Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wonderful Words from Bertie Brits

"Any verse in the Bible - even in the New Testament written by Paul - that does not reveal GRACE (effortless life) is simply misunderstood.  Any scripture that is seen as something that we need to do to contribute to HIS work is MISUNDERSTOOD.  don't be blinded by a scripture that seems to contradict the simple Gospel of HIS LIFE IN YOU AND THROUGH YOU FREELY.  If it is not effortless it is flesh."                                                                                  Bertie Brits

Wow, I love that!  I have been confused by certain scriptures in the past, coming as I did from a more performance-oriented background.  I had probably put 'works' and 'effort' and 'should' and 'must' into verses because of my legalistic perceptions.  What a relief to know that God is gracious and loving, and that even the scriptures I don't understand will eventually become clear in the light of GRACE! 

It helps me to know that if I read the scriptures and feel condemned, tense, pressured, and wanting to focus on self-effort, I must be confused, because His Word of Grace is always life-giving and liberating, joyful and releasing!  His Word of Grace always frees and lifts us rather than depressing and crushing us.  His Word of Grace always points to Jesus, not us.  His Word of Grace lifts off burdens rather than putting on burdens!  His Word of Grace is always life and healing, not death and despair. 

Grace is the New Covenant that we are in, the ministry of the Spirit and of Life, so we can interpret every scripture through the lens of grace and His Life, not law and our works which are a dead-end.  As Bertie says so well, "If if is not effortless it is flesh."  It's all about His work in and through me while I rest.  What a blessed relief for someone who gets worn out trying to do enough, be enough, change enough, measure up enough...ad nauseum!

Thank You, Lord, that the Gospel is all about Christ living in me FREELY through the Holy Spirit !  Oh, how I need to hear that today and just lean back in Your arms and REST!  Thank You that when we get caught up in the "doings" at times, we can just STOP and fall back into the arms that never let go of us for a minute!  Thank You for loving and delighting in us at all times, whether we're basking in Your presence or confused and troubled or even on a wearying flesh-trip.  Thank You that You are unwavering in pouring out Your life and love and Spirit in us!  You are a river in us that never, never, NEVER runs dry!  Amen..

Friday, August 26, 2011

Servant or Son?

Here is a wonderful article by my dear friend Patty, someone who loves God and loves His grace!
I loved this so much and wanted to share it here, and she has kindly allowed me to share her words with all...

The story as found in Luke clearly defines grace [as being the opposite of a servant mentality] through the picture of eldest brother who is angry when his brother comes home and is met by his father's grace and a feast of celebration.
The eldest brother's attitude seems to be based on what he feels he deserves because of his efforts. "All of these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. You never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends?"

Might we be striving in all are efforts to literally live up to the name, servant of God?
Might we be thinking and feeling and living not like a family member should, but like a servant does?

The servant is accepted and appreciated on the basis of what he does, the child on the basis of who he is.

The servant starts the day anxious and worried, wondering if his work will really please the master. The child rests in the secure love of his family.

The servant is accepted because of his workmanship, the son or daughter because of a relationship.

The servant is accepted because of his productivity and accomplishment. The child belongs because of his position as a member of the family.

At the end of the day, the servant has peace of mind only if he is sure he has proven his worth by the work that he has done. The next morning his stress and anxiety will begin again. The child can be secure all day, and know that tomorrow won't change his standing as a beloved family member.

When a servant fails, his whole position is at stake, he might lose his job. When a child fails, he will be grieved because he has hurt his parents and will be corrected and disciplined but he is not afraid of being rejected by them. His confidence is in the belonging and being loved and his performance does not change the stability of his position in the family.

Grace then is unearned belonging. To grasp this view of belonging (because of complete acceptance and total unconditional love), will correct a faulty way of thinking, feeling, acting, reacting and relating in life.

So let us thank the Lord above for the miracle of GRACE. May he help us each to stop living as servants, while keeping us ever willing to serve him and others. May we know the difference and begin to esteem ourselves the rightful position as children of the most high God. May we be reminded daily that we are sons and daughters and may he help us live and feel that we are loved and accepted, that we are forgiven for our sins, no matter what, because of Christ's provision for us to become members of God's family as a direct heir of God through Christ! And lastly may God give us each increased confidence in this newly understood position of grace.               (by my friend Patty)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When Attacked by Those Nasty Lies..

Sometimes I wish I would get to the point where I have it all together - haha!  That isn't going to happen anytime soon!  At least I wish I could get a firm grip on grace and not sometimes slip back into that awful performance thinking - aargh!  I really have needed a big dose of grace and love and acceptance in my life lately, as I have been down and feeling condemned about a certain aspect of my life.  In my case, it's my lack of ability to be consistent in intercessory prayer like I "want" to be.  But really, any work or struggle will suffice to be used by Satan to accuse us when we fall short..

