Advent: Dancing the Song of My Savior God

A few times in my life I’ve been utterly overwhelmed by an outpouring of God’s grace and mercy.

And like David who danced before the Lord when the Ark was returned to Jerusalem, I simply can’t contain myself. I want to move my body in response to the rhythm of the good news.

So I understand Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s blessing:

And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home. Luke 1:46-56 MSG

My Soul Magnifies the Lord – Upside-Down Savior

Known as The Magnificat, Mary’s heartfelt response to the work God was doing in and through her is a perfect introduction into the upside down Kingdom Christ came to establish.

The Jews were under occupation, under the thumb of a pagan Roman government where might made right and the outcast poor had no hope for justice.

But the Holy Spirit revealed to Mary how very great was this Good News-no longer would evil reign nor the wicked rule. God’s mercy would be supreme! His people would be blessed and every single promise of the Lord would be fulfilled.

So she danced to the tune of salvation. Even though the music was faint and far away.

I’m invited to dance to the same song because God’s promises are sure.

Sometimes I have to strain to hear the music.

But if I lean in and listen closely, it’s there.

QUESTIONS:

  • Have you ever experienced a moment when you were utterly overwhelmed with a sense of God’s goodness and faithful love? How did it make you feel?
  • Mary’s song emphasizes the truth that God will not allow injustice to reign. He will make every single thing right. But it can be hard to wait sometimes. Does this promise make waiting any easier for your heart? Why or why not?
  • Sometimes we look around and think, “What’s the point of trying to live a righteous life? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer!” Do you think that there is an eternal reward that outweighs any temporal inequity?
  • Music and dancing go hand in hand. God has created us to be physical and sensual beings. Have you ever been so moved by truth (especially when presented in musical form) that you could not help by responding with your whole body?

PRAYER:

Father God, You never fail. Your purposes are sure and cannot be thwarted. You will not allow injustice to rule forever. You sent your Son to set the record straight, to pay the price and to squash evil tyranny.

It’s true that He has not yet established His Kingdom in its fullness. But the enemy doesn’t stand a chance. The devil is on the defensive and we are guaranteed victory.

Help me hold on to the fullness of the gospel message-not only that my eternal hope is secure (and those I love who have received salvation through Christ) but that You are working in and through your people to restore justice and equity in the world right now.

Make me an instrument of your peace. Give me words of hope to share with a frightened and confused world. Let me lead others in the dance of my Savior.

Amen

Advent: The Righteous Branch

One of the recurring themes in Scripture is redemption, rescue and renewal.

Over and over, just when it seems things can only get worse, God steps in and crafts an unexpected and beautiful story from the broken bits.

The challenge for we who are trapped in time is to remain patient and hope-filled in the waiting.

Israel had plenty of practice.

I do too.

But God doesn’t leave us without promises to hold onto while we wait.

Jeremiah is often called “The Weeping Prophet” because the messages God have him were full of gloom. Judgement and destruction were on the way. There was no escape and Jeremiah had been commissioned by the Lord to tell folks all about it.

Yet woven throughout the verses detailing all the awful, God spoke hope to the heart of His people:

14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

15 “‘In those days and at that time
    I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
    he will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
    and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it  will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’ “

Jeremiah 33: 14-16 NIV

These words speak hope to my heart too.

Dominic’s death is the most devastating thing I’ve ever endured. It was not only the earthly end of him, it was the earthly end of me in many ways. All the things I anticipated for him, our family and the future were cut down in one fell swoop.

So when Jeremiah promises that even though all that’s left of David’s progeny is a pitiful stump, God will raise up a glorious and most Righteous King, I hear that redemption is possible.

And because Jesus DID come, I know that redemption is guaranteed.

Advent reminds me that even when waiting is long and in the dark, God is working.

Just as He raised up life from a (humanly) lifeless bit of wood in the ground, He will raise my son and redeem my pain.

QUESTIONS:

  • Have you ever thought a plant was dead only to have it sprout fresh some time later? How might that experience help you cling to hope while waiting on the Lord?
  • What do the words “The Lord Our Righteous Savior” mean to you?
  • The literal translation of those words is “Jehovah Tsidkenu” or The Lord My Righteousness. There is no righteousness apart from Christ. No way for me to clean up enough to stand in the presence of God. Have you embraced and received the gift of God’s grace and mercy through Jesus? Is HE your righteousness?
  • God has never hidden from His people the fact that life in this fallen world is hard. Are you encouraged or discouraged by His honesty?
  • Do you have favorite promises your heart clings to in times of discouragement? Consider typing or writing them out in a journal or small booklet to review often.

PRAYER:

Father God,

It is so, so easy to be discouraged and disheartened. Truth is, life is hard and often seems headed in the direction of becoming harder.

I’m tired and sometimes I want to give up and give in. Not only is there no end in sight, I can’t even imagine an end that would be worth waiting for.

But I will choose to trust in Your unfailing word. I will rest in Your everlasting love. And I will take hold of every single promise You have made. Help me trust that You are working-even when I can’t see it-to redeem, restore, rescue and rewrite my story.

Let me remember that You are the God of new things, the God who transforms death into life.

Amen

Advent For Hurting Hearts: Suffering Foretold


It’s easy for us this side of Calvary to point fingers at the Jews for getting it wrong. 

But when you are waiting for a Savior, you aren’t thinking that the One Who will save will be the One Who suffers.  

You think He will be strong and mighty and armed for battle.  You think He will conquer and lay waste and stride triumphant through the streets.

You don’t expect a Baby who becomes a Man who becomes a Sacrifice.  

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/12/03/advent-for-the-brokenhearted-suffering-foretold/

Scripture Journal Challenge: My Righteous, Raging King!

They say there’s nothing more terrifying than a mama bear protecting her cubs.

If you’ve ever witnessed one come charging across a clearing, changed from a lumbering giant to a fierce killing machine you believe it.

What seems safe at a distance is oh, so terrifying up close and personal.

I think many folks picture God as the great Granddaddy in the sky, looking down benevolently at the earth and showering blessings on its inhabitants.

God IS love. Scripture says so.

But God is also a fierce Father who will protect His children.

That’s the image David brings to mind as we continue Psalm 18:

In my time of need, I called to the Eternal;
    I begged my True God for help.
He heard my voice echo up to His temple,
    and my cry came to His ears.
Because of His great anger, the earth shook and staggered;
    the roots of the mountains shifted.
Smoke poured out from His nose,
    and devouring fire burst from His mouth.
    Coals glowed from Him.
He bent the heavens and descended;
    inky darkness was beneath His feet.

Psalm 18: 6-9 VOICE

I’m so thankful that God in all His glory, majesty, strength and might is both my Savior and my Shepherd. He’s ready to defend me against the enemy of my soul and He’s made perfect provision for my eternal future. He’s also my constant Companion and guide as I journey toward Heaven.

I appreciate the passages in Scripture that talk about God as loving Father, as Comforter, as gentle, meek and kind. Those help my heart when I feel emotionally vulnerable.

But when I’m under attack, I want a Warrior to come rescue me!

When I cry out, I’m looking for a righteous, raging King to ride in and vanquish my enemy.

This is no battle of equals. Satan doesn’t stand a chance. The end of the story is already written.

I don’t fear my Father.

I know that in Christ His wrath is perfectly satisfied. I’m a child of the King, safe and secure in my position and my inheritance. He will defend me to the end.

“No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”

That’s a promise.

QUESTIONS:

  • When you’ve cried out for deliverance do you feel the Lord has always answered? Why or why not?
  • If He answered, was His deliverance what you were expecting?
  • I’ve written before that some of us (myself included) might need to admit God has disappointed us.* If you feel like He hasn’t done what you expected/needed Him to do, are you prepared to voice that? Are you ready to breathe out the pain, the doubts, the disappointment-even anger-and make room for Him to minister grace and healing to your broken heart?
  • David’s imagery is definitely at odds with most popular depictions of God the Father as a Santa Clause type figure. Do any of the words he uses challenge your own idea of who God is? Are they comforting, frightening or something else?
  • What is your takeaway from the verses we’ve looked at so far in this Psalm? How can you make it personal?

PRAYER:

Father God,

Too often I want to stuff You in a box where I can pretend to understand You. Or I lean too heavily on verses that describe Your love and compassion and gloss over the ones that emphasize Your holiness and righteous anger. Truth is, when things are going along alright, I don’t really enjoy being challenged much.

But the “god” I design or understand is not You at all. You are more than I could ever comprehend. Your ways are not my ways. And when I’m forced to come face to face with that truth, it’s a little frightening.

Give me the courage to read and heed ALL the verses. Guide my heart to embrace the full revelation (so far as we have it) of who You are. Grant the grace to to receive Your love and Your correction.

Thank You that you are both Savior and Shepherd. Thank You for fighting for me and singing over me.

Amen

*Here are links to a couple previous posts about trust after loss and “forgiving” God:

Weak Knees, Strong Savior

When I was a little girl, I used to wrap my hand around my daddy’s forefinger when we walked together.  His long legs meant that mine had to work double time to keep up. 

But no matter where his legs took us, I knew I was safe-because he was with me, he wouldn’t leave me and he would take care of me.  

When I was afraid, I could just squeeze his hand a little tighter and courage flooded my soul.  

I’m very thankful for the example and blessing of a faithful, loving earthly father because it makes it so much easier for me to trust my Heavenly Father.  

There are many things that terrify me in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  

Left to myself, I’d turn and run, hide or just lie down and give up.  

But I’m not alone.  

My Shepherd walks alongside me.  His Presence gives me courage and strength to keep going.  

When I am afraid, I cling tighter to His promises, lean harder on His grace and hold on for dear life to His love.  

fear is what we feel brave is what we do

In the hour of crisis, I may be weak in the knees, but I must step forward. I may bow in my private Gethsemane, sweat blood, and cry for deliverance, but then I rise to take up the cross and move toward yonder marked-out hill of suffering. The fight of faith does not allow me to flee in terror. … I dare not and will not deny the sustaining power of the living God.

When Paul wrote, ‘I can do everything through him who gives me strength’ (Philippians 4:13), he was not boasting of his cleverness or aptitude in mastering circumstances. He was expressing deep confidence that in whatever condition — sickness or health, abundance or poverty, life or death — Christ would enable him to cope, even triumph. He experienced and preached what he truly believed: ‘In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’ (Romans 8:37).   

~James Means, A Tearful Celebration

 

Holy Week Reflections: Making Space for Brokenness at the Table of the LORD

As we enter the week on the Christian calendar when most churches celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am reminded that often we race past the road that lead to Calvary and linger at the empty tomb.

But to understand the beauty of forgiveness and the blessing of redemption, we MUST acknowledge the sorrow of sin and the burden of brokenness.

Read the rest here:  Making Space for Brokenness at the Table of the LORD

Can I Get A Witness?

What, exactly, is the value of believers in Jesus plastering an “Everything is fine” mask across our faces?

Are we afraid that if we allow someone to see our pain we are letting God down?

And how could that be?

Did not Christ Himself beg the Father in the Garden to take the cup from Him?

jesus in the garden

Yet we smile and wave and chat our way through encounters with people around us, pretending, pretending, pretending that life is easy when it most certainly is not.

all broken trees

Denying the dark and refusing to acknowledge the depth of our pain diminishes the value of the comfort of Christ.

When David wrote that, “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me” he understood both the desperate need for and the great assurance of Christ’s Presence.

When we allow others to see our broken hearts, we also bear testimony to the sustaining grace of Jesus.

heals the broken hearted

And we extend an invitation for them to meet this Savior that gives strength and comfort even in the darkest hours and hardest journeys.

walk with the broken toby mac

 

 

Rest

For the next few days I’m taking a break from creating lengthy new posts.  So I’ll be posting some short notes of encouragement along with quotes I treasure and maybe re-posting the most popular old entries.

The summer heat is on here in Alabama and I think I need a little “refresh and renew” time.

I pray that each one reading this and carrying the heavy burden of missing a child of your heart will also be refreshed and renewed-that even in the midst of heartache and pain,

you will hear the Father’s voice,

you will know the Savior’s love and

you will receive fresh wind for the journey from the Spirit of God.  

YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE. 

Love,

Melanie

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

Growing up digesting Disney fairy tales can warp your sense of reality.

There are no unblemished princes or perfect princesses out there.  The bad guys don’t always get what they deserve and the good guys don’t always win.

At least not here on earth.

Read the rest here:  Messy Lives, Merciful Savior

Dry Places

I discovered these one morning in the hard ground of my gravel driveway.

New life where one would never look for it.

Are you walking in a hard, dry  land?

I am.

But I trust that God is working even here. And one day life will burst forth beautiful and full.

 Even if the fig tree does not grow figs and there is no fruit on the vines, even if the olives do not grow and the fields give no food, even if there are no sheep within the fence and no cattle in the cattle-building, yet I will have joy in the Lord. I will be glad in the God Who saves me.

Habbakkuk 3: 17-18 NLV