30 August 2013

You've Got the Wrong Guy!

Scripture: Ezekiel 9:9, 10 NLT

Then he said to me, “The sins of the people of Israel and Judah are very, very great. The entire land is full of murder; the city is filled with injustice. They are saying, ‘The Lord doesn’t see it! The Lord has abandoned the land!’ So I will not spare them or have any pity on them. I will fully repay them for all they have done.”

Observation:

Oh, the irony.  The injustice, indeed.  Just prior to this in Ezekiel's vision, the Lord shows him the idolatrous sins of the people, and how they've defiled the temple.  And then, with the temple filed with "detestable sin", they complain that the Lord isn't hanging around like a kicked dog, waiting for a chance to make up.

Application:

Is there anywhere in my life that I'm doing that? Attributing to God faults or shortcomings that are my own? Or that belong to my heritage or culture?

Yesterday, God led me carefully through a simple, everyday experience, so I could learn one very important thing . . . He really IS a jealous God, and he doesn't want me to be better friends with anyone else than I am with Him. ;o)  He taught me gently; just whispered a gentle check through the Holy Spirit when I wanted to turn to a mortal (and a pretty darn awesome one at that) for an answer to a dilemma.  I mulled over that for a bit, because even though I listened to the Holy Spirit, I still did a teensy bit of mental foot stomping.  And then, it hit me.  God was jealous! He didn't want me to be better friends with anyone else than I am with Him. :o)  I laughed long and loud at that . . . not derisively, but because it tickled my sense of humor to realize that the Lord God of Hosts sees me just as He sees the Israelites and Judah.  He doesn't want anyone to come before Him.  And that's pretty cool--definitely worthy of joyful laughter.

Prayer:

Father of mine, I glorify You for Your incredible, patient, endless love.  For Your faithfulness to me, while I'm learning to be faithful to You.  For Your awesome sense of humor, and the way You make me laugh as You show me more and more relationship all around me--between people, between Your people and Yourself, and best of all, between You and me.  And I love how it feels like You show me these things, in part, to see me laugh. :o)  Keep it up, my God, please!  I just want more of You, and to sing and laugh and walk with You all the day long.  Because You are Good.  So, so good! In Jesus' name, Amen. :o)


29 August 2013

Best. Reunion. Ever.

Scripture: Revelation 3:20-21 NLT

"Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.  Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne."

Observation: Eating together as friends. Sitting with Jesus on His throne in the same way He sat with His Father on the Father's throne when Jesus won His ultimate victory.

Application:  Folks, Jesus doesn't want slaves, or even servants.  He wants equals!  Now, this might be old news to y'all, but for this girl, it's huge.  HUGE.  Jesus wants loving family that will run to Him and rejoice with Him.  WHo will see His face, so well-known, and those eyes of His, and share a moment of deep relationship . . . one of those silent exchanges that hold eternity suspended between two souls, filled with long experience and rough times and rejoicing and sorrow and overcoming . . . and then the joy will explode, and we'll shout and dance and hug and clap and sing, with Him. Can you feel the Holy Spirit trying to tell you, just a little, what that will be like?  I'm just barely beginning to understand, as I've reached the point in my marriage and friendships that they've been tested and tried, gone through amazing highs and deep lows with these people by my side.

And it will be GOOD.

Prayer: Father, God in Heaven, oh, how I praise you for Christ Jesus.  For giving me this incredible freedom to love, to joy, to fly in my heart up to heaven and see Him, and You.  To sit on your lap, listen to you whisper in my ear, and learn who I really and truly am.  I glorify Your Name for Your eternal watchcare over me . . . and the miracle omniscience and omnipotence that means you love and take care of me as if I was Your only creation, just as you care for every one of Your children.  You are so good, God of mine, so amazingly and so-far-beyond-this-pathetic-mortal-language Good.  Guide me today. Show me where to step, how to walk, and give me the words to speak, so I only speak Your Word, Your Will, and bring into being that which You designed for my happiness and Your Glory in my life.  Hallelujah, to God and the Lamb! :o))))) In Jesus' most awesome and liberating name, Amen!

28 August 2013

To the Point

Scripture: Ezekiel 3:22 NLT

Then the Lord  took hold of me and said, “Get up and go out into the valley, and I will speak to you there.”

Observation: God often tells His followers to seek a quiet place to listen to Him.

Application: God has told me, numerous times, to seek him in solitude.  But still, I try to read the word during the day. I don't go outside in the early morning as He has told me to do.

Prayer: Father, please bear with me. I will follow Your instructions, because I want to be near You.  In Jesus' name, so be it. Amen.

27 August 2013

Pondering, or missing the point?

Scripture: Revelation 1:12-20 NLT

"And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man.  He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest.  His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire.  His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves.  He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said,  “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. “Write down what you have seen—both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen. This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels  of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches."

Observation:

John is using imagery here, rich in meaning to his audience.  But much of the poetic he employs simply isn't part of my cultural dialogue.  (We prefer oil-rubbed bronze here over burnished, but I'm familiar with wool, being a spinner & knitter.) ;o)  So John's descriptions tend to read literally in my mind's eye.  I see a man with fire shooting from his eyes and a long, stiff, double-edged tongue waving around.  But when I stop to think about it, I remember Paul telling the Ephesians to arm themselves with the sword of truth, and it begins to make sense.  And maybe burnished brass is trying to describe the way Jesus' darker Jewish skin shines with glory.  I highly recommend stopping and thinking about scripture.  Pondering.  The coolest stuff comes through the Holy Spirit when I do that.  (Pondering, btw, means slowing down and thinking about what you're doing.  Love that.)

But then! . . . then comes the best part.  John is overcome, and faints dead away.  And then, in my minds' eye, I see Jesus coming and kneeling over John, and touching his face or forehead with so much love, and reassuring him with all of the incredible love and gentleness He has.  He's not standing, aloof in power and majesty, reaching out magically without moving a muscle to wake John up, then booming out in command "Don't you dare be afraid!"  He loves John. He's comforting Him in deed and in spirit, as well as word.  John knows Jesus, and this is a moment rich in meaning and comfort and security.

Application:

The Son of God in full glory revealed Himself to His servant, and that servant needed a little additional help in order to bear that glory.  It wasn't easy, as the flesh, when surprised, tends to take over. lol But God cares tenderly for us.  He knows us.  He knows me! He wants so, so badly to manifest Himself to me in any way that I can possibly bear, possibly see, possibly understand.  He's always trying, kind of like a friend desperate for attention, saying "Hey, watch this!" as he does amazing things in my life.  The question is, will I see it?  Will I stop and think?  Or will I trundle on my oblivious way, seeing only a frightening figure, blazing with glory whose eyes and mouth are mortal dangers to me, blasting commands from his position on high?

Prayer:

God my Father, thank You so, so much for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the urging to ponder as I feast on Your word.  Thank you for opening so many things to my understanding, and for waking me tenderly.  Please, keep guiding me.  Keep showing me Your love more and more.  Strengthen my knees and guide my feet as I walk daily in Your will for me, and let me draw ever closer to You.  In Jesus' glorious name, Amen.

21 August 2013

Lots to Think On

S, O, & A: Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Ouch. 

I was wondering why today was so hard, such a struggle. I let myself get distracted by the shiny attractiveness of worldly things. And I know, personally, from my experiences that those verses are SO accurate! They're my day in a prophetic nutshell. But when I read them this morning, while distracted by worldly things, they didn't sink into my heart. Didn't even make a dent. 

So I am writing to you not because you don’t know the truth but because you know the difference between truth and lies. And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.  (1 John 2:21-23) 

These verses made me think about how things I thoughtlessly do might deny the Christ. And how it seems like there are plenty religious folk in my history who profess Christ with their lips, but deny them with their lives. 

And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame.  (1 John 2:28 NLT)

This made me think of "I Can Only Imagine":

I can only imagine 
What it will be like 
When I walk 
By your side 

I can only imagine 
What my eyes will see 
When your face 
Is before me 
I can only imagine 

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel 
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still 
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall 
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all 
I can only imagine 

I can only imagine 
When that day comes 
And I find myself 
Standing in the Son 

I can only imagine 
When all I will do 
Is forever 
Forever worship You 
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel 
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still 
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall 
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all 
I can only imagine 

I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do 
Is forever, forever worship you

When I finally come into the presence of my Jesus, I think I'll run to Him. Flat-out. Holding my breath . . . until I burst out laughing and weeping all mixed together when I finally reach Him. And He'll be cool with that. :-) 

I have my crazy days . . . where I walk without Christ in the world. But when I turn and throw my all into Him, the joy and peace and love and buckets of goodness are nearly more than I can physically bear. And I don't feel like I should abase myself before Him--but rather jump and shout, laugh and sing, filled with incredible HIM-ness.

God. Is. Good. :-)

P: Dearest and definitely Most Amazing Father. I love you! :-) I will praise you my whole life through for Jesus, and for my rebirth. For the sunrise of joy in my life. Please--keep the spirits of confusion and weariness and worldly fascination FAR, far from me. Help me spot them miles off, and press closer to you. 

Give me words to pray. Give me a new song to sing. I just want to rejoice and praise you all the day long, and in my dreams, too. In Jesus' most loving and fulfilling name, amen. :-)


19 August 2013

I Choose to Walk in Christ!

Scripture: Jeremiah 46:28

Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, for I am with you,” says the Lord . “I will completely destroy the nations to which I have exiled you, but I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you, but with justice; I cannot let you go unpunished.”

Observation:

This was life under the law.  Israel merited justice, because they hadn't turned to Christ.  The Old Testament is full of examples of the Lord forgiving His people . . . but if they refuse to repent, justice claims its due, and as it says in the last phrase, the Lord cannot let the unrepentant go unpunished.

Application:

I'm SO glad I have been given the chance to know Christ.  To walk in His sacrifice each and every day.  To live in a completely new and different way . . . a gentler, merciful, loving way.  To not feel compulsion to beat myself up for each and every shortcoming or failure, and to have the simple ease of forgiving all men in the same way flow from that forgiveness I feel surrounding me that comes from my Savior.

I feel like I should write and write about this.  It's radically revolutionary to the way I was taught.  I was taught something like this:

Sin:Repentance = 1:1

When, in reality, when you have been washed clean, it's a much more organic, constant process.  I can stumble and mess up in a whole bunch of ways during a period of time, but it just takes one coming back to Jesus to make it all right again.  (Apologizing & restoring if I've hurt or destroyed along my merry way, of course.)  But it's not a game of trying to remember each and every blunder I've made, asking forgiveness for each and every one, and torturing myself over and over, trying to remember them all, and to make proper atonement for each myself.  I just have to turn to Christ, and He comes and walks me through it all, healing and fixing and teaching along the way.  This is SO much better than the "old" way, living under justice, instead of mercy.  This is grace.

Prayer: 

Father, I praise you for your incredible gift of Jesus.  I praise Jesus for His astounding love and sacrifice . . . every minute of every day, for His whole life, He lived blameless, so he could pay for the wreckage I create, blundering through life with the best intentions.  I have trouble, some days, with living blameless for three minutes, let alone 33 years.  Guide me today, show me the path You want me to tread.  Teach me Your will, Your ways, Your love and Your forgiveness each and every day.  I glory that Your mercy is brand-spankin-new every morning.  That I'm continually presented with a shiny new chance to live in Your will for me, to drink from the fountain of Living Water, and to be filled!  You are so, so Good, God of mine, and I will rejoice in You forever.  (And oh, what a wonderful eternity that will be! :o)  In Jesus' most precious name I pray, amen.

17 August 2013

Musings on Gathering

Scripture: Jeremiah 23:3-4 NLT

But I will gather together the remnant of my flock from the countries where I have driven them.  I will bring them back to their own sheepfold, and they will be fruitful and increase in number.  Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again.  Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord, have spoken!

Observation: 

What a lovely, lovely prophecy this is.  While I'm not currently living in a physical gathering of Saints, I look forward to the day I will . . . even if I have to wait until Christ comes again.  I have long had a feeling that this is a gathering place, this county of ours, and I look forward to seeing what that means to God, and what He plans he will bring about.

Application: 

In the meantime, I will cherish verses like these.  I will surrender and live among my family, and among my friends, in this way.  I don't want a single one to go missing, or be lost.  I want to live in fellowship with the Saints, in unity, in the love of Christ, so His joy can flow among and through us without obstruction.

Prayer: 

Father in heaven, I praise Your glorious and holy name for the gathering you have done in my life; for the precious loved ones I have who have led me to You.  Thank you, thank you, thank you! And I thank you for the way that I'm beginning to find kindred where I didn't expect, to help and support me--those who understand very well what I have experienced. Lord, please guide me. Help me to know how to love my own, and Your own, and all others, with Your love.  Show me how to raise my children, how to train and teach them, so they can come to know You as You really are.  Put people in their paths--TRUE disciples of Your Son, Jesus--who can show them Your way, and the true nature of God's love.  Let Your love touch those I speak to, those I touch.  And please bless me with a constant desire to do so, and the awareness to recognize when I have allowed the enemy to slip back into my life. he is so, so sneaky, and I don't always catch it before he has managed to make me forget so, so much. In Jesus' name, amen.

16 August 2013

Grace: the Ultimate Antidote

Today, I left a comment over at The Perfect Day, in answer to a reader question.  Below is the question, and my answer.  I wanted to keep a copy of my answer, because I was reminded of some deeply important things that I had forgotten over the last couple of days.

"One of my own personal difficulties, in relating to prayer, esp. evening prayers, is that it's so hard for me to get into the frame of mind to pray in a way that I really feel close to Heavenly Father in closing out my day. I think it has to do mostly with 'well...I set out this morning with all these great ambitions and look how I didn't achieve it, again.' Is there anything you do to 'prep' yourself for prayer? I've tried reading my scriptures and singing hymns before I pray but for some reason those nightly prayers -- reporting back when I always have something that I've messed up on (even though there's good stuff in there too) -- are always harder to feel the closeness for me.

Just wondering what you think. How can I let go and prepare myself better to pray when every night I just feel disappointed in all the things I've done wrong?

Thanks,

M"

M, it sounds like you're judging your performance each evening.  But you're in luck: these are things I've struggled with, as well! ;o)  Two thoughts:

1) Christ is the only judge.  And He has told us, over and over and over in scripture, that He isn't going to condemn us.  Our God isn't one to shake His finger in our faces, or alienate us from His presence.  Judgement, consignment to a certain distance from God, doesn't happen until Judgement Day.  So you can let go of that judgemental spirit. (Or cast it out, if you prefer.)  Self-condemnation (which includes disappointment in ourselves!) is one of the adversary's biggest, beefiest, most steel-studded bludgeons . . . and we take it from him and use it on ourselves with a will, thinking we're being good Saints as we do so.  But I have GREAT news!  Anything (and I mean ANYTHING) that keeps you from drawing closer to God is NOT of Him.  And if something isn't of God, then it's either of men or of the devil.  And we all know how effective those latter two are at bringing about salvation. ;o)

2) Performance.  This is a tough one, because it's so insidious, especially if you're a Latter-day Saint, or a member of another works-focused church.  The Law of Moses was a law of performances and ordinances.  And that law was fulfilled, down to the tiniest detail, by the sacrifice Jesus made: His perfect life, His atonement, His death, and His resurrection.  He has broken the bands of death and SIN . . . and freed us from them.  Period.  End.  It is done!!!  And whenever I think of that, I want to jump and shout and sing, because I don't have to EARN my salvation.  I don't have to perform to a certain standard in order to have the help of my Savior and Friend in this life.  I have to have a willing heart, and then He will walk me through whatever comes next.  It takes NO level of righteousness to "earn" access to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Who did He hang out with, and often, during His life?  Hated tax collectors for the oppressive government.  Women who were sold to whoever wanted them. Sinners.  He let all who wanted to come unto Him to come.  He BID them come.  "Come unto Me, all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!"  And He still calls us today.  Constantly.  Every one of us. All the time.

The grace of Jesus Christ means that He will be close to us AS we mess up, fall down, bloody our knees and noses, and blunder around through this life.  He will heal our hurts, the injuries of those who we've hurt through our own actions, and help us give it another go.

The next time you feel distant from God, for whatever reason, just stop.  Stop and quiet your mind.  Even if you're in the middle of a crowd, or there's a lot of distraction going on, you can quiet the inside of your own head, making stillness there.  And listen.  Listen with your spiritual ears for the sound of your name.  Because Jesus is calling you.  He's calling me.  Every one of us, every second of every day, He's calling us back to Him.  All we have to do is answer with a willing heart, and suddenly, He will be there.  You can talk to Him, and share with Him, and He'll feel closer and closer as you continue to praise and thank Him for all you have.  Then you can talk over what you need to work on, and He will take your hand, or gather you up into His amazing arms, and love you through whatever it is that you're going through.

Don't give up.  Just listen . . . He's there, waiting for you to turn your mind to Him!!!

11 August 2013

{Crickets}

S: Jeremiah 9:23, 24 NLT

This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. 

But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken! 

O: The only being who stands perfected enough to praise boldly is Jesus. 

A: This has so totally been me today. I opened my mouth, and praised (and probably boasted some) in the astounding goodness of my God . .  . and in the joy, peace, light, love, happiness and goodness that flows into and through the lives of those who know Him. And the response?

{Crickets}

In a class of staunch believers in Jesus Christ, not a single one had a thing to say. Not an amen. Nothing. There was such a heaviness and dullness in the air. {shudder} Quite the feeling to carry away from church, eh?

P: Father in Heaven, open the ears and minds of those who hear the testimony of Your amazingness, of the radical power to save that comes only through Your Son. Continue to strengthen and direct me, and show me what to do, give me words to say, fill me with Your love. I just want others to feel what I feel...to know what I know. In Jesus' most holy and awesome name, amen. 

10 August 2013

Don't Be Afraid!

Scripture: John 12:10-11

Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too,  for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them  and believed in Jesus.

Observation:

Those priests were afraid.  They didn't know God, and didn't trust Him.  Playing the hypothetical game for a minute, if the Jews had accepted God; if the Sanhedrin had recognized Him and followed Him with true hearts, God would have made the perfect way for them to be delivered from the consequences the Romans could have dished out at their change in religious observance.  God takes care of His own.  Period.

Application:

Where am I still afraid? What ways do I still cling to that direct me away from the perfect path God has prepared for my needs?  Inside, I think & feel like I'll do pretty much whatever God wants me to do.  I'm getting better at simply being diligent, without compulsion-powered performance behind it. I also feel the old habit of self-flagellation dropping away.  (Hooray!!! lol) And I'm seeing God move more and more in my life.  But . . . I'm not to where Moses was.  Or Abraham. Or Mary, who saw Jesus at the garden tomb.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, show me.  Send Your Spirit to convict me.  Ever lead and guide me as I baby-step my way closer and closer to You.

09 August 2013

Let go of everything but Jesus.

Scripture: Jeremiah 4:1-2 NLT

“O Israel,” says the Lord , “if you wanted to return to me, you could. You could throw away your detestable idols and stray away no more. Then when you swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the Lord  lives,’ you could do so with truth, justice, and righteousness. Then you would be a blessing to the nations of the world, and all people would come and praise my name.”

Observation:

Israel clung to idolatry, when they could have trusted God, let go of their adulterous idolatry, and been made whole and holy in the sight of God.  It seems so easy to me, from where I stand, to do that.  And yet, it was so pervasive, so persistent, then.  There must have been a powerful draw to it, for some reason.

Application:

What do I cling to? What, out of fear, have I been unwilling to abandon for my God?  I don't have to know WHY I cling to these things . . . only recognize that I do.  Anything I'm meant to have, to possess, will be given me of God, and will stay, whether or not I employ a death grip.  And if it's not meant to stay, white knuckles will only damn me.

Prayer:

Father in Heaven, reveal to me the things I can let go of.  The things I can free myself of so Your Glory can flow unrestricted and unobstructed in my life.  In Jesus' name, amen.

08 August 2013

Know the Shepherd

S: John 10:10, 14, 15, 27-30, 39 NLT

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” 

Once again they tried to arrest him, but he got away and left them.

O: Jesus teaches such a beautiful, amazingly glorious thing here: that His sheep can know Him the same way He knows His Father. He boldly declares His love for His sheep, and just how close to them He will be if they let Him. 

And yet, in that last verse, I can see how ordinary He might've seemed to the Jews. Can you see Him, hot-footin' it away from the authorities?

A: I could be so, SO much closer to Jesus. So much closer to The Father. I think, even now, the ordinariness of what it takes to really do that is the very thing that keeps me from it. I haven't yet really grasped the sanctity of the mundane. Or maybe I just haven't turned my heart to my God enough in my mundanity. 

I think one of the Jews' biggest obstacles was Jesus' own ordinariness. 

P: Father, gently help me remember to turn to You in all things. Show me how to see things Your way. Show me how to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. In His Holy name, amen. 

05 August 2013

He is Victorious . . . not overwhelmed!

Scripture: John 7:37-38

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds,  “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!    Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”

Observation:

It must have taken serious guts to stand in the crowds of people, and shout out His message like that.  And yet, while His flesh may have quailed some, I know He trusted His Father, and have a feeling He was consumed with the need to try to get through to some of His people.  That maybe, someone, somewhere, would hear Him and recognize Him, and be helped.

Application:

How much do I trust? What am I willing to do? How much do I let the weaknesses of my flesh overcome the direction of the Spirit? How often do I cave under the mock pressure of the enemy, letting myself be convinced I'm overwhelmed? Even though, always and forever, Jesus stands ready to lift me above ALL of it.  To give me the way, to show me what He wants me to do, to show me the steps to take to conquer whatever I'm facing in His name . . . even if it's just a desk, with papers piled high.

Prayer:

Father, guide me today. Show me how to conquer the things all around me that need doing . . . and show me which ones I really must take on, and which ones I can just throw away.  I KNOW You are NOT the God of feeling overwhelmed . . . You are the God of Victory!  Let me worship You in my everyday, and teach me to walk in the Spirit, even when I must work in the flesh.  In Jesus' name I humbly pray. Amen.

04 August 2013

We Can't Constrain Him

Scripture: John 6:14-15, 35

When the people saw him  do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!”    When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.

***

Jesus replied,  “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

Observation:

Jesus disappeared when the people took it into their hearts to constrain Him.  Yet, He promises to provide for us . . . I believe He promised to provide both according to the spirit AND the flesh.

Application: 

I've been in a crash course titled "What Jesus does when you don't limit Him." ;o)  Just like the people He fed in the first part of John 6, I had long constrained Him by what I thought He could do in my life, by my concept of how deity and mortality "should" interact.

The word constrain fits perfectly here. It means not only to force, but to force by limiting the action or power of the object of your force.  Mathematically, it means to set boundaries on the possible outcomes of an equation.  Which is exactly what the people sought to do to Jesus.

The people were wanting to force Jesus to be their King--to stop Him from doing what He had been doing, and to insist His outcome fit into boundaries they set.  And He disappeared.  (Not the result I want in my life.  How about you?)  And yet, later He said that he would provide in boundless generosity to those who believe* in Him.  ". . . never be hungry . . . never be thirsty . . . ". Ummmm, yesplease!!! Jesus is a God of limitless possibilities, His nature infinite.  As soon as we try to bracket Him, He slips away . . . there's no longer room for Him.

*Luke 6:46-49

Prayer:

Jesus, show me when and where and how I, in my ignorant way, constrain You.  Shed your glorious light on my understanding, and show me how to live closer to You, please.  I want You to flow, unrestricted into and through and over and around my life. I never want You to slip away! Amen.

03 August 2013

Covenants: Old vs. New

Scripture: Nahum 1:2-8, John 5:1-3, 5-7, 8-12 NLT

The Lord  is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and rage. He takes revenge on all who oppose him and continues to rage against his enemies! The Lord  is slow to get angry, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished. He displays his power in the whirlwind and the storm. The billowing clouds are the dust beneath his feet. At his command the oceans dry up, and the rivers disappear. The lush pastures of Bashan and Carmel fade, and the green forests of Lebanon wither. In his presence the mountains quake, and the hills melt away; the earth trembles, and its people are destroyed. Who can stand before his fierce anger? Who can survive his burning fury? His rage blazes forth like fire, and the mountains crumble to dust in his presence. The Lord  is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him. But he will sweep away his enemies in an overwhelming flood. He will pursue his foes into the darkness of night.

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Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days.  Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda,  with five covered porches.  Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches.  

One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him,  “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him,  “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!

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But this miracle happened on the Sabbath,  so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.

Observation:

These first two passages highlight, starkly, the difference between the Works- & Law-based covenant of the Old Testament, and the Covenant of the New Testament through the blood of Christ.  Nahum wrote about the power of a vengeful God over those who live without Christ in the world.  And John shows us the freedom and mercy and grace of Jesus in the miracle performed.  (Oh, He is SO GOOD! If you ever see me grinning from ear to ear, laughing, shouting, or jumping up and down, it's usually because I'm remembering just how amazingly Good our God is.  I'll do my best not to disrupt any meetings.) ;o)

But what really jumped out at me was the last passage: the collision of these two covenants.  Jesus freed that man, and then the Pharisees jumped all over him for having the audacity to break a rule they had made . . . quite possibly a rule that this man suddenly realized was as futile as the rest of the rules they had made.  When we're set free in Jesus, those still living in the old covenant, under the law, don't like it.  Not one single bit. Whether they're members or leaders in the body of Christ, they have a really hard time with it because it terrifies them.  When you see salvation as a matter of works, seeing someone else abandon the works you hold sacred (whether it's not carrying things on the Sabbath, what is worn to church, or the type of language used in prayer--not that I know *anything* about the last two ;oP), your gut reaction is to squash the deviant behavior, because you see that person as sliding into sin, flirting with losing their soul.

But that's the crazy part.  Now that I'm free, when I backslide, it's not this HUGE DEAL.  (Granted, I'm not falling back into heavy, destructive sin. It's mostly too much time on the computer and not getting enough sleep, or not spending enough time in the word & prayer. But is there any difference, really? Something tells me that there isn't . . . ) When I realize I'm regressing, I feel the spirit of confusion that traps me in those things leave immediately, and Jesus comes back and walks with me as I return to His path for me.  There's no recrimination. No guilt. No "Now, I told you . . . "  Just His love coming back in to wash over me and make me deeply hungry for more of Him.  And that's HUGE, people.  SO HUGE.  I hung my everything on the law for my entire adult life. It was such a prison--a salt mine--with the occasional glimpse of glorious light that just made me knuckle down and work all the harder.  And now, NOW I'M FREE!!!!  Can you wrap your minds around that? Imagine, for just a minute, what astounding, night and day, life and death, difference I feel.  Is it any wonder that I regularly make a goof of myself, getting all giddy over Jesus?  Yeah.  I thought you'd understand. ;o)

John 5:39-40 says “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!  Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life."

I was that person.  I came not unto Jesus because I thought I was already Doing It Right.  God blessed me for my efforts, and did not leave me entirely comfortless . . . I had the consequences of my works, which were good things.  But I chose the reward of my works, instead of the reward of Jesus.  I was missing out on all of the best stuff.  Of carrying the Holy Spirit with me, in joy and rejoicing, anytime I turn my heart to Jesus.  Of everything I do being worth it here, and now.  Of letting the price Jesus already paid settle my debt.

Prayer:

Father in Heaven, I THANK YOU, over and over and infinitely over again, for the mind-blowing gift of Jesus.  Please . . . show me when and how to bring others to Him . . . and fill me with Your love so completely that all they see is You.  I can hardly bear to think that others, especially others I know and love, might never know You like this; might never feel this lasting joy and light and continuous love that changes them, radically.  In Jesus' most glorious and liberating name, AMEN!

02 August 2013

Of Temples and Idols

Scripture: 2 Kings 21:7-9 (also 2 Chronicles 33:7-9) NLT

Manasseh even made a carved image of Asherah and set it up in the Temple, the very place where the Lord had told David and his son Solomon: "My name will be honored forever in this Temple and in Jerusalem--the city I have chosen from among all the tribes of Israel. If the Israelites will be careful to obey my commands--all the laws my servant Moses gave them--I will not send them into exile from this land that I gave their ancestors." But the people refused to listen, and Manasseh led them to do even more evil than the pagan nations that the Lord had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land.

And 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."

Observation:  

Manasseh's idolatry was scandalous . . . rebuilding all of the things Hezekiah had, in righteousness, destroyed.  Building pagan altars in both courtyards of the temple, doing pretty much every form of evil counterfeit the enemy has for true religion, and then, in a crowning act of horrifying violation, setting up an image of Asherash in the Temple itself.

I have been to LDS temples many times . . . places where people go to feel the Holy Spirit, to get away from the world, to feel closer to their God, and to hear Him more easily.  It's a truly sacred, holy space.  One I crave, and that brings me so much closer to God.  When I'm there, HE is my reality.  The more I go, the more I see the Kingdom of Heaven in its true reality, and this world as the shadow.  About ten years ago, I saw something very sacred to my church up for auction on eBay . . . and I literally began to shake, and nausea washed over me.  And I shook for hours.  I can't imagine the reaction I would have if one of my temples was desecrated in the way Manasseh desecrated the temple in Jerusalem.

Application:  

We are the temples of God.  The buildings are important . . . but they're a symbol of US . . . of what we need to be in our lives, and who we need to have living in our hearts.  God created Adam and Eve so His Spirit could dwell in them.  They were, and we are, literally temples to the Most High God.  Thinking of that in relation to Manasseh's actions sheds such a new light on it.  Idolatry is so insidious today . . . pride, greed, selfishness, fear, envy, belligerence . . . often cloaked in socially-acceptable clothing that looks like working hard for your family, climbing the corporate ladder, or setting our hearts on things. It seems to me that, to God, these modern versions are no different than Manasseh's desecration of His temple in Jerusalem.

Some of you know that, a couple of months ago, God asked me to give away nearly all of my (considerable quantity of really lovely) yarn.  Then, once I did that, he asked me to give away most of my jewelry.  He made these things so easy for me to do . . . He walked me through each step, showed me clearly what was okay to keep, and what I needed to pass on to bless someone else.  And as I did so, He showed me that it wasn't really the stuff I was giving up . . . it was the time and plans I had to knit or weave all of that yarn.  It was the excess I had that someone else needed.  But really, it was about seeing if I loved my stuff more than I loved Him.  And it was no contest. :o)

Prayer:

Lord, keep on showing me the idols I harbor in my heart.  (I'm mortal . . . I know I've got more lurking in there!)  Show me the nooks & crannies where they hide, and lead me in the path to oust them all.  (Thanks, Lord . . . yes, I'll get the piles off of my desk. lol  That's a great place to start.) Help me to lift YOU up high in my heart and in my thoughts.  Let me turn my energy to doing whatever it is that YOU really and truly want me to do.  And please, oh please, let me hear Your answers and trust in them, not filtering them through my pathetic understanding before I act.  Make your instructions plain to me, an infant in Your sight, and strengthen my knees, make my footfalls confident and unwavering, and let me continuously hear You calling my name so I will  never lose my way.  I love You, Lord . . . and I praise your Mighty Name to the utmost my voice will carry it for Your unfailing righteousness, Your unwavering faithfulness!  Let me love You with all I am, with all I have.  I know You will never, ever leave me comfortless. Amen.