Yearly Archives: 2020

Summer selections

Have you given up watching TV, walking the dog, wondering what to do with the kids (or your spouse)?  Well, how about some good reading?

Friends for the Journey by Madeline L’Engle and Luci Shaw is about friendship – their friendship and what friendship really is.  These two women had journeyed together for a long time, held together by their love for God and writing.  L’Engle has since passed away but Luci is in her nineties.  They both experienced the loss of their husbands and the questions of faith. This is a great read to share with friends and reflect together on God in the midst of your friendship.

God in the Dark: Through Grief and Beyond is another wonderful book by Luci Shaw written about her journey through her husband’s illness and death.  This is not an “easy fix” kind of book.  She deals with the reality of death and grieving in a clear and profound way. I would invite you to explore on Amazon her books of poetry as well.  There is always depth and beauty in what she writes.

You may be acquainted with Madeline L’Engle’s children’s books . . . A Wrinkle in Time . . . Swiftly Tilting Planet and others.  Always good reads and re-reads.  I would encourage you to read the Crosswicks Journal that are written for adults and will give you insight into her and to her writing:  A Circle of Quiet, The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, The Irrational Season, and Two-Part Invention. You will find in them a woman of faith, a wife of commitment and grace, and a woman who knows family.

Now, out of fiction and into study:  Living beyond the Sanctuary.  Glenn McDonald has written before about discipleship in Disciple Making Church.  Here is a challenge to all of us as disciples who are called to make disciples.  Living beyond the Sanctuary is an invitation to become lifelong learners of Jesus, not just casual observers sitting along the sidelines of life.  The Christian life is outside the box, outside the church building.  Go disciples, and make disciples!

And last, Walking in the dust of the Rabbi by Lois Tverberg.  Through Lois you will hear about the world of Jesus and what you hear will open your eyes and mind to truths you may have missed because we read Jesus in American culture.  It is as if you are eavesdropping on Jesus.  Come listen!

 

 

 

Waiting . . . Waiting . . .Waiting!

No one likes to wait. What can make the waiting harmful are the temptations that creep in! Temptations like restlessness . . . or crankiness . . . or falling into “comfort” behaviors like eating too much or watching too many movies or worse!

Fortunately, The Holy Spirit provides us with the fruits we need to endure life which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. See Galatians:22-23

Let’s focus on #4, patience, “the ability to suppress restlessness or annoyance when faced with delay or put another way – quiet steady perseverance”.

I’ve been waiting a lot lately for different things. Waiting for different steps to happen in my family’s life to be able to move to the next segment of our journey . . . the next milestone.

And as I wait, I find that although I know that God will follow through with His promises, I am not being as patient or joyful as I could be in the waiting.  As I was researching scripture to match this feeling I have, it’s interesting to me that I was led to 2 Peter 3 which talks about the eventuality of Jesus coming back and how we are to wait for his return.

My dear friends, this is now the second time I’ve written to you, both letters reminders to hold your minds in a state of undistracted attention. Keep in mind what the holy prophets said, and the command of our Master and Savior that was passed on by your apostles . . .

Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change. 2 Peter 3: 1-2, 8-9

The Message

This scripture reminds us that God’s timing is not our timing – He is in constant motion even when we are at a standstill. He is working diligently to save all – not just to save us. It reminds me to think of the broader picture and not to be self-focused. All in life – being patient – being joyful – becomes effortless when we train our minds to focus on what God is – not what we want to become.

What do we do with a hardened heart?

Exodus 7-11 describes the story of Pharaoh and the release of the Israelites. It took 10 disasters before God’s purpose was accomplished. Before and after each disaster, “God hardened Pharaoh in his stubbornness. He wouldn’t listen, just as God had said to Moses” Exodus 9:12. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Why did He do this?

If Pharaoh was the only character in the story, maybe God would not have hardened his heart 10 times. But this story has many people, many factions, and many leaders involved. God’s plan was touching so many facets of so many peoples’ lives in ways we can’t fathom. What we need to remember is that His ways are not our ways.

So how does this story of Pharaoh and Moses and the Israelites relate to us?

This is how. God has a plan that we do not see. We want to control, lead and talk our pharaohs out of their stubbornness. But we can’t. It is not want is going to bring God’s plan to fruition. That is not God’s plan for them and all the other people affected by their actions.

All we can do is speak in truth in love. And when the truth is not heeded after multiple attempts, our job is to get out of Jesus’ way and allow God’s plan to come to fruition. We can’t manage it; we can’t make them understand; we can’t manipulate them; we can only get out of the way.

God must deal with them. Our job is to stand firm in love and truth. We don’t know what God’s “really” doing. We only know that we can’t control it. And we must let God control it.

So take heart when you are watching your pharaohs. Pray for them. They are part of God’s plan. We can count on God always being good.

Joy unending Joy!

Remember the story Jesus told of the prodigal son? The younger son demanded his inheritance right away from his father. The father divided the property between his two sons and the younger one left and squandered his fortune on undisciplined, shameful living, wasting everything he had to a point where he was working slopping pigs. He came to his senses figuring out that he had sinned against God and his father. He returned home to ask for a job as one of his father’s hired hands. His father was so ecstatic to see him that he ordered his servants to prepare a feast to celebrate.

“All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’

“The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

“His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’” Luke 15:11-32

The Bible doesn’t take the story any further. It is unknown if the brother decided to stay in his sulk or to see things through his father’s joy. Wouldn’t it be amazing to read these words from the brother to the father:

“You are so right dad, I was just thinking about myself and how I deserved a party. I focused on being hurt because you didn’t do something for me but you do stuff for me all the time! I spoke without thinking stirring up discord when there was no reason for it. In fact, I am so thankful my brother is home! What a joy it will be to share life with him again not to mention I will enjoy having him help us! What a family reunion this is!! I am so glad he is ok and that you are so blessed to have him return. I know you were grieving thinking he was gone forever! What a celebration this is. I thought my brother was lost forever but now he is home safe with us!”

If that epilogue was included at the end of the story, we would be certain the brother would have remembered that God works out all things for our good and that we should rejoice in the day we are in! He would have enjoyed a party! He would have given his brother the opportunity to repent and be reinstated into the family through mercy, grace and love.

Instead, it is very possible the end of the story for the brother was a of miserable self-pitying night alone, not to mention the fallout the next day!

How many times have we chosen this path? The path of grumble and complain – the path of comparing and criticizing?

We have a choice. The end of our story is not yet here and His mercy is new every morning! Choose God. Choose to pass on joy instead of discord!! Choose to love instead of hate!!!

The joy of the Lord is my strength. Nehemiah 8:10

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:34

 A cheerful disposition is good for your health;
gloom and doom leave you bone-tired. Proverbs17:22

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

The Peace of Christ

Have you ever felt torn between two worlds? One that involves your love of Christ and one that is of this world where you don’t even think about Him.

Maybe on Sunday, you are going to church and have your eyes on Him but then as the week progresses He is not as obvious to you? Maybe you think about Him in the morning as you sit with Him and read His Word but as time passes, you are distracted by work or your family or world events.

In this day, how do you mesh God with this world? Well . . . He did create it – He sent His Son to save it – His Spirit lives in it . . .

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. Colossians 3:1-4 The Message

So when you realize that you are distracted from thinking about Him no matter what you are doing, turn your thoughts back to Him. Turn off the distractions – news, television, Facebook, and internet. Stop behavior that distracts you from Him and points you to worldly pursuits.

Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. Colossians 3:9-11

Yes you heard him right . . . view everyone through Christ – through His eyes of love not the worlds eyes . . .

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:12-14

Remember . . .

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. Colossians 3:15-17

Love one another!

What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to.

But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own. 1 John 3:1-3

How are we to behave? Model the life of Christ!

All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God’s order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in him, and sin is not part of his program. No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ. They’ve got him all backward.

 So, my dear children, don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah. Those who make a practice of sin are straight from the Devil, the pioneer in the practice of sin. The Son of God entered the scene to abolish the Devil’s ways. 1 John 3:4-8

How should we act? Act right!

People conceived and brought into life by God don’t make a practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin. Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test.

For this is the original message we heard: We should love each other. 1 John 3:9-11

How should we treat others? Love them!

We must not be like Cain, who joined the Evil One and then killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because he was deep in the practice of evil, while the acts of his brother were righteous. So don’t be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time.

 The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don’t go together. 1 John 3:12-15

How do we confront hate?  We love!  We abide in Him who is Love in the moment we are in through His Holy Spirit!

Remember . . . in this day . . . Love one another.

I’m gonna see a Victory!

“Shout! A full-throated shout!
    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
    face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
    and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
    and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

Isaiah 58:1-3 The Message

 Do you have a decision or project you’ve been working on for a long time? Something that gnaws at your mind or heart – something which stares at you at the end of the day – something you try to get to but there never seems to be enough time to start it? I am talking about a decision or project that has been in the making for years – not the laundry pile that is always there. You have consulted the Lord – You have asked for help. You have even fasted to keep your mind focused on God in your situation. Why can’t you get resolution?

 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
    You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
    won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
    and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
    a fast day that I, God, would like?

 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
    sharing your food with the hungry,
    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
    being available to your own families. Isaiah 58:4-7

God is asking us to turn our hearts and minds away from ourselves and look at the people and situations he has placed in our path in this day. The project or decision we are focused on is irrelevant if we haven’t dealt with the moments we are in. Looking ahead to plan or behind to berate ourselves for failing to “get it done” is of little consequence. What He is asking us to do is follow Him in the moment we are in.

Do this and the lights will turn on,
    and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
    The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ Isaiah 58:8-9

 Setting ourselves aside (our personal wants and desires) in furtherance of His Kingdom in this moment, will pave the way for resolution of our own situation. If we follow Him in each moment of this day, the decision or project will either get resolved in His time or He will give us understanding that it was not His to start with. Either way, His peace will carry us because in the words of Elevation Worship “I’m gonna see a Victory, for the battle belongs to you, Lord!”

Ascension!

“Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I’m telling you: ‘Where I go, you are not able to come.’

 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:33-35

Jesus commanded us to love one another. Why? Because when we love, we point others to Him.

“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. John 14:25-27

Jesus wanted us to know that He left us in good hands and with a gift – Peace. Why? So we would not be upset or distraught but would remember that we are well and whole!

“You’ve heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away, and I’m coming back.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I’m on my way to the Father because the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.  I’ve told you this ahead of time, before it happens, so that when it does happen, the confirmation will deepen your belief in me. John 14:28-29

Jesus challenges us to be thankful for His journey to the Father. Why? Because His goal and purpose in life was to be obedient to the Father by saving us and when we connect these dots, our faith deepens.

And then what He had told the disciples was going to happen, happened. Jesus was crucified, buried and on the third day, arose! He appeared to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, to John, to the disciples on the Road to Damascus, to the disciples in the Upper Room and by the Sea. And He spoke to them.

 You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses. What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.” Luke 24:47-49

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit before His death and after he arose He reminded the disciples to wait for The Holy Spirit. Why? So they and us could be equipped with power from God.

 He then led them out of the city over to Bethany. Raising his hands he blessed them, and while blessing them, took his leave, being carried up to heaven. Luke 24:47-51

Jesus ascended into Heaven. . . And, we are reminded by His words before He died:

“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.” John 14:2-4

So as you awake tomorrow – Ascension Day – be reminded by the Holy Spirit that Jesus has a room ready for you and He will be back to take you to live with Him. Halleluiah!

Is fear knocking? Banish it!

Fear is an insidious temptation. Its job is to divert our attention to something that is not of God.   When it strikes, we become confused and tend to go into a hibernating mode. Fear isolates and turns our outward thoughts inward. We dwell on ourselves and our own preservation. If it is allowed to go unchecked it immobilizes us and sucks the very life from our soul.

God’s Love always conquers fear!

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

 We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

 If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. 1 John 4:17-21The Message

Conquering fear is a process.   Turning from fear to love takes time and effort.   Many times we have allowed fear to take root so deeply that uncovering and exposing it to God’s Love is a lengthy process. Two steps forward, one step back. But as the light seeps in, we start to be able to love others as we love ourselves – a sure sign that our fear is no match for God’s Love.

So let us be liberated from fear by Love. Banish your fear and move towards Love. Start with actively allowing yourself to know God’s Love by turning to Him. Sitting with Him. . . Singing to Him. . . Walking with Him . . . Listening for Him and sharing Him with others in Love. Wherever you are in this moment make an effort to trust Him and the Love that He has for you.

Remember . . . God’s Love always conquers fear!

What more do you need?

You who sit down in the High God’s presence,
    spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
    I trust in you and I’m safe!”

That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
    shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you—
    under them you’re perfectly safe;
    his arms fend off all harm.

Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
    not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
    not disaster that erupts at high noon.

Even though others succumb all around,
    drop like flies right and left,
    no harm will even graze you.
You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance,
    watch the wicked turn into corpses.

Yes, because God’s your refuge,
    the High God your very own home,
Evil can’t get close to you,
    harm can’t get through the door.

He ordered his angels
    to guard you wherever you go.
If you stumble, they’ll catch you;
    their job is to keep you from falling.
You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes,
    and kick young lions and serpents from the path.

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
    “I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
    if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
    I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
    give you a long drink of salvation!” Psalm 91

 This is what you need to hear!

 Sit down in God’s presence, spend time with Him and acknowledge He is your refuge! Don’t run scared. He has you. You are resting in His presence. Now it is light outside and you need to stand up and follow Him on the mountain path. It is narrow and there are lots of places for lions (big problems and little problems) and snakes (sneaky people and made up fears) to hide. But He has commanded His forces to protect you and to keep you safe. He promises.

 As a matter of fact, IF YOU HOLD ONTO HIM FOR DEAR LIFE, GET TO KNOW HIM AND TRUST HIM, He promises to: deliver you from trouble, protect you, answer you, comfort you, rescue you, give you long life and give you His life saving Grace.

 So get up and follow Him! Stop feeling sorry for yourself and grab ahold of His promises. A new day is dawning. He is in it with you! What more do you need?

A Servant

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.  To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.  The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:14-30 NIV

I lost a friend, today. One who is celebrating with Jesus and all those who have gone before him. I know in my heart that Jesus welcomed him with the words “Well done, good and faithful servant”, because that is what he was – a servant of the Lord.

His passing onward reminds me of our role in this world – to be servants – to be following Jesus in our everyday life – whatever that may be. It is allowing God to be in the lead showing us the path, showing us the gifts He has given us to use for His Glory. It is about keeping our eyes on that lighted pathway, our head held up and our steps sure.

It is not about stopping on the path, or passing the Lord on the path or shoving Him out of the way as we sprint ahead – but of stopping when He stops, walking when He walks and running when He runs. My friend was good at that. Good at walking in step with the Lord on the path set for him.

I am not saying that his path was not filled with challenges and hardships. It was. What I am saying is that he took what was given to him and in response to those challenges and hardships; he vaulted forward on the strength of Jesus. And along the way, his life touched and impacted more of God’s children than ever could be imagined.

Trust . . . Live . . . Repeat!

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.

Are you going through “hard times”? If so, what did you learn? How were you strengthened? If not, has God brought you along side someone else who is experiencing a difficult time that you have some insight into or similar experience with?

6-7 When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it.

Are you there, yet – at the point where the same peace that surpassing all understanding is present whether it be a hard time or a good time? Have you realized that your hard time is also shared with those praying for you – the Body of Christ?

8-11 We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.

Do you understand the resurrection power that connects one brother in Christ or sister in Christ with another? Do you understand the power of prayer? Have you asked for it from your fellow brothers or sisters in Christ?

