage of Scripture that speaks of death – and love:

http://www.desiringgod.org/labs/god-s-love-allows-pain-and-loss

I wept through this video. I still don’t understand why God allowed my child to die before me. And, honestly? Honestly, I momentarily cringed when I heard the reason for the death of Lazarus. Really? So God could be glorified? Well, that’s all well and good when it isn’t your child that has to be God’s glorifying instrument.

But that is my flesh speaking. It is the voice of pain. It is my mama heart longing for my son. It is the longing for the separation to be over, longing for reunion. The flesh doesn’t understand the eternal. The finite does not comprehend the infinite.

God is God. As J. Vernon McGee said: “This is God’s universe. He does things His way. You may have a better way. But you don’t have a universe.” I dare say the person who thinks God doesn’t deserve glory or that He’s a glory-hound, doesn’t know God, doesn’t KNOW Him, does not know His character. God most certainly will allow painful, devastating things in your life, but you MUST know this: He LOVES you. He loves you and there are far, far better things coming for those who are in Christ.

That is His promise. And He always keeps His promises. Always. “God is not man, that he should lie.”  (Numbers 23:19) Jesus has given you eternal life. If He gives you nothing else on this earth, that is enough. Eternal life. Have you accepted it? Have you longed for Jesus more than you long for your child, your loved one, or that circumstance, that thing? Have you glorified God in your hard, in whatever it is He said no to? Take that “no” to God. Lay it in your Father’s lap and then trust Him to turn it into glory.

Blessings,

Angie signature

Hard circumstances

When the circumstances don’t change and the hurt doesn’t go away, then what? It feels like more than you can handle. And you’re right. It is more than you can take. But it’s not more than God can handle. God knows you’ve begged and pleaded for Him to remove this hard thing, this situation that refuses to budge. He hears you even though you’re pretty sure He’s left the room. Oh, precious one, listen to me. He is not deaf. He is not cold and uncaring. You are not being punished. God doesn’t work like that. He doesn’t. Because Love isn’t like that.

Oh, I know. Our definition of love, however, isn’t the same as His. We think that if He loves us, then He’ll answer our desperate pleas, that He’ll rescue us from this pain, that somehow love means never having to hurt. Trust me, I know. I’ve been there. He didn’t answer my desperate pleas to save my son, to please just give us more time. I never expected that my 16 year old would leave this earth before I did. You never expected what you got, either. Maybe He didn’t answer your plea to save your marriage, or your job, or your health. What is it you’re pleading God for? Whatever it is, know this: Unanswered prayer does not equal a lack of God’s love. Circumstances do not dictate God’s character.

Hard situations present the same opportunity to us all: to turn away from God or turn to Him. This situation where you feel trapped, your back against the wall? It’s your opportunity to develop trust in Jesus. Contrary to what we believe, it’s not about getting out of the situation or making the pain go away. It’s about finding God in the midst of it and, ultimately, becoming more like Christ.

“We forget that God’s primary goal is not changing our situations or relationships so that we can be happy, but changing us through our situations and relationships so that we will be holy.”
― Paul David TrippInstruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change

I wish, more than anything, that there was some other way to accomplish this. But there’s not. If there was, then certainly there was no need for the cross. The cross is where Love laid down His life for us. Jesus understands pain. He understands being nailed in a place with no way out. He, too, wondered why. (Matt. 27:46)

Why forsaken me

But Jesus also understood this: He understood there was purpose, a good purpose. He understood that His Father allowed hurtful things because He knew His Father’s love, that nothing in His life, in our lives, is permitted unless it first goes through His hands. The nails that are piercing your heart right now first went through His.

Love doesn’t mean we won’t hurt, and having faith doesn’t guarantee a miracle. The only perfect life is the one to come. In the meantime, Love steps into the mess, into the broken places, and sits down with us in the dust. Love waits patiently until we’re ready to do this hard thing. Love gives us the strength to do the impossible. Love never gives up on us. We have hope, and we have peace because of Love. Today, lean into Love.

Angie signature