Monthly Archives: March 2016

Easter Devotion ~ He Arose!

9c4e7pkpiUp from the grave he arose;

with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;

He arose a victor from the dark domain,

and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

(“Up from the Grave He Arose” by Robert Lowry)

Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. ~ Romans 6:6–11 (MSG)

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!!

Christ has won the victory!

Can you hear the fanfare of trumpets? Smell the newness of spring? Feel the warmth of loving light? Darkness—confusion, sin, weakness, unbelief—is conquered and with it eternal death. In its place is a new kingdom, established by God the Father through Jesus. It is a kingdom of victory where God’s people dwell with Him, live beneath the rule of His loving reign, and learn to love others (and themselves!) as they are loved by their King.

As Christ-followers we are translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We live, “always thankful to the Father who has made us fit to share all the wonderful things that belong to those who live in the Kingdom of light. For he has rescued us out of the darkness and gloom of Satan’s kingdom and brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who bought our freedom with his blood and forgave us all our sins” (Colossians 1:12–14, TLB).

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!

Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!

Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!

Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

 

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!

Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!

Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!

Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!*

No longer are we held down by sin and condemnation, for the Son didn’t come to condemn but to save (John 3:17), and for those who come to Him there is never again condemnation (Romans 8:1). No longer do we strive, struggling for righteousness, fighting from our own meager resources to survive in the domain of darkness. Through Christ sin is conquered, and we are reconciled to our Creator-Father. Through Christ we are given the identity and relationship of beloved. Because of the cross God’s own Holy Spirit moves into our lives and changes us from the inside out, remaking us to shine with the glory of Christ’s character, love, and power. We are free to flourish in love and grace, free to become all He had in mind before even the foundation of the world.

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!

Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!

Thee to know, Thy pow’r to prove, Alleluia!

Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!**

Alleluia! All praise and honor and glory and power be to You, precious Jesus, Savior of the world! Thank You for walking the road of suffering so I can be released from the domain of darkness and live in the glory of Your light!PMApprov2-01

*Verses 3 & 4 of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” by Charles Wesley

**Verse 6

(Devotion taken from Soul Scents: RootedSoul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week
only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Advertisements

Easter Devotion ~ Suffering and Glory

RidKoEerT

Clip art found here

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. ~ I Peter 4:1–2 (MSG)

I don’t like suffering. In fact I try to avoid it. During the lent season someone thoughtlessly attacked one of my most tender places. I’d offered up vulnerability, choosing transparency in an effort to communicate grace. But I was misunderstood and judged. It hurt. A lot.

But Jesus is tender, isn’t He? My little issue of hurt feelings was nothing compared to the suffering of Christ, but He gently tended to my pain, whispering He’d suffered too and issuing an invitation into the fellowship of His suffering.

Jesus was often misunderstood and judged. People thought He was grandiose and self-absorbed when He declared Himself the Son of God. Even those who wanted to believe He was something special didn’t like it when the road led not to power and financial gain, but to the cross.

As Jesus faced His greatest test of suffering, even His friends turned from Him. They didn’t want to hear what He had to say. How dare He talk of pain and death? Peter rebuked Him for such thoughts. Judas gave up on Him rather than let go of his plans and enter the suffering of his Lord.

Yes, Jesus understood the pain of offering up your best only to receive judgment and ridicule in return. Instead of defending Himself and calling down the angels to rescue Him, He walked the road of suffering. He chose obedience to His Father over escaping the pain.

I’ve had much deeper suffering than the incident I referenced. Some of my suffering has been undeserved like Jesus’ was, but often part of the pain in times of suffering was born of my own resistance to hardship, or as The Message says, “that old sinful habit” of expecting to get my own way and trying to get what I wanted instead of surrendering to the more difficult path the Lord asked me to walk.

Each of us has our own journey of suffering. Some people’s suffering is public—especially those who go through serious illness or sudden public loss—like losing a loved one to a car accident. Other people’s suffering is private. Their pain includes abuse or situations they feel they can’t talk about, and for these suffering saints it is difficult to find a safe community of support.

