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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Inspired by . . . Five Golden Rings



For the last several months, through a global pandemic, riots, racial tensions, lockdowns, and political nonsense our Pastor has been consistently preaching from 1 & 2 Samuel.
From various comments he's made, I can tell that he has been criticized for this approach by many who do not see what relevance these scriptures have to our present-day challenges.

Thankfully, our pastor has carried on, faithfully preaching from the Word, rather than spouting his own opinions, agendas, or five steps to a better life.

Like these rings represented in this fifth day of Christmas snowflake, God is eternal. His message is eternal. Eternally relevant.

Paul reminds us in Romans:
"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Rom 15:4)
Learning, patience, and comfort. Three things we desperately needed in 2020. Three things we will desperately need in 2021. God provides all this and more through His word to us: the scriptures.

Over the last few months we've learned:
  1. To wait upon the Lord and trust Him at all times. (1Sam 27-28)
  2. Listen to the Right voice. (1Sam 28)
  3. Death is not the end. (1 Sam 31 c.f. Rom 5:12)
  4. David's story is central to HIStory (and world history) because it points to the coming of Christ: the answer to all the world's problems. (2Sam 1; Heb 12:22; Eph 1; Acts 19; Gal 3)
  5. Knowing it is the will of God does not transmute grief into joy. It is still grief. (2Sam 1)
  6. "Who am I?" This is the central question of our time. The Bible answers: We are made by God, for God. (2 Sam1)
  7. The Bible gives us the answers we need but not always the answers we might like.
  8. Through the teachings of the Bible, we can encounter the Living God. (2Sam 2)
  9. Our victory is found in our King (Jesus), not in ourselves. (2Sam 5)
  10. The rulers of the earth will always seek to destroy the Lord's anointed. (2Sam 5)
Not an exhaustive list by any means. I pulled these ten from the notes I took while sitting in front of my TV watching our pastor speak to a (mostly) empty sanctuary.

He did break away from David's story one Sunday to talk about "Ten Men In Quarantine" referring, as you may have guessed, to the ten lepers in Luke 17.

Ten were healed, but only one turned back, throwing himself at the feet of Jesus in praise and worship.

His spiritual eyes being opened, he saw something in Jesus that the other nine did not.

Who Jesus IS and why He has come.

Perhaps those who see the scriptures as no longer relevant require the same spiritual awakening.


Blessings,








Sunday, December 20, 2020

Inspired by . . . Jesus Christ: The Light of Hope



When I first began studying the scriptures for this Advent series on Seeking the Light, I was literally overwhelmed by the number of scripture references. God, Jesus, Light conquering the enemy, darkness of sin, the world, really is THE story.

Jesus wins. He conquers death. Defeats the enemy.
The story, the ONLY true story, really does have a happy ending.

But here's the thing, we're still in Act 3 of a four-act play. We know from Act 2 that Jesus wins. But Act 3 is all about us preparing, and proclaiming, and waiting for His return to claim the victory.

His Advent. His coming. His return.
The Good News is that He didn't leave us alone. His Word gives us specific instructions and the Holy Spirit guides us in all truth, revealing and teaching us everything we need to know. (John 14:26)
I often forget that I have the Light within me, a little flame, the Holy Spirit. He has taken up residence in each one of God's children. Each one of us who proclaim Him.
"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)
Our waiting is active, not passive.

Matthew 5:14-16 admonishes us to, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

The high calling of Ephesians reminds us of our place and purpose as children of God: "for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." (Eph 5:8-11)

Throughout this Advent season, I have kept coming back, again and again, to the parable of the ten virgins found in Matthew 25. The wait has been long, even more so this year, and some days our hope is very dim.

Are we keeping our lamps lit with the love and longing for His return?

We must, Beloved! For we are, "children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness." (1Th 5:5) And we have been chosen in Him to proclaim His glory! (1Pet 2:9) Chosen! Wow!

We must remember that we represent the only true source of Light and Hope in this dark and hopeless world. We must continue to proclaim the message, "that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." And we must continue to, "walk in the light, as He is in the light, [so that] we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."

When He returns: "night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they [His servants] will reign forever and ever."

Our Hope will be realized and the wait will be over.

But while we wait, may we all keep our lamps lit with the love and longing for His return and "[give]thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."


Blessings on your Advent,


Sunday, December 13, 2020

Inspired by. . . Jesus Christ: A Light to the Gentiles



"And He said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth." (Isa 49:6)

Friends, I'm overwhelmed by the grace of God.

He didn't have to save us.

He had His chosen people. The Jews. He could have sent Jesus to save them and them alone.

He could have. But He didn't.

Instead, He CHOSE to love ALL of mankind.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (Joh 3:16)
In Romans, Paul confirms this again and again. And all throughout the New Testament:
"For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, "'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed." (Act 13:47-48)

Yet, we can see from Isaiah 49:6 that this is not a New Testament concept. Isaiah proclaims this Truth again in Isaiah 42:6; 51:4, and 60:1-3.

It is the great mystery, hidden for ages, now revealed!
"To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col 1:27)
As if saving us wasn't enough, we are adopted as sons and daughters of the KING. We share in the inheritance as heirs, children of God. To prove this God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of His Son (Galatians 4:6). This Spirit connects us to the Father and we are able to, in our deepest need and greatest joy, cry out to Him, "Abba, Father!"

Have you received this gift?

This amazing, wonderful, overwhelming gift.

The gift of Jesus.

Receive it. Believe it and reJOYce!



Blessings on your Advent,




If you've never accepted the gift of Jesus, I encourage you to begin your faith journey today. https://peacewithgod.net/

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Inspired by . . . Jesus Christ the Light of the World



"The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up." (Mat 4:16)

Matthew's gospel, his account of the Good News of Jesus Christ, declares this truth. In this verse, Matthew is quoting from Isaiah 9, verse 2:

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." (Isa 9:2)

When was the last time you had to wait for something? And even then, how long did you wait?

This side of the cross and in this culture of instant gratification, I think it is impossible for us to truly understand what the coming of the Messiah meant to the Jewish people.

When Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the Temple it was the first word from God since the prophet Malachi, 400 years before! We can almost forgive Zechariah for doubting the celestial creature.

Four hundred years!

Yes, this was something to get excited about!

The songs of Mary and Zechariah further on in the first chapter of Luke give us more context as to the wonder of what was about to take place.

Perhaps Zechariah's doubt gives us a hint of why God sent John the Baptist as a herald, announcing Jesus before He arrived on the scene. To prepare their hearts to believe.

"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light." (John 1:6-8)

And so Jesus comes proclaiming that He is the Light of the world. The apostle John gives witness, saying, "In Him was life, and that life was the light of mankind."

This Light is the awakening of our spirit to the saving grace of God. Everything we know of the Divine, every spiritual joy and comfort beams directly from the Son.

Daniel says of God, "He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him." (Dan 2:22)

And the writer of Hebrews declares:
"He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high," (Heb 1:3)

Yet, despite all the miracles, all the signs and wonders and scriptures fulfilled,
"And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil." (John 3:19)

We rejected the Light: Jesus Christ, scorned and rejected by mankind.

So did the Light go out?

No! Hallelujah! It did not! It became brighter still!
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5)
Despite our rejection, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Anyone who receives Him, who hears His word and believes in the name of Jesus Christ will have life eternal.

Everlasting life - everlasting Light!
"And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there." (Rev 21:23-25)
For this, we wait.


Blessings on your Advent,


Sunday, November 29, 2020

Inspired by . . . Seeking the Light: An Advent Journey




"Let there be light," is the first utterance we ever hear from God. Of all the things God has made, Light was the first.


'ôr (ore) meaning illumination


Webster lists more than 26 definitions of Light as it is used in the Bible. Far beyond simply an ethereal matter, which God speaks into existence in the first verses of Genesis, we learn that Light is also understanding and knowledge. It is wisdom and joy. Comfort and deliverance. Light is life and Light is the Gospel.

Most importantly, we learn:

Jesus Christ is the Light of the world!

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)
Jesus Christ the center and beginning of all things; the great Illuminator has come, and IS coming soon.

Thus, Advent is a time to celebrate the first coming of Christ: His birth. Yet it is also a time to rekindle the excitement and expectation we should always feel in our spirit, a time to reignite our anticipation of His return!

Over the next three weeks we are going to seek the Light in three profound ways:

  • Jesus Christ the Light of the World: the wait is over, salvation has come!
  • Jesus Christ a Light to the Gentiles: living as children of the Light
  • Jesus Christ the Light of Hope: rekindling the flame, the hope of His return

This is a journey we take together and I would love to hear your insights as we begin Seeking the Light.


Blessings on your Advent,














Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Inspired by . . . the hand of a woman



"And she said, "I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh." (Jdg 4:9)

In case you're not familiar with the actors in this inspiring part of HIStory, Deborah was a prophetess in Israel during the time of the Judges. Barak was the commander of Israel's army and Sisera was the commander of the Canaanite army. The Israelites were being oppressed by the Canaanites during this time and the Lord was about to deliver them in a mighty way.

Now before you scroll on or click off thinking this is just another sin-repentance-redemption story of Israel, this one has a twist that is worthy of notice.

"the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." The Lord revealed this to Deborah along with the battle plan she was to give to Balak. In turn, Barak wanted Deborah to accompany him into battle but Deborah warned him that he would not receive the glory for the win. That would fall to a woman.

I wonder what was in Deborah's mind as she sat under the Palm Tree in the hill country of Ephraim. Was she thinking that the Israelites would praise her for the victory if she went with Barak into battle? She was, after all, the prophetess. Or had God revealed to her that He planned to honor another with the victory?

The Lord Himself routed the Canaanite army (Judges 4:14) but it was Jael, the wife of Heber, who was given the honor of killing Sisera. Her story is worth reading as she acted wisely and courageously.

We don't know if Deborah expected this turn of events but we do know she was quick to sing the praises of Jael. The song of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5 reads in part:

""Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, of tent-dwelling women most blessed." (Jdg 5:24)

For me, the encouragement here is two-fold. I believe that God honored Deborah and Jael because of their faith. Deborah's faith is easily deduced. The Canaanites had an impressive army. Nine hundred chariots strong. They had oppressed Israel for twenty years. Yet Deborah didn't hesitate when Barak asked her to go with him into battle. She took God at His word that He would deliver them. That is faith.

We don't know much about Jael's motivations. But we do know that her husband was a descendant of Moses' brother-in-law. (Judges 4:11) It may be a thin line but it leads straight back to the God of Israel. In my opinion, what Jael accomplished in that tent required divine intervention and faith.

I'm also encouraged by this example of women celebrating women. Thankfully, I see a fair amount of this in my social circles and it always inspires and encourages me on a personal level. 

The Bible doesn't sugarcoat things. Just because someone is a man or woman of God doesn't mean they are perfect. Remember Jonah who refused to bring God's message to Nineveh because he knew they would repent and God would forgive them? Geesh!

My point is, if Deborah was jealous of Jael, we would have known about it! These two women couldn't have been more different, yet when God chose to use Jael as an instrument in His victory over the Canaanites, Deborah didn't hesitate. Her praise of Jael is genuine.

The ability to genuinely celebrate someone else, especially if you're in a waiting pattern or have experienced a recent failure, is a sign of true faith. 

Faith in God, Whose timing is perfect, even when we don't understand or we're ready to go now! Faith in God, Who picks up the pieces of our failures and remakes them into something wonderful beyond what we could ever have imagined for ourselves.

When was the last time we celebrated someone else's success?

Are we trusting in God and His timing for our own dreams and successes?

May the story of Deborah and Jael remind us to do both.

Shalom,



















Sunday, November 15, 2020

Inspired by . . . a blessing and a warning




Do God's blessings have strings attached? No. He gives to us freely, with grace, love, and often in my case, with abundant mercy.

But there is nothing singular or finite about our relationship with the God of the universe and His actions toward us are always part of something bigger. His blessings to us have a purpose.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)

At the end of the first chapter in the gospel of Mark, we are told about a leper who begged Jesus to heal him. Moved with compassion, Jesus does heal him. He also gives the man a stern warning, He commands him to tell no one and to show himself to the priest and make an offering for his cleansing. The man immediately goes away and does just the opposite.

We are all well enough aware of what leprosy is to understand the magnitude of how this blessing from Jesus would have changed this man's life. Yet, although this man had just moments before knelt at Jesus' feet in apparent worship and humility, he quickly shows by his actions that he cares nothing about Jesus or His authority.

It reminds me of the parable in Matthew 21 about the man who had two sons. The father asked the first son to go and work in the vineyard. He said no, but later changed his mind and went. The second son, when asked, said yes, but never went. Which of the two sons obeyed?

Those who really love Me are the ones who not only know My commands but also obey them. My Father will love such people, and I will love them. I will make Myself known to them." (Joh 14:21)

Beloved, the point is obedience.

We don't obey to seek a blessing anymore than He blesses to earn our obedience. The motivation for both our obedience and His blessings are the same: Love

However, the blessings He gives us do provide a means for us to obey Him. Whether it be by simply singing His praises or by using the blessings in tangible ways to glorify Him and advance the Kingdom.

As we freely receive, so we should freely give.

The leper's actions showed the true state of his heart toward Jesus. When we are given a blessing what is our response? Is the blessing a catalyst for us to obey the Giver?

There is a question posed by George MacDonald that convicts me every time, "ask yourself whether you have this day done one thing because He said, Do it, or once abstained because He said, Do not do it."

On days when I'm not mired in the mud of this world, I ask myself this question. Growth comes when I can ask myself this question even in the midst of the mud and the mire and find the answer to the affirmative.

Shalom,


































Sunday, November 8, 2020

Inspired by . . . Headlines: The Valley of Vision




It's hard to beat the sweeping views of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana where the mountains stand tall and their foundations run deep. The thrill of standing at a dizzying height, looking out, for miles and miles, over God's creation. Experiencing the power, majesty, and grace of God in a profound and real way.

This is the mountain top experience we long for as Christians. Yet, I can't help but think of Peter's response when he saw Christ transfigured on the mountain. His practical and frankly, silly, suggestion that they build shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Dizzy, indeed. Until God spoke and brought him into the reality of what he was experiencing, Peter and may I suggest, most of us, don't know how to deal with real mountain top experiences. Like Peter, we feel the need to act rather than sit quietly and just experience Jesus. Perhaps that is why they are so few and far between.

If you've been a Christian for very long at all you've probably learned that the Way is filled with paradox.


that to be low is high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive...*


that the valley is often the place of our clearest vision.

It is in the valley, surrounded by our sin and darkness, that Christ's light shines the brightest. That we behold His glory. It is here in the valley, through many dangers, toils, and snares, that the grace of God carries us.

Though in the valley we may feel the most bereft and alone, it is here where we are really the closest to our Father because it is in the darkest valley when He carries us close to His bosom, a single set of footprints in the sandy loam.

It is when we thirst that we seek the Living Water. When we are at our lowest that we look to the heights. When things are dark that we look for the Light.


Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty
Thy glory in my valley.*

The Good News is that Jesus is the Light and He will always bring us safely to the Father. 

Shalom,




*Inspiration taken from The Valley of Vision, Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett



Monday, October 26, 2020

Headlines: God is Great and We Know Him Not





Imbibe is such an odd-sounding word. Part of our vernacular but you probably can't remember the last time you heard it used or used it yourself.

No doubt that is why, when our pastor used it recently, it stuck with me.

He was lamenting the fact that when you look at many Christians (and indeed the Church) and then you look at the rest of the world, you can see very little difference. When, in fact, there should be very stark differences. 
We have imbibed so much of the cultural beliefs that they have been absorbed into or over our own belief system. 

The origin of imbibe is 'to drink' but all three of the modern definitions apply.

To consume. To absorb. To take or receive into the mind.

In doing so, many of us have become lukewarm. What a dangerous thing to be! (see Rev 3:16)

The book of Job is a good place to start if you're looking for an antidote; a reminder of Who God is. Because the fear (or a proper reverence) of God is the beginning of wisdom and we are all in desperate need of some wisdom right now. Amen?

The opening scene in Job (Chapter 2 after the Prologue in Chapter 1) reminds us that there is a very real enemy out there opposing God and His people. An accuser who accuses us 'night and day before God.' (Rev 12:10) Yes, the enemy has been defeated (Hallelujah!) but that does not make him any less real.

The bulk of the book, following Job's complaint (he feels ill-used by God), is a series of speeches by Job's friends wherein they attempt a sincere, but flawed, explanation of who God is and how He operates.

During these speeches and Job's response to each, you can almost feel the change in the weather. I can just imagine Job's friends casting a wary eye to the sky as the clouds darken and begin to swirl above them. Elihu's last words (36:29-37:24) even seem to refer to this coming storm.

Then in Chapter 38, the Lord answered Job out of the tempest. The storm had arrived!

Read with a humble countenance, the following five chapters should raise our spiritual blood pressure. Where once we were lukewarm, we should arrive at the end of Chapter 41, red hot for God!

Even with all God reveals to Job and his friends, with all that God has revealed to us through His word, through His SON; we must understand, as Job did, that all of this knowledge we have of Him, all these things are still but the edges of His ways, and how faint the whisper that we hear of Him! (Job 26:14)

The Good News is, neither our lack of understanding nor our sin separates us from God when we are in Christ Jesus. Jesus is our advocate. (1Jn 2:1) He is our path to the Father (Jn 14:6). He has ascended to God's right hand (Mar 16:19) and remains, interceding for us against the enemy who accuses us day and night, just as he accused Job. (Rom 8:34)

So how do we stay red hot for God when the world offers us its version of Turkish delight? 

God's Word.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word. With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments! I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You. (Psa 119:9-11)
Believe the Bible, accept it as God's word, make it the center of your life, and elevate its authority above everything else.

It's not easy, Beloved, but we don't have to do it alone. We have His Spirit (1Cor 2:12), His strength (Phil 4:13), His provision (Phil 4:19), His peace (Isa 26:3). We have Jesus.

We need nothing more.

Shalom,




Monday, October 19, 2020

Inspired by . . . Headlines: The Book of the Law, Found!




"Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation." 2Cor 7:10


Technology has given us access to the world in real time. While there are many benefits to this, face-time with family, etc. there is also a very real danger.

Suddenly the evils of this world are front and center. We can hear and see, other people's sins being acted out in real time. And while we may recognize and oppose their sin, these things have become common place. In large part, we have become immune to the gravity of sin.

By the time Josiah became king of Judah, the scroll containing the laws handed down by God to Moses had been regulated to a dark, dusty corner of the temple. 2Kings 22 records for us the finding of the scroll by the high priest Hilkiah and King Josiah's response when the scroll was read in his presence.

When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying, "Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us." (2Ki 22:11-13)

The kings deep grief moved him and all of Judah with him to repentance and restoration with God. Today many, believers included, have regulated the commands of God to a dusty corner. No one wants to talk about sin, let alone admit that they sin. In fact, more and more people are deceiving themselves by claiming personal sin simply doesn't exist.

This isn't surprising in a culture that often celebrates and at the very least ignores sin.

I often find myself responding to the sin around me with a pious attitude, rather than one of grief. This isn't only wrong, it's dangerous.

As a Christian, my first response to sin (mine and other's) should be deep grief. Not a sanctimonious response that ignores my own sin, and never with indifference.

Grief over sin moves us toward repentance. And repentance is tied directly to the Savior.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1Jn 1:8-10)

I believe how we view and respond to the sin in the world is directly tied to how we will view and respond to the sin in our own lives.

The Good News is, we have in Jesus Christ, One who is acceptable to God and will plead our cause with the Father. He is Himself a sacrifice to atone for our sins, and not ours only but the sins of the whole world. (1Jn 2: 1-2)


Shalom,


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Inspired by . . . Headlines: Widow Pays Debts with Miracle Oil, Saves Sons from Bondage



1 Kings 21:25 tells us, "There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited." Here in 2 Kings 4, where we learn of the widow's plight, is just one example of this truth.

King Ahab refused to support the prophets out of his kingly coffers so honest prophets were forced to borrow money at usury (exorbitant rates) to feed themselves and their families. When they died their families were left destitute as we see here in the widow of Obadiah.

Determined not to lose her sons, she appeals to the man of God, Elisha, for help. He asks her, "What do you have?"

She has nothing but a pot of oil. Since oil was a luxury, this was probably being saved for her burial. Yet she is willing to give it up, if necessary to save her sons. The best way to increase what we have is to use it.

Elisha tells her to go to her neighbors and borrow empty jars.

Once inside her house with all the empty jars her sons can carry she begins to pour. And pour, and pour. The oil doesn't stop until all the jars are full.

"Then the vessels were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another vessel." And he said to her, "There is not another." Then the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest." " (2Kings 4:6-7)

What strikes me most about this passage is that Elisha specifically tells her "and none to few."

"Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few." (2Kings 4:3)

The widow isn't expecting an overflow of God's blessing. She doesn't know God the way Elisha does.

The way we do.

God provided a way to pay the widow's debts, and to redeem her sons. The Good News is that Jesus has done the same for us and more!
"If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?" (Rom 8:31-32)

And yet when we go to God with our need do we expect an abundant overflow of His blessings? Do we gather many jars? or just a few?

"We fear that there will not be enough oil; God is concerned lest we fail to bring sufficient vessels to hold all He wants to give." ~ F.B. Meyer

It is always our faith that fails, never His promises. We may not be wise to look for tangible miracles of prosperity in these days but we should always expect His mercies.

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen." (Php 4:19-20)


Shalom,







































Friday, October 9, 2020

Inspired by . . . Headlines: The King of Israel Prepares a Banquet for His Enemies




We tend to think of loving our enemies as being a New Testament command. But here in 2 Kings 6, we find a similar concept.

The King of Aram (Syria) and the King of Israel are at war. However, whenever the King of Aram sets a plan of attack the King of Israel somehow finds out about it and avoids the place of the planned battle.

We learn in verse 12 that it is Elisha, the man of God, who can hear the King of Aram even in his bedchamber! It is Elisha, not a traitor of the Aramaeans who keeps warning the King of Israel.

When the King of Aram learns about this he is furious and sends an army of 50,000 men with horses and chariots to capture Elisha. Fifty thousand men for one man. Clearly, the King knew who he was up against!

But the Aramaeans are no match for the God of Israel! Elisha's attendant is terrified when he sees the Aramaean forces but Elisha sees what he cannot; the hills are covered with horses and chariots of fire!

Elisha offers up two prayers. The first, for his attendant's eyes to be opened and the second for the Aramaean's eyes to be blinded.

The first prayer allowed Elisha's attendant to see the chariots of fire, giving him a true perspective of their circumstances. The clearer sight we have of the power of God the less we will fear our earthly trials.

The second prayer blinded the Aramaeans to their true surroundings. (I don't think they were completely blinded as it is hard to imagine 50,000 men holding hands and being led from town to town!)

