A Sweet Fragrance

Good Friday?

April 18th, 2014

In the eyes of a human being, this Friday  would not be called “good Friday”, but rather “tragic” or “black Friday”.What took place seemed far from good.Those  at the cross did not see a Messiah, but rather a man  worthy of crucifixion; they mocked Him.  And, though He had many followers, few followed Him to the cross. They fled, sorrowing that the one they thought was the Messiah seemed to be defeated by mere men. Yet, they did not understand what He was doing on that cross. He bore  the wrath of God the Father towards sin, the wrath we deserved. In that moment of darkness, all hope seemed to be lost. Looking on, it would have seemed impossible that anything good could have come from such a situation. But,  it was our sin that died with Him, and our salvation that rose with Him from the grave. He brought light from darkness, joy from despair, victory from  defeat, and life from death. He conquered the last enemy and opened the gates of eternal life. Now, we stand purchased, redeemed, and forgiven because of that “good Friday”. Glory, Hallelujah!

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

February 14th, 2014

poetry

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me,
Underneath me, all around me
Is the current of Thy love;
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore;
How He watched o’er His loved ones,
Died to make them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best;
‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
‘Tis a haven sweet of rest,
O the deep, deep love of Jesus
‘Tis a heav’n of heav’ns to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee.

-Samuel Trevor Francis

Hope

February 5th, 2014

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:1-5

 

How wonderful it is to read these verses when our world is filled with darkness, despair, and wickedness. It is so easy to be overwhelmed as we see the deterioration of our generation: divorce, abortion, moral decline, spiritual apathy, etc. What are we to do?
We must focus on Jesus. When we focus on the darkness, we lose sight of Him; we forget the victory He has claimed in our own dark hearts.  By His Spirit, we are not only full of light, but also equipped to fight the darkness.
In doing so, we must have hope. What is hope?  “Hope is: to cherish a desire of good, with some expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable.” Hope is faith in who He is: that He is faithful, true, merciful, gracious, just, and holy, and that He alone is able to bring light, life, and joy in the midst of darkness and suffering. Through the riches of His grace, we obtain hope that He is faithful to work out His promises through us. Yet, knowing this, do we place our full trust in Him?
When we are faced with trials, where do we run? Do we run to Him who is our strength and gives us the ability to overcome, or do we simply run to the things of this world that produce momentary happiness: friends, hobbies, careers, jobs, a good salary, etc. What we run after often shows where our hopes lie. Are your hopes, are my hopes placed on the things of this world, or are they on Jesus Christ? Do we invest in things that have eternal value, or are we just pursuing those things that will make us feel good and comfortable? If we base our hopes on the things of this world, our foundation is very shaky. Hope in Jesus Christ is the only sure foundation. In order to stand on this sure foundation, we must be willing to deny our selfish, prideful selves and follow Him with hearts solely dedicated to loving and serving Him. The more we deny ourselves and follow Him, the more we will have hope, for He will fill us with Himself, causing us to do greater works.

As our faith and hope are strengthened through the work we see Him doing in our lives, we will have the ability to pour hope into the lives of others.  Many in this world live hopeless lives. They desire hope, but have no knowledge of it. This is where God desires to use us. Through the proclamation of His gospel, we can meet the greatest need of their souls by pointing them to the hope of Salvation through Jesus Christ. What a privilege!

May the Lord fill you with this hope as you come to grasp more of those eternal treasures that, through Christ, are ours to possess.

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.

-Words from “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

Joy

January 27th, 2014

quotes

“If you live gladly to make others
glad in God, you life will be
hard, your risks will be high,
and your JOY will be full.”

-John Piper

books

When you walk into a Christian bookstore, you will find an assortment of books. Most of them will be books that tell you how to fix your marriage, how to pursue your dreams, how to have a happy family, how to get along with your co-workers, etc.  But rarely do you find a book on brokenness.

To our ears, the word brokenness may sound a little harsh. Wasn’t God supposed to heal our hearts? What about the new heart we are supposed to receive?  Yes, He does do these things within us, but He must break the old heart before He can give us a new heart. In this book, Nancy Leigh DeMoss helps readers understand that God desires a broken and contrite heart so that He can fill, revive, and bless us through His Spirit. (see Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15)

Because Nancy has experienced brokenness in her own heart and life, she is able to tell real stories of what brokenness looks like. She recounts one in particular where she was asked to speak on this very topic to a large crowd of Campus Crusade for Christ staff. She spoke on the deadliness of pride and our desperate need for humility. That day, the Spirit moved.  Score after score of people came to the microphone, openly confessing sin before God and their fellow believers.  God revealed Himself in an amazing way that day, causing many to grieve over their sin, ask God for forgiveness, and rejoice over the joy and freedom He brought to their hearts.