Does anybody else identify with this scenario:  You see another Christian who is so vibrant and alive and thriving in a certain aspect of their Christian life (for me, enter the intercessory prayer warrior).  A tiny, little, seemingly harmless thought pops in the mind - "I really should do that too" - for me, it was about praying for other people more.  So you start to "try" to add in that Christian virtue (notice the focus on self-effort, oh-so-subtle!  It's like we're putting ourselves back under law without even realizing it - ugh!)  Then the inevitable failure.  (I forget to pray for people that I said I would pray for!  I go for days without interceding for anyone, even myself!  I feel like a rotten excuse for a prayer warrior!  I try to think, well, maybe this just isn't "my" kind of ministry - but it's too late, I've already agreed to help lead the intercessory prayer chain group at church!  ARGH!  Sadly, this is all a true story..)

Next comes the inevitable attack..the enemy with his lies..."See, you are a rotten Christian.  A hypocrite, too!  You failure!  Surely God's displeased with you, disappointed.  Can't you do any better than that?  You are hopeless as a Christian, just what was suspected all along.  Don't go crawling to God now, why would He want you around?  You've fallen from your strong walk in God and would have to work too hard to get back to that position of growth and closeness with God.  So why try?  Give up.  Run the other way.  Drown your sad and sorry feelings in meaningless hobbies.  Withdraw from other Christians because they are better than you anyways and will probably judge you if you admit your struggles.  You are such a loser, just like you always feared.."

It hurts even to write that because so many of those lies have been thrown at me at times.  And they are ALL lies!   God told me recently a very simple thing:  "Stand on the Word."  What the devil says and what feelings say and what other people say isn't the Word.  The Word is what GOD says, and that's the final authority, the truth, and the last word on the matter!  God is teaching me all over again, as He washes over me in grace and acceptance, what His Word really says:

The Word says:  "You are accepted in the Beloved."  (Eph. 1:6)

The Word says:  "You are called a son/daughter of God - that is what you are!"  (1 John 3:1)

The Word says:  "Noone can snatch you out of My hand."  (John 10:28)

The Word says:  "God is not counting your sins against you!"  (2 Co. 5:19)

The Word says:  "You are not under law but under grace!"  (Rom. 6:14)

The Word says:  "There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!"  (Rom. 8:1)

The Word says:  "The law of the Spirit has set you free from the law of sin and death!  (Rom. 8:2)

The Word says:  "He that the Son sets free is free indeed!"  (John 8:36)

The Word says:  "I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy.  (Lk. 10:19)

The Word says:  "You are more than conquerors through Him who loved you!  (Rom. 8:37)

The Word says:  "NOTHING shall separate you from His love! (Rom. 8:38-9)

The Word says:  "You have been set right with God as a free gift through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ! (Rom. 3:24)

The Word says:  "You are the righteousness OF GOD in Christ!"  (2 Corin. 5:21)

The Word says:  "You are a new creation.  Old things have passed away, and ALL things have become NEW!"  (2 Corin. 5:17)

The Word says:  "I will NEVER leave you or forsake you!"  (Heb. 13:5)

Wow, I love it!  So God is reminding me that when the enemy tries to pull the old "you're under a set of performance rules, and if you fail you're condemned," that I can remember the truth that hasn't changed, no matter how my feelings waver:  I am still as accepted and loved and cherished as ever.  I am NOT under a set of performance rules.  God isn't looking down at me to see how I'm measuring up or not.  He is looking at me with intense love for His little child.  He is holding me in His arms and won't let go.  Nothing can stop His love from coming to me, not even my sin - my sin has been removed and is gone, never to be held against me again!  I'm not under law (earn acceptance or else be punished), no!  I am under grace (He accepts me already without any having to earn it, so receive acceptance for free!)

And in my case, even if I never become a prayer warrior like my friend, I am still 100% fine and accepted and SUCCESSFUL as a Christian right now, because I've been accepted through the work of the Son!  I've been born again by grace through simple faith, just believing the gospel of grace (the good news that God has reconciled me to Him in Christ).  I'm a new creation in Him.  I don't have to do anything to earn an acceptance that is already mine by BIRTHRIGHT!  Always His child!  Always innocent in His sight!  Always pure and holy and clean!  Always cherished and beautiful in His eyes!  Always a DELIGHT to Him!  Always, forever, once-for-all, for sure, perfectly and completely taken in, included and ACCEPTED!  Belonging with Him for always!  THAT'S living by faith, walking by the Spirit, being built up in Him..

Thank You, Lord, for defeating the lies that attack my mind!  Thank You for showing me the condemnation I sometimes FEEL isn't even REAL!  Lift off every lie that may be clouding our vision and perception right now.  Let us clearly see You in all Your glorious grace and love for us!  Let us see how perfect that love really is, how wonderful and freely ours, how eternally and permanently ours!  Thank You so much for who You are - the Purest, Truest, Best, most Amazing LOVE in this universe, a Love that is Pure Grace from start to finish!  We love You, O Lord!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Grace Says..

God's Grace Message says:

I love you even at your worst moments.

And I love you in the midst of your worst circumstances.

God's Grace Message also says:

I raised you up and have made you the best you could be.

And I raise you up in your circumstances and make them turn out for the best, too.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Restoration and the Great Exchange

Wow, what a beautiful song about the restoration God has worked in our hearts and spirits!  Because of the complete and finished work of Jesus, everything rotten and dead and old in us has been exchanged for everything good and living and new in Him!  What a wonder is the new creation reality He has brought forth!  The old has gone, and the new has come, hallelujah!

What a great exchange!  What a great and amazing restoration - Eden is restored, and actually, we have something better than Eden, because we have His very Life, His Spirit, inside us in union with us - HIS Life as OUR Life, as our heart of hearts - that is heaven, being one with God like that!  We have heaven in our spirits!  Praise God, You make all things new!

Restoration (David Brymer)

You bring restoration
You bring restoration
You bring restoration
to my soul

You've taken my pain
called me by a new name
You've taken my shame
and in it's place, You give me joy

You take mourning and turn it into dancing
You take weeping and turn it into laughing
You take mourning and turn it into dancing
You take my sadness and turn it into joy

hallelujah, hallelujah
You make all things new, all things new

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Your Great Name

I woke up this morning and found that God had put this song on my heart.  What a beautiful message and reminder that all that can get us down just falls away in His presence.  At His name, every lie of the enemy must be gone.  What a wonderful place to be, dwelling in Him by grace!  I sometimes forget where I am and who I am in Him, yet just a thought of Him or mention of His name brings me back to clarity!  And it's not that I must remember to turn to Him, no, HE brings me to remember those truths!  Just like He put this song on my mind this morning when I felt troubled about something.  What a wonderful life this walk of grace is!  He doesn't leave us down, He enters into the pain and comforts us saying, "Peace, be still!  All is well!  Surely I will help you!  Surely I will uphold You in my hand!  Speak My name, for I'm here!" 

Your Great Name

Lost are saved; find their way; at the sound of Your great name
All condemned; feel no shame, at the sound of Your great name
Every fear; has no place; at the sound of Your great name
The enemy; he has to leave; at the sound of Your great name

Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; and all the world will praise Your great name

All the weak; find their strength; at the sound of Your great name
Hungry souls; receive grace; at the sound of Your great name
The fatherless; they find their rest; at the sound of Your great name
Sick are healed; and the dead are raised; at the sound of Your great name

Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; and all the world will praise Your great name

Redeemer, My Healer, Lord Almighty
My savior, Defender, You are My King

Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; and all the world will praise Your great name.
                                                                                            Natalie Grant

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jesus Says, "I love you.."

Do you ever have those mornings when you wake up feeling out of sorts and just need to hear Your Precious Lord say that He loves you?  I sure do!  Just this morning, in my heart I found myself asking, "God, what do you think of me?"  And I just felt the presence of the Spirit reminding me He is right here with me, delighting in me and loving me, no matter what.  And that was all I needed, everything was okay again. 

He loves us more than anyone else ever would or could!

I read something about that very truth recently.  It was about the verses in the New Testament where Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love Me more than these?"  In the comment I read, Charles Spurgeon turns that question around and lets us see how much Jesus truly loves us!  Here is the quote, from a sermon of Spurgeon's called "The Gladness of the Man of Sorrows:"

Jesus speaks today to us, "I have loved thee more than these; 

...thy mother loved thee; strong were her pangs when thou wast born, and anxious her cares when she nursed thee at her bosom; but I have loved thee more than these, 

..and thy brethren loved thee, and thy sisters; born of the same parents they watched over thee with delight, and they have been ready to help thee in thy time of need, but I have loved thee more than these: 

..and thy husband loved thee, loved thee as his own soul, he has cherished thee, and has been ready to lay down his life to give thee back health when thou hast been sick; but I have loved thee more than these: 

..thy children, too, have loved thee; they have climbed thy knee and smiled upon thee for all thy kindness to them, and they have strengthened thine old age, and thou hast leaned upon them, as upon a staff, when thou hast been tottering with weakness; but I have loved thee more than these: 

..and thou hast had a joyous companion, a dear friend who has been with thee from thy youth up, and has never lifted his heel against thee; and thou hast had thine intimates and thy familars who went up to the house of God with thee, and talked cheerfully by the way, but I have loved thee more than these," 

I think I hear him say to me—"There are some in this congregation who would pluck out their own eyes to give them to thee; they love thee, for thou art their spiritual father, but I have loved thee more than theses." And he points to all the good men that have ever tried to teach you, to all the comforters who have given you joy, to all the helpers that have aided you on the road to immortality; and he says, "I have loved you more than these." 
                                                                         Charles Spurgeon

He says to us that no matter how much anyone else has ever loved us or could ever love us, He loves us MORE than these!

No matter how much we imagine His love is, it is always MORE!  He loves us MORE! 

No matter what we're like in our walk and talk, He loves us MORE than we could imagine...purely, totally, freely, completely, unconditionally, unreservedly, permanently, unchangably, unstoppably, faithfully, surely, amazingly, infinitely, boundlessly, unswervingly, and any more "-lys" you can think of!  

As Brennan Manning says, no matter how great we think His love is, it's always MORE.

Thank You, Jesus, that You love us more than these on earth.  Thank You that Your love is more than we could ponder or comprehend.  Thank You that Your love is more powerful than any sin, trouble, worry, doubt, circumstance or problem.  No matter what the situation, You and Your love are always MORE!

Thank You that Your MORE kind of love holds us now and forever!   

Friday, August 12, 2011

That's My King, My Savior, My Friend!

What a powerful video..He is our King, our Savior, our Lover, our Lord, our Hope, our Strength, our All..

That's my Wonderful Savior, Jesus!

He is all those wonderful things, and He calls me His friend..

I love you, Lord Jesus!  Thank You for being all that to me, all by grace, all as a gift, all for free.

Nobody ever loved me like You do.  Nobody ever cared about me like You do.  Nobody ever listened to me or accepted me like You do.

I see that You truly love me no matter what I do, no matter how I fail, no matter what I feel, no matter what happens..

Your love is the unconditional love that my heart has longed for all my life.  I have finally found my forever Lover and forever Friend, the One who satisfies all my longings, fulfills all my hopes, and heals all my wounds - it's You!

You stand before me and look at me so tenderly and joyfully, with pure love and acceptance in Your eyes!  It's just me and You, in that special place of the Spirit, where the whole realm of earth fades away and all that is left is You and Your love..

I love you!  I adore You!  I worship You!

You are everything to me!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rhoda's Story, Part 4

Here's the exciting conclusion of Rhoda's testimony.  I have really been blessed by reading your story, dear Rhoda!  Thank you for sharing with us all the beautiful things God has done in your life!  You are a blessing!

In the midst of this journey and everything I was receiving from God, one Sunday morning my friend was praising God in her room, and God’s Holy Spirit fell upon her. That Sunday morning I was getting ready for church, and as I was going up the stairs I felt the Lord telling me, “Today I am going to heal you.” “Wow! Sure, I am ready for that anytime” was my response! The pastor knew nothing about this, and that morning at church he announced that we were going to have a healing service at church. When it was my turn to be prayed for, and as hands were laid on my body, I felt something spread down my body into my affected hip and leg a feeling I can only describe as warmth and sweetness. I knew the Lord was touching me. Although my ability to walk was still somewhat compromised, I was so excited to see a big difference and improvement in my condition.
That following week, I had an upcoming appointment to see the pain clinic to possibly get a fourth epidural shot in my back, or discuss future treatment plans. When the Doctor saw me and did his assessment, he told me he’s going to clear me for work in three weeks! Needless to say, I was overjoyed! We all were very happy with this encouraging news. And just like I always did after any appointment or change in my progress, I faxed my supervisor and my insurance company all the info, and specifically called the supervisor to let her know. I thought, “Great, I gave my job to God and He allowed me to have it back!”
What transpired in the next three to four weeks was very confusing. All I can say is that it seemed as long as there was still the possibility of getting back to that job, I was not being allowed to have normal function of walking. While there was significant improvement, I couldn’t walk for even 45 seconds without having to either sit down or get down on my knees. As that 3 week deadline drew closer, I became more and more incapacitated—again.  Now I was becoming very frustrated, but I was also trying to align myself with the fact that just maybe God didn’t want me back on that shift.  More than anything I wanted to walk in God’s will, be able to walk physically, and finally, just be pain-free.
I kept remembering what the boys had told me. They both agreed that these had been the best three months of their lives. And I had to agree; pain-filled, difficult, yes.  But they were good by many different standards.
One afternoon, after enduring a day of excruciating pain again, I called Andrew Wommack’s Ministry, and poured out some of my story and my frustration to a dear lady who answered the phone. She spoke words of encouragement and words of life over my situation and prayed for me. She gave me a verse to speak out (Psalm 30:2) and told me to keep on believing. I took that verse as my lifeline, and spoke it in faith over and over. The boys soon knew it and were saying it too. I had committed to letting God control all the circumstances of my life, and again, not worry about what I wanted and what I thought was best.
The next morning I woke up, and I was almost afraid of getting out of bed. But I got up, repeating my verse, “I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.” Psalm 30:2. Soon I was saying, “Thank you God, for healing me!” That day I walked for five minutes without stopping once, and with very minimal pain and discomfort. It felt so wonderful, and I was so happy and grateful. I walked around, thanking and praising God. During the days that followed I found out that my full-time job was not mine anymore, and somehow I was not surprised. But the miracle was that I felt peace about it, and I felt such an absence of worry and stress about it. (I am sure God was happy about this part, and was thinking, she finally gets it!)  God cared about the sparrow that falls; He was going to take care of His very own beloved children. The God who created the grand, immense, complex universe actually cared enough to know the number of hairs on our very own heads. He cared enough to take our lives into His own gentle, capable hands. Deep down within my heart I had gotten a glimpse of His grace, His tender love,
It was hard when I found out for the first time that my job was posted and up for grabs. One of my co-workers called me, and told me about it. She was almost crying. It was late at night, and when she hung up, I knew this was a good scenario for a worrisome night, and as I had done many times before, I turned to a good friend “Sparrow” whom I had never met but loved already. I opened up to Under the Waterfall of Grace, and turned on Father’s Love letter, and fell asleep to listening to those beautiful and encouraging and uplifting verses about how God cares for us and loves us, and has a perfect plan for our lives.
I had found, over the past six months, literally hundreds of verses in the Bible that ministered to me, gave me hope, that carried me through. I discovered a love and a passion for God’s Word that is hard to describe. It is the most amazing and incredible Book, because it is His very own Word to US, to ME.  It is our very own, personal life manual, and God’s personal love letter to us. It is the only existing Book that can be read over and over and still is just as fresh and new and meaningful the one hundredth time as the first time. I don’t want anybody to miss out on the opportunity to have this amazing experience. It is literally not only the experience of a lifetime, but of an eternity. It will shape and change our entire destiny.
Life is not perfect. Life is actually quite difficult. Life can become rather mundane and boring. We all have valleys to walk through. But life in and through Christ is so worth it!  It is filled with challenges and excitement and joy and peace. He patiently and lovingly redeems our past mistakes. Is it an easy life? No, not easy, but fulfilling and exciting and beautiful and blessed. We are fulfilled when we are doing what we were created and born to do….to bring glory and honor to our Creator, and to fill that unique spot and special assignment each individual is born for. Our Father has so much good in store for us, and He has a storehouse of abundance of riches in glory. (Phil. 4:19)
As for walking, I will never again take that marvelous gift for granted. Our bodies are wonderfully made, and only when something is taken from us, do we seem to realize how valued and indispensible it really is. May we hold in high esteem the blessings God so graciously pours into our lives.  May we remember to continually thank Him and bless Him for His unspeakable gifts! - Rhoda

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
      They will soar high on wings like eagles.
   They will run and not grow weary.
      They will walk and not faint.
                                                         Isa. 40:31                                                     

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rhoda's Story, Part 3

Continuing with Rhoda's story of God's work in her life (hey, this is getting so good, let's see what will happen next!):

As time went on, I kept doing everything possible in every way, but I was getting better only at a turtle’s pace. And that kind of pace was not suitable to me at all! I held nothing back, I got medical attention, I went to the chiropractor on a regular basis, took extra nutrients, and I prayed like I had never prayed before. I felt like the widow knocking insistently on God’s door. I asked everybody I could think of to please pray for me.  And the funny thing was, the docs and chiropractors always told me they think I was almost over the hump and would be on my way to being well real soon. No matter what I did I was kept unable to return to work. And I could no longer really remember how it even felt to be able to stand upright and walk and be pain-free. Even though I was believing for healing, I began playing with the idea of going for long-term disability, getting a motorized wheelchair, and all that stuff.
I finally came to the place where I knew I had to give this whole deal completely to God; my job, my unbelief and doubts, my frustration, (and even anger at times.) I was tired of trying to hold on, and making this work, and besides I felt like I was dangling on a rope with nobody and nothing to hang on to except God. My own efforts were NOT working!
One evening, upstairs in the bathroom, this being one of the only private places in the house that was also warm in those cold winter months, I told God He can have it all. That job after all was something He had given me, and if He wanted it back, it was okay. And if He wanted that job back, He would surely have to help me out on that one too, because I had no clue how I was going to pay bills without a job.  As for my health, I decided to leave it to His timing and not mine. Whenever He wanted me well, He would make me well; my job was to keep believing and trusting. Whatever He wanted me to learn meanwhile, I would do my best to learn and pass the test, even doing my best to get good, passing grades! I would quit struggling and worrying and being stressed about finances and just let my Father work it out. It was a scary place to be, but I was never more secure in my Father’s love than that moment. I was growing more and more secure in the fact that He deeply cares and truly loves us. That evening He impressed upon me about how He cares for the sparrow that falls to the ground, and how much more He cares for us, His own dear children. That became my theme verse and I was encouraged many times by just thinking about it and remembering that. (Matt. 6:23-33, Matt. 10:29-31)
Soon after that, I felt impressed by the Lord to spend some time in fasting. The very first morning I ran across a verse in Psalm, and I decided to google it to help me further understand it. It took me to a blog called “Under the Waterfall of Grace,” and what I read there impacted me in a powerful way. God even had an extra special surprise, her name was no less then…. “Sparrow”! Now I really felt God was speaking to me!
That blog helped me immensely through the rest of the journey, and I am so grateful to God for it. Even though I have never met her, I love Sparrow! I love the fact that we can belong to God’s family and love each other because we share the same spirit and love of God.
I wish I had words to describe what all God showed me through this entire ordeal. There is so much content and so many different branches of what I did learn. First and foremost in importance, I experienced a love and an excitement for God’s Word. I began to be so hungry for those truths and promises. I clung to it with somewhat of a desperation, but also a deep love and appreciation. Sometimes I could scarcely believe what I was reading! I truly fell in love with God and His Word.
In addition to this, God used several other people and speakers that left a life-changing, faith-building impact on my life. And for this I am forever grateful. I could not have gotten through if these messages would not have been poured into my life at this time.
 God used “Under the Waterfall of Grace” blog in two big ways. One was to show me how big God’s love really is, no, not that I will ever totally understand how big it really is, but I came to understand that He is passionate and really just profoundly cares about us and our little, minute by minute details in our daily lives.  To really believe and know this truth has been something I have struggled with all my life, and to actually feel it in my heart was really revolutionizing my life and how I thought.  I listened to Brennan Manning’s sermon on “The Compassion of Jesus” with a burning gratitude in my heart. It blew my mind to think what I had been missing.  I had been a Christian all these years and yet had not grasped to such a depth God’s pure grace, the depth of His love and His desire to know us, His longing for us to know His tender love!
The other big thing God showed me was how much He really cares about what we go through, He cherishes us, and He is on our side. And even as we are going through the valley of despair and darkness, uncertainty and loss, I can still trust Him, yes even praise Him and be happy and have joy in spite of these circumstances. Because He loves us so much and wants so much good for us, we can abandon ourselves to that tender love, to being covered by His wings, covered by His blood and His grace. We can rest in knowing that absolutely nothing happens to His children that He cannot redeem for His good. Nothing happens that He doesn’t passionately care about. He orders each and every step of the Godly person. When we can’t walk on our own through the fire and the high waters, He does carry us all the way through.
Our part is to believe, to trust God, to offer up the sacrifice of praise, to praise in the dark…and this, I found, was the difficult part of my assignment. To begin to proclaim God’s Word in faith without seeing it happen first was so painful for me. I never realized how lacking I was in faith until I was put to this test. But God through His gracious Holy Spirit patiently kept directing me and prodding me and building me up in faith and in the wisdom of God though His Word and through His people.  He never did give up on me! Without fail, He had just enough of whatever I needed just for that moment. It could be something as simple as something I heard on Christian radio, a song, a verse I read, a word from a friend, a prayer offered by one of my sons, and the most special of all—the Holy Spirit himself speaking within my heart and mind. That is the most amazing thing about our God; He is never ever limited in any way. He can use whatever He chooses to bring about His purpose. The way God loves us is absolutely priceless, and I still can’t get over it.       (more to come soon!)           Rhoda

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rhoda's Story, Part 2

Now that we've gotten some background on our friend, Rhoda, let's move on and enjoy reading about the wonderful healing work God has done in her life:

It was the month of October, 2010, I had enjoyed just a little over a year of full-time employment at Truman Medical Centers in down-town Kansas City, and life had acquired a nice feeling of normalcy… a pattern and a routine that I felt very ready for and was enjoying very much.  I was so ready to settle down to a steady job, a consistent income, and just have a normal life; I was also looking forward to getting some experience and stability as an employee. Although I had a lot of experience and good work ethic, given my rather unusual background it was very hard to make that shine through on a resume.
  I had gone back to school and worked hard to become a certified Medical Interpreter. Through God’s help and because of His favor, I was able to accept an offer of employment at a hospital, and I enjoyed my job thoroughly. I was able to continue relating to the Hispanic community in a different way, but a way that I loved. I appreciated feeling like I was able to serve people in a very practical way, and at the same time get paid for it!  A win-win situation, I felt….well, aside from one huge factor. We were all very dissatisfied with the hours that I had to deal with on the particular shift I was on. I was away evenings, and during the school year I was unable to spend very little time with my sons. We all greatly anticipated the weekends, but I was often very frustrated and felt like I spent far too much time correcting and disciplining and cramming things into those two weekend days. I saw frustration and a hint of rebellion grow in the boys, but we were all daily praying and trusting God for a change in shift and for daytime hours to become available. 
In the summer of 2010 I bought a trampoline for the boys, and there were occasions when I enjoyed playing along with them, fairly calm jumping and playing - nothing that was age -inappropriate, even though some people might think being on a trampoline at age 47 is not appropriate! But I thought nothing of it. I had always been extremely active, and enjoyed great health. I rarely had had a sick day in my life, and  I could not imagine anything really slowing me down.
 One summer evening in August, after humoring the boys’(now 8 and 10 yrs old) pleadings to get on and play with them, I got off the trampoline and felt a slight twinge on my right hip/lower back. After several weeks, the constant twinge that I had thought would disappear had now become a constant bite, and the bite soon turned into an ever-present searing pain. Just walking alone was becoming very difficult.  By October I had visited four different chiropractors; I had sought prayer, and was anointed by the elders of the church as the Bible instructs us to do; I had set up various appointments with the medical doctor; I had an x-ray done, and I was seeing physical therapy. My level of anxiety was growing, because nothing was helping. Rather, little by little the problem was becoming more aggravated. To every chiropractor and doctor I asked the same question, “Should I take some time off work?” And every single one answered me with the same thing, “No, I think you will get over this without taking off of work.” In spite of the relief that came from hearing that answer, I also wondered why my condition was just consistently getting worse. I knew without a doubt that all the walking I did at work was in fact aggravating the pain.
Finally, after two consecutive evenings of leaving my shift in tears from the pain I was experiencing, on October 14, I decided to take some personal action. I called my supervisor to let her know I was taking Thursday and Friday off, plus the weekend, and see if that would bring any improvement. It was better that I didn’t know at that time but this was to be my last day of work at Truman Medical Centers as a full-time employee. That weekend turned into 4 ½ months of not being able to return to work, and by then I had lost my job.
That first weekend off work was only the beginning of agonizing discomfort and miserable pain. I discovered that my body had zero tolerance for the prescription pain narcotics. After a couple rounds, I opted to endure the pain rather than endure the nausea and vomiting that came with taking the medication. In times of most severe pain, I succumbed to crawling on the floor to get around. I was in pain but that didn’t keep the boys from getting hungry, so, always trying to work around that ever-present pain, I devised a plan. I would get down on the floor with newspapers spread out to prepare the basics of a meal with the faithful help of the boys….no extras or frills added!  With my help and direction the boys learned to do things I was used to doing, and they learned many lessons this way.
 As the days went by, it only added to my anguish that I was not able to fulfill my duties at work. Great work ethics, dependability, and a strong sense of responsibility had become second nature to me. I took my job seriously and always did everything within my ability to be at work on time and within the schedule. But now, I was helpless. I couldn’t return to work no matter how much I wanted to. It had never occurred to me that this would ever happen to me. But still, I believed it would be a matter of days, or weeks maybe at most, and I would be up and running ahead at full speed again.  But as time went on, days turned into weeks, and the weeks slowly and unbelievably turned into months, I felt like a horse impatiently chafing at his bit, like a prisoner in shackles trying to shake loose, like a bird stuck in a cage. I just wanted out and loose and to be free! The ability to walk was becoming only a distant dream, and a hope deferred.
This time period was the most intense time of painful pruning, of learning to trust, of learning to let go and trust, of learning WHO is really in control. I began to see how easy it is to say “I trust God and I believe He cares for us and He is in control” as long as we have a handle on things, as long as we have something to do with helping things along. But when things get knocked out from under us, and we are left hanging in mid-air, with absolutely no control over how things are going….that is a whole new dynamic. And I had never in my life been in such a situation. I was used to working hard and making things happen by sheer determination, and then after all my own efforts, I could trust God with the things I couldn’t make happen.
 I still can’t wrap my mind around all He did show me and teach me in His own patient loving way, but I know I am not the same person I used to be. I fought those lessons with all I had, but He won out, Praise God!
 I found out that in these situations of desperate need you have a choice. You can allow   hopelessness and bitterness to move in and find a home in your heart, or you can choose to allow God’s grace to begin doing a new work in your life. You can choose to desperately hang on to and believe every single promise in the Bible.
One thing early on gave me cause to believe God did have His hand on the situation. When I applied for the Short Term Disability offered at work, I found out that if this would have happened 6 weeks earlier, I would not have qualified for that particular benefit, the reason being that you have to be employed for one whole year before qualifying.  So even though that was the last thing I wanted to do, still it was a great blessing and comfort to know that there would be some kind of income for a short while. I knew that God was watching over us.  (to be continued..)                    Rhoda

