Diana Nesbitt

Know Your God

Created to Grow

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The crushed stone crunched beneath our feet as we walked between the rows of plants. Sunlight, diffused by the plastic that sheltered us from the cool May wind, warmed the greenhouse and intensified the throaty smell of geraniums and tender green plants.
“Want to ride on my back for a little while?” I turned and asked my just-turned-five-year-old nephew.
“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.” His words came out in excited staccatos. I knelt down on the stones and he wrapped his arms around my neck, a feeling of which I will never grow tired, and groaned as I lifted him up. “I want to ride on your back for a long time,” he said, indicating that he did not think this situation needed to be temporary.
“Well, we’ll see how long I can last carrying you, because you’re getting big,” I said, feeling the weight of his body on my back as we continued to weave our way through the greenhouse.
Plants and children, perhaps the foremost features of a well-celebrated Mother’s Day, have much in common. They require nurturing – a word that has remained in my mind ever since I read this blog post. According to Google, the word nurture means “the process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone or something.” Children and plants require food and water and sunlight and fresh air to grow. Sometimes they have thorns and hurt those who are lovingly caring for them. They have specific needs that must be met in order for them to flourish, but they cannot meet those needs on their own. They need someone else to meet those needs – they need to be nurtured.
We can all nurture those around us. And perhaps the most beautiful, life-giving way for anyone to nurture, that which our mothers do for us beginning at birth and from then on every day of our lives, is to give life out of pain. Out of gasping breathless pain she gives you your first breath. Out of her fear she gives you courage. Out of her worry she gives you security. Out of her depression she gives you joy. Out of her weariness she gives you strength. Out of her confusion she gives you clarity. Out of her hunger she gives you food. Because she went through it she fights so you don’t have to. And that is exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross, friends. He experienced separation from God the Father, hell, so we don’t have to if we choose relationship with God through Jesus. Out of His death He gave us life. So this thing that our mothers do so well for us, this thing any of us can do for anyone else, this nurturing, this process that we can see acted out in the rows of cared-for, growing green plants that we buy to beautify our gardens and give to our mom, is all an imitation of what our Savior does for us every day, because He created us to grow.
So, as the abovementioned blog post recommended, go thank someone who has nurtured you – someone who shared a conversation, a kind word, a smile, a hug, a meaningful gift, a helping hand, an answer to a question – someone who took the time to give you a piece of their lives to help you flourish.
To my mom, thank you for the million and one ways you have nurtured me throughout the years. Thank you for praying that I would exist someday. Thank you for proving the doctor wrong when he wondered how the blankity-blank you were going to nurse a premie every single hour for the first month of my life. Thank you for reading the piles of Little Golden Books to me that I dragged back to your bed every day at naptime. Thank you for giving me healthy food to eat. Thank you for teaching me how to brush my teeth, answer the phone and not to point at people in the store. Thank you for giving my Cabbage Kid Dolls voices and for talking for them while you cooked and cleaned and canned and sewed and were trying to go to sleep at night. Thank you for letting me fall asleep in bed with you and for letting me come back in the middle of the night when the coyotes were howling. Thank you for teaching me how to read and write and never, ever once getting impatient with me when I was in school. Thank you for letting me see the anger in your eyes when I did wrong. Thank you for bawling me out so bad when you caught me cheating on a test that I would never ever in my life ever dare to cheat again. Thank you for teaching me about God and that spending time with Him is the most important thing I could do every day of my life. Thank you for giving me your wisdom and for giving me freedom to make my own decisions. Thank you for praying with me. Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for life, Mom.
And thank You Jesus for giving my Mom life so that she could give me life.

20 Things I’ve Learned from 20 Years with Jesus

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Years I’ve worked at my job: 3. Years I’ve owned a car: 2.5. Years I’ve had a driver’s license: 6. Years since I learned to snowboard: 13. Years since I started playing the piano: 16. Years since I graduated high school: almost 6.
As a 24 year old, there aren’t many things that I can claim to be or have done for more than ten or fifteen years, other than being alive. But there is one significant thing that I have had for twenty years as of this day, the thing that I am most proud and grateful and happy to be, the thing that has shaped me and made me who I am and will one day be more than anything else that I could ever experience: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Twenty years ago today, I stood in my family’s kitchen, swinging my foot over the pattern on the linoleum floor, listening to my brother reason away my irrational fears that I would die immediately and go to heaven if I accepted Jesus as my Savior (not something that a 4-year old relishes the thought of, when it involves leaving Mommy and blankie and Cabbage Patch Kids).

