Relief vs. Relationship

17 Feb

The fall of 1977 was a hard time for me. I was recovering from a broken heart and really struggling to believe and receive God’s love, goodness, wisdom – you name it. The enemy was up to his old tricks of tempting me with doubt about the character of God and about my own salvation.

RelationshipI called a dear friend whose walk with the Lord I trusted and who had seen me in similar upheaval before. I asked her what she thought the Lord might be trying to teach me through these recurring circumstances. To be honest, I wanted relief. But my wise friend told me that though God does teach us through the difficulties of life, He’s wants something more – relationship. If I were to stay in the mindset that He’s trying to teach me something, then my view of God is that He’s out to “get me.” But if I will draw near to Him in that rough time, He will draw near to me.

I’m grateful that the Lord gave me grace and sense to receive that as welcomed news that day. It was like hearing something for the first time and being excited about the prospects. After I got off the phone with her, I told the Lord I was willing to let Him draw me more into relationship with Him, not even knowing what that would look like.

The next day I was reading in my regular Bible plan in Ephesians 2. The first verse jumped right off the page! “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” God was assuring me in His Word that I belonged to Him.

The rest of the chapter confirmed that assurance even more. The verses compare those who are lost with those who are in Christ. The verb tenses of those showing life before Christ are in past tense – “were dead,” “formerly walked,” “formerly lived,” “formerly were far off,” etc. The tenses for life in Him are in the present – “made us alive,” “have been saved,” “seated … with Him,” “have been brought near,” “are of God’s household,” etc. The whole of the chapter is a before and after contrast – one of desperate need for a Savior, and one that proclaims the preciousness of His grace.

When I finished reading the chapter and looking at all there was in that before and after picture, I wrote in the margin “Assurance!” along with the date. I rejoiced in my relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ.

I’m often reminded of that time whenever I come into a difficult season. To be honest, I need to be reminded because I get into the “give me relief” mindset quickly and forget that it’s a time to deepen my relationship with the very One who created me.

In the past couple of days Ephesians 2 has come up in devotional reading with my husband and in part of the prep for a Bible study I’m in. It’s been sweet to remember what God did for me then and to be assured He’ll do it again. It’s been good, too, to remember my friend who shared this truth with me. She’s in heaven now enjoying her relationship with the Father face-to-face. I’ll get to tell her thank you again one day, but my greatest thanks will be to the One who calls each of us into relationship with Him and made it possible through His Son Jesus Christ.

Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12-13)


Obsessive Worry

16 Jun

I have been making a concerted effort of late to regularly review scripture verses learned over the years – something my dad had me start as a teenager – but which I’d fallen out of the habit of keeping fresh in my memory. Some of the verses have come back easily, others have left the recesses of my mind and are returning ever so slowly. But it’s been special to have God bring many to mind just when I need them. It happened again today.

WorryI have been experiencing several days of worry over a myriad of topics, why I don’t know, but it’s been bothersome, distracting, and wrong! Last night and this morning I was literally obsessing over the fact that I couldn’t find the charger for my cell phone. Perish the thought that I would not be able to send and receive text messages, check email, look at Facebook, play a game, Google search, ad nauseam! It even affected my sleep, for crying out loud!

As I was getting ready, I began telling the Lord that I was concerned by my obsessive worry. I knew I was being distracted and asked for His help. A verse came to mind that encouraged me to rely on one of God’s resources – His peace.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 KJV)

I confessed my anxiety, made my requests known to Him – my missing charger being one of them, and thanked Him for His peace.

When I finished getting ready, I had a few minutes before my husband and I were to leave, so I used the time to review a few verses. BAM-BAM-BAM! God hit me with three more verses to convict me and encourage me.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11 KJV)

This I declare, that He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I am trusting Him. For he rescues you from every trap and protects you from the fatal plague. He will shield you with His wings! They will shelter you. His faithful promises are your armor. Now you don’t need to be afraid of the dark anymore, nor fear the dangers of the day; nor dread the plagues of darkness, nor disasters in the morning. (Psalm 91:2-6 TLB)

[S]he does not fear bad news, nor live in dread of what may happen. For [s]he is settled in [her]his mind that Jehovah will take care of [her]him. That is why [s]he is not afraid but can calmly face [her]his foes. (Psalm 112:7-8 TLB)

Even my morning Bible reading started out with “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1 NKJV)

It was quite obvious God wanted to deal with my obsessive worry. God used His Word as only He can – “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 KJV).

I was so overcome. I read the verses to my husband through tears and said, “I’m such a sinner in need of a Savior!” I’m so grateful He is my Savior.

P.S. I also found the phone charger a few minutes later!

