An Advent Hymn For Your Saturday

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Set Free

I have felt stuck before, under siege in my own mind and soul. I have felt surrounded by fear, locked away with walls of shame high around me. I couldn’t get myself out and I didn’t know how to let help in.

So this line of David’s rings out of my own heart- for it was God alone who was my deliverer when the enemy closed in, trying to convince me that there was no hope of rescue. It was the unfailing love of Jesus that knocked over the barricades, His Light driving away the darkness. When I couldn’t reach Him, He came to me.

Maybe you have been trapped before, too? Maybe you know what it is to feel surrounded, all hope cut off? Maybe you have had a heart heavy with the condemnation and lies of the enemy?

If you have been there or if you are there now, weary with waiting and wanting – there is hope. His victory belongs to you, too. We call out and He is there, breaking the barriers and chains that hold us captive. Jesus speaks Truth and life into the wasted away and broken places : you are loved. You are worth more than you can even begin to imagine to Me. I call you by name because I know you. I have always known you. I have come that you can have life. I have come to set you free.

We are not abandoned and we do not accept defeat. Our savior is stronger than any barricade, any sin, every enemy.

He will come with mercy, salvation, life full and free.

Music Monday {No Longer Slaves}

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” -Romans 8:15

 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. -2 Cor. 3:17

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…from 1 John 4:18

Set Free to Live as His Workmanship {a guest post by Jacquie Wagner}

 I am so grateful to have Jacquie Wagner sharing with us today. Although we have never met face to face, Jacquie’s words and prayers have been a source of encouragement in my life for years. The love of Jesus shines so clearly through her – and I see such a beautiful reflection of our Savior in her love for God and for the body of Christ. {You can read more of Jacquie’s words and see her editorial handiwork over at Christian Women Online.}  

I am particularly grateful for Jacquie’s testimony today…because sometimes the most difficult battles we fight are within ourselves and we can lose sight of the victory that is already ours through Jesus. Sometimes we hold onto our pasts, hold onto our sins, hold onto the chains that have already been broken by our Savior’s power. I am thankful for this truth that Jacquie is reminding us of today…submitting to Christ’s authority and receiving His grace over our lives brings freedom and peace, hope and purpose. He overcomes the darkness around us and within us….loving us all the while.

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.-Col. 1:13

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Because Jesus is Alive… I’m not stuck with myself and less likely to be stuck on myself!

We all have them ~those days where we run face to face into who we are in our flesh, with our failings ~ our ugly parts that surface and show themselves to, at, and over others, or our own personal load of sin that shows itself to us: fear, doubt, gossip, laziness, unkindness, meanness, our… Maybe it would be faster to just quote the love part of 1 Corinthians 13 ~ only as the opposite of all those good things. Or maybe snag one or more of Paul’s deadly accurate lists of sins, the makeup of our Self ~ ugh! Apart from the work of God in our lives, we are none of us very pretty on the inside ~ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Praise be to God who does not leave us in our filth!  Praise be to God who gave us Jesus, His only Son, who died to pay for our transgressions, and who rose again and lives at the right hand of the Father interceding for us!  Praise God for the reality of the Blood which cleanses us from ALL sin!  I don’t know about you, but one of the realities of the cross that is hard for me to grasp with any kind of a firm hold is the truth that ALL of our sins ~ our personal “whoops-ities” and “grossities” ~were FUTURE sins at the cross.  We tend ~ in moods of introspection and/or when we’re forced to see it ~ to get hung up on our sin and failures like they somehow make us lesser in that moment or season.  The truth is, though, that our present sins are no more degrading/depressing/dehumanizing/deinflating etc. than our first sin or whatever our last sin will be.  Sin is sin and it was all paid for BEFORE we ever committed them!  We are no less the beloved children of God when we sin than before.

God loves us right where we are now ~ in the midst of a mess or on the high way with Him ~ because the truth is we’re always on the high way with Him. God’s not any more enamored of our times of sin than we are, but He’s FAR less interested in stirring them around than we are. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 Then He drops them in the sea of forgetfulness and would like us to do the same because:

~ Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… Romans 8:1

~ For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

~ I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20

~  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Which verse brings us to the other half of a “problem” in our lives that Jesus delivers us from daily because He is alive ~

If I’m not unduly wrestling with remorse over my sin (and there is a time and place for that, but not everyday, all day where it paralyzes us in our walk with the Lord), then I’m wrestling with the flip side of things ~ glorying in what an awesome Christian I am for whatever awesome thing the Lord is doing in me and through me.  Whatever good is occurring in my life has zero to do  with me and everything to do with what the Lord is working in my life.  The  verse is so good and so full of truth, let’s do it again ~

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (emphasis mine)

We can follow this up with these good Words of Life ~

…it is God Who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image of glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Not much room in there for me, or you, to be taking any glory for the good! Likewise, there’s not much room to be stuck mourning our sins, for we really don’t have time ~

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:37-28

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For Your Friday…A Scripture & Song (the joy edition!)

But when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children. –Galatians 4:4-5

So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through! -John 8:36

What You Can Count On

We are told that the world is unraveling. We are told that the economy is unstable, diseases are without cure, depression and anxiety more prevalent than ever before. We are told that there is no guarantee of safety, no guarantee of provision, no guarantee that a new disaster won’t befall us when the new day dawns.

We are told all of these things from the media sources that speak into our homes…in the plots of our ‘entertainment’…we can overhear the conversations in restaurants and grocery stores…in our twitter feed…on facebook. We hear the endless sounds of despair and the incessant arguments of political solutions that bring no peace and no optimism. I’m sure that you could add more to the list I made, more worry-planting seeds you’ve heard…and these seeds fall easy into the soil of our broken hearts.

Are the problems real? Yes. And yet this is not the entire truth…because, contrary to what it may seem — the problems are not or never will they be the end of the story.  They are not the whole story. And here’s what is left out of the conversation:

We have a Savior and this is what He says about our earth so undone –

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus Christ is the same today as He was on the day that this world was spoken into existence. He is the same today as He was on the day that saw a sea parted for a way of escape, a sun standing still for the victory to be won, three hundred men defeating an army with nothing but jars to break, torches to light, and trumpets to sound. He is the same today as He was when one stone knocked a giant to the ground, when the captives returned from exile, when the wall was rebuilt no matter the obstacles that came. He is the same today as when one lunch became a feast for thousands, when Lazarus walked from death into life, when the mute and the lame were suddenly shouting and leaping. He is the same today as when He spoke peace to the storm, opened blinded eyes, and He is the same today as when He rose from His grave and ascended in power and glory to the right hand of the Father.

What I am trying to say is this: no matter how many times this world turns, no matter how sin destroys and divides, no matter how much power the enemy thinks is in his hands — there is one King of kings and He is in control. He has always been the Author of this story – He began it, He unfolds it, and the ending is His and His alone.

If trouble arises, we can acknowledge it and then we can say – This, too, is in His hands. When fear or sickness or problems invade our lives, we can say – He is Lord of my life and this, too, is under His authority.

There is nothing — not one thing on earth, in hell, or heaven —  nothing that is not under His reign.

I do not understand the sorrow and tragedies that come into our lives, but I do know that in His power – there is nothing that can’t be redeemed.  I know that this life is not the end. I know that He is sovereign and I know that He is love — so we can face the turmoil without bending beneath the burden of fear. He is the same as He has always been and the same as He will always be – Mighty. Holy. Full of mercy and full of grace. Healer. Exalted above the heavens – all power belongs to Him even while He is loving enough to dwell in our hearts.

Remember! — the Savior who sings in delight over you has overcome the world! All of the sin and the enemy who would destroy everything innocent and good? Defeated. The troubles that plague our days?  Defeated. The death and despair that shout out into our world? Defeated. 

And I know that, sometimes, it doesn’t seem like it. It can feel like things are spiraling and that good is being drowned out – but we must trust Who we know and not our vision of now. The defeat of our enemy isn’t something we can always see in fullness, but one day we will. Our God knows the day and the hour and the second when He will step back into our sight here on earth, bringing eternal peace with Him….and so we trust in Him and we put our faith in His words, in His purpose and the future He has planned.

And in the meantime, we live with hope!  We get to walk in joy and peace because we know who He is — and that in itself is victory over darkness. Satan would have every child of God allowing those worry-seeds to blossom, wilting beneath his plans, but we can stand against him in the power of the Holy Spirit. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,  casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (from 2 Corinthians 10)…yes, stand boldly in the victory of our Savior and allow Him to weed out every anxious thought, every fear. Let every single piece of bad news be laid down at His feet…plant seeds of faith and watch His harvest of faithfulness grow wild and beautiful in your life.

In this way, we live rejoicing and free even while troubles increase – because our Savior is here.  He is here and He isn’t leaving us, not ever. He is here and He is good. He is here and He is in control.  So don’t forget to sing! Don’t forget to smile! Don’t forget to see His beauty and to declare His good works! We are tired of hearing bad news – so let us stand up and speak the Good News – the hope of a Savior for every one of us.  Jesus Christ is our portion and this is hope that should not be held close and covered, but radiated in every step we take. He is the Light of the world and it is our honor to shine…our calling to open our hearts, our hands, and our voices to tell the other side of the story in this conversation of our world…the story of  ‘how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.’ Or maybe you know it like this – ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’

Whatever we hear and whatever unfolds — He is the Truth that will not waver, the Love that will not fail.

“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”~Isaiah 54:10

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
and who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were cut
and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
look to Abraham, your father,
and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
When I called him he was only one man,
and I blessed him and made him many.
The Lord will surely comfort  Zion
and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

“Listen to me, my people;
hear me, my nation:
Instruction will go out from me;
my justice will become a light to the nations.
 My righteousness draws near speedily,
my salvation is on the way,
and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
The islands will look to me
and wait in hope for my arm.
 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment
and its inhabitants die like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
my righteousness will never fail.” 

~Isaiah 51:1-6

What Matters

It has been a week of busy days…a week of need-to-do and want-to-do and never quite feeling like enough has been done…but I take a deep breath and remember Kailey’s laughter as she chased rainbow-lace-bubbles floating over the grass. I remember Christian’s voice singing all boisterous and free after choir practice at school. I remember the gleam in Sean’s eyes as he sketched a still-life of a lamp in the living room, his pride as he showed me the finished picture. I choose to remember moments like these…the laughter of an inside joke with Neil, the adventure of stopping at a thrift store to see what might be found, the peace of all three kids involved in their books, the joy of all three singing out praise-songs on the way home from church. I will be thankful for these moments, for the time given to me so that I can give it to them. I have had to learn to let go of tightly clutched agendas because love must come first. Everything else that has been marked off a list or is still waiting…most of those things aren’t going to make a forever-impact. But love does.

Investing time…investing attention and heart-focus….investing you  — it matters to the people around you.

And it matters to our Father.

Earlier this week, this was the devotion Christian read aloud at bedtime:

“Am I listening for God’s voice? Or am I listening for my own? I would love to do big things. And maybe I will. But is God really shouting, ‘Go and do big things’? Or is He simply whispering, ‘Come to Me’? Matthew 11:28 says – ‘Come to Me’.”

He wants our hearts listening to Him as He listens to us. He desires communion…He desires to share in our joy and our sorrow. He wants relationship over accomplishments. And in time with Him, we find He smooths away the ragged edges of striving and fear. He soothes the anxious heart. He bears our weakness and gives His own strength.  Instead of being so caught up in doing, we can rest in what He has already done for us…and we can simply be.

For He doesn’t examine what has been marked off your list, but the motivation that made that list in the first place. He doesn’t find your value in what you’ve done, but in who you are…a man or woman made in the Father’s image, surrendered to Him.  That’s the heart He works through…the one pursuing Him and not another checked off goal.

Maybe you will do ‘big’ things. Maybe you will mark every ‘small’ thing off your to-do list…maybe we will simply do the things that must be done for our days to cycle onward in a responsible manner.

But the biggest thing of all, every time, is how we are already loved by our Savior…how we love Him…and how we love the people in our lives.  What matters at the end of every week…at the end of every day…at the end of every life…are those things that will be carried forward into eternity.

For our weekend – I pray that we will quiet our hearts, even if the schedule is busy and the house all chaos, and put our focus on Him. I pray we will see His love in the ever-changing sky, in the Words we see by, in every thing He has made and given. I pray we will find joy in the small things and grace in everything. I pray that we will be so filled with His love and His presence that we will overflow peace and gladness, a water-fall of love over the ones who share our time and our space. I pray that we will love as we are loved.

(And this song is like finding a treasure – because it is the prayer I feel, the words I wanted to find.)

“Day is Dimming”

The day is dimming and I’m yearning for You.
I won’t be satisfied till I see Your face.
Every victory, every loss,
every tick, every cross –
You can put them all in place.

It seems I’m finding more of why
in these moments
I feel like I’m made to sing of how good You are.
The more the years swell by and pass
each seconds more than last.
It’s true by far.

That no profound thought or clever rhyme,
no soaring grand, melodic line.
No theory, philosophy or sign
can explain it,
can explain.

Where You are, I wanna be.
It’s Your love that has changed me.
I’d give the world, and all it’s charms
for a moment in Your arms.
Better is one day with You
than a thousand elsewhere,
a thousand elsewhere….

I still remember what it felt like before You.
I’m grateful every day for how things have changed,
I’ll thank You every way I can
’cause my life only began
when I heard You call my name.

Now, no praise of man,
no great acclaim,
no humble looking kind of fame,
no power, wealth or worldly gain
could satisfy me,
could every satisfy.

Where You are, I wanna be.
It’s Your grace that has raised me,
I’d give my whole life to honor You
in whom I live,
in whom I move.
Better is one day with You
than a thousand elsewhere.

Better is one day in Your courts,
better is one day in Your house,
better is one day in your courts
than anywhere else, oh-
lead me, lead me,
lead me to Yourself…
lead me to Your heart.

Where You are, I wanna be.
It’s Your love that has changed me.
I’d give my life, to honor You
in whom I live
and whom I move.
Better is one day with You
than a thousand elsewhere,
a thousand elsewhere….

Lead me to Yourself,
lead me to Your heart.
I’ll be found in You,
I’ll be found in You.
Here is peace,
here is joy,
here is life,
here is freedom, freedom.

~Brooke Fraser