12-14 Now that the worst is over, we’re pleased we can report that we’ve come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world—and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn’t by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised. Don’t try to read between the lines or look for hidden meanings in this letter. We’re writing plain, unembellished truth, hoping that you’ll now see the whole picture as well as you’ve seen some of the details. We want you to be as proud of us as we are of you when we stand together before our Master Jesus. 2 Corinthians 1:4-14

Are you reading “between the lines” in a situation looking for hidden meanings? Or are you seeking the whole truth and asking God to show it to you based on the details you do have?

15-16 Confident of your welcome, I had originally planned two great visits with you—coming by on my way to Macedonia province, and then again on my return trip. Then we could have had a bon-voyage party as you sent me off to Judea. That was the plan.

17-19 Are you now going to accuse me of being flip with my promises because it didn’t work out? Do you think I talk out of both sides of my mouth—a glib yes one moment, a glib no the next? Well, you’re wrong. I try to be as true to my word as God is to his. Our word to you wasn’t a careless yes canceled by an indifferent no. How could it be? When Silas and Timothy and I proclaimed the Son of God among you, did you pick up on any yes-and-no, on-again, off-again waffling? Wasn’t it a clean, strong Yes?

Do you realize that God operates in “real time”? Sometimes what we were lead to do was not about the “doing” but was about the “following” so that in the process something is produced that may or may not be known to us. It does not mean that we heard “wrong” at the time, just that what we thought was the purpose was not God’s purpose. Can we live with not knowing every purpose of God or do we have to investigate everything we don’t understand and place “blame” when we think we have figured it all out?

20-22 Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.

23 Now, are you ready for the real reason I didn’t visit you in Corinth? As God is my witness, the only reason I didn’t come was to spare you pain. I was being considerate of you, not indifferent, not manipulative.

24 We’re not in charge of how you live out the faith, looking over your shoulders, suspiciously critical. We’re partners, working alongside you, joyfully expectant. I know that you stand by your own faith, not by ours.  2 Corinthians 1:3-24 The Message.

Are you looking over your shoulder, being suspiciously critical or are you partnering with God and alongside others, joyfully expectant of God’s provision?

Remember, the strength of the Body of Christ is all of us standing by our own faith . . . together.

“Cast your burdens on the Lord”

Before the sun rises each day, I snuggle under a blanket on my big comfy chair with my steaming cup of coffee and open the worn cover of my favorite devotional – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest. It is my “go to” devotional. I have probably read it every other year for 20 years. It never gets old – it never ceases to stir me in my walk with the Lord. Monday, April 13th was no exception.

What To Do When Your Burden Is Overwhelming

Cast your burden on the Lord… Psalm 55:22

We must recognize the difference between burdens that are right for us to bear and burdens that are wrong. We should never bear the burdens of sin or doubt, but there are some burdens placed on us by God which He does not intend to lift off. God wants us to roll them back on Him— to literally “cast your burden,” which He has given you, “on the Lord….” If we set out to serve God and do His work but get out of touch with Him, the sense of responsibility we feel will be overwhelming and defeating. But if we will only roll back on God the burdens He has placed on us, He will take away that immense feeling of responsibility, replacing it with an awareness and understanding of Himself and His presence.

Many servants set out to serve God with great courage and with the right motives. But with no intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ, they are soon defeated. They do not know what to do with their burden, and it produces weariness in their lives. Others will see this and say, “What a sad end to something that had such a great beginning!”

“Cast your burden on the Lord….” You have been bearing it all, but you need to deliberately place one end on God’s shoulder. “…the government will be upon His shoulder” Isaiah 9:6. Commit to God whatever burden He has placed on you. Don’t just cast it aside, but put it over onto Him and place yourself there with it. You will see that your burden is then lightened by the sense of companionship. But you should never try to separate yourself from your burden.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, April 13

Have you been struggling with a burden? Are you asking God to take it away or are you asking Him to shoulder the burden with you – asking Him to open your eyes to see the burden through His eyes?

Remember . . . “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

Turn Your Eyes

As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.” Luke 10:38-39 The Message

As a follower of Jesus, many of us are “doing” good things. As we journey deeper in faith, our vision becomes clearer and we realize that doing “good” things is not always the “best” or “essential” thing to be doing.

We have a unique opportunity at this moment in time to concentrate on doing the “essential” thing – to enjoy the “main course”.  So let us remove ourselves from our list of tasks and ask ourselves some simple questions.

When was the last time you gave yourself a break – from work – from cleaning – from directing – from supervising others – from having “to do“ anything. When was the last time, you had no agenda but Him?

When is the last time you merely rested in Him – in his teaching – in the beauty of His spring flowers – in the warmth of His sun or the vastness of His night sky – or the laughter of His children?

When is the last time you hung on every word He said?

The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42 The Message

So . . . “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO4uIyz_d90

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jR7r0Br_HNs

O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free

Turn you eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there
Over us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conquerors we are

And turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

His word shall not fail you, He promised
Believe Him and all will be well
Then go to a world that is dying
His perfect salvation to tell

And turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

Lyrics by Helen Howarth Lemmel 1922

What ARE we doing?

When Hathach told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai sent her this message: “Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.” Esther 4:12-14

If you are a follower of Jesus, then you have been blessed for a time such as this. You have been strategically placed in this world to be the hands and feet and voice of Christ himself. The Holy Spirit is within you and is guiding you. Worship. Listen. Intercede. Follow.

When the Master Shows Up

 “Keep your shirts on; keep the lights on! Be like house servants waiting for their master to come back from his honeymoon, awake and ready to open the door when he arrives and knocks. Lucky the servants whom the master finds on watch! He’ll put on an apron, sit them at the table, and serve them a meal, sharing his wedding feast with them. It doesn’t matter what time of the night he arrives; they’re awake—and so blessed!

