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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.


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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.