Growing Faith: 10~Please Pass the Salt

Have you ever thought that our words are like carrier oils and messenger cells that deliver substances like essential oils and other needed matter to working cells in the body? Cooperation, or synergy, occurs that would not be possible otherwise. A vital active substance can get where it is needed most and increase its effectiveness.

Consider This: When we are in conversation with someone, we use words and actions, like a clap on the back or a hug, to convey meaning. Our words are like the carrier oils and messenger cells. Our hearts and minds need expression and others are impacted by them. That’s why we are encouraged to liberally mix our speech with truth in conversational ways. 

I believe scripture is infused with life changing properties. It is inspired by God, backed with the healing power of the cross and authority of Heaven. It is used by the Holy Spirit who can reach hearts like no one else can and transform lives. God’s words are not just for church times or for use by religious leaders. It is intended for our everyday use. Whenever we rise or rest, walk or talk, work, or play our words and actions can be offered as carriers of God’s truth. In kindness and caring, without condemnation, we can mix our speech with God’s word as a natural outflow from the abundance of our hearts.

“Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”  Col 4:6

Ouch! Pass the salt, please.

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Growing Faith: 10~The Snowflake Lesson

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I ate a snowflake this morning. I was walking fast in 18 degrees trying to get warm. The brief intensely refreshing jolt helped me realize how hard I was breathing with my mouth open. I needed a different plan if I was going to go the distance. As I slowed down a little, I thought of the words of the psalmist that if I open my mouth wide enough, the Lord will fill it. [1]

One snowflake isn’t exactly a mouthful but more dropped into my spirit with that one tiny flake than a full course meal.

Consider This: There comes a time in everyone’s life when we need to compare the effort we are exerting, with our ability to stay the course and ask ourselves if there is another way to achieve the outcome. How do we know when that time has come? When we realize we believe that if we don’t do it, no one else will and we carry it all on our shoulders. Or when we think no one will do it as well as we will. When we are at this point, it’s time to reassess.

“No, really!” You say to me. “There is only me. I’m all alone.”

Now is the time to remember that in our relationship with Jesus Christ, he has promised to never leave us or give up on us. Do you believe him?

He urges you to call him and he will answer you.[2]  Friend, did you forget?

He says, I will take the load from your shoulders. I will free your hands from the heavy tasks.[3] Have you asked him to do that?

There is no one like Jesus.  At one time or another we all need the reminders provided in Isaiah 43. He is making a way in our difficulties. And he says, you have not called me. You have wearied yourself. You have chosen to carry your burdens alone.

“Call me!” Jesus says.

He has caller id. He’ll know it’s you. He will answer your call.


[1] Psalm 81

[2] Jeremiah 29

[3] Psalm 81

Growing Faith: 9 ~ Tulips in Winter

This morning I went out to enjoy my tulips. They are thriving and beautiful. “Wait just a minute!” I hear you say. “It’s wintertime. You’re a dreamer.”

Yes, it’s winter where I live. What I saw was an empty space covered by mulch. It is what I expected to see during this season. But I’m not dreaming. I know they are thriving, gaining strength, and storing it up for springtime when they will bloom in all their beauty. We know this is what tulip bulbs are supposed to do. In their off season, they are prospering unseen in a cold dark place.

Consider This: The philosopher goes on to say,  “Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind…, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.”[1]

When you consider your life today, are you looking at a barren landscape? Is it empty and stagnant?

He, who promised to never leave us or forsake us, is working in every season. He is near. There is hope in Jesus Christ. Speak his name in reverence and ask for wisdom. This is our time to be thriving unseen.

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud they never harvest.”[2]

If we wait for perfect conditions and grow discouraged when it does not come quickly, it hinders us from flourishing.

“Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon for you do not know if profit will come from one activity or another; maybe both.”[3]

Better we spend our time engaged in pursuits from which we gain strength and prepare for warmer, sunnier weather. Trust in Jesus. Read the Bible. He is busy planting good seeds in our lives. Will we join him?

[1] Ecclesiastes 11:5 NLT

[2] Ecclesiastes 11:4 NLT

[3] Ecclesiastes 11:6 NLT

 

Growing Faith: 8~Prosper from the Pruning

One of my close friends, Reva J Wood whom I love, wrote today’s guest post. Thank you, Reva. She is a woman of great wisdom and insight. Reva has a gift of explaining spiritual truths with perfect relatable examples from real life. Strengthen your resolve to abide in Jesus, no matter what is happening in your life. Let God encourage you today through Reva’s contribution to the Growing Faith series. He has many things to say to give you a future and hope.

“I am the Vine; you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.” John 15:5-8 Message Bible

During my early morning walk today, this question whispered in my mind “If you could choose your own epitaph, what would it be? I can’t say I ever gave it much thought. I love the one that says, “I told you I was sick.” Or how about this one. “I shopped till I dropped.” Funny sayings but I felt the Holy Spirit’s tug to give it some serious thought.

For months now, I have been mulling over verses 1-8 in John 15. Jesus is the vine; we are the branches and God is the gardener. Jesus prunes back some of the tough old wood to spur new growth and completely cuts off dead branches so new fruit can grow. Dead branches are bad, pruning is good. Simple, right? I wish.

The process is lifelong. Fruit production can only occur when the branches remain connected to the vine and the vine gets its nourishment from its root system. Proper nutrients, sun, water, and pruning are necessary to produce fruit. The branches need pruning at just the right season and at a specific location on the branch with not too much or too little cutting. Similar examples are deadheading flowers or cutting off suckers of vegetable plants to spur new growth.

The spring we purchased our first home, we decided we would grow a garden. We started some tomato plants in our house. One day, when the plants had started to produce several leaves, I got the bright idea that I should trim off the suckers, thinking that would encourage the plant to produce more fruit. When my husband got home that night, he looked at the plants and exclaimed “What happened to the tomato plants?” I told him what I had done and he explained that there is a time to cut back suckers and even then, only a few, not the entire plant. Oops! Needless to say, we didn’t get tomatoes that summer.

A good gardener knows the seasons for planting, how much water they need, the importance of pulling out weeds and when to harvest. Our heavenly gardener knows what each of us needs. We have the privilege of participating in the process that produces fruit in our lives. We can only do this through abiding in the Vine (Jesus). We have the gift of the Holy Spirit to sustain us through every type of season imaginable.

The word for this connection to Jesus is: Abide. Some of the definitions for abide in Strong’s dictionary are to stay (in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy); to endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry, and dwell. These words are interchangeable. Jesus states that without Him, we can do nothing. Nothing means not one thing.

The most difficult part of abiding in Him is during the seasons of pruning. It’s a necessary but often painful process. May I say sometimes extremely painful? Death of loved ones, divorce, misunderstandings, moves, unemployment, church splits, health issues, prejudices, pandemics, and you can fill in the blank or blanks. Many times, the Lord uses the consequences of poor choices, ours or others that have affected us. Other times the pruning is part the natural consequences of living in a sin filled world.

Regardless of the cause, the desired effect is to conform us to the image of Jesus. This pruning can and should cause us to lean more closely into Jesus and allow Him to remove unnecessary accrued baggage. He commissions us to reproduce. We do so after our own kind. That can be a beautiful blessing or rotted fruit. If we remain in Him, we produce more of Him flowing out of us. If we refuse to remain connected to the Vine, if any fruit manages to grow, it will be unhealthy and inedible.

As difficult as the pruning process is, the promises that we have vastly outweigh the painful, uncomfortable seasons in our journey of becoming like Jesus. John 15:7 says “if we live in Him and His words remain in us, we can ask what we wish and it will be done for us.” If we abide in Him, we can’t help but ask according to His will, because we will know Him as we are fully known.

My question at the very beginning was: “What would I want my epitaph to say?” I’ve given it a lot of thought. I think it would be this: John 15:5, followed by the words “She learned to abide in Jesus.” What would you like your epitaph say?

 

Growing Faith: 7~ Fruit or Flowers?

“I wish I could be like that person?” I said in frustration one day.  “In what way?” He asked.   On that day my response was, “In patience, Lord. I’d like to wait in line without impatience and enjoy that time talking to others. Instead, I fuss about waiting.” On another day, it would be something else I wish I were.

“I can help with that,” He said cheerfully.

Then I tried to be more patient. I put a smile on my face. I greeted the person behind me but they were as impatient as I. This new me I presented did not last long. I found myself once again in prayer asking to be patient.

“I think you may be looking for the flower instead of the fruit.” He said patiently.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Flowers are colorful, lovely, often fragrant and attract attention. Flowers are the most visible part of a plant. You may be looking at and desiring only the outward expression of inner beauty.” Pointing to a flower, He asked. “Do you see the fruit?”

“No, Lord, I see a magnificent rose!”

“The potential for fruit is there. The flowers come first. The beauty of the flower draws bees to cross pollinate. When the rose withers and falls off, the fruit is right below it. The rose hip is the fruit of the rose.  If you look only at the rose, you will not notice the rose hip underneath.” The conversation continued. “Lord, you say You can help. What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that the kind of fruit you want has to be cultivated during time with me, where no one else can see or hear us. It grows when you come away from the distractions of life and learn of Me in quiet places. When you bring your flowers to Me, I will deposit more of Myself in you, as bees deposit pollen. I know the fruit you were created to bear and I know what is needed to produce it.”

Silent, I let this sink in deep.  The next day I said,  “Lord, I bring you roses today.”

“They are lovely, Child, just like you. It is a good start. Would you bring Me flowers every day? Growing fruit takes much time with Me and I love our times together.”

“Yes, Lord. I will bring you flowers every day.”

Consider This:But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[1] Let’s enjoy the flowers and grow in faith so our fruit is apparent to all. The Lord is near.[2]

[1] Galatians 5:22 NLT [2] Philippians 4:5

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Growing Faith: 6 ~ Rooted to Prosper

This is the part in the Growing Faith series to consider the necessity of weeding out intruder plants from the gardens we plant. These are the undesirable plants that grab the nutrition intended for the good seeds. In our house, my husband does the best weeding. He pulls them out from the roots. It takes longer than my surface weeding. Two days later, his sections are still clean while mine need attention again because the roots are still there.

I had a dream one night of a tree I knew to be a banyan. I have been thinking about the banyan (also called a strangler fig) ever since. A strangler fig is an example of an intruder plant, in the natural.

Consider This: The strangler fig tree starts life as a seed on a leaf of a strong healthy tree. With a little water, the seed sends down roots around the trunk of the healthy tree and feeds off it. When the fig tree’s roots are long enough to be rooted in the ground around the healthy tree, it begins to strangle the healthy tree by using up all the available nutrients and the healthy tree begins to die. Eventually, there is only a hole in the center of the fig tree where the healthy host tree used to live. The strangler fig can live for hundreds of years and puts down so many additional roots, I read that one tree can look like a forest from a distance.

The strangler fig is a metaphor, in this series, for how spiritual weeds can take root in us when we are not diligent in seeking to know what is holding us back from prospering spiritually. We may prosper in some areas but not in others. The reasons can be outright sin or not understanding God’s love for us and our identity in Him, anxiety, or anything that hinders our walk with God and clouds the truth.

I have not written in a while because the Holy Spirit has been talking to me about the need to weed my own soul of intruders that keep me from living fully in all He has planned for me. I have learned that intrusion can be areas where I am not in alignment with His word in scripture or where the spiritual weeds have blown in on the winds of life or as in the natural, by birds that drop seeds as they fly by. My responsibility is to be vigilant to ask Christ what weeds I have allowed to flourish in my soul. He has shown me areas that I was not aware of and has come along side me to pull them out from the roots through my repentance and His forgiveness. The result has been a closer walk with Him (even though I thought our relationship was close). I am experiencing more of His power in my life and a restoration of the areas that had withered by my inattention. His life is growing deeper in me.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For He will be like a tree planted by many waters which spreads out it roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will it cease from yielding fruit.”[1]

This verse is a promise and an illustration of a person who is unencumbered by the cares of this world and sins that strangle. Jesus is an expert at removing the roots of all that He has not planted in me. He gave me the Holy Spirit to help me live and prosper. ‘Lord, you are so good to me. Come, remove that which is dead and not prospering because I have allowed something to come between us. Restore me. Amen’

I have known for some time that I was to write about this and have put it off because it is a hard subject to address. But the Holy Spirit has not let me alone and I know He wants to talk to someone else like he did with me. In obedience, I am writing now and hope you ask Him to identify any intruders in your life. I was surprised by some of the areas He has addressed with me. You may be too. May we prosper together.

[1] Jeremiah 17:7-8 NKJV

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Growing Faith: 5~When Faith Opens the Door

In this Growing Faith series, we started with Jesus’ parable about when faith is only as big as a mustard seed, we can do amazing things in His Name (Growing Faith 1~The Littleness of Faith). He presents how much more is available when we mature in our faith. The faith seeds we have been focusing on are rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ. No one else has the power to forgive sins, set us on the path that leads to the fulfillment of our purpose and set us apart for eternity with Him.[1]

If you have been following this series, you realize by now that I believe that God shows us His hidden glory in creation and science. Inherent in the creation of the world, He made His invisible wonderful attributes easily perceived, if we will only look for it. He knows we need a visible representation to help us understand the invisible.[2] That is the basis of my approach in this faith seed series: to use natural systems to understand spiritual truths that display God’s nature and help us want to know Him better.

Every natural seed’s design includes a specific root system to protect and nourish the life in the plant. It is the same with spiritual seeds. Faith seeds are the beginning of a strong and vibrant faith. We tend tiny natural seeds and tender root tips with great care so the fruit will eventually be abundant. We promote the root growth so it matures and supports the stem and leaves for vibrant health; repelling disease and predators. As seeds mature, their roots develop so that they are grounded (not easily uprooted or destroyed).

When we intentionally tend our faith seedlings for this same purpose, our spiritual roots go deeper and more robust in Christ. We water and feed the roots of faith in His astonishing love for us by spending time in the Bible absorbing and applying its truths, as well as in heart conversations with Jesus Christ. Our understanding of who He is begins to grow beyond our initial root tip stage and blossoms into something enduring and real. He alone knows the spiritual potential in each of us. He often uses object lessons from life circumstances and relationships that begin with “You have little faith…”

“By constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you and the resting place of His love will become the very source and root of your life.” Ephesians 3:17 TPT

Consider This: ‘But I’ve been a believer for years’, you may be thinking, ‘My faith is strong.’ I am happy to know that. The one thing I have learned about Jesus, is that He never leaves me in the same place for long. His love compels me to go deeper, to give Him greater access to my life and exercise my faith. This is how I strengthen in new areas. I am grateful He has never left me alone. Without His firm and gentle leading I would be in a precarious place, for sure. When He says to me, ‘consider your small faith in this thing you are facing’, I listen.

It is worth revisiting these other ‘little faith’ lessons in Matthew chapters 6 & 7.

  •   6:30 – Faith for provision
  •   8:26 – Faith for protection
  • 14:31 – Faith for taking risks
  •  16:8 – Faith for provision
  • 17:20 – Faith for miracles, in His Name

He wants us to have an increasingly stronger faith, so that when lack, storms, risks, disease, and the impossible come knocking at our doors, we will have the understanding and assurance that He faces it with us. So that more and more we look to Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith. It is His face and His promises that all our circumstances see first. We can trust Him.

I have read that faith is the currency of God’s kingdom; that without it nothing happens and with it, anything is possible.[3] If Heaven is going to touch earth, then faith is what will breakthrough to the impossible. By you and me. When our faith in Him opens the door.

We cannot activate the faith of open doors by vain declarations and saying the right words. Our hearts and heaven know the difference. We gain it through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and by trusting in His promises and nature; by walking it out with Him every day.

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7 NLT

Will you talk to God about this today?

  1. What circumstance is at your door today?
  2. Will faith answer the knock?
  3. With which of Jesus’ promises in the Bible will you face it?

 

[1] Acts 4:12 (TPT) [2] Romans 1:20 (TPT) [3] Hebrews 11:6

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Growing Faith: 4~Drinking Living Water

The promise of life in a seed is in the form of the seed embryo inside. The seed coat protects until access to the nutrients from water and soil is available. The seed coat’s design is to weaken after planting to allow the nutrients to act upon the seed embryo to begin the rooting process. Once planted, if the coat stays in place, it will hinder the growth of the plant. No water gets in. No root forms.

Since this is a series about growing faith, I have been thinking of the similarities between seed coats and the protective coverings we put around our hearts as we move through life. No one has immunity. One of the gifts God gives us is the ability of self-protective behaviors that act like seed coats until we no longer need them; until we trust Him with everything. In early childhood, we begin to learn how to adjust our expectations, behaviors, and access of others into our inner most thoughts. Not everyone has our best interests at heart or is safe to trust. Our physical environments may or may not be conducive to optimum growth. We learn to protect ourselves in different ways until we can discern whom to trust, become able to define our own environments, determine what we need to thrive and how to obtain it. Until we know God.

Consider This:  Sometimes we have a hard time letting go of our own protective behaviors. They have been our comfort for so long, we cannot imagine life without them. This is probably true of everyone. Even Christians. We may let our guard down in some areas and deep healing comes. We live with the joys of that comfort for a while and then, in God’s goodness, He makes us aware of another area He wants access to so our faith will deepen. Each time, it may be a struggle to let Him into those areas that we are still protecting by our self-appointed armor. We may not realize it is there until He shows us because it has become a part of who we are; an integral part of what defines us.

Water has a lot to do with its loosening the seed coat before the root can grow. Soaking hard things in water softens them. Water cleanses away impurities and dirt. Medicine mixed with water makes it easy to swallow and absorb. Water carries soluble nutritional elements to feed our body. We need water to live, it is a basic requirement. Without it, we die of thirst. In the Bible, water represents these same life-giving properties. The presence of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and scriptures are all symbolized by water; living water. Continually soaking in the Word, resting in His presence, allowing Him to show us that He is our protector now and wearing His armor instead of our own are all ways of drinking the living water.

How do we know where we are still holding tightly to our seed coats and hindering our spiritual growth? He will show us. We can look at where we have difficulty in relationships, how we react in certain circumstances and why we become anxious or angry at times; blaming others. We can also use humor as an effective barrier. Anything can work.

We can also say no to God when He comes calling. I did it the other day, only I said “Oh no! No. No. No.” I laugh now because I know He is tender toward me and knows when I am not ready. But it effectively alerted me to loosen my guard and trust Him more in that area. Awareness is a beginning. I just need to soak a little more in His presence to loosen my armor and drink of His water. I will exchange my armor for His and my faith roots will deepen. My armor limits spiritual growth. His armor allows for stronger roots to produce more abundant fruit and a richer relationship with Him.

What are the areas of your life where God is asking for greater access to you? How will you respond?

“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water…” Isaiah 12:2-3

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http://www.shirleyagenovese.com

Thank you to those who have read my book ‘A Confident Expectation 40 Hope-Full Conversations’.  With billions of books available to choose from, I am humbled that you have chosen to read mine. Many of you have told me how God has spoken to you through it’s pages. I can only exclaim the goodness of God in the land of the living. Blessings. Shirley

Growing Faith: 3~Promises in Hidden Places

Steps for seed sowing: Prepare a place. Drop in the seed. Cover with dirt. Water it. Feed it. Wait. Cultivating seeds requires patience.

The seed just sits there dormant for a while, not doing much except absorbing its new environment; getting settled in. Eventually though, the hard and protective seed coat begins to soften and break down to allow water in. A tiny fragile root reaches down and grabs the earth. This little bit of life not only stabilizes but allows nutrients to reach the seed germ which contains the promise of growth and fruit. As the root grows downward with increasing ability to draw life from the soil, a small shoot pokes out of the top of the seed, pushing upward for the source of warmth, light, oxygen, and moisture. Once it pushes through the soil level, a thin tender stem forms to support the plant and leaves form which bring in oxygen. Roots deepen. The plant grows. Flowers and fruit appear.

Most of this process happens underground hidden from sight. It appears, from above the soil, that nothing much is going on. Yet something very powerful is occurring. I have seen tender plants pushing through hard man-made surfaces, like asphalt and concrete. Once the protective seed coat is gone, the force of life energy in the seed can push with a persistence strong enough to break the resistant matter so it can reach the sun.

Consider This: There are so many parallels in this process with that of developing a strong spiritual life of faith. It is no wonder that Jesus used the analogy of seed sowing in His teaching to describe how faith grows from the seed of the word of God; “faith seeds”.

As a new believer, I soon learned that there is no rushing the faith process. It requires patience and persistence. Proper spiritual nourishment in good balance is critical. Protection, from all that will destroy it, is necessary. Much of the growing process occurs in the hidden places of our hearts.

The seed has great potential (promise) for life given the correct environment. Inside each seed, is a blueprint design for the seed’s purpose. A rose bush grows roses. A cherry tree grows cherries, bean seeds grow beans. Faith seeds (the word of God) grow faith. Faith for the purpose of appropriating an abundant spiritual life in the love of Christ Jesus. It is so we can live in freedom and forgiveness from sin; in relationship and conversation with Him through the Holy Spirit. In faith, we gain a deeper understanding of the ways of Heaven with divine strategy and power for living which enables us to face adversities and joys with wisdom and thanksgiving. Encapsulated in each tiny seed of faith is the life force of all of God’s promise. Its value is immeasurable. We are to cherish and care for it.

God never stops sowing seeds of faith into us; when we seek Him. His is the way of a continuing abundant harvest. One of the promises hidden in the faith seed is this:

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” Isaiah 35

The Holy Spirit is leading me with purpose, in this series of cultivating faith, that began with ‘The Littleness of Faith.’ There is the promise of an encouraging and prosperous outcome. Faith in Christ may start small but in its greatest strength, it can move mountains. It can cause us to have amazing victory, no matter what comes our way. I want faith that looks the promise above. Don’t you?

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My book “A Confident Expectation 40 Hopeful Conversations” is available locally at Bender’s Christian Store located at 8550 Sheridan Drive, Williamsville, NY.  It is also available for on line purchase. God is speaking to many people through this engaging book. If you know anyone who needs more hope in their lives, please share this information with them.

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Growing Faith: 2~How Does Your Garden Grow

Awhile back a friend generously gave me some dried heirloom tomato seeds. The growing season was over. I put them in a dark place and forgot where they were when the time came to plant them in the spring. I found them a year later. I was not sure if they would germinate. I gave some to a friend down the road and planted the remainder in my garden. My friend’s seeds sprouted and grew tall. My seeds did not even break ground. At the end of the growing season, I dug up my seeds to find out what happened. I could not find them. I have thought a lot about why my friend’s seeds grew and mine did not. I did some research and learned a few things about my approach versus my friend’s method of planting. I learned that there are several key factors in germinating tomato seeds that determine if they will sprout and grow into healthy fruit bearing plants. I was a careless gardener. I did not learn how to tend those tender seeds or plant them in an environment where they could flourish. I have no tomatoes.

Consider This: My experience reminds me of the teaching story Jesus told, recorded in Mark 4.

“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Jesus explained that the story was about the secret of the spiritual kingdom of God. He was deepening the lesson He had begun, from Luke 13, about the seed “a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”[1] Only this time, He was talking specifically about careful planting conditions to ensure growth. How to tend the seeds.

The one who proclaims or sows the word of God (scriptural truths), as Jesus did, is the farmer. The seeds are the people who hear it.

Some people are careless with the Word in various ways. Instead of treating it with great care, they do not consider it for very long. It has no impact on their lives. Others receive the Word with great joy but do not nurture it so roots can grow. The Word is superficially in their lives and when hard times come, they walk away. Still others tend the Word enough to start growing faith but later allow other belief systems to choke out the Word so faith cannot grow strong.

Then there are those who understand the eternal value of the Word and are careful with the tender seeds of faith, welcoming them with joy, taking every opportunity to learn more. These are the people who learn to trust Jesus Christ through all the ups and downs of life. The result is an increasingly rich harvest of healthy spiritual fruit; a strong faith. These are the people others gravitate toward as they start to plant and tend their own seeds of faith.

Because of this parable of Jesus, I know that God cares how we tend our seeds of faith. It is always growing season with God. It is a good time to consider what may be choking the growth of faith in my own life. Have I become careless in even small ways? I want to foster an active faith that grows large. It is my desire to trust Him with everything. How does your garden grow?

[1] Refer to prior post “The Littleness of Faith”

~~Visit my website: www.shirleyagenovese.com to learn about my book “A Confident Expectation 40 Hope-Full Conversations”.~~

 

Where can I locally purchase “A Confident Expectation 40 Hope-Full Conversations”?

Maybe some of you enjoy browsing through books stores like I do and will appreciate knowing where the books are available for local purchase.  Here are a few places I know it is available. If not in the store, they can order from their supplier. It retails for $12.99 at these booksellers.

Bender’s Christian Supply 8550 Sheridan Dr,  Williamsville, NY 14221 (716)-633-5757

Pathway’s Christian Bookstore  6718 Lincoln Ave, Lockport, NY 14094 (716) 433-6049

Also Available at:

Love Joy Church 5423 Genesee St, Lancaster, NY 14086 (716) 751-0400 Sunday morning for $10.

OTHER PURCHASE SOURCES:

Currently, the price is still $9.99 in my Etsy shop through 9/30/19 and there is free shipping through Etsy on orders totaling $35 or more. I can sign before shipping if you request it. The paperback and eBooks are available from on-line book sellers worldwide, including many Christian outlets.  Links are conveniently available on my website: shirleyagenovese.com

LIBRARY SOURCES:

The Clarence and Newstead Public Library branches have purchased a book for their shelves.  A copy will also be available at the Buffalo & Erie County Library located at 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo, NY 14203.

It takes a little while to catalogue a new book. The books will soon be available.

Thank you to all who are reading my book. Feel free to contact me at shirleyagenovese@outlook.com with your comments.

 

Questions from Strangers

“Who are the conversations with?”, he asked me as he leafed through the book.

“Between me and God”. No one has asked me that question yet.

Startled and still holding the book, he gave me a searching look.

“Not weird stuff. Some things God teaches me while I pray and read the Bible.”

I share these life changing insights in conversational form with readers in my book, A Confident Expectation 40 Hope-Full Conversations and encourage their own conversations with Him.


“Real hope is like a spiritual river. The head waters of hope, may start as a trickle and become a powerful torrent, carving a deep path through our soul. It speaks, compelling us to leave behind the things that keep us stuck. Real hope can disentangle us by its sheer force.”


Excerpt from Chapter 21 I’ve Got a River of Life in  Confident Expectation 40 Hope-Full Conversations.  

For convenience, ordering links are provided in my Website: shirleyagenovese.com

Photo:  Niagara River   Photo Credit:  Shirley A Genovese

 

Growing Faith: 1~The Littleness of Faith

A man came to Jesus and fell on his knees as he cried out for help in front of a crowd of people. “I brought my son to Your disciples and they could not cure him.” Jesus replied, “Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.[1]

I wonder what Jesus’ disciples were thinking during this exchange. Everyone knew they were learning from Him. He sent them out to practice their lessons and they had failed this one. What was the secret of Jesus’ success? How could they be more like Him? They asked Him privately to explain their lack of effectiveness. “Because of the littleness of your faith.”[1] Can you see them shrink back a little in embarrassment? Especially after He went on to say, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”[1]

 Another time, Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?” The lesson had started. “It is like a mustard seed,” He explained, “which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” [2]

Consider This: A long time ago, I was sitting on my front porch, whining to the Lord, about our non-existent lawn. It was a common complaint He was hearing. It had been a year and the contractor had not prepared the soil for grass seed. This time His response was different. He opened my eyes to see our yard as if for the first time. Everywhere I looked, on all sides, wild mustard seed plants were flourishing. There was a sharp intake of breath, as I realized what He was telling me. I felt a little like the disciples must have as they learned about the mustard seed. I had substituted something else in place of the faith I needed to address the problem. I am convinced that He was smiling as I absorbed His answer to my complaint. Literally surrounded by a faith lesson, I had not seen it. Shortly after that, He provided a strategy which lead to a lawn. But on that day, all I could do was point my camera to take photos so I would never forget the goodness of God and the creativity with which He taught me.

My complaint was of little eternal significance and it was not a life or death matter; or was it? Nothing is too small for God to care about. If it matters to me, it matters to Him. He likes to turn me around and show me how He sees the situation. I can almost hear Him chuckle after He imparts His perspective, because it all seems so simple then. Other times, I sense the seriousness of His response and realize a life changing lesson is heading my way.

When we hear references to the littleness of our faith, there is a definite reaction. Our responses vary from chagrin to shame or discouragement and a determination to try harder. I do not think that Jesus wants us to feel this way. He is kind, patient and knows it takes time to learn how to navigate our walk of faith. What I see weaving through His combined explanations is the principle of growth. ‘It takes time and intention”, I hear Him saying, “to cultivate faith.” He was not scolding or belittling His closest friends. I believe His concern was that He knew His time on earth was short and these were the people who would be carrying on the all-important work of showing the world the Father and His redemptive plan.

When we apply ourselves to know the Father (God), faith will grow large and strong in us because our vision will increasingly be on Him and not on the situation. It will be on His love, mercy, and power to bring change. When the truth that nothing is impossible for God, fills our hearts with the understanding that He has not left us to fend for ourselves, a shift occurs in us. We live from a different perspective. Faith, planted and cultivated in the garden of our hearts, begins to grow until it looms larger than our problems. It is life changing in its empowerment. Our mountains begin to move as we speak faith and we learn nothing is impossible for us as we live in the shadow of the Mighty One.

Meditate on This. See the Father. Let Faith Grow.

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![3]

[1] Matthew 17:19-20 NASB

[2] Luke 13:18-19 NIV

[3] Psalm 91 NIV

YAY! The Books Arrived!

I have launched a dream by God’s grace. My beautiful new book arrived quietly at my back door today without fanfare. But I’m so excited, my heart is pounding! A Confident Expectation 40 Hope-Full Conversations is the culmination of  a God-Sized Dream which is one of the conversations included in the book.

“God sized dreams are bigger than us and require more than we know how to do.”  I am so grateful for the people that have cheered me on and prayed me through! Thank you.

Will you tell your friends you know of a small lovely book in which hope abounds! Visit me at shirleyagenovese.com.  Email: shirleyagenovese@outlook.com.

Go chase a dream!

Shirley

 

 

 

Portable Hope Is Always Welcome

Consider This: Portable Hope is a phrase I coined to describe the sense of well-being and assurance of a good outcome which is not based on circumstances, peoples attitudes or any other situations. It is hope we carry deep inside that shines through no matter what happens. We can pull it up from our depths as we look at hard situations. It carries us through great difficulty. It is based on the promises of God. I have been writing about this kind of hope for a while now. Very soon, this celebration of hope will be available in portable book form. Large enough to feel good while small enough to carry easily.

Yes! It is with great excitement that I tell you I have published a new book which will be released on Tuesday, 7/30/19, for sale at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and bookstores worldwide. Amazon and B&N are offering it for pre-order at this time. It is also available through my Esty shop at Etsy.com (All Around Town Courier) at pre-order prices until the launch date of 7/30/19. If you have been enjoying my blog posts, you will enjoy A Confident Expectation  40 Hope-Full Conversations. It provides room to record your own conversations with God. If you know people who are in need of a living hope, consider buying this book as a gift. It’s the perfect gift for anyone. Who ever had enough hope in their lives?

My website is down temporarily. But I could not wait to get the news out.  I am grateful for those who follow this blog.  Many of you are hope carriers to others, including to me.

Here’s to dreams coming true.   Shirley

 

 

Let Light Shine Through

Last weekend, my husband and I took a leisurely walk through a nearby park, enjoying a picnic lunch as our reward. It is a beautiful place in the middle of a large suburb but when you are in the park you cannot hear the traffic or life around you. You can convince yourself you are in the middle of a forest preserve.  It is quiet and serene, filled with old growth trees, new growth, animals and, on that day, sunlight filtering through the rich leaf cover. There is something restorative about being in such a place. We walked through some parts that were open to the sky which was bright and sunny. Other places were deeply shaded. At one point, as we rested on a bench and just breathed, I could see the sun twinkling through but not well. As I raised my camera to capture the moment, I realized I had to shift my position and my camera to where I could see the ball of fire blazing through. Otherwise, I could see little to no light through the dense tree top leaf cover.

Consider This:  As I looked at the photo later, with that bright ball of light and sun rays just peeking through the dark leaf canopy, I realized it was an earthly reminder of what our life with God is like at times. We wonder where God is. Our spiritual eyesight and heart beats are trying to reach God but there is stuff in the way. We cannot see clearly.

Sometimes we just need something to shift our vision, thoughts and emotions just enough to see the bright Glory of the Son, who is always with us; loving and lighting our path with His wisdom. This is why I write. In hopes that something in these pages will cause our vision to become clearer and we will be certain of His presence even in the darker places.

“What came into existence was Life, and the Life was the Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness could not put it out.” John 1:5 (MSG).

 

My prayer for you today:

To know God in all your circumstances, to discern His heart in the matters of today; to follow the Holy Spirit’s direction for which you are seeking guidance and revelation.

May He meet you on the road that leads away from your true purpose and walk with you on the path that leads to the destination of His choosing.

That all He has called to join with you on the way would heed His call to keep divine appointments with you.

That your heart would be filled and your voice declare gratitude and thanksgiving for the great plans He has for your future.

“Why my soul are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” Ps 43:5

Hocus Focus

We have a cardinal’s nest in the holly at the south corner of our porch with three spotted eggs. This morning, I spooked the mama when I dug up some burning bush shoots and planted tomato seeds. She is back on the nest now. Early in the mornings I have been watching mourning doves build nests in the arborvitae by the kitchen window and listening to their gentle cooing. Bright yellow warblers are flitting around with sweet tunes. A pair of huge Canadian geese, who frequent the wetland next door, flew just over my head yesterday as I walked down the driveway to get the mail. Their large shadows startled me. “Cover your head and duck!” my inner child yelled. I have seen Eastern Bluebirds this year instead of just hearing them. The Redwings are back. It may be cooler and wetter than normal but the wildlife does not seem to notice. They focus on that which will foster new life.

When I work at slowing down my pace, I find I experience more life-giving moments. Why is it so hard for me as a human being to do this while the rest of God’s creatures can focus on the most important things in their lives with seemingly little effort? None of them have planners, calendars or reminder alarms. My challenge to focus carries over at times to spending time with my Creator. The One who loves me best.

             Consider This:  I like how Anne Graham Lotz says it: “But I have heard God’s voice in no uncertain terms speaking to me from Psalm 46. He has commanded me not to lose my focus. Like setting my spiritual compass, He has challenged me to fix my eyes on Jesus so that regardless of all that swirls around me, my heart is steadfast, trusting in Him!”

Jesus knows how to focus. He says He does only what He sees His Father doing (John 5:19). He teaches us who God is by everything He did and the stories He tells in the Bible because He knows how to focus on the important things. Hebrews 12:2 encourages me to focus my eyes on Jesus. He is the pathway to life. Making decisions becomes easier when I slow down enough to enquire of the Holy Spirit, worship the Lord and converse with Him. I look to the written Word, the Bible. I tune my ear to listen for His responses in my spirit. Essentially, I lean into the Holy Spirit, who watches Jesus, who watches and listens to Father God. I can align my thoughts, beliefs and actions to them, who never contradict each other. Life becomes more focused as I learn to still my mind and consider what is most important.

Life is complicated. When we are in relationship with the Father through our belief in Jesus Christ, we can see what Jesus is doing and we can hear the Holy Spirit clearer. This is one of the benefits for believers from the One who said He would never leave us or forsake us. It is a matter of believing that Jesus is who He says He is. The Son of God came to give an inner abundant life; one characterized by an intimate personal life with Him based on the turning away from sin and forgiveness. He came to guide us in the way we should walk. If you do not have a relationship with Him, will you seek Him today? John 1 is a good place to start but some like to start with other books of the Bible. I read recently about a woman who became a believer after studying Nehemiah. Your choice.

First, ask Him to lead you into all truth and life. How do I know He will? Because He told us in John 16:13 that “…when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears and He will tell you what is yet to come.” The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. He is an expert at drawing people to Jesus and you do not have to be a believer to ask Him to make Himself known to you. But you do need to be a truth seeker in earnest.

As a follower of Jesus, I have a lot to learn about focusing my eyes on Him. There are so many distractions that I turn away to when I know He just wants to spend some time together. It is because He loves me and wants me to know Him. It is true that I talk to Him a lot during the day in my own way but quieting myself in His presence and listening is something altogether different.

“Make your ear attentive to wisdom and incline your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:2-5

“He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.” Isaiah 33:6

Moving Our Marbles

I never know when the Holy Spirit will show up through everyday things. I just know He loves to interrupt our days in ways that let us understand how close He is at all times. This winter friends re-introduced us to the childhood game of Chinese Checkers. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed playing. Chinese Checkers is a game of strategy. It is most fun when more than two people are playing, the center gets all jammed up and each player uses their own strategy to get to their goal. After all, winning is the whole point, isn’t it?

I realize that my strategy as an adult is much different than it was when I was a child, although my goal is the same, which is to win, of course! I have discovered, to my surprise, that I am more of an offensive player now, than defensive. I move my marbles around in a deliberate way to keep moving forward and get closer to my home goal on the other side of the board, regardless of what the other players are doing. It is not so much about keeping other players in check or immobilzing them to give me an advantage as it is about how I can move past the other marbles in the most skillful and fastest way without spending too much effort on blocking the other players from reaching their goals. It takes some strategic thinking and planning, even for this simple game. Sometimes, I will point out moves that others could take that they did not see to help them along. Once in a while I will move my marbles to a place that does unintentionally block them. My overall strategy is not, however, defensive.

This is where the Holy Spirit stepped in to show me that this is not only true in the games I play but in how I approach life now. He has changed me so that I live more in a way that is open and free because I trust Him to show the way and provide for the journey. I do not spend as much time and energy worrying about the obstacles in my path. With Him by my side, I seek biblical strategies to find my way and help the people He brings my way when I can. It is not all about winning but winning His way. Doing the best I can in the process.

Consider This:  There is a verse (Matt. 10:6) that is worth thinking about. It tells us to be ‘shrewd as serpants AND harmless as doves”; to be both shrewd and harmless at the same time with the same action. Now there is something that takes a lot of thinking about. Then in the next verse Jesus says to ‘be on our guard’, because this is not the way of most of the world. He is not telling us to be naïve and allow others to take advantage of us. Or to be so shrewd  and calculating as to take advantage of others. He is saying for us to make our decisions based on His direction and purposes for our lives, even if it may lead to unwanted consequences. He goes on to tell us the Holy Spirit will be with us in the hardest places and will give us our heavenly Father’s words to speak in our own defense at His direction. His desire is that we focus on what He tells us to do in truth and not worry about how others around us respond or choose to live their lives. Others actions do greatly affect our lives at times, like blocking our marbles in Chinese Checkers so we cannot see how to move forward. But we are not to be paralyzed from moving forward. We are assured that His plan for us will prosper as we seek His path.

Our job is to throw off the things that so easily hinder us and and our sinful beliefs that so easily entangle us when the center of life gets all jammed up. It puts me in mind of 1 Cor. 13:11, that when I was a child, I spoke, thought and reasoned like a child. I made life decisions from a limited child’s perspective. But there comes a time when it is right and proper to put away childish things and speak, think, reason and live like men and women of God.

This is not the same as being child-like in faith, which is a desirable thing. Strategyzing for our next move is not about focussing on perpetual analysis, fear of failure, doing what the crowd does or other life limiting things. It is about believing that God has the ability to do things that are impossible in our own eyes and asking Him to do those things that will release His plans for us on earth as they have been decided in heaven. Then take the next step He shows us and live there until He makes the next step clear. The in-between times is when many wonderful things happen in us and for us in preparation of being fitted for the next. So practicing patience is one of the things we can do that is shrewd and harmless. It is actually very helpful.

The Holy Spirit knows exactly where we are, how to set up our next move to keep us moving in the right direction. Our first strategic move in getting from here to there (whatever ‘there’ is for each of us right now as He sees it) is to ask Him.

Let us dare to pray God honoring audacious prayers, beyond our current faith level. Prayers that take us forward beyond our wildest dreams. Let us be bold in our faith, unafraid to follow Jesus where He leads us into things we do not know how to do and can not fully see every step along the way. When was the last time we let Him order our lives in ways that astounded us. “Exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or imagine…”. This is His very precious promise to us.

I am going for it! Will you?

 

God-Sized Dreams

Just a year ago I published my first post in my newly created Eyes To See Ears To Hear blog. I remember hesitating as my finger paused over the Publish button for the first time. I was more than a little nervous. It was such a huge step for a private introverted person. I had all sorts of misgivings. What if no one reads it? What if they read it and discount everything because I do not have proper ‘credentials’ for this type of thing? So many what ifs! Yet it had been a desire (can I call it a dream?) of mine to write for many years. Here I was seconds away from starting that adventure and I froze. Then I remembered why I was doing it. During a recent retreat with friends, we were hearing about the Samaritan woman with the alabaster box of ointment. I heard the Holy Spirit say to me “Identity” and a second later the speaker said “This woman has identity issues”.  Next I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Break it down, Shirley!” and immediately after that the speaker said, “This woman had to break the box to get the precious out!”. It was a powerful moment for me. The Holy Spirit had my attention. If I was going to write, I had to break through my own private comfort level, insecurities and fears and just trust Him. I had to be willing to be vulnerable with all He has and is still teaching me. Eventually, my finger hit Publish and my adventure began.

As I talked about my dream-killing insecurities with Him over this past year, He has given me much assurance that this is His plan for me. If I had listened to my fears, I would never have done it. I ask that He make His voice louder than any other so I can hear Him above all the rest. I constantly turn to Him when my own thoughts say I am not qualified, have nothing to say of any interest and will fail at this. He has been faithful. There is no doubt that my faith has grown this year by following in God’s timing for fulfilling this desire. I am more willing to take risks as He directs me. I have become more accountable to personally apply the truths He shows me. I am more confident in who He is and who I am in Him. It goes deep. I cannot begin to tell the half of it here. I am so grateful for all who have joined and supported me. Thank you to those who have shared my stories as ‘messengers who ran with it’ to others (Habakkuk 2:2).

Consider This:  When was the last time you thought about your own dreams? By dreams, I do not mean you just want yours and your families circumstances to change. I mean a deep inner longing to align yourself with Jesus in a different way; to live your life experiencing His faithfulness as you follow what He has set before you to do; to live your dreams in alignment with His plans for you and with Him.

Have your dreams become mostly about others in your life and their dreams? It is true that we are intertwined with others and are called to be supportive of God’s desires for them and their dreams. It is also true that each of us has a God-size purpose in us to be executed in His timing. We are made in His image. In His divine power He has given us all things for life and godliness. We have received all this by coming to know Him and He has plans for us. This is what ‘running your race’ is all about. Since it it is a God-sized dream, it will be bigger than what you are able to accomplish, require more resources than you have and take you into places you never thought you would go and do not know how to do. You need Him to do this for you; to show you step by step when to move, what steps to take, trust Him for resources, to open doors and present opportunities; basically just follow Him and not give up. You need to hear Him say “Now!” and then move in His light.

My experience is that it will require greater intimacy with Him, getting to know who He is and who you are in Him (your identity). When we are not sure of our identity in Jesus, we can look to others way too much for our own validation, affirmation and worth. We can sacrifice the purposes of our lives to live vicariously through others; to live their dream instead or just stall out and have no dreams. Jesus wants to be the One who validates, affirms and values us. Without this assurance, our dreams will stay dreams. We also have to be willing to relinquish the control that limits Him; to take risks by trusting what He has told us to do and learning the difference between living someone elses dream as a substitute for our own. The people closest to us will benefit when we follow the path laid out for us when we are fully convinced of who we are in Him and pursue with Him the plans He has for us.

Years ago I prayed this prayer. I believe I am seeing the fruit of it now. For me at that time, this prayer spoke my heart like nothing I could have said. It has been worth the waiting on Him.

“Lord, help me to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity. Lord, teach me to listen to my heart; to welcome change, instead of fearing it. Lord, I give You these stirrings inside me, I give You my discontent, restlessness, doubt,  despair,and all the longings I hold inside. Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth; to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.” (Celtic Daily Prayers)

“Where there are no visions (dreams), when people cannot see what God is doing, they stumble all over; but when they attend to what He reveals, they are most blessed.” Proverbs 29:18 MSG

“They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings as eagles; they will run, and not be weary; and they will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

I hope you run your God-sized race living the God-revealed dreams He has given you. Someone in this world is waiting for you to rise up and go for it.

 

Pursuing Dreams

The world needs you to live your God-purposed life to the fullest. We have eternal purpose. That makes your dreams eternally important. Seek God in all things. He knows how to lead you.

Consider this: ” He has made everything beautiful in his time; He has set eternity in the human heart. ” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Gold In The Sun

It would be uncommon if you have never asked God to explain some of the things that have been happening in your life. I call it the ‘Why’ gene. We mainly want to know why, if He really loved us, would He allow these things to happen and when will this season end.

Somehow Job knew something we can learn from. At one point in his suffering, he had this to say in Job 23 (paraphrased): ‘Today my complaint is hard and legitimate. If only I knew where to find Him, I would state my case before Him to see what He has to say. If I did that, would He rebuke me? No, He would not. He knows where I am and when I am tested, I will come forth like gold.’ Job knew that while he may never fully understand while on earth all that God is about, he is confident that God knows what He is doing. Job could not answer his friends and family when they interpreted his woes as allowed by an uncaring God. No human on earth can ever fully understand what God is about. He keeps some mysteries to Himself for now. He does promise though that someday we will know as we are known (1 Cor. 13:12). All who have gone before us know this.

The Lord knows exactly where I am in my journey, in my heart and in my thoughts. He allows me to come talk to Him with whatever words I have to say without prettying them up; emotional and messy. He listens and when I have said it all, He speaks and I listen. Sometimes we go over the same stuff time and again. The really comforting part is that He sees me and knows where to find me geographically and emotionally. He really sees me. It is one of His names, El Roi, the God Who Sees Me. Just ask Hagar (Genesis 16:13). He has been there all along.

In the middle of our grief, rejection, isolation, pain, illness and lack or whatever, God is working it all out for our good. He promised this in Romans 8:28. Job said that when God has finished proving him, he would come forth like gold.

Consider this: The purest form of gold is powder. It is so light it can, under certain circumstances, weigh less than nothing. When heat is applied to the powder, it turns into a solid pure transparent substance with just a sheen of gold; glass like in appearance. Pure solid gold is transparent and weightless. Gold in its natural state is heavy and dense because of all the impurities present in it.

There is an amazing story of our worth in this verse. Most of the gold the world values, has impurities. God values purity. He does not leave us alone in our difficulties. In the process of leaning in, when the heat turns up, we become transparent and strong in Him. The Holy Spirit leads us through the difficulties, as we allow, to render us as how he sees and values us; as pure gold of the greatest value. Then we know it too. 1 John 3:2 tells us that ‘…what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him.’ Wow! I cannot imagine what that will be like.

Pure gold is a perfect superconductor because there is nothing to hinder the transmission. Purity in relationship with God enables us to better carry the truths we learn to others to help them receive His perfect comfort and help.

It is hard hearing this in the middle of the fire. No one wants to hear it. It makes us angry that someone somewhere has the audacity to preach to us when they have no idea what we are going through. We just want back whatever/whomever we have lost or never had. Period.

I know because I have been there. Maybe not exactly like you but I have been in the purifying fires. I will likely be there again someday, although I do not want to be. Through it all, I have learned He has not forgotten me and I am a beloved child of God; One who knows where to find me, who comes along side me, allows me to lean in close to hear His heart beat as He speaks my name. Others have come through their fire and helped me on my way and are still doing it. Where would I be without these dear ones who shine out God’s love for me, like gold in the sun?

I am writing today to remind us all: God has not forgotten us. We are of such great value to Him, He sent His Son Jesus to show us who He is, who took all our impurities upon Himself on the cross, then defeated death. At times when I need affirmation, it helps to remember that all He wants to do is take my stuff, turn it to gold and love me through it all.

On earth sometimes impurities remain in the gold for certain specific earthly purposes.

However, WE have an eternal purpose. We are meant to reflect Him and shine like the sun forever.

P.S.  These thoughts are not meant to imply in any way that if you or your loved ones are in an abusive or dangerous life-threatening situation, that you should stay there and tough it out. I am not telling anyone to do anything. Just know that God is in the seeking of personal safety too. Ask Him to lead you to the people who can help you. Please talk to someone. I am praying.

I am also not implying that we have sorrow, grief or pain because of sin in our lives, as punishment by an angry God. God is the only one who knows the whole story from beginning to end and He came to walk it out with us.

I am encouraging someone that God can turn our coal into diamonds and our dross into gold, if we let Him.

God Does the Rest

Have you ever given much thought to a runner’s starting stance or wondered at a runner’s form? I have not, until the other day when an image of a runner at the starting block popped into my head. Since I am the least sports-oriented person I know, I knew the Holy Spirit had something for me to hear. All I knew about running a race is that the fastest person wins by speed over short or long distances. I have since learned that the starting position and initial action determine the smoothness of the entire race. The top-end speed potential is determined by the starting acceleration. No wonder there are so many different nuances to the starting stance. Athletes practice setting up repeatedly to get comfortable with each position; foot in the correct position for the most power, hips just a bit higher than the shoulders, back straight and head in line with the spine. Movements and actions are precise to gain leverage and speed quickly, to maintain good form and outrun others. Then there is the need to build up supporting muscles and lung capacity for overall endurance. It is a science and it is serious business for those who want to win.

Conditioning, form, and mental focus are all factors in running well and finishing a race. Have you ever seen a big old reclining chair at the starting line? It is ridiculous because the race would be over before the runner got out of the chair. Have you ever seen a wishful runner? They are the ones who are still walking around warming up when the starting pistol sounds muttering ‘I wish I may, I wish I might…’

A successful race depends on preparation, positioning, readiness for action and perseverance.

Consider this: This is exactly what I love about the people in the bible. Many of those ancient people, whom some say have no relevance for today, can teach us a thing or two about preparation, readiness and perseverance. It helps me to look at their lives and study how they responded to challenges and joys, what God said to them in their circumstances, how they followed Him or not and the fruit of their lives.

Hebrews 11 is so familiar to many of us; a powerful reminder what it was like for these ordinary people to live their lives as victorious runners. If you get a chance, read it again in the New King James Version and allow the Holy Spirit to speak into your life new things just for today. I promise no ‘thee or thou’, only the witness of strong faith in the One who created and redeems. Almost every testimony of each person mentioned starts with By Faith. No wonder it is the bible’s hall of fame. Obedience, preparation, reaction time, spiritual muscle development, perseverance with God centered focus are all hall marks of these courageous people. They believed God and it accounted to them as righteousness. They won their race and the purse at the end—a special deposit made into their spiritual bank account; something precious added to the testimony of their lives. They learned first-hand that God is faithful.

I love what follows in Hebrews 12:1, “…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight (or recliner chair), and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We are not that much different in our spiritual make up; in what we want in the deepest part of our hearts. God has not changed either. We are all still in the same boat, so to speak, as those ancients. What God spoke to them and what happened when they aligned with Him is still relevant today. These people had stamina in their faith, they hoped for what they could not see and they lived very far from the old 17th century nursey rhyme that ends with ‘If ands and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas.’

Encourage yourself and encourage each other as we run the race set before us. Life gets hard at times; we all need a hand up. Not comparing, not wishing for something else but looking through eyes of faith for what is. Dreams are good to have but when the wishing gets in the way of seeing clearly and running with endurance, then it is time to regroup. We can adjust our starting stance and our thoughts moment by moment to align with God’s truth. We can bend our backs in repentance, straightening them again with forgiveness, express our trust and focus in the One who has given His life so that we may run in a winning way.

There is a secret to perseverance–taking one step at a time, then another and another. Some of our steps are small, hesitant and short; some are long, purposeful and gain ground. Each step matters in bringing us closer to our goal. God’s word lights our path and feet to keep us from stumbling.

There are two quotes by Eric Liddell, portrayed in Chariots of Fire, that speak to me.

The first one is “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

The second one is “In the dust of defeat as well as the laurels of victory there is a glory to be found if one has done (their) best.”   To this I add, and God does the rest.

Come run with me for the joy set before us.

 

 

What is my Jericho?

If you need encouragement (and who does not?), go back and re-read the book of Joshua in the Old Testament. Not only is it an action filled fast moving story, it is a faith filled depiction of God moving on behalf of His people and an amazing victory activated by faith in His promises. It is full of precise God given strategy to the Israelites as they prepare to take the land promised to them years ago. It is overflowing with spiritual lessons that are still valid and powerful for today.

The setting for the drama is a late bronze age city built on an impressively high embankment. I have read that the ‘wall’ was a combination of a solid retaining wall 15ft (6m) high backed by dirt topped with a mud brick lower city wall probably 6ft (2m) thick and 26ft (8m) high. The lower city, built on the inner rising embankment (where Rahab’s house likely was located), had another mud brick wall at the top of it to protect the upper city. The city ‘wall’ (3 walls), as viewed by the Israelites on the ground, would have appeared to be 10 stories high (approximately 70ft or 21m). It would have appeared to be an impenetrable fortress to the average person. Even more so to Israel, a wandering desert nation up to this point. They were not a great army and had none of the usual tools of war for conquering even a tiny city. If you recall, they were also the descendants of the ‘grasshopper perspective’ people.  Yet how was it that they won a great victory which still captures interest today?

I will skip the details because we can read it for ourselves. Rather, I am going to highlight several events that led up to this seemingly impossible victory. It began with the fact that Joshua believed all the promises God made to him and applied the directives to be strong and courageous. He lived his life as one who saw the possibilities in situations. It is not that he did not see the obstacles or challenges. He chose to focus on God’s promises and power to perform. He was a Philippians 4:8 kind of guy and it showed as we see by the way he influenced people. He sought God’s perspective as he mulled over the challenges facing him. In response, God sent His heavenly commander to prepare the commander of Israel to receive strategy for this battle. The only thing the angel said was ‘This is holy ground, act like it’. Joshua did and God started speaking.

God’s strategy was essentially this: Sanctify yourselves to me (circumcision), remember my promises and deliverance (Passover), eat from this land today as if it was already yours (manna stopped), line up, move, move again, keep moving; now Shout! (to me with a voice of triumph). Can’t you just hear Joshua?  ‘Okay people, did you get that? Now Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you” Joshua 3:5. And they moved as one. Today there is archeological evidence of a great earthquake, stone rubble and burnt wheat supplies in the place where Jericho once rose as a fortress out of the ground in the late bronze age.

I ask myself: What is my Jericho? What seemingly insurmountable evidence am I seeing? What is God speaking to me about it? Which one will I focus on with Philippians 4:8 honesty and tenacity?

My better self says: I will follow the Israelite’s example during the week of their great victory. I will consecrate myself to the Lord and believe the power of His Word above the overwhelming wall of evidence. I will align myself with the Holy Spirit as He speaks God’s step by step direction. I will live like I already have the victory, move and shout!

Because faith moves God and God moves mountains. He tumbles walls.

 

Abandoned by God? Never!

An abandoned person can feel unwanted, not worth the trouble, unlovable, unsafe, frightened, anxious, distrustful and filled with pain they try to hide. They can develop an orphan heart. I believe there is an orphan spirit working hard in the world to convince us that we do not belong, especially that God will not be careful with our hearts. This may be why so many Christians (believers in Jesus, His cross and resurrection) struggle to some degree. It serves to keep us from our full identity as sons and daughters of God.

A Christian with an orphan heart says, ‘I do not know God as my Father or His mothering heart. He may prove untrustworthy and I would not be able to bear it. I am on my own. I will find a way myself to obtain what I need.’ An orphan heart may say, ‘I will embrace philosophies that build me up as a person. I will pursue a career that will give me identity, my spouse or family will be my identity and provide what I lack.’ Or an orphan will give up and deny their need for anyone. The orphan heart creates an anxious grasping way of going through life. It can create a sense of loneliness, abandonment, insecurity and alienation. Performance for acceptance, self-medicating, isolation or over compensating become a means of coping. It can push others away, look for identity in success and put un-do pressure on loved ones to provide what is lacking. It can express itself in anger, fits of rage or in speaking denigratingly about ourselves.

How do you recognize someone with an orphan heart?  It is very hard because most of us have become adept at hiding the shame in inventive ways. We have even become good at hiding it from ourselves too. Some of the most successful loving people may be living with an orphan heart. All the time we have been expending so much energy compensating for what we perceive we lack, we have had a spiritual Father who loves us enough to come live among us, lay down His life take our sin upon Himself, write a Book that tells us who He is, who we become as sons and daughters and how we are heirs of His kingdom. But we cannot believe this good news or embrace it enough to heal our hearts.

Here is the heart of a tender strong father: You can trust a true father with your heart. His highest concern is for the well-being of his child. He spends all he has and all his energy in caring for the needs of his sons and daughters. He loves the sound of their voices and leans into them to listen. He responds with wisdom because he knows his child well. He enjoys their company and laughter. He wipes the tears from their eyes as he holds them close and provides a safe hopeful environment. He never leaves them or forsakes them. He defends them. Everything that matters to his child, matters to him. He prepares and guides them through life with wisdom, knowledge and firm loving discipline. The disciple John wove his love for Jesus, and Father God, throughout all the books in the Bible attributed to him. John calls us to know Him in the same way. He says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1.

The answer to an orphan heart is the Spirit of divine Adoption. The way to break off the orphan spirit and heal our hearts is to fill up with a sense of the Father’s love. We break the power of the lie of fatherlessness by receiving the fatherliness of God. Sonship and daughtership is so important to God’s plan for us that all creation cries out for the manifestation of the sons and daughters of God (Romans 8). He is a father to the fatherless and to those living with an orphan heart. He will not leave us alone. He will come to us and make Himself known. He is trustworthy.

How do we do begin?  A good place to start is by simply asking Him to show Himself as a father to us. Search the scriptures for revelation of God the Father, who Jesus came to show us. Renounce wholeheartedly the orphan spirit as a lie, take it to the cross in repentance for seeking a sense of significance, belonging and other ways first, apart from Him. Choose to believe and take Him at His word. Keep leaning into Him with unveiled hearts until our hearts open and we let our souls fill to overflowing with His love. Seek out other trustworthy people who have already found their way into the Father’s embrace.

His greatest gift to us is Jesus Christ because the Father’s heart cried out for us to know Him. Jesus said He came to show us the Father. He spent His whole life on earth in pursuit of this, until the very end when He gave all He had to give for us, so in believing we would have a perfect Father, His Father.

Beloved, He is worth knowing. Your heart can trust Him in every way. He is calling your name.

 

What’s New?

More than any other time of year, there is something about the coming of a new year that causes us to hope for something new and fresh. Resolutions abound. We raise prayers for a new thing from the Lord. We seek fresh words from the Holy Spirit to encourage us. These are all good things. Many people are willing to supply these words and it has never been more easily available on a global scale as with social media so available.

This is when it is good to be alert and watchful; to remember Adam and Eve. They had an intimate relationship with God. They knew Him like no other. He lavished His best of creation on them in love. He gave them purpose and sought them out to talk over the day and enjoy their company. Yet they were able to be deceived in such a profound way. They believed a basic lie about the character of God and the veracity of His words, setting themselves up as god-like by acting as if they knew better. The serpent made up a plausible story and then added just a little doubt about God’s character. It was very subtle. Adam and Eve believed the serpent more than God with whom they had an intimate relationship. It may have been because the serpent appealed to something hidden in the depths of their heart, something they desired more than God. This is a cautionary tale for us.

There is no lack of people who are willing to explain to us what God really means and what He is about to do. Each one says they have heard from the Holy Spirit about God’s plans for us, for nations and many other things during the new year. There is a declaring and decreeing approach that encourages us to declare and decree their words with divine authority as if they are the very words of God; to set ourselves up as god-like. There is a very fine line between falling into error and rightly understanding the truth. Many are willing to accept these words from people who they do not personally know and have not seen the fruit of their walk with God, as instructed in Matthew 7. It is all very seductive.

Here’s the Thing: I believe that God still speaks to our hearts by the Holy Spirit and the Bible; true encouraging words of God–words that align with all the other words of God in the Bible because He does not contradict Himself. He does not lead us with confusion. This is where it is good to remember that we are not stronger than Adam and Eve. And also to understand that we are ‘not to quench the Spirit and not treat prophecies with contempt but to test them all; hold on to what is good’ and to ‘not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God’ 1 Thess. 4:19-21 and 1 John 4:1. Also, to consider ‘no (true) prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’ 2 Peter 1:21. In other words, let us not throw out every prophecy because some might be unwittingly false.

How are we then to know the false? We wait for it to come to pass. It is that simple. People in Bible times asked the same question. “And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him” Deut. 18:21-22.  It is so simple and how gracious of God to explain it for our benefit.

God, Himself, has already decreed His word, the Bible, imbuing it with His eternal life and power. He retains the rights to perform it in His way and His time. When we declare what He has given us in the Bible over our lives, appealing to and trusting His sovereignty, His authority and power, we release its power to perform. He moves in accordance to what He has already decreed. When we declare His words to perform to our will and timing, we move into spiritually dangerous territory. Our spiritual authority as believers must be in alignment with His will and His word. When we read or hear prophetic words, we must ask for discernment, wait for the fruit and for it to come to pass. In the meantime, we can declare the written Word of God with confidence, leaving the execution of it to Him. Jesus said “it is written” when confronted by the seductive power of Satan. The written word of God has power like none other.

As a last thought, we also need to be diligent about the words of our own mouths and what we write as ascribing to God. Yes, having said all this, I am encouraging you to seek the Lord on everything I write and wait on it for the fruit. The Lord is faithful to His word. We can rest in Him.

My prayer is that you receive everything that God in His great love has already made available to you. Hope is a powerful thing when we know the Source of our hope is trustworthy.

 

Bethlehem Sleeps

Foretold thousands of years before its fulfillment, the story of Christ’s conception and birth, came at a time when Jerusalem’s enemies had aligned with the tribe of Ephraim to come against that great city. King Ahaz, ruler of Jerusalem, was not a particularly good king in the eyes of the Lord. For the sake of Jerusalem and its people, God in His great compassion gave a message of Hope that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son and His name would be Immanuel-Isaiah 7. The gist of it is that no matter what happened temporarily, God was promising His presence. Fast forward to the time of Matthew, who reminded everyone that the sign of the Redeemer was the virgin birth. A mystery and miracle which only God could bring about. Immanuel ‘God is With Us’ was to have other names as well. A Star out of Jacob, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, the Son of the Highest, Messiah and Savior to name just a few. There are so many promises in the names given to Him.

The prophet Micah also had something to say — about the location of this extraordinary birth. “But you, Bethlehem (Ephratah), though you are small among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you will come to me one who will be ruler over Israel; whose origins have been from everlasting” Micah 5:2.

Jesus Christ was born into a community of people who learned the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah from an early age, along with all the other recorded and oral stories of their ancestors. Yet many did not realize the significance of this event.

Here’s the Thing: It was not an accident of birth that the Redeemer was born in a town that had its roots in the tribe of Ephraim, the very people that had aligned themselves against Jerusalem so many years before. It was no coincidence that Caesar decreed a census and all the people had to go their familial towns to register just at the time when Mary was about to give birth. It was no coincidence that there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby keeping watch over their flocks at night, that there was no guest room available to the poor humble parents or that the wise men of the East saw a star in the sky some time later. It all happened by the mighty hand of God. He kept His promise and more. He is all about keeping His promises.

There are so many deeper truths running through the amazing story of this humble birth, some of which are still unfolding and yet to be. The single thought that keeps running through my heart is this: the event of God coming to be with us occurred while most of Bethlehem was unaware. Even though they had learned the scriptures from birth, they did not recognize Him when He came. Yet, it seems that a small band of people were paying attention–the humble parents ‘were hearing’, the shepherds ‘were watching’ and of wise men ‘were looking”. All of them saw it unfold, believed, sought out the promised Child and worshipped Him. Their lives were transformed.

Jesus, the child now grown, said, “the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the sick are healed, the dead live and the Good News is being preached to the poor”. This was His response to His cousin when John asked, “Are you the One we have been waiting for or should we expect another?” Matthew 11.

Each of us must come to our own conclusion about this amazing Child, whose birth filled the skies with the glory of the Lord and hosts of angels. We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and we will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts. 1 Peter 1:19.

“Behold, I bring you good news with great joy which will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord”

Blessings in His Name.

 

What is This, Lord?

Were you, like me, taught from a young age to say the ‘magic words’ when making a request of another? ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ are words of politeness to show respect to the person addressed. Every time I say ‘please’, I am asking for someone’s favor. Most languages have a word or phrase for ‘please’ — por favor (Spanish), s’il vous plait (French) and prego (Italian). As children we learn that the use of the simple word ‘please’ gives us access to things that we would otherwise not receive, hence the ‘magic’ in them. When I read my bible, I read about God’s favor and how the people living in Old and New Testament times esteemed it. As believers we desire God’s favor and He has promised it to us.

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” Isaiah 58:11. “For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield” Psalm 5:12.

Here’s the Thing: To be sure, the Lord’s favor is righteousness when we confess our sin, protection when we are buffeted on every side, rain in dry times, resources in scarcity, healing when ill and all good things from His hand are the favor of the Lord. We ask, we receive. Poof!  There it is like magic. Correct? Or do we sometimes look at the answer we have received from God’s hand and wonder what He is thinking?  What do we do with this thing that He gave, which is nothing like what we wanted, even though we said “Please!”?

I just finished watching a television series about some of the northwestern islands of Scotland complete with mountains, rocks and large stones strewn everywhere. For thousands of years, many of these islands were inaccessible except by boat. In some seasons it is often brutally cold with strong winds. These islands are breathtakingly beautiful and seemingly inhospitable at the same time, yet generation after generation have called this isolated land home for thousands of years. They learned the secret of living on these remote islands. They have life knowledge that other people do not.

The hardy people of old looked around them and saw answers. They used whatever they found to improve their lives. They built homes and fences with thick walls of the plentiful stone for warmth and protection. They cooked their food and warmed their homes with peat from the earth. The natural resources of plentiful stones, rocks and dirt are an example of the Lord’s favor in this environment. Even the animals adapted.

I choose to believe the word of the Lord, that He gives His favor, as promised, when I am living rightly aligned to Him. It may not always come in the form I expect or exactly what I ask for. It may look like a hard, unyielding stone or a clod of dirt. It may feel like a cold icy wind or isolation. I quickly cry out “Where are you God? What do I do with this?!” He as quickly answers, “…this is the one to whom I will look: (s)he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” Isaiah 66:2. I am trembling, for sure, when looking at the disguised favor. But do I have a humble and contrite heart?  So here I am, on my knees again, asking for the sight to see what He intends for me to do with this favor He has sent. Metaphorically, will I be able to see it as raw material for cooperating with Him as He teaches me how to dig up and cut a stone to place on top of others to make a warm, protective, strong dwelling? Will I let Him show me how to make a special tool to cut peat from the earth, then let it dry in the cold strong wind so I can warm myself by its fire later?

Will I see Him in all these things He has favored me with in love? Will I see Him? Will I see Him? Because this is the cry of my heart; to know how close He is, to know His protection, strength, forgiveness, and compassion. He knows all the other things I need too (a home, love, companionship-a place to belong, food, money, shelter from the storms of life).

In His favor, He may give me a direct answer that requires that I do nothing except receive it because there are some things that are impossible for me and nothing is impossible for Him. Then again, because He knows exactly what I need, He may send me raw resources (spiritual or natural) and teach me how to use them because there are somethings that are possible for me to do, in Him-things I must do if I am to mature in faith. I ask for the favor of wisdom to know the difference and be thankful in all things.

It is always of Himself He gives with His favor in Christ. I want to recognize His favor today in whatever form it comes in. I want to see Him in all things.

May you also receive His favor in the Spirit given and cooperate with Him.  Blessings.

 

 

When Seasons Change

Where I live the leaves are changing into beautiful autumn colors of red, gold, yellow. Some of us start talking about it in anticipation at the end August–into September and October. Are the days warm enough and the nights cold enough to produce the brilliant reds? Will the frost cut this season short? We consult state leaf report maps to see when the areas closest to us are anticipated to be ‘at peak’. When we can, we take special rides into heavily forested areas to view this amazing display. When we see trees in full color, we exclaim over their beauty. There is even a name for it-leaf peeping.

The thing about our autumn leaf peeping is that it is fully a sensory experience. We like to seek out trees in groups, splashing all their complementary beauty over hills and mountains. Then we spy a magnificent tree standing alone and it is breathtaking. We love to take hikes and smell the unique essence of fallen leaves as they crunch and whisper beneath our feet. We begin to smell snow in the air and prepare for winter. In several months, we will be looking eagerly for the bright green leaves that indicate spring is coming and for the first shoots of summer pushing out of the ground. All this beauty is our indication of the transition of seasons.

Here’s the Thing: Change begins as soon as we are born. This is good and as it should be. It is a sign of life and growth. I can get comfortable with certain seasons of my life and when I sense that something is changing, I can become a little anxious (or joyful, fearful, resigned, etc.) as I anticipate what it will mean. Often the future is not as clear as it is when the earth changes seasons. But it is a spiritual sensory experience. I am not as familiar with what the change will bring but I have a sense that it will require something different of me. Often it takes me awhile to come into agreement with what is coming. I may become contemplative, asking the Lord what all the signs of change mean. As I get an inkling of what is coming, I may dig in my heels to brake the advance. It will take time to let the Holy Spirit do His holy work to prepare me. Each season has a different preparation period and approach. The only constant in all this is the Holy Spirit who lives within me and leads me through it all.

I have been in a prolonged season of transition and still do not yet see exactly where it is all leading. My emotions and will have been all over the map. My activity levels seem to fluctuate as well while I am coming to terms with the inevitable new thing that is coming. I may isolate myself while I contemplate. I may dash around doing things I think are helpful in moving things along or just to not think about it at all.

But through it all I have learned to rely on the promises from the Promise Maker who is also my promise keeper (2 Peter 1:4). The Bible is full of promises from a loving Father as He moves within me to grow me into maturity in His truths. I have a favorite Bible verse that is like an anchor for my soul. It is found in Isaiah 33:6 “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.”. While my little life boat is feeling tossed around, this verse holds me and I know I am secure.

Perhaps there is one verse you like better than all the others, that speaks to you in all seasons and settles you down. Maybe your verses change with each season as you walk through life with Him. We can ask Him for one that will give us exactly what we need at every moment, that can be declared with confidence in its truth. While we cannot stop the inevitable life-giving changes, we can lean into Him with assurance that He never leaves us.

A friend pointed me to Psalm 139 today in The Passion Translation which I am speaking over my life today. “You know every step I will take before my journey even begins. You have gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me.”  With this powerful declaration and God’s affirmation, I can breathe deeply in anticipation of new things to come.

I hope you are declaring His promises over your beautiful life today.

Blessings in His Name, Shirley.

Living In Hope

“The greatest disease in the West today is…being unwanted, unloved and uncared for…the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love…it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” ― Mother Teresa, “A Simple Path’”. The woman who wrote these profound words, which describe a lack of hope, had decided to meet these needs ‘one person at a time.’ And she did.

Here’s the Thing: Mother Theresa did more than infuse hope; she did whatever she could for the people she lived among. I have read she did this from a place of great personal spiritual struggle. A place of pain and doubt. She wrote: “I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.” Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”. Yet day after day, she chose to follow the Light she did not feel. She chose to live a life of generosity of spirit by the power of the Holy Spirit within her. Mother Teresa did all this mostly from a place of obscurity. Not many people followed her into the slums of Calcutta to exclaim over her sacrifice and cheer her on.

This is why I write so much about hope; the kind of hope we can only have in Christ Jesus. I remember a time when I was not filled with hope of a lasting nature. While it is true it was largely by my own choosing, it was still a painful place. Nobody gets to go through life unscathed by hardship and challenges. It is not some unusual place we find ourselves in. But we think it is. When we think we can go through life with no suffering of any kind, we deceive ourselves. It can lead us to embrace anger and hopelessness. ‘It is not fair’ we cry and we focus on our lack, comparing our situations to others outward appearances.

Hope is used in the bible 129 times with the meaning of confident expectation, patience and trust in God. This is why I write about Joseph, Sarah, Hagar, Abraham and all the others in Hebrews Hall of Fame chapter 11. It is because they were able to choose to follow the Light when they could not see or feel it and it encourages me to do the same. “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised…” v.13. It goes on to say that God was not ashamed to be represented by them on earth. Then we have the example of Christ who is able to understand our weakness because He lived in a human body like we do. He lives now to plead before the Father for us to be strengthened to endure. How can this not give us hope?

I learned recently that there is a place in the brain that lights up when we are hopeful. That place is right behind our eyes. It struck me that God intentionally created this place where hope is recognized, and then goes on to tell us what we hope for cannot be seen with our physical eyes-Heb 11:1. Hope based on external things we can see is not hope. Hope based on the promises of God which we cannot see is life giving and infuses us with strength. We are able to live fruitful lives in the middle of hardship and challenges because we have a Savior who in every way was tempted as we are. There is no place and no one on earth who can give us this type of encouragement except for Jesus. This is a very precious Treasure we have been given.

Then we will have the power to freely choose to live joyfully; steadfastly holding on to a living faith. We can look on the ones around us who are struggling and offer them hope with a generous spirit. We can ask God to give us eyes to see their pain and ears to hear their loneliness and fear. It may not be what we think it is. We can offer them what we can in whatever way He leads us, because He is our Hope.

So today, I pray for myself and for you that we will daily turn to the One who can give us a confident expectation and patience. He provides His company along the way as we offer, in kindness and generosity, this living Hope to others.

Blessings in His Name.

When Hope Trumps Despair

Consider Hagar, Sarah’s slave, introduced to us in Genesis 16. Hagar was in an impossible position. Sarah, in desperation, gave Hagar to Abraham to produce an heir (a common practice in that culture) and she conceived. Then she made the mistake of acting superior to Sarah. Sarah, resentful by this time, made life so unbearable for Hagar she fled into the desert. In this unlikely place, the seeds of hope were planted in Hagar which gave her the strength to go on. When she was alone and desperate God met her in the desert by a spring. He told her she would bear a son called Ishmael, which means “God will hear”, because He had heard her misery. She called the Lord who met her in her distress “You are the One who sees me”. The well she was resting by was even given a new name “The well of the Living One who sees me”. A new thing was started that day when despair was defeated by hope.

Have you ever noticed how many stories in the Bible tell of new beginnings? Earth is formed, human beings are created and new dynasties begin. People are sent into new places. A Child is given– the Son of God is born to bring peace between God and man. Men, women and children are given new hearts and renewed minds to follow God where ever He leads them. We await a new heaven and a new earth where the Son of God will rule in peace. It is all being made new. The Lord is always doing something new in our lives. Even His mercies are new every morning! Each new day offers a new hope in Him. Even those unhappy places we find ourselves waking up to have the potential for seeds of hope to be planted in them when we trust our lives to God in Christ Jesus.

I love the story of Hagar for its hope and restoration. I can look back on my life and remember the places where the Lord met me and renewed my trust in Him. He gave me hope to continue in difficult situations. He spoke Isaiah 42:9 to me “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you”. I like that He did not gloss over that I had a past without considering Him. He made me look back briefly but not to dwell on it. Then He showed me a better way to live my life with His love and direction leading me forward. He loved me enough to tell me good things were coming even though I could not yet see them. He accepted me into a place of belonging and gave me hope.

Here’s the Thing: Sometimes ‘the new’ is thrust upon us and sometimes it is a gradual dawning that the Lord is doing something new. Every time I find myself in new circumstances or moving in a different direction, I struggle with where to begin. How do I do this thing I know little or nothing about? I have so many choices to make, all of them valid approaches. Because of Hagar’s story, I know ‘He will hear’ when I ask Him where to start and which path to take when there are choices. I ask God ‘who sees me’ to walk with me because He has already been to my future and knows the way. I rely heavily on the fact that He prepared in advance for me (Eph. 2:10). I trust that He will show me the things I do not know (Jer. 33:3) as I walk into unfamiliar places. He will provide the courage for He is with me wherever He leads (Joshua 1:9).

But before all this, I simply say ‘Yes, Lord’. This is the moment new hope puts down roots.

Felling Giants

He was a shepherd, poet, warrior, king and prophet in his life time. His family thought little of him in comparison to his older brothers. They may have thought him a dreamer only worthy to watch the sheep. Yet David was the one who faced and killed Goliath when his brothers and the whole army of Israel were afraid. David trusted in God to deliver. The transition from shepherd to warrior had begun. He was fresh from the hills and caring for the flock. Where did his skill and courage to confront giants come from?

During his life time and beyond, David became known as a man who cried out and vented to God in anger and pain only to turn his complaints into praise in the end. He worshipped Him with words, writing songs for others to sing and allowed the Holy Spirit to prophecy through him about Jesus Christ. Where did he learn the power of words to ease pain, lift the spirit of man and enter into the presence of a holy God receiving the strength to do what had to be done?

Here’s the Thing: Since he was old enough to be responsible, David had been tending his father’s sheep alone in the isolated hill country. In his free time when the sheep were safely grazing in the sun or in their enclosure at night, he would think about the words of God he had learned. One of the songs he wrote said, “Your words have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You” Psalm 119:11.

Even in the isolation of his shepherd years David knew the power of God’s words. He leaned into Jehovah, studied and memorized what He had to say to men on earth. David knew the importance of timely words at just the right moment. He called upon the Lord for the skill to kill the lion and the bear. He wrote and sang holy songs to encourage himself in His aloneness on dark hills in the dead of night – until the day he was sent to bring provision to his brothers battling the Philistines. That was the day he unexpectedly killed a giant.

He learned in the quiet places doing an important job with great care. He learned through the words of the Lord and applied them to his situations. I can see him dancing before the Lord on the hilltops – under the sun – around fluffy sheep – because his joy was so great in God’s presence. Oh, did you think David danced in joy with all his might for the first time when the ark was returned? I think he must have danced on those star-filled or moonless nights way back when he was just a shepherd with no one to witness but God. By the time of the ark, his body was so used to joining his soul and spirit in the expression of worship that it could not be contained. He had done it so many times alone, he did not care what others thought. At that moment, it was between David and his God. I believe he perfected the sling-shot to keep wild animals away from those in his care, never dreaming that one day he would save a nation with it. I believe he wrote to relieve his loneliness and encourage himself in the Lord, never realizing that someday, he would lead nations in worship with the songs of his heart.

The presence of inner strength and the skill of enduring in all things is what enables men and women to stay the course and honor God. These attributes are learned in the quiet, hard places in life where our Father in heaven sees and comes along side with help and to cheer us on.  He is all about our success as a spiritual people. He loves to speak and teach us about His heart, character and personality. He is about gathering us into His purposes at His time and His way. He is preparing us for future mighty deeds of faith during these quieter times.

Thinking about the private life between God and David always gives me hope. David was far from a perfect man who lived a life full of highs and lows. Yet he never blamed God for the difficulties and sorrows in his life. He never stopped worshipping God with the songs of his heart he had written while with the sheep.

Like so many others, including David, I have a heart to write. I am stirred by the words of God and the enduring life lessons that are revealed in the pages of my Bible. It is my passion to bring the deep places of my Father’s heart to light to inspire and encourage myself first. Perhaps through the words He gives me to string together others will be built up and drawn closer to the Amazing One who loves us best.

Alone on our hills today we can be strong in the might of the Lord. We have giants to slay and dances awaiting us.

Rise up singing your own song to Him! Select the perfect words for battle, like stones for the sling-shot! Dance before Him upon injustice and with great joy!

Then rest in Him and watch for the amazing to happen.

Blessed: Best Love Ever

A godly man once wrote in a letter to a young pastor, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  But that was after St. Paul had written in the same letter, “You (Timothy)…know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me…” 2 Timothy 3:10-11

Here’s the Thing: When Timothy read his letters from Paul he knew that they were the real deal. He knew he could trust the advice, instruction, encouragement and anything else Paul said because Timothy knew the author personally. This is how Paul appealed to him; as one man in relationship with another. In essence, Paul was saying, ‘Do not just take my word for it. You know me. You have been with me as I suffered many things and you saw how I reacted when faced with hardship. You know I was just as steadfast in the good times as I was in the hard times. You know the motivation of my heart and how I stayed the course. Timothy, you know God is real. You have seen how He has kept me’. Timothy must have read Paul’s letters over and over, learning from one who had run the course well. He knew the author and it made a difference.

When I read my Bible today, I read it as one knowing the Author. I am not saying this in an arrogant way. This knowing, this relationship, has been hard won over time and He has been patient with me. His patience has made all the difference in the progression of my deepening understanding of His nature. When I read scripture, I think about His heart motivation for inspiring whatever portion I happen to be reading. I look beyond sets of rules and religious practices to the reasons they were important then and how they apply to life today. I look to the life of Jesus on earth and all I have learned about God’s nature. In the Bible, those lessons start in Genesis and end in Revelation. When I wake up every morning those lessons continue as I find Him waiting for me when I rise and He continues speaking fresh words all day and into the night as I rest. His words have been written on my heart through my relationship with Him. When I open my Bible, the verses come alive to me like no other book ever written. I know I am not alone in this.

If I did not know the Author of this marvelous book, I would probably read it as any other book, without gleaning the life changing truths. I might find it dry and boring, with no relevance to my life today. Or I might try to establish a set of religious practices which on the surface would look very pious but would only be skin deep. This is, in fact, what I did before I knew God’s love in Jesus and began to understand the significance of the Love Story He initiated on our behalf. It was the beginning of understanding the deeper truths hidden in scripture—the ones that transform me deep inside and change my understanding of what my life is all about.

A well-known acronym for the Bible is Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. If I could provide an acronym that better describes the Bible, it might be “Blessed: Inside Best Love Ever”.

Winning the Game

He was abandoned, betrayed, forgotten, falsely accused and imprisoned an innocent man! Born a favored son of a large prominant family, through a series of misfortunes young Joseph began a new life as a slave. It began with the treacherous actions of his own family. From there, his life progressed in a way which was mostly out of his control. He was flesh and blood, with emotions like you and me. He had a need to be loved, respected, protected and affirmed. I imagine he experienced anger, fear and despair when his happy world went wrong, wondering why God had allowed this path he was on. But his story, starting in Genesis 30, does not mention any of his inner stuggles.

Joseph’s story is about his choices in the face of unfair circumstances and how God moved powerfully through them. It is a story of Joseph’s intentional relationship and reliance on God. He chose to trust God in all the difficulties he faced. He chose to respond in faith to one sad thing after another. In the end, he was able to say at the family reunion, “…it was not you who sent me here, but God…” Genesis 45:8.  It is an amazing true story and one worth reading again and again.

Here’s the Thing: Did Joseph make his choices because he knew what the end result would be? No. We are just told he chose to live his life in relationship with God with integrity and steadfastness, even though all his needs for self-realization were not met along the way. Somehow Joseph reconciled his life with God and forgave his brothers, putting away bitterness and resentment. Did this transformation occur in a pit in a wild country or as a slave in the desert? Did he have an epiphany as the highest trusted steward in a ruler’s household, forgotten in prison or as the second most powerful man in Egypt? Yes. It happened in all these places.

He lived without knowing why until God chose to reveal how all the events fit together; the moment he and his brothers looked into each other’s eyes again. It had all been so that he could protect and preserve his family, who were God’s promise to Abraham. This is the moment he showed great emotion as he privately wept. The ironic thing about all this is that Joseph’s difficulties started when he had a dream about this very thing.

I have often thought about Joseph’s choices. I have learned so many things from him. I am also grateful that I am a child of God in Christ Jesus because Israel’s family was preserved in part by one man’s faith. God preserved Joseph for a purpose. My life is preserved for a reason, I am not an accident of nature. Neither are you. We have a purpose through it all.

Joseph yielded. He humbled himself and learned to dwell in the secret place of God (Psalm 91). He did not go for a visit every once in a while. He lived there, greatly loved.

Beloved by God, He is well aware of where you are in life. He is loving you and speaking His purposes over you. He knows tomorrow and the next day and all your future. He can be trusted. Keep talking and listening to Him! He has things to say that no one else can tell you.

Let us stay in the game until the race is won!  Let us hold on to Whom we have believed in and be persuaded that He is able to keep all that we have committed to Him until the day of His return.

Pray or Prey

On one occasion Abram, the patriarch, was minding his own business living peacefully among allies in the land to which God had led him. There was a great war in progress when Abram learned that his nephew Lot had been captured. Abram gathered his men and set out. He recovered Lot and all his possessions. The king of Salem blessed him saying, “Blessed be Abram by God…And praise be to God, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” After this, the king of Sodom demanded he hand over Lot and his family but keep his possessions. Abram declined. He had made a vow to take nothing from his enemies. The Lord encouraged him not to be afraid because He was Abram’s shield and his great reward. While he had God’s attention, Abram decided to bring up the promised child who had not yet come. The Lord assured him that it would be as He had promised.

That was when the birds of prey came to try to steal his worship of the Lord (his sacrifice) and Abram shooed them away. It was after this that God affirmed with great detail the promises He had made in relation to the two things that seemed most important to Abram: an heir and a place to belong. Genesis 14-15

It all happened as the Lord had promised.

Here’s the Thing: The story of these events has great relevance for us today. Here is a recap of the order of events as I see them. Do you see a spiritual correlation to your own life in Christ, as well?

  • Abram believed God and left his old life.
  • He started living the new life God gave him by promise.
  • This new land had enemies who aggressively tried to take from Abram.
  • He was bold and victorious in battle. His enemies tried to undermine him.
  • Abram spoke aloud his provision was from the Lord and asked God about the delay.
  • God affirmed His promises. Abram believed and worshipped God.
  • When birds of prey came to steal his worship, Abram shooed them away.
  • Abram worshipped. Abram kept talking to God. God delivered His promises.

It’s the birds of prey that I am thinking about today. Birds of prey are predatory by nature. They have hooked bills and sharp talons to grab their prey as they fly by. They go for the jugular, so to speak. They are aggressive and unrestrained in attack. Prey, on the other hand, are alert. They recognize that they are being hunted and run for cover as fast as they can.

The second thing that impressed me was that Abram kept talking to God.  He stayed in relationship, not engaging with his enemies. Yesterday, I was reminded that I have a choice:

I can pray or be prey.

As a believer, I live a life of great promise. The promises of God are many. I also live in a world where my spiritual enemy is like a bird of prey who comes to devour my identity in Christ; to steal my faith and my joy in God’s promises. No believer is exempt from these aggressive assaults. I have mountain top experiences where I am courageous, go to battle and win the battle. I win another, and another and another.

It is when I least expect it, when I am tired and not alert, that I am most susceptible to becoming prey. This is when the enemy of my soul swoops in and tries to grab the things that matter most to me. He attacks my spiritual identity as a child of God and the promises God has given me. I am ‘easy-pickings’. Sometimes I give in and speak out loud from this tired place agreeing with the enemy. Until I remember, that the Lord always makes a way of escape. I can run to Him for cover and protection. He is my deliverer from the snare of the trap. I can talk to the One who loves me best and encourage myself in Him. I can speak aloud His promises and when the spiritual birds of prey come, I can shoo them away just like Abram did and continue to worship.

I choose to be alert and pray. I choose to worship and speak aloud His promises. I choose to live in His shadow. He is where my strength comes from.

 

 

The Sweet and The Savory

The apostle Mark said “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other” Mark 9:50. In Psalm 119:103, King David wroteHow sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” Describing his own affliction at the time, David also wrote, “They put gall (bitter) in my food and gave me vinegar (sour) for my thirst” Psalm 69:21.

It is the sweet, the savory and the bitter.

Here’s the Thing:  Food is a timeless, universal metaphor. When our life is dull, we lack the savor of more exciting or interesting times. When things are pleasant, some exclaim “Sweet!” Hard times are bitter.

A while back, I craved sweet foods, until I realized I had gotten somewhat off balance. Sweet things are easily available, require little work, are pleasant on my tongue but never really fill me up or feed my body with what it needs. My energy was low and my brain was ‘foggy’. I set out to do something about it. The path back to healthy eating started with the determination to intentionally prepare vegetables ahead of time and choose fruits for their sweetness. I started to feel better and the cravings ebbed.

This experience reminds me of Paul’s teaching in Hebrews 5-6, where he yearns to be able to teach believers the meatier truths of God. He was frustrated that they still needed someone to teach them elementary spiritual truths. They wanted what was easily available and easy to digest. They wanted to be fed, not do the feeding; to feed on foundational truths without building upon them.

God still speaks to us with sweet words. When we get a helping of the bitter or sour things of life, He knows what we need just to keep our faith strong and one foot in front of the other. We may feel too beat up by life to handle the more difficult deeper things of God. Yet, it can become a habit that lingers when our life evens out and eases up. It is just a natural thing to want to feast on words that sooth, encourage, build us up and give us hope. I like the sweet milk of the Word.

There comes a time, though, when I realize that if I am to grow in the Lord, I must be open to the deeper things. How else will my spiritual bones become strong enough to support a growing faith and trust in Him? How else will I have the spiritual vigor to walk the path with Him? My sight needs to be clear and my hearing sharp. I must discern danger to my soul. My spiritual reflexes must be able to react quickly to enemy attacks. I have to build upon the foundational truths that served me well as a new believer. Otherwise, I will miss the ever-increasing glory of God to transform me to be like Him, to stand strong in battle strategy and to help others grow.

If I feast only on the easier softer things of scripture and think of Jesus as the lamb only but not the lion, how will I ever grow in my faith in Him? I will not be able to trust in His promises because I have never let Him take me out on a limb or into deeper waters. If I shrink back from exercising my spiritual muscles with the heavy lifting, I will remain weak. The giants will overcome and I will fall.

To counteract this natural tendency toward an easy and pleasant way, I intentionally read my bible and engage in bible studies to meditate on His deeper truths. I avail myself of the counsel and wisdom of more mature Christians, where I see the life of Christ formed more fully than in me. I make the effort to align myself with the instructions to persevere in trial. Perseverance must finish its work so that I may be mature and complete (James 1). I ask for wisdom to understand the more mature aspects of being a believer in Christ and add those things to my foundational faith. These are just some of the ways I eat my spiritual meat, vegetables and fruits. I am still a dessert person though and enjoy the sweet things in balance with the other good things of the bible. I desire to be salty in living my life in full view of the world so that others, perhaps, may desire the savory things of God. With the bitter and the sour, I lean into Him more than ever for what only He can give me.

Where, you ask, does umami fit into all this? I think the best way to describe it is that which I sense in my spirit but cannot fully explain–that uniqueness of communication that the Father allows while holding back some of the mystery I cannot yet fathom. His spirit speaks to mine to keep me connected to Him with words that cannot be spoken. Spiritual umami is that certain something that enhances all the other flavors of my life in Christ that keeps me coming back for more and guards me until the day of His return.

Come share a meal at His table with me.

But first, I will give thanks: ‘Father, bless our meals with you so that we may grow to our full stature. Thank you for Yourself, your sweet and savory Word, other mature believers and friends so that we may be built up and mature’ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

 

No Regrets

I woke up today this side of Heaven. This is how I know the Lord has appointed me for this day.  It is wide open to all His ‘possibles’ regardless of…well anything really. Today is a new day of discovery of what He already planned back when He knew all my days before I was formed.

I suppose I could ignore this wonderful gift to spend it looking at my yesterdays; analyzing what I did not do so well and regretting the times I fell far short of His glory. But I do not want to do that anymore. Even if nothing outwardly changes around me today, I have a rich inner life with Him that helps me to transcend my circumstances and my past. I am thankful for all He has allowed which He used to draw me to Himself, for all the times He kept me for the day I would know His love and trusting me to choose the better Way in Him.

I want to live a life fully aware of His presence. Even when…well, frankly whenever I do not measure up to my own expectations (and His) in any given situation. Even then, I am aware of His presence, acceptance and a better way. This awareness is so important. I know He never leaves me. I can have unbroken communication with Him.

A few days ago, I asked Him what He wanted to talk about with me that day.  The exchange went something like this:

“My children do not know Who I am” He said.  “Who, me?” I replied in surprise.  “Yes.” He answered.  “I am your Redeemer. This is what I do. I redeem people who come to me in faith. Yet you sometimes forget. I have seen you picking up the heavy weight of regret again. Beloved, I have redeemed your regrets!”

“Lord!” I say followed by silence as I let this sink in. There is only one more thing to ask, “How do I stop this?”  “Child, consecrate your memory to me.” He replied.  “Every time regret shows up, remember with thanksgiving what I choose to remember. I remember that I have given you a future and a new purpose in Christ. I choose not remember your sin and failures anymore. Jesus paid that price once. Once was enough.”.

Here’s The Thing:  Have you ever tried to turn your head around 180 degrees to look behind you?  Why not try it now. I just tried. I cannot do it without turning my body in the direction I want to face. It makes it difficult to walk forward into my future while trying to look behind me. My feet are trying to go forward but the rest of me is trying to go backwards. I am at a standstill, unless I want to go stumbling about. That is what regret looks like.

There is a time for regrets, for sure. It is when I first learn and accept that God has a better Way for me in Jesus Christ. This is the time to grieve for all that was, could have been and will never be. This is the time when I am before the cross, laying my sin sorrow down, letting Him lift the pain from me and calling me into newness of life in Him. This is the time He gives me beauty for the ashes I have brought to Him. This is a picture of healthy regret. I believe, grieve, repent, learn, let go, rejoice and move on in Him.

This letting go of the past is not as complete on my part as it is on His. I am grateful God is patient with me. His desire is for an intimate relationship that includes two-way conversations which always leaves the way open for me to approach Him again. I remember the cross of Jesus where I can go time and again to rise in freedom from all that hinders me in following His path. Letting go is knowing that I am not alone in this thing. Jesus was tempted in all ways like me, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). He understands and teaches me that incomplete regret causes heart trouble, as I am told in Gen 6:6. “The Lord regretted…and His heart was troubled”. Thank God, it did not end there. His unstoppable love made a Way to fix His troubled heart and mine.

Incomplete regret takes me backward and keeps me stuck there. It is caused by an incomplete understanding or a forgetting of what happened for me at the cross and empty tomb. This tendency to focus on the past leads me to feel guilt, shame, disappointment, and self judgement all over again because I can never undo some of the things I did which leaves me in a perpetual state of deep sadness. I am tempted to slip into unbelief again each time I turn my face to look behind with regret.

When my focus is forward looking to Jesus I remember the whole point of this life. He will show me the ways I can seek to repair what I have done, if it is possible. But it is good to remember I can never redeem myself. But not to fret…He can and did. I need to accept that there may be consequences for my sins which I may have to live with but I am not condemned to a life of bitter regretting (Rom. 8:8). I know that even in these things God works it all together for my good. He restores me to Himself and He sets my feet firmly on a new path through difficult situations. I can choose new ways of living that not only do not take me backwards, but propel me forward.

Every time the past sneaks up to steal my joy, I will turn away to say ‘thank you’ to the One who loves me best.

This is why I can wake up to a new day and live it facing fully forward, forgetting the things which He has already forgotten. (Phil. 3:1-14).

My face is turned toward my future in Jesus Christ (Is 43:18-19).

Come walk with me.

Shh…Do You Hear Whispering?

“Speak Lord for your servant is listening.”  1 Samuel 3:10

I try to live daily in a listening mode.  I ask “What is on Your heart today Lord?  What do you want to tell me today?” Sometimes He answers with amazing speed like scripture leaping off a page and speaking something very specific and my heart is made glad. Sometimes His words are spoken to my spirit as if by shouting but without a sound.  Sometimes I know He is speaking things I do not yet discern because He is placing His words there for a future time and purpose. Then there are the times, when I am actively seeking to hear and He is silent or so it seems.

But I do not get to tell God when or what He should tell me or by what method He should speak.  He can sovereignly speak anywhere at any time in anyway.  I believe He does, all the time.  I admit that I have been surprised at times by what He says and the manner He has chosen to tell me.  He has stopped me short by delivering in a manner that goes beyond my accepted go-to way of expecting Him.  I have learned He is very creative in how He chooses to share His heart to draw me close and take me deeper.  He likes to shake up my own in-grained ways of relating to Him to show me His splendor.

Today I was reminded that sometimes He whispers.  Whispering sounds are made with just a gentle breath not strong enough to engage the vocal chords.  Whispers are hard to hear.  When it seems like God is not speaking, He could be whispering.  I have to be listening for Him and quiet myself to hear.

Try this:   Just breath; exhale loud enough for a soft sound with your hand near your mouth. Now exhale while slowly whispering “I love you” the same way.  Pay attention to how your breath sounds and feels.  Do this very softly at first with barely a sound, then louder and again louder, still as a whisper.  You can even whisper while inhaling.

Did you ever realize that each whispered word has its own power?  Could you feel each word distinctively on your hand?

Here’s The Thing:

Our physical ears are organs designed specifically for hearing.  In our common speech, we refer to listening as ‘keeping our ears open’, ‘being all ears’ or ‘lending an ear’ when someone talks.  When we hear others whispering, we ‘prick up our ears’.  Whispering is a good way to get someone’s attention.

Our spirits have ears too, in a manner of speaking.  We can hear things breathed into our spirits by the Holy Spirit, that cannot be heard any other way.  In order to listen, we have to hear. It is possible to begin to lose our spiritual hearing because we are not attentive enough.  We may not be aware of the hearing loss at first, until the inability to hear from Him increases so much that it becomes self- evident. That is when we can get off track. We may begin to think that God is not speaking to us because we do not matter enough to Him.  We can get discouraged and want to give up.

I believe God is always communicating with us because He loves us.  We can be assured that whatever He says will not be contrary to scripture.  It is the all-time best way to check what we think we have heard to make sure it is really from Him and not our own desires or thoughts.  And while we are there, we can examine our hearts and ask forgiveness for any unrighteous thing that is hindering our communication.  Maybe we need to check to see if we have engaged in selective hearing like some people who turn down their hearing aids. 😊

I have also been thinking that I may have to train my ears to hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit; to recognize that unique sound His whispers make.  Whispers are harder to hear than other forms of communication and if I am not attentive, I may not hear them. Whispers are so gentle on the ear that they can be easily missed. They are intimate and I have to come close to really hear them.  ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away with me’ says the lover in Song of Solomon 10:8.

I believe one of the reasons God whispers is to draw me so close I can feel His breath on me, spiritually speaking. Maybe He’ll just breath on me at first so I know He’s near and have His attention.  His is creative breath; given to the planting and harvesting of new things.  His breath is filled with life giving warmth and moisture that is needed to grow the truth He speaks into me.  Suddenly, the ears of my spirit ‘prick up’ and I lean in to hear His Words.  They are worth the wait.  I want my spirit to feel the power of each word He breathes on me.

I consider His words to be the treasures of His heart.  I gather them, as precious jewels, into the treasury of my spirit. In them I find salvation, wisdom and knowledge (Isaiah 33:6).  I find courage, boldness, joy, forgiveness, freedom and all the other good things He provides on the feasting table before my enemies. (Ps 23).  He makes a way where there is no way.

Sometimes I capture His whispers in writing, sometimes I hold them close to meditate on privately and sometimes I share them because who knows if they may help someone else in some way.

Here is a whisper from the Lord:   “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” Is 43:18-19.

Lord, breath on me.

 

You Matter to God

Psalm 139 of King David (The Passion Translation)
“1 Lord, you know everything there is to know about me.  2 …and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind. 3–4 You are so intimately aware of me, Lord.  You read my heart like an open book and you know all the words I’m about to speak before I even start a sentence!  You know every step I will take before my journey even begins. You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past.  With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me. This is just too wonderful, deep, and incomprehensible!  Your understanding of me brings me wonder and strength.[b]

 13 You formed my innermost being…and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.   14 I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking.  It simply amazes me to think about it!  How thoroughly you know me, Lord!  15 You even formed every bone in my body when you created me in the secret place; carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something.  16 You saw who you created me to be before I became me!  Before I’d ever seen the light of day, the number of days you planned for me were already recorded in your book.  17–18 Every single moment you are thinking of me!  How precious and wonderful to consider that you cherish me constantly in your every thought!  When I awake each morning, you’re still with me.

23 God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart.  Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me.  Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. 24 See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways; the path that brings me back to you.”

Here’s The Thing:

Hey there!  Be brave, be encouraged today!  How can anything compare to the wonderful knowledge that God thought about you even before you were conceived?  He first decided how you were to fit into His overall plan and He wrote it all down in a book in Heaven!  You are custom designed and created so that you have the ability to recognize and respond to Him and to do things that only you can do in His power.  And, as if that is not enough, He left His imprint on you.  Think of how artistically creative people mark their works (with their signature or maker’s mark) so that even years later it can be known who created them.  That’s what God did with you.  Human beings are distinct from all of God’s other creatures in that we have the God given ability to respond to our Creator.  That is one of His special purposes for us; that we would “know God and worship Him forever” (Eccles 12:13).

Even creating you was not enoughHe goes even farther than that.  He says “Look, I have indelibly imprinted you on the palm of each of my hands; you are continually before me (Isaiah 49:16.”  He tattooed you on His palms that were pierced by nails on the cross when Jesus Christ gave His life for your’s.

God designed, created you, breathed life into you at the right time in history.  For such a time as this!

Go now and be strong in His Name!

 

Awe Filled Approach

I awoke this morning with the refrain “You deserve the Glory” running through my heart.  It was there in the background unbidden by my will and gradually I became conscious of it and the rest of me joined in.   The music has not stopped and I am drawn to write.

The veil was torn that dark lonely day when Jesus died on Calvary, signifying that access to the Holy of Holies was given to all people who desired to know Him.  God no longer hid himself behind a thick veil allowing only the High Priests to make intercession for people because Jesus came and died to make us holy by taking our sins upon Himself.  He came to show us the Father and to make a way for an unholy people to have access to a holy God.   How can we reconcile knowing God as a loving approachable Father and then approach Him with the full sensibility of His Holiness?  This is the reception of which He is worthy.

Here’s The Thing:

When I did not know God as Father, I was fearful of His judgement, refusal and retaliation.   When I knew Him as an approachable Father, I was so filled with joy that I did not always give Him the proper deference His holiness deserves.  Yet when He would come to me in greater measure of His presence, I would be physically overcome unable to speak or move.  It has occurred to me that when He comes to us in this latter way, He may hold back some of Himself because if we, as humans, were ever to experience His Holiness full-on we would be overcome; our human bodies being unable to bear the brightness of His Glory (Heb. 1:3). This may be, in part, why He chose to create us in His image with a body, soul and spirit.   Our soul and spirit can receive the fullness of His presence and will be in His presence for all eternity when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and give our lives to Him.  And we are created for this very thing; to have fellowship with Him now on earth.   He longs to know us and for us to know Him.

In Jesus Christ, we can have that fellowship with Father God.  His core message was that He (Jesus) is the Way to this life with our Father in heaven (John 14:6).  Jesus was so approachable during His earthly ministry that he allowed great crowds of people to press in around Him and touch Him.  He allowed children to sit on His lap as they clamored for His attention.  His demeanor and tone of voice, although authoritative, drew people to Him freely with questions for greater understanding of His revolutionary message.  When earthbound Jesus was around, no one fell on their faces before Him.  Instead, many were physically healed and transformed inwardly. The change was very visible to others. The way people received Him after His resurrection, was another testament of how approachable He really was.  On several occasions His followers rushed to touch Him in affection.  The Father Jesus shows us is definitely relational, totally approachable and compassionate.

Yet we are told that “the Son is the radiance of God’s Glory…” (Heb. 1:3).  When the soldiers came to arrest Him before His crucifixion, when He said “I am He”, they all drew back and fell on the ground (John 18:6).  The innate power that was in Him of the Father was evident, even as He submitted Himself to this act of love on our behalf.  The soldiers were involuntarily overcome with the presence of the Holiness of God.  They could not stand before Him at the moment He identified Himself.

Jesus made a way, is the Way, for our desired relationship with a Holy God as a Father who loves us without end, forgives our sin, provides, cares, heals, protects, teaches and admonishes us.  He listens to us when we talk to Him and speaks His heart to us when we ask Him.  He is a Father that wants to be known by us.  We never need be alone.  He has a marvelous plan for each of us, to prosper us, not to harm us (Jer. 29:11).  He shares His Holiness with us without diminishing any of His own brightness.

I am drawn to Him with an overwhelming reverence, admiration and healthy respect of His complete Holiness, even while I run to Him as my Daddy to sit on His lap and have His undivided attention.   I am filled with awe at this personal, very approachable lover of my soul, who shines with a bright glory to which even the sun cannot compare.

I sense in my spirit that someone needs to read this today, in addition to myself.  Please feel free to share my posts with others beyond the scope of my personal reach if you are lead to do so.  It is all for His Glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith Fueled Hope

“For what is our hope, or joy or rejoicing?  Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”  1 Thess. 2:19

When I read this verse the other day it stopped me.  The focus of my last post was on how hope in Christ can change our lives.  This verse is from Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica.  Paul says his hope is you (and me) standing someday in the presence of Jesus Christ.  This is the ultimate aim of my hope; to be in the presence of Jesus at His coming and that you would be there also!  It supersedes all other basis for hope that I can think of.  It is based on the surety I have that the word of God is trustworthy as are the promises of God in Christ Jesus.   I had an emotional reaction to this verse.  It was joy!

Here’s The Thing:

I am instructed to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks me to give the reason for my hope and to do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

How can I explain to someone who asks what is the basis or reason for my hope?   I can because I know that “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” Heb. 11:1.   Real hope does not stand alone.  It does not exist without faith. Faith is the fuel for my hope that burns bright and steady, regardless of circumstances, when I keep my eyes on Him.

Faith in Christ is the substance and evidence for my hope.  We often think of substance as that which can be seen and touched.  But if I have something I can see and touch by human hands, it does not need to be hoped for…I have it already.    Another way of considering this verse is that my hope is made valid by my faith.

We also think of evidence as concrete irrefutable proof of the existence of something or an action having taken place.  Evidence produced as proof of something in a court of law cannot be hearsay evidence.  However, a valid eyewitness account based on the character of the witness is allowed.

My faith is based on the trustworthiness of my Savior, Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever.  It is based on the strength of my relationship with Him and how well I know Him, what I read in the bible inspired by the Holy Spirit and what He speaks to me every day.  The Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus Christ, His nature and His ability to redeem my life for heaven (Romans 8).  These are what enable me to have and act in faith on His promises.  Faith for which I cannot even take credit.  It is not based on my decision to believe or as the conclusion to my own reasoning.  It is a gift of God I am told (Eph 2:8).  Every time I try to reason out my faith in human terms, I am unable to do it.   It does not seem possible.  Yet it is.

My hope is based on my own eye witness account of a changed life through faith in Jesus Christ.  My own changed life is the basis for my faith and subsequent hope of being in His presence someday and forever.  When I focus on this, everything else pales in comparison.  In the meantime, I have all His promises to hold on to as He loves me through everything in this life and I am holding fast to the confession of my hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23).

I fix my eyes on Jesus, who is the perfecter of my faith (Heb. 12:2).  Otherwise, I stumble.

 

I’ve Got a River of Life

Recently I have been thinking a lot about hope and how important it is to embrace it, in the truest sense.  Hope has been described as ‘an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to circumstances in life or the world at large.’   Hope’s opposites are dejection, hopelessness and despair.   When I think of the ‘world at large’ I do not hear or see a lot of optimism in the world.  Optimism is a transient word for me because it describes something that is dependent on the state of affairs, wishes or the vagaries of our emotional state; none of which are firm foundations that can stand the test of time.

On my fireplace mantel, I have a carved sign of the word HOPE.  I am drawn to it.  Not because hope is missing from my life but because I am full of hope.  A vibrant alive hope which fills my life with good things and keeps me balanced in the storms of life.  This is because I believe, as Paul wrote in a letter to Timothy, Christ Jesus is my Hope.  My hope, this spiritual certainty that pervades my life, is rooted in the fact that when I surrendered my life to God in Christ Jesus, it was a commitment for the long haul, to believe for what has been deposited in me by the promises of God.

Biblical hope is solely based on the promises of God which are given to us in Christ.   If we want to embrace biblical hope we cannot separate it from faith in Christ and His promises.  Lasting life-giving Hope is alive in Him alone.  When mixed with faith it produces strength and endurance while waiting for that which we hope.  When we find ourselves in a low place, we can encourage ourselves by saying “Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you not quiet within me?  Hope in God; for I will again praise Him, my help and my God.” Psalm 42:5   We have the inner power to persevere.

It’s not about hoping for my wishes or longings or what someone else tells me God is going to do for me, but what He has quickened to me through scripture.  It is rooted in the faithfulness of God.

Here’s The Thing:

Let’s think about rivers for a moment.  The head waters of rivers are usually small as they trickle up out of the ground but eventually they can carve large river beds by their persistent forward movement.   A river gets to where it is going eventually, even if it has to go underground for a while and bubble up somewhere farther down the line.  Free flowing rivers move anything that yields to them.  Sometimes the water sings as it moves over and around obstacles; sometimes it whispers or roars.  You know when a river is alive and moving.

Real hope is like a river.  The head waters of hope, may start as a trickle and become a mighty torrent, carving a deep path through our soul.  It speaks to our souls, compelling us to leave behind the things that keep us stuck.  It flows through us moving around and over obstacles like they are not there.  Real hope is powerful.  It can disentangle us, by it’s sheer force.  If we want to move where it is going, we have to be willing to surrender to it’s flow.  Sometimes it can seem that our hope disappears and we stumble by letting go of it in our darkest hours but if our hope has been based on God’s promises in Christ, He will firmly hold on to us and hope will bubble up again.   This is the difference between optimism and real living hope.  We have to listen for hope so we recognize it when we hear it singing.

Most Christians can quote Jeremiah 29:11. “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.”   This is a go-to verse, one to cling to in tough times.  Though I wonder how many of us can readily quote verses 12-13?  “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.”  He tells us about verse 11 to bring about the action in verses 12-13.   This is how our river of hope is fed, by personal intimate relationship with Him.  But often we forget that we have the advantage of going to Him who is faithful, with everything that troubles us or delights us.  Seeking Him as our life purpose, is the source of our hope.  We  are reminded in His presence that “Whoever puts His trust in me, rivers of living waters will flow from his inmost being.” (John 7:38)  and the song of our soul begins again.

“Let’s hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

 

 

A Family Resemblance

I can look in a mirror and see some of my father’s and mother’s physical attributes, along with some of my own.   Sometimes when I talk, I hear myself sounding just like my sisters or I make a gesture that immediately brings Mom or Dad to mind.   I use expressions and phrases that are uniquely my family’s.  Even those things I said as a child, that I vowed I would never say or do, sometimes just pop out unbidden.

A spiritual family is like that.   The bible says right in the beginning that God created mankind in his own image.  He wanted there to be no mistaking our beginnings.  He made us to be in relationship with Himself; to learn of Him and be like Him.  He promised to be our Father.  He cares about how we act; our mannerisms, character, how we think and what we say.  Once we give our lives to Him in faith and our relationship begins in earnest, we begin to better learn His ways, who He is and what is important to Him as head of our family.   Just as He told us to train up our children in the way they should go, He trains us up.

As we yield to His teachings, encouragement, discipline and love, we start to more fully develop a family resemblance that others can see; that of the family of God.   The New Testament letters to the early church were mostly about this very idea.  We recognize each other more by this family resemblance than by words.

Here’s the Thing:

Left to our own devises, without family training, we develop our own (sometimes) misguided views and beliefs about life.  Some of our thoughts and beliefs may be in line with how God thinks but many are not.  For who can know the mind of God but the Spirit (1 Cor 2:11).  It is God who reveals these things to us by his Spirit.  For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.  (1 Cor 2:10).

Even those who have been adopted usually develop some of their adopted family’s characteristics and retain some that are uniquely their birth families.   Even those who are alone or grew up the hard way without a lot of nurturing can become a child of God, through Jesus Christ, and be taught by Him; to develop family traits.  No one is exempt for any reason, other than the fact that we do not want this relationship.  In truth we only become spiritually whole through faith in Jesus Christ and it takes time for our relationship lessons to sink in and change our motivations, thoughts, beliefs and actions into a holy kind of living.

Why, you may ask, is it so important that I bear some resemblance to His family?   Why can I not be left alone to be who I want to be?

Surprisingly, it is all about God having our best interests at heart, always.  In our sin and aloneness, we do not always understand that there are better ways to live with eternal benefits.   It is because we were created for relationship with Him.  He wants a personal relationship with us – one on one.   Because He is holy, that intimate relationship can only start with what we decide to do with Jesus, who shows us what the Father has in mind for us.  It’s pretty amazing stuff.

Surprisingly, it is also all about others because sometimes we are the only way other people get to see God.  Other people perceive very quickly if outward behaviors are not based on a changed heart.  It is the resemblance to God’s holiness that begins with heart changes that is the key in the end.

To those who may think it is enough to believe and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior without all the other stuff, I hope you come to know that He has so much more for us.   One of the first things Jesus did to mark the beginning of His earthly spiritual ministry is to tell us He came to preach the gospel to the poor; to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.  (Luke 4:18).  He came to bring spiritual freedom in the Father’s Name, so that we can develop a spiritual family resemblance.  Jesus came to show us the Father and if we study Jesus’ life and ministry, we can see the Father’s heart and face very clearly.  We can get to know His mannerisms, tender care, and begin to want to become like Him.   It’s a package deal.  We give Him our lives and He gives us Himself.

Truly we are ever learning and coming to the knowledge of truth.  It is not a one-time deal but one of continually allowing the scriptures and the Holy Spirit to reveal to us who God is at His deepest level; and how God expects His family to live and why.   He leads us faithfully toward this goal.   When we fail, we ask forgiveness and begin again in His graciousness toward us.  He is for us, not against us!

You know the common remarks we make about new born children?  “He looks like his father”.  “She looks just like her mother”.  “They look like the Smith side”.   We look for family resemblance, it is important to us.   It is a trait of belonging; of origin.   I want to be that person who is recognized as someone who resembles my Father in heaven.   I trust Him to know He will continue to have patience and grace for me.  And for you.

It is my greatest joy that I know my Father in heaven and that I belong to the family of God on earth.    It defines who I am, who I am becoming and where I will spend eternity; with my Father.  We can all come together in our uniqueness, across cultural and language differences and recognize each other by our spiritual family traits.   We have a common bond in Jesus Christ.  We do not try to control each other or to mold anyone to our own way of being.   We leave that up to our Father.   We know whom we have believed and are persuaded that He is able to keep what we have committed to Him; our lives.  2 Tim 1:12

Show Us The Father

Have you ever had a deep longing to know God as Father; as a nurturing parent? Philip, a disciple of Jesus, did. In a poignant exchange, Philip took advantage of the fact that Jesus welcomed questions. He treated their questions with respect and honesty.

John 14 records the exchange. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ‘…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. ‘ “

Jesus Christ was very approachable then and He still is. He wants us to ask Him questions so He can teach us, exchange the lies we believe for truth, to heal our wounds and make us whole. He came to show us the Father. He spent His entire earthly life in pursuit of this. All His teachings and parables, all His actions and love, all His signs and wonders were intended to give an understanding of God’s true nature which is very different than the gods of this world, of our own making.

Here’s the thing:

I believe we make a grave mistake when we think we cannot understand who God is (as father and mother) because we focus on our natural parent’s human behavior. But it’s a natural thing to do; to approach spirituality by what we observe and experience in this world. Yes, it may make it easier to receive God as nurturer when our human parents behaved toward us in a nurturing way but it is not impossible to know God in this way if our parents did not. It seems to me that God goes to a great deal of effort to reveal Himself to us through scripture and through Jesus. He created us for Himself. From Genesis to Revelation, it is clear that He wants to be in relationship with us. He loves us. He talks a great deal about truth and living in it.

I absorbed the early lessons I received that God was primarily a disciplinarian even though my parents were nurturers. This hindered my ability to know Him in the most intimate way. I did not realize this for a long while but, at some point, I did. I knew then that something very dear was missing in my life. I became like Philip in asking Jesus to show me the Father, to open my heart to see Him and His heart toward me.

He honored my question and lead me to Psalm 103 “…The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever, he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities… As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear (respect) him…”. He said to me, “This is my Father (mother) heart.”

He led me to I Corinthians 13 “Love is patient, love is kind…it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”. He said, “This is my heart toward you”.

God’s own description of His heart in action toward us is very different than we may think. This is what He is like as a parent. His motivation is for our best. He believes in us. He is not easily angered. He protects, teaches us right from wrong, provides, listens, sets limits, disciplines and when He looks at us, He says “I love you, My child.” This is what He has always intended parenting to be like.

Romans 5:8 proclaims the same message: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” When we believe this, tell Him so, repent of our pursuit of life without Him and sincerely invite Him to live within us as the Holy Spirit, we are born anew, He becomes our spiritual parent and we begin to better understand this amazing love. As He was to Jesus, a Father, He makes Himself known as Father to us. We become His family and He nurtures us.

He gives us a view of His heart in scripture and then begins to reveal to us who He is in our every day ordinary lives. Let’s open our eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to receive Him as He comes to us in the day to day clamor of life.

We can ask Him to show Himself as both father and mother; the one who gives life, watches over, preserves life and gives life abundantly. He will teach us so we can say with the writer Psalm 131 of “…I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with it’s mother; like a weaned child I am content…”.

He wants to heal the wounds we carry around in our inner selves that hinder us from knowing Him intimately. His love transforms us and sets us on a firm foundation. I hope you decide to pursue Him with me so you can also say, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us.” (1 John 3:1). He wants us as sons and daughters after His own heart. How incredible is this truth!

May you say with me, we have not received a spirit of bondage again to fear, but we have received the Spirit of divine adoption as sons and daughters, by whom we cry ‘Abba! Daddy! Father! Romans 8:15.
 

Love That Surpasses Knowledge

I was before the Lord awhile back, when I heard in my spirit from the Holy Spirit “Love is irrational in the sense that it surpasses (exceeds) knowledge.  It is meant to transform the innermost part of you to be fully alive and affirm who you are from God’s perspective.  It is not primarily of the mind (knowledge) but of the spirit.”

I have spent some time listening for the Lord to instruct me on what this really means because the Bible tells us that “God is Love” (1 John 4:16).   How can we experience and be transformed by His love?  In what way does the spirit of man, ignited by the Spirit of God, inform the emotions and mind of man about His love?   People yearn to know without a doubt that God loves them.  Some people despair of living without the knowing.  These are really important questions because the greatest need of man, I believe, is to be loved.  Even the most hardhearted person, somewhere deep inside, wants to be loved.  When we know we are loved by God, we can withstand anything.  The love of God gives us a future and a hope.

If the Bible tells me that God is love then He must be.  He cannot be something else; it is His very nature.  He calls us to be like Him.  If He says in Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”, then it’s because God loves mercy above all else and does justice (what is right) because He is righteous.  Even the justice He does is motivated by and done in love.

God made us in His image with a body (including the mind), a soul and a spirit.   The soul (seat of our emotions) and our spirit (the very essence of our being) inform the mind (rationality, reasoning and understanding) in some ways; just as in other ways the mind informs the soul (“as a man thinks, so he is”) Prov 23:7.  There is intended by God to be a balance in the communication process between the body, soul and spirit so that we stay sane, grounded and whole in every way.   If emotions take over (informing the mind) then the rational part of us suffers and we do not always make wise decisions.   If the mind takes over, the rational can sometimes leave little room for the emotions that make us uniquely human.  If the spirit of man takes over, we can become a little off kilter too.  If the spirit of man communicating with the Spirt of God is left out of the loving process, we live as only half alive.

What do we know about the spirit of man?   The spirit is the part of us that gives us the ability to have an intimate relationship with God.  1 Corinthians 2:11 says “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”   John 4:24 says “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  By this we understand that there is meant to be a communication process involving the Spirit of God and the spirit of man   We were created this way.

Here’s the Thing:

I am convinced that many people have a hard time truly knowing God’s love for them, because the rationalism of our culture gets in the way or we think of love in terms of emotion mostly.   Or we rehearse, and in some core way believe, what others have told us about ourselves with unkind words.   Our minds and emotions can get in the way.   We want to ‘feel’ His love to ease our emotional pain and to disprove the belief that we are not lovable.   With our minds, we read that God loves us and try to rationalize it into human terms when the love of God cannot be rationalized.  It just is.   We can engage our thoughts and emotions but they do not fully transform us by giving us the identity in the Father that He has always intended; that of being rooted and grounded in the Love which is Himself (Ephesians 3:17).   Seeking God in solely a rational or emotional way can lead to disappointment and defeated Christian living when circumstances and people disrupt our carefully constructed paradigms.   What can we do?

The transformative Love of God is found and known by our spirit which informs our emotions and our minds with the understanding that we are loved beyond our total comprehension.  Our minds can believe and have faith that God loves us but it is our spirits that define our identity in Him.   This identity in Christ, known by the spirit of man through the Holy Spirit, cannot be disrupted by circumstances or other people, unless we let our minds and emotions override.

The Bible informs us.  It gives us knowledge of God, His plan of salvation, His desire for relationship and teaches us how to align our lives for best eternal results.    It is alive, it engages our mind, soul and spirit.  And we learn from the apostle Paul that a vital role of the Holy Spirit is that He “searches into all things, even the deep things of God.” (1 Cor. 2:10).   It is He who engages us through scripture.

For years I have studied scripture.  I believed by faith that God loved me as shown by Jesus death and resurrection, was filled with the Holy Spirit and I learned how to align to God’s best plan for living.   But at some point, I realized that I was often defeated although I was a believer filled with the Holy Spirit, with knowledge that I was loved by God.   My identity in Christ was not fully formed.  My spirit was not “the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly” Prov 20:27.   My spirit was not ‘lit up’.

I began to diligently search for the transformative Love that is God, for which I was dying inside to possess.  In truth, this love was already mine, I just did not fully and intimately know it.  The only way I knew how to start my search for this Treasure was to speak as honestly as I knew how and ask Him for it.   He led me to the people He wanted me to engage with; others who already had what I was searching for and who stayed with me to show me the way.    I invited Him into places I had never thought to ask Him. I was desperate.  It took longer than I wished but it was a process.  I had not yet realized this was not a rational mind search but a searching of my spirit for His Spirit in a deeper way.  All this was my way of giving consent to the Holy Spirit to open the door to my heart and spirit in new ways.

In my searching, He came to me in a very personal full-on experience of the Love He is. Love pulsed and radiated from Him as an unstoppable force.  It flowed over and through me like mighty waves of warm healing balm.   This was the Holy Spirit teaching my spirit about God’s love in a way I could never have understood with my mind or my emotions which would have hindered the healing.  It had to come from His Spirit to mine.  I was fully aware of what was happening at the time so my understanding was engaged but in a secondary way to the revelatory nature of the Holy Spirit.  I knew that the revelation of His love did not in any way disagree with what I had learned about Him from scripture. It was just that He was lighting up my spirit the way the lamps were lit in Temple.  This is one of the amazing functions of our spirits…to receive God for He is Spirit and He is Truth.   My spirit then informed my emotions and my mind as Christ in me was fully formed.  I now know without a doubt how long and wide and deep the love of God is and it transformed me.   I know the intensity and purity of His love like never before, giving me a new unshakeable identity in Him.   It was healing at the deepest level.   I am ‘lit up’; a candle of the Lord.  I still cannot explain His love rationally any better than scripture does.  It’s just a transformative knowing deep within me.   The people who know me best know I am changed.

I do not know why this process is so much easier for some people and yet so many others struggle, like I did.   Maybe I had not made my spirit as accessible to the Holy Spirit as I thought I had.   My Father in heaven honored my search and met my greatest need.  If you are one that struggles, I am praying for you.   I hope my story has given you hope to begin again for you are dearly loved by the God who created you.    I urge you to begin your seeking by inviting the Holy Spirit to minister to your spirit, to open the door of your spirit to Him that you may have unknowingly shut and trust Him to come to you, bringing the trusted people He has appointed to walk with you on this journey.  I know I’ll recognize you if I ever have the privilege of meeting you because I will see His light within you “shining ever brighter.”  Prov 4:18

With the apostle Paul, “ I pray that… He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through (unshakeable) faith.  And I pray that you…being rooted and established in Love, may have power (through the Holy Spirit), to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this Love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God“ Eph 3:16-18.

The Voice in the Fire

While Moses was on the top of Mount Sinai talking to God and receiving the ten commandments, the rest of the Israelites were waiting at the foot of the mountain.  God spoke “from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and the thick gloom with a great voice.”  When they heard the “voice from the midst of the darkness while the fire was burning” they said ‘the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man…’  They were experiencing the awesomeness of God face to face.   They were eager to hear the words of God but they asked Moses to go talk to Him because they were afraid they would die in His presence.  Moses went.  He stood between them and God.   God spoke in a great voice; His heart for the people.   Deuteronomy 5.

Here’s the Thing:

This past weekend was Shavuot, the Jewish holiday to commemorate the day God gave the Torah (holy scriptures, the Law) at Mount Sinai.  This set me to thinking about God speaking from the midst of the fire.

I love God’s heart; as much as has been revealed to me by scripture and the Holy Spirit-even when it is hard to understand.  He wants relationship with us, whom He has always loved.  The giving of the Torah (or the Law) was a gift from his heart of loving kindness.  The Law was given to show us how impossible it is to live a perfect life.  It’s purpose was to draw people to God through Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sin and rose again to give us new life in Him.   Jesus stands between us and God as Moses did with the Israelites.

Sometimes when I go through a ‘fire’ in my life, one that feels like it burns and sears my soul and I am in the midst of it, I can forget for a while that God speaks from the midst of the fire.   He is in it with me!   The same goes for those dark gloomy places I find myself in at times.    Even while He is speaking, I do not hear very well.   He persists until I do hear-that is how much He loves me and you.  He does not just walk away in disgust that I did not listen the first or second time.  He uses this time to draw me near, prepares my heart to hear.  He persistently keeps speaking, although He may speak progressively louder until I can hear with the ears of my spirit.  He speaks so the eyes of my heart really see Him-who He is in the circumstance.

It is the voice of a Father.  I can sense His heart beat quicken when I invite Him to speak again.  He says, “I love you with an everlasting love.  I draw you to me in loving kindness” (Jeremiah 31).   He says, “I know the plans I have for you, to prosper you, not to harm you and to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)   I am so grateful for the giving of scripture that reminds me that “He is a firm foundation for (my) times, a rich store of salvation, wisdom and knowledge and that the fear (awe, respect) of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”  (Isaiah 33:6)

Too many do not know what the heart of a father is supposed to be like.   The Holy Spirit speaks so that we may know our Father in heaven.  Our Abba, Daddy.   I love His heart.

He is speaking to you too.  Keep listening.  You will hear.  He will make sure you do.  I am praying for you.

Holy Interception

Peter had said to the lame man, ‘I have no money but what I do have I give you in the name of Jesus Christ.’   (Acts 3)  This is an example of interception, as opposed to intercession.

Jesus interceded for Himself, His disciples and us before His death in John 17.   He intercedes in heaven for us before the Father, as one pleading our case (Romans 8).   This is one way He cares for us.

In the spiritual sense, these are two different yet powerful holy acts.

To Intercept is to obstruct (someone or something) so as to prevent them from continuing to a destination.  In the case of the lame man, to prevent him from continuing in lameness, life limitations, begging and unbelief.

To intercede is to plead or petition on behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble.  We are called to it by God’s heart on behalf of others.   Christians call it praying.

Today I was reminded in a devotional reading that Jesus Christ is my Divine Interceptor.  He has intercepted my life in many ways by responding to my:

  • Bitterness of sin with His Forgiveness
  • Spiritual Death with His Life
  • Anger with His Good Humor
  • Doubt with Assurance that He is the Truth
  • Internal Disorder with His Spiritual Order
  • Anxiety with His Peace
  • Confusion with His Solutions
  • Burdens with His Blessings and easy yoke
  • Lack with His Abundance
  • Loneliness with His Love
  • Fear with His Fortitude
  • Trials with His Victory

This is the great exchange:  His life for mine with all the spiritual benefits and responsibilities of a life in right alignment with God’s great plan for us which is made possible by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Here’s The Thing:

1 Peter 2:21 says, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…being reviled did not revile in return.”   In fact, the entire chapter 2 of 1 Peter is worth reading in light of being useful in Jesus Christ and following in His steps: to offer others what I can give in Jesus Name, not by returning like for like in my natural human state.

I am an intercessor.  That’s what I do.  I pray a lot for others; it’s my heart because I know from experience that the power of changing the impossible resides with God, not me.  Today I was reminded that I am also called to be an interceptor; if I am to follow in Jesus’ steps.   In Jesus name, I am called and equipped by the Holy Spirit to intercept with others by meeting:

  • Unlovely behavior with Grace
  • Hate with Love
  • Hurt with Forgiveness
  • Rejection with Acceptance that I am His child
  • Anger with Peace and Steadiness
  • Grief with my presence when it is wanted
  • Emotional pain with the offering of Jesus into those places

I know myself.   I cannot intercept on my own strength alone.   Sometimes I’m dealing with my own stuff and just do not want to give to anyone else.    I know I must first offer myself to Jesus and listen to the Holy Spirit before I offer to others what He gives me to give to others.   I intercede for myself first to ask for the divine ability to do what will be required of me.

It is an offering, it does not have to be accepted.  I’m ok with that.  It’s not really about me anyway except in terms of my relationship with Jesus.   Just like the lame man did not have to stand up and be healed when Peter offered what he had to give; others do not have to accept what I offer.

Intercession is a private matter between God and me on behalf of others.  I can do this without ceasing.   I can be myself and speak from my heart in authentic relationship with Him without fear of reprisal.

Interception is a more public offering between God, others and me.  It requires being willing to put myself out there, risk getting it wrong, being rejected or by making the other’s situation worse by untimely words.   I have to trust the heart of God in me through the Holy Spirit to guide me in this holy work and teach me.

Interception is hard for me because it requires something from the inner private me that I instinctively try to protect from the scrutiny of others.  Revealing the inner me always feels risky to me.  Then I remember that Jesus has intercepted my fear of rejection with His loving acceptance and I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

For me, it is easier to be an intercessor than to be an interceptor.   It is not always easy to follow Christ’s steps as He modeled God’s heart.   It costs me more to intercept than to intercede because it requires a different type of interaction with others.  It presumes relationship with someone that they may not want with me.   But like Jesus, I can offer.  Sometimes it can be done with just a few well-chosen words at the right time and then I can leave it there, letting the Holy Spirit do His part.

In light of today’s reflection, I want to offer a heartfelt thank you to everyone one who has ever offered me interception in Jesus name.   I would not be in relationship with Him today without you.   Thank you, also, to all the precious people who are not yet Christ’s followers who have also intercepted with the right words at the right time and I was encouraged, comforted and revived.  You demonstrated the heart of God to me that day.

 

Courageous Living

Once again drama is unfolding.  People crowd around the familiar lame man to see him walk and leap, praising God.  Peter and John proclaim Jesus Christ to all who will listen.   They ask ‘Why does this miracle surprise you?’  Everyone had an opinion.  It was clamorous and maybe a little unruly.  Today, within seconds social media would be flooded with images and videos; the news channels would be ’LIVE with Breaking News’.

But some were not happy about this miracle.  They could not rejoice over God’s goodness in healing this man.  It was something they could neither explain or control.   The religious leaders of the day had Peter and John seized and jailed overnight (for disturbing the peace?) so they could be questioned.  For Peter and John, it was just another wonderful opportunity to tell of Jesus and the number of believers rose to five thousand.  “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  In the end, these courageous men were issued cease and desist orders and released.

They did not miss a beat.  Seeking out other believers, they prayed, Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.   Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  The room shook and many more were filled with the Holy Spirit.  They spoke the Word of God boldly!   “With great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And God’s great grace was upon them all.”

Their message was always the same simple straight forward truth of who Jesus is, who we are and God’s plan from the beginning for a Savior because of His great love for us.   Yet they are described in scripture as being characterized using words like Courage, Boldness, Great Power and Great Grace.     Acts 4

Here’s The Thing:

This is my desire.

It seems as if these words in Acts 4 have never registered with me before.  Now they jump out at me from the pages of my bible.

These were the same men and women who shortly before had locked themselves securely in a room waiting for Pentecost and the Holy Spirit.   Now they were transformed by that same Holy Spirit.   We would say today that they were on fire for the Lord.

“This is how they lived; rejoicing always, praying continually, giving thanks in all circumstances, not quenching the Spirit.“ 1Thess 5:16-22.

They somehow knew that their part of the mission was to be available and to speak of Jesus; to proclaim.  They somehow knew the Holy Spirit came to impart courage, boldness, great power and great grace to the proclaimers.  Jesus had said that…wait for the Holy Spirit who will give you Power from heaven (Acts 1:8)!  When praying, they asked God to give them boldness and power by the Holy Spirit.  They knew the Holy Spirit’s part was to perform signs and wonders according to God’s purposes and timing, to draw the listeners with irresistible grace, impart faith to believe and power to heal.   They never knew when God would sovereignly decide to disrupt natural physical laws in a holy display of the miraculous but they were always available to do their part to welcome it.

Do you sometimes acknowledge you are filled with the Holy Spirit, doctrinally, but continue to live as if it is all up to you?   Do you ever observe someone walking fully and freely in the Holy Spirit and wish you were like that?   I do.

It is hard to admit, but I will.  I have been known at times to shrink back because I confuse my part with the Holy Spirit’s.   Where is the Courage, Boldness, Power, Great Grace?   I forget sometimes that I am the ‘walking around’ temple of the Holy Spirit.  He lives in me.  He chose to do this so He could strengthen me for my part of loving others and proclaiming the good news; not to perform His part.

Why then do I get intimidated thinking I have to convince others to faith in Jesus Christ? Why do I think that I have to have all the answers to their questions or I have failed? Why does it become more about my performance than His?  My fear quenches the Spirit and nothing happens because I choose to stay silent.   I put out the holy fire because I am worried about failing and the consequences.   It’s really so simple when I think about it.  Of course, I will fail if I try to do His part!   I was never meant to do it.

I will pray as these courageous men and women did, “Lord, enable me, your servant, to speak your word with great boldness.   Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”   If ordinary, unschooled men and women can ask and receive these amazing qualities by the Holy Spirit, I can too.  I know I have this Treasure in me; that the incomparable great Power may be of God and not from me.  2 Cor 4:7

I will step up to my part and step out of His, and in so doing, honor the division of holy labor in this life I am called to live.

 

Do You See Me?

It was a day like every other.  Just like yesterday the lame beggar was carried to his usual place.  He was placed at the entrance to the Temple by the gate called Beautiful.   He knew no other life.  Having been lame since birth, he had never walked with purpose or run joyfully.  He had no expectations other than to be doing what he had always done. His head was low, not making eye contact.  His demeanor was one of defeat and humiliation.  He had no hope of any other kind of life.

“Here comes a couple of the Christ followers that everyone is talking about”, he may have thought to himself.  “Let’s see what they will do.”  He did what he always did; with his eyes down cast he begged for money.

Unexpectedly, his life was about to change.

Looking straight into his eyes, Peter said with authority, “Look at us!”  The beggar lifted his head and looked right at them expecting money.  “We have no money to give you, but we will give what we have!   By the Power of the name of Jesus of Nazareth, stand and walk!”  Reaching down with his right hand, in faith Peter grasped the beggar’s arm and pulled him up.   Suddenly Power was pouring into his ankles and crippled feet.  The next minute he was walking around and leaping with joy, shouting praises to God.

People noticed; a crowd gathered.  For Peter it was another opportunity to speak of Jesus Christ and urge others to repentance and faith.

For the beggar, he knew that God had seen him.  These men who had been with Christ and newly filled with the Holy Spirit, brought something to him that he had never known – Presence, Dignity and Restoration, in Jesus Name.  Acts 3

Here’s the thing:

How often do we rise in the morning and follow our routine knowing that today will be the same as every other day?  We know how it will play out; the same old grind.   We know what we have to do.  With one foot in front of the other, we do it, then begin again tomorrow.  That’s the formula for life, we say.  We have stopped expecting the unexpected.

I want to arise each morning with a sense of expectation and excitement that I will meet the Power of heaven, the lover of my soul in a new fresh way?    I want to say “…I will arise…the Lord will be my light.” Micah 7:8

This, I believe, is how we are meant to live.  Filled with wonderment that we are Loved by the One who sees us.  Knowing that He came from Heaven to teach us His Father’s heart, to bear our sins, lead us to repentance and give us Hope.   Each morning it is possible to walk with faith rising in our hearts, knowing that anything is possible with Him who never leaves us or forsakes us.

The no-longer-lame man who sat outside the gate called Beautiful most of his life, learned this truth that day long ago.  He could say in his heart that He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. “Eccl. 3:11

Hagar, the maid servant, learned this when God came and spoke precious promises to her in a very dark time in her life.  “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’ ”  Gen 16:13

Did you know that the Greek word for Beautiful used here in Acts 3 roughly means ‘flourishing in the right hour or season’?

The lame man found himself sitting at a gate that declared his life held promise, even though he could not see it.   The gate between the old and the new way of life is Jesus Christ.

Your life holds such unimaginable promise!

Will you lift your head in His Presence and claim with dignity “I will arise and shine, for (my) light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon me”? Is 60:1.

The Story Heard Around The World

The room exploded with spontaneous worship like none other.  It was not a quiet affair.  Nor was it ordinary.    God had once more made the wind His messenger and flames of fire His servant (Ps 104:4).   The Promised gift of the Holy Spirit had arrived and they were immersed in His presence.    Suddenly they were all praising and declaring the mighty wonders of God in languages and dialects that were unknown to them, not naturally learned!    This wonderful event was heard by people in the streets!  It sounded like a party and some people thought they were drunk with wine.

God-fearing Jews from all over the world were in Jerusalem for Pentecost to fulfill their religious obligations.   Jerusalem was crowded, swelling four to five times above the normal population.  Some traveled as far as 2300 miles from Rome, Libya, and what is modern day Iran, Iraq, Turkey and from all over the Roman Empire.  And they were hearing the praises of God in their own language and dialect from uneducated, untraveled Galileans.   Of course, a crowd gathers.

Peter, freshly filled with the Holy Spirit, stood up and told his story with inner power, authority and boldness.    He started with the prophet Joel, then moved on to King David and to recent current events saying;

“Listen, Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs…this man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and was put to death, nailed to the cross.  But God…has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.    Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”

Three thousand made the faith connection that day, with the number increasing daily.  For the little group in the upper room, it happened just like He said it would.   From prayer to praise to telling their story, these eye witnesses saw God establish His church…in Jerusalem first.   And as with everyone who arrives home from a trip, the visitors to Jerusalem could not resist telling their stories.  The seeds for the church in the uttermost parts of the world were planted.  Acts 2

Here’s the thing:

It all started when a handful of men heard Jesus say to them “Follow Me” and they did.   From that point on their lives had been full of new adventures, huge challenges, joys and sorrows; each bringing a deeper understanding of the plans of God for their lives.  Without their faithfulness in telling their amazing stories as eyewitnesses to the things Jesus said and did, you and I would not be hearing it today.   Their story was the story of Jesus who came to show us the face and heart of God.   The apostles had no way of knowing how their stories, under the Power of the Holy Spirit, would spread throughout the world like wind and fire.   They just knew they had an amazing true story to tell.   They could not resist telling it; and they did.

Jesus entire ministry was one of telling stories.  About His Father’s love for people, about hearts far from God, urging people to draw near with faith to the best thing that could ever happen to them.  He had seen it all, been there, done that.  He had a story to tell; which He did.

We all have stories.   I love a good story!   I love listening to stories that come from people’s hearts about their hopes, dreams and struggles.  I love laughing at funny stories and to celebrate joyful times of someone’s life.  I especially love to hear stories about how their faith in Jesus blossomed.    Life is all the richer for stories.   They help us make connections with others.   We learn we are not alone.

One thing no one can take from me, is my stories.  I own them, I lived them, they are mine to tell.    No one can tell my stories like I can.

I am so happy to be telling my faith stories.  I want to do it with kindness, humor and regard for the listener.    I want to do it with power, boldness and the authority of the Holy Spirit.    No one can tell His story like He can.    

I know you have stories to tell that only you can tell.  Someone in the world is waiting to hear it.

 

Promise in the Fire

There they were, the Jesus followers, praying for ten days in the second floor of a rented house in Jerusalem.  Have you ever prayed for ten days straight with no interruptions except for a meal now and then?  Ten days seeking the Lord – surely they would have been progressively entering into a deeper place with God.   If it was me in that room, I would have been asking a million questions while seeking guidance for the mission ahead.   I think they were.  I believe that they were receiving answers because God is a God who inclines His ear to hear and teach us Ps 116:2.   They were waiting for the promised baptism or immersion of the Holy Spirit because they knew they needed the promised Power to complete their mission.   But it was a new experience and they did not know what to expect exactly, although they knew that John the Baptist had said that Jesus would “baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire” Luke 3:16.   So I do not think the tongues of fire surprised them.   The scriptures they had learned from childhood had many references to wind and fire.   Fire more than wind.   These men and women knew fire well.  They recognized God, the Holy Spirit, was in the wind and the fire.   How did they know?

They knew God was in the fire of acceptance that burned up the sacrifices they were required to make for the forgiveness of sins (before Jesus died as the final holy sacrifice) and in the cleansing purifying fires like the refiner’s fire (Mal 3:3).  They knew God in the attention getting bush that Moses encountered that changed the course of his life and brought him face to face with his divine purpose.   They knew God in the pillar of fire at night that led the Israelites in the desert places and the fire of God’s consecration that marked Solomon’s Temple as God’s place.   And, yes, they knew that fire was a sign of God’s presence in the house that day.   They knew that the long awaited Holy Spirit had arrived! They stopped praying and started praising and glorifying God.  Acts 2

Here’s the thing:

In the natural, fires like forest and wild fires, while heartbreakingly devastating, also allow for new growth and rebuilding.   Many of the seeds the trees and plants scattered while alive, lay dormant for years for such a time.  The seeds now respond to the fire’s intensity by bursting open and letting the life inside get loose.  The ashes feed the soil so that the recently freed life can take hold and prosper with renewed nutrient rich soil.   It is a God ordained regeneration process.

You probably see where I am going by now with this.   I am offering Hope.    It is true that I do not understand why some of my greatest periods of spiritual growth had to come after a horrible very bad time.   I just know that something changed in me during the times I was tested as if by fire.   Something happened during that time that created a spiritually fertile place that could sustain the new thing God wanted to do in me.    I was, at some point, able to see God’s presence had been in the fire, although I could not see it while it raged around me.  It is where the apostles would have been as all their dreams crashed to the ground as they watched Jesus die and be buried.

The fire times are when I wonder where God is, the One who says He loves me and will never leave me or forsake me.   It’s easy to lose my way.    I cry out to Him, rail at Him in rage, weep like there is no hope ever and wonder when the pain will end.   I ask Him why and how He could allow it.  I whisper His name and tell Him I love Him, He is my only Hope.   I seek His sustaining presence.    I pray and hold nothing back.

I do not pretend to know the depths of anyone else’s pain or where you are in your life, I just know that God, in fact, never left me.  At some point I began to understand that He:

  • Accepted my offering of laying down the ashes of my life at His feet.
  • Purified my desires and consecrated my life to Himself.
  • Got my attention and changed the course of my life.
  • Brought me a greater understanding of my divine purpose.

In the end, I was a more fertile place where new life could grow.   All those seeds that He had planted over the years, that could not seem to find a place to prosper, found a place to grow in the spiritual riches that remained.

I am better prepared for my mission, which is lived out by my new life every day.

In all honesty, it took a while to see this and He was patient.  It is kind of like the Jesus followers in prayer all those days.   The Promise came after all.    

“The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in (my) eyes.”  Mark 10:11

Listening for the Holy

They were still in the upper room when the Gift came suddenly at 9 am with an amazing display of the Holy.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were living.  Picture a violent wind whipping through the whole house dislodging everything from their usual places.

I believe the holiness of their loss, sorrow, fear, confusion, waiting and the extended time of prayer had fostered the spiritual climate to usher in this deeper immersion into God. The apostles were at the end of themselves, had done everything that Jesus had told them to do and were ready for God to move.  Since they had already received the Holy Spirit (when Jesus breathed on them after His resurrection and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22), why did God use wind to usher in this event?

Here’s where I ask you to be patient.  It will take a few posts to look at some of what might have been happening when the Holy Spirit came.  So often, with this event, we look at the big picture and fail to see the ‘lessons within a lesson’.   I hope you stay with me for the ‘within a lesson’ part.  Each is worth spending a little time with for the sake of our own relationship with Jesus.   These are precious glimpses into the mind and heart of God.  Beloved of God, I pray that you will be strengthened by what the Holy Spirit (the Gift) will say to you. 

Here’s thing:

Let’s look at the Wind.  The description of violent wind reminds me of the strong winds parting the Red Sea, after Noah’s flood to dry up the waters and when the quail entree came on the wind.  These were some of the “…stormy winds that did His bidding” referred to in Psalm 148:8.   These winds brought rescue (salvation), new life and provision in a way never experienced before by God’s people.  Gen 8:1, Ex 14:21, Num 11:31.

Just like the believers in the upper room that day, just like you and I at times, the prophet Elijah was in a spiritual and physical desert place.   One great period of life had just ended, he was exhausted and could not see the future.  God lovingly asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  Elijah began to talk.  The Lord let him because He knew this was not every day murmuring.  His servant had recently been through a very rough patch following a spiritual victory.  He had remained faithful to allow God to work through him.  It had taken it’s toll, just like with the believers in the upper room and just like you and I.

Instead, the Lord said, in 1 King 9:11: “Go out and stand on a mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart, then an earthquake came and shook it all up, followed by fire and a gentle whisper.  The wind had rearranged the face of the mountain, we are told.  When Elijah heard it all end in a whisper he moved to stand at the mouth of the cave.  The Lord patiently asked again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”.    This is where the Lord tells him the He has provided a new focus for Elijah; a young prophet named Elisha.  The Hebrew meaning of the name Elisha is God is Salvation.  Elijah’s desert was over.  He had heard something of the Holy in the gentle whisper that made him come out before the Lord and still his soul long enough to really listen.  We are told in Elijah’s case, the Lord was not in the stormy wind, only in the gentle whisper.   But the demonstration of God’s power to keep him in the wind, earthquake and fire may have had to come first so he could hear the gentle whisper, so he could hear the difference and listen.

I do not know why God chose to speak in a quiet voice to get Elijah’s attention but I do know that He does not always use His power to remove the obstacles, pain and desert from our lives right away.   He chooses, at times, to speak intimate quiet things in our ears like a lover.  

In these examples the strong wind brought something very necessary and out of the ordinary.  It seems at Pentecost one of the things it did was to usher in a new beginning and His power to carry out their mission.  It cleansed  the house and those in it of the desert places.  It freshened all that was stale and brought renewed energy and focus for something new to begin.  It had rearranged the believer’s lives.  He had heard their prayer’s.   Jesus was their salvation.

I can get so focused on the storms and desert places I go through that I do most of the talking to the Lord (and yes, sometimes I whine just like Elijah).    Even as I do I trust He sees me, knows me and loves me in it.   When it’s been enough, when it’s time and when I remember, I can quiet myself long enough to hear the gentle whispers from His heart. Then the freshening comes and He speaks newness, instills a new level of power and authority for the new thing that’s coming.

Because of the storms, I can hear the Holy.

 

 

You Want Me To Do What?

Have you ever wondered what the newly minted apostles were thinking and feeling as the enormity of their first assignment settled upon them?  If they were applying for this job, their brief resume might look something like this.

Professional Objectives:   Establish an apostolic ministry for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus in all nations.  Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach believers to obey everything Jesus said to do.

Education: 

  • Standard Temple Education
  • Fisherman, tax collectors and other various similar occupations.
  • Discipled by Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary of Bethlehem, aka the Son of God.
  • Successfully completed ministry internship.  Some travel was required.

 Strengths:

  • Generating Revenue by fleecing other people
  • Fishing
  • Crowd management, serving lunches and clean up
  • Faithful

Areas for Development Potential:

  • Sleep Management: for the purpose of staying awake to pray, serve, travel
  • Dependability: specifically, not leaving or denying friends in their hour of need
  • Trust: ability to believe

This is an exaggeration but I wonder if they felt unqualified for the task given to them.  Little did they know that when Jesus called out to them “Follow me!” it would lead to something of this magnitude.  What were they to do?!   They prayed!  For ten days! Until the Gift came!

Here’s the thing:      How many of us have been faced with an assignment that requires more from us than we think we are capable of doing?    I know I have, routinely, it seems.  I have a tendency to think all new things require more than I am able to accomplish.   I have a whole list of reasons why it should not be me.  I tell Jesus about them all when He presents new opportunities, just like Moses and Gideon.   Is it the same for you?    What can we do when faced with new assignments that feel beyond us?

Let’s look at what the apostles may have done while they were praying those ten days. They would turn to the One who had their best interests at heart, knew them better than any other and loved them more than that and had ultimately laid down His life for them.  Of course, it would be Jesus and His Father to whom they turned.    After all, it was Jesus who had taught them how to pray in the first place.   Would they have remembered that Jesus had said “the Holy Spirit (their awaited Gift), whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind”John 14:26.    Would they also have used this time to review all the other lessons Jesus had taught them and what they had seen Him do?

They had seen Him “pray…without ceasing.”    They had seen Him seek solitude often for this purpose.    They had heard Him say ”I am leaving you with peace of mind & heart. Don’t be afraid.”

What about:    1)Do not be anxious about this. Phil 4:6     2)If you lack anything (faith, confidence, a plan, peace), ask me for it. James 4:5       3)Persevere so you will finish this work. James 4:8     4)Look to Me and My strength; always. 1 Chron 16:11     5)Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Phil 4:41     6)I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Phil 4:13  7)There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Rom 8:2    8)For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jer 29:11

And “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. 1)Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24      2)The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. Prov 15:29     3)And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matt 28:20

Surely even in their exhaustion from all the unusual gut wrenching events that had taken place recently, they would have remembered: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”   Matt 11:28-29

But, you say, Jesus did not actually say all those things.   No, not recorded as such.  These are excerpts from letters written to the new churches they went on to establish as they carried out their mission, by these very same apostles and their future disciples, as a result of those ten days of prayer, the reflection in the upper room, through the empowering Gift that finally came and the lessons they learned as they followed the path laid out in front of them.   And these were lessons they knew from the Old Testament, having learned from their youth.  Jesus had always tied these sacred scriptures to Himself and His Father’s plan.

Now, let’s get back to you and me.   What will you and I do with the marvelous life changing opportunities the Holy Spirit will present to us?     

And at the end of it all, will we be saying  ‘You have shown me the way of life, granted me the joy of Your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever’?  Ps 16:11

Excuse me now,  as I need to have a conversation with my Father in heaven and remember my lessons.   I’ll see you on the road and we can share our stories and rejoice together.

Who Do You Say That I Am?

They were a small group standing on a hill gazing into the sky.  They had just watched their closest companion, best loved friend and hope for Israel disappear before their eyes.  We can only imagine what they were thinking and feeling.  The angels nudged them from their reverie to remind them it was not the end after all.  With this hope, they roused themselves to walk back to Jerusalem to the upper room where they were staying with other Jesus followers.

Between the time Jesus ascended and the beginning of Pentecost it seems as if a huge shift occurred within the eleven men on the hill.   It seems as if one minute they were standing with Jesus still asking Him questions, ever the students (disciples).  The next time we hear from Peter, he is leading the others with authority and confidence for a decision on a replacement 12th apostle for their ‘apostolic ministry’.  These men, these disciples, became apostles that day and stepped into their life purpose.   They had fully realized who they were born to be, in Christ!  It was a powerful awakening and it was about to shake Jerusalem and the ends of the earth.  Their response?  They spent the next 10 days in prayer.   Amazing isn’t it?

Here’s the thing:   Just a little while beforehand, Peter had denied his identity in Jesus (and his identification with Jesus) three times publicly (John 18).   It was the forgiving love of Christ that awakened Peter to who he really was.  It grieved Peter that Jesus would ask him if he loved Him three times, until he realized that Jesus was forgiving him for each time Peter had denied Him.  It was a loving act of affirmation of who Peter was in Jesus’ eyes.  And if someone had asked Peter who he was just before Jesus ascended, he most likely would have replied “I am a disciple of Jesus”.  A very short time later, if asked that same question, he would have answered, “I am an apostle of Jesus Christ!”.

It’s true that some of us see ourselves with cloudy vision, just like Peter.  We have deeply embedded ways of thinking about ourselves.  For some of us, others are more gifted, more anointed, more relationally adept and more qualified to speak, more unafraid and bolder, more of whatever we are not.  We long to know what God thinks of us, who He sees us to be.

And to be honest, we are not looking for a spiritual answer.  We can read the scriptures for that, we say!  We want Him to free us from our life limiting views.  We want to move in freedom in Jesus, right now, but we have this ‘thing’ that stops us.  It’s maddening, isn’t it?  It’s heartbreaking at times, also.   I do not think Peter wanted to be the one to deny Jesus even once!   Let alone three times.   He loved Jesus.  He was just afraid, period. And likely it was not the last time he was afraid either.

What made the difference in how he saw himself?

It turns out it may be a spiritual answer after all, if Peter’s experience is any indication. Could it be that when Peter really understood that he was already accepted by Jesus just as he was, his vision became a little clearer?  Then when he realized that Jesus saw him much differently than he saw himself, it became clear to him that he was more than just his own opinion and a world of possibilities opened up.  He had needed to see himself as Jesus did, even with all his shortcomings.

Jesus, in effect, spoke a ‘benediction of being’ over Peter.  In a loving way, He acknowledged Peter’s weakness(es) and at the same time affirmed His purpose for Peter’s life as still being the rock on which “I will build my church; and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” Matt 16:18.  Peter finally got it and went full steam ahead into the life he had been designed for and for which he had been given breath.

What does this have to do with you and me?

It has everything to do with “as I think within myself, that is what I am” Prov 23:7). There is no getting around this truth.  We are created this way.  Even science is catching up with this realization.  This is precisely the ‘thing’ that limits us.

My question is this:  Why can’t we ask Jesus the same question He asked Peter?  “Jesus, who do you say that I am?”.  And while we are asking, we can ask Him to give us eyes to see and ears to hear.    Is it really OK to ask God this question?

The answer lies in this:  Jesus said we may ask anything in His name and He will do it, John 14:14.    And Jesus responded to Peter “this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in Heaven” Matt 16:17.   This sounds like a ‘yes’ to me.  If some answers are only revealed by asking in His name and are only revealed by God (through the Holy Spirit living within us, and through scripture inspired by God), why wouldn’t we ask?   Where else will we get a straight answer, one we can believe?   How else are we to know?

But First….

We need to know the answer to Jesus’ question:  “Who do you say that I am?”.   We need to have a clear understanding who Jesus is and believe He is who He says He is.  Otherwise, if He’s not, where is the Power in His words to love, forgive, save, change and guide us?  If He is not the Son of God, how can He speak for God and assure us we are designed by God for and with a purpose?  So, there is a reason after all for Jesus asking Peter “Who do you say that I am?”.   It needed to be answered then and it needs to be answered now by each of us individually.

If Peter, who had spent so much time being with Jesus, needed to know who he was designed to be through the eyes of Jesus, why would it be any different for you and me? It made all the difference in Peter’s life.  Imagine if he had always only thought of himself as a disciple and never caught the vision that he was meant to an apostle of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

“That is why we have this scripture text: No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this.  Never so much as imagined anything quite like this-What God has arranged for those who love Him.  But you have seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you” 1 Cor 2:9-10 The Message.

We were designed for a purpose.  My purpose is not your purpose, nor is your purpose mine.  You are who Jesus says you are!  I am who Jesus says I am!   We each have a God designed purpose.   Let’s go find out what it is!   It all begins and ends with the conversations we have with Him while spending time with Jesus (which interestingly is exactly what the disciples did before their awakening and after).

It will be a powerful awakening!  Our purpose is to shake whatever place the Lord has us in individually (for eternity).  To Him, this is a big deal.   To us it is just as big a deal; we cannot do it without His perspective, love and guidance.

Let’s go find out!  I’m excited, are you?

Oh and one final thought:  Let’s not forget that our purpose is all wrapped up with making Jesus known.   But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Act 1:8

 

 

 

WAIT WHERE!?

After his resurrection, Jesus told his followers to wait for him in Jerusalem.   Jerusalem? Where the tragic event had taken place!? Where they felt leaderless, directionless and anxious, isolated, closed in, their life disrupted, grieving their loss, not knowing how to proceed with their lives that had changed forever, abandoned, perplexed and just plain unhappy.  They had received so many exciting promises from Jesus but then were told to wait. These were people of action who wanted to be doing things.  He had said he had a plan.  He had also said he would not leave them alone.  They had learned to trust him and so they went.

And they waited, not knowing for how long.  But Jesus had said to wait there because there would be a gift coming.  He had talked to them about the Holy Spirit who would guide them into all truth.  It was all so perplexing. (John 16).  Jesus had said he had much more to say to them but that they could not bear it at that time.  That they would grieve while the world rejoiced but that their grief would be turned to a joy that would never be taken away.  He had given them promises and he had never broken a promise before.  They chose to trust him and wait.

Flashback to a place called Kadesh, which was the chief waiting place of the Israelites before they entered the promised land;  the land that is now Israel.  It was just on the wrong side of the southern edge of Canaan (the promised land) and some believe that they may have waited there for 38 of the 40 years they spent wandering in the desert just in sight of their destination.  What was Kadesh?  It was in a region that was hot, dry, desolate, a place of solitude (who went there voluntarily?) and virtually without rain.  It was fed by streams draining from the Negev desert at certain times.  Otherwise it was just plain desert.  And it was just in sight of the good place.  The promised place.

And it was Holy.  It’s name comes from a root meaning ‘to be consecrated, hallowed or sanctified’.  What?  How can such an inhospitable place be considered to be holy? 

Here’s the thing:  I will admit that I have never waited easily.  I have memories of being a very small four year old child impatient because I wanted to be off doing things and my parents were taking too long for my time table.  This post is not about why we have to wait.  I barely know why I have to wait let alone why others wait.  But there is One who knows where I am and He’s sent a Gift-the Holy Spirit to guide me as I wait.   I can trust him in this.  The real question is “HOW will I wait?”

  • Will I still my restlessness in His presence and receive respite from my emotions? Ps 62:1-2
  • Will I honor Him while I wait so my heart and mind are protected? Phil 4:7
  • Will I encourage myself in His promises so that I come to better understand his loving nature? 2 Peter 1:4a
  • Will I weep in pain and despair before Him to receive His comfort and strength?     1 Sam 30:4-6  Certainly.
  • Will I ask Him how long?  Ps 119:84   Probably.  Because it’s a relationship I have with Him.  I can be myself with Him while I wait.
  • Will I listen for His words as I wait?  Ps 85:7  Definitely.  Who knows me better than Him and can speak exactly what I need to hear.   He is my Hope.  That Hope is my rope, my life line, my Anchor.
  • Will I remember that there are streams in the desert places? Is 35:6
  • Will I wait expectantly and eagerly?  Micah 7:7; Is 8:17  I’ll try.  I want to.

Will I take my place in the hall of fame with those who have waited before me?

  • Moses waited 40 years in the wilderness after killing a man before God called him to lead Israel.  Even then he had a lot to learn.  Then he waited another 40 years just outside the promised land.
  • Anna waited in the temple, praying for 60 years after her husband died, before she saw the Christ child as promised.  She was in her 80’s.
  • Joseph waited 13 years to be reunited with his family,
  • Abraham waited 25 years for his promised child.
  • Noah waited for the flood waters to dry up before starting a whole new life.

Will I remember that “The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.”? Ps 29:8.  Psalm 29 is amazing in the waiting!

YES! Yes I will!   I will remember to worship Him while I wait, to remember His power to deliver, to quiet me and set my feet on a firm foundation and to remember He makes all things new.  I will learn how infinite, unfailing and tender His love is toward me, His beloved.  I will learn to trust Him in all things.  And when I can not, when I can only cry “Jesus”, I will! And He will come to me. 

I will wait until the waiting is over, transformed in the waiting with Him. 

And then I will realize the desert has been transformed into a Holy place.

Ascension Affirmation

Jesus approached the eleven remaining disciples several times after His resurrection to individually, personally and patiently address their fears and affirm their faith in Him.  Each time He had something important to say or some instruction to give them (“go wait for me in Galilee”, “go wait in Jerusalem”).  They would believe when they were with Him and then when He left them for a time, they began to doubt (Matt 28:16-17) .  When He approached them yet again, it was largely the same discussion.   Until the last time, when it was His time to leave them and to ascend into heaven.   This time “He rebuked them for their lack of faith and stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.”  (Mark 16:14) .  I believe He was more concerned for them, rather than angry.

Here are some of the reasons we are told as to why it was so hard for them to believe:

  • They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.  (Luke 24:37)
  • They still did not believe it because of joy and amazement. (Too good to be true?) (Luke 24:41)
  • They did not fully understand all that He had taught them. (Luke 24:37)

Startled, frightened, overjoyed and amazed.  Contrasting emotions.  They were under great stress and all over the place emotionally.  They did not trust their own judgment (what their eyes were telling them).  They had just seen the One they thought was going to restore the kingdom of Israel die.  Dashed expectations and intense human emotions clouded their thinking.   It was just plain hard to believe what they had never seen before; a resurrected being, although they desperately wanted to believe.

Why did Jesus spend so much time affirming their belief in who He was/is?  Because He loved them and had a great and awesome plan for them.    They had not yet realized that spreading the good news of God’s great plan of salvation (for all people who would believe in Him) involved them in a big way!   They had not realized that all the love, the time, the teaching He poured into them was preparation for their greatest purpose.   This band of eleven men were to light the flame that would spread throughout all the world; the good news of Jesus Christ.   It was unfathomable; something that would exceed any and all their understanding and expectations.   It was counter culture and still is today.

How were they to do this without Him?!  They were to go to Jerusalem and wait there until they received the Power to do the impossible.  Which they did.  The Power and Authority to do this great task came upon them.  The flame was lit.   And He did one more thing:  “Then he opened their minds so they could understand.”   

So why did He care so much that they believed He had risen from the dead and understood of His teachings?

Because the task He was about to give them was so immense, so humanly impossible, so important that unless they believed with all their hearts that He was the Savior He said He was, they would not succeed!  ‘You are eye witnesses of these things.”  He told them.

Here’s the thing:   We are all very much like this small group of precious brave men.   We do not always understand how scriptures apply to the places in life in which we find ourselves.  We do not always connect what the Bible says to our circumstances.   We do not always recognize that Jesus is with us through them.   We become emotional about events and hard times, losses and ill health, the state of our marriage, lack of relationships, hopelessness and dreams not realized.   We are equally as emotional about circumstances that bring us joy and amazement.   We cannot always see the bigger picture because we are immersed in the present, or the past and cannot yet see the future or our place in it.   At times we are so overwhelmed, we just shut down.

We  have a Hope who is found in Jesus Christ.  We have spiritual Power and Authority available who is the Holy Spirit.  We have Father in heaven who loves us with a never ending love.    When we are certain of Who He is, we can gather our courage to do the things He calls us to do, regardless of our circumstances.    This truth is given to bring us into great joy and strength because He loves to take the weak things and show Himself strong on our behalf.   He loves us.

And…each of us has a great and awesome purpose.   Yes, you do!   Even when we can not see it, He is near.  He is preparing us to launch the next thing He has given us to do, however great or small in our own eyes.   His plans for us are good.  These plans are not burdens to weigh us down further.  They lift us up, to give us a future and a hope. (Jer 29:11).

The disciples never knew that we would still be listening, learning and believing today.  They just did what Jesus told them to do by believing who He is.

The very last thing the disciples heard from the angel after Jesus’ ascension was…”He will be coming back!”     Good news indeed.   So while we are waiting, let’s be ready for the new thing He wants to do in us, for us, through us and light our flames.

Mark 16, Matthew 28,  Luke 24

 

Resurrection Reception

3/27/18

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105

Introduction

I am starting a new adventure.  I would love for you to join me.  This blog is going to be about what the Lord speaks to my heart about Himself.   You see, Jesus Christ, is my Savior.   The Bible teaches me about who He is.  The One who came to show us the face of God and to lead us into intimate personal knowledge of His love for us.   My life has been forever transformed because of the knowledge and experience of His love for me-up close and personal.   My desire is the same for you.

In 1 Corinthians 2:9 it says, “But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.”   This is where the name of my blog came from.

This is my first post.  Being Holy Week, my thoughts turned toward Jesus’ reception after His resurrection.

Resurrection Reception

Mary Magdalene, bereft by the empty tomb, thought he was the gardener when she first encountered him.  It was not until Jesus called Mary by name that she recognized him. Then she went to tell the disciples who did not believe her.  At least two ran back to the tomb to check it out for themselves.  Simon Peter boldly went right into the empty tomb but still did not quite understand what had happened.   The disciple with Peter only stuck his head in the tomb at first but was emboldened by Peter and finally entered. Rather than lingering there as Mary did, Peter went back to the place the disciples were staying.  They were bewildered and afraid.

Later, Jesus visited the disciples.  When he showed them his hands and feet, they believed what they saw.  All except Thomas who was not there at the time.  When he heard what had happened, he greeted the wonderful news with unbelief.  He required proof.  A week later, the disciples including Thomas, were still behind locked doors, still afraid.  Jesus came visiting once again and invited Thomas to touch the nail holes in his hand and the sword hole in his side.  Thomas believed.

Some time later Jesus appeared on the shore of Galilee and the disciples again did not recognize him until he performed the miracle of the fish filled net.  The men on the road to Emmaus thought he was a stranger to the area because he asked them questions as they talked about all that had transpired with the recent crucifixion.  Their eyes were opened when he stayed for supper and broke the bread giving it to them (representing his broken body on the cross) and they knew who he was.

Here’s the thing:  Despite all that Jesus had told people ahead of time of what was to come and why it had to happen, they seemed to understand with their heads but not their hearts.  When it all happened as Jesus had said it would, they still did not make the head to heart transition that would lead them to know Jesus.  They did not recognize him at first even though he was a well known figure of their time.  Even after they recognized him once, they failed to do so on his subsequent appearances to them.  Until he did something for each of them that made all the difference and they believed.

With Mary, he called her name.  With Thomas he gave him proof.  With Peter and other disciples, he performed a miracle of provision and encouraged the weary fishermen who were forlorn in the loss of their beloved leader and friend, and then fed them breakfast.  To the men on the way to Emmaus he patiently re-explained again God’s plan for salvation.

You see, Jesus knew exactly what would bring each person to the place of recognizing who he was/is and to fullness of faith in him.  He is very patient, very personal.  He leads each of us to faith individually.  He does not seem to rush it.

What is your story?  What do you require to see and know Him?  What was Your path to faith in Jesus Christ?    

We all struggle with what we do not understand.   We all need someone to walk with us on the road to faith.   How will we do it?

-Will it be to call someone’s name, letting them know they are seen by Him and us?  That they are valued.

-Will it be to tell our stories and His story as proof of His existence so they can think about it, test it, touch it?

-Will it be to meet a real need in His name and serve them?

-Will it be to explain God’s plan for salvation in the way they can understood and patiently answer their questions?

John 20, Luke 24