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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Inspired by . . . what He was doing

Forty days is a long time when you're suffering or going without. But how quickly the time must have passed for the disciples those forty days after Jesus' resurrection!

"This was after His death, but He showed them that He was alive, proving it to them in many ways. The apostles saw Jesus many times during the 40 days after He was raised from death. He spoke to them about God's kingdom." (Act 1:3)

Have you ever wondered what Jesus did during these forty days? I think He did exactly what Luke tells us in Acts 1:2-3:
  • He instructed the disciples.
  • He provided ample proof that He was alive, and,
  • He spoke to them about God's kingdom.

Of course, He had been doing the third one all along. But this time they were able to receive it with full knowledge and understanding. The sun broke through, the Son had risen from the dead, and they could finally see the forest for the trees; the true meaning of the scriptures fulfilled.

John alludes to many other signs and wonders in his account in John 20:30: "There were indeed many other signs that Jesus performed in the presence of the His disciples, which are not recorded in this book."

The important thing to remember is that God's revelation to us in His Word is complete. "Those written here have been recorded in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that through this faith you may have life by His name." (John 20:31)

God has given us everything we need to be wise for salvation.
"And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2Ti 3:15)

We may wish that we could walk and talk with Christ as His disciples did, but in truth, we have Him now more fully than they did when He walked the earth. in fact, Jesus, Himself said that it was to our advantage that He leave and send the Comforter/Helper (Holy Spirit):

"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you." (John 16:7)

Why did Jesus say that it was better for us that He depart and the Spirit come? We can't imagine that such a thing could be true! And yet it is, because: "He [the Holy Spirit] will take what is Mine and make it known to you."

It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that we come to fully know our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It follows then, that being in touch with and listening to the Spirit is vital to deepening our relationship with Christ.

This isn't something to add to your To-Do list, Beloved.

Rather, it is an exciting, life-long journey to be enJOYed!


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Inspired by . . . the life is in the blood

I have an aversion to killing things. Most creatures found in my home are relocated to the out-of-doors. I do make exceptions for scorpions, centipedes, and... snakes. Inside or out. Although I've never gotten close enough to a snake to kill one and I'm not sure I could. Get close enough, that is.

I do swat flies, they carry disease, and spiders are usually dead before I can think about it because they have a way of startling me into action. I always think of Charlotte after killing one, though.

I've been working my way through Leviticus and it's all a bit overwhelming. The weight of the Law is heavy. The number of sacrifices required, staggering.

From what I can tell, between the offerings and sacrifices, there would have been one or the other happening almost none stop in front of the Tent of Meeting.

Either the priest or the person making the offering would have had to place their hand on the head of the sacrifice (i.e. head of the lamb, goat, bull, etc) and then slit its throat. Blood would have to be thrown or sprinkled. Fat removed from entrails, the body kept whole or in some cases cut up, and so on. Chapter after chapter we read the details for atonement for one sin after another. It's all rather disturbing.

Obviously, we live in a very different world than the Israelites did during the time of Moses. As I read, I wondered if the sacrificing of these animals was disturbing to the Israelites. I think the answer is, yes.

Sacrifices wouldn't have been new to them. The Egyptians made all manner of sacrifices to appease the gods. But, for the Israelites, sacrificing their animals, that they lived closely with, for the atonement of sin was completely different.

I thought about this in my own life and realized that, while I'm okay with killing an animal for food, the thought of an innocent animal dying to pay for my sin is an entirely different matter.

I have to believe the Israelites felt this way, as well.

Leviticus 17:11 tells us that the life is in the blood and that it is the life, which is the blood, that makes expiation for sin.

Expiation = Atonement, Restitution, Payment.

Romans 6:23 - the wages of sin is death

Despite what our culture may tell us, death is not natural. It is the payment for sin.

The payment for sin is death. Either our own or something sacrificed in our place.

We see this all the way back in Genesis 3. The first animals were killed to cover the shame of Adam and Eve. God's word is consistent from beginning to end. And that is why Leviticus is relevant, in all its disturbing bloody details, to us today.

It gives us context for the tragedy of the cross.