“Diana,” my brother said, turning around from the sink to look at me, “Mommy and Daddy are saved, and they’re not dead. Josh and I are saved, and we’re not dead.”

That was assurance enough for me, and next, with excitement like that of Christmas morning, my family gathered in my parents’ bedroom and we knelt by the bed. With my dad helping me with the words to say, I asked the Lord Jesus to forgive me for my sin and to be my Savior.

Twenty years later, I can safely say I did not die immediately and go to heaven (although, really, wouldn’t life be easier if it worked that way?). 😉 After twenty years of walking with Jesus and spending time in His Word and prayer almost daily, it seems that I should know a lot more than I do and be a lot more spiritually mature than I am; however, with each year that passes I can trace definite growth and mark victories and answers to prayer – in spite of the many shortcomings and failures that I am aware of as well. Thankfully, the Lord is an extremely patient, yet persistent Teacher, and so, I would like to share some of the things that He has taught me over the years.

All the truths shared below have at some point in my walk with Christ come to have meaning to me beyond mere words or a smart sounding maxim; they are truths that have made their way to my heart. Truth can enter your head quite readily, but it will have no effect on your life until it enters your heart as well. Many of them may not sound very deep or profound, but I’m learning that sometimes the simplest truths are the ones that take the longest to really learn.

Here, in no particular order, are twenty things I have learned after spending twenty years of knowing Jesus:

1. Faith is the utter foundation for a genuine walk with Christ. Not only is our salvation not obtained by anything other than faith, but also the extent of our experience of the earthly benefits of salvation is contingent on truly believing God and His Word. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

2. Prayer changes things.

3. The way to get wisdom is to ask God for it – but you have to ask in faith.

4. God loves you, not because of who you are or what you’ve done, but because of who HE is.

5. You don’t get to serve God because you’re perfect – you get to serve Him because He is merciful and powerful enough to use messed up humans like us for His glory.

6. Nothing drains away joy and strength like unbelief.

7. Prayer and Bible study are vitally important – the only sustainable and reliable way to grow in your relationship with God. If writing this fact alone twenty times over could communicate the absolute importance and necessity of making this a daily habit in your life without rendering my efforts impotent by redundancy, I would do it. Nothing, absolutely nothing else you can do every day will change your life for the better like this will. It is impossible to reach the full potential of your relationship with Christ without making a faithful practice of these two privileges.

8. God will always give you a “yes” to persistent prayers for spiritual growth.

9. Being a Christian is not about how you perform, but about how you relate- with God first, and then with others.

10. True sorrow over sin is never an emotion to be avoided.

11. Giving thanks in everything requires trust.

12. God cares much more about the state of your heart than your wardrobe when you walk into church.

13. There is so much available in Christ that we don’t take hold of. We could have so much MORE if we’d only ask for it and believe Christ to give it.

14. God will ALWAYS provide for your needs. Although we are not promised perfect relationships, health, or physical safety, we are promised that God will meet our needs if we seek His kingdom first.

15. When you see God act in response to a prayer, it becomes easier to trust Him for similar things.

16. Praying for someone else is one of the best ways to love them.

17. The genuineness of your faith is extremely valuable to God. He wants you to believe and trust Him.

18. Sometimes obeying the leadings of the Holy Spirit feels weird and makes your stomach churn, but if you do, you won’t regret it.

19. Even when we can’t see it, God is working, fulfilling His plans for our good and His glory.

20. Grace and truth, like so many other contrasting spiritual elements, MUST be held in balance; damage will result from swaying too far either way, but balance can be found in Jesus.

It has been quite a journey thus far, and as I look back I see anew that my Jesus has been utterly tender and gracious to me. At various times I have resisted Him, yelled at Him, fought Him, disrespected Him, disobeyed Him, questioned Him, and always He has been faithful, forgiving, and oh so very patient. I do not deserve all the good that He has poured out on me, and I hope that the next twenty years are filled with more closeness to Him that results in more glory given to Him because of my life than ever before.

2015 in Review: Adventure Awaits

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The design of the journal I filled last year is all about travel and adventure…during the year I thought cynically a few times how inappropriate such a journal was for me, a girl who has never been south of West Virginia or west of Wisconsin and has never even flown in an airplane. Adventure does not seem to know my address, nor to be willing to pull me beyond the confines of my comfortable life. And yet…2015 did hold adventure of sorts, and maybe more than that, offered the renewed hope of promised adventure in the coming years.
The word I chose for myself at the beginning of 2015 was love. I had a list of about five areas of focus, at the top of which was “Love lavishly, create copiously, trust implicitly.” Well, I have to say that my focus on those things didn’t really last much longer than the time it took me to turn the page in my journal after I wrote them down. That’s not to say I utterly failed at growth in all of those areas, but I certainly didn’t spend much time intentionally working on them like I thought I would.
But then again, that’s part of the adventure. We have our plans, and God has His. (And when they don’t match up, His are always better.)
This year, I think God’s word for me was faith. In fact, I think that’s what it was in 2014 too, but I was too thickheaded to see it. This year, however, I can see the progression of growth in myself, His answer to my cries of “I believe! Help my unbelief!”. In my Bible study time, I went through two inductive Bible study books, one on the book of Romans (Experiencing the Power of Life Changing Faith) and one on 1, 2 & 3 John, Philemon, and James (God’s Love Alive in You). Studying James left me wanting to go deeper into the book, especially with its emphasis on demonstrating genuine faith by works, so I decided to start a Precept Upon Precept study of the book of James. This kind of study is inductive as well, but goes much further in depth with more word studies, cross-referencing, and life application exercises. The homework is supposed to take an hour a day but I just spend as much time as I have on it. It will just take me longer to get through the study. :)
At work, due to life changes and unexpected events in different people’s lives,  we were short staffed at the office by about 2-3 people at various points for the greater part of the year (which makes a big difference in an office of 13!), and while it was challenging, it was wonderful to see the way God poured His grace over the whole office and orchestrated everything. Everyone simply pulled together to fill the gaps and support each other as best they could, and one of the empty positions was filled by someone who was already set to come in temporarily the very week the position opened. I spent extra hours in different departments than I usually work, which opened doors for me to deepen my relationships with several of my coworkers with whom I ordinarily never would have interacted as much. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and it allowed me to gain a boatload of experience in many different areas of my workplace! Thus, by the end of summer I was officially working full time- something that I had been praying for a while that God would orchestrate if that’s what He wanted to happen.
2015 held some fun, too. In July, I was able to attend a coworker’s wedding, as well as help with some of the decorating and cleanup. It was the first wedding I had been to in a while, and it was fun to sit around a table with people from the office and not hear anyone say the word “tooth” even a single time (not that any of us mind talking teeth! 😉 ). A week or two later, my parents and I and my brothers and their families went camping together. It was nice to have some time to spend with each other in a different setting.
Watching the game of "Kube" going on

Watching the game of “Kube” going on

Grammie and granddaughter talking

Grammie and granddaughter talking

digging in the sand at the playground

digging in the sand at the playground

In September, Mom, Dad, and I went on a day adventure and drove up Mount Washington. The day was clear, which is apparently quite rare for the mountain, and warm. The views were absolutely stunning.
warning at the bottom: if you have a fear of heights, you might not enjoy this drive!

warning at the bottom: if you have a fear of heights, you might not enjoy this drive!

This, friends, is what a hairpin curve looks like!

This, friends, is what a hairpin curve looks like!

The observatory

The observatory

what a view!

what a view!