My friend, suffering isn’t easy. Even Jesus asked God if there wasn’t another way to accomplish His will. The Lord isn’t angry with us when we struggle to surrender to hard times. When we face genuine suffering, we have a Lord who is well acquainted with grief and sorrow. He understands our pain and validates our struggle. He also demonstrated the way through the suffering. He didn’t pretend it wasn’t happening. He didn’t run from it. He gathered His closest friends around Him and begged them to pray with Him; then He poured His heart out to His Father. When He prayed, He asked God to release Him from such a painful path, but when His Father didn’t, Jesus surrendered to suffering. He laid down His will and chose intense pain, dying a criminal’s death; but in surrendering He also received glory. On the other side of the pain God highly exalted Him, giving Jesus the name that is above every other name (Philippians 2:8–9). He was not only restored to His former glory, He was elevated.

As we follow Christ’s example, comforted and supported by a Friend who is well acquainted with sorrow, we too are restored, strengthened, and invited to share in glory. Scripture says, “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10, NLT).

My friend, if you suffer today, remember your Best Friend is well acquainted with your pain. It’s okay to wrestle with Him and to ask for a way out, but if He calls upon you to continue the path of pain for a while, know that He will use the suffering. You will share in the glory of Christ, and He Himself will restore you.

In times of sorrow and grief I look to You for comfort, Jesus. It helps to know You understand, firsthand, what it is like to grieve, to be accused, to face judgment, to be misunderstood. You know physical pain, relational pain, and spiritual pain. You understand rejection and hardship. Thank You for choosing the path of suffering so I am saved. In those last, hardest hours Your friends deserted You, but You never allow me to walk through suffering unaided by Your presence. Thank You that You never leave me. Thank You for empowering me to follow the Father even on painful paths. Thank You for promising to restore me and inviting me to share Your glory.PMApprov2-01

(Devotion taken from Soul Scents: RootedSoul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Easter Devotion ~What Have I Done?

cross-and-vine-christian-clipart2

Free clip art from here.

Don’t you realize how patient he is being with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see that he has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance. ~ Romans 2:4 (TLB)

One of the gifts of the last year is a part-time job the Lord gave me as a paid singer in the Soli Dei church choir. Not being raised in a liturgical tradition, I’ve enjoyed the rhythms of the church calendar and being exposed to another style of worship.

Since my husband and I attend a community church with multiple services, most weeks I’m honored to worship at the Lutheran church with my friends in the choir as well as with my family at our home church.

Oh how I love worship music of all styles! I’m as comfortable in my choir robe as I am rocking out to the drums of our home church. I’ve also been known to slip away to a nearby charismatic church to enjoy worship dance or to head to another part of town and enjoy the pageantry at a friend’s Catholic Church. God’s people are everywhere, and there is great delight in joining with them in worship of our shared King.

It is due to this part-time job that I attended the Ash Wednesday service I’ve talked about in the last two devotions. My sweet Jesus also used the music of this job to break through my turmoil and finish the work of repentance in my heart.

The railing I mentioned yesterday was grounded in anger at God. I simply didn’t like how He was handling my life. I was tired of hardship. When He dug up the lie on that Thursday, I didn’t immediately repent. I spent two days thrashing about in confusion and anger. The wrestling with God allowed my processing to take the lie to its deepest places to be more fully uprooted. It needed to be banished once and for all, no stone unturned!

By Saturday morning I was spent.

Exhausted, I hauled myself out of bed for a three-hour Easter music rehearsal. Entering the choir room is entering a beautiful community. And in that sacred assembly of fellow believers with voices lifted in song the same Spirit who inspired the great composers of long ago took their music, reached across centuries, and stilled my heart. It started with Mendelssohn’s healing melody as we sang, “Grant us thy peace so graciously.”* The music swelled to fill the rehearsal space and the space of my soul. Weary of the questioning, the wrestling, my words became a prayer. Oh how I needed peace. Yes, Lord, grant me peace.