Throughout Leviticus, it says that the sacrifice brought must be "without blemish." This is the foreshadow of Christ, Who, "was innocent of sin, and yet for our sake God made Him one with human sinfulness, so that in Him we might be made one with the righteousness of God." 2 Cor 5:21

The trial and crucifixion of Jesus breaks our hearts. And so it should. He was innocent and yet He was beaten, flogged, cursed, and mocked. The brutality and senselessness are shocking. It's hard to imagine that any good at all came out of this event. And yet, as Paul said, "If it is for this life only that Christ has given us hope, we of all people are most to be pitied." 1 Cor 15:19

There had to be something more. Some purpose. Some way to get beyond sacrifice after sacrifice. And there was.

Because Christ wasn't just another sacrifice. He was THE sacrifice. It was not His purpose to offer Himself again and again, as the high priest enters the sanctuary year after year with blood not his own. Rather, He has appeared once for all to abolish sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

By dying, He paid the price of our sin and by rising again He conquered death and the grave. He is Victor over all! He has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. For it is by grace we are saved through faith; it is not our own doing. It is God's gift to us, not a reward for work done. (Eph 2:8-9)

Faith is born when we believe the Truth of what God says about us and what He did for us. "If the confession, 'Jesus is Lord' is on your lips, and the faith that God raised Him from the dead is in your hearth, you will find salvation!" (Rom 10:9)

Leviticus stands as a reminder to us of the heavy demands of the Law, our inability to be righteous before God, and the blood that is required to wash away our sins.

But the heaviness of Law and the images of the blood-soaked alter fade away when the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead moves within us and we are reminded that we are God's children and He Is Alive!

Easter morning wasn't the end, Beloved. It was just the beginning.

Because He lives, sin is no longer our master.
Because He lives, we are free from the fear of death.
Because He lives, we have direct access to the throne of grace.
Because He lives, we receive new mercies every morning.
Because He lives, we have proof of God's great love for us.

Because He lives, we will never die.

Blessings on your Eastertide, friends.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Inspired by . . . the posture of Christ

Jesus washing the disciple's feet, as witnessed in John 13, is a passage worthy of deep meditation and study. The fact that our Lord laid aside His glory to become a man is incomprehensible enough. Yet, here we see Him laying aside even more.

"He laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist."

In our world, toes are things to be painted and put on display. In the time when Jesus walked the earth, feet were likely the dirtiest and least washed part of the human body.

Our Lord, pausing in the midst of eating a meal, to stoop down and wash the disciple's feet would have definitely gotten their attention!

There are many beautiful layers here, and I urge you to peel them back slowly and savor each one.

What I want to impress on you in this moment, that I pray you will take to heart and carry forward beyond the JOY of Sunday's victory is this:

He loved Judas to the end.

Judas Iscariot, a man who walked with our Lord and knew Him intimately. Jesus' friend, who betrayed Him with a kiss, for a paltry 30 pieces of silver.

I can't even begin to understand a love like that. And yet, we must try. We must do more than try. We must love like He loved.

"I give you a new commandment: love one another; as I have loved you, so you are to love one another." John 13:34

We must learn to accept, first, that this great love is bestowed upon us. You and me. For, it is only in receiving His love that we can give love to others. 

Yes, even our enemies. "As I have loved you..."

Because it is not our love that we give, but His. God alone is love and we must learn to reside in that love.

We must learn to see with the eyes of Christ.

"If there is this love among you then everyone will know that you are My disciples." John 13:35

When we look upon those who live in opposition to Christ, may we remember His posture in front of Judas on the very night he betrayed Him, the Father having already revealed everything to Him, and allow Him to love through us.


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Inspired by . . . Hosanna!

"The next day the great crowd of pilgrims who had come for the festival, hearing that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, went out to meet Him with palm branches in their hands, shouting, 'Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!' "

Today is a day of adoration. The pilgrims, who had come from Galilee and other outlying areas, knew Jesus and loved Him. "Hosanna!" they cried. A far cry from the angry political and religious mob we hear just five short days later, shouting, "Crucify!"

Just the day before, Mary had anointed Jesus, pouring the costly pure oil of nard over His feet, and wiping it lovingly with her hair. Now, without understanding what they were doing, the pilgrims were choosing their Passover lamb. (Rev 7:9)

This lamb, traditionally chosen four days before the feast, was brought into their homes and hearts. Who hasn't looked into the sweet face of a baby lamb and felt their heart melt with tenderness? Imagine slaughtering this animal after it lived with you in your house, even for four short days, and we might get just a hint, a mere whiff of the agony of Christ's sacrifice.

It should break our hearts in two.

But those are meditations for Good Friday. Today we celebrate the coming of our King, as He enters His beloved city. The palm branches signify victory and on this side of the cross, we know Christ, victorious over death and the grave! (1 Cor 15:57)

The palm branches also reflect back to the Feast of the Tabernacles (Lev 23:40), which points forward... to Christ.

skēnoō - tabernacle
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

He came that we might know the Father and get a glimpse of heaven on earth. The pilgrims had a glimpse of the Divine and believed, declaring Him blessed and Israel's true King. Those in authority believed but refused to acknowledge Him because they valued their reputation rather than the honor which comes from God. (John 12:43)

Today, when you catch that glimpse of the divine, may your soul cry out, "Hosanna, oh, save!" and may you receive the blessing of salvation.


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Inspired by . . . through suffering

Every year as I contemplate Lent, I am struck anew at just how long 40 days can be. In every other season, time seems to move at warp speed, but when you are sitting at the edge of a desert that you know will take forty, 24-hour days to cross, the time seems very long indeed.

Most years, and for most people, Lent is carried out amidst the regular hum of normal day-to-day life. There may be something given up or added to and more focused attention to the Bread of Life. But otherwise, things are relatively normal.

This year has been different.

To paraphrase something Henri Nouwen said: Lent is about trusting that God's love for us is stronger than death and that death, therefore, does not have the last word.

Jesus could go to the cross because, as a man, He trusted that God's love was stronger than death and, as God, He knew He was the proof of that strength.

Nouwen says, "The core message of Jesus is that real joy and peace can never be reached while bypassing suffering and death, but only by going right through them."

Yet, going through suffering does not guarantee joy and peace. The difference, I think, is trust. We are afraid that there is something other than love in God. We equate suffering with punishment. But this just shows how very little we know the mind of God. I admit I know Him very little. But more, I hope, today, than yesterday.

It goes back to what Nouwen said above about trusting God's love. It isn't until we believe, even in our incomplete understanding of His love, that He truly does love us, completely and without limits or conditions, that we will receive joy and peace in the midst of our suffering.

That is what is different about this year. What I gave up, thinking to replace with more of Him, has been all but lost in the overwhelming noise of silence. As He teaches me to listen for His loving presence in the midst of suffering.

Some of you are much farther along in this journey than I.

In the coming weeks, we will all see again just how much He loves us.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Inspired by . . . sacrifice

The rising sun and the warmth it brings is my personal benediction and feels a lot like resurrection after a week of sacrifice.

Freezing cold temps, no power, no water. Sleeping on couches, not being able to flush toilets, buy groceries, or wash dishes. Dealing with illness when everything is closed, and it seems like there is no one to help.

The suffering has felt like sacrifice.

But none of this has been by choice. The weather descended in layers of beauty that left tragedy in its wake.

We haven't chosen to go without. To be ill.

Don't get me wrong. The suffering is real and God is there with us in it. Protecting, growing, healing. Because God is both just and merciful, all suffering will be redeemed. But as much as I would like to, I can't count the suffering of the past week, the going without, as sacrifice.

True sacrifice involves choice.

Lent dawned with frigid temperatures and the realization that we faced at least four more days of cold. It was hard to focus on Christ's journey to the cross when we were harvesting snow for water and trying to control a 103.8° fever without the help of a doctor. I was thankful for @briannashowalter 's devotional A Field Guide to the Beatitudes, which reminded me right at the beginning that "humility ushers God's kingdom directly into our lives."

If we're not careful, suffering can make us prideful.

Over the next few days the lack of those things we take for granted; utilities, our favorite foods, good health, kept reminding me of the importance of the liturgy of Lent.

And here is where I stumble with my words. Because I don't believe that there is one way or a right way to "do" Lent.

Jesus chose to die for us. He wasn't a victim of circumstances or of the will of men. He willingly laid down His life.

"Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father." (John 10:17‭-‬18 KJV)

In a similar way, we make a choice to enter into His suffering. We can't truly enter without repentance: acknowledging that our sin separates us from God, being regretful of our sin, and commiting to change by turning away from our sin into the arms of a loving and forgiving God.

But how we do this is as unique as our personal walk with Him is unique.

It can look like intentionally doing meditative or creative things that bring us into His presence. It can look like intentionally not doing certain things to free up time for prayer, reading scripture, and Lenten devotionals.

Whatever you believe God is leading you to do, or not do, during this season the reward and goal is greater intimacy with Him!

God can and does bless us through worldly suffering. But there is a special blessing that comes from sacrifice.

"But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed."(1Pet 3:14)

Seven days into this year's Lenten journey the sun is high and the temps are climbing back into the 70°s. Even so, I realize I am a long way from the resurrection. Even though I'm physically and emotionally tired and still fighting a head cold, my spirit needs to be reminded of its poverty. I need to experience the liturgy of Lent so that I can fully embrace the JOY of resurrection.

The rhythms of the Church calendar dance in harmony with nature. As life begins again in the darkness and slowly reaches upward toward the warmth and the light, so we move slowly and hesitantly through the days of Lent, up toward Jerusalem, and the final death which gives life eternal.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Inspired by . . . the face of Christ

"For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2Co 4:6)

One of my Advent readings last year was All Creation Waits by Gayle Boss. Each day, Boss shared about a different creature and how they adapt and wait through the long winter. The black bear wakes up in the spring, a new mother. Unaware that new life began within her and was birthed to her as she slept.

The Northern Cardinal with his bold red suit and pretty mate, who draws our eye so quickly against the winter white or drab brown landscape. Who knew how carefully they calculate their body weight each day. Eating enough to stay alive and warm but not too much, lest they be unable to fly quickly away from danger.

If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, creation speaks loudly of God's invisible attributes. His everlasting power and deity. (Rom 1:18-21)

Creation is a large and necessary part of God's revelation to us. But it is not a complete revelation. The first chapter of Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God's revelation, the stamp of God's very being.

Creation speaks, without words, pointing us to the Creator - Jesus Christ. In Him everything in heaven and on the earth was created, visible and non-visible. (Colossians 1)

Jesus is not a better revelation - He IS the revelation. There is no salvation apart from Christ. (Acts 4:12; Rom 1:16; Eph 2:8-9)

Truly, the things of this earth become strangely dim when we look full on His wonderful face. For the glory of God is revealed in Christ alone.


Sunday, January 31, 2021

Inspired by . . . a second banquet

This past year has been one with many postponements. Many of us have been repeatedly disappointed and disillusioned when things haven't worked out as we hoped. Some of these postponements are and have even been potentially dangerous to you or to those whom you love.

The book of Esther has one big postponement that I've always stumbled over as I've read through the text. Esther's uncle, Mordecai makes it clear that deliverance for the Jews will come no matter what Esther does but that she just might be Queen, "for such a time as this." After prayer and fasting, Esther decides to act. In the famous scene, she approaches the king and he extends his scepter to her, telling her he will grant to her any request, up to half his kingdom. Esther request that he and the evil Haman join her that day at a banquet she has prepared. The king does so in all haste.

Yet, after the feast, "over the wine," when the king asks again what her request of him is, rather than tell him, Esther invites the king and Haman to yet another banquet the next day!

I admit, as the reader, I am impatient with Esther's delay. Perhaps the Jews waiting for deliverance were getting impatient as well. After all, it seems like there is a lot of "banqueting" going on! But when reading the scripture through again this morning, God spoke to my heart.

We don't know why Esther delayed making her request to the king at that first banquet. Perhaps her heart failed her and she needed another night in prayer. This was, after all, no small request. Or perhaps God Himself impressed upon her to delay. The scripture doesn't tell us. But what we do know is that two things happened in between the first banquet and the second banquet.

In Haman's malice toward Mordecai, he had erected gallows, 75ft high. At the same time, the king, who couldn't sleep that night, was reading a chronicle of memorial events and was reminded how Mordecai had saved his life.

Although the book of Esther never mentions God by name, it is easy to see His hand at work in all these things. The next day when Esther finally brings her request to the king, to spare the lives of her and her people, and exposes Haman's role in the plot, the king is so enraged he has to step into the garden to contain himself.

We know how the account ends. Haman is hanged on the very gallows that he set up for Mordecai and Haman's plot against the Jews is thwarted.

In the same way, we may not know or understand why some of the things in our lives are being delayed. In some cases, it may even appear as though the enemy is winning.

But that is not so, Beloved.

God doesn't always clearly stamp His name on everything. It is not always obvious to us that He is at work. This is where our faith comes into play. We trust the Truth, even when we cannot see it. We trust God and the promises He has made to us in the scriptures. We trust that He is working all things together for good... not necessarily what we think of as good, but His good, according to His purposes.

In other words, even if things don't work out the way WE want them to or according to OUR timeline, God is using them to advance His kingdom and His purpose. And as hard as it may be, we can rest solidly in the comfort of this Truth. Because God is for us. He loves us and His ways are always true and right and just.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Inspired by . . . the power of His name

A wise king once asked the questions:
"Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know!"
The answer is, "Yes! We do know."

His name is I am and His Son is Jesus. 

There is power in a name, yet not all names are powerful. Those that are, carry the authority of the person with them. 

If you're familiar with fantasy literature (i.e. The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter), then you know that it was frowned upon to even speak the name of the enemy. 
However, the power of a name isn't just the stuff of fantasy novels.

Perhaps you can remember squabbling with your siblings until one exclaimed, "Well, Mom said!" Suddenly the matter is settled. But it's not just her word that carries the authority, just the name mom or mother will, for most, trigger a response. Positive or negative depends upon your experience. But the name "mother" carries with it a certain power or respect.

When Jesus exclaimed, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am,” in John 8 the people tried to stone Him because He was declaring Himself God. When He replied, "I am He," to the soldiers and temple police who came to arrest Him, they all fell to the ground. (John 18:6)

There is power in His name. 

Throughout history, people have sought to use that power for both good and for evil. Acts 19:15 provides one account of some Jewish exorcists who were using Jesus' name for their own wicked ends. Sadly, since then there has been a long, often bloody, history of men doing evil in His name. 

His name is powerful because He is the all-powerful, creator God. We can't even number the stars, yet He has given each one of them a name. Yet we think we know the mind of God. 
We must be on guard against people who speak evil and do evil in His name and we must guard ourselves against doing the same.

So how can we know the truth about these things when we know that, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isa 55:8-9)

The best way to recognize the Truth is to know the Truth and to know the Source of Truth. We won't fully know God until we meet Him face to face but if you are a Christian the Holy Spirit within will testify and guide you in all Truth. (John 16:13)

Even so, we still have an active role to play. Scripture says to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil 2:12)

Spending time with Him, in His word, and in conversation (praying and listening) with Him is the only way we can hope to learn and recognize the Truth.

"'If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'" (John 8:31-32)


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Inspired by . . . the revealing

"Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Genesis 22:10‭-‬12 ESV

Most of you are familiar with this account of Abraham and his son Isaac. What struck me anew as I was reading this word today was verse 12. "... now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

"Now I know?" But of course, God already knew that Abraham feared Him. He knew before the beginning of time before Abraham was even formed in the womb what Abraham would do at that moment. So why the drama?

I believe God did this for two reasons; first to confirm Abraham's statement of faith "God will provide Himself a lamb" (v.8) and to reveal His glory by providing the sacrifice - a foreshadowing of Christ. Secondly, so that Abraham himself would know that he feared God.

Few, if any, of us truly know how we are going to act when brought to a pivotal point, as Abraham was in this text. The trials we face don't make us who we are, they reveal who we are. Sometimes they reveal good things, like with Abraham, but sometimes they reveal things about us that we need to change. I shared yesterday about a pivotal point in my spiritual life that was revealing. I learned that my faith wasn't as strong as I thought it was.

In these revealing situations, we have a choice. God always gives us a choice.

We can blame and be defensive or we can move . . . toward God.

"Nearness to God brings likeness to God. The more you see God the more of God will be seen in you." C.H. Spurgeon

Since that time, which has been several years ago now, I haven't stopped praying, "Lord, increase my faith." It is my constant prayer. In every situation, I try to respond in faith - in a way that brings me closer to Him.

"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him." (Heb 11:6)

Are you currently experiencing a "revealing" situation? A fiery trial that is burning away the dross to reveal the real you? What is it that God wants you to know about yourself? and what are you going to do about it?

Keep in mind that God doesn't bring us to this place because He is some sort of self-help guru. His refining and revealing in our lives has a purpose. A higher purpose. We are instruments of His in the workings of His kingdom.

Remember also that this is a process . . . a becoming.

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." (1Co 13:12)

Each day, each hour, keep choosing to move toward God.


Monday, January 18, 2021

One thing I love about crisp winter mornings is lying in my bed under 3lbs of blankets, snuggling deep into the coziness. At the hour I get up, the room is cold and the struggle to leave the warmth behind is real. This time of year, I grab my clothes and head upstairs to the loft where the air is warm.

This is also our "TV room" and, unless my husband is in the room, the screen is usually dark and silent. But lately, I've discovered dishscapes, which is a "relaxing channel with ambient noise that can be enjoyed while you're doing something else." This month is a gorgeous scene straight out of the South Pacific. So as I dress for the day, I enjoy listening to the sound of the waves and keep a sharp eye out for any surprise activity on screen.

This morning, my husband had left the TV on one of the automotive channels. After punching in what I thought were the dishscape channel numbers I looked up to see "Showcase XXX" on the screen. Thankfully, these types of channels require a subscription, so there was no visual content, but it still had me scrambling for the remote. In my defense, I was operating pre-coffee and without my glasses!

With the cadence of the waves in my ears and the sun rising over a tropical landscape, I sat back with relief. 

Friends, this is how closely the enemy prowls. What happened this morning made me think about how easily we can step into sin. It's not just our TV and our computer screens. Often it is our thoughts and our mouth which cause us to sin. 

James tells us, "From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so."  Don't be fooled into thinking that you get a pass for thinking it but not saying it out loud. The thoughts we harbor are just as important, for Jesus said, "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire."

While coffee and wearing my glasses may prevent a misstep with the TV remote, the only cure for sinful thoughts and an unbridled tongue is Jesus Christ.

"Weak and human we may be," declares Paul in 2 Corinthians, but, "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete."

Left to our flesh, we can easily convince ourselves that we are in the right and that our actions are justified. This is why it is critical that we are walking in the Spirit of God. (I posted about this last week; links at the bottom) 

Sadly, a lot of the nastiness out there is coming from Christians who haven't properly identified the enemy. It is critical that we correctly identify who our enemy is and that we are properly outfitted to stand against him. 

To that end, find your Bible. Sit down, open it, and read and meditate on Ephesians 6. Even if you are familiar with this passage, time spent with Him is never wasted. And you never know how He may choose to clean our hearts and renew our spirits. (Psalm 51)


Thoughts about walking in the Spirit of God:

BTW: the whales show up at sunrise

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Inspired by . . . Holiness over Happiness

"All these had married foreign women, and they dismissed them, together with their children." Ezra 10:44

This abrupt ending to the book of Ezra disturbs me every time I read it. It's so easy to set aside the sin that was committed and only imagine how these women and children must have felt. Our inclination, or at least mine, is to ignore the devastating effects of the sin that had been committed and romanticize these relationships that were so, seemly, casually destroyed.

Was Ezra really following God's will by breaking up these families and sending away all these women and children?

Surely God cared about them. Surely, He wanted them to be happy. Didn't He?

Time to reign in our emotions and look at the facts. First, marrying foreign women was a direct violation of God's command in Deuteronomy 7:3. God didn't need a reason for this "rule" but He had a good one. Foreign women meant foreign gods and God knew that if His chosen people mixed with people that worshipped false gods, they would soon worship them too. And that is exactly what happened. In fact, it is the very sin that made them exiles in the first place!

That's why Ezra's response when he learned about these offenses, was so great. (see Ezra 9)

Secondly, the work of righting this offense was not taken lightly or done rashly (10:13). The families were to be presented at a stated time before the leaders. If the women had been proselyted, they were not turned away. (consider Ruth, a Moabite woman who we find in the lineage of Christ!) It was the women who clung to their worthless idols and threatened to cause their husbands to stumble who were sent away.

Still, despite all this, there were certainly bruised and broken hearts. The issue was far from being resolved as we find it brought up again in both Nehemiah and Malachi.

We've all used the "God would want me to happy," card a time or two when trying to justify our less than obedient actions. Especially when society's moral code flies in the face of God's commands.

Does God want you to be happy? Absolutely. But never at the expense of our obedience.
"Happy are those whose lives are faultless, who live according to the law of the LORD. Happy are those who follow His commands, who obey Him with all their heart." (Psa 119:1-2)
True happiness comes from obedience to His commands.

Something that Hannah Hurnard once wrote, which I have written in my Bible, has been a great help to me:
"Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible - terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved."
This is what God's love for us is like, Beloved. This is why Aslan is not a tame lion.

That passage in Ezra still stings whenever I read it. But it reminds me that there is Someone who loves me enough to do the painful work of cleaning the wounds that the sin of this world inflicts upon my soul. The painful work of cleansing. And when the blood flows brightest it is not my blood at all . . . but His.


Sharing inspiration here:

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Inspired by . . . Rebuilding

"Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem:" (Ezr 7:27)

The account in the book of Ezra of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem is really quite remarkable. It begins with a decree by King Cyrus of Persia, releasing the captives that his ancestor, King Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile seventy years before. Not only does King Cyrus release these valuable slaves to return to Jerusalem, but he also decrees that their neighbors should pay their way with silver, gold, livestock, and voluntary offerings! Even more, the king returned all the vessels of the house of the Lord that King Nebuchadnezzar had stolen. Quite a bounty!

If all of this sounds vaguely familiar, you may be remembering the exodus from Egypt. I wonder if the clan fathers of Judah and Benjamin cast a wary eye over their shoulders as they left Babylon for Jerusalem?

Unlike Pharoh, King Cyrus kept his word, and Ezra 3 records for us the great rejoicing that occurred as the first foundations of the Lord's house were laid!

However, despite the support of King Cyrus the returning Jews still faced opposition. Ezra 4 describes the hostility of those who acted against them. The people of the land even bribed officials at court to act against them. This went on throughout the reign of King Cyrus.

Just as soon as a new king came to power those who were hostile to the Jews sent a letter to King Cambyses containing half-truths about what was happening in Jerusalem. In response to this letter, the king immediately ordered a stop to the rebuilding.

Can you imagine the despair and disappointment? For fifteen long years, the Jews mourned over a partially built temple. 

Perhaps we can imagine the Israelites frustration. Their desire to do something, anything, to somehow force the hand of the king in their favor. After all, what act could be more in line with God's will than the rebuilding of the temple? The act of restoring of the sacrificial system and Passover celebration? Still, the Jews understood that these things must be done in God's timing and in God's way. They had just experienced seventy years in captivity because they had put their ways above God's ways. Then, in the proper time, God moved the heart of a new king, King Darius, to allow the rebuilding to continue.

Now, finally, God was moving! The temple was being restored! As you might imagine, the celebration of the re-dedication of the house of the Lord was done with great rejoicing!

Little did they know that they were on the cusp of 400 years of silence.

When God spoke again it wasn't to the heart of a king or the mind of a prophet. It was through an angel to a teenage girl. She had been waiting and all of Israel with her, for a Savior. 

But Jesus didn't come storming the gates and over-throwing governments. He came to conquer sin in the hearts of men and women. To raise a royal priesthood. An army of spirit-filled believers who live their lives in such a way that others take notice, and are drawn to the heart of God. 

And so we build His kingdom. Not an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one. An eternal kingdom.

It's heartbreaking and frustrating to watch the current events play out in our world today. And I'm not suggesting for a moment that we shouldn't care about them. But we need to hold loosely to things of this world. We need to wait, and read (His word), and pray.

We need to seek FIRST the kingdom of heaven. If we do that, God will take care of the rest. 
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Mat 6:33)


Monday, January 4, 2021

 Inspired by . . . New Year, Same Choice

Happy New Year, friends!

I was reviewing my stats, looking at last year's posts, and was thankful to see that my most viewed post was Inspired by . . . a choice  If you missed it, click the link and have a look. 

I'm thankful that this was my most viewed post because it talks about the choice between good and evil and God's solution to save us even when we make the wrong choice. 

Yet, instead of leaving us to muck about in the mire and be trapped over and over again by the hopeless, sinful ways we are too inclined to choose, God had a plan to save us. Once for all.

This God, who showers us abundantly with His love, mercy, and grace is at the heart of this blog, my art, photography, and the daily devotions I share on IG and FB.

Last year was difficult and that fact didn't magically change when we hung up our new calendars earlier this week. Yet, despite all the darkness that 2020 held, there was light. Because many of you chose . . . 




Until Jesus returns, there will always be darkness in the world. There will be people who choose evil instead of good. In fact, the darkness is likely to increase in the days ahead. But that is no reason to despair. It is all the more reason to keep choosing . . .




Because, Beloved, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1Jn 4:4) 

So no matter what this year brings, no matter how deep the darkness, until He returns, we stand firm. Girded with the belt of Truth and ready with the Gospel of peace.

Happy New Year, friends. Peace to you and your family.