Wherewithal shall a young man (or a not so young woman in my case) cleanse [her]his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee. (Psalm 119:9,11 KJV)

I Think I Might Be Getting the Message

24 Mar

Sometimes I can be hard headed. I know this may come as a surprise, but it’s true. I too often want my way, and wrestle with submission to God’s will and wanting to hold on to my own. And God faithfully comes back to this issue to get His message through my thick skull. As my Heavenly Father, He knows that His will is best for me and will bring Him glory as it works out in my life circumstances. So He repeats His message again and again to help me get it.


About three years ago my sister and I were in the midst of caregiving for our mother, and the myriad of details to handle seemed never ending. I also fell and broke my arm, and there were a couple of ongoing circumstances that I did not like being in. Pity parties abounded in my heart and mind. At the same time, I was in a Bible study on the book of James written by Beth Moore with a group of women from my church. Talk about timely!


God began to challenge me to obey His command to “count it [trials, difficulties] all joy.” As we studied this passage from James 1, we learned that “count” is not only an accounting term, but it also means “to lead the mind” to think this way, and to do so as a continuous, repeated action. And “joy” has its roots in the Greek word for grace – God’s favor, His kindness, something that is unearned and undeserved – as one Bible dictionary puts it, His influence on our heart and how that is reflected in our lives. If we/I would count circumstances all joy, the result would be the privilege of seeing God work in and through those circumstances and the opportunity to know Him more deeply.


Flash forward to this fall, after many ups and downs in counting it all joy versus numerous pity parties. Once again, I was in a women’s study on the life of Gideon written by Priscilla Shirer. One of the challenges from this study was that God is calling us to faithfulness in whatever situation we are in – whether we’re in something enjoyable or difficult. Once again, knowing Him and being a part of the purpose He has for my life and what He wants to do in the lives of others would be the result of faithful obedience. Again, this was a timely message to repent of attitudes of going through the motions of duty while constantly looking for a way to escape the difficulty.


Now I’m getting ready to be in a study on the life of Jonah where the thrust of the study is seeing changes in our plans as God’s divine invitation to join in His work, to look at Him with a more exalted view. Then this morning the message at church was how to live purposely in whatever season of life we’re in – be it young or old, married or single, etc. – for God’s glory and our best.


Message given. Message heard. Message received. Lesson learned? To be continued.

In Honor of the Super Bowl

2 Feb

A few weeks ago my favorite team lost their football game. To say I was bummed about it would be an understatement! I allowed (and wrongly so) the loss to affect my attitudes the rest of the evening. The loss loomed much larger to me than it really mattered in the scope of eternity.

As I awoke the next morning, the following chorus was going through my thoughts.

Lord, you are more precious than silver.

Lord, you are more costly than gold.

Lord, you are more beautiful than diamonds,

And nothing I desire compares with You. (Lynn DeShazo)

I was immediately convicted by the truth that my favorite team winning or losing a big game could not compare with the Lord. I was reminded that changes in circumstances – be that in relationships, location, position, finances, health, etc. – nothing could compare with knowing Him.

The Psalmist puts it this way:

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. (Psalm 73:25)

Jesus says it in this manner:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

Paul stated it as:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. (Philippians 3:7-10)

To desire Him above all else means that I will seek Him before I seek anything or anyone else. I will build my time, resources, my very life around Him. I will choose to value Him and being rightly related to Him through faith in Christ over what this life has to offer. I will see, like Paul, that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

A few weeks ago my favorite team lost their football game. It’s still disappointing to me, but my perspective is changing:

My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

Two Become One

13 Jul


  • The loneliest number (according to Three Dog Night!)
  • Indicates the leader in a contest (We’re #1!)
  • Indicates choice of someone/something above all others (the “One”)
  • Singular of purpose
  • A word used for intimacy
  • A word to describe what happens when two people marry…They become one.


One is a very important word in God’s vocabulary when it comes to marriage. Several times in scripture He uses this word when describing the relationship between a man and a woman with a specific purpose in mind – to display to the world the relationship Christ has with the Church. He desires to be glorified through the oneness of marriage. In other words, He wants people to look at the way a married couple acts toward one another and say, “That looks like God,” or “That looks like something God would do. We want to know more!”


In Genesis 2:18-25 God gave Adam the “leave and cleave” principle. A man is to intentionally leave father and mother in order to be “stuck like glue” to his wife. Then when people observe this marriage, they won’t just see two individual units, but two acting in harmony as one, who are better together than apart. Such a couple mirrors through leadership, submission, and their love and concern for one another, the dependence they have upon Christ as well as one another. Their relationship explains the “mystery” spoken of in Ephesians 5:32 by giving a living example of Christ’s treatment of His Church and how the Church in kind responds to Him. 


God also wants to picture covenant commitment in marriage. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 speaks of the benefits of two over one. Two people on the same team can accomplish much more together than apart. They experience mutual support, encouragement, and protection from elements and enemies as the two of them join forces.