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Video presentation telling about the experience of recording the fastest wind speed on record

Video presentation telling about the experience of recording the fastest wind speed on record

The anemometer that recorded the highest wind speed

The anemometer that recorded the highest wind speed

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The following month my aunt and uncle from New York came to visit, and we visited the World War Two museum in Wolfeboro and took a drive to view some of the most brilliant foliage we’ve ever seen. With as warm as it was this fall we weren’t sure how the colors would be, but they were amazingly vibrant.
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“Sweetheart jewelry” at the Wright Museum

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In December, quite outside of my original plans,  I purchased my second car! I had been planning to run my little blue car as long as I could, at least until I could save up for the majority of the cost of my next car; however, one day my coworker said that she was selling her mother’s car for her- a 2007 Toyota Corolla with only 13,047 miles on it.  The price she was asking was extremely reasonable, and the wheels in my head started turning. I began crunching numbers, doing research, and most importantly, praying hard for wisdom about the decision. Long story short, God gave me peace about purchasing it, and there is now a cute little seafoam green car sitting out in the driveway!
Even better, my blue car has already sold. I had prayed, and I know my Mom had too, that it would sell quickly; winter in New Hampshire isn’t exactly the best time to have a car sitting out for sale. Before I had even gotten around to putting the “for sale” signs on it, a lady stopped by asking if it was for sale, as her daughter was looking for a car. We gave her some information and she left, saying her husband might stop by and look at it.
On the first of January, on somewhat of a whim, yet with intention of making my request in belief that God would (not could, but would too often I know in my head that God is capable of doing something, yet in my heart I don’t truly believe that He will) do it if He was pleased to do so, and with the intention of giving Him praise and glory if He chose to grant my request, I asked God to let my old car sell within one week. The next day, the lady’s husband stopped by, and the following day they came over and the young lady test drove it and that night they phoned and said she would take the car. By the following evening, the spot in the driveway that my little blue car had occupied was empty. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!
I hope and pray that this testimony to God’s work of giving me grace to believe Him and act on prayer and faith is only a taste of what is to come in this new year. I hold more hope in my heart for a good year than I have dared to dream of in recent times, because the Lord has encouraged my faith. Almost two years ago, I clearly remember sitting on my bed, realizing that I had no real belief that God was actively working on my family’s behalf for our good. Life had never looked darker for as long as it did at that period of time. But slowly, gradually, as I called out to God, kept studying His Word, fought Him and fought my fear of obeying Him and my fear of not obeying Him and fought to gain greater trust in Him (yes, lots of fighting went on!), He gently showed me that He is faithful and trustworthy, and that faith is a prerequisite for seeing God act.I am becoming convinced that what God wants from us, maybe more than anything else, is our faith. He values our faith greatly and will allow us to go through almost anything to strengthen it. He wants to be trusted. And it is those who lack trust in Him, who will not believe Him to act on their behalf, who do not see Him act. Jesus Himself did not perform many miracles in one of the towns He traveled through because of the unbelief of those who lived there.
Living by faith invites much testing, to be sure, but yet it is so much easier on your mind and soul and body to live by faith, to have the tranquility and peace of mind brought by believing God is good and has good things in store. Life is going to come with challenges and hard times no matter what, but if we yield to the work of endurance, and allow it to do its complete work, we will be mature and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:3-4), and we will see God do amazing things.
And that is the best part of the adventure that awaits.
The word that I have chosen for 2016 is finish. I hadn’t planned on choosing a word this year, but I had asked the Lord to give me a simple, yet profound maxim, you could call it, for the year. Something that would help me stay motivated and focused on the things that are important. A few days ago, the word “finish” came into my mind, and it seemed a good word for this year. My goal-setting went down the drain the past couple of years and I have many unfinished projects (for example, I only published 8 blog posts last year, and yet I have 19 rough drafts waiting to be edited!) and goals that it’s time to wrap up, so that I can be ready for whatever adventure life brings next.
Sometimes adventure doesn’t always come in the form of driving up a winding narrow mountain road and standing at the top of the tallest mountain in the northeast….sometimes it comes in the form of unplanned friendships and learning to trust God and be brave enough to obey His voice.
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He Didn’t Come As a Royal King Should Have

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He didn’t come as a royal king should have
The High King of Heaven come down to earth
Unwelcomed by fanfare or clamoring crowds
Quietly humble, His miraculous birth

Curled up inside of a womb He’d created
No guards to protect this valuable life
Only to outcasts His birth was announced
By angels and a great star in the night

Prophets for centuries long had foretold it
A Savior would come, would be Emmanuel
But those in Bethlehem slept, unaware
That the promised Messiah had just joined them there

Creator condemned by His own creation
He carried our sorrows and bore all our shame
Unwelcomed, unwanted, they tried to dethrone Him
They murdered Him, still He continued to reign

Next time He comes it will be in His glory
He will take up His king’s place on the throne
All knees will bow, every tongue will adore Him
Saints will rejoice as He welcomes them home

He didn’t come as a royal king should have
But it wouldn’t have been right if He had
Not only a King, but a Saviour as well
He came not to rule but to save us from hell.

