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Archive for the ‘Biblical’ Category

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

I have this in a frame over my desk…

But recently, I read a devotional that reminded me we have a gentleman God who knocks and asks to enter into our lives, our souls, and our thoughts. The writer asked if our daily Bible time had become bone dry? Were we praying for the Holy Spirit to join us and reveal the meaning to us?

I thought about how many times I yawn as I sip my coffee, crack open my Bible, find the passage of the day, read it, and then check it off my to-do list. My feelings would be crushed if I knew readers treated a book I wrote in this manner.

When did I lose the idea that this is a love story?

I truly believe “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16)  I have known times in my life a passage has pierced my heart with the truth of it’s message as if God reached down and typed it onto the page.

Perhaps you have as well.

We are blessed in the western world to have the Bible in so many places and in so many translations. It is on my coffee table, on my bookshelf, in an app on my phone, and bookmarked on my computer. Framed verses scatter the walls of my apartment. Some are taped to my desktop monitor and secured with a magnet on my fridge.

I am surrounded by the Word, hemmed in, armored. Do I take that for granted sometimes? I confess. Yes, I do.

Forgive me, Lord. Speak to me anew. Enter in…the door is open.

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One hour. 60 minutes. One 24th of a day. We cherish it when it comes to sleep time. We become anxious if we have to wait that long. And often we waste it on things like TV, social media…even worry as we pace the bedroom floor in the moonlight.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:26

Jesus asked the question. How do we answer? If worrying doesn’t consume your time, substitute another phrase – by being proud,  by being angry, by being revengeful, unforgiving, caught up in a video game, vegged out on Netflix…yep, I am stepping on my toes, too.

Yes, we all need down time, but during that time can we spare an hour of talking, reading and listening time with our Lord?

Tonight, Jesus will face his fate with blood sweat and tears. He will kneel face down in the dirt among the scraggly olive trees and cry out to His Father. And His disciples? Snoozing. He’d asked them to stay awake and pray for one hour.

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter (Matthew 24:6).

They didn’t, and when the soldiers came, they fled. They didn’t have the strength to stand and stay because they hadn’t been bolstered by God-time.

Are we any different?

Will you carve out an hour today, or tomorrow on Good Friday, to reflect (and thankfully praise God) over what Jesus did for you?

 

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Have you ever had a spiritual high, only then to slide into the valley at lightening speed?  You  come home from a fabulous spirit-filled retreat and discover the water heater burst and flooded the house, or the entire family contracts the stomach virus, or you get an IRS audit notice in the mail. Why Lord? Couldn’t You have let me feel great for just a while longer?

Jesus understands. The same thing happened to Him:

 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness… (Mark 1:9-12)

At once…bam. Why?

Perhaps because our faith is forged in trials.

Perhaps so His human pride wouldn’t swell.

Perhaps because God knows we cannot exist on emotional highs.

If there were not valleys, would we appreciate the mountain tops? Jesus never told us becoming a believer meant an easy road where the potholes would vanish. Far from it.

What comforts me is the last part of Mark 1:13…

and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted[a] by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Emphasis mine).

What have I learned?

First, God prepared Jesus. He gave Him the spiritual high, the encouragement, and the faith to head into the wilderness, knowing it was coming. He gave Him His purpose- You are My Son, with you I am well pleased. 

Second, God never left Him. He sent angels to minister to Him.

Because of His experience on earth as a human, Jesus understands the slippery slope off the mountain into the valley. He gets the fact that life is tough. He knows that evil can chip away  our armor of faith.

But He is God, too. He knows when those “Oops” are going to come for us. He will prepare us for them, and guide us through them. Even in the wilderness, we can find His blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

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I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. Psalm 77:11

You probably have a shelf or two of them as well. Photos, knick-knacks, chotzkies. Things that are precious to you and evoke memories as soon as you notice them. A figurine from your great-grandmother, which you might take to that Antique Show one day to have it valued, sits next to the clay thingamajig  your child made for Mother’s Day in second grade. Fading photos of your kids, siblings, parents, and maybe relatives long crossed over to the other side of eternity brings happy tears welling in the corners of your eyes.

You love to point them out to visitors and tell them the story behind each one…if they’ll listen, that is. If you move, I imagine they’ll get an extra layer of bubble wrap.

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Do you have a similar, mental shelf filled with the serendipities and miracles God has performed in your life? Do you hold them close to your heart and keep them fresh in your mind to meditate upon on those days you wonder what the purpose to all this is, if things will really turn out alright,  or if He hears your pleas?

Maybe you do, and they are recorded in the back if your Bible or in journals. If so, carve out some quiet time this week to go over them, savor them and thank God anew for them.

If you don’t, that’s okay. You can begin to collect them now. How? Simply ask God to help you recall them. Then be attentive when He brings them to mind.

He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate. Psalm 111:4

When we recall all that God has done for us, our attitude can’t help but shift towards the positive. Just like a gas tank, the recounting of His past mercies and favors pumps into our emptiness and makes us full again. As we think about what God has done for us in the past, we can’t help but know He will come through again. His nature is constant. He is unchanging.

He was your Help, your Strength, your Refuge, your Joy and Salvation yesterday, and six months ago, and five years ago. He will be so again today, and for the rest of your tomorrows. Remember that, always.

 

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It can happen in a matter of minutes. A beautiful sunshiny day can become overcast, gloomy, and dank. A wet fog rolls in and blankets everything. It clings to you as you strain to see beyond a few feet in front of you. You feel closed in, almost claustrophobic. Your hands are tempted to swoosh it away like you would debris when swimming in a river or lake. But it closes back in after a millisecond.

Life imitates nature, doesn’t it? I know there have been times my outlook was quite sunny. My world was just about perfect and I felt happy, accomplished, blessed. Then a situation or circumstance hit. Suddenly I felt as if I was encased in a fog. All sense of direction lost. I couldn’t see my way. My dreams and plans vanished in the thickness of the now.

Peter, John and James experienced this. I’d read the transfiguration story in the Gospels many, many times. But recently,Luke 9:34 leaped out at me. And God whispered a lesson to me. Because you see, I’ve been in a fog lately.

Jesus took these men up on the mountain to pray, as told in Luke 9:28-36. It must have been a gorgeous vista. Their Lord had gone up into the mountains to pray before, but always alone. Now He invited them. Not all of the twelve, just these three. Can you see their proudful struts, their smiles? What could be better?  Then they see Jesus’ countenance change into a dazzling white as the two most important, holy people in their tradition, Moses and Elijah, descended to be by his side. Wow. Talk about a Kodak moment! But they didn’t have that modern invention. No phones for selfies. So, Peter suggested they do what their patriarchs had done when encountering God breaking through to earth. Build an altar. Erect a tabernacle. Mark the moment.

As he [Peter] said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.” (Luke 9:34).  In rolled the blinding fog. Their view of the holiest thing they’d ever witnessed blocked off. The moment gone. Their breaths stolen.

But God didn’t leave them there. “A voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!'” (vs.35). Focus not on yourselves, but on Jesus. Erase your self-oriented thoughts. Let Him lead you. This isn’t about Jesus acknowledging you, it’s about you acknowledging my Son.

The good news is that God doesn’t leave us either. Even if we can’t see Him though the circumstances that are clouding our faith, He can still break through to comfort us, correct us, and lovingly guide us back to what we need to be focusing upon–Him. Just as He did for me as I read this passage in Scripture.

Fogs don’t last forever. The sun will break through again. But in the meantime perhaps we are supposed to stop and no longer rely on our own abilities. Instead, let us listen for God’s directive voice. Then when the sun does break through and we can see again, like Peter James and John in verse 36, let us continue to focus on Jesus alone.

 

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It seems a good many microwave meals have directions like this:

Why make a slit? I’m no scientist, but I know when heat is applied to frozen things, pressure builds. If there is no slit, you’ll probably hear a loud pop and find your dinner splattered all over the inside of the microwave.

The God lesson? Our habits can freeze us. We become hardened and unable to receive God’s lessons. So He adds a bit of heat to our lives. They’re called trials.

Even the Apostle Paul felt it. He wrote in his second letter to the church in Corinth: We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. (1:8)

However, when the pressure begins to build, I often see Our Lord’s loving hand making a slight slit in the situation. A small reprieve. Perhaps it is a wonderfully painted sunset, or a little bird that lands on my fence. Maybe it is a hug from someone or a text telling me a friend felt lead to pray for me that day.

Did you notice what it says in the top of the picture? Ovens may vary. Isn’t it the same with us? I’ve heard it said God will never give us more than we can handle. These holy hiccups in the midst of all that is going on are precious signs that He is releasing some of the pressure in my life at just the right time. His hand is not always heavy on the potter’s wheel as He molds me into what He knows I can become.

Paul realized that as well. Two verses later he sates: “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us as you help us by your prayers. …” (1:10-11a)

Lord, thank you for those slits in my life.

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Have you ever had celery go limp in the fridge? My mother told me years ago to place the stalks in water. If you have been reading this blog a while, you know I find God-messages in everyday life. Today is no exception.

Life can be like a stalk of celery. Cut off from the soil which nurtured us and allowed us to grow into who we are, circumstances can isolate us and can leave us a bit limp after a while. We don’t feel as useful. We aren’t as crisp and our posture bows with the pressures in our day, so we no longer stand upright.

Solution? Just add water- the Living Water.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:3

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, Psalm 23:2

“…but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14
We all need water to survive. Plants can even root in water. (See the true Corn Plant Saga posted a week ago).  Our bodies cannot go without water for more than three days or we will die. What makes us think our souls can go without spending time with God for several days?
Today, a few stalks of celery reminded me how much I depend on spending time in God’s Word and in prayerful listening for His Spirit to  respond in order to keep me upright, fresh and ready to be used.

 

 

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