Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Anchor of our Souls



ANCHOR:
- a device usually of metal attached to a ship or boat by a cable and cast overboard to hold it in a particular place by means of a fluke that digs into the bottom

something that serves to hold an object firmly


"...we, who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope - like a sure and firm anchor of the soul - that enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain..." Hebrews 6:18b-19

"Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He has inaugurated for us, through the curtain (that is, His flesh); and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."  Hebrews 10: 19-23

I love the imagery that God gives us throughout the pages of Scripture. There is something about having a visual, either before my eyes or at least in my head, that helps cement the truth that is being taught: cattle on the hills, sheep, a spark, storms, sand, a house, and, in this case, an anchor. 

In Hebrews we see this beautiful picture of our souls being like boats. And the only way to have our souls stabilized, to have our souls kept from drifting and wandering off course is to have them attached to the anchor of hope. And, of course, true hope does not disappoint us because it is deeply lodged into the seabed of God's love expressed through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and sealed by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). 

Yet, how often do I find myself disappointed? What about the times I feel my emotions rise and my soul feels anything but stable? Or the moments when joy seems illusive. What then? 

I must recognize that my heart is an idol-making factory that often seeks to put it's hope in what is seen instead of what is unseen, what is temporary instead of what is eternal, what will never satisfy instead of the Bread of Life. It is impossible for those things to lodge my soul into the seabed of God. Their chains are too short and their anchors are too light, leaving my soul disappointed, dissatisfied and dejected. 

"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation." Psalm 42:5

Hope in God. That is our anchor. Hope in God....the One who: 

-spoke the world into existence and breathed life into our dead hearts

-did not spare His own Son but gave Him up so that we might be declared righteous

-has given us access to come before His throne day and night through the blood of Jesus

-promises that nothing can separate us from His love

-will bring us home to Heaven to be with Him forever

And if that small glimpse of our great God doesn't already have you dancing around the house, rejoicing and praising at the top of your lungs, here is another reality that will help get you off your feet and fill your eyes with tears of thanksgiving: Ultimately, hope does not disappoint and our anchor is firm because we are held by God, in Christ. Nothing and no one can ever take us out of the Father's hands (John 8:29). We are secure, not because of anything we have done but because of the mercy and grace lavished upon us. Our souls can rest secure in deep, abiding hope, through any and every storm because Christ will hold us fast! 

He Will Hold Me Fast

“When I fear my faith will fail
Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail
He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast

Chorus:
He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
For my Savior loves me so
He will hold me fast

Those He saves are His delight
Christ will hold me fast
Precious in His holy sight
He will hold me fast
He’ll not let my soul be lost
His promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost
He will hold me fast

CHORUS

For my life He bled and died
Christ will hold me fast
Justice has been satisfied
He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life
He will hold me fast
Till our faith is turned to sight
When he comes at last

CHORUS”
— ORIGINAL WORDS VV 1-2 BY ADA HABERSHONNEW WORDS AND MUSIC BY MATT MERKER©2013 GETTY MUSIC PUBLISHING (BMI) / MATT MERKER MUSIC (BMI) (ADMIN BY MUSICSERVICES.ORG)






Thursday, February 9, 2017

An ambassador in diaper changing?

"Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should." Ephesians 6:19-20

I couldn't help but pause when I read these two verses. Paul is asking for prayer for two specific reasons. Two reasons that we should find ourselves in prayer for, concerning ourselves:

That God would give us the right amount of boldness and the right words to say as we seek to make known the beauty of the Gospel in the course of everyday life.

And within this prayer request is a three letter phrase that caught my attention: ambassador in chains. That is what Paul called himself. An ambassador is "an authorized representative or messenger" and the chains...well, that was what made up Paul's everyday life. (take some time to think about that!)

You and I may not be ambassadors in chains....but we are each ambassadors. 2 Corinthians 5:20 explains it beautifully:

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ's behalf, " Be reconciled to God."

Each one of us, who has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, represents Jesus Christ and is a messenger of the gospel that brings peace and forgiveness of sins. We are an ambassador right where we are. Maybe you are an: ambassador in sickness, ambassador in your neighborhood, ambassador in nurse scrubs, ambassador through suffering, ambassador in cleaning, ambassador at the park, ambassador in the grocery line, ambassador folding laundry, ambassador in the cafeteria, ambassador on the basketball court, ambassador in the classroom, ambassador to the frustrating boss, ambassador in the dead-end job, ambassador in diaper changing. Wherever God has placed us is where He calls us to be an ambassador of the Good News. To our family first and then to those in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, athletic teams, parks and even grocery stores and restaurants.

I don't know about you, but it's easy to look at my life and see a bunch of mundane tasks. Ordinary stuff. But, when I read God's Word and my mind is renewed...my life comes alive in light of the eternal. I'm an ambassador for the King of kings and the Lord of lords! You are an ambassador for the Creator and Sustainer of this whole entire world and the galaxies beyond!

And He has given us a message to share...to the little lambs in our home straight through to the cashier in our checkout line: There is one true God who is perfectly holy and cannot be around sin for even a minute. We are sinners separated from that holy God without any way to get to Him on our own. So God made a way. He sent His Son into the world to live the perfect life we could not live in our place and to take all our sin upon Himself on the cross and bear the wrath of God so that we might be reconciled to God forever.

May we, like Paul, pray for boldness and the words to say and, by God's grace, might we live each ordinary moment faithfully fulfilling our extraordinary calling as ambassadors of Christ!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How's it melting?

We have seen an amazing amount of snow for Chilliwack, BC. Contrary to popular opinion, not all Canadians live in igloos and have penguins for pets. :) This most recent storm has been a doozy for most everyone here.

After almost 3 feet of snow falling since last Friday, God gave us the sun...even if it was just for a day. It was brilliantly beautiful and freezing cold, all at the same time. Literally, below freezing. So, when I looked out my front door today, I did a double take. Drip, drip, drip. Snow was melting off our roof and our driveway...even though the temperature said nothing should be melting. But that's what the sun does. Its light and heat cannot be ignored, no matter how cold it is. (okay, and then there is sublimation...but this isn't a science lesson :))

Isn't that the way it should be for us, as those who follow Christ? The Bible tells us that we are the light of the world. Light shining in darkness. The darkness cannot hold onto it's darkness much like the snow cannot hold onto it's "freeze". Not when the Light, the "Son", is shining.

The "temperature" of our world may truly be cold, even freezing, to the things of the Lord, to the truths that the Bible teaches...but we are called to shine. We are called to proclaim. We are called to magnify. We are called to glorify the Name that is above all names. We, too, were once in the cold darkness but the light of the gospel shone in our hearts and melted our hardened, frozen hearts.

May we shine forth the Son wherever He has placed us and, by His grace and for His glory alone, might He melt the hearts of those around us till they, too, proclaim the excellencies of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light!


Monday, February 6, 2017

Blessed

We have been studying the life of Mary these past two weeks in our Women's Bible Study. What an example! In the first two chapters of Luke, we see a clear picture of a young lady who was a woman of the Word, who trusted in God's sovereignty, and had a heart of joy-filled submission to God's Word and His way. Her knowledge of the Word of God informed her understanding of the character of God, enabling her to trust His power, goodness, and plan with humble, joyful submission, in spite of the cultural and relational pain that very likely ensued when her pregnancy became known. What a blessed woman!

Of course, all that she was, all that she did and even the attitude in which she did it, came from the Lord. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things" (Romans 11:36). Still, it is right to look at her as blessed (though, false religions have given her undue praise and prominance). Elizabeth called her blessed. Even Mary in the beautiful "Magnificat" recognized that all generations to come would call her blessed.

Hard not to be a little envious of her...but this is where it gets fun! :)

Another woman called Mary blessed about 9 chapters later in Luke 11:27 and said, "The womb that bore You and the one who nursed You are blessed." Nothing to argue about there...but what happens next is MIND BLOWING for the believer. Jesus replies, "Even more, those who hear the Word of God and keep it are blessed." (vs 28)

Even more, we are blessed.

Even more than the blessing of the physical, belongs the blessings of the spiritual...for those who are in Christ.

Read these beautiful words from Ephesians 1:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who  has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; for He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." (vs. 3-8)

We are blessed...truly, so very blessed!





Monday, January 23, 2017

How are you using your oil?

"You always have the poor with you, and you can do good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could...." Mark 14:7-8a

You are probably familiar with the setting in which Jesus spoke these words. While Jesus was reclining at the table of the home of Simon, Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) came and poured out a bottle of expensive oil on Jesus's head. Some of those around were not so pleased that she had "wasted" a really expensive bottle of oil on Jesus when the bottle could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

Jesus rebukes the crowd and commends Mary, calling her noble. Then, he reminds them with the above verse. There is good you will always be able to do and then there is good that you can do only so long as the people are there. It really is the principle of good, better, best, isn't it?!

And it got me thinking...how am I using my "oil"? Who are the people I am investing my time in and giving my attention to for the glory of God? What are things that are always there, that I can seek out anytime, and who are people that I may only have been entrusted with for a short time that need the oil of my sacrifice the most?

As far as I know, I'll always have good, godly books available to read. Facebook, and the ability to stay caught up with friends around the globe, will still be at my fingertips. Blogs will not go too far...both the reading of them and the writing of posts, as well. The walls will still stand even if they don't have that extra pretty coat of paint and the stores will still stock racks of clothes or cute decorations to adorn my body and home with. Even areas of service and ministry in the church, that I would love to devote more time to, will continue to be available.

But there are those moments, those people that will not always be with me. My kids will one day leave the nest and my time with them will be but a fraction of what it is now. I can stop what I am doing and look them in their beautiful eyes now but, in the future, I might just be staring into a phone.  My opportunity to pray with a gal in the midst of pain and struggle will be a small window that I must jump through before the conversation comes to a close. The blessing of serving the mama who is sick and has little ones in need of care is limited to the days she is sick and in need of the most help. The time to encourage the fainthearted and weary is best served during their moments of  faintheartedness.

We may plan our days but the Lord is the one who directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9). So much of my days are filled with things that, in many ways, are always with me....from cleaning, to laundry, to meal prep, to errands. But it doesn't take much observation to realize that there are many steps I take that are not steps that will always be with me. They are the steps the Lord has ordained for a season and those people or circumstances won't be with me for "always".  Am I anointing those things with the oil of sacrifice and joyful service as I seek to honor the Lord? Are you?

May we seek the Lord and ask Him for wisdom to know not only what is good and better but what is best in each step we take!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

19 Reasons

19 years ago, today, an 18 and 21 year old pledged their lives to each other before God and their families and friends and, that afternoon, became Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Pichura.

Some have said, and written about, how the chief goal of marriage isn't to make us happy, but holy. And because we all know how much sanctification takes place in a marriage...it's easy to concur that that is a true statement. I remembering sharing this with Bryan several years ago...and he kindly disagreed. He graciously reminded me that God instituted marriage BEFORE there was sin...or the need to be holy and sanctified. Therefore, the original purpose of marriage actually had nothing to do with making spouses holy and everything to do with glorifying God by delighting in each other.

I think sometime it's easy to forget that. Easy to lose sight of the delight in the midst of all the duties. Easy to forgo a complement and reach for a criticism. Easy to allow hours and even days to go by without giggling together, saying "I love you", reaching for a kiss, a hand to hold, a body to hug...moments to foster and fuel delight and refuse to allow sin, self, and circumstances to rob the precious gift that marriage is.

So, today, here are 19 reasons why I can't help but delight in Bryan:

1) He loves Jesus more than he loves me

2) He loves sports as much as I do...especially college football

3) He is patient

4) He makes really good coffee...every morning

5) He loves to laugh

6) He thinks through what he says and does and doesn't rush into things

7) He bears with me for not thinking enough and rushing into things because of it

8) He likes chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream...so I feel a little less selfish buying it just for myself

9) He takes care of all things "tech" in our house and with our kids...which saves me from a daily nervous breakdown

10) He lives steadfastly on God's promises and it's a rare day that he shows any fear or worry

11) He is merciful... overlooking a thousand of my faults, though I can, sadly, be quick to bring up his

12) Family devotions isn't something we pray we'll get around to, it's a priority

13) Our kids have a wonderful example of what it looks like to love Jesus and walk in His ways...as a pastor, a husband, and a dad...as well as what it means to truly belly laugh over a funny Youtube.

14) He doesn't complain when I keep the light on to read though he'd love nothing more than a dark room to fall asleep in.

15) And he still cuddles me close even after I've kept that same light on way too long

16) He loves seafood and promises me we'll eat more of it when the kids have all left the house :)

17) He'll clean the bathroom...toilet, shower and all....if he knows it will help ease my workload

18) He doesn't hit the ball as hard as he could when we play tennis....and is still willing to play another game of chess, though his losing streak continues

19) His heart is set on eternity...and the choices he makes for himself, for me, and for our kids, flows out of that eternal perspective...and, therefore, there is much peace in our home as we trust him, knowing he's following and treasuring Christ above all.





I'm so thankful to the Lord for the gift of marriage! The delights, the sanctification, the laughter, the trials, the sweetness. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things"...and that certainly includes marriage! It's a gift from Him that endures through the strength that He provides in the midst of our weakness, and it's all for His glory...which helps us keep our eyes off of self and even off of each other and onto Christ, our hope and our portion forever!


Happy Anniversary to the "one whom my soul loves". I pray the Lord sees fit to give us many more years together...but, for today, I'm so very thankful for 19.

Friday, December 30, 2016

When Death Feels Hopeless


My grandma died this week.

As far as we know, she died without Jesus.

The news of her death brought immediate heartache, pain and tears....and a genuine feeling of hopelessness. The weight of "it's too late" pressed down and left a numbness in it's place. A void that can't easily be filled. An unsettledness that drives words away and leaves a loud silence.

What hope is there in the knowledge that one I have loved so dearly may forever be separated from God? How could mourning and grieving ever give way to peace, let alone joy, when I consider my grandma and her soul?

These are questions I have been asking myself.

And as I contemplated the Word of God, as I read some wise thoughts from others*, and as I began to preach truth to myself...I was reminded that hope and joy and peace are never found by looking horizontally at others. True hope and joy and peace only come from one Source. They come from God. They come from fixing our eyes on His character and His truth. "Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always." (I Chron. 16:11) Only when I start there, can I see the horizontal through a proper lens and, only then, can I find hope in what seems hopeless, joy in the midst of pain, and peace where there seems to be no peace.

Here are just a few of the truths that are helping me to see this situation through a Biblical lens:

God is good: "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever." Psalm 107:1

God always does what is right: "The Lord is righteous in all His ways and gracious in all His acts." Psalm 145:17

God's plans have been ordained before time began: "...as I have planned, so it will be; as I have purposed it, so it will happen." Isaiah 14:24

God's ways are not my ways: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways." This is the Lord's declaration. "For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

God is compassionate and merciful: "Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the Lord is a just God. Happy are all who wait patiently for Him." Isaiah 30:18

God is enough: "I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him." Lamentations 3:24

"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13




http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-you-deal-with-the-death-of-an-unsaved-loved-one
* https://www.tms.edu/preachersandpreaching/when_an_unbeliever_dies/
* https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-to-lead-an-unbelievers-funeral