So, what exactly is brokenness? Brokenness is the emptying of ourselves and the filled of Him; it is the shattering of our self-will.  Through brokenness, the real condition of our heart is revealed and we are brought to His feet in humility.  We grieve over our sin and come before Him in true repentance knowing that He is able to cleanse us from all sin. Our hearts will open fully to Him as His light enters our hearts, exposing every sin. This brokenness is not comfortable, but it is a change that will leave us no longer wanting to live for ourselves. All that we used to hold dear will seem common, and we will stand as empty vessels desiring to be filled with the riches of His grace through Christ Jesus.  This brokenness should not just be a one-time event, but a continuous lifestyle. And, though this seems like such a great paradox, we will experience freedom and joy like never before because He is freely working in and through us.

To bring this brokenness about, God will use ordinary means to bring extraordinary changes to our hearts:

1. The Word of God- “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)  God uses His Word to bring us to an awareness of who He is, who we are, and how far we fall short of His standard.

2. Circumstances- God may use difficult situations to bring us to the point of brokenness. It may be a difficult marriage, broken friendships, or a co-worker who is hard to get along with. Many times we try to fix everything when we are the ones who really need to be fixed. We think our prideful opinion is right and everyone else is wrong. Yet, when God grabs our hearts and helps us see that our goodness is nothing apart from Him (Psalm 16:2), brokenness enters in and we begin to seek to live a life dependent on His righteousness.

3. The Body of Christ- When we gather with other believers, we are surrounded with sinners saved by grace and transformed by His Spirit. As we seek to live a life of brokenness, we should seek to be transparent before other believers. This should involve seeking to right every wrong and offense we have committed toward them and allow them to point out spiritual blind points in our lives. Again, this step of transparency can be painful, but it will help you to practice humility and give glory to God for the good in your heart.

Where is your heart? Are you putting your faith into the good things you do, even going as far as to justify or cover up sin?  In this book, Nancy pleads with her readers to listen to God’s Spirit and not resist the brokenness He desires.  Brokenness is the only way to have the freedom to live a life wholly for the Lord.

As you seek to have a heart revived by brokenness, may this be your prayer:

“Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace,
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.”

-Augustus Toplady

The Valley of Vision

January 16th, 2014

poetry

Lord, High and Holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.

 Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter the stars shine;
Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

 —from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of
         Puritan Prayers and Devotions

A Helping Heart

January 15th, 2014

Dear blog readers,

It is with great pleasure that I, Heidi, enter into being a contributor to my sister’s blog.  No, my intent is not to take over, but rather to provide encouragement to her and others in their labors for the Lord. This blog has been quiet not because she was tired of writing, but because she has become deeply involved in what God has called her to do. She has inspired me in many ways, the greatest being her love for the Lord. There may be a different set of hands typing out the posts, but I hope it is the same love for Jesus that inspires them.

As you may have caught from the previous paragraph, I am a sister to Vanessa, and also to four other siblings. I love to read, write, cook, play my violin, sing, be outdoors, and smile.  I am currently pursuing an area of study that would enable me to work with the disabled. God has placed a burden on my heart for these special people and I look forward to being His hands and feet to them.

There are many things in life that rouse my interest and enthusiasm. Yet, if you were to come up to me and ask me to tell you one thing about myself, it would be this: I love Jesus!  He bought me, a filthy sinner, with the price of His own blood. He who knew no sin took my sin upon Himself. Through His blood, I am cleansed from my filthiness, clothed in His righteousness, given a new heart, and made a child of the King of Kings.  And this is not all.  As His child, I have the privilege of His presence; He is with me at all times and in all circumstances. Because of this, I can speak the truth, dispel the darkness, and bring healing to sick and wounded hearts, not because of anything in me, but because of Him.  I look forward with joy to what He will do in and through me. Praise the Lord for His marvelous work!

So, dear reader, I want to invite to join me as I sit at the feet of Jesus.  My heart yearns to learn from Him, and it is my hope that these posts will spur you on to do the same.

 

In Christ,
Heidi

books

Plowed_Under_cover_Lo-ResI looked forward to reading this book when it was reprinted this summer, however, my copy narrowly escaped a house fire the night after I received it! In spite of the ensuing chaos, this little book has been with me constantly during the past few weeks, read while traveling between work and home.

If you have ever read Mimosayou will remember the story of a young girl who chose to worship the Savior who loved her even before she knew His name. Ploughed Underalso by Amy Carmichael, is the story of Mimosa’s older sister Star, who walked the same path from idol worship to the light of the Savior.

