Friday, August 26, 2011

On Grace, Everywhere

See God everywhere. Be on the lookout for His gifts, His grace. And once you start seeing, more are exposed. It begins with a sprinkle, then steady drops, then it pours. God pours out so much blessing that there is not room enough for it

And all He wants is our thanks. To notice what He's doing. Be eager to find Him at work. It's a beautiful game of hide and seek we play with our Lord. 

It may be hard at first. How can there be blessing, grace, when we don't have enough money to pay the bills. Or when a grandmother dies. Or when she's run so far from Jesus she denies Him. 


In the darkest hour, when we feel most vulnerable, God Almighty scoops us into His loving arms. It is in despair that we search for Him, recognize our need for Him. Yet He is always there

So notice Him in the everyday. In the laundry time, the lullabies sung, the lattes shared with friends.

He is in all, with grace. For you. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

On God Going Ahead

In seeking the Lord these past few weeks, I've felt moved to beseech him to go before us--in all things. God has set out our path in front of us as only the Almighty could. Puzzle pieces falling together, forming a picturesque image of where He is leading us. Just as worry seeps in about this detail or that, His peace overwhelms me.  

Our God is so good. 

I've asked Him to go on ahead of us, to lead us into the home He wants us to inhabit, to establish relationships with those He knows will encourage us, counsel us, and receive the same from Kevin and me. But also, I've asked him to move ahead of me and show me my place in all of this--how I am to minister, where/how/when/if I am to work. 

And our Great God is doing that already. My desire would be to establish a successful piano studio in town. And even before we move, I have 2 potential piano students and connections with the instrumental music director at the public school. I may even be considering a role as choir accompanist. Wow. 

And I will give the LORD the glory due Him--all this is from Him.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged
Deuteronomy 31:8

Friday, April 29, 2011

On HIS Work

Hebrews 13:20-21 
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen

When I read this verse today, I was instantly reminded that the work we're doing is not ours, but God's. Anything we've accomplished, all we're working for is not for us. It's not to enrich our lives or make our name known. We are here to advance the Kingdom of God. And to do so, we must follow the Lord's call whatever the cost. His plan will be accomplished because HE IS GOD, not because He chose us as his servants. 

May God's will be done. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

On Leading to the Cross

Without Easter our faith would mean nothing. What hope do we have with the resurrection of Jesus Christ? 

This week my heart has been dwelling on the Cross. Many years the Easter holiday seems to come and go as just another excuse to eat Reese's eggs and Jolly Rancher jellybeans and wear pretty dresses. Those things are nice. But they totally miss the point. 

Last Sunday night at youth group as Kevin was announcing the church's Easter events coming up, the teens kept excitedly referencing candy and the Easter bunny. Between my heart's focus on the Cross and not-so-great-attitude I had that night, I got really upset at these antics really fast. I wasn't mad at the teens specifically, but at the grotesque misunderstanding society has of Easter. 

God moved in my heart to lead these students to the Cross, to their knees, to their Savior. With his prodding I gathered music for three songs whose words envelope the richness of the death and resurrection of Jesus. They needed to come face to face with the reality of the situation--to know the immense pain Jesus endured even after beseeching God to remove the cup from him. But he was obedient to the Father's will, even to the point of death. His blood poured out for you, for me. Because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. And so He covered us in perfect redemption. 

But without the third day, we have no hope, no future, no full life. Our God not only redeemed us through the crucifixion, but He didn't let death defeat his Son. 

Lead me to the cross, where your love poured out
Bring me to my knees, Lord, I lay me down. 

Rid me of myself, I belong to you. 

Lord, lead me. Lead me to the cross. 

[lead me to the cross by hillsong]
Listen here. Soak in the power of the Cross.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword...

Now I'll admit...this idea has always confused me. It begs certain questions...questions like "if the pen is mightier than the sword, why do actions speak louder than words?"

Think on that for just a second...I'll wait.

I don't think that the pen is mightier than the sword. I think ideas are more important than facts. I suppose you could say I was a romantic, at least as opposed to a realist. When it comes to what I want...I rarely have a specific outcome in mind...I just have priorities.

This has its advantages and disadvantages. Truth, for example, is one of the things I value above almost anything else. I feel like it's important that I know the truth. Having the right perspective means you can make right choices. If your perspective or your facts are wrong, then why bother trying to do the right thing? You're probably going to screw it up no matter how well-meaning you are.

I realize that for many people that may seem a bit harsh, and maybe I am. I'm not known for being soft and delicate. But think about it this way...which is more useful, a pastor who preaches the truth, or an atheist humanitarian? Which would you rather trust your kid to? Intentions may dictate how you react to the person, but ultimately we're going to be judged on not only our intentions, but our beliefs.

That's why the Bible says "believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved" (Romans 1:9 Acts 16:31)...not "try your hardest and hope it all works out."

What you believe matters. The Truth matters. I think that's why the Word of God is so important. It " living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12) If we know the Truth, then we can share it with others, and we can know that we are doing what is right. The Christian walk isn't about avoiding sin. The Christian walk is about becoming progressively closer to being perfect, as Jesus called us to be. That means that the more we understand God, the more we start imitating Him...and sin isn't the problem anymore. It's surrender to whatever He wants from us.

The greatest thing I can aspire to in this life is giving up...and letting God run everything. God, and everything He asks of us is right. Everything else is wrong, and is sin. That's the idea that will change your life.

Friday, March 4, 2011

On Grace Speech

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you many know how to answer everyone. 

On Wednesday, our young adult small group spent a lot of time working through the meaning of this verse and discussing its implications for our lives. The conclusions we drew were insightful and have been stirring in my spirit ever since. 

My understanding of the word "grace" is receiving something you don't deserve. God the Father showed us the fullest extent of his grace when he turned his back on his son, Jesus Christ, who bore ALL the sins of the world on his shoulders as the life dripped from his beaten body on that rugged cross. Human beings, as his creation, were given the choice to sin or follow our Creator. We chose separation from God rather than communion with him, but in all his mercy, God offered an alternative. Wereceived the gift we never could have earned--total forgiveness and full and eternal life

Having my conversation always be filled with grace starts there--at the cross. I must be constantly connected with that sacrifice, the redemption granted me from that place where my Savior died. If my mind is meditating on the cross, on his grace, my heart will be overflowing with the same. 

Every word I exchange with another should flow from the place of grace--particularly if that person "deserves" nothing other than frustration, anger, disrespect. In those moments when I have been wronged, humiliated, frustrated, exasperated, annoyed, or hurt, I am to season my words with salt--making them delicious to the recipient. The sentences flowing from my lips should not be the same as the world's. Those who don't follow Jesus believe in retaliation, anger, and revenge. But Jesus showed us a different way. The way of Grace

To be seasoned with salt means our words go from being normal, typical, similar to the rest of the population's, to be tasty, memorable, enjoyable, blessed. Salt keeps food preserved, fresh. Our words shouldn't be filled with bitterness, rage, or malice, but with the life-giving, sustaining, savory salt of grace

Sunday, February 20, 2011

On Seeking Perfection

I am Melanie, and I am letting go of perfection. 

This is a scary thing for two reasons. 1) I am a seeker of perfection and have often driven myself crazy as I strive. 2) Doesn't Jesus call us to be perfect just as He is perfect

Yes, he does, but he doesn't call us to work and achieve and beat ourselves up when we fail. He calls us to himself, He draws us near, and the closer we become to His heart, the more in unison our hearts will beat with His. The goal is not the trying, the striving. The goal is to be Holy as I AM is Holy. We can only reach such perfection when we release our efforts and accept the life changing, new-covenant-making, total atonement of the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. 

He became our once-for-all sacrificial lamb

This doesn't mean we give up, stop seeking, or accept our sinful state as part of the deal. Absolutely NOT. By receiving that redemptive blood of Christ over your sinful heart, you have been given new life. We begin to stumble along beside our Master and experience discipleship for all it's worth. We are created to learn from Him, to long to be like Him. 

It all starts with believing in the Lord Jesus and accepting His all-surpassing grace and love into our lives. Then we offer all we have back to him--our love. Jesus will know the truth of our love by our obedience, and our obedience is simply the outpouring of our heart's desire to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  

There is no striving, no achieving involved. Only grace. Only love. Only pursuit of the One who has given us life. We can't know our Lord intimately and not experience His holiness as a part of our life. He commanded us to be perfect, knowing it would be the natural result of a life truly and wholly in love with Him. 


Monday, February 14, 2011

Such a good metaphor...

The Church is the bride of Christ.

My reaction to that whole metaphor in scripture was always "huh?" As a kid I got that Jesus loved us, but it was a little weird to imagine myself married.  I mean married. The idea was almost spooky to little 12-year-old Kevin.

Some things just make more sense in time.

So it's Valentine's Day, and I just thought it would be an appropriate time to talk about how much I love my wife. Seeing her is the bright spot in my day, and even if things aren't perfect, or she's just wearing sweats...I love her. Seeing her makes my day better.

Thinking that's the way that God feels when he looks at us...well it blows my mind. The idea that the God of the universe is just as proud and happy with us as I am with Mel puts everything in perspective. God isn't sitting on his throne up in heaven counting up all your sins...He's eager to forgive, eager to please, and He loves you.

Many people say they have a hard time making the decision to do hard things for God. Thinking of God as the bridegroom helps give me the desire to do right, to be like Him, and to be the best I can.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On Eucharisteo

"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them..." (Luke 22:19)

Just hours before Jesus was about to give up his life, He sits down to give thanks. He gave thanks?!  

Ann Voskamp, in her new book One Thousand Gifts, shares a revelation that literally changes her life and is in the process of changing mine. She digs into the root Greek word behind "thanks." It is eucharisteo and the contents of this word are unbelievable. 

Charis. Grace
Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving
Chara. Joy. 

The joy of life--life to the full--comes only after thanksgiving for the grace, the gifts God has given. We have been given the gift of salvation, and we have been ushered into the family of God, but have we yet experienced the full measure of life that Jesus came to bring us? Have we come to Him in the spirit of thanksgiving day in and day out, thus welcoming the miracle that is chara joy?

Ann takes readers through a new prospective of the story of the leper Jesus healed in Luke 17:11-19. We have all read, perhaps in awe, that Jesus healed all 10 men afflicted with this debilitating disease. After this, ONE of the men rushes back to Jesus, praising God for his healing. He thanked Jesus.

But what comes next?

Jesus turns to the man and says, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well." (vs. 19).

But wasn't the man already healed? Why did Jesus tell him once again that he was made well?

Perhaps the secret to a full life lived in the grace of God lies in that one part of the story we never noticed before. Yes, the man was already healed of his disease. But when he came back and exclaimed his thankfulness to The Master, he was given the gift of complete healing--wellness encompassing every part of his life. By having faith and a true attitude of thanks, this man found the fullness of life--the real healing Jesus is looking to give.

It starts with the gifts God gives.
We offer our thanks.
And we receive that miracle of joy--the full life.  

These gifts are all around us. The light streaming in the window. The cold water in my glass. The cat napping on the pillow. My husband's deep breathing. The wind blowing as the dried leaves cling to the branches. We don't have to pack a bag and travel the world to see the beauty. Our lives are brimming with the gifts of our great God. Even though our days may be filled with dirty dishes and jammed schedules and heartbreak, we are called to eucharisteo. Yes, even in the hard times. 

"Thanksgiving is inherent to a true salvation experience; thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life" (One Thousand Gifts, p. 39). Eucharisteo thanks precedes us experiencing our fullest salvation in Christ, being saved from the bitter, angry, resentful qualities of sinful living. 

Join me and (in)courage Bloom Book Club as we experience the miracle full life that flows from thanksgiving. 

One Thousand Gifts: Chapter Two from Bloom (in)courage on Vimeo.

Friday, February 4, 2011

On Delegating to Community

Today, Jesus said to me, 

"Obedience to Me doesn't always mean doing everything yourself. Nowhere in Scripture is it commanded (or even indicated) that you are to "go into all the world...and you must go it alone." Where did you get this notion that the work you do is only able to be done by you? Child, you are irreplaceable and an essential part to my Body, but you are being overtaken by pride. You must give me those secret thoughts that say, "But if I don't do this, no one else will (or no one else will do it this good or this right.)"  Your way is not perfect. 

MY way is perfect, my dear, and my way is done in community with others. From the days of Moses I have been instructing my children to call on others to accomplish my will. I commanded that great man to delegate responsibilities to other leaders. He was trying to do everything himself and it just wasn't working. It's impossible. 

As soon as you realize you're doing it all, you must recognize that you are also rejecting my involvement--my leading. 

Don't be afraid to lose control. to lose respect. to lose words of affirmation when you give responsibilities to others. It may be a hard decision to make, but it is the right one. It is the humble choice that follows the example I set for you. Servanthood. When you make the choice to give up control, you are saying to others that you value their help, you need their help, you are not super woman.

You were created for community. Live in it

And start by letting Me lead." 

Monday, January 31, 2011

On Jesus Leading

Jesus says, 
Follow Me. 
You do not need to know where the road will lead you, because I am your Heavenly Father. I would never take you into danger, and if we walk into a place of pain or hardship, you need not fear. I am taking you through it--you are not going it alone. 
I have a beautiful plan in store for you. Oh! I can't wait for you see where I am leading. You will be in awe of what I will do in you life, and your heart will sing my praises. That is the point of your life, dear one--to bring me glory. You can do that by leaving your fears at the foot of the cross--I will carry your burdens--and trusting me to lead you through the troubles of this world with the peace I bring you. 

I Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxieties on Him, for he cares for you.

Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

John 14:27 Peace I live with you. My peace I give. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On Striving. and Holiness

Jesus says,
I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have pulled you out of the mire and muck of your sin-laden life. I have redeemed you, dressed you in my purest garment, and written your name in the Book of Life. Never will I forget you or forsake you
Look at Israel. She was a nation with the most predictable cycle of sin. I would rescue her. She would serve me. Hard times would come. She would reject me. I would pursue her heart. She would come back to me begging for forgiveness. 
And I never loved her any less. She was my precious child--the one set apart for my purposes. 
You are now a part of my family. I created a new covenant so that you could enter into this beautiful relationship of love and mercy, of worship and holiness. All I ask of you is that you be consecrated unto me--set apart for my sacred use. I will do great things with your life if you let me. 
Love me with all of your heart and the obedience will follow. You will never be able to earn my acceptance, so stop striving. Know my love as yours and float in it, worship me for it, honor me because of it. 
You needn't worry about your eternal destination. If you confess with your mouth I am Lord, and you believe in your heart that my death and resurrection cover the cost of your sin you are saved.  
With an unquenchable passion for me, holiness will be your pursuit.

Devotions in the Snow

Some of you remember reading about my views on snow...if not, you can scroll down a bit and it'll become apparent.

I love snow.

Seriously, I think it's about the only thing that makes cold weather worth it, although I am less bothered by cold weather now that I've decided to wear things including (but not limited to) a coat, scarf, and gloves.  Getting older means I don't have to worry so much about looking "manly" by freezing my tail off in the snow.

In any case, yesterday I was looking out at a beautiful snow-covered world...and a now covered front walk and church walkway. I started shoveling our back walkway (the one we use to get to the church) and I saw one of the older guys at the church (really cool guy) arrive with his truck to plow the parking lot.

Then I started thinking I should quickly finish my walkway so I could get inside before this guy asked for help.

Then I stopped to consider that for a second. What the heck was I thinking? Did I really want this nice guy to have to shovel the church's front walk because I was too lazy and wanted to get back into my house and drink coffee?

So I decided to just go ahead and shovel the church's front walk.  It's not huge, but it's a decent size, and took an extra 20-30 minutes. The whole time I was surprised at how ok I was with doing extra work. Life and society have taught us over the years to do as little work as is necessary, and not to strain ourselves...but as soon as I decide to do extra work to help someone else, shoveling snow became...devotional.

There's no real point here, just wanted to share my thoughts...maybe go out and do something nice today.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

On Contentment

Change me. Restore me a teachable spirit. Help me release my old ways to you. 
[Philippians 4:11-13]
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.