Fervor for Worship

We just returned from three weeks in Europe, traveling through five countries, staying in nine different locations, ministering in international churches and at a pastoral conference.

We experienced the Lord’s daily protection and His provision in unexpected ways. We witnessed the power of His Word preached by godly men, the passion He has placed in pastors and their wives who sacrifice everything to serve Him, and the commonality found in His Son with people of every nation and tongue. There seems to be a fervor for the worship of God in international services we don’t often find in the states. Now, how do we inspire this fervor? Encourage it? Live it?

My Portion Forever

I praise God for those moments when I am painfully aware of sin. Though I fail, time and time again, His grace abounds. Growth through failure may be the hardest kind, but at least it’s growth! I love Psalm 73:26. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Our record label’s name, Portion Records, stems from this verse. In my human frailty, I find refuge under the wings (Ps. 91) of the Almighty, Holy, Perfect God, who covers me in the forgiveness and protection of His Son’s blood (Heb. 9). There I can pursue righteousness afresh. He is my portion. He strengthens my heart with purpose to try again. And I will.

O to Be Like Thee!

O to be like Thee! blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

These words to the old hymn, penned by Thomas O. Chisholm, have hit home lately. Every day I watch my 15 mos. old imitate me cleaning, talking on the phone, singing, etc. I am sometimes overwhelmed with the task before me: to be someone worth imitating! Lillie had a bib when she was younger that read, “More Like Mama Everyday.” Yes, it is my great joy to see her holding a “microphone” and singing with such passion, yet I know she imitates me unaware of why. As an adult, I know full well why I need to imitate our Lord.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Eph. 5:1-2).

This gift, His sacrifice, should drive the believer to full surrender of self. Gladly forfeiting any earthly treasure, we should seek His perfect likeness through every word, deed, and thought.

For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (Eph. 5:8).

The great desire of my heart is to walk in a manner worthy of the calling (Col. 1), so that my daughter may reap the benefits of the fruit I bear. I pray she will be found asking this very same question some day: How do I become more like Christ so they can see all He is?

Sovereign Craftsmanship

Hands

Our Liliana was sent to the children’s hospital to have blood drawn to further explore why her iron was measuring too low. There were hundreds of scenarios as to why this could be the case, some of them alarmingly scary. Fighting tears and worry, we continued to trust in a plan far more perfect than our own for our precious little Lillie. The God of the universe fashioned her in my womb. She is fearfully and wonderfully made, and every blood cell is as it should be according to His Almighty and Sovereign craftsmanship.

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13).

Her hemoglobin level had been just under 10.5, the minimum measurement for her age. After two months on an iron supplement it had fallen to 8.9. However, the extra blood tests would reveal she was actually at a perfect 11.7! The doctor’s words, “Miraculously healed” rang true in our hearts, though it is probable the original test was simply wrong. Even so, we know the Lord carries us through these journeys with a purpose.

May He be glorified by our lives and faith even when the results aren’t pleasant. We praise Him for the blessing and gift of good health, celebrating the fact He knew all along.

Craving the Word

Reading the Word of God is a daily exercise for any believer. But how does one keep it from becoming a mere task to check off a to-do list? The acronym R.E.A.D. is a good place to start.

RIGHT PERSPECTIVE (Is. 55:10-11)

Scripture is an authority over our lives. Coming from the mouth of God, it will accomplish its purposes. We surrender to the Word, believing not only in its power and authority, but in our dependence on it. Having a right perspective of the Word and our relationship to it is crucial to beginning our craving.

ELIMINATE SIN (1 Pet. 2:1-3)

We can more adequately fight sin when we are harboring the Word in our hearts. Memorizing portions of Scripture allows us to fully engage in the daily battle raging within our hearts and minds (Ps. 119:11). The Word is our sword (Eph. 6:17). When we sin, entering into immediate confession with the help of Scripture sets us up for victory over the same sin next time. Then, as we see the Word working powerfully in our lives specifically against sin issues, our craving for this continued victory grows.

ADMIT NEED (Matt. 4:4)

Understanding our individual human weakness, we recognize our need for the Word and its guidance. We are sinful, depraved beings living in a society where “loving yourself” is emphasized and encouraged. Rather, we should be aware of our sin problem and replace our ego-centered living with utter reliance on the truth of God’s Word.

DRINK FULLY (Psalm 40:8)

Consistent reading of the Word is a powerful thing, but prayerful in-depth study will accomplish a fuller understanding of its truths (Heb. 6:1a). When we dissect a passage, a snack can turn into a royal feast. Pursuing all a passage has to offer, learning its history, its relevance, its context, etc… will transform our lives and inspire a deeper craving.

It seems popular to seek spiritual growth through methods far removed from Scripture. Yet there is no better way to experience Christ than through effective study of the Word. May our craving to crave it become reality because we are willing to be faithful, diligent students.

 

Changing My Name, Part 2

As a wife, I wear many hats and I go by many names. I am the weaker vessel in our house, as it clearly states in 1 Peter 3:7. The phrase “weaker vessel” does not mean inferior spiritually. For there is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11). Wives are equal in Christ with their husbands. There is neither male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).

The First Peter passage is referring to the fact that we are weaker physically. We are in need of protection and provision. However, even as the weaker vessel, I hold much influence with the names I wear. For example, my mood, good or bad, directly affects my husband’s. Sometimes my name is “Moody.” My quick reaction will greatly affect the tone and even outcome of a discussion. Here, I am “Careless.” My opinions will sway him. I am “Opinionated.” My expectations can alter his plans. In this case, call me, “The One to be Pleased.” My pride frustrates him. “Frustrater” is my name. My selfishness robs his growth and ability to increase as well as mine to decrease. In those moments, I am simply “Arrogant.” My silence can leave him totally out of the picture, leaving him confused or misguided. Here I am the “Mute Controller.”

These are all names that I am in a daily battle to rid myself of. Most believers are aware of the put off/put on concept in scripture. In order to beat down the sins of arrogance, selfishness, and pride reigning in my heart, I must replace these things (these “names”) and do as Ephesians 4 instructs. Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

This influence, if you will, can be yielded and used for good. For example, my smile warms his heart. Then, my name is “Comforter.” My compliment strengthens him. Call me “Affirmer.” My humor makes him laugh. “Comedian.” My openness enlightens him as “Sharer.” My faith walk inspires him when I am “Spiritual.” My protection of him publicly shows him respect, for I am “Respectful.” When the work of my hands is organized in aiding his work, I am “Dependable.” My dedication assures him as I am “Devoted.” And my touch reaffirms him in my love. I am “Lover.”

The role of wife is a beautiful God-given position. Woman was created to glorify man and help him bring more glory to God. Our lives as wives need to glorify our husbands. Man is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake (1 Corinthians 11:7-9).

Patrick accepted Christ two weeks after arriving in the United States for college. He then found me. My parents were praying for him (my future spouse) my entire life. God had protected him from things a typical young Frenchman outside of Christ would not normally have been shielded from… Because of all this, I really believed Patrick was made just for me. However, if I am going to chew up and swallow this 1 Cor. passage, the reality is I was created for him.

I pray I wear Christ beautifully in my life. As I seek to become more Christlike in my role as a wife, may I wear “Fata” as beautifully.

Changing My Name, Part 1

Because of my love for Patrick, I had no hesitation in taking Fata as my last name on our wedding day. Anything that had to do with him was well worth my taking and was a joy to me. Even though I had always liked my maiden name, it was easy to let it go because of all I was gaining. In taking the name Fata, I told the world I belong to Patrick.

There are several examples in scripture where Christ gave out new names. Simon became Peter, which we know means “rock”– representing his position as a foundational rock in the building of the church. James and John were labeled the “Sons of Thunder,” perhaps due to their outspoken personalities, according to some Bible commentators. All twelve men whom Christ called were known as disciples. The term disciple means student and of course, they were directly under Christ’s teaching. They were also called apostles.

An apostle is defined as a qualified representative sent on a mission. Both of these labels are simply different aspects of their calling. The change of their name or the addition of such titles was an outward demonstration of their love for Christ and willingness to tell the world they belonged to Him.

When we put our faith in Christ, we give up titles like lost, needy, weak, confused, or poor, and we replace them with chosen, fulfilled, strong, guided, and wealthy. There are days in our marriage, because of this fallen world we live in, where I am weak, confused, frustrated, and yes, even poor. But as I place my life under Patrick’s authority, trusting his to be under God’s, I rest knowing there is strength, direction and prosperity to be found in Christ alone. When it has to do with Jesus, it is well worth our taking, and we can count even struggles as joy for His name’s sake.

Paul states in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Being well content doesn’t mean we have to take pleasure in the pain, but rather we can rejoice that His power is at work within us, giving us the needed strength to endure and even grow.

My Growing Heart

I am a new mother. Liliana is more than I could ever have imagined her to be. Yes, I knew I would have a great love for her. Yes, I knew she would add a dimension to our lives we could not have fathomed. But what I did not know is my heart would actually grow. It had to. It had no choice. In order to contain this new love of mine, my heart had to expand.

In Scripture, the Hebrew concept of the heart is an embodiment of our emotions, our will, our intellect, and even our desires. There are over 800 references to the heart in God’s Word, proving its significance. I house many items in my heart (love for the Lord and people I hold dear), but unfortunately, idols also dwell within. An idol is anything I desire above Jesus.

