Wednesday, August 16, 2017

To God Alone be Glory

I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images. Isaiah 42:8

God alone deserves all the glory.  In that wonderful devotional by Charles Spurgeon called Morning and Evening  I read these words for August 16:

God's glory is the result of His nature and acts. He is glorious in His character, for there is such a store of everything that is holy, and good, and lovely in God, that He must be glorious. The actions which flow from His character are also glorious; but while He intends that they should manifest to His creatures His goodness, and mercy, and justice, He is equally concerned that the glory associated with them should be given only to Himself. Nor is there aught in ourselves in which we may glory; for who maketh us to differ from another? And what have we that we did not receive from the God of all grace? Then how careful ought we to be to walk humbly before the Lord! The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High. 
The last statement really hit me. "The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High."

Something clicked inside me. The basis for all the chaos, the fighting, the murders and in general all the misery of this world comes from the fact that one day in eternity past, God's most highly created being in a moment wanted glory for himself instead of giving it to the Most High.

In that minute, angelic rebellion started and it carries on to this very day. But lucifer wasn't the only rebel. One third of the angels joined him, and every day, we either join lucifer in his lie that God doesn't deserve all praise, or  we stand with God and rightly praise Him as the only One deserving glory in this entire universe.

The Lord revealed something ugly  lurking inside of me. Oh, how I hate to even admit it, but if it helps someone else who is struggling, it'll be worth it. That little ugly sin called envy was festering inside my heart of hearts.

On Monday, I realized this fact when I wrote this Proverb in my journal:

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but ENVY* makes the bones rot. Prov. 14:30 (my emphasis)

Suddenly, it hit me... Envy was causing me to spiritually languish, rotting inside. Ouch. Should I agree with that one who cannot even speak the truth by being envious of some other person's blessings?

When I read Spurgeon's words about there only being room for one glory in the universe, it connected in my soul. If I am envious of someone, I am telling God that what He gave me was not enough, that somehow He passed me by, made a mistake, call it what you will. Somehow I think that I deserve better than what He gave me, and the old bones start to rot. I am looking to glorify myself, and acting like the archenemy of God.

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?             I Cor. 4:7
Reading and believing that verse quiets my soulish longing for recognition by people in this world. Any talent I have is solely His gift to me, and there is no room for boasting in my flesh. Did I do one thing to earn or deserve it? No way.

 In the past, I didn't understand why God demands all the glory. Dare I say I thought it was selfish of Him?  That only proved my ignorance of knowing Him at all.

God alone deserves the glory because He humbled Himself more than any creature in this universe, to the point of being born in a dirty cattle trough, being misunderstood and abused when He went about doing only good, and as a thanks for all His gifts and healings was hung naked on the cross and suffered the punishment we all deserved, as us, instead of us. (See Phillipians 2.)
"In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.
Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God!"
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God."    II Corinthians 5: 19-21 NET
If we look at a flower, or a bird, or behold the blue sky or the stars in the heavens, they in their beauty, even in this fallen world, will attest:

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.    Revelation 4: 11

Even as we sing this beautiful chorus in the local assembly, one day soon all of God's children will be falling on our faces and singing it to the Lamb of God, the One who deserves the glory because He alone took away the sins of the world. Amen.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Numb in Laodecia

... you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.    Revelation 3: 17-20

I am numb. This world around me is dying and mostly I care for my own pleasure if I am honest about it.

Jesus stands knocking at the door of my heart, in the day of being connected 24/7. The Lord of the Universe waits, asking for permission to come in and fellowship with me, but I am too busy.
Maybe I have ear buds on or am catching up on the latest movie from Netflix.

People outside the church are hurting, looking for love in all the wrong places. I am too quick to point my finger and judge them rather than to show them God loves them and cares. 

It's easy for me to love others when they love me back. But what if they don't, how do I go on loving them? Facing that failure reveals how little I  do love with His agape love and not my own human love. I am numb.

