What’s In a Story

What if a parable of Jesus is more than it appears? What if it’s more than just a story with a lesson for the hearers? Could it be that what we often see as a lesson taught through story goes much deeper and perhaps has layers of meaning beyond what we may initially see? Can we connect the dots and find deeper richer meanings; a back story, if you will?

My husband and I heard a missionary speak recently on the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 21:33-44. Here a landowner planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it. He then built a winepress in it and built a tower. Finally, he rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. As the parable continues, the landowner sends representatives when harvest time arrives to retrieve his produce from those he entrusted his land to in his absence.

First, the owner sent three of his servants to retrieve the fruit; one was beaten, one killed and the third stoned. Again he sent his servants, but this time, he sent a larger group; the results were the same. Finally, he decided to send his son, thinking that surely they will be respectful of him! No, the growers also killed him because if he was out of the picture; his inheritance would be theirs for the taking! The parable ends with the question: What will the owner do with the vine-growers?

Those who were listening purposed that the landlord would have a terrible end for those greedy, wicked people and find new growers who would be responsible for that which was entrusted to them.

Can we consider who and what these each of these might represent?

The Vinedresser – God

The wall he built – His protection set in place, perhaps.

A dug-in winepress – tools needed for success.

A watchtower – again, protection and a tool required for success;
Also, providing a means of watching and communicating issues and threats
outside the wall.

Vine growers – those whom He entrusted with the work of His
land or kingdom.

God provided, protected and gave every tool needed for those He entrusted to be successful. Everything necessary for success was in place at their fingertips and handed over to their care. They were entrusted with all that He had as He set out on a journey.

What are some of the unanswered questions? Were the men the owner hired unreliable from the start? Were they reliable at first, growing weary as time passed? Did the success go to their head and they become greedy for more than He promised to provide for their service? Perhaps, they became deceived; thinking they somehow were owed ownership of the land or His absence (the perception: out of sight, out of mind) made Him no longer a responsible an owner and perhaps an undeserving one. Whatever their reason, when the time came to fulfill their agreement and settle up with the proprietor, these vine-growers renigged on their contract. They had no respect for Him, His ownership and authority, nor for the authority which He had delegated first to His representatives and then to His Son and heir.

Jesus’ reply to those whom He was teaching was this:

“Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.” Matthew 21:42-46

This was a direct message to the Pharisees of Jesus time. There also seems to be such a richness to this parable; I can help to wonder if there is so much more… Could there also be layers of meaning that go deeper and reach farther than we may have ever considered? Is it possible that it also refers to the institution of the new covenant of grace (the “church” age) that would soon be ushered in by Jesus sacrificial death, His burial, and resurrection and His command to make disciples of ALL nations? Or of the prophecies to be fulfilled in the future before Christ return? Could there be something for us in our very day lives that Jesus is trying to express? Are we greedy, wicked vine-growers? Are we beating, stoning, and killing figuratively; or are we loving and faithful like Jesus? Are we producing fruit?

Honestly, you may or may not agree; but the more I read this parable, the more questions it provokes. I am convinced that there truly are layers and meanings beyond the surface of what we read in this parable and perhaps in all of Jesus parables. I think I’ll be sitting on this one for a while.

Heavenly Father, Your Word promises if any lack wisdom to ask and it will be given lavishly without finding fault. James 1:5 Help us, Your sons and daughters seek You and Your wisdom so that we can have the understanding and rightly divide Your Word. You have gone before us, prepared the way, set protection in place, made provision for our needs, given us the tools so we may be successful, and entrusted us with Your kingdom. In fact, You have given us the incredible gift of Your Spirit dwelling inside of us to teach, comfort, guide and help us! May we accept the gifts, bring forth fruit and gratefully, willingly and gracefully offer it right back to You where it belongs! To You be the honor and glory forever! In the powerful and amazing name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Grace and Peace to you this day!