As a child, Star struggled to control her hot  temper. Vainly, she cried for help with her disposition to the gods she had been taught to worship, but received no answer. One day, in desperation, alone under the empty blue sky, she cried, “O God, God of all the gods, hear me!” Her soul began to thirst for that which her own people’s gods could not satisfy. Even before she knew anything of the “God of gods”, she began to pray to him in little sanctuaries she made for herself in her home, in the field.

One day she heard a preacher state: “There is a living God. He turned me, a lion, into a lamb.” Star’s mind grasped quickly – this was the God who could change dispositions! He was the living God! By implication, all other gods were dead. She determined to no longer worship dead gods, to no longer rub their ashes on her forehead. The idolatrous observances of her family became impossible to her.

Amy Carmichael was in the early years of her ministry. In spite of the objections of her family, for certain periods of time Star was allowed to come to Amy’s bungalow for instruction. Then her family took her back, back to idolatry. Awful things were heard. Amy’s faith was tested to the uttermost. Would this child hold strong?

This is where this story touches my life. Where do you find faith when all seems to be evil? How do you trust God for a soul when Satan seems to have already won? I can identify with the waiting, the fear, the helplessness. How do you trust God against all odds?

“In the silence which filled the first minutes of that hour we remembered the years of the right hand of the Most High: The floods stood upright as an heap. The walls fell down flat. The sun stood still and the moon stayed. The iron did swim. The Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”

“God is unto us a God of deliverances.”

God delivered Star to a life of service for Him, but only through years of trials and testings. Yet, this young girl stayed strong, faithful to her loving Savior. If you are having difficulty trusting God for souls, read this story. You can get this book here.

 

 

I received a free copy of this book from CLC publications in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Psalm 19

June 23rd, 2013

Psalm 19

To the intent he might move the faithful
to deeper consideration of God’s glory,
he setteth before their eyes the most
exquisite workmanship of the heavens,
with their proportion, and ornaments.

And afterward calleth them to the Law,
wherein God hath revealed himself more
familiarly to his chosen people.
The which peculiar grace by commending the Law,
he setteth forth more at large.

To him that excelleth. A Psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament showeth the work of his hands.
He reproacheth unto man his ingratitude,
seeing the heavens, which are dumb creatures,
set forth God’s glory.

Day unto day uttereth the same,
and night unto night teacheth knowledge.
The continual success of the day and the night
is sufficient to declare God’s power and goodness.

There is no speech nor language,
where their voice is not heard.
The heavens are a Schoolmaster to all nations,
be they never so barbarous.

Their line is gone forth through all the earth,
and their words into the ends of the world:
in them hath he set a tabernacle for the Sun.
The heavens are as a line of great capital letters
to show unto us God’s glory.

Which cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber,
Or veil. The manner was that the bride and bridegroom
should stand under a veil together,
and after come forth with great solemnity,
and rejoicing of the assembly.
and rejoiceth like a mighty man to run his race.

His going out is from the end of the heaven,
and his compass is unto the ends of the same,
and none is hid from the heat thereof.

The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
and giveth wisdom unto the simple.
Though the creatures cannot serve,
yet this ought to be sufficient to lead us unto him.

The statutes of the Lord are right,
and rejoice the heart,
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
and giveth light unto the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean,
and endureth forever:
the judgments of the Lord are truth:
So that all man’s inventions and intentions are lies.
they are righteous altogether,
Everyone without exception.

And more to be desired than gold,
yea, than much fine gold:
sweeter also than honey,
and the honeycomb.
Except God’s word be esteemed above all worldly things,
it is contemned.

Moreover by them is thy servant made circumspect,
and in keeping of them there is great reward.
For God accepteth our endeavor,
though it be far imperfect.

Who can understand his faults?
cleanse me from secret faults.
Then there is no reward of duty,
but of grace: for where sin is,
there death is the reward.

Keep thy servant also from presumptuous sins:
Which are done purposely and of malice.
let them not reign over me:
so shall I be upright,
If thou suppress my wicked affections by thine holy spirit.
and made clean from much wickedness.

Let the words of my mouth,
and the meditation of mine heart be acceptable in thy sight,
O Lord my strength, and my redeemer.
That I may obey thee in thought, word and deed.

-From the 1599 Geneva Bible

Original commentary in italics.

Success ~ Thomas Ragland

April 10th, 2013

quotes

 

Of all plans for securing success the most certain is Christ’s own, becoming a corn of wheat, falling into the ground and dying.

 

-Thomas Ragland, as quoted in Things as They Are by Amy Carmichael

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