Tag Archives: cross

Jesus’s Joy and Father’s Good Pleasure–YOU

Why would Jesus choose to give up the perfection of heaven to experience ridicule and horrific death?
 
Scripture says that Jesus endured the cross for the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). What is that joy? The passage continues by saying that Jesus was given the place of honor when He returned to heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father.
 
My thinking used to stop there.
 
But Scripture also calls you and me Jesus’ “rich and glorious inheritance” (Ephesians 1:18, NLT) and says that we’ve been seated in the heavenlies with Jesus. There are also a lot of passages which talk about how Jesus longs for the final ceremony when His bride (us!) is presented to Him. It’s hard to believe it is true, but Jesus died, in part, because He wanted us as His inheritance. His beloved bride.
 
Then there’s Father God. What would cause a loving Father to ask such a thing of His son? Luke 12:32 tells us that it was the Father’s “good pleasure” to give the kingdom to us. Ephesians talks of the wonder of God adopting us as His very own children, allowing Jesus to pay the redemption price, to purchase us from darkness.
My friend, we are of great worth to our Creator.
Maybe you blaze past those thoughts, accepting them quickly, in the context of the unfathomable actions of the cross. You believe you are loved, treasured even, by God. Why else would God allow the cross of Christ?
 
But will you believe it tomorrow?
 
Will you believe it when life doesn’t go as you planned? When someone wounds you? When you stare at your imperfections in the mirror (on the wall or in your soul)?
 
When the vile voice of the enemy whispers of your inadequacy and failure?
 
Can you know then, way down deep, that the King of All values you? That the cross took all of the shame and inadequacy, all of the outsider-living, and placed you in the center of God’s heart? That even before the cross God chose you as the recipient of His love because you are of great worth to Him? That you are part of the royal family of heaven?
 
If you’re like me, you’ll have good days and bad days when it comes to living like royalty. But whether or not we stand tall in the noble robes our Father gave us, it doesn’t change the fact that we were bought with a price because of our worth to God. It doesn’t change that fact that His actions rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and placed us close to Him in the kingdom of light. It doesn’t change that fact that we are His beloved.
We belong with our family in the throne room.
 
This is yesterday’s introduction to the first week of devotions from Soul Scents: Selections for Easter. Maybe it seems strange to start an Easter devotional book talking about our worth to our Creator, but I believe this is one of the places most attacked by the enemy and also one of the main points of the cross. I hope you’ll join me on this journey as I share what God has shown me about our value to Him (week one) and as we look at other implications of the Cross of Christ. Selections for Easter is free on my website. Just click on gifts.

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.)

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.)

Carnival Mirrors and Mocking

Pretty much any time we step out into new territory we are opposed.

If you haven’t experienced this, please let me know. I want your secret.

Several years ago I began a weekly devotional called Soul Scents. It wasn’t long before I got hate mail telling me all the reasons I wasn’t good enough or holy enough to write about spiritual things. After a few tears and lots of prayer I kept going. How? I clung to the truth. I didn’t have to be good enough. The only way anyone is that good is because they are covered by the blood of Jesus. That writing experience was one of the best of my life, and a few thousand came on the ride with me.

What if I’d listened to the critique?

Fast forward to now. I’d known for a long time I was supposed to offer videos on my blog. A few weeks ago I finally stepped up. I felt exposed and nervous, but that first Monday Makeover was a personal victory! It wasn’t perfect, but I said what I knew I was supposed to say. I DID it.

But after a day or two the opposition started.

This time it wasn’t from people; it was an oppression that became so tangible it was as though the very air I breathed cried out, “hopeless,” telling me there would never be true success, that I would never really influence this world for the better. Even the air around me seemed tinged gray.

I pushed through videoing my second Monday Makeover, sharing Truth I absolutely believed, but speaking out of a determination to move forward, not out of free-flowing joy.

That Monday was awful. Tuesday morning was not much better. I read my Advent devotional determined to embrace the beauty. While it shined pencil light into my darkness, I still felt I was suffocating.

I tried to journal, to talk to God, but instead of free-flowing conversation there was confusion and an overwhelming sense of condemnation. In my mind I saw a strong man standing before me, glaring at me, arms crossed. I cried out, “Lord, this is not the True You, the Loving God You’ve revealed to me.” I think the last thing I wrote in my journal is that I felt powerless and needed Him to rescue me.