 “You know that if the house owner had known what night the burglar was coming, he wouldn’t have stayed out late and left the place unlocked. So don’t you be slovenly and careless. Just when you don’t expect him, the Son of Man will show up.”

Peter said, “Master, are you telling this story just for us? Or is it for everybody?”

The Master said, “Let me ask you: Who is the dependable manager, full of common sense, that the master puts in charge of his staff to feed them well and on time? He is a blessed man if when the master shows up he’s doing his job. But if he says to himself, ‘The master is certainly taking his time,’ begins maltreating the servants and maids, throws parties for his friends, and gets drunk, the master will walk in when he least expects it, give him the thrashing of his life, and put him back in the kitchen peeling potatoes.

“The servant who knows what his master wants and ignores it, or insolently does whatever he pleases, will be thoroughly thrashed. But if he does a poor job through ignorance, he’ll get off with a slap on the hand. Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities! Luke 12:35-48

Have you been blessed with resources? In other words do you have savings, a steady income and/or a job that is continuing? Have you sought Christ’s counsel to determine how he desires you to use these resources? Is there a business you normally patronize that is now closed? Have you discerned if they are still in need of income to pay their rent, utilities, feed their children or themselves? What are you being called to do?

Do you have a position of influence to assist people in this time? Are you making yourself available to those in your sphere of influence – those God places in your path either through work, church, or in the grocery store parking lot? What are you being called to do?

Do you have the physical ability to provide needed labor? Is you neighbor elderly and in need of a light bulb being changed, or yard work being completed or a minor repair being done? Can you volunteer at a food bank? What are you being called to do?

Are you trained in professions that are being called into extraordinary service? Have you turned to Jesus for strength and guidance? Are you focusing on His love, knowing He will never leave you or forsake you – knowing that He already won? Are you believing that He has your back and claiming the power of Jesus as you work? Are you refusing to complain, feel sorry for yourself, or place blame? What are you being called to do?

Are you blessed with a talent – such as music – and are you sharing that with others through a telephone call, a serenade through a window, a video chat with a parent or grandparent? What are you being called to do?

Are you a believer in Jesus Christ who has time to intercede for those in harms way? One of the greatest forms of worship is lifting others to the throne of God. We all have time now that is different than the time we had a month ago. So ask God to place those people on your heart who are in need of the touch of Jesus. Will Jesus touch them anyway? Yes, but what a smile we bring to His face when we are listening and discerning what He is doing and we are doing it too. Have you discerned anything about what you may be called to do from your relationship with Jesus?

If not, maybe you just need to be still.

What ARE we talking about?

Since we are apart from each other, what are we talking about in our daily lives? Are we allowing our minds to run amuck? Are we blaming others for the state of the world? Are we complaining about our circumstances? Are we practicing our faith?

In the midst of uncertainty we are called to be certain in our belief of Jesus . . . and not only certain about our belief, but actually believe what He told us. Remember . . .

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.a

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you. Matthew 5:3-12 NIV

 Or said another way:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. Matthew 5:1-12 The Message

So instead of asking questions like “How are you surviving this isolation?” or commenting on what our government officials are doing wrong, why don’t we try asking each other “how is it with your soul?”

And then . . . be prepared to give love, hope, peace and joy in response . . . even if there is uncomfortable fallout . . . for you are, at that point, in the company of greatness.

Rest . . . Listen . . . Arise

Be Still and Know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 NIV

 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7 NIV

Many times God calls us to rest before arising. Why? Because we can’t arise when we are not rested. Many of us do not take the time to rest – it’s just not in our schedule. But now . . . is a very good time to rest . . . and while resting refocus.

When I call, give me answers. God, take my side!
Once, in a tight place, you gave me room;
Now I’m in trouble again: grace me! hear me!

 You rabble—how long do I put up with your scorn?
How long will you lust after lies?
How long will you live crazed by illusion?

 Look at this: look
Who got picked by God!
He listens the split second I call to him. Psalm 4:1-3

 Are you listening? Really listening?

 Complain if you must, but don’t lash out.
Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking.
Build your case before God and wait for his verdict.

 Why is everyone hungry for more? “More, more,” they say.
“More, more.”
I have God’s more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day

Than they get in all their shopping sprees.
At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep,
For you, God, have put my life back together. Psalm 4:4-8 The Message

Remember . . . refocus on God . . . stop complaining . . . shut your mouth and let your heart do the talking. Be still. Wait patiently. Practice resting in the Lord. For soon, He will ask you to arise.

And remember . . . who should we look to for answers?

God and God alone.

Don’t Panic – PRAY

A friend of mine recently shared with me a quote from a devotion she was reading.  In essence the writer was asking  –  Do we believe “in God” or do we “believe God”?

The significance of this question cannot be more relevant than today.  As we face this global challenge, we are called to fix our eyes upon Jesus – the same thing we were called to do yesterday and the day before that. Listen to what Jesus told his disciples. Then ask yourself “Do I believe GOD?”

12-15 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’ 

Do you believe God? Do you believe you are being guided by the Holy Spirit? Do you believe the Spirit is delivering to you directly from Jesus?

16 “In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me.”

17-18 That stirred up a hornet’s nest of questions among the disciples: “What’s he talking about: ‘In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me’? And, ‘Because I’m on my way to the Father’? What is this ‘day or so’? We don’t know what he’s talking about.”

19-20 Jesus knew they were dying to ask him what he meant, so he said, “Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me’? Then fix this firmly in your minds: You’re going to be in deep mourning while the godless world throws a party. You’ll be sad, very sad, but your sadness will develop into gladness.

21-23 “When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there’s no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You’ll no longer be so full of questions.

23-24 “This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!

Do you believe God? Then PRAY! You know what is in God’s Will!  Pray that  . . . and if you don’t know what is in His Will pray for Him to tell you!  And believe that He will!

25-28 “I’ve used figures of speech in telling you these things. Soon I’ll drop the figures and tell you about the Father in plain language. Then you can make your requests directly to him in relation to this life I’ve revealed to you. I won’t continue making requests of the Father on your behalf. I won’t need to. Because you’ve gone out on a limb, committed yourselves to love and trust in me, believing I came directly from the Father, the Father loves you directly. First, I left the Father and arrived in the world; now I leave the world and travel to the Father.”

29-30 His disciples said, “Finally! You’re giving it to us straight, in plain talk—no more figures of speech. Now we know that you know everything—it all comes together in you. You won’t have to put up with our questions anymore. We’re convinced you came from God.”

31-33 Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”  John 16:12-33 The Message

Do you believe God? Are you unshakeable and assured? Are you deeply at peace?  Then share that today with others who need reassurance.

And remember . . .  Take heart. God wins!

Back to the Basics

Sometimes it is good to return to the basics . . . to reset where you are . . . to take stock . . . to refocus so you can build anew . . . to remember whose you are, where you are going and what you are called to do.

Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life;
don’t for a minute lose sight of them.
They’ll keep your soul alive and well,
they’ll keep you fit and attractive.
You’ll travel safely,
you’ll neither tire nor trip.
You’ll take afternoon naps without a worry,
you’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep.
No need to panic over alarms or surprises,
or predictions that doomsday’s just around the corner,

Reset your mind. It is a choice to turn your “thinking” away from disastrous temptations and towards God. If you are having trouble, turn to praise, ask (pray) for a song in your heart, listen to worship music, give thanks, count your blessings or focus on someone in need of help.

 Because God will be right there with you;
he’ll keep you safe and sound.

Never walk away from someone who deserves help;
your hand is God’s hand for that person.
Don’t tell your neighbor “Maybe some other time”
or “Try me tomorrow”
when the money’s right there in your pocket.
Don’t figure ways of taking advantage of your neighbor
when he’s sitting there trusting and unsuspecting.

Don’t walk around with a chip on your shoulder,
always spoiling for a fight.
Don’t try to be like those who shoulder their way through life.
Why be a bully?
“Why not?” you say. Because God can’t stand twisted souls.
It’s the straightforward who get his respect.

God’s curse blights the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the righteous.
He gives proud skeptics a cold shoulder,
but if you’re down on your luck, he’s right there to help.
Wise living gets rewarded with honor;
stupid living gets the booby prize.
The Message Proverbs 3:21-35

Remember . . . today is a new day . . . a day to reset . . . a day to give thanks and praise . . . a day to set the past behind us . . . a day to restart . . . a day to remember that eternity meets us in this moment.

A Walk with Jesus

Many of our traditions recognize the season of Lent – 40 days set aside in the Christian calendar to reflect on the journey of Jesus leading up to the cross.

It is a time for repentance, forgiveness, sacrifice, reflection, discipline, remembrance and preparation. It is a time of fasting and prayer – a time to seek the Lord in our journey through a walk in His.

Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”

Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.”

For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”

Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”

The  Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus’ needs. Matthew 4:1-11 The Message

Have you ever prepared for a test by fasting? Have you ever spent 40 days praying for God to give you strength and wisdom and words for a time of testing? During that time have you sought Him in His Word asking Him to speak through Scripture? Have you addressed a troubling situation in the manner of Jesus – by weakening your human condition so that God can be in control and the solution and glory are all His?

Remember . . . traditions are fruitless if we engage in them out of blind habit – they are only fruitful when we engage our hearts, minds, souls and strength in seeking Jesus. 

Close to Home

Sometimes our toughest challenges are those close to home – with those we love the most or are supposed to love the most. Sometimes we struggle with those who believe and those who do not – those who say they believe and those who do not – those who think they are awake but are asleep in their beliefs – those who think they believe but have never turned from themselves and put their heart where their head is.

It can be a lonely walk. But do not despair. You are never alone. For those of us who know that “God will never leave us or forsake us”, the question that follows is “what are we being called to do?”

Each of our circumstances are different – none of us lives the same lives. So no one knows the right path for each of us except for God. Thank God that the movement of the Holy Spirit will be different for each of us given what will bring God Glory. The key is to seek God’s path through our circumstances – not rely on our own understanding but seek God’s first. Be careful of outside advise from others who are not in a position to know the entirety of your situation – such advise should only be sought after a clear indication from God.

The Master, God, has given me
    a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
    He wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
    to listen as one ready to take orders.
The Master, God, opened my ears,
    and I didn’t go back to sleep,
    didn’t pull the covers back over my head.
I followed orders,
    stood there and took it while they beat me,
    held steady while they pulled out my beard,
Didn’t dodge their insults,
    faced them as they spit in my face.
And the Master, God, stays right there and helps me,
    so I’m not disgraced.
Therefore I set my face like flint,
    confident that I’ll never regret this.
My champion is right here.
    Let’s take our stand together!
Who dares bring suit against me?
    Let him try!
Look! the Master, God, is right here.
    Who would dare call me guilty?
Look! My accusers are a clothes bin of threadbare
    socks and shirts, fodder for moths!

10-11 Who out there fears God,
    actually listens to the voice of his servant?
For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going,
    anyone groping in the dark,
Here’s what: Trust in God.
    Lean on your God!
But if all you’re after is making trouble,
    playing with fire,

Go ahead and see where it gets you.
    Set your fires, stir people up, blow on the flames,
But don’t expect me to just stand there and watch.
    I’ll hold your feet to those flames.

Isaiah 50:4-11

Remember . . . we cannot be disgraced by those who have no power to disgrace us.  Stand firm. Stand strong. We have already won – we are His and we are almost Home.

State of the (Union) Heart

What is the state of your heart? Is it connected to your mind? Are they working together for God’s Glory? Or does your heart say one thing and your mind say another? Is your heart filled with what you need or what God desires for you? Is your mind scheming to manipulate even the simplest tasks of the day?

After that, Pharisees and religion scholars came to Jesus all the way from Jerusalem, criticizing, “Why do your disciples play fast and loose with the rules?”

 But Jesus put it right back on them. “Why do you use your rules to play fast and loose with God’s commands? God clearly says, ‘Respect your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone denouncing father or mother should be killed.’ But you weasel around that by saying, ‘Whoever wants to, can say to father and mother, What I owed to you I’ve given to God.’ That can hardly be called respecting a parent. You cancel God’s command by your rules. Frauds! Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye:

These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
but their heart isn’t in it.
They act like they’re worshiping me,
but they don’t mean it.
They just use me as a cover
for teaching whatever suits their fancy.”

He then called the crowd together and said, “Listen, and take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up.”

Later his disciples came and told him, “Did you know how upset the Pharisees were when they heard what you said?”

Jesus shrugged it off. “Every tree that wasn’t planted by my Father in heaven will be pulled up by its roots. Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.”

Peter said, “I don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”

 Jesus replied, “You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That’s what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that’s neither here nor there.” Matthew 15:1-20 The Message

Take stock and make adjustments, so that your heart is full of God who is love. If you are conflicted between heart and mind, then focus on love. It is out of the reservoir of your heart that you will live and live abundantly. Remember . . . your life is at stake.

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

 If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. 1 John 4:17-21 The Message

The “Call”

Continuing with Paul’s story after his meeting with Jesus on the Road to Damascus, Paul tells us that he was set apart by God by His grace. Galatians 1:15-16. For what? . . . To preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1

Paul knew he was separated and knew his purpose. He did not consult other human beings. In his own words to the Galatians, he tells us he spent three years in Arabia shortly after his conversion. What was he doing? We can only assume, God was preparing him for his mission – peeling off layers of his “stinkin onion” so he was indeed free of the chains of the past. That took time.

God also calls us to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That “call” takes a different path for each of us. Some, like Paul, are called to travel and share the Gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus Christ. Others are called to share the Good News in their local communities through service or by one-on-one discussions with those they meet in their everyday lives. Still others, like Billy Graham, are called to large forums preaching to millions.

Regardless of how we are called to share the Good News, we need to be focused on that call and not get side-tracked by focusing on our personal holiness and what we perceive as the lack of holiness in others. Too often, we feel it is our business to look for splinters in others’ eyes but forget about the “plank” in our own. The “call” is not for “personal holiness”. The call is to share the “Good News”. Personal holiness is a side effect of knowing Jesus.

So remember the Words of Christ, himself:

“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.

 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

Luke 6:31-38 The Message

The Wait

My friend recently reminded me of Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus.  But it was how she posed a question that made me return to dwell on Paul’s experience once again. She asked this: “ If it took Paul three years to deal with forgiving himself then why should I think I am any different?”

I’m sure that you’ve heard the story of my earlier life when I lived in the Jewish way. In those days I went all out in persecuting God’s church. I was systematically destroying it. I was so enthusiastic about the traditions of my ancestors that I advanced head and shoulders above my peers in my career. Even then God had designs on me. Why, when I was still in my mother’s womb he chose and called me out of sheer generosity! Now he has intervened and revealed his Son to me so that I might joyfully tell non-Jews about him.

Immediately after my calling—without consulting anyone around me and without going up to Jerusalem to confer with those who were apostles long before I was—I got away to Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus, but it was three years before I went up to Jerusalem to compare stories with Peter. I was there only fifteen days—but what days they were! Except for our Master’s brother James, I saw no other apostles. (I’m telling you the absolute truth in this.)  Galatians 1:13-20 The Message

What struck my friend was that after this traumatic and life altering event of being struck blind and having Christ call him out, Paul took three years to get his act together before going onto Jerusalem to meet with Peter.

Three years to forgive himself. Three years to begin the process of loving himself through God’s eyes. Three years to learn. Three years to prepare. Three years to consult with God, not man. Three years.

Have you been through a life-altering event – a trauma – a time when Jesus called you out? If so, it may be that you need to learn to forgive yourself and learn to see yourself through God’s eyes. It may be that you need to take time to learn what God has for you in this new season – to take time to learn to rely on Him and not on human counsel. It may be that you need to sit in His Word in order to understand the need to sit in His Presence.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.  Jeremiah 29:11-14

Bruising with Words

Peter said, “I don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”

Jesus replied, “You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That’s what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that’s neither here nor there.” Matthew 15:15-20

 I hate when I screw up. When I say something that hurts another person. Something not meant for their ears, but they hear it. Regardless of whether it is the truth or not, the sting of misplaced words bruises the soul.

When the soul is bruised, the truth of the words is lost in the bruising. Truth is meant to be spoken in love, not in anger, criticism or grumbling.

I can still hear my mother’s voice saying, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Not only is it not good to say it, it is not good to think it in the first place. “Stinkin thinkin” is also a sign of discord within the soul.

But that is our nature, isn’t it. We complain and speak harshly about others all the time. Why?? . . . because we are born into a fallen world. Our nature is prideful and selfish. Just because we are born from above does not mean we automatically become perfect. No!!! We need to work at setting that type of thinking aside. When stinkin thinkin comes out in word form it means that our souls are in need of a cleansing. It means that we are not connected to our life source – the Vine.

So when it happens, we must go back to the great soul cleanser – Jesus – and ask for forgiveness, turn from our “stinkin thinkin”, stop our mouth from spouting and instead seek rejuvenation from the Lord in prayer, thankfulness, worship and praise.

Blessings in Disguise

New Heavens and a New Earth

“Pay close attention now:
   I’m creating new heavens and a new earth.
All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain
    are things of the past, to be forgotten.
Look ahead with joy.
    Anticipate what I’m creating:
I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy,
  create my people as pure delight.
………..

For my people will be as long-lived as trees,
    my chosen ones will have satisfaction in their work.
They won’t work and have nothing come of it,
    they won’t have children snatched out from under them.
For they themselves are plantings blessed by God,
    with their children and grandchildren likewise God-blessed.
Before they call out, I’ll answer.
    Before they’ve finished speaking, I’ll have heard.
Wolf and lamb will graze the same meadow,
    lion and ox eat straw from the same trough,
    but snakes—they’ll get a diet of dirt!
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
    anywhere on my Holy Mountain,” says God.

Isaiah 65:17-25

It is the wee hours of the morning. I am sitting with my canine companion in her final days here on earth. She has been with us 14 years. So in my anguish, I asked God to remind me of how and why she came to be our treasured Meg.

The evening before my mother-in-law died, we visited my father-in-law and the kids all came running in with seven pups in their arms – chubby and super cute except for one who was tiny and obviously not well. The kids held her up and said what’s wrong with this one Poppop? In words only a farmer could say to a group of grade schoolers, he said, “Aww that one . . . she’s the runt – can’t get enough milk at the milk bar . . . not enough room for her. She’s probably going to die”. In unison, these loving cherubs turned to me and said, “what are you going to do?”

I looked at those beautiful innocent faces and remembered now how earnest and full of love they were. I told them there was nothing we could do now but get the runt back out to her mother alone and let her eat while they played with her brothers and sisters.

The next day my Husband called to let me know that his Mom had passed on. We were expecting it, but it was an emotionally tough time. She was an awesome mother-in-law. I couldn’t imagine someone more wonderful to have than her. My Husband finished the conversation with “What are we going to do about that puppy.”

Now, I had already told my mother-in-law that I was not ready for a puppy – our 18 year old dog had died four years earlier after a year of hospice care. I kept saying to her, I just can’t deal with a puppy at the same time I am caring for four kids, my Dad and your son!

So of course I replied, “we are not doing anything with that puppy.” He replied, “No really, what are we going to do with that puppy?” I replied a bit louder “WE are not going to do anything with that puppy?” There was a moment of silence and then I said, “you have that puppy in your van, don’t you.” The answer was a simple “yes”.

The day Grandma went home was the day the kids remember our Meg coming home. I did not want her . . . but my Husband and the kids desperately wanted her. So in she came. The first night I slept on the couch with her crying on my chest yearning for her real mom and siblings . . . not fit to be away from them yet. My thoughts bounced between “Lord, please do not let her die” and “Where is everyone now at 2:00 a.m.?”

The next day, my husband went to the hospital with a gall bladder attack that required surgery. As I made arrangements for the kids and now a puppy, I remember asking God why – why now – I just did not need one more thing! Yes indeedy – at that moment it was all about me.

But time went on. She became a member of our family. Each of the kids had periods of time when she was their favorite. She was a constant in the home – available to each of us for comfort and exercise, laughter and sorrow.

You see, God is acutely aware of the “troubles, chaos and pain” of this world.  He walks beside us everyday – all day – and what can seem like “the last thing I need right now,” is the very thing we do need.  Grief never seems like a blessing.

In our memories, Meg’s arrival in our family coincides with the passing of Grandma. God knew we needed help and the blessing our Meg has been to us over the years has been immeasurable!   I now know what I did not know then – God Blesses us even when we don’t know He is Blessing and even when we can’t see through our circumstances.

But by the Grace of God go each of us!

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. Romans 12:3 The Message

Sometimes we lose sight of who is in charge. God brings His goodness to us. Our job is to share that goodness with others. If we think God’s goodness is generated from us, it leads to a prideful existence – an existence that turns the spotlight away from God and onto us.

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. Romans 12:4-6

Remember pride . . . it “goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” Proverbs 16:18. So be careful. Return to your first love – Christ – and remember what goodness you are called to share.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. Romans 12:6-8

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