How can I recognize when something has become an idol to me? Well, am I willing to sin in order to get it or do I sin if I do not get it? The moment it steals my gaze from Christ, I have erected an idol within my heart. My heart’s capacity to worship Him is lessened by idols such as material pleasures, others’ approval or fear of man, wanting to be treated with justice, having my “rights” honored or my needs met, gaining or keeping control, or simply being successful.

An idol can even be something good. My daughter, for example, could become an idol of my heart if my affections are misplaced and she becomes more important to me than Christ. The point is, my desire or lust for the “object” is sin, not necessarily the object itself. The responsibility for my sin lies with me, not the idol. I often set my heart on things the Lord has not intended for me now or maybe even ever. Yet nothing can compare to the riches of my Savior and His glory. Scripture commands us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), and Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). If I long for Him above all else, my heart’s desires will match His desires for my life.

Oh, that my heart would increase for Christ as naturally as it did for my Lillie. Forcing out the filth, filling me up with Him alone, may it have no choice but to expand!

For Who He Is

Joshua Bell is considered one of the greatest violinists of our time, playing to standing-room-only audiences around the world, where the worst seats often cost more than $100. His violin, a 1713 Stradivarius, is worth $3.5 million and is called one of the most amazing instruments in the world. In January of ‘07 he stood and played his violin at a metro station in Washington, D.C. In 45 minutes, 1097 people passed him by. 27 gave money totaling $32 and change, and only 7 people actually stopped for a moment to listen.

Too often, we pass by moments with Jesus simply because we do not savor Him for who He really is. During the study and writing phase of the Exalted Lord project, I realized that throughout my entire life, I had placed Christ on the right as I envisioned the throne room–my right, not the Father’s right! How often do I position Christ where He simply doesn’t belong? The reality is He is more than a friend and daily companion. He is reigning magnificently at the Father’s right hand, ruling powerfully over sin, death and unbelief.

Jesus is God, claiming for Himself the same honor and glory belonging to the Almighty (John 17:5). He is equal with God, yet has reverence for the Father (Phil. 2:6). They glorify each other (John 13:31). Jesus is the Creator, having never had a beginning (Rev. 1:17-18). All nature bows to His authority (Matt. 8:26-27) while He upholds the universe with His mighty power (Heb. 1:3). He holds all things together (Col. 1:17). He is the Great High Priest who sympathizes with us (Heb. 4:15). He meets our needs not only because He is God, but because He was man.

Jesus is God’s chosen sinless substitute for sin prophesied about throughout the Old Testament. We are forgiven because of the blood He shed on our behalf (Heb. 9:18-26). He is mediating for His children before a holy God (1 Tim. 2:5). He never changes (Heb. 13:8). Christ is the coming King (Is. 9:6-7, Matt. 24:27, Heb. 9:28) and the final Judge of mankind (Matt. 25:31-46, Acts 17:30-31). Jesus is this and ever so much more!

We cannot fit Christ into some mold according to the parts of Him that work best with our lifestyle or agenda. He is who He is without you or me. What a loss in our lives to simply pass Him by. One theologian said, “Christ does not exist to make much of us. We exist in order to enjoy making much of Him.” How much are we making of Him?

Livin’ Word-Driven

The Word of God has played certain roles throughout my life. Depending on which trail I was traveling, it has either been along for the ride, hidden in my backpack, or my actual road map.

As a little girl, it was something to carry to church. Portions were memorized for stickers or other prizes in Sunday School. As a youth, it was something to respect, but seemed above me, or so I thought. In college, its importance was clear, though I struggled to be found in it daily. Now I realize it is a deep, deep well of which I cannot drink enough. When I am thirsty, I am quenched. When I am hungry, I am fed. When I am broken, I am repaired.

As with most things in life, it is easy to focus on what it is for me. However, once I surrender simply to what it is, I can humbly submit my will before its power, trusting in its Author and His perfect plan for how I should live. The Bible lives up to its claims: holy (Rom. 1:2), incapable of being wrong (Ps. 12:6, Prov. 30:5, John 17:17), always effective (Ps.19:7, 2 Tim.3:16-17), everlasting (Ps. 119:152, Is. 40:8, 1 Pet. 1:25), sufficient (Ps. 19:7-9, Acts 20:32, 2 Pet. 1:3), and complete (Deut. 4:2, 12:32. Prov. 30:6, Matt. 5:18, Luke 16:17).

The secular world looks at the Bible as a dated, dusty ol’ rule book, yet I know to the very core of my being that its truths are as powerful and relevant today as they were when God first breathed them to life. Living according to the Word’s standards is not a chore, but rather a choice that offers great freedom! May all that I am be directly influenced by all that it is.