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Fountain

I was looking at my social media page the other day, when an intriguing question came up. “What image best represents you?”  I realized that more than anything, I want to be a fountain.  I don’t always hit the mark, but my deepest desire is to be so full of Jesus’ love that it gushes and sprays out of me, much like a fountain.  One of my favorite hymns “There is a Fountain” describes Jesus sacrifice as a fountain full of blood.

If you are a believer, and have surrendered your life to His will, you are called to be His image bearer. My question for you then is “What image do you feel the Lord would craft to represent you?”  The good news is when we give our lives to Him, we also are redeemed of our guilt and our shortcomings much like the thief who died on Calvary next to Jesus.

William Cowper, the author of “There is a Fountain,” found Christ as the redeeming hope through his struggles including the loss of his mother as a child, panic attacks, and intense depression. He sang out this truth about God’s redemption from this world.

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains

Lose all their guilty stains
Lose all their guilty stains
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day
And there may I, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away.

His Word tells Us…

When Jesus died on Calvary on the day we celebrate as Good Friday, he died between two crosses.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him; “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” 

But the other criminal rebuked him.  “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?”  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, TODAY you will be with me in paradise.”– Luke 23:39-43

If you feel unworthy today to accept His grace, know that Jesus welcomed the thief who hung next to Him that day because he believed in Jesus and in His kingdom.  If you put your faith in Jesus, He will take you on a journey to an eternal paradise spent with Him.  The road may be long and it may be full of rocks and unexpected pain, but it will be the most fulfilling and purposeful way to live, this side of Paradise.

On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.- Zechariah 13:1

It would be remiss for me not to conclude with a sinner’s prayer for salvation.  Wherever you are today, whether you desire to recommit your life to Christ or perhaps you have never prayed a prayer to receive your salvation in Christ,  please bow your head now and pray this prayer with me.

Let’s Pray…

Lord, Father in Heaven,

Please forgive us of our sins.  Let the blood you shed wash over us and birth something new in our hearts.  Come into our hearts and reside with us.  Help us to look to you to seek to bear the images you have created for us to bear.  We pray that you will be with us and give us strength as we put our faith and hope in you.  Lead us to connect with other believers who can support and encourage us to live for you as we walk out our lives.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen

Please connect with me in the comments if you made this commitment for the first time or if you would like support in walking out a recommitment.  God bless you.

The Scarlet Cord

As we enter into a new year, I am praying for a year of personal breakthrough, both for myself and for my readers.  I often become fearful as to how I will manage my finances and how I will make it through another year as a single mom of three growing teenagers.  There are very real fears that grip me when I try to plan and predict how to remain in control of my bills, maintain my home, and stay focused and successful at my workplace.  I have heard it said that 85 percent of what we worry about will never happen.  Still, the possibility of calamity feels very real.

I don’t know what your fears are today.  Maybe they are related to health, finances, relationships, or to all of the above.  Maybe the fears that grip you concern ailing parents, lack of security or threats of terrorism and natural disasters.  Whatever fears you harbor, tie them to the scarlet cord of Jesus. I believe the Bible has a very simple, yet clear answer as to how we should handle our troubles.  Our heavenly father calls us to have faith.  He calls us in Isaiah not to fear.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

In the book of John we are encouraged in this way.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27

A clear example of faith in the Bible, comes to us through the story of Rahab found in Joshua 2 and 6. I would encourage you to read it for yourself and to ask the Lord to speak to you through it.  Rahab’s journey begins with fear.  She is living in Jericho which has always been a well-fortified city and a bastion of strength and power for those who live within its walls.  Yet, within those walls are very real problems.  Rahab, for one, works as a prostitute; a clear indicator that she has a real need for finances.  Still, she is not the type of prostitute one might expect.  She is not estranged from the ones closest to her. She loves her family.  In fact, she goes out of her way to protect all of her family and to keep them from harm’s way when the walls of Jericho crumble.

When Joshua sent two spies to spy out the Promised Land for the Israelites, they ended up at Rahab’s home adjacent to the walls that were bound to come down.  She made a deal with the spies to protect them in exchange for the protection of her family.  She had faith that caused her to believe in the God of Israel and in his power to defeat her people.

So the spies agreed to the bargain.  The most beautiful part of the story to me is the way in which Rahab’s family is protected.  She agrees to hang the same “scarlet cord” that she used to help the spies as a mark signifying that her home is to be protected.

Jesus’ blood is our scarlet cord.  When we grow weary and concerned and the walls protecting us seem to crumble and collapse, we have a scarlet cord to hang from our lives signifying to God that we are covered by the blood of Jesus.

When I first heard this story, it was pointed out to me how sinful Rahab was, but how the Lord redeemed her.  While this may be true, the knowledge that she brought “her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her” (Joshua 6:23b) speaks of someone beyond merely a sinful prostitute. She is a woman who has faith in God and a desire to protect those she loves.  Since Jericho’s collapse, Rahab has been remembered as a woman of great faith as documented in the Hall of Faith chapter in Hebrews.

His Word tells us…

When Rahab encounters the spies, she tells them of the fear gripping her people.

When we [the Canaanites] heard it [how the Lord your God was with you], our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. – Joshua 2:11

Once Rahab makes an agreement with the spies, she follows through on her commitment.

And she tied the scarlet cord in the window. – Joshua 2:21b

Then, she and her family are spared.

But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.- Joshua 6:25

Faith is defined in the Hall of Faith chapter.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. –Hebrews 11:1

Finally, Rahab is noted for her faith.

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. –Hebrews 11:31

Let’s Pray…

Heavenly Father,

Help us to remember the legacy of Rahab who took action in the face of her fears.  Help give us the faith to trust in You and not to fear when we feel the potential for walls in our lives to crumble.

I pray that this year would be a year of breakthrough for my readers as well as for myself.  Protect us and watch over us.  Help our hearts not to be troubled as we put our trust more and more in you.  We lay our fears at the feet of Jesus and ask that you would bless us and redeem us.  We pray that in our troubles, our faith will grow and be an encouragement to those around us that You are on the throne and that You are the only cord of safety worth holding on to.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Thanksgiving from the Prayer Chapel

Recently, a friend called to let me know that a very significant building in the church where I was raised was burning. The Church on the Way Prayer Chapel was on fire.  Fortunately, no one was hurt as the fire consumed the pews, pulpit, and prayer rooms with smoke and ash. Upon viewing images of the burned out church with charred walls, and floor to ceiling damage, I felt shock and surprise, and then an unsettling awe as I considered the wars taking place in the spiritual realm over that building.

The Bible tells us that “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”- Ephesians 6:12 The Prayer Chapel was established as a place of prayer, where thousands of supplications had gone up over the past fifty years or more.  I remember laying on my face at six in the morning as a high-schooler calling out to God for His help.  I remember having choir practice there as a junior-higher singing worship to God and performing dramas there as an elementary school kid desiring to lift up His name.  The Prayer Chapel had been a place associated with God’s love and power in my life during my formative years.

So, thanksgiving in the Prayer Chapel is two-fold.  I am so thankful for the wonderful memories the chapel held for me in the past.  Yet, now the thanksgiving part comes after a great fire.  Fires affect and change buildings, and it affects and changes people.  At Pentecost, the new church experienced the Holy Spirit through tongues of fire. As I find myself reaching to know God more, to experience His voice, His anointing, and His power in my life, I don’t find it in the clean, sinless, put together places.  I find it in the ash, the charred places; the darkness.  What I mean to say is that God’s grace and the movement of His hand finds me during the troubles and pain of life, not during the happy, carefree moments.  When I have been wayward, found myself broken, or been made aware of my lack of what I need, He is there.  Often when life is just moving along, stress-free, I don’t feel His arms or hear His whisper saying, “I love you.”

Paul found Christ when he was on his way to murder Christians, and he met the Lord in prison where he would pen many letters of the Bible.  I have come to find that my thanksgiving comes amidst peril.  When you don’t see the answers, don’t have the money, or become consumed with your own lack, cry out to Him in those charred and broken places and He will meet you.  That doesn’t mean all your problems will be resolved; it means your relationship with Jesus will be strengthened as He carries you through them.

Paul wrote many of his letters while he was imprisoned.  While he was wanting to go on the road and preach the gospel to many people, God allowed him to sit in prison embracing another plan. God needed Paul to be still, so He could pour into his life. Paul couldn’t see the unseen millions of people who would never meet him or hear him preach, but would read his epistles of God’s love for centuries.  Paul didn’t know there would be a child, a grandmother, a divorcee reading his words of redemption two thousand years later.

God’s plans are always so much grander than our own.  Yet, we want to see them.  We want to understand what he is doing.  We want to understand. Lord, why the prison? Why the burned out church? But we usually only get a glimpse, a taste, a hint of His orchestrating the majestic intertwining strands of our footsteps as believers networking to create the dynamic web of God’s plan that makes the galaxies in the heavens seem as one tiny star.

His Word tells us…

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, which he wrote from prison, he encourages them and us to be strengthened by God’s power.  I imagine that Paul was really experiencing the fullness of God in this dark prison when he wrote the following verses.

For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on Earth derives its name.  I pray that out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 – Ephesians 3:14-19

Let’s Pray…

Heavenly Father,

We are so thankful to you for the blessings you bring our way; the ones that feel good as well as the ones that are painful.  We thank you for healing us and strengthening us through the painful experiences of life.

We pray that we will experience the richness of your grace and the satisfying peace that comes with it.  We thank you for being our hope, our joy, and our endurance through trials of many kinds.  Bless us today with the knowledge and wisdom that can only be understood through the struggles of life.  And Lord, help use us to be a haven and a refuge to others who are going through difficulties as well.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

From Death to Life

Tomorrow it will have been one week since the deadliest massacre in modern history struck Las Vegas, Nevada.  The loss of so many people in such a horrendous mass shooting has been heavy on my heart.  The people whose lives have been forever impacted have been in the prayers of many Americans. One woman lost her life who used to work at my school.  Another dear son of a pastor I know was involved in trying to carry a dying victim to safety.  A third victim who lives in my city left behind a husband and three young children.  Many grieving community members have offered money and support to these situations, but that doesn’t take away the terrible pain that has been inflicted upon the hearts and the futures of those left behind.

Still, we who are in Christ have hope.  As God enlightens our hearts and minds, our spiritual eyes can glimpse the other side.  Adele sings in her popular ballad, “Hello from the other side.”  It makes me wonder about what those who have made it from death to life are doing.  Are they singing and dancing down streets paved with gold looking into the eyes of Jesus? I believe they are doing that and so much more.  Those lost, have actually just been found.  Those tragically wiped away from Earth have been received into the glorious gates of heaven where there is no more pain, or loss, or tears.

The most vivid photo I saw from the Vegas incident was one where a man had thrown his body over his wife and taken the bullet directed at her.  She lived. He died.  This particularly drew my attention because it is a perfect picture of what Jesus did for us.  He willingly allowed his body to be nailed to a cross for us.  He was pinned there until his blood was drained from his body to the point where water poured out from His side.

Tomorrow, the day that marks one week from the shooting, will also mark five years since my father died.  I will always remember the day my father died because moments before his death he heard over the phone the first cry of my youngest nephew, Gunner, who had just been born.  My father was not the most exemplary father.  He made many terrible mistakes, but he reached out for Jesus; he believed on the Savior’s name.  I believe, like the thief who hung on the cross next to Jesus, my father is with Him now.  I believe all the victims of the shooting who called out to Jesus are also with Him now.

His Word tells us…

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah?  Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him.  “Don’t you fear God?” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43

The thief simply acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah and believed on His name and Jesus assured him of his final destination in Paradise.  It was not the paradise of a tropical island or a relaxing getaway, but a final resting place of having all of his sins covered by the blood of Jesus and a resting place of perfect and eternal communion with God.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. –John 3:16-17

Let’s Pray…

Dear Lord in Heaven,

Thank you for your blood.  Thank you that all we need to do is believe on your name to receive eternal life.  Thank you for your amazing love for us, for shielding us from the bullets intended to rob us of our eternity in heaven with You.

Be with those left behind today.  Comfort the hearts of the families and friends of all the people involved in the Vegas tragedy.  Strengthen the hospital workers and give wisdom to the doctors working vigilantly on behalf of those who are fighting through recovery.  I claim that through this tragic loss, You would find many.  That You would take their pain and use it to turn hearts of many people toward you.  I pray for hearts who are far from you to return to your love.  I pray for those who don’t know you to find your grace and mercy through such trying times.  May there be many, many more lives eternally saved than the number of those who were lost.

Redeem our hearts, Lord.  Heal our land.  Send angels to flight over America.  You said, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”(2 Chronicles 7:14).  Have mercy on us, Father, and heal our land.

In Jesus’ Precious Name,

Amen

Rescued

I watched a number of news briefs reporting on the horrific flooding in Texas and Louisiana due to the recent Hurricane Harvey.  The most touching stories I heard were those where people stopped everything and got into their boats and went out to rescue victims. I watched canoes paddling down the highway– turned waterway– carrying small children.  The elderly flagged down rescue boats from rooftops. Some self-sacrificing people returned over and over again to rescue literally hundreds of people in order to bring them to safety.  I believe this is much like the desire Jesus has to rescue us.  We are not usually rescued from rooftops, but from habitual sins, financial despair, sickness or loneliness.  In essence, He rescues us from ourselves.  Then he asks us to go into the world and rescue others.

I received Jesus as my personal savior when I was very young.  I was just four years old when I sat down with my mom on a small upper staircase which led to a large upstairs movie room.  It was there where I gave my life to Christ. That movie room was where I had witnessed the most frightening incidents of child abuse inflicted upon my older brother by my father.  I was terrified by what I had seen, especially being so young.  The most vivid memory I have was of my father jumping on my seven year old brother and kicking him in the ribs as my brother crawled under a glass table to escape.  The recordings of this incident and others replayed again and again in my mind and I reached out to the Lord so that I would not feel alone and vulnerable.

I really believe that the day I began following Jesus, He put a shield of protection all around me.  I still felt the fear that would rise up in me when I heard my father growing angry, but I no longer felt alone.  I remember reciting Hebrews 13:5 over and over in my head.  I will never, never leave you, nor forsake you.  And, God was true to His word.  In fact, though each of my three siblings were assaulted by my father at different times, I never was.  I evaded his wrath time after time until God began to slowly change my father’s heart.  I truly believe the Lord chose and rescued me from a place of fear and despair.

His Word Tells Us…

You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah. – Psalm 32:7

Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.- Psalm 91:14-15

For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help, The afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, And their blood will be precious in his sight. –Psalm 72:12-14

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. – Colossians 1:13

The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. – 2 Timothy 4:18

Let’s Pray…

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for making plans to rescue us.  You know us so well and you know everything that will happen to us before it happens.  We thank you for grafting us into your plan for salvation. Thank you for protecting us and for providing a way of escape when we are tempted.  We pray that you will mightily deliver us from this world and that you will deliver us from our own fleshly desires to sin.

We pray that you will give us strength and boldness to go out into the world and to rescue others who are suffering and without hope.  Thank you that we find our hope in you.  Give us peace and strength today and help set our feet on a path to freedom where we can realize all that you have called us to.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen