Simply Come...

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and pow’r.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.

Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies;
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?

Lo! th’ incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.

Joseph Hart, 1759


Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am; Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be thine, yea, thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

~Charlotte Elliot, 1800's

First Things

CS Lewis said, "Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things."

Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God - (pursue the right standing with God that comes through Jesus Christ, His favor, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost ) and all these things will be added to you."

The church, in general, has been preoccupied with second things. Whole conferences, books, and programs are geared to groom, adjust, and "fix" the second things. Consequently, we are without affect, without power, in both first and second things. Since we may not be presently encountering the God of all grace, in His majestic fullness, we get preoccupied or satisfied with lesser agendas. Or, worse, we become bored and slightly annoyed with life.

A. W. Tozer said, "The only healthy emotions are those aroused by great ideas."

We are stewards of the greatest Plan, the greatest Mystery, the greatest Idea in the history of this earth. The gospel is the First Thing. It not only changes your destiny, it can deeply affect your day. The holy passion that the gospel can give us, cannot exist apart from the New Covenant.

Second things have to be managed...watched...worried over. First things can only be received and celebrated. Second things become successful through God-given human ability, first things are successful no matter what. First things are the gift of God. Amazingly, first things have a way of making sure second things prosper by the same grace.

Jesus, the First and Last. The Beginning and the End. When He, Himself, and all He is and can give, becomes our "first thing", suddenly everything, from A to Z takes its proper place. Finances. Relationships. Health. No secondary thing becomes the first thing - so we are not devastated when the inevitable problems arise. The Word of God suddenly becomes the Primary Thing, as we read that No, nothing...can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.

Nagging fears, niggling irritations, all our stuff" begins to be pushed farther and farther down the list of priorities. It isn't that a First Things Person minimizes sin - rather, they maximize grace. A First Things Person is completely sold on the idea of overcoming evil with good. We turn our eyes upon Jesus, and the things of this world, the good, the bad, and the indifferent, become all alike so strangely dim.

He didn't save me to make me better, more educated, respectably socialized, or well spoken. He saved me because He set His great love upon me, and is intent on forming His Son in me, by first making me the righteousness of God in Christ. He didn't save me to make everything in my life serve my purposes. He didn't save me to make me someones wife, or someones mother.

He saved me because He wants a people for His glory. He wants my life to be a reflection of His beauty, and He is determined to enable me to be a carrier of His care, concern, and power to anyone and everyone who is needy.

You wouldn't believe all the "second things" He throws in, free of charge.

Of Weddings and True Community

Today, say the authors of Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding, "the lavish wedding allows participants to experience unabashed magic in their lives, and to spend freely to achieve that magic, without a guilt hangover the next morning." The question here is: do you really want to spend over $50,000 for your special day, when you can't really afford it, making you pay off debt for years to come...

~snippet from the website

My Hannah and her Justin became engaged on November 8, 2008. We are thrilled, and we gave them our unqualified blessing.

Instantly, every latent joy and insecurity that has ever floated around in my head, lo' these last 21 years, came clamouring to the front of the line, shouting and waving, demanding my full attention. The word "deserve" was what was being loudly bandied about, by competing insecurities: this daughter of mine "deserves" the best.

So she does. Without question. And doesn't grace give us "better than we deserve"?

My first dream for both my daughters was that they walk with the Lord. God, and God alone, has given me my heart's desire. I had nothing to do with it. My very next dream was that they each marry a true man of God. I am watching that take place before my very eyes, and it is good.

But here is where things begin to get sticky. As a family who has always managed on one income, always blessed, but never "comfortable" financially speaking, I didn't realize how deeply I feared being unable to provide the sort of wedding every girl (and her mother) dreams of, and what every Godly, parent-honoring daughter "deserves".

Enter the body of Christ.

I was looking at every way we could possibly afford to do this all by ourselves, so that our whole church could simply attend the wedding and reception, and enjoy it. We could have done exactly that. We could have utilized our credit card, with its roomy, more than adequate amount of available credit, and we could have paid a few strangers to do all the work for us. We could have done it ourselves in cash, by reducing it all to the simplest terms possible, still asking very little of anyone else in Harvest. We wanted them to be able to "just enjoy" the event. That was our heart… but our hearts can be deceiving. They can be preening (overly conscious of what others think), or cultural (overly conscious of “how it is always done”), or simply non-artistic and uncreative. I don’t pretend to even KNOW my own heart completely. I am still surprising myself with what I find there.

I could not figure out why there was no peace in the "do it ourselves" plan. I could not get my brain to function in the direction of cultural norms. I found myself longing to have the sort of false affluence that could pay for a few flashy bells and whistles; all the while knowing that I am rich, in a few ways money can buy, and rich in all ways that money cannot buy.

My definitions of affluence, peace, and happiness are being re-worked completely. Transition tends to do that to a woman. Tim and I both function from a place of deep conviction. We know in Whom we have believed, and it touches every aspect of our lives. This wedding, along with all the transition in our family, and some of the conflict with our sons, their character training, and their college education - it all has forced me to look at what I really think about personal peace, affluence, and happiness.

So we acknowledged our wedding ineptitude, and our dilemma. Instantly, the body of Christ lovingly rallied - not out of any sense of obligation, but with a sense of celebration! Folks, we have ourselves an official Scottish Penny Wedding in the works!

There is peace in this plan. And the more I consider it, the more I realize: weddings (all celebrations, really) are meant for the church. They ARE the church. All of human history will culminate in a celestial wedding.

A wedding was never meant to be some cultural thing, a parade of false affluence, followed by divorce in a few years. They are not meant to be an event with jobs hired out to various bidders, and where paid "professionals" set the agenda. And here I am….a Bible teacher….I’ve taught this stuff. I've taught that every Godly celebration consists of two ingredients: 1) Remembering, and 2) Honoring

I was forgetting my own learning. Don’t we all???

Remembering. Honoring. That’s it. Search your Scriptures and see if this is not true. The manner in which a family remembers and honors is up to them….but the Atchleys cannot separate themselves from the Body of Christ at Harvest. We are them, and they are us, in a way.

Deep down, I guess neither Hannah nor I could actually conceive of a celebration that wasn’t a community thing. We couldn't make the attempt to impress our church family - we long too much to be loved by them.

We thought we were operating “in community” because we were planning on having a dear, life long friend bake the cake and cupcakes, and and another life long friend take the pictures, and one of our precious men do the videography. We thought that was community enough. But apparently, community means COM (with) UNITY (togetherness, unity)…showing the watching world how the family of God celebrates, as each one brings a part, and all who want to be a part, can be an integral, needed part.

No one will be patronized during this event. The need is sincere, and so is the gratitude. Hannah and I are to TRUST the body of Christ with all of it.

This feels vulnerable and humbling. Isn’t that wonderful? Lately, I can never get out of that place. I'm beginning to believe I don't want out.

God is teaching me, down into my depths. As usual, I promise to be very transparent about it, and communicate my way through the whole experience.

Mt. Sinai or Zion?

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD...

I took time to hear Joe Ewen's message, "Come", preached in Harvest Church on January 21st of this year. I mentioned it in yesterday's blog, at the very end. (I won't ask you to do something I am unwilling to do myself.) I had not heard it again, other than the night he first preached it, when I wrote yesterday's piece. But it was heavy on my spirit to listen to it again. So I finished blogging, hit "publish", and then re-played the Scotsman's sermon.

It is a lavish message of grace. I was deeply encouraged, because by the mouths of two or three, every word is established. The compass of Harvest Church, in this season, is established.

Interestingly, it occurred to me how often I have heard the Scripture (at the top of the blog) preached as though thundering from heaven. It occurred to me, with a bit of disappointment, that some might listen to Joe's great sermon, and that one portion of Scripture will be what they hone in on. Sad.

Let's put this portion in context with its own chapter, and the chapters preceding. Context is everything. I've heard it said that a text, taken out of CONtext will con you, every time. You will be ripped off and deceived. Too bad many of us have grown up, spiritually, with bits and pieces taught to us out of context. It makes for a shakey foundation.

Here is the immediate context, before and after:

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

This is a message from Mt. Zion! How is it, that some only hear Sinai's thunder? This passage begins and ends in grace. What fool wouldn't want to turn from where he is, presently, and go where the wine and the milk are free? I'd change my mind in a New York Minute, to receive the sure mercies of David, abundant pardon, and to be led forth with peace, with trees clapping their hands for me. That sort of kindness has already led me to many a repentence.

Well, I am out of time. I wanted to further place the "let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts" into the flow of the whole chapters preceding Isaiah 55, where it is found. I suppose that will be another blog for another day.

Suffice it to say, its huge. Huge, huge grace. Unfathomable covenant mercy. Context is everything. I am intent on putting all of Scripture, every verse, in the context of the character of God and the reality of the New Covenant - because Christ was THE PLAN, from before the foundation of the world. Everything God said and did, from Adam to us, has been with His glory and our redemption in mind. It is certainly not a stretch to put all Scripture in that context.

A Rugged Grace

All the sermons taught and preached regarding the gospel of God, the grace of God, are stirring incredible conversations in my church. This thrills my husband, and it thrills me. The majority are receiving revelation and, in their words, are "breaking free, bit by bit...chains are falling off of me." Some are reveling in truths they've seen before, but can't get too much of. Some are wrestling, straining at parts, not really the whole. It's all good. Wrestling, even, is fine - it is part of the process! Certainly, we've seen it before, and we've seen amazing growth come from it. In fact, wrestling can be healthy, when a man wrestles for blessing, refusing to let God go until it comes.

Almost all are joining the conversation, and this is such a precious thing! Tim and I intend to guard the safety of the believers to open their hearts to one another, without fear of being sidetracked into conflict. Few things are more important. Honest dialogue (versus contentious argument) is the heart of every true believer - it is the very essence of the teaching style of Jesus, and the very spirit of the Epistles. Mature believers can winsomely discuss truths that are primary.

Human hearts, what they think and what they believe, matter so much to the Father. He is always out to adjust what we are thinking and believing, because not one of us has arrived at full revelation.

Harvest has always been a safe place to receive or wrestle, celebrate or strain, join in or sit it out, hide or seek. We have nothing to impart to each other, other than that which Christ has wrought in us anyway! The messages we have been hearing are revealing to us just how much has truly been done IN us, as opposed to merely just how much has been heard BY us, over all the years we've been in church.

This is where the grace of God gets rugged. Grace and "personal peace and affluence" are not the same things. Grace does not seek our happiness as a "first thing", it seeks our restoration. Joy and happiness are secondary things...always by-products of a fully favored soul, restored and redeemed by the costly blood of Christ. Amazingly, we are discovering that the message of the gospel does not always initially bring "happiness" even to the saved. The gospel can stir us and poke us at our foundation, revealing weakening beliefs we've had, that we'd rather gloss over. We so much prefer to be thought of as having it all together, sometimes. I know I sure do.

This is why I am going to be the first and the last to always declare, "I am undone!" It keeps my heart in check, and keeps me on the receiving end of what my prophet friend Joe Ewen said would be "great grace displayed in my life."

Our opinions about 'happiness' need re-thinking from the ground, up. My hope to feel happy is normal, but if I am to follow the footsteps of Christ, in order to know happiness, I am going to encounter the fellowship of His suffering at times.

Here is what I am getting at: Grace does not mean that we absolutely must feel whole and happy, secure and complete, before we get around to loving God and loving others. Why is this?

Because, in grace, I am complete in Him already. By grace, through faith, I am complete in every conceivable way. Jesus Christ is my sufficiency..."my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."

Therefore, I can get about the happy and difficult business of the kingdom. I can start letting people in, rather than always, ever-gradually shutting them out. I will be able to point to life-long friends, and know we are trophies of unifying grace. I can have honest fellowship, rather than the false sort, that rallies around only those who comfortably share my opinion.

After all, other than what Christ has wrought in me, all I have to show you is my brokenness and ineptitude - and that is all you have to show me. I don't care who you are, or what you have accomplished, you are undone and inept without Christ. Would you like me to show you just where? I am certain you could show me just where.

So we're safe with each other, whether you act like it or not.

The more I own up to my inherent human ineptitude, with my brothers and sisters in community, the more Christ is magnified in us all. There is such a safety to the verity of "Christ in you" and "Christ in me". This means there is...oh, there is....there is Someone valuable and good - of inestimable value - in me and in you. Christ in the believer is not a metaphor, it is every bit as real as the clay feet that walked the earth, and were nailed to a cross. I can celebrate THAT. I can look for what - or rather, Who - is right about you, and not what is wrong. I can relate to you from the foundation of grace.

Rugged realities, these. Some cannot yet see the value of brokenness and radical grace, because their own abilities are keeping things together quite well for them....for now. But those who encounter Rugged Grace are free to let go of personal peace, cheap happiness, and false affluence, to embrace a sweetness and depth of Christian community, based on the reality of our inability, and His sufficiency...a Christian community that has real power.

True transformation - spiritual, moral, relational and otherwise, is inevitable in a setting like that.

Come....all who are thirsty. Just come.

(see, audio resources page, Joe Ewen's message entitled "Come" from January 21st of this year...)

"Take Two of These and Call Me in the Morning..."

God's prescription for God's Peace:

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!
Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
(Phil. 4: 6,7)

I call this passage my “emotional health” passage, because “mental health” IS emotional health. We see a stunning promise, preceded by some gentle conditions. If you’ll indulge me, I have a few thoughts about these verses – nothing cerebral, mind you. I have been living these words lately, not merely memorizing them or pondering them. I am experiencing these realities in fresh ways.

We’re told that the peace of God, a peace that surpasses our human capacity to obtain , has ultimate and final power to guard our heart and mind through Jesus. That word “guard” means both to protect from hostile invasion – to keep evil outside the walls - and to keep what is inside the walls from “taking flight”.

Enemies kept out; mind and heart kept safely inside.

This tells me two things right away – my thoughts and emotions are under threat of hostile invasion. So are yours. If the danger were not real, I would need no guard. No one is immune to lurking invaders, ever seeking to rob us of our sense of wholeness, and to vandalize our relationships with others, marring whatever beauty that formerly existed.

Secondly, I also need supernatural help to keep my thoughts inside the guarding walls of God. Without Him, I could, quite literally, “lose” my mind. Without the ever watchful vigilance of a Peace outside myself, a peace surpassing my human ability to obtain, my mind could “take flight” on me.

Just a few prerequisites exist – gentle admonitions. Do you really want supernatural peace? How badly do you need it? Are you willing to take a few simple steps towards it?

The first step is to “rejoice in the Lord always”. No one can rejoice in the Lord “always” without always gazing at His character and nature, and His character and nature were summed up and fully expressed in Christ. Jesus’ life, His finished work on the cross, followed by His powerful resurrection reveal realities so profound, I could meditate on these things “always”, every day, for the rest of my life, and not exhaust the possibilities for celebration and transformation.

If you are sitting under preaching that exalts Christ, that paints consistent pictures of the beauty of His grace, and repeatedly brings you THE good news (not just “any” good news) – you are among the blessed minority. Rejoicing in the Lord “always” will come considerably easier to you, when you are always confronted with the gospel.

The next condition to receiving this promise of a guarding peace is a no brainer. If there is no peace in our relationships, there is no peace in our minds. This next step has everything to do with relationships. I can’t resist how Eugene Peterson worded this verse in his paraphrase, “The Message”:

Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”

This is such common sense! If the saints of God would follow this one admonition, there would be far fewer offenses. There would be much less tension, and no difference of opinion would be insurmountable. Friendships would flourish, and the peace of God would guard them – keeping the vandals firmly outside our walls. We could relax with one another….trust the Jesus in one another. There would be no need to resort to convoluted manipulation, no room for affection to grow cold. Our love of the brethren would be bursting with sincerity.

Many can quote Philippians 4:5 – few endeavor to live in it. And we wonder why we don’t experience peace.

The final steps are simple – but don’t confuse simple with “easy”. We’re told not to be anxious about anything, but rather to use every reason to worry as an excuse to ask God for help. At this point in my life, if I were to take every anxious thought, and turn it into supplication, I would truly fulfill the call to “pray without ceasing”.

But it isn’t just prayer that brings supernatural, guarding peace. Somehow, thanksgiving is transformational. A grateful heart has power to put every anxious thought into perspective. Gratitude alone will change your life, and mine. It will scoop us out of our depression, it will get us up out of our beds, it will inspire us to kiss our spouse and mean it, it will make us aware that to have one friend is a gift beyond all measure – a gift to be held close to the heart.

I’m thinking that God’s prescription for God’s peace is somehow a small reflection of how the Godhead lives. God is saying, “Do what I do. I rejoice in the Son. The Spirit rejoices in the Son. The Son rejoices in the Father. I am on the side of the saint, always. If I am for you, who can be against you? Why not imitate me, and be on someone’s side for a change? It might be more fun to be “for” someone, instead of “against” something. I, the Lord, am angry with the sinner – I will never be angry with a saint. I am at peace with you, so be at peace amongst yourselves. I am near you, so draw one another near in your hearts. I, the Lord, never experience lack or need or emptiness – thus I do not know anxiety in any form. Come to Me with your empty cup, and I will become to you both your portion AND your cup."

Such Shalom! Such freedom!

I need the peace of God. The peace in which the mysterious Trinity eternally dwells is unruffled, unthreatened, relaxed, relating, healthy and whole and happy. That’s God. It stuns me past expression to realize that I can dwell in that same peace.

It. Is. Available.

My "Baby" Turns 16 !

Yesterday, March 11th, Isaac (the baby of the family) turned sixteen. How is it, that my youngest is that old?

He opened his gifts from the family earlier in the week, and a few more gifts yesterday morning...a hamster and tricked-out cage from Sarah (Isaac named the little guy "Rhino"), clothes and "cool" sunglasses from Hannah, more clothes from brother Josiah, and a new cell phone/MP3 player from mom and dad.

Then, we invited the youth group to our home, yesterday evening, and treated them to a bonfire, pizza, and birthday cake.

Today, I recover. ::smile::

He had been waiting for this all morning...

A Card from Hannah...

Opening his gift from mom and dad (who is looking on, with obvious fatherly love...)

The little boy still peeks out of the face of the near-man...

Friends Kevin and Phillip, at the youth group gathering, at our house last night...

SOME of our guests, packed in our dining room (there were more teens behind me!)

"Make a wish!"

Icing is the best part, you know...

The "Baby"...

What Does God Give? (On an Almost Wordless Wednesday)...

Ps 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

Today At My House...

The bedclothes got changed out from fall/winter, to spring/summer today. Ahhhhh!

Spring, outside my window...

A carpet of fairy-flowers!

Our Tennessee state flower (the iris) pushing up through the soil

The promise of things to come

Sunshine and poetry

The bluebirds have nested here!

The Standard Has Been Raised Higher...

I understand those in the body of Christ who, through bad past experiences, or their own secret sin, are anxious about the grace message - nervous that suddenly, everyone is going to go around sinning with gleeful abandon. Or even sinning with slightly less guilt. Guilt is one of the best manipulators known to man - a very effective, though temporary, behavior modification tool, is it not?

One of the things I hear is that, "Christ raised the standard - therefore grace raises the standard of behavior, it never lowers it!"

You are exactly right.

Listen. Few people hate sin more than a pastor (and his wife). Few people have seen the ravages of it the way we have. Because of the sacred nature of "clergy confidentiality", we know stuff about people that no one else knows. My husband knows things that I will never know. He will take certain information about people to his grave - it was spoken to him in confidence. We've seen things we can't talk about - so whatever you have heard about from probably isn't the half of it. Rest assured of that. We hate sin.

We'd be the last people to encourage home-wrecking, body- wrecking, relationship- wrecking behavior. But guilting people out of it will only suffice them in going right back to it, eventually. Manipulation and control only go so far, in the human spirit. Though seemingly effective, they are the poorest motivators in existence.

So yes, absolutely. Jesus "raised" the standard.

He made it absolutely unattainable. He made it impossibly high. He preached to those under the law as though they were....those under the law. He put the goal so far out of reach (light years away from their grasp!) that they would need some other recourse than their willpower.

According to Jesus, if a man glances a woman's way, with any inclination towards thinking she's hot....he is an adulterer. If I decide that a brother is an idiot, I am in danger of hellfire. (What's that smell????)

If I detest him, I am a murderer.

Let me tell you....I desperately need an old testament "city of refuge" (where "accidental murderers" could flee for safety) because I find myself detesting certain people - even a few so called Christians I've known. ( one in my church.) I also have days where I am convinced all the world are idiots except for me and my husband, and he is questionably wise. I have days like that. And don't think I don't mean it. I do. Which means the flames of hell are one-eighth of an inch from my behind.

If you think you can meet the so-called "higher standard of grace" are an....idiot.


There I go again. See? I need a city of refuge today, I need a saving from hellfire, and I have not even had my lunch yet. This day is not over.

Thank God, Hebrews 6 says this: ...that we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast...

Don't think for one minute that those Hebrews did not know exactly what Paul meant when he talked about fleeing for refuge. Oh...they knew.

Christ - my refuge from my insufficiency. Christ, my substitution. His obedience to that impossible standard has become MY obedience. There simply is no other way to look at it. If that makes some people apply grace incorrectly - that is a reflection of their own unbelieving heart. I refuse to modify the beauty of the gospel to suit fallen, human idiots.

There I go again.

My Other Life... I am not always reading my Bible and scribbling footnotes to almost every verse. In my other life, I am a Scottish Penny Wedding Planner. (Go on...ask me about Scottish Penny Weddings!) Here is a tiny slice of my day (trust me...a very tiny slice...this doesn't show the half of it...the EIGHTH of it...will I make it to May 15th?)

"Where's the Tartan plaid ribbon?"

A pew, or in our case "row" of six. Made of peonies, in bloom mid-May, hydrangea, and Scottish heather...I made it myself.

::perky sniffff::

The mess that is constantly on my dining room table...

A bridesmaid's dress - the wedding will be "jewel toned"

This "So Great a Salvation"

So let's not even call it "grace". Even though the word "grace" is used more than one hundred twenty times in the New Testament, if it seems like overkill to hear me refer to the term "grace" so often, let's just lay that word aside. Let's call it "the gospel". Let's say that this "gospel" is meant for daily living, from the time I am saved until the day I die, this gospel is the power of God unto salvation...I am saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved, and "so great a salvation" it is!

This power is only as real to you as it is effective in you. Power is not a concept, it is active and living. "Energy" is the ability to do work, and Paul said that God's work was at work in him mightily. This work is that finished work of Christ. You'll have something to show for this work that God does!

We are so complete, in Him! More than a theoretical completeness, it is a completeness that makes you so rich in God, so fulfilled, you become an easy person to live with or be with.

We'll never outgrow our need to study this gospel, apply it, savor it, allowing it to come alive in us. This gospel is only as powerful in you, as it systematically touches your every insecurity, meets you at your most gaping inadequacy, and informs your daily decisions. It is active in you, to the direct proportion that you find yourself enabled to love the brethren, and I do not mean the ability to be patronizing - I mean actually seeing others, in some real way, as being better than yourself.

If you find yourself stuck in the same old insecurities, still struggling with an overwhelming sense of being inadequate as a wife, mother, daughter, or friend; if you find that God can change your eternal destiny, but He can rarely change your DAY, if you find yourself passionless in your marriage - or if you are someone who kicks people to the curb who disagree with you on incidentals...your heart becoming guarded and cold and distant....ah. That is not the gospel. The gospel is better than that, happier than that, fuller than that. Others can have their issues, but you don't have to have them. There is no need for such angst. You need a good gospel foundation, still.

I need it. I want it, I need it, and since I hunger and thirst for it, I am, over time, being filled.

Our good friend and mentor Neil Silverberg ( wrote a beautiful song, long ago, that encapsules this whole thing:

In the gospel
I have found all that I need!
Oh, in the gospel
If I only would believe,
Mercy flowing down from heaven
Oceans of His love!
I can't believe that the gospel's for free!
I can't believe what He started in me!
If I had ten thousand years to proclaim the gospel
Praise His name!

Regardless of how many years I have walked with the Lord, I stand in need of a Savior. I have areas of my life that deeply need to be touched by the power of the gospel.

Now. Let's go back to the word, first used in the New Testament by John, the disciple whom Jesus loved....the disciple closest to His heart (this is no coincidence!). Let's return to the word used by the great Apostle Paul:


Desiring God

I've not had time to read blogs lately. In fact, for many weeks, I have only skimmed them. No time to do what I call "lolly-blogging". Thankfully, I have good friends who send choice bits directly to my email box, and that is how I've recently spent any computer-research time I might have. I've been checking out the choice bits, already pre-screened for me by friends who know what I like!

I salivate and weep over the thought that some teachers have paid research staff. I rely on a few Dear Ones who keep an eye out for me. They are the best, and I want to thank them...they know who they are.

Far, far more than anything, in recent weeks (ask my man!) I've had my face buried in my Bible. I'm telling you, I almost don't come up for air! When I do come up for air, I am furiously scribbing with a pen, or I am blogging about what I've seen in the pages of Scripture. I'd be so excited to blog the pages and pages of hand written notes I have - nothing but thoughts and revelation as I've poured over Isaiah, Zechariah, Psalms and the Epistles. But two or three blog-articles, sent to my email of recent weeks, have piqued my interest. I try to save them for later, and hope to read them. One such article, was the piece I already posted in its entirety, by Blake Coffee on Earning the Privilege of Healing Each Other.

Here is another, by the enduring John Piper. I share a part of it here, it comes from his blog "Desiring God". I am smiling in utter satisfaction, because it matches many of my own thoughts regarding the same passage in Romans - want to see my notes??


If you have lucked out like me today, and have a window of time to read this whole message, it is well worth the investment. Entitled "All Things for Good, Part III", you'll find it at I have actually had time this evening to read the whole thing, every word.

Love. It.

Here is a portion:

"All things work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to his purpose."

So there are two things that must be true of us if this promise is to be ours. It does not come true for everybody. It comes true for those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose.

These are not two groups of people. This is one group of people with two things true of them: 1) they love God; 2) they are called according to his purpose. Why does Paul mention these two things instead of just one of them? Here is my suggestion.

If he had only said that all things work together for good for those who love God, it would have sounded like the promise rests on pretty flimsy ground. My love for God is a flimsy ground for this promise. It is an experience in my heart. And my heart is notoriously fickle and variable and weak. To make such a massive promise rest on such a fragile human experience alone would be to make a mountain rest on a marshmallow.

So Paul says, this promise does not just rest on your marshmallow heart, it rests on God’s calling and purpose. "All things work together for good . . . for those who are called according to his purpose." Here we have God’s work, not my experience. God’s call, not my consciousness. This is solid. This is divine. This is powerful and deep and strong.

But what if Paul had only said, "All things work together for good for those who are called"? Then we would want to ask, How do I know if I am called? We would want some sign that God has in fact done this great and powerful and wonderful thing: he has called me.

So Paul gives both. He tells us the objective, solid, divine work of God that makes the promise unshakeable: he called us according to his purpose. And he tells us what happened in us when God called us so that we can know it has happened: we love God and all that he is for us in Jesus Christ. So we have two things that must be true of us if this promise is to be ours. Our love is subjective, and God’s call is objective. Our love is our act, and God’s call is his act. Our love is an effect, and God’s love is the cause.

In other words, the call of God according to his purpose is part of the massive, deep, unshakeable foundation Paul is laying in
Romans 8 that keeps this promise from falling and makes it believable. You are not the key here. God is the key here. His work will keep this promise true for you, or it won’t be true for you. Because your love is too fragile and uncertain. But God’s call is not fragile and not uncertain. And it not only brought your love into being but will keep it in being so that the promise of Romans 8:28 will be true for you forever.

New Testament Letters

My husband and I talk of doctrine and proper Biblical interpretation. We dialogue issues of healing, Holy Spirit, predestination, grace, and the crying need in the church for teachers (and all saints) to read the Word of God in expository fashion. I learn a great deal from these discussions (he does too, I think...) and some of what Tim says, sends me headlong into Scripture, to "search out whether these things be true." I've been far too conditioned to believe that "if it sounds too good to be true, it IS too good to be true."

Not so, our God.

This week alone, I've determined not to even begin a book in the Bible, if I could not finish it at one sitting. I began in Romans last Sunday. Each day after that, I made my way through I and II Cor., Gal., Eph., Phil.,Col., I and II Timothy, I and II Thessalonians, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, I and II Peter, I, II, and III John and Jude.

My desire is to grasp the whole panoramic scope of the God-inspired epistles, written to ordinary Christians. I closed my Bible on Jude today, and after hours of reading these Epistles as whole bodies of work, I have come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit spent a great deal of time - most of the Epistles - grounding people in grace, in one form or another. (Peter talks of the "manifold" grace of God....many, many various expressions. You'll never exhaust your study of it.) Much effort was poured out to see to it that God's people would find a place of rest, with enlightened eyes and boundless hope.

Two things I know after looking at the New Testament epistles as a whole: you cannot separate the finished work of Christ from the body of Christ. You don't walk this stuff out alone - too much of the New Testament is dedicated to describing the effect of such Amazing Grace. Much of the New Testament speaks to the sort of living that "becometh" saints; rooted NOT in doing right for the sake of doing right, but all of it rooted in relationship and unfeigned love.

The other thing I know is that these things are not instantly understood. Putting a right foundation under people doesn't just happen, and it won't happen unless someone, on purpose, lays a foundation, or rebuilds it, or shores it up, depending on the need.

Peter even made the point in his epistle, and I paraphrase, that "Paul says things in his letters that are weighty and hard to be understood. But it isn't Paul's fault. The untaught and the unstable wrestle over ALL the Scripture, not just Paul's material"....and then Peter boldly says that all the wrestling some folks do, isn't healthy for them.

In the words of AW Tozer, and in my own experience (both of years past, and today), "We do not understand in order to believe. We believe in order to understand." God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Peter is all the proof text you need to assert that grace doctrines are not kiddie Christianity. These truths are basic to our faith, yes, but not at all are they some sort of "easy believe-ism". Our mind needs constant renewing with this Word of the all sufficiency of Christ, and we need to be taught how to walk in such a way that is becoming to "growth in grace". Little children in the faith, experience the removal of sin-consciousness. Little children.

Our spiritually "young men" have grown in grace to the point that they experience, in a very personal way, victory after victory over the evil one.

Our spiritual fathers have walked many years in these truths, they have experienced the very heart of God, and reproduced it. Fathers are able to see and to teach the grace of God in Scripture, from Genesis onward. They know Him who is who He says He is, and has always been this way from the beginning. Fathers have experienced the God of Eden ("He who was from the beginning") and the God of Mt. Zion and of Calvary's hill. They don't camp on Mt. Sinai.

Your human understanding can see glimmers of the truth, here and there, but without revelation, nothing of any substance is retained. You don't get this stuff with your human understanding. Without revelation, you will still be describing grace in very generic terms, with no radical shift in your experience, no affect on your relationships. You need a pastor, who teaches and preaches the finished work of Christ - a pastor who prays for you that : The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints...

Here is a final thought...I want to ask this question: Who are the overcomers?

I've entertained many lofty ideas about what an overcomer would look like. If the truth be told (leave it to me to tell the truth on myself - that is "no nevermind" to me), my concept was mostly based on religious, charismatic traditions of men.

Oh, I could put a nice "spin" on it. I could even convince myself that my foundation has always been perfect. But that would not be dealing in reality - and God only deals in reality. I want God, therefore I must deal in reality.

Hear the words of the Jesus-lover, John. This was the man who made this Christian life all about relationship to God and the brethren. He said, "Who is he that overcometh, but he who believes Jesus Christ is the son of God?"

"This is the victory that overcomes the world...even our faith."

Whoever believes that Jesus Christ is the express image of God - that Jesus came to reveal the heart of God for His children - and successfully offered Himself, His own body, on the cross, so that we could be dead to sin, and then He rose again so that we could live lives clearly stamped by the righteousness of God....whoever believes all this, THAT PERSON is "he who overcometh."

Not he that attaineth or performeth, not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord. The race is not for he who wills or he who's all God. I could go on and on.

I am seeing the big picture in a fresh perspective....honestly, the panoramic view. It is breathtaking.

Walking This Stuff Out

"As you've received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him..."

If it was okay for me to be saved by grace through faith, then I have decided that it is okay for me to LIVE by grace through by, and tomorrow, and the next day. I will walk in this grace of God in practical terms, as well as positional reality.

What this does, is make me child-like and sincere once again. What this grace-reality does, is inspire me to love people without ulterior motives of manipulation or control. What this does to me, is it makes me Christ-conscious, not sin- conscious...both towards myself and others. What a fresh understanding of grace does, is to make my faith real, as opposed to word-play.

I Timothy 1: 5 ~ Now the goal of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:

It is my choice - this decision to walk in Christ, the exact same way I received Him. Sounds suspiciously like realizing I have been naked, blind, and poor, when I thought I was better than that. Sounds suspiciously like a return to First Love.

I can live with that. Oh...I can live with that!

(Written by Haldor Lillenas in 1917, this next hymn, "Wonderful Grace of Jesus" came under some degree of criticism...because of its lilting, joyful melody! "We can handle the lyrics...but the happy way this song is sung...why, that just can't be right!" )

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden,
Setting my spirit free;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Wonderful grace, all sufficient for me, for even me.
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame,
O magnify the precious Name of Jesus.
Praise His Name!

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching to all the lost,
By it I have been pardoned,
Saved to the uttermost,
Chains have been torn asunder,
Giving me liberty;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Wonderful grace, all sufficient for me, for even me.
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame,
O magnify the precious Name of Jesus.
Praise His Name!

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching the most defiled,
By its transforming power,
Making him God’s dear child,
Purchasing peace and heaven,
For all eternity;
And the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Wonderful grace, all sufficient for me, for even me.
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame,
O magnify the precious Name of Jesus.
Praise His Name!

Balance versus Synergy

synergy: the working together of two things, to produce an effect greater than each could produce by itself.

I love the book of James. I re-read the whole thing, today, for the who-knows-how-many time, and I cannot for the life of me see how some find James incompatible with the tapestry of grace found in the rest of the New Testament. James and Paul were not at odds. James and Paul didn't even "balance each other out". James and Paul, the book of James along with all other passages of New Covenant Scripture, work together incredibly harmoniously, and powerfully synergistically.

I don't worry so much about "balance" when I teach. In fact, you will almost never hear a perfectly "balanced" message, in person or in writing, from any preacher or teacher, regardless of how anointed or learned. To be "in balance" means two opposing weights (ideas, truths)more or less cancel each other out. No emphasis can be given to one side or the other - not and "be balanced". When you go for "balance", you will at some point encounter the Strain of the Artificial. (You also become quite critical...the tense sort of person who parses every word.) Anything alive is always moving around on you. Balance is a still-life painting. Synergy is art-in-motion.

The gospel isn't entirely balanced, but it is full of divine synergy. It isn't a letter, it is a spirit. The gospel can't be contained to a neat, intellectually equalized, logical, left brained package. It is both disturbing and comforting. It is living and powerful, full of concepts that, if taken separately, in some artificial effort towards balance, will cancel out effectiveness. But these same truths, if made alive in us, will work together to produce an effect much greater than the sum of their parts. No one illustrates this better than James.James 2: 17 ~ Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. {alone: Gr. by itself}Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

Faith...real grace through faith...will, in time and over time, change us from the inside out. Not the outside in. The Message, in James, says it this way, "A seamless unity of believing and doing."


The believing part comes first, by the way. You nor I will ever live beyond what we truly believe. What we truly believe will be lived out.

You can believe what you like. As for me...I am washed. I am made clean. I am the righteousness of God in Christ. I have been bought with a price, and am of immense value to God, because of the sacrifice of His son.

If I hear the truth spoken loud enough and long enough, I just might believe it. Whatever I believe about who God is, will translate to what I believe about who I am. That sort of faith cannot help but be active, and the resultant activity cannot help but affirm and deepen what I have come to believe.


It all starts with the good news of the finished work of Christ. My life begins there, ends there, and will be sustained for all my days in between, by faith in that finished work. without works really IS dead.

Two Things We All Need

“Grace and Peace to you…”

Let the sheer volume of Paul’s grace-greetings to the various saints sink into your spirit:

1Co 1:3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
2Co 1:2 Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ga 1:3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
Eph 1:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Eph 6:24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
Php 1:2 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Col 1:2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Col 4:18 The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.
1Th 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1Ti 6:21 Grace be with thee. Amen.
2Ti 4:22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.
Tit 3:15 All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.
Heb 13:25 Grace be with you all. Amen. Written to the Hebrews from Italy, by Timothy.

Friends, if you think for a moment that this was just another way for Paul to day, “Yo dude, how’ya doin’”….if you think it was just a nice little Christian-y way to say, “Hi”… you couldn’t be more wrong.

Paul blessed the saints with “grace” or “grace and peace” because this man knew grace and peace to be the crying need of the entire body of Christ, every soul in it.

I am not too proud to concur. Please read that last sentence, if you don’t mind, just once more: I am not too proud to agree. I need a deeper understanding of this grace by which I stand.

It began to be expressed in Eden. Eden was the heart of God for humanity. No sweat. No sin. No sorrow. Even after the Great Fall, we can still see glimpses of this massive, grace-heartbeat of God- as almost instantly, prophesies of a coming Redeemer were communicated to shamed Adamic mankind. Hope!

Then. Oh, then. New Covenant Moment! A light in the night sky! A party in the heavenlies! A heavenly host, appearing to common shepherds, praising God and bringing The Message: “Glory to God in the highest! And on earth, peace, goodwill to men!”

The message was too simple. It was a happy moment. Go figure. No words of impending judgment. No hint of any performance on our part. Just believe. The shepherds did just that…and it changed them forever. They became the first to hear the Good News.

The Bible says the law was given….but grace came.

Law = impersonal. Grace = person. One was given. One came, in person. And grace is still coming to all who will humble themselves enough to admit they can’t get enough, to all who will embrace the weakness of the cross – which is very simply to count our human effort as dung, in order to know Him, and understand the immense suffering (on the cross) He endured in order to make us the righteousness of God in Christ. Yes, I need to fellowship (get to know the real reason behind – become acquainted with the deeper issues of) with that sort of suffering – his wounds purchased my healing. I need to be conformed into His image, allowing grace to come to others through me.

Grace and peace to you, church. And if you think you don’t need it….if you think you already have a handle on it….you are the one who needs it more than most.