But even as good as two are together, a third element is needed to make this team almost indestructible, something “not quickly torn apart.” As both parties seek to depend on Christ to guide them in this relationship of oneness, He works in, with, for, and through them to complete the picture. He enables such a couple to do what they could not do for themselves – be one for the glory of God.


For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)

Remain True to the Lord

10 Jul

I turned 60 in June, and I have to say it was not the traumatic experience I thought it would be. I’m sure this was in so small part due to the wonderful celebration my family prepared for me, and the many birthday greetings sent my way by Facebook friends and in the mail. I felt very loved and kind of excited about this new decade. (Crazy, I know!)

The morning of my birthday I was reading in Acts 11, and was struck by verse 23:

…when he [Barnabas] came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. (KJV)

Some first century Christians during the dispersion that occurred due to persecution had come to Antioch and shared Christ with the locals. Many had received Christ as Savior, so when the church back in Jerusalem heard about it, they sent Barnabas to find out if these new believers were the real deal and if they had any needs. According to this verse he was thrilled with what he witnessed.

Barnabas saw that God had shown His free and undeserved favor to these new Christians. They were living in the light of His grace, grateful for what He had done, and they were free from the debt of sin, working for favor with God, and not under the condemnation of the law. As The Message says, “He saw that God was behind and in it all.

So what did Barnabas do? He lived up to his name “The Encourager.”  The Message described what he did this way: He threw himself in with them, got behind them.” He admonished them where needed, provided comfort when called upon, strengthened them, instructed them, taught them. His sole purpose was to see them established and growing in their relationship with Christ. He exhorted them to have a resoluteness about their daily walk that would be one of complete dependence on Christ and urged them to be persistent in their devotion to Him. Such purpose of heart was possible because through Christ’s death on the cross, they were accepted before God and were in a position to be daily nourished by Christ through His Word.

I loved this verse because it spoke what I desire to do when I post on this blog, share on occasions with others, sing in church, live life. I want to with all that is in me encourage people (you) to follow Christ with purpose of heart, to “stick like glue” (cleave) to Him alone, to know Him personally, and to spend life making Him known by words and deeds.

I turned 60 in June, and I have to say it was not the traumatic experience I thought it would be. God spoke to me through His Word. Quite the day!



Finishing Well

15 Apr

Last night my husband, who is an associate pastor, received a call from one of our church members that his wife, M.J., had been given 24-36 hours to live. M.J. had had a two year battle with cancer and the past six-seven weeks had been spent in the hospital with doctors trying desperately to identify and treat a new set of issues for her. Within a few hours of that call, we received another that she had passed away.


M.J., her husband, Norm, and their children are dear friends to us. Even as I type this, tears are in my eyes. I loved her dearly and was loved by her – as was anyone she knew and/or met. M.J. was that kind of woman. All I could say when we got the news of her death is that she finished well.


I’ve been thinking all morning about that phrase – finishing well. How does one finish this life well? Here are some things I observed from my friend’s life that I think we can all implement.


M.J. recognized she was in a battle for her physical health as well as her spiritual health. She fought hard to get well. She did not give in to her circumstances. She did not give in to fear and discouragement. It’s not that she didn’t experience those things. She just did not let them rule her. M.J. acknowledged them openly, but chose not to stay there. Being mad at God and giving up were not in her spiritual DNA. M.J. overcame “because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of [her] testimony, and [she] did not love [her] life even when faced with death” (Revelation 12:11).


She filled her mind with truth (Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8). Not a week went by that she did not post along with an update on her condition, a devotional thought or scripture. M.J. soaked up God’s Word through personal reading, listening to sermons, and reading from godly writers. She listened to Christian music that led her in worship. If she couldn’t do these on her own, her family members would read and sing to her. M.J. cooperated with God to finish the good work He had begun in her (Philippians 1:6).


She shared what she was going through and learning with others. She posted regularly through Facebook and Caring Bridge. Her family members told how doctors and nurses enjoyed coming to her room because she would listen to their needs and then share with them the hope she had in Christ. M.J. identified with their hurts and failures because she had experienced them herself and knew what Christ had done to change her life. (2 Corinthians 4:9-11)


She thought of others – her family, her friends, her co-workers, her church, etc. And she prayed for them. If she knew you were going through something, she would be one of the first to contact you and let you know of those prayers. She was extremely sick, but her heart was always toward people (Philippians 2:3-4).


M.J. voluntarily presented her life to the sovereignty of her Heavenly Father to do with as He saw fit (Romans 12:1; Luke 9:23). She kept her eye on the Prize (Hebrews 12:1-2; Philippians 3:13-14) Though she prayed and sought healing, she wanted His will and best above her own. Her sweet and supportive family joined her in this. The lives and testimonies of this family spoke volumes for Christ as they walked through her illness.


I’m forever grateful to have known M.J. I look forward to seeing her again. I said it last night, and I say it again today. You finished well, Girl! Thanks for setting the pace.


For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

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