Technology exploded in my lifetime. They forewarned of it in books like 1984 and Future Shock. But nothing could fully prepare us for this time in human history.  My humanity is only capable of so much expansion at one time even as the world goes on  with  attempts to "better" God's creation. In spite of microchips and bionic brains, in my spirit I know that will not solve the problem of human loneliness.  Our technology does not answer this great need of man, but the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ does.
In dying for me, He made a way for me to be with Him forever. The one who loves me unconditionally proved it by dying for me and all mankind on the cross.

 That same Lord knocks at the door of my numb heart.  Every day a plethora of choices comes my way for books to download on my device, movies to watch, songs and news shows to listen to.  Every single day they just keep on coming, hounding me to take a detour from the moment by moment fellowship with God. But still, He waits.

 Maybe I hear a knock right now, in spite of the buzz all around me.  God of the Universe is asking my permission to fellowship with Him? How can that be? Yet how patiently He waits until I realize that nothing else in this big ole world will fill the crater inside my stony heart.

If I let Him in, at times He  rebukes and disciplines me. It's for my highest good, not my destruction. Better for me to get the discipline here in time than at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Oh Lord I am numb in Laodecia. It's about me, myself and I and You are so often shut out. I live in the richest nation in the world and all the pleasures it gives does not fill the void inside without You.
Yet by faith I can answer that door for You to come in and give me peace, blessed peace. Oh Lord You wait patiently, but opening the door is up to me. Amen.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Eight Years Ago...By His Mercy

...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit                   Titus 3:5

By His mercy eight years ago today I started this blog called inchristalone-byhismercy.

By His mercy there have been 240 posts, in which my goal was to glorify my Lord and Savior in some small way. Even if one person was directed to look away from themselves and unto Him for salvation it would be worth any time or trouble on my part.

Eight years ago when I started this blog I was not yet a mother in law, or a grandmother. I did not have an empty nest.

I was still working part time, still coloring my hair, still in my forties!

Where has the time gone? Day by day and moment by moment it's slipped away.

My father is gone now, and we are busy helping my mother into an assisted living facility in the next few weeks.

By His mercy, the day I was baptized at Northgate Bible Baptist Church, the pastor quoted this Titus 3:5 verse before plunging me into the water. That was over thirty years ago, but  still I remember it.

How I loved hearing that verse, not by works of righteousness that we have done...

It was like drinking an ice cold glass of lemonade when my soul was parched with trying to be "good enough."

It is the same way with my Christian life too. It is not by deeds of righteousness that I do that I grow in grace and knowledge of Him but simply according to His mercy.

Mercy in the Greek is eleos. In Vine's Expository Dictionary, the definition of mercy starts with: 
ELEOS is the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it. It is used... of God, who is rich in mercy, Eph. 2:4, and who has provided salvation for all men, Tit. 3:5, for Jews, Luke 1:72, and Gentiles, Rom. 15:9. He is merciful to those who fear Him, Luke 1:50, for they also are compassed with infirmity, and He alone can succour them...

Any progress I have made between then and now is by His mercy. I hope, when I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ, there will be evidence of some. Yet consider this thought, which made me stop and think, for 7-17 in None But the Hungry Heart:

It takes more to break inertia than to ease momentum. Misdirected zeal is more easily corrected than inert sloth...

It is possible, and very humiliating, to be awakened to the fact, that though we have had a measure of zeal for the Lord, that we have barely known the things we should have known, nor the behavior that is becoming to us in this marvelous day of grace.  

But it is the love of the Lord Jesus that would lead us on, through the judgment of ourselves and ways, into deeper communion with Himself to be better representatives of Him here in whose likeness we shall soon appear. 
I could have done more in this eight years worth of time, but  I press on. I want to simply show the world by my words and actions that He is worth knowing, worth pursuing with all my heart.  Think back to where you were eight years ago. Are you where you want to be now? Let His love motivate you to press on. In the end, it is all that matters.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3: 13-14

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Losing, Loving, and Waiting for Departure

 My dear  Mom at a park near her house. She didn't me to take a picture but I told her I wanted a memory for when she was gone.

Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old. Proverbs 23:22

A sweet writing friend just lost her mother. I felt stunned hearing how quickly her mother passed, but rejoiced that she went peacefully. I know that day of losing my own mother looms, and I  wonder how long it will be until she joins Dad in heaven.

Mom is in the midst of deep grief from losing her partner and best friend of 58 years. Now my sisters and I have made the painful decision to get her a little efficiency at a senior care home not too far from my home. It wasn't our first choice, but there seemed to be no other good option, and even mother realized that this must happen and agreed to it. Mom can't live alone in her home in the country when winter comes, so she must say goodbye to her home too. My heart aches.

How the words in Proverbs which say, "do not despise your mother when she is old,"  cut me to the quick at times when I grew impatient with her slowness getting out the door, or repeating herself, or hearing her complaints. It must be easy to despise people when they are old or Solomon would not have written it. 

We all love babies, so innocent and sweet with their fresh skin and wonder at the world. But loving the ones that are vulnerable on the other side of the spectrum? In this culture we live in, youth are exalted but the old and grayheaded are easily despised. In other cultures it isn't like this. 

When I was younger  I thought I knew so much. I assumed old people didn't know a thing. I thought I would do better than my parents did when I had my own children.

One day I sat on the floor with my baby and played with him, attempting to stimulate his little brain for learning. I suddenly realized how woefully unprepared I was to be his mother, to raise and nurture him, teach him what he would need for life. But there was no manual to read to make myself ready.

Rather, I was in for a rude awakening. My own rebellious heart haunted me when I saw it in my children. Over time, my heart softened toward Mom and Dad and their imperfections.

They were just two hurting human beings who got together and decided to have a family. They were going to have a boy and a girl but did not get what they ordered and ended up with us three girls. I think Mom often felt overwhelmed, and when I had my three, I often felt overwhelmed too.

Our parents had wounds that carried over into their parenting of us. The wounds were passed down, and somehow, without ever wanting to, we passed them on to our children. 

It comes right down to the fall of mankind, and the sorrow we all inherited from Adam.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and no one really loves our kids the way we do. But one day they grow up and move away and the difficult process of separation must begin. 

From that day on we can't "go home" again. Once I married and moved away, I struggled with resentment.  Then one day I too found myself a parent and had a newsflash:   parenting was not easy, not at all.

All too soon my "chippies" (as we called them) left our nest, and I was only left with memories, just like Mom had memories of us girls and the things we did that made her crazy. We begged her to stop reminding us of our stupid mistakes.

She finally stopped reminding us now. Instead, she talks about having a recurrent dream of seeing my Dad looking for his mother in heaven. She  slows down more and more, mostly just resting in her chair for most of the day.

She longs to go and be with Dad. How can I blame her for that?

Now it feels like I parent her more than her parenting me. All the nights I  spent with her, I tucked her in, and kissed her on the head and told her I loved her.

As I walked out of her room I heard her say, "I love you too honey."

Parenting came full circle. 

I prayed for clear direction, and God provided a comfy private room at a nice place not far from me available. God made her willing to go, instead of demanding she would stay "right here" in her present home. Now I trust that God will continue to lead us.  Mom will finish tredding her own journey, and then meet Jesus (and my Dad) again on the other side.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Don't get too comfortable, there's a new world coming.

Years ago this was the place of labor for a Midwestern farm family. 

"Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them." Psalm 39:6

In the winter of 1980, when I was a senior in high school, we received sad news  that my Grandma Clara from Iowa had passed away. I begged permission to accompany my parents to the funeral, even if it meant  missing school. In years past I'd always cried when we came home from visiting her in summer. But now suddenly, she was gone and I wanted to pay my final respects to her, the one I remembered knowing only from a distance.

