Not my Symphony

lightning More breathtaking than fireworks, lightning exploded in the night sky. For miles around there was nothing but fields and lightning. Black filled with light; blazing paths and brilliant flashes of light sliced across rolling clouds. It wasn’t raining. But we were surrounded by God’s own melodic composition. I’d never seen anything quite like it. We drove in silence, mesmerized. Perfectly timed, a song began.

Our God is great. The Father of creation, His splendor fills the earth. The lightning crash. The thunder sings His praises. The galaxies can’t help but shout His worth. My soul must sing to You an offering. How great You are! My soul must sing, oh, let the heavens ring. How great You are! Oh, how great You are!”

An invisible drummer synced lightning and song. Percussion, strings, rhythm, tempo- all aligned in radical harmony with God’s creation. And the heavens burst with the glory of God! My struggling heart soaked it in, overwhelmed with God in His spectacular beauty.

On my mind had been thoughts of a family and the long wait. I’d been grappling with another month’s disappointment. Two red lines had not appeared. Not pregnant. “Ami I’m doing something bigger.” 

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Hate will not win.

It’s bigger than racism. It’s bigger than hate.

No doubt racism is still a raging and important issue in our nation. As a middle-class white woman, no doubt I don’t fully understand it.

America’s most recent, devastating tragedy, a shooting spree in a church, underscores reality again. And my soul grieves with the families and friends whose loved ones died.

I’m thankful for the response of the Charleston community. I’m thankful riots haven’t broken out, but rather prayer. I say with these brothers and sisters-

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:28)  The gospel creates unity.

But the problem is bigger than racism alone. We live in a broken society, a world fractured by the sin that courses through every person. I need only lift my head to see shattered fragments all around: shootings, bombings, abuse, rape, racism, terrorism, war, corruption, scandals, adultery, identity crises, abortion…

In my lifetime alone, the list is exhaustive.  Gulf War. Oklahoma City Bombing. Columbine. 9/11. Sandy Hook Elementary School. And I will not neglect to look at my own brokenness. I see my own sin.

So we cry for peace and we cry for change!

As I watched the suspect’s bond video this morning, a message from the victims’ families resonated across the court room.

“I forgive you.” 

“May God have mercy on your soul.”

“We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the One who matters the most, Christ. So that He can change you. He can change your ways no matter what happened to you.”

“I admit I’m a work in progress. And I acknowledge that I am very angry… But we have no room for hate, so we have to forgive.”

Over and over families offered forgiveness. More powerfully, they pointed the man who destroyed their families to One who will restore everything. Issuing a clear call to repentance, they pleaded for this man’s soul.

Not explicitly stated, but certainly implied was an undercurrent that forgiveness was possible because they had been forgiven.

So here’s what I want to say.

In a world gone mad, Jesus is the only hope. He alone will make things right. He forgives because He paid the penalty for sin.  

Since God is holy, forgiveness couldn’t merely be a wave of the hand, a dismissal of penalty. Rather forgiveness cost something. Atonement was absolutely necessary.

Issuing forgiveness cost the Father His Son, and it cost the Son His life. The legal demands of sin no longer bind me because Jesus took them! The Great Substitute. On the cross He became sin so that we could be righteous.

These grieving families can forgive because they have been forgiven.  They have been forgiven because Jesus satisfied God’s righteous wrath.

How beautiful the response of these dear ones! Turn to Christ. Run to King Jesus, who will one day make all things right. Amid a pain that hurts “every fiber” of their bodies, they offered Jesus. Such grace.

Hate will not win.

Sin will not win.

Yes Lord. Refine Me Again.

slaveryWhen I found myself sobbing on Mother’s Day, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Happy tears. Sad tears. Angry tears. An external processor to the core, it gets embarrassing sometimes.

But I laugh a lot too. So I suppose they balance out. A friend put it this way, “Ami, you just feel a lot on the outside.” Ok, I’ll take that.

Therefore, I should not have been blindsided. But I was.

A sucker punch straight to the gut, an imaginary referee counted down. These weren’t a few tears at the corners of my eyes, but shuddering waves, a flood impossible to stem.

I’ve been there before. Sure, I anticipate struggle on the major days, Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays, but Mother’s Day falls off the radar.

When I realize a “grief day” is coming, I actively prepare. I have learned to expect grace, to look for tangible manifestations of God’s compassionate care. And He faithfully turns dreaded days into peace, joy, and laughter.

The most difficult days, though, are the ones unexpected.

But the cause is not what you think. The sorrow wasn’t about motherhood and unmet dreams. Instead it had everything to do with a passage of Scripture.

Have you ever been deeply pierced by the Word?

For you, O God, have tried us as silver is tried, You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs, you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.” Psalm 66:10-12

The words leapt from the page, forever connected to a memory blazoned in startling clarity.

Only a week before he died, God and I talked about those words. I didn’t know death was at my door, but I sensed a season of suffering.

“Ok, we can face the wind and the rain together.”

Peace dispelled the fear that day. God would walk with us through the fire and water. We were precious in His sight. (Isaiah 43) I expected us to come through the fiery trial together. I thought abundance meant a return to the delightful circumstances of my choosing.

But I had to change my definition of abundant.

A 27 month journey to date, from one side of the valley of death to the other, now I call abundant something different.

Abundant is being rescued from the wrath of God by the blood of the Son of God. Abundant is a slave turned radiant bride.

Abundant is not determined by my physical circumstances.

“How wealthy is the place of every believer, and how doubly does he feel it to be so in contrast with his former slavery; what songs shall suffice to set forth our joy and gratitude for such a glorious deliverance and such a bountiful heritage. More awaits us. The depth of our grief bears no proportion to the height of our bliss.” – Charles Spurgeon.

So, confronted anew with Psalm 66, it compelled me once more to wrestle its heavy truth.

“…tried us as silver is tried…” Must I continued to be tried?

Though my flesh shouts, “No more refining,” my souls whispers, “Yes, Lord. Refine me, and refine me again. For you are worthy of pure worship.

A whisper, a wisp of flame, kindles again a blazing flame. “Yes Lord!”

“You have brought us out to a place of abundance.”

Do I still believe this?

Yes, Lord.

Jesus is the abundant place.

Crushed dreams, a broken house. But let the house be rebuilt on the solid rock whose name is Jesus! I hold dreams loosely. God is the designer of my expectations.

Often I’ve asked “Isn’t it enough God? Must I be refined further still?”

But I am not called to be “just enough” sanctified. God deserves the most precious, costly silver, the rarest vintage of wine, the most brilliant diamond.

yes Lord

Refine me, and refine me again.

Sobbing turned to praise, as entirety of the Psalm slid into view.

Shout for joy to God!

Sing the glory of His name!

Give to Him glorious praise!

Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!’

So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.

All the earth worships you!

And sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.
Come and see what God has done….

Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of His praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living! …

Come and hear all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul! …

But truly God has listened; He has attended to the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God because He has not rejected my prayer or removed His steadfast love from me!” – Psalm 66

I don’t want “just enough” of God. I want all of Him. And He wants all of me. And I will shout, “Come and see what God has done for my soul!’

He makes me rest in His abundance. He showers me with good things. He remains steadfast in his love. He refines, and His visage radiates ever clearer from my life.

Even the knockout, sucker punch days are beautiful. Even a grief day can be the catalyst for greater depth. And tears for me are a door to illumined truth.

Then make me what you will, Lord. Refine me, and refine me again.


This post by Ami appeared first at Intentional By Grace

 

Mine.

Live for the Audience of One.

I remember the injunction clearly, and pondered what it meant for me, a teenager and new believer. I knew salvation was by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. I understood my need, responded to His relentless pursuit, and experienced His saving power. I saw radical transformation, wildfire growth if you will. And I wanted to follow Christ with all my soul.

“I am no longer who I once was,” my heart rejoiced!

But many things about this thing called the “Christian Life” were still fuzzy. Audience of One?

“Well that must mean ‘to live for God’s approval alone.’ I suppose God is more pleased with me when I don’t do certain things, but do other things. If He’s the audience then I must perform, right?”

And so, I tumbled into the trap of performance. Do this. Don’t do this.

My failures crushed me. “Didn’t read my Bible every day this week. Epic fail. God must love me less.”

I may never have said the words aloud, but if I was honest, I thought they were true. I knew I’d been saved by grace, but I lived like I still had to earn it.

I’d love to tell my teenage self some things. I suppose I had to learn them over the passage of time, but if I could, I’d save her years of guilt ridden, faulty belief.

The Audience of One already approves.

Have you forgotten who He is?

As a father grins at his lisping child, stumbling through one line in the Kindergarten play, so does the Audience of One beam. Everyone else sees a gymnasium, but a father sees Carnegie Hall.

The father approves, not for the merit of the performance, but because he looks and says, “Mine.”

I’d say to my teenage self, “Christ justified you. By His blood you are declared innocent. He took your sin, and put it on Himself. Not only that, He gave you His righteousness.”

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

“But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 2:4-7

Justified.

Just as if I’ve never sinned.

Just as if I’ve always obeyed.

Negative infinity to zero.

Zero to positive infinity.

He approves. On my best days and worst days, God loves me just the same. He looks at me and sees His Son.

Therefore, to live for the Audience of One, isn’t performance. 

It is worship, the delight that flows from all Jesus accomplished on my behalf.

The Audience rejoices, not on my merit, but because I belong to Him. My lines may be lisped, my song sung with cracking voice, but He looks and says, “Mine!”

Only one was an audience, the Audience of One. The smile of the King’s approval swept through the choir like fire across dry wheat fields. When the song was complete, the Audience of One  stood and raised His great arms, then clapped His scarred hands together in thunderous applause shaking the ground and sky, jarring every corner of the cosmos. His applause went on and on unstopping and unstoppable.” -Randy Alcorn

 

Ordinary? Extraordinary.

special

“I’ll have the Ordinary Special.”

“Do you want blue skies with that?”

“Yes please.”

“Ok, that’ll be one Ordinary Special coming right up. Runny noses, nap time songs, making dinner, a kiss when the husband comes home, an argument, extra reconciliation snuggles, and a side of blue skies.”

“Yep, that’ll do it. I’ll have it my way.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could order our days from a menu, consciously choosing what seems most desirable? An ordinary day? An extraordinary day?

I’d pick an entirely different ordinary than the one I have now- I wake up, stumble downstairs for coffee, work, write, spend time with friends, watch TV, go to bed by myself.

I would certainly pick an ordinary that included another husband and with him, children. I’d gladly take the exhaustion, the nighttime feedings, and the tantrums, for the joy of loving and being loved.

Other people’s ordinaries seem much better than my own, so I’d choose what I think I need to be happy.

But I want extraordinary also. How about I order that as well? I want to slay dragons and move mountains. I want God to do something BIG in and through me. I want the gospel to explode in hearts and the kingdom proclaimed.

God, I could do so much more. The task you’ve given seems so small.

“I want to write for multitudes and speak at conferences. Move over Nancy Leigh DeMoss!” says the silly, proud, dreamer with a hint of tongue and cheek.

How fickle am I, however, for often I cry “God don’t you think you’ve asked too much? Don’t you know I’m scared?”

To pick my own ordinary, or my own extraordinary seems like it’d be a sweet deal then. Right?

What is the ordinary you’d pick? The extraordinary?

It’s probably a good thing I can’t order life from a menu,though. Knowing human nature, I’d still say, “I wish I’d ordered what she’s having.”

And if I’m honest, a different ordinary wouldn’t thoroughly satisfy either. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Moreover, there’s a more glaring issue: choosing life like items on a menu presupposes I don’t need God, that I’m in control of my destiny. I’m not fooled, though. I’ve lived long enough to know that’s the oldest lie in the book.

I need God. He alone fully satisfies.

What if I realized that my ordinary is precisely, uniquely, and intimately guided by God? What if I knew– I mean really KNEW –that God is sovereign, trustworthy, and infinitely loving?

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord when he delights in his way, though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

What if I knew that ordinary is really extraordinary?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11

“Jesus calls his followers, not to a dour, lifeless, miserable existence that squashes human potential, but to a rich, full, joyful life, one overflowing with meaningful activities under the personal favor and blessing of God and in continual fellowship with his people.” (ESV Study Bible Notes)

abundant

Extraordinary Ordinary? Why, that might change everything.

Tim Keller put it this way.

“If Jesus became incarnate to live among the ordinary, what we call ordinary must be pretty special to God.”

God cares about all the ordinary details. He created them. He redeems them. God dwelt in them, so that He could be a High Priest who knows our weaknesses. They remind us that He provides.

Jesus seemed ridiculously ordinary. Ordinary looks. Ordinary stature. Ordinary occupation. The son of Mary and Joseph, apprenticed as a carpenter, went to Torah school and had a bar mitzvah.

But wrapped in ordinary humanity, was something inestimably extraordinary. God became flesh. “I will come to you. And I will die for you.” That’s the most radical thing I’ve ever heard! He gives life, abundant life. He gives extraordinary purpose to ordinary days.

So I stop, I marvel at flower blossoms and budding trees. I give thanks for dishes to wash and laundry to fold. When I think about my ordinary life, and even the not so ordinary parts, I remember it’s incredible to get to serve, to lead, to point others to Jesus.

Clay, wine, trees, fields, bread, fish: all ordinary things used by Jesus in marvelous ways. Jesus operates in the ordinary, but the results are extravagant. I suppose then, He uses my ordinary as well.

I’m the recipient of extraordinary grace.

I have received the extraordinary Gospel. And that is no ordinary thing.


This post by Ami appeared first at Intentional By Grace

Delight to Gaze upon Him

everythingI love when people feel at home in my home. I really do.

“Grab a blanket if you’re cold.

You know where the coffee mugs are.

Come on in without knocking.

Feel free to go in the fridge.

You’re a welcome guest. Moreover, I want you to know I consider you family.

Such delight it brings when friends know what they are to me- family, beloved!

I hope my home is lovely, and I hope folks feel loved there. But I know of a far more precious dwelling place.

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longs yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. (Psalm 84:1-2 )

Now, there are some things you must know.

  1. In the Old Testament, God chose to dwell in a tent made by hands, first the Tabernacle, and later the Temple in Jerusalem. Israel could meet with Him there.
  2. The journey to God’s dwelling place was a long, arduous, and often treacherous pilgrimage.
  3. For many, it may have been merely obligation. (Deuteronomy 16:16)
  4. Common Israelites were permitted to enter only the outer court of the Tabernacle. Even more restrictive was the Holy of Holies, the very seat of God. Solely the high priest, ONE man, ONE time a year could enter it.
  5. The sons of Korah, the authors of this Psalm, rejoice even in their lowly positions as doorkeepers. (Psalm 84:10)

Now, keep all that in mind for a minute.

To be welcome in the house of the Lord, the God who created everything, the God who is majestic and transcendent is in a word, astonishing.

So, the psalmists long for God’s dwelling place, yearning for it with a sense of urgency. They understand that meeting with God offers true delight, true satisfaction, and true fulfillment.

Therefore, to dwell with God is their chief desire.

David reiterates the theme.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27: 4)

Wow. I want God to be my chief desire, the captor of my affections. I want to sing and shout for joy, knowing He far surpasses all my hopes and dreams. I know He is the fulness.

But I’ll be honest, I don’t always want God the most.

Sometimes, other things vie for my attention. The hazards of the journey ensnare me. Sometimes, weeds and thorns threaten to choke out the truth, and other pastures seem greener.

But there are things I must recall.

God no longer dwells in a tent made by hands, but in hearts made of flesh. Through the completed work of Christ, God dwells within His church. He ALWAYS dwells with me.

I get to meet with the living God. Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute. In a word, that’s astonishing.

I’m not restricted to the outer court. The veil was torn, the Holy of Holies opened. Rather than ONE man, ONE time of year, I’ve been given constant, total access to God, Himself. Jesus pleads for me. And I can expect grace. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Furthermore, God calls me not a doorkeeper, but FAMILY. (Romans 8:14-15)

How then can I not delight to gaze upon Him, singing and shouting for joy?