I hope your Christmas is filled with sweet meditations on the most loving and gracious Gift ever given- Jesus! Merry Christmas! 

The Frances Project: A Legacy of Service

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On July 23, 2014, one of the strongest, spunkiest women to ever grace the planet was gathered home to her Savior’s bosom. Frances Catherine Fisher, my grandmother, was a member of the greatest generation. She survived the influenza epidemic of 1918, two world wars, the Great Depression, the early death of her true love, and the uncountable ups and downs of 5 children and 99 years of life. Although she only completed school through the eighth grade, she was not lacking in intelligence or talent, and creativity, practicality, and hard work were a few of the characteristics that marked her life. She was self-taught on the mandolin and played alto completely by ear in a Ukrainian orchestra in school. Thanks to her Ukrainian heritage, she was bilingual and retained her ability to speak fluent Ukrainian all of her life.  She worked in restaurants and a drug rehabilitation center as a cook, and in her free time she embroidered pictures that looked like they were painted with thread.

And she served people.

The Servant’s Servant

I learned something new about my grandmother as I listened to different people -mostly her children- speak at the memorial service held at her longtime church in New York. I had never really heard much about her church life, how faithful and involved she was in her church family, nor of all the ways she had helped people. I listened as my aunt told of being a pastor’s wife and how Grandma helped her prepare meals when guests came for dinner, and how she cut out flannel graph figures for Sunday school lessons- something she also did for my own mother. I’ve heard from my mom how before coming to visit Grandma would say “Save your mending, it’ll give me something to do while I’m there.” As I listened to all these ways she helped people, I came up with a title for my grandmother: a facilitator of other people’s service. Her ministry was to help other people minister. To put it yet another way, she was a servant’s servant. I can’t think of a more Christlike way to live.
Grandma lived, worked hard for her family, and died. The world at large would not hail her life a stunning success, but I know Someone who would. Someone who defines success, not as achievements and accolades, but giving your life for the benefit of others.
That’s exactly what Grandma did. And she’s still doing it. Grandma was never wealthy, but what she had she was always sharing with others, always sending checks in the mail with a card (usually with a funny face scrawled in it somewhere), to her children and grandchildren at birthdays and Christmas. Somehow, through her hard work and serious thrift, she still saved enough to give something more to her children after she went home to heaven-as if they could want anything more than the treasure of a life with her.

The Frances Project

With a portion of what she received from Grandma, my mom bought a sewing machine – a larger one than she had so that she would be able to machine quilt on it. She prayed hard and researched her decision, and finally settled on one. Not too long after her purchase, I saw an article on Facebook about a 99 year old woman who makes a dress every single day for little girls in Africa. I shared the article and tagged my mom in it, saying “Here’s something you can do when you’re 90!” Mom looked at it and said “Forget 90! I can do it now!” And so was born the Frances Project.

Mom began sewing, using fabric from cotton tablecloths that we had long ago stopped using. The first dress was simply darling – blue and white gingham with little flutter sleeves. DSC09263DSC07190 DSC07193 DSC07199

The Puzzle Only God Could Piece

Meanwhile, a coworker of mine was going through racks and racks of clothing that her mother no longer wore and was trying to find useful homes for it all. Knowing that I sew, she offered me some clothing in case I could make anything out of it. I didn’t think that I’d be able to make anything for myself from the garments, but I thought it might be just perfect for what Mom was doing. I mentioned it to my coworker and she was delighted at the thought of her mom’s clothing being used in that way. She brought a large bag of the clothing to work and I took it home with me, and Mom started sewing. The first dress she made was from a denim jacket. The pattern fit just perfectly on the jacket, allowing small pockets and embroidered leaves to be perfectly placed on the front of the dress. The end result was adorable, and after my mom finished it she brought it to work to show my coworker. She was so pleased and touched with the way it came out, and asked to show it to her father, whom she said just loves to help little children in need.