Fresh Look at the Beginning

What better place to start when taking a fresh look at something than at the beginning; so today I am in Genesis where we meet God as the Creator. I’m not going to debate or argue this one. Science is finding more and more evidence of intelligent design every day, and that is yours to decide for yourself, but I am fully on board with the creation model and a real and living Creator.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Gen 1:1

Secondly, the Spirit hovered over the dark and watery depths, God said let there be light, and there was light, and it was good. Then God separated the light and the darkness–There was evening and then morning; the first day. Next, on the second day, God separated the water by an expanse of land calling forth the sky above and the depths below. Day 3, God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered into one place and the gathering of water be called “seas.”  God saw that it was good. Day three, vegetation was created, every kind of plant and fruit, and when God saw them, He pronounced them good! Next up on the creation model was the calling forth of times and seasons, days and years. The sun to rule over the day and the moon to guide through the nights, evening and morning of the fourth day. Day five, every creature that moves above or swims in the deep came into being with the ability to reproduce more of their own kind. God blessed them to be fruitful and multiply and declared that it is good. On the sixth day, God said, “let the earth produce living creatures after their own kind: livestock, creatures that crawl, and the wildlife of earth according to their own kinds and it was so.” Genesis 1:24 God then saw that it was good. Finally, God declared “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” He created them male and female, blessed them to be fruitful and multiply; then God saw what He had made and pronounced it very good.

What I notice first off is the goodness of our Creator. He was very methodical in how He created each step of the way. Each step built upon the previous so that by the time living creatures and man entered the earth. Every provision that was needed to sustain life had already been provided.

I love how in Genesis 2:8-10 (CSB) tells us: “The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had formed. The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river went out from Eden to water the garden.” Then in verse 15: ” The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.” The Lord God formed out of the ground every wild animal and every bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man, no helper was found corresponding to him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man.” Genesis 3:15-22 CSB

Not only had every single need been provided for in advance of the first couple, but God had also shown his love and care by checking out the quality of each creation before proceeding to the next step. Creation was not just thrown together, but at every step God was testing quality control, lovingly crafting the environment that He knew would be needed for man to thrive. This is evidenced by His statement that there was no suitable helper for man and His decision to create the woman out of man’s side. Within slightly more than one chapter we see the Almighty God as 1. Creator, 2. Provider  3. Protector and 4. Caretaker.  Our Creator demonstrated Himself as caretaker as He made sure everything was in place to sustain life and for life to continue into the future. Living things from the smallest to the greatest had the ability to reproduce itself so life could go forth. Plants, fruits, and all vegetation reproducing for future generations to have needed food, as well as, animals and humans.  I believe we can also deduce that He is a Good God solely based on the indication that He cared enough to actually sit back and observe His creation and make sure it was good and in mankind’s case, very good.

A Fresh Look

I’m not sure how it came to be, but a few days ago I began a new journey. What will this journey teach me? Where will it lead and what discoveries are waiting along the way, I am not sure but trust that it will be an exciting one.

Let’s start from the beginning… my first journey with Jesus began as a small girl between 4 1/2 and five years old. It hasn’t been without some desert experiences, mountain top times and some peaceful oasis experiences. Perhaps, in the end, those desert times are the ones that have truly shaped me. For a while now, I have been noticing a recurring behavior. I can’t explain why other than it has caught my attention and for some reason, it has arrested my focus, and I am seeing it grow larger and more pervasive in the fellowship of believers.

For at least the last twelve years I have been studying on the topic of Who we are In Christ and often encourage others to look at what God’s Word says about who we are. This study is a wonderful and freeing pursuit, and it will change you forever in many ways. As you begin to unfold the mystery of Jesus, what He has done for our freedom, forgiveness, and restoration to our heavenly Father, He begins to unfold who we are In Him as we give our lives to Him.

The current trend is making declarations about who we are in Christ. Let me be clear–I’m not against this. I am all for learning who we are as believers in Christ! My concern is that we keep the proper perspective in our pursuit of who we truly are. Clearly, the Word of God says we are dearly loved children of the Most High God; our Creator. It also tells us we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ and many other wonderful statements about who we are In Him. These are biblical truths and a great blessing, but we have to remember to keep context in mind and know the Word we are standing on and believing. So here I am again on a new journey; it’s never dull. Here I am seeking afresh to see who He is – yes, who He is. Why? I want to see with fresh eyes who He says we are in light of who the Great I Am is. It’s a heart check if you will. You see, as I have observed and listened to wonderful declarations of who we are In Christ I have noticed there is a fine line between having confidence in who we are and arrogance and that is a line I want to be careful never to cross. I never want to lose the humility to which He call us.

