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The sinful saint…

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I wrote this poem a couple of years ago, and thought I would post it now in view of the present “The Story” sermon series at Perimeter Church.  You can listen at http://www.perimeter.org

From my journal:

As I read these words, I was overcome by a sad identity with the writer….“For I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate,”and then a joy and power in these words,”….But therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Rom. 7:18…8:1

A sinful grasp, oh wretched one,
Though freedom in Christ I’ve found;
I know the victory has been won,
And question why I’m bound.

I conquer once my enemies
Joyful in Christ’s great power,
Then there I am, lost at sea
Even within the hour.

There’s nothing good that dwells in me,
It’s an undisputed fact;
So I find myself still selfishly
Living a life that lacks.

Wretched, poor one that I am,
Do I dash away all hope?
Losing balance once again,
I’ve gone the slippery slope.

Yet, in the darkness I still see
My righteousness in Christ;
There is a love beyond degree
That brings me back to life.

There is no shadow of turning
Nor condemning face;
His flaming love still burning,
He sees me by His grace.

Indeed I will by His hand alone
Be saved until that time;
When God shall finally bring me home,
His will be fully mine.

Friend, do you struggle just as me
And every saint before?
That you aren’t who you want to be,
Then let His grace restore.

Look to the cross and level ground
Where all we stand alike;
And listen there to the sound,
—God’s hand bearing the spike.

You will hear your voice appallingly
Yelling out for more;
But Jesus’ voice quietly…
“Forgive them for this, Lord.”

Stand up again, tired, struggling saint
Because of His great grace;
Walk no more as the faint,
And see His smiling face.

There we find forgiveness too,
Power to live like Him;
For every morning His mercies new
And He will draw you in.

Therefore, lay aside your painful past
And living against His will;
Stay in a love that always lasts,
And loves you even still.

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the next time you are worried, irritable, down…change two words

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Often when I recognize a complaining spirit, a judging & resentful mind, an angry & irritable countenance, an effort to protect my reputation, a worrisome mind, or any other sin or stronghold in my life I soon discover it’s a problem with worship. 

There is somewhere in our thought processes in which we might be saying, “If only.”  “If only” is a phrase from the enemy; it is saying God is not enough.  As subtle as it is, it’s a downhill spiral to idol worship.  “If only” my child didn’t have these problems, my husband/wife would connect with me, our finances were better, my job was more fulfilling, I could escape, I had her/his….looks, gifts, house, kids, cars, easy life, I didn’t have that past, etc….then I would be happy.  Each of us struggles with the “if only” battle, just in different arenas.   Others may encourage us that we just need to “stop it,” much like this funny video:

  However, that really isn’t the answer!  The real answer is to change our focus of worship and turn “if only” into “but God!”  Many times, when we try to just stop a bad habit or wrong thinking, we might try real hard, grit our teeth and make as much progress as possible in our own will (just take it from me, this approach doesn’t work.)  But when we change the entire focus of our mind to the things of God, we change what we worship.  And what we worship makes all the difference.

We might think, “if only I had someone who truly loved me,” we can change that to, “but God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us.”  “If only she/he hadn’t don’t that to me,” to “you intended harm for me, but God, intended it for good.”  “If only I didn’t have to worry about money,” to “young lions suffer want and hunger, but  those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”

Turning “if only” to “but God,” not only leads to a life of worshipping the one true God, but one of victory over sin, true freedom, power to be used for God’s purposes, joy, hope, and love.

Just try it for a few days….let me know how it goes!!

 

The God who sees me….

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“El Roi,” the God who sees me, what an amazing comfort and joy.

It was a lowly, pregnant servant who had been fired.  I don’t think you can get much lower than that.  With absolutely no where to go, she ended up in the desert.

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God asks her a question through an angel, “Hagar, Sarah’s servant, where have you come from and where are you going?”

Great question.  For all of us today.  Hagar answered honestly, “I am running.”  Wow, when was the last time you heard a friend or a co-worker or a family member admit that he or she was “running.”  Our pride keeps us from answering with a reply which seems so empty, so fearful, so purposeless.  But Hagar said it.  Why?  Hagar was desperate.  She had nothing.  No way to feed herself, no home, nothing.  When one is desperate, the truth is more easily said.

The angel did not condemn, or say “if only,” or comment on the fact that Hagar was pretty mean taunting Sarah that she was pregnant  & Sarah wasn’t, therefore she deserved the desert.

No, the angel gave hope to the hopeless, help to one who was helpless, direction to one who didn’t know what she should do next.  That’s God.

Hope is God.  Not guilt, shame, blame. Not pride, self-dependence, judgement.  Nor silent control.  God is Hope and desires a future of blessings in your life.

Hagar named that experience, “the God who sees me.”  The God who sees me.  What a mind-blowing concept.  The all-powerful, omniscient, holy, good, amazing God sees me, sees you.  It takes my breath away.

Many a dark, dark night, hopeless and afraid, this was the only prayer I could pray:    God you see me, and that is enough right now.  YOU SEE ME.

 

Some questions:

  1.  What are you running from?
  2. What is your desert?
  3. What does it mean that a good God sees you?
  4. How can His amazing power change everything in you and through you?
  5. You might not have hope right now for your health, your marriage, your child coming back to God, your provision, your way out of an addiction; you might not even have hope to live today.  WAIT.  He sees you, and that is hope.

 

 

 

 

Agree with the truth and live again…

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One of my favorite songs right now is, “Tell your heart to beat again.”  It was written by one of the members of the group “Phillips, Craig and Dean.”  The back story of this song brings even more meaning to the song itself.

 

A pastor convinced a heart surgeon in his congregation to let him watch an open heart surgery.  The pastor watched them roll the sleeping woman into the operating room and watched as the surgeon cut her chest and pulled her heart up to work on it.  Once the surgeon was finished he put the heart back in its place and massaged it a little to cause it to start beating again.  Nothing.  He tried it again.  Nothing.  They took more drastic measures and the heart still did not beat on its own.

 

“Finally the surgeon knelt down beside his patient and he took off his surgeon mask and said “Mrs. Johnson, this is your surgeon. The operation went perfectly, your heart has been repaired now tell your heart to beat again.” (Phillips, Craig and Dean).  And it did!

 

Mrs. Johnson had to agree with the truth, that her heart had changed and been repaired.  It’s the same for us.  We have to agree with the beautiful truths of God’s word–everything He says about us, and we will live a joyful, peaceful life.  Take one verse with you today and tell your heart to beat again!

…and Peter…and Jill…and you

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This blog is longer than I like to write, but I think it might be worth the read!

I have had the privilege to come to know many hurting women (and men who have been in our home seeking help) who were honest about their place in life, their thoughts, their feelings, the hurts they can’t seem to get over-even years after the pain first came.  Women, including myself, who sinned a sin (or many sins) that in their minds made them less loved by God, less a part of the body of Christ, just less as a person.  If you feel “less” today, unforgivable, damaged, fearful of the future, unsure of your standing as a believer, this is for you.

It’s from Mark 16:7.  But before we go there, let’s remember that Mark was a type of newspaper writer.  Get the facts out, but use as few words as possible!  So, Mark was only going to write what was absolutely necessary.

In view of this, it’s especially significant that he wrote 2 words in this verse that don’t appear to be all that vital to the story.  Oh, but they are, and these words will cause you to raise your head today and look to the hills…the hills of God where we find strength.  These two words will help you reach out today to another sinner, Christian or not yet.  They will make you fall to your knees and worship a God who knows your heart better than yourself and sees ALL your sins (something we couldn’t bear ourselves) and loves you still.  HE LOVES YOU STILL.

The words are from the angel who tell the women at the open tomb that Jesus is alive.  Then the angel instructs the women to, “Go tell the disciples AND PETER: Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.  You will see Him there…”

Think about this.  Peter and Andrew were the first two disciples Jesus called.  Undeniably, Peter was the most passionate in his faith.  Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter, which means the rock.  Peter was the first to declare Jesus as the Messiah.  Peter was in the “inner circle” of the disciples. Peter walked on water in a storm!  He was the ultimate follower of Christ!  There was no doubt then, that Peter was a disciple of Christ.

So, why then, did the angel say to tell the disciples AND PETER.  Was it because he was not considered a disciple any longer?  Definitely not.  He became the first preacher–his first sermon leading 3,000 people to become believers, indeed he was the rock of the church. 

So, why “AND PETER?”  That would be like saying to our family, “Tell the Hoopers AND JILL.”  Strange. Definitely odd. Or is it?

Peter’s last action before this was to deny his Messiah, his dearest friend, the miracle worker and patient teacher.  Jesus said he would do it 3 times and he did.  The unspeakable sin…denying Jesus.

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 But Peter belonged to God and God had huge plans for him.  God knew Peter would deny him 3 times and the fact that Jesus said the number ahead of time and then said, “But I will pray for you…” is significant.  Jesus comforted Peter before the denials, even when He was foretelling Peter’s great sin.

Jesus knew Peter was still a disciple after those denials, but did Peter know?  Picture Peter—all the shame and blame and guilt he was experiencing after his denials as the memories of his times with Jesus flashed through his head.  It’s easy to assume that he didn’t feel much like a disciple and that he might never forgive himself.  Then someone told him what the angel said…”No, Peter, the angel really said ‘and Peter’, I promise!”  Peter, in the pit of what sin does to us, probably thought, ‘No way.  Not me.  It can’t be.’

But the angel said, “AND PETER.”  God knew Peter needed to hear that.  Hear the tenderness of our Lord.  Understand the foreknowledge, the omnipotence, the forgiveness, the plan and hope for a future that is our Daddy.

So, when Satan, or the world, or your own unbelief start your mind down a faithless trail, remember, “AND PETER….AND ME.”

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i love to hear from you!  If you would like to talk personally contact me at hooperjill@gmail.com and we can set something up.  My greatest joy in life (for real, not  just saying this) is to share in another’s struggles and encourage and exhort as well as be encouraged and challenged!  Now we are down to 1 boy at home instead of 6, so I have lots of time!  Hahaha!

the power of the prayer of powerlessness….

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Powerlessness is part of the human condition.  Yet, as God’s children we have great power.

Powerlessness to gain power.  This is a paradox that displays God’s character as we release control to Him.

I’ve made a practice each morning to write down my fears, worries, regrets, hurts.  Looking at the list, I realize there is no way I can alter any of the situations on my mind, except my perception of them and my response to them.

Praying through the list, I admit my own powerlessness to the ability to control almost every situation in my life.  Whether it’s someone’s health, a child’s future, a marriage struggle, financial challenges, the state of our country, the behavior and words of others, I cannot control it, but I know Who does.  When I admit my powerlessness, I am able to walk in His mighty power.  He’s  got everything under His great and good power.  Rising from that time with God, my burden is light, my vision for service renewed, hope returned.

Throughout the day what a joy it is to do this same exercise mentally.   Going to the ever-present, ever-loving God when the worries and regrets flood in. Casting my anxiety on Him, for He cares for me, I  experience the freedom of faith each time.  To take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, it is wise to:

  •  Pause.
  •  Pray.
  • Admit Powerlessness.  
  • Ask God to show the Positives.
  • Persist in faith.
  • Experience His Power.  
  • Praise our God whose ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts (Is. 55:9).

Letting go of holding on is hard work.  Peace, contentment, & love are of great gain.  We can start our day over right now by releasing our grip & clasping His very great &  precious promises.

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ashes & bird droppings…

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“I’ve had enough!  Take my life!”

A foreign concept to some, this may be all too familiar to many of us.  Anger, depression, despair, frustration, apathy, grief, stress.  When the trouble of this world overwhelms us, when uncertainty and loss feel a part of us, sometimes the only thing we might know to pray is, “Let me come on home, Lord.”

Feeling that our best days are behind us, lacking strength and lagging behind, even feeling a bit guilty for the ungodly utterance, we just want to give up.  One’s of God’s greatest servants can relate.

Surprisingly, it was after a great victory that Elijah prayed, “I have had enough, Lord.  Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”  He had just been the master of a dual of two gods–the true God and Baal.  He called down fire from heaven to set fire to the altar he had built, and in one of God’s finest moments, fire came and lit a drench wood pile.  The 450 prophets of Baal were silenced.

Yet, the ashes hadn’t even cooled  when Elijah was so overcome with fear that he ran for his life!  Huh?  This guy had not only just seen a huge miracle, but had also commanded God’s people to seize all the prophets of Baal and they did.  But as smoke rose from the ashes, he ran in fear and despair.

Then he prayed for God to take him home, commenting that he was no better than all his mess-up, faithless ancestors.  When will I ever get it right?  When will I believe You, and believe You again, and believe You again.  When will fear lose to faith.  Maybe never.  Never.  Hopelessness sets in as we see our failures and we see no way out.

Out in the desert, alone, after his prayer full of shame, Elijah hears a voice of hope.  “Get up and eat,” said the angel of the Lord.  And birds brought Elijah food. That’s God. That’s Him.  That’s His voice.  Listen and it will replace your tapes of despair and defeat, fear and failing.  He might be whispering something very simple to you:  just get up and eat, rest, hope, relax in my love.  At our lowest point, we might expect God to  respond to our lack of hope and faith with rebuke.  Or we might expect some great and wonderful call to help us get out of the pit.  But as we sit in the bird droppings of our situation, he provides for us, loves us, encourages us.

Listen.  Get up.  Just eat.  And know He’s there.

SO OVERWHELMED BY THE GOSPEL!

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Today, I’m just so overwhelmed by the gospel!

The Truth would be just so incredibly Unbelievable, if HE had not struck my heart & made me believe.

And now, well, now…..It’s all true, every moment of every day….

I’m FORGIVEN.

Lump in my throat, unbelievable….truly unbelievable for a wretch like me.

NO SIN TOO BIG, no thought too hideous, no pride, hate, resentment, worry….NOTHING of my sin has NOT been nailed to the cross, taken by the Son of God who took my shame & my judgement to grant me love and acceptance.  It really is too wild and crazy to absorb, except that He bought me and He brought me to Himself.

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I’m UNCONDITIONALLY LOVED.

God loves me as much this moment as He ever has or ever will, and that love has never, nor will ever dim.

I’m REDEEMED and everything in my life is REDEEMABLE.

HUH?  There is no tragedy, no loss, no mistake, no fear, nothing He can’t handle and nothing He can’t use for His glory.  Yeah, even “that thing….”

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And SO MUCH MORE!

The Gospel–the grace and truth of Jesus Christ is overwhelming.  Many days I might treat it as a small thought, a man’s dollar, a little girl’s doll.  I might minimize it and put it to the side so I can get on with my to-do list, my motherly worries, my petty jealousies and idolatries.

Francis Chan comments, “The irony is that while God doesn’t need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don’t really want Him most of the time.”

But not today. Today His goodness is flooding all that I am and all that I am doing. Today, His whisper has a megaphone. Today, it really is abundantly more than I can imagine.

It’s really true.

I hope the waterfall of this truth will wash over you, refresh you, & cause you to raise your hands to enjoy it’s beauty.

Paradigm shifts and pig-pens…

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Jesus is the paradigm-shifter of all time.

He turned society on its head.  He literally changed time. He was (& is) the word that recreates everything. He has a way of turning things upside-down (i.e. Heaven on Earth).

He’s the paradigm-shifter AND the pig-pen user.

Yeah, pig-pens don’t make Him panic.  Pig-pens are portals to show his power.  Pig-pens are not Plan B.

Do you ever feel like you are in the pig-pen?

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I have.  I’m not even totally sure how I get there most of the time.  But I end up dirty, smelly, hungry and needy in every way.

Then, when I “come to my senses” (Lk 15:17), I think, “He won’t be able to endure my stench, I’m too dirty, and heck, I deserve to be needy after what I’ve done.  Daddy can’t welcome me now.  He must be so disgusted with me.  But I really want to go HOME.”

And, upon turning toward home, I see Him. Even while I’m a “long way off” (Lk. 15:20), I can make Him out, and I am shocked & astounded.  He’s running, yes running, toward me, arms open wide.
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I might still smell like the pig-pen.  Pig-poo may still be stuck to my shoes.  But, oh how I wish I was clean when I first see Him.

But remembering my Father & home–this–has turned me toward home. And He is welcoming me. He never even mentions the odor or the poo!  He welcomes my need. My need to be clean, to let Him provide for me, and especially my need to focus on Him rather than myself for even a chance at true joy!

And once again, His love has shifted my entire experience. From the pig-pen to the party………… Only Jesus.

thoughts from my heart on Luke 15