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rhoda's Story, Part 1

One of the best things about blogging is meeting other people who also love God and are touched by His grace.  Hearing someone else's story of how God has poured out His love on them is something I love, and it's so encouraging and uplifting to see how good He is to us!  Recently I received a written testimony from my dear cyber-friend Rhoda, a wonderful story of God's faithfulness to her, especially in healing her of a physical problem.  I want to share her testimony here, part by part, over the next several days.  In this first section, Rhoda gives us some background.  Rhoda, thank you so much for sharing all the ways God has touched your life!  He is so good..

God’s Love and Faithfulness
I was born in beautiful central Pennsylvania, (1963) the fourth of five children. My parents were Amish; they loved each other and their children dearly. We lived on one the most beautiful and prosperous farms in the county. My grandparents and a single aunt whom we adored lived in one house and my parents and family lived in a smaller house just across the yard, a few steps away. All we had to do to get from our house to theirs was skip down a walk laid in flat rock, past a grand old fir tree where a swing was hanging, past a natural spring that flowed with the coolest, sweetest water you could find anywhere, and we were at their house. Among my favorite and vivid memories is the whole family sitting on my grandparents’ wide, screened porch overlooking the pond, eating sweet, cool watermelon at the end of a warm summer day.  We also loved to beg our Aunt for a drink of Quick, that yummy chocolate powder mixed with cold, farm fresh milk. To us that was one of the grandest treats in the world!  It was truly an idyllic childhood that our parents created for us, and not only did we have an abundance of love and good memories and the best of what they could give us, but we were also expected to work and participate in the responsibilities. A good example of this is how my oldest brother was taught and trusted with the job of plowing the fields with the tractor when he was six or seven. Early on in our lives we learned to share in chores and do our part in doing what it took to keep the large, family operated farm running smoothly and looking its best.
The first crack that appeared in what I perceived as the perfect life came when my mother discovered she had breast cancer. At five years old I can still clearly recall the worried looks on the adult faces as they discussed what to do. However after an apparently successful surgery, everything settled back down to normal. Not known to my young mind however were some very big decisions weighing on the minds of my Godly parents. They were very unhappy with their church situation and longed to be in a more God-centered setting, not only for their sakes but they were also carefully considering their children’s future. Even more significant was the fact that my father felt a call in his heart to be a missionary, an experience he had as a young eight year old boy. He could still remember the very place and time that he heard God telling him to go and spread the Gospel to the world. Going abroad as a missionary was unheard of and frowned upon in the Old Order Amish Church where he grew up in. My grandparents were not in the least sympathetic to his views. But now, my parents they were seriously seeking, and contemplating different options.
 When Daddy and Mamma heard of an Amish church group planted in the far-away country of Honduras, they felt compelled to investigate further and finally the big decision was made- Daddy would make the trip to this big, unknown and far away country. We all breathlessly awaited his return, and he had stories beyond our imaginations, complete with several fascinating words and phrases in Spanish. He also came back saying that he would not ask his family and his beloved wife whom he deeply valued and treasured, and who had just recuperated from breast cancer, to move to such a primitive place. Much to his great surprise, she encouraged the move and after much prayer and careful consideration they both felt convinced that God was moving them into this direction.  However huge the consequences and cost, they were committed to doing what they felt was God’s will for their lives and their family’s well-being.
  After the sale of our precious and beloved farm, careful packing of some of our most valuable and prized possessions, a painful auction, passports for the whole family, and very painful good-byes, we were ready to leave the country.  My grandparents and aunt accompanied us to the New York harbor where we were booked to leave on a big ship which belonged to a fleet called The Standard Fruit Company. While primarily being used to transport just that –fruit- she was also set up to transport a limited amount of passengers. They had luxurious passenger accommodations, and to us children, this new excitement quickly made us forget all the painful separations and tearful, heart-rending good-byes. Finally, the plank was drawn, the ship clinked and clanked and slowly made its way out of the harbor. We waved at our dear family members, with everybody believing that this could well be the last time we would ever see each other. Thus, in December, 1970, began the biggest, most painful, most exciting, and eventful move of a lifetime.

Breast cancer claimed the life of my dearest mother almost 2 years after we moved. About 4 or 5 months after our move to Honduras it came back with a vengeance and caused her considerable pain and suffering. There was some limited treatment, and a lot of prayer. She battled it with determination, and worked hard to give her family her very best, but she slowly succumbed to the dreaded disease, and on October 15, 1972 she passed on. Losing her was by far one of the saddest, darkest days of our lives and with more significant, far-reaching effects than any us knew that day. That distressing loss made a severe impact on our young, tender hearts, and the loss for my dear father, strong as he was, was overwhelming.

Jehovah Jireh, My Provider
Fast forward to 2006, Lawrence KS. Almost forty years later and I am around the age my parents were when they moved to Honduras. Many books could be filled with the happenings of all those years in between then and now.
In 2002 I adopted a son, Michael Andrew, in Honduras as a single parent. He has been the biggest blessing and gift God has ever granted me. I was motivated to move back in large part for his sake and once more, just like my parents in search of a stable church setting, as well as an education for Michael, but most importantly I had not a doubt in my mind that God was speaking to my heart and telling me it was time for me to make that move. Actually moving back to the States resulted in almost as much pain as I imagine the move to Honduras had been for my parents.
The transition was not easy, and required a deep commitment to God in many aspects. A walk of faith was begun, and I had to trust God like I had never done before.  
In 2008 after living in Kansas for several years I found out that a very dear friend from Honduras was very, very sick. I quickly made arrangements to travel to Honduras to see her. She died soon after I got there. Her youngest son Jonathan was 7 years old and his tender little heart was devastated by the loss of his mother. He and I were very close when he was little, before my move back to the States. Due to this closeness he felt with me, he begged me to take him after the loss of his mother. I took it to God in prayer, and after very careful consideration and counsel I felt like all doors were opening into that direction. I very frankly told God that without His intervention I could never do this, short of His very direct involvement and help, and I took the leap. A leap of sheer faith.  A leap of faith that I will never regret taking. Because, just like He did when I decided to move away from Honduras, He was right there, by my side.  Not that things were battle-free, in fact I felt like I was in the thick of a very difficult battle. But time and time again, He won the battle for me as I waited on Him and trusted Him, and did my part. I was learning that I could fully trust and depend on the Lord God. He was becoming such a faithful, trustworthy Father to me!
With that underlying groundwork built into my foundation of faith, God had still other lessons for me. But I was happily thinking my trials and turbulent waters were safely in the past for now. Little did I know what was in store for me next.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Your Love Never Fails, It Never Gives Up, It Never Runs Out On Me

I love this song!  Here I've posted the "short" version of the song, but the long version is wonderful, too.  In the longer version, when the band is basically finished singing, the audience picks up the refrain, and sings it over and over, "Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me," till the band starts up again with the song.   It's like they just can't stop singing about His great love, like they just can't get over such a love that never fails them! 

I think that idea of His love NEVER failing us is the heart of the grace message, the core truth that grounds my life and rocks my world.  That main refrain of grace in my heart is that "You can't get away from a love that will not let you go (R.R. Capon)."  His love is stronger than anything - stronger than any circumstance, any trial, any sin, any doubt.  He just won't let us go - we are safe in this unfailing, unending, loyal, never-running-out, never-giving up unconditional LOVE!  That just embodies what God's grace is to me - it's His love and acceptance of me that I don't have to deserve and that I can't make go away.  This love will hold us forever!

His grace never fails us!

"One Thing Remains" by Jesus Culture

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing... Remains (repeat)

On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
One thing remains

Your love never fails, never gives up
Never runs out on me (3x)

In death, In life, I'm confident and
covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid, there's nothing that can
separate my heart from Your great love

At the end of the longer version the singer, Chris Quilala, just starts praising God in his own words:
"Your love never fails me
Your grace never fails me
Your grace never fails
His love never fails
His presence never fails
His mercy never fails
Your kindness is never-ending
Your grace is never-ending
Your faithfulness is never-ending
Your love is never-ending
Oh, Father.."

Thank You, dear Lord, that Your love never fails us!  (1 Co. 13:8)
May the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, and the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. 2 Co. 13:14