“Mankind, He has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you:
to act justly,
to have faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8 (CSB)

Humility is found in scripture between ten and seventeen times depending on the translation. Humble is located between 82 and 84 times. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (CSB)

Jesus is an excellent example of humility in the Bible:
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 (NASB)
Jesus laid aside His standing to do the will of the Father, not once defending Himself because He fully understood Who He was and what His purpose was.

Another example was Moses. Moses was described as humble, a meek man yet God commissioned him to lead approximately 2 million people from Egyptian captivity and toward the promised land. It was Moses who God revealed Himself as “I AM Who I AM” in Exodus.

“Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what should I tell them?”
God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.” Exodus 3:13-15 (CSB)

From beginning to end, Scripture is filled with conditional promises, blessings, and even curses. There are many If…then statements all throughout the pages. We must be careful to seek to understand what they are saying to us.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:1-7 (NKJV)

Lord God, please teach us more about Who You are and who we are in Jesus Christ and humbly walk with you fulfilling the purpose that You have for each of us during our lives just as Jesus, Moses and so many others have done whether the task is great of subtle. May we love justice, be ever faithful and walk humbly with our God until our faith becomes sight in Your very presence! In the mighty and incomparable Name of Jesus, Amen!

May Grace and Peace be yours!

Secret to a Well-Watered Garden

If our lives were a garden, what kind of garden would we be? Interesting how our day can shift in just a moment in time! That is if we can be flexible. This morning an interesting topic came up, and I began to research it. It was one simple word– dry. My plan: to thoroughly examine this concept throughout Scripture.

The first suggested reference was Isaiah 58:11: “And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones, and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB)

I was totally hooked and fully submitted to where God would lead this particular thought because WHO wouldn’t like to find themselves guided in all the day-in and day-out decisions which are required of them? Who would not love to have every desire satisfied; especially in the dry and scorched places!! How often do we find ourselves in desperate need of strength? A well-watered garden is a perfect example of a beautiful and quiet place; usually with songbirds singing and just an all around quiet peacefulness-a delight to the senses! Can you just picture such a place? A person who personifies this description?

If you’ve been around awhile, you know it is a must for me to go back further into the text to make sure I have a grasp of as much context of the passage as I can for correct understanding; so I dialed back to Isaiah 57:14 for greater understanding.

The later part of Isaiah 57 is all about God’s forgiveness for those who are repentant. Interestingly, it is more about God’s actions and responses to His people. Verse 13 clearly states that whoever trusts in God will inherit the land and possess His holy mountain. God instructs Isaiah to rebuild the road; moving all rocks and stones. It’s to be a smooth road without rocks and stones so that His people can return from captivity to the safety, protection, and freedom in His presence. They had been led away captive by greediness and the desire to go their stubborn ways. Now, it is His desire for them to return to live with Him in the high and holy place; His requirement– a contrite (remorseful) and humble spirit.

Many will think this is a steep price to pay; others fail to see any need for remorse or humility. For those who find it within themselves to return to Him, He promises restoration and courage. In fact, He also has a promise for those who had remained in their stubbornness. Though He was angry, punished the greedy and withdrew from those who kept to their stubborn ways; He declares that He will heal them.
He pledges comfort for the mourners; also, abundant peace. But for the wicked, there is no peace. They will be like a churning ocean; without rest.

In Isaiah 58, we come across the contrast of real and false worship. False worship is described distinctly as worship that is self-seeking, self-pleasing and done with the expectation of recognition or reward. Some would call this form or worship religion rather than relationship; which is God’s heart for His people. Finally, we get to what the Lord, our God describes as His fast. The fast that God finds pleasing:

1. Bring freedom to those wrongly imprisoned.
2. Lighten the burden of those in your charge.
3. Free the oppressed; those subject to harsh treatment or treated as subservient. (remove chains of bondage)
4. Feed those who are hungry.
5. Shelter the homeless.
6. Clothe those who need clothing.
7. Do not hide from relatives that could use your help.

I find it very intriguing that there are exactly seven things that God lists in this passage. Isaiah is part of the Old Testament and is written originally in the Hebrew language. Hebrew tradition gives a numerical meaning to numbers. Seven is defined as the Divine number of completion; a covenant promise; and some say the number of perfection. So is there a promise or a covenant promise attached to the above behavior? Let’s explore…

Let’s pick up in verse 8 of Isaiah 58: ““Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! 10 Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” (NLT)

Five Promises or Results of the Lord’s Fast:

1. Your salvation will come like dawn.
2. Your wounds will heal quickly.
3. Your godliness will lead you forward.
4. The glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
5. You will call, and God will answer; He will quickly reply.

You might be interested to know if you don’t know already; the meaning of the Hebrew number five is God’s grace. God’s grace is abundant in our lives when we find ourselves submitted to His plan and purpose for us. As you can see in the above passages of scripture; our repentant and submitted life to the things which are of greatest importance to the heart of God causes His abundant grace to flow in our lives and allows us to abide in a place of peace, beauty, and fruitfulness!

May His grace abound to you in all you do!

Abandoned but Not Forgotten

Today, as I began week 2—day five of Beth Moore’s new Bible Study Entrusted, the topic is a difficult one. Paul, nearing the end of his life and facing execution is writing to Timothy, his son in the faith. The title is “Left and Found.” The focus is this passage found in 1 Timothy 1:

 “Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, that good thing entrusted to you. 15 This you know: All those in Asia have turned away from me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 17 On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he diligently searched for me and found me. 18 May the Lord grant that he obtain mercy from Him on that day. And you know very well how much he ministered at Ephesus.” (HCSB)

One of the focal points was verse 15 where Paul says “all those in Asia have turned away from me. Paul felt deserted by people he once was close to. If we continue into the next verse, we find that though Paul felt deserted, he was not forgotten! He goes on say that Onesiphorus searched for Paul actively when he came to Rome. He fervently searched until he found Paul and when he did Paul found refreshing and comfort because this man was not ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment. Paul felt abandoned, but he was not forgotten!

We live in a world that is not so different. Our dress, technology, and customs may be far removed from ancient Rome, and our prison cells may be quite different; but people are not so different. Scores of people everyday struggle with feelings of loss, desertion or abandonment. Often in those times feelings can be overwhelming. Suicide is rampant in the world today because hopelessness can set in when there seems no way around or through the problems that the person is facing. Sadly, hopelessness is happening at younger and younger ages. Just Tuesday night I heard of a middle schooler who had succumbed. Perhaps that is why this passage struck me, and I was compelled to share it with you.

Paul had spent his life for Jesus Christ since the day he met Him on the road to Damascus. In 2 Corinthians we see that it was not an easy life.

“Five times I received 39 lashes from Jews. Three times I was beaten with rods by the Romans. Once I was stoned by my enemies. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea. On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the open country, dangers on the sea, and dangers among false brothers; labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing.” 24-27 (HCSB)

We don’t know how long it was between Paul feeling deserted by his friends and the time Onesiphorus showed up bringing refreshing and acceptance. What we can surmise based on scripture is that Paul, though in chains was still serving God through the letters of encouragement and instruction that he wrote during his imprisonments. Despite his sufferings and feelings of abandonment, he held tight to the hope he had in Jesus Christ. He held fast to his faith and walked by faith, not by sight or feelings. Because we have his letters as a testimony, we know God had not abandoned Paul. At just the right time, Onesiphorus showed up, and Paul found needed encouragement and refreshment to stay the course. Perhaps not in Paul’s timing but in God’s perfect timing He showed up for Paul.

Not only did Paul had a personal encounter with Jesus, he spent his life following Christ and encouraging others to “follow me as I follow Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV) He spent a lifetime learning the ways of Jesus, and learning his identity in Christ. He set an example in his life; teaching and mentoring others to do the same. This activity is what enabled him to keep the faith in the difficulties of life. Paul knew who he was without Christ, and he knew who he was because of Jesus. Knowing our true identity in Christ Jesus can make all the difference in how we face life; especially in the difficult times!! But first, we have to know! We have to search it out and then we have to have faith to believe it is true.

“Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.” and they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.” Isaiah 62:11b-12

 

 

Entrusted A Study of 2 Timothy by Beth Moore is available today at LifeWay Christian Bookstores. #Entrusted Study

The Correct Fit is Crucial

This morning I have been thinking about the importance of how a thing fits. Whether it is an item of clothing, shoes, a career, a relationship, a hobby or perhaps volunteer work; if it fits well, it is much more enjoyable! Don’t believe me? Try walking around in shoes that are either two sizes too big or too small, pants so tight they challenge your circulation or so large that… Well, for some that is fashionable so I won’t go there. The truth is for most of us wearing the wrong fit ranges from uncomfortable to unbearable.

We are all different in our body types, our personalities, our talents, and giftings are different as well. We are from different ethos. Our varied experiences upon which we tend to base our view of life are unique to our life. Even those raised in the same household can find that they are very different in some areas. Even so, we live in a world that many find themselves in the trap of comparison and competition. In this world, many of us try to fit into what some consider ‘normal’ rather than celebrating who we were created to be in the first place.

I have to ask, is this healthy? Each will have to answer this question for themselves. Is it healthy for a person to grow and stretch? Absolutely! But is is healthy to force yourself to fit immediately into a mold that is meant for someone else? For example, an introvert may never be the first to speak out publicly or become the life of the party. However, it is very likely they will grow more comfortable being around larger groups and speaking out as they grow and mature through the circumstances of their life.

Take David and Goliath for an example, many of us are very familiar with this story from our childhood. David, a shepherd boy, faces off with a scary, huge giant who was terrorizing the Israelites. David takes a slingshot and five smooth stones. He aims and hurls the first stone killing the great beast of a man. Then David becomes king. What I was not told and had to learn as an adult was that David had been chosen and anointed as the next king of Israel while still tending sheep. He was tasked with caring for a flock and protecting that flock. While in the wilderness, he had protected his charges from the threat of wild animals.

Then he became an armor bearer for King Saul, the king he was to replace. When Saul became tormented, David is called upon to play his harp which would sooth the king.
Fast forward to the gathering of the Philistine army for battle. They gathered on the land belonging to Judah, encamped in the area between Soccoh and Azekah. Saul and the men of Israel gathered nearby to protect their property. Goliath led the Philistines and taunted the men of Israel both by his size and with his mouth. Saul and his men were alarmed and afraid. That’s when David arrives bringing food to his three older brothers who are with Saul. David then inquires of the men, “what will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” 1 Samuel 17:26 Then David takes up the challenge but immediately is told he is a youth and unprepared. David reminds them that he had protected the flocks in the wilderness and had killed both a lion and a bear while the sheep were in his charge. “The Lord delivered me from the paw or the lion and the paw of the bear; He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (verse 37).

Next, they proceeded by dressing David in the king’s armor. David tried to walk in the ill-fitting armor and promptly said he could not wear what he’d not tested. He removed the armor and took up his slingshot. Only when properly fitted with the tools that fit him, was David able to accomplish what the army of Israel had not been able to accomplish.
We all have a destiny and a purpose according to scriptures like Psalm 139, Jeremiah 29:11-13; Ephesians 2:10 and others. What we have to remember is that growing into that destiny is a process and rarely happens fast and certainly not overnight. Instead, the circumstances, trials, and people God places in our lives help us grow and stretch. Our boundaries are increased as are our experiences. We are strengthened and renewed to prepare us to face the next new challenge as we choose to cooperate with Him. When we don’t, we can become stuck and risk growing weary or stagnant in that place.

Lord, teach us to be wise and not try to wear another’s ill- fitting armor or try to be someone we are not. Please, teach us about ourselves and help us walk in the personality, talents, and giftings that you have given us. Help us to have the courage and grace to be who You created us to be! Teach us who You say that we are. Please help us to have the wisdom to walk in the rhythm of Your grace in our lives and the value that You place on us, rather than comparing ourselves with others and determining our worth based on how we measure up to someone else. With Your help, we can be all that You created us to be, walking in step and sync with the plan You had for us before the foundation of the world. We can be transformed from glory to glory until we are a reflection of Your glory.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Quiet Moments can Change Your Perspective

It’s been a busy few months! I haven’t done much writing and honestly I have rushed through my morning quiet times, prayed on the run and kept a pace that if I am honest; I am just not comfortable with how it’s been going. Lots of changes, transitions and at least one or two small meltdowns and today I found myself sitting quietly in the early morning pouring my heart out to the Lord. I began prayer time as I normally do. Acknowledging who God is and sharing my gratitude, praying for family and others. Then I was reminded of Saturday. Saturday was a good day, informative, helpful even. It also presented me with a challenge for which I wasn’t sure I was ready.

Long story, short: I spent some time bouncing it off my sweet and patient husband, questioning my reluctance about the challenge and vocalizing some sentiments about my life that I have scarce allowed myself to consider and have never shared out loud. Needless to say, it was emotional but was also healing. Honestly, they were the type of things I would only share with the Lord during my prayer time. As I spent time with Him this morning, I realized I had never entirely shared those things with God; so I did. It was very cathartic and healing. Then, as I opened my Bible and wondered where I should read this morning, Psalm 113 came to my mind. I think someone had mentioned it yesterday, so that is where I began. What a beautiful reminder of who He is and how much He loves us!

Psalm 113: 1-9 (Message)
“Hallelujah!
You who serve God, praise God! Just to speak his name is praise!
Just to remember God is a blessing—now and tomorrow and always.
From east to west, from dawn to dusk, keep lifting all your praises to God!
God is higher than anything and anyone,
outshining everything you can see in the skies.
Who can compare with God, our God, so majestically enthroned,
Surveying his magnificent heavens and earth?
He picks up the poor from out of the dirt, rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash,
Seats them among the honored guests, a place of honor among the brightest and best.
He gives childless couples a family, gives them joy as the parents of children.
Hallelujah!”

God is gracious and loving, and He is enough! He can handle our concerns, our frustrations, and even our meltdowns; small or large. In fact, I truly get the idea that when we do share them with Him, it is almost as if He says, “I know, thank you for being honest and sharing them with Me. I knew you were struggling and longed for you to tell Me; to share your heart and your concerns with Me. Now, we can begin to work it out.” God made each of us to be unique, one of a kind. We all share commonalities, but we are each uniquely created and uniquely gifted with the capacity to grow and change when yielded to Him. As we grow and change in Christ, He will take us from glory to glory.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. ” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

 

 

Then my eyes crossed the page to Psalm 116. As I read this encouraging Psalm, my heart was full! He hears our voice and our supplications. He inclines His ear to his children! Yes, even when we feel the cords of our circumstances, challenges, or even death choking us; when in sorrow and distress, He knows. He cares! We can always cry out to our Heavenly Father! He hears us; He answers!

David describes God this way: “I love the Lord because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul! Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted””
(Psalm 116:1-10 ESV)

In Him, may you find grace, encouragement, and peace as you go through your day!

To Soar Like An Eagle

For some reason this morning, a treasured memory has flooded my mind and heart. Last April on the 23rd., Kevin and I were blessed to spend several hours with some great friends just before they returned to minister in Europe and in Israel. Our first stop was a quaint coffee shop with a great view of the Chattahoochee River. We purchased our coffee and made our way outside to enjoy the beautiful scenery from the bank of the river. As we chatted and caught up a bit on each other’s lives, something grabbed all our attention. Right in front of our eyes, up in a perfectly blue sky, soaring over the river right in front of us were five beautiful bald eagles circling around in front of us. After circling a few times they began to fly away. Kevin and I have been to this very spot a number of times, never have we seen even one eagle and this day there were five! It was an amazing sight to behold, sitting in quietness with special friends who we don’t get to see near enough, listening to the rushing of the waters and seeing that majestic sight. What a great way to start off our visit; what a great memory!

Eagles are Beautiful and interesting creatures. Here are just a few facts about them…

  • Eagles are powerful birds of prey.
  • They have hooked beaks and powerful talons to hunt prey.
  • There are over 60 species.
  • They build their nests on high cliffs or in tall trees. Bald eagle nests can weigh as much as a ton.
  • Some eagles hunt animals as large as a young deer.

Credit to:  Science kids.co.nz

  • They have very sharp eye sight, perhaps among the best of all other species.
  • Bald eagles are known for spectacular aerial shows.
  • Considered symbols of power, transcendence, and freedom.

Credit to: Onekind.org

  • Mate for life; Once pared together, bald eagles remain together until one of them dies. Life span-20-30 years
  • Most are approximately 3 feet long with wings spans of 6-7 feet and weigh 10 to 14 pounds.

Credit to:  defenders.org

Eagles are mentioned in scripture between 31 to 34 times depending on which translation you may be reading. Some scriptures compare God to a mighty eagle, others may refer to His enemy as an eagle. Perhaps one of the most quoted verses about eagles is Isaiah 41:30-31 “Youths may faint and grow weary,and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”

What a beautiful picture that paints for us! It is truly a beautiful sight to watch an eagle soar up high, whether it is one or five! Just think…His Word tells us that we can soar on wings like eagles when we trust in Him; when we wait upon Him. He promises to renew our strength, that we will soar; run and not grow weary; walk and not faint… What a promise! We exchange our worry and doubt for trusting God and the benefits are beyond most of our expectations! We can be refreshed, renewed, and we can soar above our circumstances just by trusting God with our lives and our circumstances.

This is my hope and prayer for us for 2015: to trust God more; make Isaiah 40:31 more of a reality in our lives; to dig deeper and go deeper with God; to leave our cares with Him and trust Him to even turn the tough things in life into something beautiful and that He will cause us to be able to soar!  Don’ s words from that afternoon, as best I remember were… “May you soar above any turbulent waters and may you be found standing on a rock in the middle of the river holding a cup to catch the blessings when the blessings are flowing all around.” What a blessing to speak over your friends, and may it be so for each of us as we enter this brand new year! May God take us to a place of deeper relationship and deeper trust.  May we both give and receive mercy and may we be overwhelmed by His grace and peace.

Wonder of Wonders

Lord my God, You have done many things—Your wonderful works and Your plans for us; none can compare with You.  If I were to report and speak of them, they are more than can be told. Psalm 40:5

     Oh how wondrous that  God seeks out opportunities to develop in us an intimate relationship with Him. Have you ever taken a trip through the Bible looking at the back stories of all the ‘heroes’ and ‘heroines’?  The one thing they all have in common is that they were totally human; flawed; made mistakes; made dumb decisions; and they had times of doubt! Basically, they were very much like everyone of us. God still sought them out and He loved them greatly. God did not give up on them when they floundered; He remained faithful to them even when they failed! This is proven true from cover to cover both under the old covenant and in the new. His Word, from beginning to end is a great love story. From creation, He has lovingly sought after us, pursued us. We may get lost in all the struggles, battles, history and fail to see the gentle thread of His pursuit of mankind but it is always there weaving it’s love story. Many times we get focused on the story and miss God. Some of us question why God acted as He did; question His motives, His kindness. For example, why did He allow a people group to be destroyed or enslaved? We often fail to be objective or see the whole picture but only see from our human perspective and understanding.

  • For example, when I was a fairly young girl my Mom took me to see Gone with the Wind on the big screen. I may have been about seven or eight. First, to be clear, I am in no way comparing any character in the movie to God but my focus for this purpose is how we can get so focused on the story, whether our own or someone else’s, that we fail to see the whole picture. My take away from Gone with the Wind as a small girl was this: Rhett Buttler is a giant monster! He rejected his wife, pushed her down the stairs, hurting her and loosing their baby, and killed his little girl Bonnie Blue. He was a monster and I hated his character. My opinion was framed by my young mind and small understanding. I did not see the big picture, I only saw the most obvious problems and those weren’t seen from a place of understanding. I felt sorry for Scarlet, not seeing the part she played in how her life was going. I was crushed about Bonnie Blue and if he hadn’t bought her the pony and encouraged her in her riding, she would have lived. I loved Melanie’s character, she was so gentle and sweet.  Then I watched it on T.V.  As a  young woman, my  perspective changed pretty dramatically. I could see Scarlet’s flaws and how a good bit of the things that happened to her were related to her own behavior. I saw Rhett in a slightly different light and realized he was not all bad. Some of his actions were out of hurt and rejection. I saw his love and dotting with Bonnie Blue. I was able to see that sometimes Melanie’s sweetness and kindness was actually indulgence that in time caused her pain and grief. Some would note it as weakness rather than indulgent love for her friends and family. Everything looks different, when you see it from a different perspective and I bet if I rented it today, my perspective would be different from the last time,

Now, back on topic. 

       A good example of God’s pursuit of people is Abram (later Abraham). Abram lived in an area where it was the practice to worship false gods, yet Abram did not worship the gods of his family and God was pleased with this. God called Abram to leave his hometown and to go to a place that God would show him. Abram agreed. He set out with blind faith in God and followed His request. Abraham walked in faith with God and is listed as a hero of faith in the book of Hebrews. He listened to God and was very obedient to God. Abraham is well know for his faith in Christianity, among the Jewish culture (his own people) and even in the Muslim culture. Abraham is a famous Bible character; he was also human. He had fears and doubts, at least where man was concerned. Just one example:  not once but twice, out of fear he said Sari (Sarah) was his sister, not his wife. Because of this, the king he feared and his people experienced punishment because of the Kings interest in Sarah.  My, point? Abraham’s mistakes did not stop God from pursuing him and having a relationship with him. It did not hinder God’s plan or negate God’s promises to Abraham.

  • God still made Abraham a great nation!
  • God still blessed Abraham!
  • God still made Abraham’s name great!
  • God still made Abraham a blessing to others!
  • God still blesses those who bless Abraham’s descendants!
  • God still curses those who curse Abraham’s descendants!
  • Jesus was was brought forth through the seed of Abraham!
  • Today, in Christ, we are considered the seed of Abraham!

     God never failed Abraham or his descendants. God kept every promise! God’s ways are wondrous and so much higher than ours! His love is a pure love that never fails even when we mess up. It is said by some that even our failures and sin cannot disappoint our God because He is all-knowing. Before we were born-before the foundation of the earth, He knew us. All our days were written in His book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139.  Wonder of wonders, He desires us, chooses us. He loves us, He forgives us and makes us His own. He is ever faithful. Even when we cannot see or understand His ways and His purposes, He has a plan and it is a good plan. We may question it’s goodness or His goodness because we just can’t see or understand the bigger picture. Lord, we do believe, please help our unbelief!  Please give us eyes to see and ears to hear the wonder of wonders, Your amazing love for us!

May His grace, peace, love and joy overwhelm you this Christmas and New Year!

Leaving the Old Behind; Pressing Forward

I am betting there are few of us who have not experienced a hard year; one to which we are ready to bid an eager good-bye. Other years we close reluctantly because it was a year full of mountaintop highs. Then there are those ‘normal’ years where life was average with only a few swings in either direction. No matter what our experience in 2013 has been, time marches forward. Now that we are of the cusp of a new year, I can not help but be a little excited and filled with wonder at the possibilities which might manifest in 2014. I find myself looking at a blank canvas, where will I begin? What do I want to make of it? Will I color in the lines others have drawn for me or that I have drawn in past years? Will I retrace the same comfortable image of past years? You know the ones practiced and repeated over and over because it is easy and comfortable, familiar.

Perhaps this is the year…is it possible? The canvas will be fresh, clean, new…dare I? What would it look like to live this coming year wide open, fully engaged moment by moment, authentically, fully focused on what is important without worrying or complaining and holding nothing back? How about a year of only speaking life and blessing over those around me and releasing every word that is not life and blessing that I am tempted to speak or that is spoken over me rather than letting it play on a loop in my mind? While I am dreaming, maybe I could take all my concerns, fears, worries, disappointments, hurts from the careless words that slip from someone I love immediately to my Father, who can handle them appropriately and is the only One who can truly do anything about them. What will this upcoming years canvas look like? How will fit together in the puzzle that is the mosaic of my life?

Will I take a moment to seek a scripture verse for the year and listen for Him to lead me to it? Will God in His sovereignty give me a word for the year that is to be my focus for 2014? Will I immediately understand it’s meaning? Or will understanding unfold as the year progresses? Perhaps the word given will resonate immediately and gradually unfold over the year to have a much deeper meaning than I ever would have imagined! As 2014 approaches and is already right here knocking at the door, I have many more questions, many hopes and dreams and much anticipation!! Yes, I am ready to leave behind 2013 and begin a new and exciting year; a new adventure. With me I will take all the memories of this year, I will treasure all the wonderful and wonder-filled memories and all the rest I will do my best to learn from them, let them go and move forward stronger for them.

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My prayer as we enter this New Year is that we will find ourselves fully alive, fully engaged in life drawing closer to our Creator, Our God; that we find balance between our being and our doing, after all we are human beings. We often live at an impossible pace and when we do we loose our peace, sacrifice our health and relationships, and carry more stress than was ever intended for us to bare.
I pray we choose life and blessing for ourselves and encourage all around us to do the same.

3 John 1:2 (NIV) Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health physically just as you are spiritually.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Hebrews 12 (HCSB) 12 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.