My heart then broke with an allegory by Tchaikovsky called “The Crown of Roses (Legend).” We sang, “The boy said humbly; ‘Take, I pray, All but the naked thorns away.’ Then of the thorns they made a crown, and with rough fingers pressed it down . . .” The Lord’s sacrifice is no children’s story. The harsh words, barbed whip, and thorned crown really did pierce His body and soul. And like the humble boy in the song, He allowed it. The God-man received the whip, the scorn, the cross, and succumbed to a cruel death.

But it was Richard Shephard’s “Good Friday Reproaches” the Spirit used to cleanse me of the last vestiges of anger and distrust. Our director, Andy, is committed to communicating the message of the pieces he chooses, and this piece has a particularly emotive refrain. For at least ten minutes we sang two sentences: “My people what wrong have I done to you? What good have I not done for you?”

Over and over those words echoed and reverberated in the rehearsal hall. Andy encouraged reflective word emphasis, dynamics, leaning into the text, making it spark with emotion and meaning.

My people what wrong have I done to you?

What good have I not done for you?

Part of repentance is to feel regret.

I’d been rethinking my life. Struggling to let go of the sin of unbelief and to change my way of thinking. Now I ached with regret. It was as if Christ Himself spoke to me in that refrain, and then the Spirit whispered a line from another song I’d heard. “But tell me now, where was my fault in loving you with my whole heart?”**

I felt Him. “What wrong have I done to you?” He gently questioned. “Tell Me where is My fault in loving you with My whole heart? What good have I not done for you?”

As I sang with my lips I confessed with my heart, “Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus. I’m sorry. You’ve done nothing but love and give. Like a selfish child who doesn’t get her way I’ve ignored Your sacrifice and accused You of not loving me well.”

It’s amazing how tender He is even when He calls for repentance, how even in asking us to rethink our attitudes and behaviors He floods us with a magnitude of love.

My friend, do you hear it too? The heart cry of Jesus, the One who gave all for us? Do you hear Him whisper, “What wrong have I done? What good have I withheld? Where can you fault Me? I’ve loved you with all I have.”

The enemy constantly tries to confuse God’s people and steal their joy. The vile whisper reverberates, saying God withholds from us, that His love is not to be trusted.

But where is fault in the One who spread His arms and gave all?

He left the splendor of heaven

Knowing his destiny

Was the lonely hill of Golgotha

There to lay down His life for me

If that isn’t love

The ocean is dry

There’s no stars in the sky

And the sparrow can’t fly

If that isn’t love

Then heaven’s a myth

There’s no feeling like this

If that isn’t love***

Thank You, Jesus. I am undone by Your selfless love. You have no fault. All is done from love. You withhold no good thing.

*”Verleih Uns Frieden (Grant Us Thy Peace)”, text by Martin Luther, translated to English by Andrew Halladay. Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy PMApprov2-01

**From “White Blank Page” by Mumford and Sons

***“If That Isn’t Love” by Dottie Rambo

(Devotion taken from Soul Scents: RootedSoul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Soul Scents: Awaken, Book 1 in the series, is free on Kindle today and tomorrow!

PMApprov1-01

Easter Week Devotion ~ From Railing to Rest

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating. ~ Colossians 1:13 (MSG)

Ever railed at God?

Ash Wednesday’s immersion of surrender and repentance opened me to the Holy Spirit’s work. The probing of inner places revealed some ugly stuff. My response included both crying out to God and yelling at God. Grief and hurt had dogged me for several weeks, and I struggled to find my way out of a fog. I couldn’t seem to identify the root cause of my pain, but the Ash Wednesday service with its prayers to cast down idols and reveal unexposed sin aided the process.

As I journaled Thursday morning, a single sentence, unrelated to the paragraphs on either side, scrawled upon the page. When I finished writing for the day, I reread the unexpected phrase exposed by a blank line on either side.

What was it?

Revelation.

The words expressed a deep fear I hadn’t yet fully understood. Attached to the fear were lies I needed to face and reject. Attached to the lies was a sinful lack of trust in God. It’s hard to repent—to rethink—our response to life when we don’t understand the lies and fears lurking within.

That week the Lord revealed sins of idolatry, faithlessness, and ego. The next week a pastor, Scott Nickell, said something profound. “At its core all temptation is about unbelief.” He talked about how it was unbelief that kept the generation of Israelites who’d been rescued from slavery in Egypt from entering the Promised Land.

Scott’s thoughts are grounded in Scripture. “God was patient with them [the Israelites] forty years, though they tried his patience sorely; he kept right on doing his mighty miracles for them to see. ‘But,’ God says, ‘I was very angry with them, for their hearts were always looking somewhere else instead of up to me, and they never found the paths I wanted them to follow.’ Then God, full of this anger against them, bound himself with an oath that he would never let them come to his place of rest” (Hebrews 3:9–11, TLB).

The writer of Hebrews then brings conviction to us. “Beware then of your own hearts, dear brothers, lest you find that they, too, are evil and unbelieving and are leading you away from the living God. Speak to each other about these things every day while there is still time so that none of you will become hardened against God, being blinded by the glamor of sin. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as we did when we first became Christians, we will share in all that belongs to Christ” (v. 12­–14).

What’s encouraging about my experience is how faithful God is to reveal the sins of unbelief that harden our hearts to God’s plan. Instead of leaving us to wallow in the temptation of unbelief He makes it His personal priority to give us revelation so we can turn from sin. As we offer surrendered hearts that are willing to rethink the junk that bogs us down, He gets rid of the sins we thought we were doomed to keep repeating (Colossians 1:13). We enter the rest of the Promised Land—the rest of a new kingdom established by Jesus, a place where we live forgiven and free. A place where all things are in our Lord’s capable hands.

Have you asked Him to reveal hidden sins that hold you back?

Precious Father, thank You for taking personal interest in me. Thank You for lovingly revealing my unbelief so I can be set free from it and learn to resist the temptation to harden my heart when disappointment and fear assault. Probe where You need to, Holy Spirit! Reveal my fears and the lies attached to them. Give me understanding so I can rethink my response to life and live forgiven and free, trusting in You.PMApprov2-01

(Devotion taken from Soul Scents: RootedSoul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Easter Week Devotion ~ Blackened Streaks

EASTER-cross-and-crown-smalJoin us each weekday preceding Easter for a devotional focusing on the Cross of Jesus. These devotionals are taken from the bonus week in Soul Scents: Rooted, which just released. 

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV)

As the pastor traced the blackened streaks upon my forehead, tears sprang to my eyes. I couldn’t remember attending an Ash Wednesday service before, but this deep worship touched inner hidden places.

The liturgy invited the Holy Spirit to search within. To root out sin. To cast down idols. It asked me to speak words of repentance. Trouble brewed inside. I didn’t yet understand, but I gave permission for revelation.

By definition to repent is to feel regret, to rethink, to change.

Repentance in a Christian is an interesting thing. We’ve already made the choice to accept Christ’s gift of salvation, hard earned at the cross. His righteousness covers us and declares us holy. We live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Every fault is already forgiven: today’s, yesterday’s, and tomorrow’s.

A painful memory of my childhood is how my precious, sweet Grandma, who knew the Lord and constantly pointed me to Him, didn’t understand this concept. She believed Christ was her Savior and loved Him with a loyalty almost baffling to me as a young child. Her lips moved almost continually in silent prayer. Many times her belief in God and His ability to help in trouble shored up my own young faith.

But Grandma didn’t have the freedom a deeper grasp of grace would have given her. Guilt and fear often held her back.

