Bought with the Precious Blood

In Christ Alone is one of my favorite songs all year long, but I think of it especially at this time of Easter.

I remember singing it in the chapel at college, the music and our voices dropping low at the lines, “There in the ground His body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain” then rising in triumph with the words, “Then bursting forth in glorious day, Up from the grave He rose again!”

Gives me chills every time.

What a beautiful way to capture His victory over the grave. What joy to know that “sin’s curse has lost its grip on me; for I am His and He is mine – bought with the precious blood of Christ.”

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I’ve been singing this song to Natalie before bed and every time I do I think again on the incredible gift of life that God gave through His son. It captures well the truths of Christ’s love for us… that He took on flesh, gave His life, and rose again to save us.

That’s what we celebrate this weekend. Praise God!

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For every sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

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While We Were…

Good Friday seems like a strange name for a day in which we remember Jesus’ death. How can we read of the way He was mocked and beaten and nailed to a cross and say this is good? How can His suffering and death be good?

It is good because without His sacrifice we are bound for death and suffering. Our sin condemns us and we are powerless to change that on our own.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6

Helpless. It’s not a description we like to think of for ourselves, but it is true. We are helpless to be cleansed from sin by our own strength or effort.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Sinners. It’s a word that we don’t like to use or think about, especially in our culture today. But that’s what we are, and because of our sin we are destined for death and for eternity in hell.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10

Enemies. Did you ever think about that? Our sin makes us enemies of God.In His holiness, our sin makes us destined for eternal separation.

While we were… helpless, sinners, enemies.

While we were… Christ died, God showed His incredible love, and we were reconciled.

That is why it is Good Friday. Because what we were is washed away by His blood.  And what we are is all that matters. Redeemed by His sacrifice, our debt is paid and we have the promise of eternity in Heaven with our God.

I was helpless. I was a sinner. I was an enemy. But I am not any longer and I praise God for that.

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Let Me Just…

“Come play with me Mommy!”

“Let me just put these dishes away then I will.”

“Want to read books? Is that a good idea Mommy?”

“Let me just reply to this email real quick first.”

“I need some more milk Mommy.”

“Let me just carry this laundry upstairs then I’ll get it.”

Yesterday I caught myself starting far too many sentences with the same three words.

Let me just…

And although many of the things I needed to do were important, I was suddenly aware of how easily those words slipped out. An almost automatic response.

I’m not saying that I should immediately drop everything to do what Natalie asks or wants.  That wouldn’t be the right approach even if I could! I want her to learn patience and independence as she grows.

But there are times when I can drop everything for her. There are times when I do.

Countless dishes have sat on the counter longer than they should. Emails have gone unwritten and laundry baskets full of folded clothes have been known to sit in our family room for days.

It’s a balance, for her and for me. To learn when she needs to wait and when I need to rearrange my plans for her. To be honest, I much prefer tea parties and books over laundry and dishes anyway!

But those words yesterday got me thinking about something else… Do I ever approach my relationship with God in the same way?

How many times has my to do list come before my time with Him? How many times have much less important things stolen my attention?

“Let me just clean up the toys, make a snack, catch up on this TV show, get to bed a little early tonight…”

All the while I’m missing time with Him. Time to read the Word, pray, or simply be still.

Yes I have responsibilities to my family, my home, my job… but nothing is more important than my relationship with God.

It’s a balance, setting aside time to be alone with God while also taking care of the needs of day to day life. I definitely don’t have it all figured out. But I want to keep working on it. Thankfully, even when my time isn’t solely focused on Him, I know God is with me in everything I do.

So let me just pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17), even if that means while I drive to work or vacuum the living room.

Let me just sing hymns with Natalie before bed so we can share in the truths of His amazing grace together.

Let me just write Bible verses on the chalkboard to memorize so I can meditate on His Word day and night (Psalm 1:2).

And let me just be still in His presence whenever I can.

 

 

 

When You’re Sinking

Have you ever felt like you were sinking in the midst of a life storm?

When my husband and I found out, 30 weeks into my first pregnancy, that our baby was suddenly and inexplicably very sick, I knew God was still in control. When Faith was born two weeks later and the doctor’s face revealed the answer before he even spoke the words, I knew God was still with me.

But that didn’t change the fact that losing our daughter was the most painful experience I have ever faced.

In those first days, weeks and months after Faith died the sorrow was like the cold water of a lake, always under the surface, and I was sinking into the deep.

That sorrow has faded for me now, replaced by a settled longing I will carry with me until I meet her again in Heaven someday. But there are new trials to face, as there always will be.

For me and for all of us, as long as we are in this world.

And when it comes to the stormy waters I encounter in my life, I feel kind of like Peter in Matthew 14:28-31.

“Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?'”

It’s not the step out of the boat that I struggle with, it’s the fear of sinking once I’m walking on the water.

I know and trust who He is when I step into the water, but when I focus on the waves of whatever trial I am facing, I lose sight of Him. And yet He’s right there, reaching out His hand in the midst of the storm.

Having faith in God doesn’t mean that we will be spared the struggles and sorrows of this world, but we can know that He is with us through it all.

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Struggles and disappointments, unanswered questions and unfulfilled hopes… whatever the trial may be, I believe we all have moments when we feel like we’re sinking.

When you find yourself sinking into the deep, know that He is there. Look away from the waves and into His eyes. Listen to His voice in the midst of the wind. Grab hold of His outstretched hand.

Know that the one who has overcome the world is there with you, and He will keep you from sinking. He will pull you up, out of the deep and into His arms.

 

I enjoyed linking up today with Live Free Thursday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watching Raindrops

Sitting in a meeting today, my chair facing the windows that overlook the courtyard, I watched the rain.

I like the way the raindrops dot the window. I’ve always found it somewhat fascinating to watch as a single drop trails from top to bottom. The way it wanders and twists, pauses, speeds ahead, grabs other drops, grows…

It’s funny, I find beauty in the unpredictable path of a raindrop and yet I often struggle with the unpredictable things in my own life.

Driving home I thought about the prayer I had whispered in the car that very morning. I had talked to God about all the unknowns ahead. About how many times I’ve felt like plans were all falling into place only for something to come in and throw things off kilter. About how confusing it can be to know what to do next.

And then I realized how many times I had spoken the word “my”. My plans. My hopes. My thoughts. But what if I replaced each of those with a “Your” instead? Your plans. Your hopes. Your thoughts.

How easily I get caught up in myself when I should be resting in Him. watchingraindrops

I don’t need to have every plan in place. I don’t need to know all the answers to each question that presents itself. I do need to seek and trust in the God who holds my life in His hands.

And while it may be hard for me sometimes, not knowing what’s ahead, I will strive to rest in Him.

As my wipers pushed the raindrops to the edges of the windshield I thought again about the beauty of the unpredictable trails they trace. May my life be just the same… unpredictable in my eyes but beautiful just the same.

 

 

 

 

 

Motherhood and Being a Child of God

Last night, while we were reading stories before bed, Natalie smiled at me and said, “I’m so happy!”

I smiled back, “Why are you so happy?”

“Because you are here with me,” was her heart-melting reply.

*Sigh* I love that girl!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about motherhood. It is such an incredible privilege and responsibility…one that I am so very thankful to have.

motherhoodMotherhood has also given me a different perspective on being a child of God.

The love I feel for Natalie is unlike any other kind of love. It is a love that accepts her fully as she is, while still nurturing her and teaching her as she grows. My love for her doesn’t depend on circumstances. She can’t earn my love but she can’t lose my love either. I love her simply because she is my daughter.

Isn’t it the same with God’s love for us?

He loves me simply because I am His daughter. I did nothing to earn His love and I can do nothing to lose His love.

His love for me is full and lasting and complete. He loves me so much that He sent Jesus to die for my sins (1 John 3:16), for although His love is freely given, my forgiveness was bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20).

And as much as I love my daughter, His love for me is even greater because I am an imperfect human and He is perfect God. That is an overwhelming thought!

But there’s another part of my identity as a child of God that is sometimes more of a challenge.

Consider this: as a mom I make choices for Natalie based on my perspective and understanding, which is above hers. I make decisions with her best interests in mind, even if she doesn’t like it. She might cry because I won’t let her eat ice cream as her dinner, but part of my responsibility in caring for her is to keep her healthy.

Likewise, I am God’s child and His perspective and understanding is far above mine (Isaiah 55:8-9). I know this is true but, I’ll be honest, it’s tough sometimes! I’ve had my crying child moments before and I’m sure there are more to come.

I am humbled by the reminder, through my role as a mother, of my role as a child as well. I know God is in control and that He has my very best interests in mind.

I am thankful for this gift of motherhood for so many reasons, but today I am especially thankful that it is a daily reminder of God’s love for me as His child.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name”

John 1:12

As I think again about the sweet words Natalie said to me last night, it is my prayer that I reflect the same feelings toward my Father.

Oh Lord, I am so happy you are here with me!

 

 

Weekly Word: Faith Like Abraham

Read: Hebrews 11:7-12, 17-19

What do you think of when you hear the name Abraham?

