Monday, September 16, 2013

Strong, Faithful and Appointed

"I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry" - 1 Timothy 1:12

I love our Pastor. 
He has a heart for Jesus and a heart for people unlike any I've ever seen before. 
And he has a way of bringing the gospel to life that draws you in to the reality of just WHO Jesus is. 

Lately, I've been struggling with just what my purpose is for Christ. 
And Satan has been having a field day with my uncertainty. 

So, yesterday, I was fighting a particularly strong attack from the enemy, causing me to doubt everything I know to be true about who I am in Christ. 
We arrived at church, and after completing my tasks in setting up for our service, the Lord tapped me on the shoulder and said "Robin, you need to sit down and open up my word to 1 Timothy Chapter 1." 
Lemme tell ya, when you get this kind of direction, you listen. 
And you do it. 

But, that's not the best part of yesterday morning. 
Nope, not hardly. 

You see, at our church, we have a pre-service service for our core team that sets up and prepares for the worship time to come. 
So, our Pastor got up yesterday and read some scripture over us. 
Wanna guess what it was? 
Yes, it was. 1 Timothy Chapter 1. 

Folks, if you've never known the feeling of confirmation that you are on the right path - the plan that God has set out for you - can I just tell you that it's the most freeing thing to hear God shouting the truth to you through the words of another Christ follower.
As our Pastor led us through the scripture, I wanted to cry. Tears of joy, tears of release, tears of relief and tears of shame. I couldn't even pray. All I could do was just whisper Jesus' name over and over again, knowing that the Holy Spirit was interceding for me at the throne. 

Of course, I had to tell our Pastor what was up and when I shared this God-thing with him, he asked me what God had said to me through this scripture. As we spoke, he told me that through his own doubts and dealings with the lies of the enemy (no one is immune, most especially our Pastors), that the fact that Jesus has considered us faithful - even when we know we are nowhere near faithful - was what brought him peace. 

And as I read through the scripture again later and really contemplated it, this is where I ended up.

If Satan, who is the Father of lies, is whispering in your ear, you need to remember WHOM you belong to.
The Apostle Paul tells us in this verse that Christ Jesus has done three things for us:

1) He has given us strength.
2) He has considered us faithful
3) He has appointed us to ministry (to service)

It's no mistake the order in which this grace appears.

Jesus strengthens us to resist the Devil and his lies. Because of the victory that Jesus won over death, Hell and the grave, we can draw strength from Him to overcome any circumstance. Any lie that our sin nature would otherwise believe.

Jesus has considered us faithful. Even when we would consider that we are anything BUT faithful, because of His blood that covers over our sin, He counts us righteous, redeemed and free. Faithful to His word and truth.

Jesus has given us all a purpose, a mission. He has a unique plan for each of us that no lie of the enemy can defeat. It's up to us to believe the truth that we are all part of His plan. We are valuable and precious and treasured as His dearly loved children. When we daily put our trust in Jesus, to be open to His leading and choose to ignore the lies of Satan, He can use us to not only bring glory and honor to Himself, but to bless our lives in ways we cannot imagine.

Choose truth today friends. 

Choose to believe the reality that if King Jesus reigns in your heart, you are dearly loved. 
Cherished and treasured. 
You are part of His amazing plan to bring others to Himself and he has given you a heart of courage - even if you cannot feel it. 

With a Courageous Heart, 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Audience of One

This summer, my husband Mark and I had the treat of an entire week at the beach - just the two of us. Unheard of in our life with a very active teenager, but Emma had chosen to give up her beach vacation to volunteer as a Jr. Counselor at Centri-kid camp that same week.
So, with the trip already planned and vacation time approved, we took off together and enjoyed the trip for the unexpected blessing that it was.

Each morning, we would head out to the beach early, coffee in hand and take a long walk along a mostly still empty stretch of the coastline. These mornings were such a special way to re-connect, not only with each other, but with God.
We marveled together at the beauty of the sky, the clouds, the sun, the waves, the shells -  the entirety of the oceans' gifts.
The majesty of God on display for all to see.

Two mornings in particular we encountered the young man in the photo.
He was standing on the beach playing his guitar.
He paid no attention to anyone passing by, he was completely in the moment, singing with all he had in praise to our amazing God who created the glorious scenes around him.
As we walked slowly by him, we could hear his beautiful voice and guitar strums as he sang -
"nothing compares to your embrace, light of the world, forever reign."

Forever Reign.

One of my favorite worship songs delivered in a way that touched my heart and blessed me beyond belief. Here was a young man, so in love with his Savior, he was unafraid to express it in his unique way for anyone to see and hear.

Oh, that we would ALL live this way - unashamed, unafraid, unfettered by the judgements of others.

Our worship is for an audience of ONE.
The only One who matters in the life of a believer.
The One that the Bible says the very rocks will cry out for if we fail to praise Him.

It was more than obvious who the audience was there on the beach those days.

The second day we encountered this young man, an older woman noticed me taking his photo. Now, since I'm not the "stalker" type, I figured I'd better go talk to her.
Turns out, it was his Mom. I told her how much her son had blessed us with his music and his boldness. That he had so impressed me that I had shared about him on Instagram.

She was very gracious and told us that he was part of the worship team at their home church in Michigan. He had just taken part in a worship leader's conference and their family was vacationing before going back home.

If you're a parent of a Christian teen, it is no small thing to have the assurance that your child is walking with Jesus. I am thankful every day that my Emma loves Jesus and is actively pursuing Him in her life.

Mom to Mom, we connected that morning over the common bond of our faith and the assurance that our children were following hard after Jesus.
What a gift to receive there on this stretch of beach.

I don't know this young man's name, or his Mom's, probably never will on this side of Heaven, but I'm pretty sure that I'll hear him singing and playing his guitar again someday - when we are all together at last, praising our King, face to face.

With a Courageous Heart,

Here is an acoustic version of Forever Reign, recorded in studio at K-Love Radio.
If you hit play and listen with your eyes closed, you'll hear it a bit like how we heard it on the beach this summer. And maybe, you'll see there in your mind's eye a glimpse of what Heaven will be like too.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Contemplating Worship

I love to read. Always have, always will. 
I mostly like to read history, biographies and anything Jane Austen. 
Over the past couple of years, I've deliberately chosen some books that look at life from a God window. And some of those books have challenged me deeply. 

Lately, I've been reading and re-reading the Louie Giglio book "The Air I Breathe" and Chapter 7 (Worship as a Way of Life) really hit home yesterday.

God really confronted me with these words by the author:
"God has given us life and breath in all things. The only fitting response to all He has done is to give back to Him all that we are. Anythin
g less is not enough. Anything less is not true worship. Anything less only proves that we haven't really seen Him at all."

Where our salvation in Jesus Christ is not dependent on what we do for Him, but what He did for us on the cross, our WORSHIP is our offering to Him in two parts. The offering of our praise and the offering of our service.

It's easy to offer our praise. We do it every time we sing a worship song, every time we pray, every time we speak His name and share how He has changed our lives in ways big and small.

What's not easy is to value the things of God more than the things of the world. It's not easy to give of our time and energy. It's not easy to take a bold stand for the truth of our convictions in this world.

We are so selfish.
I am so selfish.

We love our comfort and stuff and money and time.
We live our lives afraid that if we offer God our everything that He is going to take it.
And you know what? He might.

But in God's economy, offering God our everything - pitiful poor sacrifice that it is - is the greatest exchange.
He doesn't want to take from us, He wants to GIVE to us.
He doesn't need our "stuff". He created it all, owns it all.

God just wants us to love Him more than we love ourselves.

He wants us to have rich, full, beautiful lives that honor and glorify Him as we live with the view of seeing others through His eyes.
He wants to give us a heart of compassion for the hurting. 

He wants to give us a heart of sharing for the lost who desperately need Him. He wants us to live out His perfect purpose for us and revel in the amazing life He has planned for us.

We can only experience that life when we are willing to turn our backs on all that we think makes us happy.
Willing to.

Because when we are willing to give Him our all, all that we've built for ourselves, He then can line up our hearts with His.
Then what we think we desire most, treasure the most, fades in comparison with the life He has for us instead. A life that worships Him completely.

That is a courageous step.

"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." - Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


My husband and I were sitting on our deck Sunday morning, sipping coffee and enjoying the quiet of our still sleeping neighborhood. We don't get that window of time very often and it's such a gift to be able to just sit with him and enjoy a few peaceful moments. I guess I'd been quiet too long and he suddenly asked me what I was thinking about.
He's a pretty brave man, that could sometimes be a loaded question.
But not today.

"Tomatoes." I replied. "The tomatoes in our garden."
The look on his face told me that he thought I hadn't had enough coffee yet, so I shared my thoughts with him.

We've had a small box garden in our backyard since Emma was in 4th grade. When your 10 year old comes home from school one day and decides she wants to plant a garden, you do it, right? So my Dad, ever resourceful, gave us some scrap lumber and Mark built our little space that would produce some surprising results over the years ahead. 

Very proud of their little garden
Over the 6 years we've planted, we've enjoyed wonderful homegrown tomatoes, juicy green peppers and the occasional odd shaped cucumber (they are a mystery to me....), but it's the tomatoes that I look forward to the most. 
I have such wonderful memories of growing up, helping my Grandma with her garden and being given the treat of a whole, fresh tomato with a shaker of salt. Biting into that sweet red ball and letting the juice run down my chin was a rite of Summer for me, almost as much as slicing one up and eating it on white bread with mayo. Yummm....can't you taste it?
There really is nothing much better than true love and homegrown tomatoes.

In our 6 years of gardening, there have been two years that we have not been able to plant - the year my Dad died and this year, as we've dealt with my Mom's cancer diagnosis and all the life change it's brought. 
But an amazing thing happened in these two years - God gave us tomatoes anyway. 

The year Dad died, we had an abundance of volunteer plants come up in our unweeded, untended, unloved box garden. It was such a sweet blessing to me. He loved homegrown tomatoes and I took it as a gift of God that my Dad was making sure we got to enjoy them - and our shared memories - even though we were hurting too badly to plant that year. Each tomato we ate reminded us that he was still with us and was an assurance that we'd see him face to face again someday.
I love how God holds us through the simplest of gifts.

This year, we once again found ourselves too overwhelmed to even think about our poor little garden. Through the late Spring and all Summer, our lives have simply been turned upside down in many ways, with more stress and heartache than we've ever dealt with as a family. 
The enemy has attacked us from all sides, causing disruption and havoc in his attempts to discourage and isolate us from the truth of God's love for us.
He just loves to kick us when we're down. 

But, God.....

I could stop right there. Those words are all the thought correction we need. 
But, God....

God always rescues us. 
He is always faithful to provide for us. 
In every way possible. 
  • emotionally
  • spiritually
  • physically
  • financially
You name it, He is always there to restore our joy and give us......tomatoes. 

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? " - Matthew 6:25-27

This June, Mark went out back to just clean out the garden box. Pull all the weeds and clear it up so we could have an easier time with it next year.
And he was amazed to discover once again that we had tomatoes growing. Green Peppers too! (No cucumbers, they are still a mystery to me.) 
But lots of tomatoes. Multiple varieties and some interesting cross breeds. Pretty cool actually.

Like our life right now, those volunteer plants aren't pretty, they are awfully thin and reedy and spindly. Kind of stretched out like a string of Christmas lights. 
Definitely mimicing the life in our days. 

It's really ironic to see those plants, stretched so thin and having received no water or nourishment except what God chose to deliver, still producing fruit. 
Good, sweet, trickle down your chin kind of fruit.

And what I love about this story is that it's such a picture of what God, our Father chooses to do in us when we are pushed to the limit and pressed from every side.
We can be stretched out so thin and worn down to the point that we aren't getting any refreshing or nourishment for our souls - or anything else for that matter - and THIS is the time He grows us the most and produces the best fruit in us and provides for us beyond any expectation we have.

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." - 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Since we have this amazing promise of God's goodness and grace to us, we can stand up to any attack by the enemy. He will meet every need and carry every burden and dry every tear. 

All we need to do is lay them all down at His feet and trust that He will restore us and fill our cup and give us.....tomatoes.

With a Courageous Heart,