One time when she tucked me in for a special overnight at Grandma’s house she told me, “Every night I ask the Lord to forgive me for anything I did wrong during the day, in case I sinned and didn’t know it or forgot to ask forgiveness. If something happens to me in my sleep I want to be right with God.”

It still hurts to think of the bondage this kind of thinking held over her. She didn’t understand she was already acceptable to God because of Jesus. “For it is from God alone that you have your life through Christ Jesus. He showed us God’s plan of salvation; he was the one who made us acceptable to God; he made us pure and holy and gave himself to purchase our salvation” (1 Corinthians 1:30, TLB).

Maybe a lot of people feel like she did. In church service after church service we sing songs and pray prayers that beg for God’s mercy. Yet hasn’t He already extended mercy?

“But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead—only by his undeserved favor have we ever been saved—and lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms—all because of what Christ Jesus did” (Ephesians 2:4–6, TLB).

In His grace Christ cleansed us and made us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Then why celebrate Ash Wednesday?

Why repent?

Because we’re like the apostle Paul, who said, “So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free” (Romans 7:23–25, TLB).

Paul was comforted by the same truth that comforts us today: Jesus moved in, cleansed us by His blood, and now the Holy Spirit convicts, slipping into our secret places and revealing where we’re thinking and living in the old way. “The Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT). The King James Version of the Bible says we are changed from “glory to glory.”

We repent, not out of fear of hell, not because we are worthless sinners, but because we are new creations, citizens of God’s kingdom, and we want to repent—to “rethink” and “change”—anything that gets in the way of becoming more like Jesus.

My friend, as you rethink life and ask the Lord to help you become more like Jesus, you repent from the safe place as one already forgiven and accepted.

Precious Jesus, Your sacrifice changed everything. Thank You for walking the road to the cross, for entering such degradation and pain so I might be cleansed and freed from the powers of sin and death. Holy Spirit, thank You for dwelling within me, probing the places where I need to rethink life. I give You permission to reveal any place where I’m thinking in the old ways instead of like a Kingdom citizen. Please change me from glory to glory.PMApprov2-01

(Soul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Soul Scents: Rooted Available and Discounted

Say tuned this week as I share thoughts about the cross from Soul Scents: Rooted. We included a bonus week of Easter devotionals in the book, and I’m sharing them here as well.

PMApprov2-01It’s here!! Soul Scents: Rooted, Volume 2 in the Soul Scents devotional series released this weekend!

To celebrate, we’ve set up great savings the week of Easter. Through Tuesday you can purchase the Kindle version for only 99 cents! Starting Wednesday the price will go up by $1 until it reaches it’s regular price of 4.99. On Tuesday we’re also offering Soul Scents: Awaken *free* for one day!

The paperback version is also available for both books. It’s difficult to discount the paperbacks, but we found a way. It’s a little complicated, but you can learn how to save money on them through my newsletter. New subscribers get free downloadable Soul Scents: Rooted coloring pages. Those in the Free to Flourish community get all the up-to-date information about new releases, discounts, and free gifts. The Soul Scents: Rooted free downloadable journal, with prompts to assist you in processing the devotional’s message, will be available soon. Check your newsletter for information!

Did you know you can get a free downloadable journal at my website to assist you in thinking about the concepts in Soul Scents: Awaken? There are also *free* Soul Scents: Awaken coloring pages.

~Here’s a little more about Soul Scents: Rooted ~SS Collection

Become rooted in your identity as the beloved! Soul Scents: Rooted, the second book in the Soul Scents devotional series, includes topics such as worthiness, spiritual battle, and destiny. The week-day readings include scriptures and prayers.

The Soul Scents collection invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of who God is and how He interacts with us. Combined, its four volumes, Awaken, Rooted, Bloom, and Flourish, offer a year’s worth of devotional reading. Each book has thirteen weeks of down-to-earth insight gleaned from scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom.  Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself.