Monday, November 21, 2011

Just Some Things on My Heart

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what a manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
2 Peter 3:10-13
Oh, how glorious the future is for those who name the Savior Jesus Christ as their Lord! The earth will pass away-that is the reality of the future of this earth! All the great buildings, big companies, gold, silver, even the most beautiful natural sites will dissolve and melt away. But, for the righteous, those clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, have a glorious future! We look for a new heavens and a new earth in which RIGHTEOUSNESS DWELLS! Yes! I'm excited about that! Injustice; gone. Pain; vanished. Tears; wiped away! My heart longs for my true home. My heart longs for the reunion with my Savior and King. I long for that homeland.
My exhortation in this: What manner of persons ought we to be in holy conduct and godliness? When our focus is right, when our eyes are fixed on the author and finisher of our faith, the things of this earth become "strangely dim".
I have been encouraged and I hope you are too.
-Handmaiden of the Lord,
Melissa Rae

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Precious People Yielding to their Potter.

Oh my, how I have been encouraged by the Lord through his sons and daughters.
Currently, I sit in my office space, listening to a friend's worship compilation as my mind floods with encouragement that I have received throughout the day.
Isn't it refreshing to see people live their lives solely for the sake of Jesus and His will? Isn't it encouraging when you watch people function in their gifting for the glory of the Lord and not selfish gain?
One thing I've noticed in many of my actively-seeking-God friends, is that they have a passion, but they also have a rest and a peace. They let the Spirit flow through them. They rest in the fact that they are God's, and He is theirs. Their identity is secure.
The rest that God gives is so foreign to this fallen world. Seriously. This sinful world, and my sinful flesh, is full of strife; pushing myself to do something, to get somewhere, to accomplish a goal. What could be a peaceful smile turns into a tense and focused frown... so not beautiful!
So I rest; I rest in the fact that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; He has all power, His is everywhere, and He is all knowing. What a wonderful, awe-striking God.
The "20 Somethings" group at my church has been studying through Isaiah and I have been brought to a sobering reality of human pride and God desiring humility in His people.
"Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward me is taught by the commandment of men, therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.' Woe to those who seek deep to hid their counsel far from the LORD, and their works are in the dark; the say, "who see us" and, "Who knows us?" Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; for shall the thing made say of him who made it, "He did not make me"? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?
-Isaiah 29:13-16
I am now reminded of the God-inspired words of Paul that say, "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in HIs presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God- and righteousness and sanctifications and redemption-that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD."
1 Cor. 1:26-31
I think the reason why I am so encouraged by these friends in my life is that they know who they are; they know they are weak and they have a humility about them that is precious. They know who they are, but more imporatantly, they know who God is. They aren't like the clay who says to the Potter, "He did not make me". No, they say, "Hey, look who is forming me.... look who has made me! Look, it's He!!! His given me these gifts so that I can give them back to Him. Look to Him and give glory to Him! He is my potter, I am His clay."
God so desires a broken and contrite heart; people who yield to Him and whose pride is laid low. I guess it's not that He hates those who are prideful, because He loves them; He just needs to break them, and that's a hard thing to come to terms with.
So as I'm encouraged by these precious, humble, God-yielded friends in my life, I encourage you to yield to the Potter and let Him mold you exactly as He pleases.

Friday, August 5, 2011

To the Angle of the Church of Ephesus Write,

"These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 'I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first ove. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place- unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life , which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."

Our first love. Why is it easy for us to get distracted and walk away from our first love?
Distractions; there are so many in this life. Whatever they may be for you, you know. These Ephesians in Revelation 2 were really doing great things, but they were distracted. Remember what Jesus told Martha when he came to visit her and Mary? In Luke 10 it says that "Martha was distracted with much serving." Then Jesus says, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." Distractions and much serving keep us from sitting at the feet of Jesus and from dwelling in the presence of our first love.

When Jesus was speaking this opening passage of the admonition to churches in Revelation, He didn't just point out what was wrong with the Ephesiansand say, "I'm done with you." No, He gave a way out, a chance to turn and an opportunity to repent. Jesus said, "Remember from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works".

As I read this, the Holy Spirit ministered to me and took me to the book of Ephesians to search out what these "first works" were. Here's what I found:

"In HIm also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, THAT WE WHO FIRST TRUSTED IN CHRIST would be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, HAVING BELIEVED, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is he guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Ephesians 1:11-13

Trust and believe. Those are the first works.

In John 6:29, Jesus tells the multitudes about what the works of God are. He says, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

Is it all that simple? Is that really what God requires of us? To believe Him and trust HIm? And what should our works really mean anyway? It really shouldn't be to win the approval of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; what it should be is an expression of our love.

So, what do we learn from all of this? What am I learning? I am learning that my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, desires me to learn from Him, trust and believe in Him. I am learning that all my striving, all my labor, and all the good things I do doesn't win His approval because He didn't save me because of that!

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:8-10

So, that's it. Trust and believe, and the good works, well, God has those already planned out. What freedom. What security. What comfort. And if you have found yourself as one who has left your first love, Jesus says to repent, turn around, and trust and believe.

Til next time,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Letter from a Bride in Waiting

After being awakened by my phone sending me text messages of friends comments to my updated status, paired with my extremely irritated and itchy sinuses from all the kicked-up dust in my room as I've been boxing up my belongings for my family's move on Friday, I thought it would be a good idea to sit down and write to you about my Fiance, Caleb Deiro, and about our love story authored by God.
If I had a pint of Ben and Jerry's Brownie Batter Ice Cream, I would so whip it out and let it provoke my creative-writing juices, but because the refrigerator is preparing for the move as well, I have resorted to a hot dog bun slathered with Nutella and a glass of raw cow milk (MoooooOOOOO).
Love; An interesting word. I love my new shoes; I love Nutella; I love cows. Love is used frequently and with little passion or sincerity nowadays. One late March evening, I knew love, without hearing the words "I love you."
Lot's of times actions say more than words do. Words can be blatted off to ease tense situations or make people feel good, but when one's life actions prove the words that their heart has not verbalized, well, that's truly a beautiful thing to behold.
So, what actions constituted my understanding of love? Let me take you back to that late March Sunday night.
Caleb invited me to come over to his house to practice some worship songs. I play worship for our church high school youth group, and often times, Caleb would accompany me on his Ukulele, but his main ministry is teaching. We had been working alongside each other in the youth group for a handful of months by then, so coming over to practice some songs wasn't foreign at all. Plus, I had know Caleb for two years already, established a friendship, and enjoyed hanging out with him. Yes, I knew that he enjoyed me, possibly that he had affections for me, but I was just good with ignoring that and keeping our status as friendship and youth group volunteers, but not much more.
So over to his house I went, set up my keyboard, and began to jam. I really can't recall many of the songs that we played, I just know that toward the end of our session, I was on one side of the room and he was on the other. It was getting time for me to leave, so we stopped playing. Then this is where it all came down. Caleb, being brave and honest, told me of his thoughts toward me. He told me that he liked me and he desired to get to know me more, take me out on some dates, and for me to get to know him more (I'm sure if you ask him to recall the conversation, he would give you the exact verbiage, but I can just remember the jest of it all) So, he asked me, "What do you think?" And what I thought was, "Ok, I'll pray about it. I don't know. I guess I would like to go out on some dates. I'll pray about it." Then, I just remember Caleb taking a deep breath and laying down on the ground; He was pretty much emotionally drained and his bravery to completely bear his heart with me would later bring a revelation to my heart upon my coming home. So, after some more minutes of silence, and deep breaths, I packed up my keyboard and headed home.
I parked my car, but remained sitting in the drivers seat to soak in the evenings events. My mind raced to two years previously when I had first met Caleb, hung out, exchanged life stories, and grew our friendship. Back then, I would show up to church early to make specialty coffee drinks and give out baked goods, and Caleb always kept me company as I would set up a serve people. I would also walk or bike ride over to his grandparents place where he lived, sit down in his kitchen, eat some sticky rice and talk. I guess I should mention that back then, he and I had a one week long relationship as "more than friends" that I ended. So, I guess we had history together.
So all these past memories flipped through my mind in photo album like format and then the revelation hit; Caleb loved me and the proof was his patience, through the years, and in the bleakest of circumstances when he couldn't see how his love would be returned.

This must be noted:
Christ Jesus; He fully gave his love to a world of people in which had the complete choice to accept or decline. He demonstrated His love, through His actions by His obedience to death on the cross all for access to a union with the God who is love. Christ-like love has no comparison, yet God has set up the love that a man has for a woman in the covenant of marriage to be an example of the Love Christ has for his Bride, us, the church.

Ok, so three days went by, and our youth group called an emergency meeting on Wednesday night after church service. Some of the high schoolers needed to express their thoughts toward the leadership. As we were all assembled in a back room, a young woman who is very tenacious, and whose name will remain anonymous, pointed out that the only reason she felt Caleb and I were in youth ministry leadership was because we wanted to be together! Right then my body went into shock as I tried not to make eye contact with Caleb who was across the table. The meeting ended, everyone left the room except Caleb and me, and once again, Caleb was on the floor taking deep breaths. I was thinking to myself, "This girl didn't know what went down on Sunday night! Why was this happening?" After Caleb and I exchanged some words, the youth overseer entered the room and told Caleb and I that if the Lord was putting us together, he would be totally fine if we went on "youth group leadership meetings" (a.k.a., dates) together. He was all for Caleb and I being an item!
Weeks progressed, and it wasn't the easiest. I sought the Lord God on what He thought of all this. I took a solid ten days of reading through John 13-16. God kept reminding me of what love looks like (John 13) and that what the Spirit speaks, He speaks with the authority from God and that He will guide us into all truth (John 16:14 and 15). God talked to me about abiding in Him and bearing much fruit. God told me that He did some drastic pruning on me, and it was time to let the fruit be produced in this area on my life, which practically meant entering into a relationship with Caleb.
It was April 12th that Caleb and I started our courtship.
Fast forward now to July 16th, 2011. Caleb took me on a little outing to Palisades park with the intention of what I thought was just to spend time together on our Saturday. He had a plan though! In the perfect location between two protruding rocks and a creek flowing behind us, Caleb knelt down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. I said yes.
As we sat on the rocks that night, with the fireflies giving us a show that only God could arrange, we recalled the events, emotions, fears and victories of our past two and a half years of knowing each other. Tears began to flood my eyes because of the love from my Heavenly Father and the love from my betrothed Husband.
Girls, may I speak with you now? Love is patient. Don't try to make it happen. God desires your obedience over sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22 & 23). Some of the hardest issues I have had to deal with was the enemy telling me lies that I was making another mistake with Caleb, just like all those guys in the past that I either like or had a relationship with. God will restore you, but I would not have you go through the same fears of failure as I did. God will author your Love Story- in fact, He already has. Love is patient, so make your requests known to your Heavenly Daddy, take time to listen to His answers, and trust Him.
Men, I would like to direct some words to you too. Godly character is the most attractive character to a godly woman. Keep seeking God, talking with Him daily and hearing from Him. As you walk in His will, you will find your mate walking alongside of you and you will be stoked at who she is.
Parents, it is to your advantage to keep open talks with your children about who they like or what relationship they are in. As much as it may drive a wedge for you to say that your child cannot date a person that they really like, it is for their best. Your children will appreciate and love you for watching out for them. Please, talk openly with them, on the foot of their bed right before they go to sleep. Ask them about what is making their heart beat, pray for their spouses with them, and entrust them into the Father's hands.
I guess this note was quite long. My Nutella sandwich is long gone, and my mind is full of this account of the faithfulness of my Creator. Even in the hard times, God is faithful. Even when we don't understand, God is faithful. Even when we are faithless, God remains faithful because He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13) .
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another." John 15:16 & 17
"Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed [are] those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' " And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God." Rev. 19:1-9
A letter from a Bride in Waiting.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Love Roots

I'm very careful with my words; I don't spill all of my soul out to everyone. I think that is a good thing; it keeps me protected. I think it's a bad thing too; it keeps me protected.

There's something awful about exposing the depths of ones heart and soul. It's vulnerable and risky. But sometimes it is wonderful and taking the chance is great.

I have had friends I can do that with, but mostly, I've been able to do that with my parents. Is that weird? I'll answer: No, that isn't weird. Right now though, as I feel my life taking on a new maturity and independence, I have only been able to expose my all to God.

Right now is sweet in the life of Melissa Rae Shelton. I'm currently "house sitting" for a friend who is in Israel, which means I get a taste of complete independence. Sure, I still go over to my parents place (which is five blocks away) for coffee and cinnamon rolls and dinner, but I so treasure the time I get to just do my laundry and read my bible in the solitude of the two bedroom home I temporarily call mine.

A song comes to mind as a theme for my life right now: "He's called me to the wilderness where I can learn to sing. And He lets me know my bareness so I can learn to lean". God is calling me to a quietness, with just Him and me. I don't know really what He's doing, and I don't need to. I get impatient and I want to hear answers. So, I have to fight wanting to get them from the people I love and look up to and to just be set with hearing from Love Himself.

Here is something that I am more confidant to say right now: God loves me. He loves every bit about the way He created me. He has plans for me and a future for me. He's called me to serve Him and love Him and love others.

Maturity is what I'm experiencing. Growth. Roots going deep into the Love of God. I'm growing. That's good. Sometimes it takes storms to grow and roots to go deep too. That's good as well. And wildernesses make the roots go to the depths of where the water is.

I realize my thoughts are a bit scattered, and I realize that sometimes I speak in circles and confuse those who are the recipients of my words, but I also realize that I can encourage others to keep letting God do His work in them through my words, which hopefully are expressions of God's heart. So, you, who ever you are, keep letting God do His work in you and don't be afraid to walk by faith and not by sight. Cling to Him, He is your life. Love God and do what you want! Delight yourself in the Lord, and HE WILL GIVE YOU THE DESIRES OF YOUR HEART. Sometimes you don't even know what those desires are, but He'll be faithful to give them to you. This life is but a short vapor. Let your roots sink deep.

"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
Ephesians 2:14-19

That's all for now.

Until next time, my dear friends and patient readers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Press On

I will take nothing that which is not given to me; I will not hold onto what is given. Self indulgence is not what I desire.

What is required of me, a Christ follower? What I desire is detachment from all I could hold dear as comfort and pleasure. What does surrender look like? How do I walk in it?

I like things; I like my room, my bed, my coffee and gluten free crackers; but those are nothing to hold to. They are nothing in the long scheme of thing.

Abandonment is what I'm learning. Abandoning my dreams, my desires, my romances. Is this easy? No. Is this logical to anyone? Not really. Forsaking all, leaving all, and following Christ is what I will do. My clothes, my comforts, my identity is all wrapped up in the Man who is leading me; Jesus Christ the Lord. Why? What else is there to live for? For me? For my pleasure? That will leave me ruined, devastated and far from the Love of God. I will be left wallowing in my mire and unaware that it's stench is deathly to those that catch its whiff.

Another weight behind; I press on. Toward Jesus, I press on.

Monday, February 7, 2011

on a white paper heart

Valentines day is approaching; yes, that means red glitter, Hershey's Kisses, stuffed bears and lots and lots of hearts.
Let's reflect.
Love is great! I believe it is the greatest desire of every human being. It was love that moved God, the God of ALL THINGS EVER CREATED, to send His Son, in whom He fully indwelled, to die and take all our sin so that we could be presented to Him in holiness.
There is no greater demonstration of love than that of Jesus Christ.
I really like love movies, I will be honest. I really like weddings as well. I really like seeing people walk hand in hand, or parents play with their children, or children play dress up with each other. I believe love is demonstrated in all scenarios.
Have you ever heard of the five love languages? Words of affirmation, gifting, helping, physical touch or just hanging out? (those aren't the exact words for each language, but they incapsulate the gist). I really think a person can be given love in each way, but they feel more love from one over the others. Well, all this to say, a couple of nights ago I saw love displayed, on a white paper heart.
Isaac, my youngest brother, is a romantic. In fact, he has already picked out his bride. Yes, he tells people he will marry her. Who is this young lady, you ask? Her name is Gracie, and just for the record, I completely approve :) Isaac has kissed Gracie- I believe it happened after a chase through the church. Precious. He plans on giving her a ring; we've discussed it. For now, Gracie's title to Isaac is "Girlfriend", but he is keeping the end goal of holy matrimony in perspective. No other girl quite compares to Gracie for Isaac, and the feelings are mutual, just ask Gracie's dad.
Back to a couple of nights ago. Isaac showed me the valentine he made for Gracie.
The left side on the white paper heart reads:
"You are a good friend.
It is fun to play with you."
And the right, appropriately illustrated with a girl and boy holding hands, reads:
"I love you."
Love. The greatest gift of all.
"By this all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
John 13:35