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It was the perfect situation for both parties- my mom had fabric to use for her little dresses and shorts, and my coworker had a good use for her mother’s clothing. It was a puzzle whose pieces only God could have put together. Grandma, my mom, my coworker, and her parents – all pieces in the God-ordained puzzle, blessed to be able to share in the gift of giving to others.

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The puzzle isn’t quite complete yet, though. These dresses and shorts still need to find the little children who need them. We’re not exactly sure where they are going to go just yet, but we have a few ideas. If you have any suggestions for where we could send them, feel free to share in the comments!

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If you have a desire to serve the Lord by helping those in need, ask Him to show you what your part is in that. There’s a piece of His puzzle that needs to be filled by you! If you are interested in doing something similar to this, check out this website for patterns and guidelines.These clothing items and other small items could also be made for Operation Christmas Child.

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What you can do: we would so love it if you would join us in praying that these dresses and shorts will make their way to just the children who need them, and that they will be a tool for letting the children know how much Jesus loves them and cares about them.

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As my grandmother’s life so aptly shows, service doesn’t need to be flashy to be effective. It only needs to be done out of love.

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“This is My command: love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12

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Matthew Musings: Who’s Really in Charge?

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It was a question that presented a crossroads: either submit to the temptation to take the easy way out and skim over it, or make myself exert some brainpower, take a minute to think it over, and unlock a new insight into God’s Word. Thankfully, I chose the latter.

“What does Jesus’ healing ministry have to do with forgiveness of sins?” Thus read the question in my Bible study book.
Matthew chapters 8-9 reads like a rolodex of Jesus’ interactions with people and their responses to Him. However, there’s only one account of Jesus talking about forgiveness of sins in relation to healing. When the paralytic was brought to Him, Jesus told him that his sins had been forgiven. The Pharisees, of course, objected to this, saying that He was blaspheming by telling the man that He had forgiven his sins – something only God could do.
I thought over the recurring themes in these chapters: forgiveness of sins, healing, driving out demons, faith, authority… Jesus forgave sins, and He healed people, but how were the two related? This phrase stood out to me: “So that you will know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…”

When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them a free will but also gave clear instructions about what would happen if they sinned by exercising their free will to disobey His commands. Adam and Eve (and consequently every generation after them) chose to sin, and as a result, death and disease entered the world just as God had forewarned. However, just because God permits the existence of sin does not mean that it is stronger than He is. Through healing people of sickness and demon possession Jesus showed that He has authority over the consequences of our downfall as well as the forces that caused it. Sin is our problem, and Jesus came to free us from that problem. By healing people He gave tangible proof that He had the authority and ability to do just that.

Jesus’ ministry of healing and casting out demons was also a picture of the spiritual healing that He provides. The way that people received physical healing is the same way they obtained spiritual healing- through faith. Over and over again, Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well.” “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” He asked those who approached Him for healing, “Do you believe that I can do this?”
He told the Pharisees, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The answer to the question is right there. Jesus came to heal us of our sin, and He illustrated that by healing people of the sickness caused by sin.
He also passed on His power to His disciples, giving them authority to heal and cast out demons and commissioning them to tell others about His ability to free people from the bondage of sin.

As hard as it is sometimes, if we would only truly grasp the reality of Christ’s authority over this world and that which He has given to His followers as ambassadors of His kingdom, we wouldn’t shrink back when an opportunity to declare the truth about Him arises. This is God’s world, and the people in it are only here by His grace. Christ’s ambassadors have authority, permission, and even more, commands from Him to do His work in His kingdom. We are not acting improperly or inappropriately when we speak for Jesus. Even demons recognize God’s reign and position of authority in the world. The fact that other human beings are blind to this shouldn’t sway our resolve to be bold and to act with the authority that we have from Christ, so that others too may experience His healing power in their lives.

Practice Makes Failure Less Frequent

Practice

I sat down at the piano, wondering if I should be here. But then, I remembered. With a smile, I knew that this was the place to be. The place where I have fought many battles with my pride, reminding myself that I am here to glorify God, not myself, through this otherworldly gift of music that He has bestowed on the earth. This is the place my fingers have learned, my soul has learned, to keep fighting for the right notes when hands and hearts are stubborn and learn slowly.

I ran my fingers over the keys for the first time in weeks, only the 4th or 5th time this year, stumbling over the same parts of the song I always do (which is pretty much the whole thing), yet surprised in parts to find that my fingers not only remembered the notes but were capable of playing them more fluidly than ever before. And as I played, I understood.

I understood that this word, failure, that had been dogging me for the past month, can only be conquered by practice. Fail, fail, fail, stumble, stumble, toddle, toddle, gasp-I didn’t miss that note this time. Again, play the notes, stumble, fail, but there, it’s getting better – more smooth now – that’s it! The sweet notes of victory. The success rate improves, and given enough time, the muscles in my hands will recall the notes without effort. Oh, they’ll slip, but the more I practice the less that will happen.

And, as you may have guessed, this is also true in our walk with God- and any area of life in which we’d like to do better. The more we practice being like Christ, or getting up early, or eating healthier, the closer we will come to getting it right. Victory only comes when we push through repeated failure. {tweet that} If you’ve been struggling to succeed in any area, don’t give up! Keep praying and keep practicing. You won’t get the grace to succeed if you stop trying.

Practice makes failure less frequent.

Echoes of a Masterpiece

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My coworker is one of the most passionate people I know. I love to listen to her talk. She gets so excited about things and is so positive. She believes. One thing she’s been excited about lately is drawing. She has been reading a book called “Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain”, and as she tells it, one day she was drawing stick figures, and the next, she had drawn a beautiful sketch of a horse and rider. The key, she explained, was to begin by turning the picture of the horse upside-down, so that the left side of the brain (which, from what I understand, likes to take over and tell the right side to sit down and shut up and let it do all the work) backs off and lets you simply draw what you see, instead of what you think you see. So, instead of your brain recognizing the image of a horse, it’s just seeing the lines that make up a horse.

I think we have a spiritual “left brain” and “right brain” too. The spiritual left brain says things like “You already know everything in the Bible…this is boring,” or, “God doesn’t really hear you when you pray.” It likes to think about the circumstances you’re in right now, your worries or excitement, or what you’re going to wear tomorrow. Anything but being still and waiting for Jesus to speak to your heart. It can easily take over the spiritual “right brain,” squelching it until it’s nothing more than a feeble whisper.

That’s why God turns the picture of life upside down. He says “See, this the line I want you to follow. Ignore what you think you know- what your fleshly nature is telling you to think. Follow the path I have sketched out for you. Trace over the lines of My example with your life. Only then will your childish scribblings turn into the echoes of a masterpiece.”
Just like the right side of our physical brain, the right side of our spiritual mindset needs to be exercised too. Give yourself enough time to pray so that your spiritual “left side” quiets down and backs off, and lets you hear the whispers of the Messiah teaching your heart.

It takes discipline and practice to train your spiritual right brain, your heart, to be attuned to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. It takes faith to see what God wants us to see in the everyday rumble of life.
With this mindset, we can view life with the excitement of my coworker. She said “I’m so excited about the next 30 years – I have an entire half of my brain to explore!” Likewise, we have an entire life to explore in Christ. So tell your spiritual left brain to back off. Seat yourself at the Master’s feet. Be still. Listen.

 

 

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Matthew Musings: The Family Line of Jesus

I have been doing an inductive Bible study on the book of Matthew, and I thought it would be a good exercise to write about the truths that I glean and the principles that stand out to me as I study. So, here is the first of my Matthew Musings.

matthew musings

Matthew begins with a genealogy, which is not typically the type of passage we consider the most scintillating in the Bible. But this genealogy is scintillating (sorry, I like that word). Look at the people that Jesus, the Creator and Ruler of the whole entire universe, chose to have in His family tree. Right away we can spot a prostitute and an adulterer, who also killed the husband of the woman with whom he committed adultery. And, if you’ve ever happened to come across a rather sordid account back in Genesis, dropped right in the middle of the story of Joseph, about a woman disguising herself as a prostitute, getting pregnant by her father-in-law, and giving birth to twins…well, she’s in there too.

Centuries before He’s even born, Jesus shows us how humble and gracious He is by the people He allowed into His family tree. In His love, the pure, untainted Son of God chose to come to earth. He chose to associate with broken, messed up sinners, and not only to associate with them, but also to call them His family.

But His humility didn’t stop there. Even though He had the pick of every human being who ever walked the planet to be in His genealogy, He didn’t choose a pristine family line of priests and religious leaders (not that He could have found a pristine family line if He’d wanted to. None exists, because genealogies are a line of people.) He didn’t even choose people who were, relatively speaking for the human race, respectable. Because that’s not what Jesus does.
He chose them all- faithful and unfaithful alike, all given the opportunity to know and live for Him; some accepted Him, some rejected Him, all were loved by Him. He chose the outcasts, the misfits, the godly kings, the evil kings…He chose people from every possible walk of life to be in His family tree. He gave them all the honor of being recorded for all eternity as ancestors of the King of kings.

Yes, this genealogy gives us a clear example of Jesus’ graciousness. But that is not the only attribute we witness here. His holiness and righteousness are also clearly visible. God does not brush sin under the rug, and even in something as brief as a genealogy, we are reminded of the permanent consequences of sin. You can see it right there in verse six- “And David fathered Solomon by Uriah’s wife.” God did not approve of David’s actions with Bathsheba, and He’s keeping the record clear and straight on that for all eternity. David took another man’s wife. It doesn’t matter if David conveniently removed Uriah from the picture and married Bathsheba later. He committed adultery with her, and they lost the first child they conceived together because of their sin.
But David repented. You can see the depth of his sorrow over this sin in Psalm 51. He acknowledged that he had sinned against God. He didn’t call God unfair or mean for allowing him to suffer the painful consequences of his actions; rather, he said “You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge.”
And then, the beauty from the ugliness, the proof of the overflowing mercy of God: He let David have another child with Bathsheba- and this was Solomon, the heir to the throne, the son who would be part of the Messiah’s family tree.

Sin, repentance, mercy. This is why Jesus came. The whole story is there in the genealogy. Sin, repentance, mercy. We sin, we suffer consequences, and if we repent and stop doing the sin, in His mercy, Jesus forgives. Our sin causes Him pain and caused Him to suffer more than we will ever comprehend. Yet He still forgives when we truly repent. He lets us take part in His story. He takes our repentant hearts and failures, and in spite of them, in spite of us, He makes things turn out for His glory.

And, if we do His will, He even calls us family.
May the family trait of His gracious humility be passed on through every generation.

Spring All Year

From the archives~ I came across this post the other day that I published a couple years ago on my old blog and thought the sentiment was pretty appropriate for this spring, since winter just kept hanging on this year! 

Spring all Year

A few minutes ago, if the occupants of the dark green truck driving by bothered to look up, they would have seen a crazy girl sprawled on the steps of a front porch, wearing a sequin-sprinkled sweatshirt, lifting her face to the sun while brushing her teeth. (It’s March in New Hampshire. You get outside while the sun is shining or you miss out.) Yes, the promise of spring is in the air today, the bright sunshine which has been absent for so long of late luring me outside again, this time with a pen and paper instead of a toothbrush, as I draft this post.

I don’t usually look forward to spring very much, preferring snow and cold weather over heat and humidity and lawn mowing and gardening and black flies and mosquitoes and ticks (I will admit, working outside does have its rewards, the bugs NOT being among them, however). But this winter has been a different one, and I haven’t been able to get outside as much as usual. I’m looking forward to the brightness of spring after the darkness of winter. This time of year I start thirsting for sunshine and color. I crave the feeling of the gentle rays of the sun soaking into my skin, the cool breeze sweeping over the snow keeping my nose chilled and making me enjoy the blanket lying over me.

Another thirst accompanies that which I feel for light and color; a thirst for my Savior, for hearing His voice in my heart and communing with Him. For being purged of the sin that lies too comfortably within me and being washed pure white like the snow that the sun is reflecting so brightly. To be refreshed in the Word like the cool breeze refreshes my warm face and stale lungs. To sing a sweet song of praise with my life like the birds chirping in the trees and the wind chimes blowing in the breeze. To have spring in my heart.

In a few short weeks the sun will grow stronger and I will again hide from it instead of seeking its warmth, and black flies will prevent the luxury of laying outside on the porch in peace. But spiritual spring, the warm sunshine of God’s undeserved favor and the refreshing breeze of His Word, can live on in my heart all year long.

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