I am renewed

I am Renewed: A Joint Post

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do [them].” – Ezekiel 36:26-27 NKJV

From Jen:

I have an old window hanging on one of my walls. It had been destined for the junk yard, having been replaced by a new, double-paned, more energy efficient window, but I decided that it had not outlived its usefulness.

Scraped clean, washed, repainted and then repurposed, that window now hangs on an interior wall serving as a calendar. It’s my favorite wall decoration, and the one that I get the most compliments about. I’ve been told that I could sell it at one of those unique crafty shops you see in the mall for a fairly high price. How about that? It was just an old cast-off window. Who knew junk could become so valuable?

From Susan:

Jen’s window didn’t decide one day, “You know, I’d like to be a calendar,”  leap out of its hole, spruce itself up, and wriggle up onto the interior wall by itself.  No.  Jen saw its hidden potential, conceived a new purpose for it, and recreated it.

Just as God does for us.  He looked at my heart of stone, stuck there in my selfishness, my self-seeking lifestyle, and he thought, “There’s something that could be beautiful.”  Really?  Junky little old me?

He Himself, master craftsman, took my heart of stone and refashioned it into a heart of flesh.  I was the passive one.  He was the doer.  Daily, he gives me both the will and the strength to seek out His statutes.  Every time I get one right, every time I seek God’s purposes instead of my own, the glory goes to Him, the Remaker and Renewer.

Praise God.  By His hand, I am renewed.

I am Made New

I Am Made New: A Joint Post

bluebonnets“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:25-26, NASB

From Jen:

Ahh, April. Who doesn’t like April? Daffodils, tulips, pansies, and green grass. New life.

I just seeded a patch of mud with rye grass—fodder from my chicks who will soon be released to their new home. I like rye seeds. They’re big, plump droplets of hidden life. Their pale color stands out against the mud, so I can spot them readily. And yes, I check them. Daily. Because, here’s a confession about me—I am obsessed with growing things. I’m the type that talks to a tender plant when I set its roots in new soil. I know their names—common and scientific. Yep—I’m that weird plant lady. It’s okay, we all need quirks.

Seeding plants holds so many lessons, and here’s one I thought of today when I went out to check my rye grass. The seeds, when I spread them on the dirt, were hard. Very hard. I know from experience, if they don’t receive enough moisture after their initial contact with the dirt, they won’t germinate. The potential for life stays bound up in that hard barrier. They need the softening effect of water before life can break through. So, I’d watered the area, and the seeds softened. Life sprouted.

Made me think of this verse in Ezekiel. “I will remove your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.” Like those hard seeds, useless without life springing forth, God has sprinkled me clean, poured His spirit upon me, and given me a new heart. New life.

From Susan:

I scattered seeds for Texas bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes a while ago. When I go check on them now, I’m not looking for seeds anymore. I’m looking for flowers. A seed that is nestled in moist soil ceases to be a seed. It changes into something entirely new.

That is the kind of rebirth God offers use—total transformation into something much more beautiful than we were before. The trouble is, some days, when I focus on myself and my petty desires more than I focus on God, I start to shrivel into seediness again. That’s not God’s plan for me. Can you imagine a bluebonnet doing the same—returning to its seed-like state? It can’t. It isn’t supposed to. And neither am I.

Praise God whose mercies are new every morning. Today, I give him the hard places in my heart. Today, I give him my selfish ambitions and I ask—please God—cleanse me, and give me a new spirit. Turn my heart of stone into flesh.

Praise God for his patience with all his new creations.

I am a Citizen of Heaven

Safe Wings

But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, [Or to] turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people [shall be] my people, And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If [anything but] death parts you and me.”
Ruth 1:16-17

I try to imagine this passage as it plays out. A woman in grief, still young, with options available to her, but determined. For what reason? To honor her dead husband? For the love of her bitter mother in law? I’m not sure. But her declaration is certain.

Your people will be mine. I will dwell with you, take your name, honor your God. Claim your home. I renounce myself as a Moabitess. I am now only Ruth, your daughter.

We think of home as something familiar. What if it’s rather a determination? An intentional choice that says “I’ve never been there, but that’s where you are to be, that is where I’ll be also.” What a transforming thought.

Ruth, this woman of reckless abandon, brings determination to life. Her resolve brought the notice and favor of Boaz, a man of standing who possessed all of the finest qualities. I love the blessing he speaks to Ruth in the fields.

“May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” -Ruth 2:12
Under whose wings you have come to seek refuge. Jesus says to the disciple who has sought His refuge, “I am preparing a place for you. Where I am, you will be.”

Home with Him. Under the safety of His wings.

I am a Citizen of Heaven

A Heavenly Home

For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.
And truly if they had called to mind that [country] from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly [country]. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
–Hebrews 11:14-16, NKJV

I love Steven Curtis Chapman’s music. As I read through these verse, his song ‘burn the ships’ came to my mind. It’s been years since I’ve listened to it, but the chorus still echoes strong.

Burn the ships, we’re here to stay
There’s no way we could go back
Now that we’ve come this far by faith
Burn the ships, we’ve passed the point of no return
Our life is here
So let the ships burn

The fleet had landed. They’d committed to this new adventure, to a new home. That home hadn’t been realized yet, and the journey to it was harder than anyone had imagined, but they couldn’t go back. Cortez wouldn’t let them.

Faith is a sure confidence in things yet unseen. Home is a hope of a life fulfilled, a joy sustained and a wholeness unsurpassed.

None of these things are realized here on earth–not completely. There’s always a little longing in our hearts, always something waiting to be filled. Because this isn’t home.

CS Lewis wrote “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

I have a heavenly home, I was made for it, and I long for it. This world cannot offer enough pleasure to fill the void of yearning. So, I press on. My heart is there, how could I turn back?

I am loved

I Am Loved: Loved With Joy

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, he will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Zephaniah 3:17 NKJV

I wondered what that meant–“He will be quiet in His love”. Does it mean that because He loves me He will cease rebuking? No, I don’t think that’s right. The proverbs tell us that The Lord rebukes the son that He loves. I needed to do some digging.

I’m so glad I did.

It’s interesting to note that the Hebrew word used here was commonly used to denote the love between a man and a woman. Love like what we think of in human terms. Love that is deeply felt and pursued by choice.

Have you ever been told that you’re difficult to love? Ouch. I mean, really, ouch. That sting doesn’t quit.

Maybe sometimes we read of God’s agape– his unique, divine love–and we think in the secret, wounded places of our hearts “I like that, but He loves me because He must. . . Because He is love.” Something in that robs a bit of the sheen from that truth.

Listen, oh my tender heart, to what Matthew Henry writes of this verse:

“I know not where there is the like expression of Christ’s love to his church. . . The great God not only loves his saints, but he loves to love them, is pleased that he has pitched upon these objects of his love.”

This is the kind of love a bridegroom lavishes upon his bride as he stares into her eyes with wonder and joy and LOVE.

And my God looks at me like that? My heart just melted. He loves me with a joyful love!

I am loved

I Am Loved: Pursued by Love

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found [it], he lays [it] on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together [his] friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!” Luke 15:4-6 NKJV

These verses did not come up when I ran a topical search on Gods love for me. But as I prayed this morning, this is where the Spirit lead. Reading over the familiar passage, I could hear the wonderful, slight brogue of Alistair Begg as he animated these verses in a sermon I listened to over a year ago.

“You see, I love that wee lamb, and I’m going after her . . .”

Love in action. That’s what this passage is. Though I am but a small lamb in a large flock, insignificant on the surface, ordinary and easily passed over, Jesus says, “I love you, and I’ll seek you out when you lose your way. I’ll find you, and when I do, I will lift your trembling frame to my shoulders, because I know that your tired and afraid, and I will carry you back to safety. And I will rejoice, for I have found my lost lamb.”

Wow. That kind of love goes beyond a proclamation . . . A love that pursues is true love indeed. And I am the object of His pursuit.

I am loved

I Am Loved: Gently Drawn

“The Lord appeared to him from afar saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3 NKJV

Everlasting love — the universal desire for all men and women. To be loved beyond time and space and reason. Who can forget the steadfast proclamation in the movie The Last of the Mohicans? . . . “No matter what occurs. I will find you…”

Or in the Princess-Bride, Wesley’s explanation to Buttercup as to why she should have believed he would always come for her . . . “Death cannot stop true love.”

Oh, to be loved like that . . .

I am. And because He loves me, He draws me to Him, ever again, with His lovingkindness.

My computer doesn’t like that word. It wants to make it two, or to at least add a hyphen in it. But it’s one word in our Bible, because its taken from a very unique Hebrew word.

Hesed:  Loyal, steadfast, faithful love. God’s love lavished on unfaithful people.

I love this word. He draws me with steadfast, faithful, unconditional love. Makes me sing that wonderful praise chorus…

“How can I keep from singing Your praise? ….I am loved by the King, and it makes my heart want to sing.”

Jesus, this morning I sing. Because you love me with this hesed love.