I went on with my day, attending my critique group. When it was my turn for advice on my manuscript I asked for prayer instead. My friends surrounded me.

It wasn’t long before one spoke up. “I believe the Lord has given me a picture that reveals what you’re dealing with. I see a “fun” house full of a maze of distorted mirrors. Over a loud speaker comes mocking laughter, playing over and over. You’re fighting to look in a true mirror, but you can’t find it.”

She was right. Those three women began praying and before I went home that day the gray film no longer suffocated me.

I knew who I was. A daughter of the King.

Maybe I’ll tell you the whole story someday, but for now my message is simply this: You will be opposed when you move forward; but you will NOT be defeated.

Believe. Keep walking forward. Grab your friends for prayer and encouragement. Ask God to rescue you. Read TRUTH.

IMAG0288

The darkness wants to destroy all that is good in this world, to keep us captive to despair and doubt. To tell us we are unimportant, ineffective, and unable to succeed.

But the Good News is “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does NOT overcome it.” (That’s from the Gospel of John.)

I hope to hang some lights later. If you happen to drive by my house know that I’m shouting victory to the world with their every twinkle.

The LIGHT shines in the darkness, and the darkness has NOT overcome it!

Victory over the Carnival Image

Spirit Seeker Sunday 6

spirit 7 stephen

Let His Spirit move you like water in a stream. Fresh. Flowing. Bubbling. (Photo taken by Stephen Moldenhauer on a hike in the Colorado Rockies.)

“We are only one good choice away from being back on the path of perseverance.” ~ Lysa TerKeurst, the Made to Crave Devotional

This has to be one of my very favorite nuggets of truth on my get healthy journey.

Some days (months, years) are super stressful, and I find it hard to CARE about a thinner, healthier body, much less take action. But the good news is that my God dearly loves me whether I’m having a successful weight loss day or not. His love never changes. It is not based on my performance, but in my position as His beloved child.

Every single moment I am only one choice away from returning to my goal. It’s never to late to step back onto the path of perseverance and success. No matter how many days I ignored my goal, in a flash I can be back on track.

Whew! Talk about encouragement!

In her Made to Crave Devotional, Lysa TerKeurst talks about being raised in a culture where food equates love. I relate. My grandmother was a fabulous cook and her love language was feeding you. It wasn’t unusual for Grandma to make fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, AND stewed potatoes–in one meal. She wanted everyone to have their favorite. And she did the same things with the bread. It wasn’t enough to have homemade yeast rolls. She had to make biscuits, too, because I liked them best. And a meal isn’t a meal in the rolling hills of eastern Oklahoma without cornbread. At least at Grandma’s table.

I bought into the whole concept of loving through food. If my boys were to write a book on love languages,  instead of The Five Love Languages, there would be Six. The sixth would be cooking for those you love. Just the other night I made pan cookies at 9 p.m. just because my Seth’s big blue eyes begged. Of course since he works out a couple of hours most days and has the metabolism of a twenty-year-old, those pan cookies don’t affect him quite like they do me. Like it or not, a whole lot of the meaning of family at our house is a big meal or a home-baked treat.

While cooking is a way of loving–an act of service my sons and husband appreciate–food is not love. God is love. Being a part of His family is as simple as choosing to be His child by accepting His unconditional love and forgiveness offered through His Firstborn Son, Jesus. Because of Jesus’s act of Love on the cross, the rest of us have the opportunity to be adopted by the Father. We can be part of the family.

We can enjoy many expressions of love, including someone’s good cooking. But in our journey to know God and in our journey to healthier lifestyles, it’s important to break the idea that we can fill up our love holes with food. The only way to fill up a love hole is with God’s unconditional, always present, never wavering, fully perfect LOVE.

When He looks at us He loves us. It’s that simple.

When we throw our heart and arms open to God’s love, we are more able to go forward in all of life. In our identity as children of the King of the universe we can persevere in the hard stuff–like weight loss–and make that one good choice that puts us back on the path to perseverance. And then the NEXT good choice.

How about you?  Does it encourage you to remember that you are HIS precious daughter no matter your weight and no matter your performance? And how do you feel about being only one good choice away from perseverance?

How about sharing these thoughts with your friends?

When God looks at us He loves us. It’s that simple.

My identity is as God’s precious child; not based on my performance.

No matter what I’ve done, I’m only one choice away from persevering on the path to my goals.