Maybe the way he was called by God and given a promise that he would be a father of nations? Or perhaps the fact that he became a father to Isaac at the age of 100?

Maybe the words of the old song “Father Abraham had many sons…” is the first thing to pop in your head (and if it wasn’t, maybe it’s in there now!)

One of the first thoughts I have when I think of Abraham is about when God told him to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22:1-18). The faith and obedience he had in response is amazing.

I love these words that Abraham speaks to Isaac as they walk to the mountain together, “…God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son…” (Gen 22:8). Wow.

Last week I wrote about the way faith is shown in actions. Several of Abraham’s actions are recounted in this chapter and all of them show his faith and obedience despite things that, humanly speaking, seemed difficult or near impossible to accomplish or understand.

He went out to a place “not knowing where he was going” (Heb 11:8).

He “lived as an alien” in a foreign land (Heb 11:9).

He and his wife conceived a child “even beyond the proper time of life” (Heb 11:11).

He “offered up Isaac… his only begotten son” (Heb 11:17) and “considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead” (Heb 11:19).

In each of these actions we can see Abraham willingly following God’s lead in the face of uncertainties and unknowns. He didn’t just say he had faith, he lived his faith through obedient actions.

Abraham wasn’t perfect (we’ll talk more about that idea next week!) but he is certainly an example of faith that is worth remembering.

Reflect: Are you willing to step out in faith even if you don’t know the end result? Do you trust that God will provide if you do? Is there a specific area in your life where you feel God’s call but struggle to move forward in faith? Pray for God’s strength and peace to guide you in this.

 

 

When I Open the Book

Over the past month Natalie has developed a habit of “reading” during worship at church. She pulls a Bible out from under the chair and lays it on the seat behind her. Then she opens it up and begins to “read”, chattering to herself and flipping pages while we sing.

It’s pretty adorable, but I’m biased of course.

One Sunday, when I caught sight of her turning pages with a huge smile on her face, it struck me for a different reason…

I wonder, what does my face look like when I open the Book?

Yes, I know she can’t read yet. Her look of joy isn’t because she knows what a gift the Word is. She just loves books.

But I know the incredible privilege it is to have the Word of God in my hands. I know, and yet does my face reflect even half the joy that hers holds?

It hit me hard.

I wish I could say yes, but the truth is that all too often I take the precious gift of God’s Word for granted. And ouch, that hurts to admit.

There was a time, when I was in college, when I couldn’t stand to miss my time in the Word. I was taking Bible classes, doing my own studies, reading through the Bible in a year. I looked forward to reading the Word and I felt like something wasn’t right in my day if I didn’t.

I want to feel that way again.

No more “I’m so busy” or “I’m just tired” excuses. How could that keep me from the Word of God which stands forever (Isaiah 40:8)?

No more compulsory reading without focusing my heart where it should be. How can I not be fully engaged in the Word that is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), alive and active (Hebrews 4:12)?bible2When I open the Book may my face reflect what my heart knows: I hold an immeasurable gift in my hands.

Thank you, Natalie, for the reminder I needed. Someday, when you really can read those pages, may you still smile in pure joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Sojourn We Call Life

Life is a journey.

I often think about it like climbing a mountain… there are challenges to face, unknowns around each bend, ledges to rest on, rough spots to conquer, and beautiful views all mixed together.

The climb is slow and steady and always changing. You know that the reward is worth every bit of effort along the way but there are moments when you just can’t take another step. Sometimes you have to stop to catch your breath and other times you have to stop to admire the view.hiking

Always the summit is ahead of you, pulling you forward, inspiring and motivating you along the way. And while that is encouragement to keep pressing on, it can also leave you feeling unsatisfied, wishing all the more that you were already there!

Sometimes I feel that way. Like there’s something greater that I’m waiting for. And you know what? There is!

I know that my desire for something more is based on the truth that this world is not my home. C.S. Lewis said it well, that we are “made for another world”.

God has called me to sojourn in this world, to stay for a time until He brings me Home. And while I rejoice in the promise of that day and long for eternity with Him, I also know that I have a purpose here.

This life is a gift, an incredible journey that I only get to take once. A climb full of challenges and wonders. So I will live it to the fullest as I walk the path God designed for me.

These words from the song “My Last Amen” by Downhere say it so poignantly:

The joy is in the waiting
Somewhere in the grand design
It’s good be unsatisfied
It keeps the faith and hope a little more alive

May that be true of me. May I find joy in the waiting on this climb, this sojourn we call life.

May I live with faith for the journey and hope for home.