Mom and Dad said no to that request, though afterwards they said regretted it. When they arrived home, I asked all about the service. Mom said the minister emphasized the theme: "All things come to pass."

The land Grandma labored over, now farmed by another. Her days of labor, straining over  rich Iowa soil only a memory.

 My life comes to pass before my eyes. Living with Mom these last months while we make arrangements to find a place for her, I gaze on the beauty of her place. Dad worked so hard here, but he is no longer to here to enjoy it. He amassed riches and did not know who would gather them...

I look at the beauty of her blue eyes. Soon her retirement home will be no longer be a part of our family. But it's just a "thing," and all "things" come to pass.

I hold her fragile hand. How did it get so withered and tiny?

My days of having Mom in my life are coming to pass.  One day will be my last day too, and the riches I've gathered will be given to strangers. None of it will come with me.

Only the treasure of the Word that I store in my soul will make it with me to the other side.

 We are eternal souls, and though our earth days come to pass, we will live on forever. If we have Jesus in our life and in our thoughts, the best is yet to come.  C.S. Lewis said:

"There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

Time dragged when I was little, I thought I'd never grow up. I wanted my parents to live forever, I dreaded saying good byes. 

Now each day just melts into the next. One moment we celebrate, a family together.  Next thing it's a year later, a decade later, a lifetime later.The older I get, the more "goodbyes," the more life changes.

Life on this  broken, fallen sphere is filled with breath-taking moments, but something much, much better is coming. No matter the awe of this world, it's thoroughly contaminated with the plague of sin, death and destruction. Magnificent wonder is God's creation, yet a cry of despair when humanity touches it, ruining it.

Things aren't yet what they should be, the way God wants them to be.

Life is nothing, nothing, compared to what God has in store for us when He recreates the New Heavens and New Earth. In His mind, we're already there. 

We are just travelling through here, so let's not get too comfortable.

One day new life will dawn. God Himself will wipe the tears from our eyes.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dad Listened to Me

"We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done...that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments." Psalm 78: 4, 6-7

One of my favorite memories that I have of  my Dad is the night we discussedthe book The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey.  We were all in our Apache popup trailer,  in the midst of a campground out in the Midwest,  tucked into our sleeping bags for the night.  Before drowsiness consumed us  the topic of possibly living in the end times came up. Dad had recently borrowed a copy of the book from his realtor.

My sisters and mother  dropped off to sleep and finally it was just me and him talking. He was eager to discuss it, and I felt elated because I wasn't sure at that point if he was saved. That night was such a blessing, sharing about things that are prophesied to happen, that will happen, things that were not mentioned in our ritualistic, formal church.

Dad liked to talk politics and such with my older sister. My own thoughts and opinions were drowned out as they got into heated debates. Of  course, her attitudes came to align with Dad's once she grew into adulthood, but back then I always felt like I didn't have much of a voice, that is, until that night in the trailer.

So began a tradition of rich talks with my Dad that lasted up until his death last fall. Dad was from the Midwest, and in the year 2016, he made two last trips out to see his family: one in the early spring and the last one late in the summer. I went with him and Mom on the first trip, and my younger sister went on the last one.

In spite of being eighty-four years old, Dad did almost all of the driving on that trip. In order to keep  awake at the wheel, he enjoyed conversing with me, even in spite of my mother's protests that he was talking too loud. Again we shared much about our faith, the nation of Israel, politics and then he began to tell the story of his army days to me. I learned how he "broke rank" in order to be transferred to a civil engineering unit in Germany and the hard lesson he learned from that. I learned how an older engineer mentored him and taught him how to be polished in the business world. This was all information I never heard before. Finally, I grabbed a notebook to write it down. In the back of my mind was a question, "Dad, why are you telling me all of this?"

Fast forward to a year ago, June 2016. My son and daughter in law paid a surprise visit to my parents home to introduce them to their new great grandson. My strong father was amazed to hold the newest member of the family. I looked at the two of them together, and in spite of Dad's great strength, noticed how much weight he had lost. Somehow I just knew his time was coming.

I think he knew too. He made a point of getting all of his affairs in order, and showing us where things were. But most of all, Dad had ensured that the most important transaction of all had taken place: Dad placed his personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation, and never was afraid to share that faith with others. The day he had his hunting accident, his neighbor and friend found that Dad had a copy of Billy Graham's Decision magazine up there with him in the tree stand. One of the last things Dad looked at on this side was to read about his great Lord and Savior. That magazine is tucked away in the drawer upstairs, too precious to be thrown away.

Dad eagerly  shared his faith with family members, neighbors and friends from the business world. He shared it with his grandchildren, the generations coming after him. This is my first Father's Day when I have not been able to give him a card and a gift and tell him how much I loved him and how much he meant to me. 

With tears in my eyes, I still thank my Heavenly Father for giving me the gift of a wise earthly father, and cannot wait to see him again when we are reunited in heaven. Dad wasn't perfect, but he gave me an inkling of how great our Heavenly Father is by his own example. The most profound of those lessons was...Dad listened to me. If he as an imperfect human showed so much care and love for me, his whining middle daughter, how much more does my Heavenly Dad care about all of us unworthy yet adopted children?
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah  Psalm 62:8  

If you have not yet come into the family of God, what are you waiting for? You too can be His adopted child, with all its rights and privileges simply by trusting in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3: 16-17
Abba Father, thank You for giving us earthly fathers that can represent to us just a glimpse of the depth of Your love for us. Thank You for making a way that we can be reunited with them once again on that great Resurrection day. Amen. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Serving with Helplessness

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Cor. 12:10 

I don't like sitting around doing nothing. I don't like feeling helpless.  But for the past couple of days, that is exactly what I have been doing. I am recovering from carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand yesterday morning, and also still having some pain from the surgery I had on my right hand almost two months ago. Using my hands in normal daily activity is painful in even simple chores.

My husband said to take it easy. So I have, but sometimes it is hard to sit when I think of all the things I should be doing. Like cleaning the house, or starting a new writing project, or.... the list goes on.

I have spent the last couple of months taking care of Mom, that throwing my normal life off schedule. Half of my stuff is at home, and half of it is at her house. I will be here a couple more days recuperating then back to her place, then back here when my sister comes, and on and on for this summer. It hurts to see her unhappy and saying she just wants to die.

I have never felt this unsettled. Never. I don't know what the future holds, it seems so uncertain. And more and more, the Lord shows me my own helplessness to even pull out of the rut I seem to be in.

One thing is certain. I cannot face the things ahead alone. I need Him desperately. Do you need Him that way too?

I used to think that was a bad thing, but now am learning to rest in it. He isn't expecting anything from dust like me but to look up in faith to Him.

Last week, on a farm near Mom's I saw a poor cow that had fallen down in the mud. The farmer tried several times and in different ways to lift the cow out of the muck but it just kept falling down again. I could not help but cry looking at that poor helpless cow, with udders full of milk, unable to lift herself or flick away the many flies assaulting her. In vain she swished her tail and lifted a leg. But it was of no use. A couple days later, I saw her lifeless body being hauled away on a truck from the neighbor's farm.

If I could have pity on that helpless creature how much more does my Heavenly Father pity us as His weak children?  I used to think that if only I tried just a little bit harder, then certainly I could succeed in the Christian life, and pull myself out of the pits I dig for myself. Now I rejoice to know that only when I am weak will His strength be shown in me. He can be glorified even in a weak vessel like me.

Just before I was ready to sign off tonight I found this little quote from None but the Hungry Heart (edited by Miles Stanford) for today, June 10. It encouraged my weary and discouraged heart. Maybe it will encourage yours too:

“Two glad services are ours, Both the Master loves to bless. First we serve with all our powers, Then with all our helplessness.”