Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Picture Of His Redeeming Love

A Picture Of His Redeeming Love
©2009, Chantelle Henderson

Jeremiah 31:3 (Amplified)

"…..Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you."

One A.M. I sit in silence after reading perhaps one of the best pieces of literature (fiction or non-fiction) my eyes have ever beheld, and honored that besides the Bible, the best book I've ever read.  It literally brought me to my knees as I was unable to sit on my comfy chair.  I had to kneel and just weep.  Tears of joy at the revelation that my Heavenly  Papa has pursued me for redemption before I was even conceived in my mother's womb.  The book was by Author Francine Rivers, and the title, Redeeming Love.  It's based on one of the books in the Bible, Hosea.  The basics of Hosea is that of a story in which a man named Hosea, who was near perfection with a heart only for pleasing God was instructed by Him to marry a prostitute.  But it's so much more than that.

Oddly enough, just last Friday night I was speaking at a women's retreat where I was delivering my testimony, as well as praying for women who battled all sorts of skeletons in their closets.  Some were from years ago, cuts and wounds that were never treated and has spread like cancer throughout their souls, and others with more recent battles.  During this time of ministry, I also told of His relentless pursuit of us – that He goes through unspeakable measure to bring us back to His keeping no matter how clean or messy our lives are.  Yet, after reading Redeeming Love, there are no words that can explain that for which there are none.  It's in my prayer/reading room that I sat there, unable to put this book down.  Why?  It was my own story – a mirror I was looking at.  I cannot explain in mere words and give the powerful effects of this book the justice it deserves, but I will at least attempt to, knowing I will fall short.

You see, before I ever even heard the story of Hosea or the term "Redeeming Love" in the way of a book or Christian term, I'd always described my marriage to Ryan as "A Picture Of God's Redeeming Love".  I always called it that because it was the closest thing to my heart that I felt was a gift from God manifested in the natural – something tangible – that was an example of unconditional love and acceptance that I'd never experienced until I married Ryan.  It gave me such a clear picture of Heavenly Papa's unconditional love for me!!!! 

In my hand at one o'clock in the morning, my tear-filled eyes and shaking hands held the last page of a book that would explain why I was driven to call my marriage "A Picture Of God's Redeeming Love". 

Let me start from the beginning, sparing you most of the sordid and raw details of my life, which is that of an innocent childhood lost.  I will just begin with the first time I laid eyes on Ryan Henderson.  He stood out in His Atlanta Olympics security guard uniform in the very back of the church.  He was standing at the request of our pastor at the time, for anyone participating in any capacity in the Olympics to stand so they could be recognized for their service.  I was in the very front row.  I sat looking pretty on the outside, but feeling stained, broken, and discarded on the inside.  I was a single mom who smoked 1 and a half packs of cigarettes a day, had just gotten a DUI two weeks prior and possessed a heart of stone.  From all appearances I was a beautiful, young, funny, vibrant woman of God – handmaiden of the Lord, if you will – pure as the white driven snow, yet as dirty as filthy rags on the inside.  Believe it or not, I, of all people, due to a gap in leadership at the time headed up the singles ministry!!!  I'm still asking God to explain that one to me although now I think I have a clearer understanding.  LOL.

My girlfriends who knew he was single were teasing me and telling me that I HAD to go up and give this stranger my phone number, justifying that it was my responsibility to do so, being head of the singles ministry.  Well, the one thing I praise God for is one of my greatest strengths, and at times, greatest weakness, is my boldness and ability to be straightforward.  Before I knew it I was handing this tall, dark, and handsome eye candy, oops….I mean man, my phone number, explaining to him that I was the leader of the singles ministry and if he wanted to find out more to call me.  He told me later than he and his friend that was with him got into an argument as to whether or not I was hitting on Him, so I guess I was more obvious than I'd intended to be.  Much to my shock and amazement, the phone rang and there on the other end was the sweetest, yet commanding voice I'd ever heard from a man.  It was the guy from church I'd given my number to.  I was clumsy with my words and just knew he was doing it out of the pure motive of finding out about the church's singles ministry.  I could not have been more wrong.  He wanted to talk to me.  Just me.  Somehow, we spoke for four hours that night without my past ever coming up.  I can't explain that one because that's all I knew.  Ryan says it was a conversation filled with a lot of talking about the word and God and my beliefs.  He was captivated by what I was telling him and teaching him about the Word of God and how life-changing a true relationship with Him could be, yet I was not walking it out.  Oh!  I knew church and protocol, and the word backwards and forwards, but for the life of me, could not get past my past enough to allow it to bring restoration and healing to my own life and heart.  The next thing I know, this man is asking ME out on a date.  What!!!???  Was he crazy, delusional, or just plain stupid?  I didn't know what to think.  I didn't do a whole lot of dating at all once I became a single parent because, well, honestly, I had high standards that no man could meet.  I had unrealistic expectations, which I would later find out no mortal man could live up to, for there is a place in our hearts and lives reserved just for relationship with the Father – a place that HE and HE ALONE can fill.  I agreed to the date.

We sat there in the Olive Garden on Highway 78 in Snellville, Georgia, just talking up a storm.  Out of nowhere, that boldness thing just came out!  Before I knew it I was telling him my life story, every single gory detail, to this stranger.  I figured if I told him everything from 1971 to 1996, then I wouldn't have to worry about a second or third date and we could just move on with our lives.  You see, Ryan was a very strong Christian.  He was not perfect, but pretty darn close!  He'd never drank, smoked, or partied.  He was a 24 year old virgin.  I didn't even know what the word meant anymore!  He had never allowed himself to be influenced by the world and was totally sold out to the Lord.  He was strong in his faith and there was such a peace about him that I'd never seen and frankly, didn't quite know what to make of it.  We sat and talked for a while after that.  I was waiting and looking for him to scope and bail out the nearest exit, suddenly come up with the flu, get a call saying his great grandmother was dying (when she was already years gone by buried).  Something – anything to get him out of there.  But no…..he stayed.  Not only did he stay, but he said that when he went home that night, the night of our first date, and the Lord told him I was his wife!  WHAT???  I KNOW!!!  Take a deep breath.  That makes two of us who was shocked!  What in the world would he want or do with someone like me?   I  remember feeling an uneasiness about feeling unworthy of someone like him.  He'd dated his high school sweetheart for 5 years and I was the first woman he'd dated in a year and half since his breakup.  Unbelievable. 

Two weeks after that very first phone conversation we're sitting at the same Olive Garden.  I was messed up and was trying to pull my life together and within two weeks he's professing his love for me!  Every time he said I love you, I said it back.  I didn't feel it.  I just wanted him to be happy.  I wanted to be the one to make him happy but in the back of my mind, thought it would be impossible and that once he started processing all the horrible things I shared with him on our first date, he would come to his senses and leave – go away – just abandon me.  Side note.  When Ryan gets really nervous, his nose starts bleeding.  There we sat at the table with the white tablecloth and his nose started bleeding.   He excused himself and went to the bathroom.  By the time he got back, I saw a waiter with a camcorder and Ryan on one knee with a ring proposing.  "Why in the world would this man want to marry ME?"  With excitement and shock, I said yes, although in my heart, I still felt empty towards him.  He will make an excellent husband and a father anyone would be lucky to have in this lifetime.  I knew that my life with him would be good, but I just wouldn't allow myself to believe someone like him could love someone like me.  So, I shifted into gear.  Like a director producing a major show, I went about planning the wedding, registering at bridal shows, choosing a gown and finally the big day came 9 months later when we stood in front of almost 300 friends and family and said our vows.  It was a beautiful afternoon April wedding.  He knelt down and gave Chris a necklace vowing to be his father (Chris hasn't ever met his birthfather and we've had no contact since he was 6 weeks old, even to this day).  We looked like the perfect couple, but God could not have put two more OPPOSITE people together.  I thought our marriage was (and still is) proof that He really does have a sense of humor.  Once the church emptied and the car pulled up and we got in and drove off, I was immediately gripped with fear and uncertainty at what I'd just done.  The production was over and the love I so desperately wanted to have for him was still nowhere to be found.  During our time dating, I quit drinking and smoking.  I made changes on the outside trying to live up to the image of the woman and wife I thought he wanted and deserved, but was miserable the whole time.  He came back to our honeymoon suite that night to find that I'd been drinking and the next day saw me buy and light up a cigarette.  The old Chantelle had come back and I couldn't….I wasn't going to pretend anymore.  To my amazement, Ryan said nothing.  He simply said, "I love you.  No matter what, I love you."  This drove me CRAZY and not in a good way.  Well, by the 2nd night of our honeymoon, the honeymoon was over!  He was sleeping on the floor and I was calling my best friend from the Bahamas asking her how life was going.  Even she knew at this point that something was wrong.

Our first three years of marriage was pure hell…….because of me.  The more he pursued me, the more I did to push him away.  I was angry, bitter, and mean.  I was making him pay for what every other man who did unspeakable things to me did.  We separated twice and by the third time Ryan left, I thought for sure it was over.  I'll never forget him coming back home.  He said that he was in this marriage for life no matter what and that if it was going to fail, it would be because I left – that the Lord told Him to come back home and never to leave again.

Once again, I found myself trying to figure out why God gave me to him instead of a pure, untouched, "holy" woman – someone who would make him happy and not miserable, someone who actually loved him and was in love with him. 

It got to the point where I was so frustrated that no matter what I did, I could not make myself fall in love with this man.  I'll never forget the day I was sitting in our living room in our little ranch home.  I thought, "God, get me out of here.  I cannot see myself living with this man and growing old with him.  I want out.  I don't love him and no matter how hard I try, it's just not there.  Give him someone he deserves who will appreciate and love him and treat him like the mighty, awesome man of God he is."  Then this still small voice took me back to one of my favorite passages in the Bible known as the love chapter.  First Corinthians chapter 13.  "Take a pen and paper and write down each word that I define as love and get a dictionary and write as many words down as you can".  I thought, ok.  Fine.  I got to the first one, love is patient.  So I wrote, "love is uncomplaining, long-suffering, forbearing, resigned, passive, and calm. quiet, serene, unruffled, unexcited, self-possessed, composed." It was at that moment that I realized these were things that I had to CHOOSE to do.  I'd always heard the term, "Love is a decision, not a feeling".  Never had that statement become so clear to me as that day I sat for hours going through each word given in 1 Corinthians 13 that defines love.  By the time I was done, I was on my knees admitting to myself and God that these are not things that come natural to me.  They are not really part of my characteristics and that I could not do it alone.  I needed Him as never before.  I recognized my need for His grace and surrendered my heart to Him, but something was different this time.  Yes, I was born again at 9, and knew the scripture inside out, but because of my past, the horrible things I done and things done to me, I allowed the enemy of my soul to eat at me from the inside out and make me believe that I could never be whole or even worthy of Ryan's love.  Day by day (not an overnight process) I began to not only choose to love Ryan, but I was falling madly in love with him.  He was a great man of patience while I was trying to figure things out.  But even he began to see changes.  He noticed my temper was calm – that I wouldn't pick a fight with him – that the drinking stopped and the smoking stopped.  One day at a time, one revelation at a time, one surrendering a part of my past to the Lord at a time, I began to see myself becoming the woman, wife, and mother of God I was created to be.

I came to a point where I was finally able to sit down with Ryan and tell him everything.  Why I'd felt so closed off and cold towards him.  The fact that when we got married, I didn't love him.  I asked and begged for his forgiveness for the way I'd treated him and promised to do whatever it took to continue my path of wholeness and healing.  To my surprise, he took me into his arms, held me tight and said, "It's ok.  I love you.  I have from day one.  You will always be my bride.  I will always see you as a mighty woman of God and if you'll let me, I'll help you."  We both sat there exchanging our salty tears and beholding the beauty of the Lord knitting our hearts together as one. 

Ryan became my best friend.  My lover.  My promise of life more abundant.  BUT NOT MY GOD!  He (God) would not allow it.  Once I fell in love with him, I started to go way over on the other side and began to make Ryan an idol.  The Lord was so gracious and gentle in revealing this to me, and I knew that He was the ONLY One who could truly restore me to wholeness.  I got in the word because the only thing that could and still does keep me on the right path is my faith and belief in the Heavenly Papa I serve.  The word says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17) and that we must renew our minds daily (Romans 12:2).

Our marriage motto, as we call it, is "WE CHOOSE US."  Recognizing that love is a decision and there will be days we don't feel it, but we always have a choice.  If I'm lyin' I'm dyin' - Neither Ryan, nor I am perfect and God knows we have our days, yet, he still remains the love of my life.  It amazes both of us to look back at 13 years and realize how far the Lord has brought us and that we truly are one of those couples that other people look at and say, "Gosh, if I could have a marriage like that."  But it's not an act or a fa├žade.  It's what it is as much behind closed doors as it is in public.  I don't say that to sound "puffed up", but to show God's faithfullness to a stony heart that is yeilded to Him - given to him to change into a heart of flesh.  (Ezekiel 36:26) ALL glory be to Heavenly Daddy!

So what does all this have to do with the book?  I finally understand why I called our marriage a picture of God's redeeming love.  Ryan had so much reason to leave me and end our marriage.  And yet he stayed.  He had so many reasons he could have chosen someone else.  Yet he chose me.  He loved me, even when I couldn't stand the sight of him.  When I was mean as a hornet, he sat there patiently waiting for me to calm down.  When I would drink or smoke and throw it around in his face, He loved and accepted me anyway.  There was NOTHING I could do to make Ryan stop loving me.  Surely, it was God's grace and mercy that enabled him to remain steadfast in that love.  It reminds me of Someone who is truly the Lover Of Our Soul.  Some call Him God or Heavenly Father.  Others call him Yahweh.  I choose to call Him Daddy or Papa, knowing that He desires for us to approach Him like little children. 

I, Chantelle, had to die to my old nature.  I was beginning to get it.  John 12:24 & 25 in the Amplified says this:   "24I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains [just one grain; it never becomes more but lives] by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest.  25Anyone who loves his life loses it, but anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. [Whoever has no love for, no concern for, no regard for his life here on earth, but despises it, preserves his life forever and ever.].  The old, bitter, hateful, angry Chantelle had to die.  If I had not, I would have never found the joy of an abundant life.  I would have remained alone in my self-pity and on my one-main island of hatred and resentment.  But when I surrendered those broken, wounded, hurt places, life as I knew it died.  He gave me a new life and a new beginning.  And now I am partaking in a harvest of a life full of joy, peace, and fulfillment.  I have a harvest of 2 children and a husband that I love with an indescribable love.  God has given me the harvest of ministry to women, who like me, deemed themselves unlovable and abandoned. 

He is so faithful.  "Well, Chantelle, what about all the stuff you went through and suffered?".  My answer to that is simple.  Years ago I made a decision.  I spent so much time asking why.  Why, Lord?  Why did you let this happen or that happen?  Why didn't you protect me?  Why did I have to go through all that? Once I realized and accepted that on this side of eternity there is so much we will never know or be able to explain, and quite frankly may still not know once we cross over into eternity from this earthly realm, I quit asking Why and started asking How?  How can I use all this to bring You glory and honor?  How can I tell people of Your ability to heal and deliver no matter what we've been through in life?  How can I share with others how you made me complete and whole again?

We're not in that little ranch house anymore.  But when I look across the room, I look at Ryan Henderson and can't imagine my life without him.  It's the same feeling and reality when I look up to the heavens at an all-knowing, consuming, pursing Father who is able to turn our beauty into ashes, our sorrow into laughter, and has not left us comfortless.  He went to such great depths to prove His love that He sent His Only Son, Christ Jesus, to a brutal, awful death, so that all that the enemy meant for evil in my life could be turned around for good and to His glory.  He redeemed everything the enemy tried to steal from me – my joy, my peace, even my very life.  That doesn't mean I don't face battles or have "off" days, or am a nun – Lord knows!!!!  It just means that I've accepted His love for me and His forgiveness and His mercy.  He has restored me to wholeness and given me the capacity to share my story with others so that they may be free from the guilt and shame of their past.  His love for us truly is a story of REDEEMING LOVE.

Below are some scriptures having to do with redemption, forgiveness, restoration and healing.  May you be blessed by them and write them on the tablet of your heart, so that you will no more deal with the guilt and shame of your past or present.

These are scriptures that I have personally leaned on over and over again, knowing that each time I apply them to my life, it brings newness of purpose and eternal perspective.

Philippians 3:8-16 (Amplified)
8Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One),     9And that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law's demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed One), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith.     10[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]   11That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. 12Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. 13I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.     15So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also. 16Only let us hold true to what we have already attained and walk and order our lives by that.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (Amplified)
17Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!

Romans 5:19 (King James)
19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Hebrews 12:2 (Amplified)
2Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

II Corinthians 5:21 (King James)
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Galatians 3:13 (King James)
13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Hebrews 9 (King James)
12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.  13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:  14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Psalm 40:1-11 (Amplified)
1I WAITED patiently and expectantly for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.  2He drew me up out of a horrible pit [a pit of tumult and of destruction], out of the miry clay (froth and slime), and set my feet upon a rock, steadying my steps and establishing my goings. 3And He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many shall see and fear (revere and worship) and put their trust and confident reliance in the Lord. 4Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who makes the Lord his refuge and trust, and turns not to the proud or to followers of false gods.  5Many, O Lord my God, are the wonderful works which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; no one can compare with You! If I should declare and speak of them, they are too many to be numbered.   6Sacrifice and offering You do not desire, nor have You delight in them; You have given me the capacity to hear and obey [Your law, a more valuable service than] burnt offerings and sin offerings [which] You do not require.  7Then said I, Behold, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me; 8I delight to do Your will, O my God; yes, Your law is within my heart.  9I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great assembly [tidings of uprightness and right standing with God]. Behold, I have not restrained my lips, as You know, O Lord.      10I have not concealed Your righteousness within my heart; I have proclaimed Your faithfulness and Your salvation. I have not hid away Your steadfast love and Your truth from the great assembly. 11Withhold not Your tender mercy from me, O Lord; let Your loving-kindness and Your truth continually preserve me!

Isaiah 61:10 (Amplified)
10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Isaiah 61:1-3 (Amplified)
1THE SPIRIT of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound,  2To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favor] and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,   3To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion--to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit--that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

Psalm 51:10-17 (Amplified)
10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right, persevering, and steadfast spirit within me.  11Cast me not away from Your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me.  12Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.  13Then will I teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted and return to You. 14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness and death, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness (Your rightness and Your justice).     15O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. 16For You delight not in sacrifice, or else would I give it; You find no pleasure in burnt offering.  17My sacrifice [the sacrifice acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart [broken down with sorrow for sin and humbly and thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise.

Psalm 73:21-26 (Amplified)
21For my heart was grieved, embittered, and in a state of ferment, and I was pricked in my heart [as with the sharp fang of an adder].   22So foolish, stupid, and brutish was I, and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.   23Nevertheless I am continually with You; You do hold my right hand.   24You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to honor and glory.   25Whom have I in heaven but You? And I have no delight or desire on earth besides You.   26My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the Rock and firm Strength of my heart and my Portion forever.

Hebrews 4:15-16 (Amplified)
15For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. 16Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God's unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].

Psalm 139 (Amplified)
1O LORD, you have searched me [thoroughly] and have known me.  2You know my downsitting and my uprising; You understand my thought afar off.  3You sift and search out my path and my lying down, and You are acquainted with all my ways.    4For there is not a word in my tongue [still unuttered], but, behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.  5You have beset me and shut me in--behind and before, and You have laid Your hand upon me.  6Your [infinite] knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high above me, I cannot reach it.  7Where could I go from Your Spirit? Or where could I flee from Your presence?   8If I ascend up into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol (the place of the dead), behold, You are there.      9If I take the wings of the morning or dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,     10Even there shall Your hand lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. 11If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me and the night shall be [the only] light about me,    12Even the darkness hides nothing from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.  13For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother's womb. 14I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth! Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well.  15My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery].   16Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.   17How precious and weighty also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!  18If I could count them, they would be more in number than the sand. When I awoke, [could I count to the end] I would still be with You.   19If You would [only] slay the wicked, O God, and the men of blood depart from me-- 20Who speak against You wickedly, Your enemies who take Your name in vain!  21Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And am I not grieved and do I not loathe those who rise up against You? 22I hate them with perfect hatred; they have become my enemies.   23Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!   24And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (Amplified)
13So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you.  14For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15For Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named [that Father from Whom all fatherhood takes its title and derives its name].   16May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality].  17May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, 18That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God's devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; 19[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!  20Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]-- 21To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it).

Romans 12 (Amplified)
1I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.    2Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].      3For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him. 4For as in one physical body we have many parts (organs, members) and all of these parts do not have the same function or use, 5So we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ (the Messiah) and individually we are parts one of another [mutually dependent on one another]. 6Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith; 7[He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching; 8He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness.  9[Let your] love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil [loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness], but hold fast to that which is good.   10Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another.  11Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord.    12Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer.  13Contribute to the needs of God's people [sharing in the necessities of the saints]; pursue the practice of hospitality.  14Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them.  15Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others' joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others' grief].   16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits.  17Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is honest and proper and noble [aiming to be above reproach] in the sight of everyone.  18If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.    19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God's] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord.   20But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.   21Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (master) evil with good. 

Psalm 27 (Amplified)
1THE LORD is my Light and my Salvation--whom shall I fear or dread? The Lord is the Refuge and Stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?  2When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.  3Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, [even then] in this will I be confident. 4One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple.  5For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His shelter; in the secret place of His tent will He hide me; He will set me high upon a rock.  6And now shall my head be lifted up above my enemies round about me; in His tent I will offer sacrifices and shouting of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. 7Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; have mercy and be gracious to me and answer me!  8You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]. 9Hide not Your face from me; turn not Your servant away in anger, You Who have been my help! Cast me not off, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation! 10Although my father and my mother have forsaken me, yet the Lord will take me up [adopt me as His child].  11Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain and even path because of my enemies [those who lie in wait for me].  12Give me not up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen up against me; they breathe out cruelty and violence.     13[What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living! 14Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.

Ephesians 4:22-32 (Amplified)
22Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion;     23And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude],  24And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God's image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness.   25Therefore, rejecting all falsity and being done now with it, let everyone express the truth with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one body and members one of another.   26When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down.   27Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him].   28Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need.  29Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God's favor) to those who hear it.  30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [do not offend or vex or sadden Him], by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God's own, secured) for the day of redemption (of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin).   31Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind).    32And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I didn't write this but HAD to pass it on.........


A young couple moves into a new neighborhood.
The next morning while they are eating breakfast,
The young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside.
"That laundry is not very clean", she said.
"She doesn't know how to wash correctly.
Perhaps she needs better laundry soap."
Her husband looked on, but remained silent.
Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry,
The young woman would make the same comments.
About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a
Nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband:
"Look, she has learned how to wash correctly.
I wonder who taught her this."
The husband said, "I got up early this morning and
Cleaned our windows."
And so it is with life. What we see when watching others
Depends on the purity of the window through which we look.