How then can I not recall what am to Him?

Beloved. Called. Chosen. Redeemed. Purchased. Family


This post by Ami appeared first at aNew Season Ministries

 

Bringing His Bride with Him

Once upon a time there was a king.

Now, this king was everything a good fairy tale wants. He was powerful, but also good. He was just, but also merciful. He was wise, faithful, and fiercely protective of his kingdom. And he loved his citizens, not as one aloof or stoic, but with passion and vehemence, as if they were sons and daughters.

One day the king called for his son.

“My son, and true heir, with whom I share all glory and dominion! My son, united with me in heart and purpose!” the king proclaimed at the sight of the prince, embracing him with delight.

But as the king stepped back, his eyes were fierce with righteous anger. Yet in a swirling, torrent of emotions, staggering sorrow etched his wrinkled brow and aged-lined face. His hands weighed heavily on the prince’s shoulders. And the prince, so radically connected to his father, knew the emotions as well.

“Oh my son,” The king was grave, “I must send you on a perilous mission, one so perilous it is such the world has never seen. Were there another way, I would have it so. But you alone can be the rescuer. You alone are anointed.”

His voice was still thick with grief and outrage, two sides of the same coin. “Your future bride has been deceived and stolen by our ancient foe! A dragon most formidable and full of rage and fury guards a tower that reaches heaven, a tower formed from impenetrable stone. In it he keeps her, captive.”

And the son felt the equal weight of wrath and agony. How could this possibly be?

perilous“But there is more. What I ask is more than you know. To rescue the fairest, most lovely, most gentle, beauty in all the land is one thing. However, this is not your feat. Rather, your lady fair is not fair at all. She is crushed by her oppressor, lower than a slave. But she has no understanding– he’s beguiled her so. She thinks she’s free. Yet she is filthy, dressed in rags. Her heart is broken, torn apart by guilt and shame. She is blind. And lame. And her body is wracked with leprosy. She is utterly destitute. Day by day she sits in ashes,clothed in despair.”

“There is more. She hates you with malice so violent, so hostile, and so deeply rooted, it consumes her. My son, I send you to rescue one who is thoroughly unlovely. But she belongs to the kingdom, a citizen. I love the unlovely. And I want her back.” As he said the last, his hand clenched in an emphatic fist.

“My son, still there is more. Our ancient foe is no ordinary dragon, and you’ll not slay him by ordinary means. To defeat the master deceiver, you must become as the one you rescue. You must exchange your resplendent, spotless cloak for a threadbare rag saturated with the stench of human waste. You must put on her blindness. You must become lame. You must see your body wrapped in rotten, leprous flesh. You must wear her ashes and take her despair. And after all this, you will surely die. My dearest son, I love you more deeply than language can describe, but I love my citizens too. I love this wretch. Son will you lay aside your glory? Will you lay aside your fame and renown for a time?”

you must
The prince weighed his father’s words in a balance. The father’s glory was his glory. The father’s kingdom, his kingdom, but his father asked a task almost incomprehensible.

Become a leper, unclean, cast out? Be blind? Be lame? Dress in filth? Die?

He returned his father’s gaze. He loved his father with loved that encompassed all, and he would do his father’s will.

Without hesitation, the son knelt, and presented his sword.

“Yes father, this thing you ask, I’ll do it willingly. I will go. I will redeem the unlovely one, taking her blindness, her leprosy, her ashes, her despair. I will wash her. I will bind her broken heart, and it will be whole. I will set her free. She’ll be liberated, no longer captive! I will clothe her with a beautiful crown and a splendid garments. No longer will she sit in ashes. I will give her the oil of joy. I will comfort her gently. I will provide for her needs. I will love her with unquenchable love. And yes, father, to defeat our ancient and formidable foe, I will die for her.”

“My son! Oh my marvelous son, how I delight in you! You will destroy the foe! You will crush his head. And you will rise and come again to me, bringing your bride with you. And she will be yours. And she will be beautiful because you will make her so.”

Now time will not suffice to tell you all, but the prince did embark. And the journey was exceedingly perilous. The cost was exceptionally high.

It was an extravagant rescue mission, such as the world had never seen. All came to pass just as the Father said.

All came to pass.

The son died.

Yet he did also rise.

And he returned to the king, bringing his bride with him.

The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning and splendid clothes instead of despair, and they will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD to glorify Him. Isaiah 61:1-3


This post by Ami appeared first at Intentional By Grace.

A Satisfying & Fitting Conclusion

An avid lover of books, I adore a satisfying, tightly woven conclusion. I close the book (or turn off the kindle), and just sit there enjoying my reverie. It’s the place where contentment and longing somehow dwell harmoniously. It’s wishing there were more adventures with a beloved friend. But if the author is worth his salt, it’s also knowing there couldn’t possibly be a more fitting ending.

Speaking of conclusions, it’s not unusual for me to open a new book and immediately flip to the end. Before anything else, I read the final paragraph. I suppose it’s a quirky little habit. But I love it. The last paragraph of a novel provides the perfect teaser; I can’t wait to know why the masked man leaves a rose on the bedside table. Just kidding, romance novels are not my preferred genre.

But seriously, the last few sentences make me want to know how all the pieces fit. Excitement builds. I’m about to get lost in an undiscovered tale. Enthusiastically, I return to the beginning ready to devour word upon word, page upon page.

Finally I come to the conclusion again. Sigh.

Now, I would submit to you that I have come across the world’s best conclusion. I know that’s a crazy claim, but I’m firmly convinced that out of all the satisfying conclusions in all the world’s books, there is one that surpasses them all.

Are you ready? Holy smokes. I’m so excited!

Now there are many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

John 21:25

Drop the mic.

Could there be a more fitting conclusion? The implications are staggering. Jesus is more than mortal tongue can express. If all scholars, through all of time, made Him the subject of their lives’ work, they still wouldn’t exhaust the reality of who He is.

The true Jesus is so much bigger than my truncated version of Him. I try to put Him in a neat little box. But He doesn’t fit. He is more than I fully understand, utterly inexhaustible. Therefore, If Jesus is so marvelous that the world cannot contain all the truth about Him, then is He not also far bigger in my life? And in your life?

Is He not able to do exceeding abundantly above all that I can ask or think? (Ephesians 3:20)

Is He not more intimately acquainted with every detail than I can possibly fathom? (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Is this Jesus not able to be trusted?

Likewise, this perfect conclusion to John’s book emphasizes the sheer magnitude of all Jesus accomplished. Salvation is more radical than we know; redemption had a greater cost. His incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension- in short, these words make up the gospel. And it is vaster, broader in its scope than we dare to comprehend.

Now imagine you’ve never read the book of John. What a conclusion! That’s an understatement, I think. Don’t you desperately need to see what came before?

Spoiler alert: among other things, He made the blind to see, He made the lame to walk, He raised the dead, He lived perfectly, He died, and He rose again. He took a penalty His bride could never have paid for herself. He reconciled. He justified.

Jesus is beautiful in His infinitude, yet also close at hand. He is near. Though we don’t understand all, God’s given us enough to know the only way to salvation and the end of the  grand narrative. (John 14:6; Revelation 22: 12-21).

We can know Jesus.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.(John 20:30-31)

In John’s perfect conclusion, contentment and longing mingle together in unblemished harmony. Jesus satisfies, and knowing that satisfaction, I long for Him more.

Well, I suppose in a post about conclusions, I should probably up with a good one.

I’ve got nothing.

So, its best to say with John, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!”  (Revelation 22:20)

Talk about satisfying and fitting.


This post by Ami appeared first at aNew Season Ministries

Love the Unlovely?

I’m just so stinkin’ excited to share this post by my mother-in-law! It’s easy to love the lovely, but what about the unlovely?

I’m so glad she did.


 

unlovelyBy guest blogger, Jill Neff

Love, the word rolls smoothly off our tongue. We love God, our families, coffee, and chocolate chip cookies. But how does my heart respond when God asks me to love someone unlovely? Our “pretty package” was named Jonathan, a rebellious teen from the youth group at the church my husband pastored. Motherless at fourteen, cancer would soon make him fatherless at eighteen. And God was about to reveal a plan that was a far cry from what we ever imagined. Jim said, “He’s my only child, will you take care of him, give him a home, and see him through college?”

Well that doesn’t seem too hard – food, a warm bed, and some occasional laundry.  But God said, “Will you love him, this unlovely one? And point him to me?” Now that journey was not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

Jonathan embraced his new family with gusto; he called us dad and mom, was over the moon about his new siblings, and had more energy than any 5-year-old I knew.  But he charged through life with intellectual knowledge of Christ, and no real relationship with Him, so we butted heads often.  There were tears, disappointments, hurts, and anger, and many prayers!

How he drove me to my knees over and over, seeking wisdom and strength for this journey.  I didn’t completely understand God’s plan, but I did understand what God wanted me to do, love this boy who had lost his real family, love him when he lied, love him when he disappointed, love him when he hurt me.  So love him I did, with every fiber of my being, like a mother would love him!

Baby steps forward, big steps back; it seemed at times like this “pretty package” was just too big a challenge!  Finally there was the most important victory. Jonathan yielded his life and put his faith and trust in Christ.  Oh things didn’t change overnight, but gradually the steps forward got bigger, and the steps backward got smaller as God’s word penetrated his heart.

We saw him grow in Christ, be called to preach, and marry, Ami, the love of his life. And my mother’s heart rejoiced.  On January 25, 2013, God called him home, ahead of the planned surgery to replace the faulty valve in his heart.

And my mother’s heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. “Wait, God, this wasn’t the plan!  This is not what I expected!”  My heart mourned, and God held me close and simply whispered, “You let me love him through you, and that was my plan all along!”

People ask me if I would do this again, knowing the struggles, disappointments, and hurts.  My honest human answer is maybe not!  Here’s the interesting part, however. God didn’t just change Jonathan, He changed me. The love of God is unconditional, full of grace and flowing from His heart “even while we were yet sinners.” (Romans 5:8).  He is looking for a surrendered and obedient heart that He can work through. Because that’s His plan, to use His children to love those around us, those who need to know the love of God as more than just a fuzzy idea they once heard somewhere, to love those who need to know the love of God in salvation!

Perhaps there is someone that God has placed in your path, someone in your sphere of influence, someone who is not very lovely, but someone who needs God to love them through you.  My journey with Jonathan is complete, but maybe your journey is just beginning. Who does God want to love through you? “One more child, He said, for this family of three. One more child, He said, point him to me.”  Would I do this again….in a heartbeat!

Father, help my heart to be in tune with your heart. I surrender my heart and ask you to love the unlovely through me.  Bring those across my path that need to know you and help me share God’s love and the glorious message of the gospel. 


This post appeared first at anewseason.net

And you will find rest for your souls.

hustleMy fingers and toes were ice, but my face was flushed and hot. Wrapped in a blanket, wearing several layers, including socks and slippers, I could not get warm. The tell tale signs were like stealth fighters. spies on a covert mission. Try as I might to thwart them, I merely slowed their progress. The tactic changed. It was a full-on frontal assault, a barrage of symptoms wreaking havoc with my immune system.

Chills. Aches. Fever. Runny nose. Sneezing. Headache. Maybe the flu. Sick. Bleh.

I hate being sick. I especially hate it now that I’m a widow. Going to the store to get my own OJ and chicken noodle is no fun when my head feels twice its normal size. Being sick feels worse alone.

My first reaction is typically denial. “I’m not getting sick. I’m just tired. I have too much to do. Can’t get sick. I don’t feel well just because I think I don’t feel well. It’s all psychological.

Finally I give in and accept reality. “Ugh. I feel awful.”

To the couch I go, knowing rest is a primary need. I admit, initially it’s wonderful to alternate sleep with a movie marathon. Sometimes slowing down is a beautiful thing

Read the rest of the story here at Intentional By Grace.

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