Seeking Whole-heartedly

“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:10-13

The Lord’s people had turned against him, rejecting his laws and seeking false gods and the fleeting pleasure of sin. And so he judged them, as he had promised.

In the midst of judgment, he reminded them of his promise of mercy. His people had broken faith, but the Lord would not. Their exile had a limit. The Lord was not finished in his plans for them. His plans were still for their good and their hope.

He promised restoration of heart. The people who once rejected him in their hearts would turn back to him. And He would not hide himself. They would seek and find, they would call and He would answer.

Just as He spoke to His beloved then, so He speaks to them now. So I have to ask myself, as His beloved, what are the promises He has revealed in His Word? What faithfulness is mine in Him? Having come to Him for salvation, do I believe He delights to grant it? Even in dire circumstances, do I trust that his plans for me are good and full of hope? Do I seek after him wholeheartedly in Bible-reading, prayer, and obedience?

…..

“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Acts 2:38-39

…..

“And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.” 1 John 2:25

…..

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

Galatians 3:29

…..

“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:13

…..

“Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!”

Psalms 119:116

Sunday Song: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

In this morning’s sermon, my pastor encouraged us that it is natural to believe that God does not love us, but that it is the work of the Holy Spirit’s work in the believers’ heart that gives assurance of God’s love.

God is love.

We love because He first loved us.

God will never stop being who He is and He will not withhold from His children that which He has promised to give.

So maybe, like me this morning, you need a heart check. Do you know in your heart that God loves you and why? May the Holy Spirit keep changing our hearts, replacing the natural unbelief with strengthened faith and the real assurance of the truth of His steadfast, never-ending love for those who call on the name of the Lord.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. ‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:9-10

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. ‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:16‬

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. Psalms‬ ‭13:5‬

By God’s grace, arranged and played by Katie

“Just as I am / How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

What Child is This: a song for Christmas

1. What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

2. Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

3. So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The Virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

William Chatterton Dix, 1865

By God’s grace, arranged and played by Katie.

Video created using iMovie. Scripture images from YouVersion Bible App, NIV & ESV. Photos by Katie.

Teacher Seeking Approval

It was the middle of a Tuesday and I found myself picking the date for an announced observation for the following week. We settled on December 12th at 8:45 am. That score will play a big part in determining my LOE score that will tell, at a quick, convenient glance, what kind of teacher I am. It’s hard not to absorb identity from that number. It feels like approval or disapproval. It feels like someone has pronounced judgement on my worth as a teacher.

Sometimes, in the midst of the hurry, the pressures, and worries of this time in the semester, I forget that those things are not the sum of my life, or even the sum of my present circumstances. I have to stop and remind myself that this person’s approval may be pressing, that activity may be urgent, this work may be threatening to consume my time, but that is not all of my reality. The tyranny of the urgent will always be there, but there is always more. Everything in life- the good, the bad, and the in-between (including scores and observations, and human approval, praise, and judgement… and life outside of teaching) – all those things shape me, but they have no say in who I am now and what I have for eternity. God has that say:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do… Eph. 2:4-10

According to Ephesians 2, because Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came and brought me salvation by dying for my sin and rising again, this is my reality: I am loved by God with great love. I am God’s own handiwork, so I belong to him. I am created in Christ for good works, so the work is his, not mine. My future is not uncertain because God has prepared it in advance. God desires to show me the incomparable riches of his grace. He shows me great kindness in Christ. He gave me true life when I was dead in my own works and my own heart of hatred and defiance against him. As Paul tells the Ephesians to remember, I also remember that I was once without hope and without God in this world. I almost can’t bring myself to say those terrible, soul-shaking words aloud: without God in this world.

I need to remember that, so that I can remember this: because of God’s great gift – one I did nothing to deserve- I have received approval by the One from whom it matters most. And I am no longer without God in this world… or in eternity to come.

So, whatever comes today or the tomorrows that follow, as believers I hope this will always be among the first of our thoughts: I am no longer without God in this world. And may we remember all that that truth entails.

Whatever is pressing or clamoring for attention, he always has been, and always will be more. His is the approval that matters most, so that we can live in true joy and seek to please him as we walk in all the good works – at school and elsewhere- he has planned for us to do.

Prayer:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph. 3:16-21

Rest for the Weary

The fountain wasn’t running that day. It didn’t even have water in it. Still people kept coming to the fountain. Some came alone; some came with a friend; some came as a family. They studied something written on the side of the fountain, as if soaking the words into their very bones.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.

I watched them for a bit from my brother’s 3rd floor hospital room. I wondered how many of them were reading this as their first Bible verse and how many were reading precious words that were already imprinted on their hearts and minds. The people coming to the fountain were weary in body and spirit and, maybe, burdened in their soul, needing salvation — as we all do — not just from the soul-weariness of walking through the valley of Shadow, but salvation from their own soul-sickness of sin.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus’ invitation recorded in Matthew is said in the context of him telling us his ability to reveal the Father and the way to Him, meaning salvation from God’s judgement and forgiveness of sin.

He called his hearers to himself. He is calling the people at the fountain to himself. He is calling me to himself. He calls us to a relationship abiding in his love and forgiveness, where we can find rest for our souls. He doesn’t call us in the hope that we will do enough, but in hope of himself, who is God, who lived perfectly, died in our place, and rose to life again, securing forgiveness for all who repent and believe — works we could never do.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God, my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

If Jesus can give us eternal rest for our souls, then he can give us the rest we need for day-to-day…

Are you weary of life? Christ will give you a new life and teach you to rejoice in Him always! Are you disappointed? Has the world given you a slap in the face where you looked for a kiss? Come to my Lord! He will give new hopes that shall never be disappointed, for he that believes in Him shall never be ashamed, world without end! Are you vexed with everybody and most all with yourself? Jesus can teach you to love and put you at your ease again. Does someone fret and tease you from day to day? Come to my Master and the vexations of the world shall gall you no longer. You shall reckon these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to you! — Charles H. Spurgeon, Rest for the Laboring, Oct. 22, 1876

Christ takes our burdens of sin, unbelief, vexation, unforgiveness, and disappointed hopes to give us His burden of faith, forgiveness, love, and lasting hope. Whatever temptations or difficulties come, His burden is light.

The LORD replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:!4

Rest for our hearts, our minds, our cares and worries, our doubts and fears, for our spirits and bodies, so that the same self-admonition awakens our hearts at hope of His provision in the morning and reflection of His provision in the evening:

Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. Psalm 116:7

Saturday Song: Accepted

In every area of a believer’s life, they hear the voice of their Savior saying that very message that drew them to salvation, “find in me thy all in all.”

Just as they are — just as I am — all coming assured of their acceptance. Believers come not in their own power or merit.

But because He called them.

Because Jesus paid it all on behalf of those He loves.

To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;

Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;

 

By God’s grace, arranged and played by Katie 

Sunday Song: Singing Praise

Psalm 148

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for at his command they were created,
and he established them for ever and ever—
    he issued a decree that will never pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
    stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
    small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
    you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
    old men and children.

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,[b]
    the praise of all his faithful servants,
    of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the Lord.

[a] Praise the Lord in Hebrew — Hallelu Yah (also in verse 14)

 

Links to Lyrics: Fairest Lord Jesus, All Creatures of Our God and King

By God’s grace, arranged and played by Katie