Plunged Through

O victory in Jesus, my savior forever
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him;
He plunged me to victory
Beneath the cleansing flood.
(http://biblestudycharts.com/RH_Victory_In_Jesus.html)

Whenever I hear an old hymn such as this, I automatically picture Mrs. Bernice, head thrown back singing in her sweet soprano. Her voice carried like no other from the left hand side of the choir loft. While her son led the worship and her eldest daughter played the piano, we’d stand reverently in our pews, eyes in our books or looking out into the choir. Clapping only occurred after a solo or a special recognition was made.

Although I haven’t visited my home church lately, I hear from my mother that some things have changed. They have a young spirit-led pastor, who’s had more than a fair share of battles with the congregation as he desires a more mission-minded church. He’s planned different activities for Wednesday nights, not the same old, same old. He does well providing appropriate learning materials for them; they have up to date Sunday School books, devotionals, and teaching materials at their disposal.

Last year they finished building a larger fellowship hall. Sure to be used this summer for VBS and potluck dinners. Yes, many of their activities include having a meal. Since their VBS is held at night, they provide supper for the children and the volunteers. Spaghetti, hot dogs, sandwiches – easy fare to make. Now they’ll have plenty of room for a drink and a dessert table, no worrying about stepping over one another.

Yes, things are changing.

I’ve changed a great deal since being a regular at Providence. Little did I know that going to college would lead to finding a sweetheart, and finding a sweetheart would take me away from everything I knew. I have no regrets, don’t get me wrong – my life has been a journey, complete with ups and downs, same as anyone. But I’m not the same young girl who sat in a back pew, minding a couple of cutesy four year olds, listening to the sermon, no big worries in life. These days I’m as complicated as they come! But not too complicated for my friend Jesus.

Back then, victory for me was getting my studies done, maintaining good grades, living up to certain expectations. Back then victory for me was graduating from high school and actually going to college, something my parents didn’t really have a shot at doing. Back then victory for me was having the attention of the opposite sex and looking the best I’d ever looked. I was so enamored with appearance.

After a while of being married and having children, victory looked a lot different. Victory was getting my first born to sleep so that I could sleep; later it was getting my daughter to sleep in her own bed. Victory was in getting both kids to school, with lunch money and paperwork signed. Victory was carving out time to focus on me and God.

Victory now is disciplining my children instead of letting them have run of life. Victory now has more to do with my character than my appearance or what I get done in a day. Victory now is not getting all the laundry done – I know that will never happen! However, victory now is not simply about letting go of these things… It’s about letting God do what He will with things in my life.

O victory in Jesus, my savior forever…

Salvation is an ongoing gift. Though we like to help God out, to try and help situations along, it’s really pointless to do so. (He does use these opportunities to further impress upon us that He is The Creator and we are the created, finite beings apart from His mercy.) But victory comes in relinquishing ourselves to Jesus. When we can say with clear diction that “Praise God, I don’t want this drink! Thank You, Jesus – You took care of this!”

Now and days I often sit on a row of seats slightly toward the front in the Worship Center, our multipurpose building much bigger than the little Southern Baptist church I remember so well. No one family is in charge of worship, no one blood line preeminent in the congregation. We lean more towards a contemporary worship style: raising hands, closing eyes, or clapping is normal or at least acceptable to those around.

Yes, things have changed for me.

Back then I knew simply that I’d escaped eternal hell. Because I believed in Jesus, that He’d paid for my sins on Calvary, was buried and resurrected, and because I’d asked Him for forgiveness, I was going to be okay.

These days, however, this knowledge is not enough. To have peace, to walk in victory, is to acknowledge my worries and then to intentionally give them to Christ. Each encumbrance must be dealt with at the foot of the cross. Each part of my life that’s discovered to be nothing less than obedient to the will of God is an irritant, an unrelenting sense of unrest negating peace in my life.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20 – 21)

No longer a youngster on the pew but a maturing woman of faith, I look for things to change. From somber to enthusiastic I often go, feelings leading my life, victories never certain or true. And although now, at this moment, I don’t know where God is leading me, what maturity in this girl looks like, I know one thing –

Victory is certain because I’ve been plunged beneath the cleansing flood.

Thank you for listening,
Debra Radaker

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 Found a special friend

So here we go

Off to find out

About one another.

 Will she care that

I’m not “put together”?

I’m just a blue jeans girl.

 Will she want to talk again,

Will I be enough?

 Will I keep my heart open

Be able to share myself?

 This much needed fellowship

Seems God put in my path

 I pray will help me mature

In faith and love

 That I’d be for Jesus

A simple message of grace.

Regaining My Passion

May 18, 2009

This past weekend was rather nice. Although Saturday morning I was running around, trying to do some last minute cleaning, a little stressed about family coming into town, by Sunday afternoon I was tearful that my sister and her girls, as well as my mother, had to leave so soon. It’s been a long time since we’ve had such familial support.

My daughter gave her first piano recital on Sunday afternoon, playing two songs that she’d diligently practiced for the past few weeks . Yes, there was a small glitch here and there, but for the most part, she nailed both songs! I was quite proud. And not only did the experience help her confidence tremendously, it likewise challenged Jamie as a pianist: she was notably impressed by an older student’s performance.

Following the student recitals, the instructor closed the program in song. And though I’d worked hard to clean the house, press clothing, prepare meals in order to have a successful weekend with family in tow -I wasn’t prepared for what she did. You see, well, we had church. (At least I did.)

She played and sang “My Passion”. (To say I’m the jealous one is an understatement. To be able to play a song like that, much less to sing and play it simultaneously, is my idea of heaven on earth.) Had she’d played, “Your Grace is Enough” or even “I Can Only Imagine” – yes, that would’ve been good. But it wouldn’t have been what I needed to hear, wouldn’t have been what touched some part of me deep inside that I’ve been praying to find again.

Do you remember this song? I found the lyrics online, and yes, they’re simple. But combined with the melody, they touch a place deep inside of me that remembers… a place that remembers when Jesus was my passion. When He was everything I trained my thoughts upon. When He was my focus, my attention, my place of security, peace, and rest. And this song just comes with a special feeling for me, an aching to know God, an aching to be totally in His presence.

You alone are my passion for living.

Song of my soul, desire of my heart.

You alone are my passion, my treasure.

I love You for all that You are.

To the ends of the earth I will follow.

There’s nothing that I would not do.

You alone are my reason for living.

Jesus my passion is You.

Jesus my passion is You.

My life. My love. My God.

You are my life…

(from Alive Forever by Travis Cottrell)

This morning on the Fish, the DJ mentioned that God doesn’t change. God never changes. I thought about the past six months or so and the way I’ve changed. How I must have been the one to start walking away. After all, His Word says plainly in Deuteronomy, Joshua, and in Hebrews “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.

Forsake means “to renounce or turn away from entirely” (webster.com). According to the Bible, God doesn’t forsake. So, He still loves me. He hasn’t forgotten me or written me off, though I shut down when life doesn’t turn out the way I hope it will. My stubbornness is nothing new to Him (ref Ecc 1:9). He remembers that I am dust, that I’m human (ref Psalm 103:14).

Hearing this song again got me in touch with that ache of desperation, that part of me that I could not feel because I had run away. It brought me back somewhat to acknowledging that I need God. That I am a desperate one. (My pride, my pride hates being this way. It hates being dependent. It wants its way and I feel scorned when I can’t live up to its demands.)

But God.

As a friend succinctly put it this morning, “But God”. I pray that He’s doing what I couldn’t – taking my stubbornness and turning it on its head. That I would, like my friend, have an adamant faith in Jesus. A faith that is unshakable, a faith that knows that pride is a temporary thing. That soon enough it will be turned on its ugly head, fashioned for eternal worship.

Flesh, pride, our very lives – none of these are our own.

And now everything – yes, take everything, including my pride. I’m so sorry Jesus.

Most Sincerely,

Debra Radaker