As it was, Elisha convinced them they were in the wrong place and led them from Dothan to Samaria, from fiery chariots driven by heavenly warriors straight into the hands of the King of Israel!

Once there, Elisha prayed for their sight to be restored. Imagine their terror when they realized where they were! Yet when the King of Israel asks Elisha for permission to destroy them, Elisha answers:

"You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have not taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master." So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. (2Ki 6:22-23)

They were the Lord's captives and Elisha's and the Lord had a purpose for treating them kindly and sending them home. It was the King's job to obey even if he didn't agree or understand.

Verse 23b may give us some insight into the Lord's purpose: "For a time, the Aramaean raids on Israel ceased."

All the way back in Exodus 23:5 God instructs us: "Should you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, however unwilling you may be to help, you must lend a hand with it."

And in Proverbs 25:21-22: "If your enemy is hungry, give him food; if he is thirsty, give him a drink of water; for so you will heap live coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you."

It is easy to help, serve, and bless those who are kind to us. In contrast, our human will recoils with the thought of doing the same for someone who hates us. Yet, doing so brings us closer to the heart of God and unleashes the Spiritual in a way we may never understand.
"The most glorious victory over an enemy is to turn him into a friend." Matthew Henry
And isn't that what Jesus did for us?

"For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:7-8)

We were enemies of God (Rom 5:10) yet Jesus offered up His body (bread) and His blood (wine) to return us to our master (God). (Luke 22:19-20)

Beloved, this is Good News indeed!

Next time we recoil at the thought of doing good for someone who is less than kind, even if it only a prompting from the Holy Spirit to pray for that person, let us remember the grace we have already received and obey.

Shalom,







Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Inspired by . . . Headlines: The Cross and the Veil





It was a busy news day. Jesus, the King of the Jews, had been crucified. Hung on a cross between two thieves. At noon, the sun had disappeared from the sky, leaving it black as night. Corpses had been seen walking around and a terrific earthquake had rocked the city!

If newspapers had been printed at the time the headlines might have declared that the end of the world was at hand! Would they have made the connection between the terrifying events and Jesus' death, I wonder?

The carpenter from Galilee. The man who had come teaching and healing. A gentle man who had, just days before, ridden into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, now crucified by the very same people who had praised Him!


It was too unreal to believe. And yet, it was all too true.


Somewhere, three or four pages in and regulated to a small column would have been another article for those who cared to find it:


Veil Torn In Two From Top to Bottom!


To the Gentile reader of the day, this would have been little more than another account of destruction on an already very strange day. To the Jew, it would have been alarming.

In light of scripture, we know that it symbolized what Jesus' death on the cross had accomplished and it continues to hold eternal significance for all of us to this day.

We first learn of the veil in Exodus when God is giving Moses instructions about how to build and set up the Tabernacle. The veil covered the Ark of the Testimony, separating the holy place from the most holy place; where God's presence dwelt. Only the priest was allowed inside and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The veil was a physical separation between man and God.

No more! That veil was only a symbol, replaced now by the body of Christ. This Body that took on our sin and suffered in our place, abolishing sin once and for all, made a way for us to come boldly to the throne of God.


Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; (Heb 10:19-20)

Not because of anything we have done but because through Jesus we are inwardly cleansed of guilt and outwardly washed pure. Both Jew and Gentile alike (this is the great mystery Paul talks about in Colossians 1:26!) now have direct access to God through Jesus Christ.

Beloved, this is Good News indeed! So let us make our approach in sincerity of heart and full assurance of faith.

Let us remain firm and unswerving in the confession of our hope, for the Giver of the promise is to be trusted.

Shalom,







Monday, October 5, 2020

Inspired by . . . New Series: Headlines



The day of the print newspaper may be going the way of the dinosaur but a good headline can still capture our attention and tease us into reading more.

Some of the most famous - and infamous - headlines include:


The bombing of Pearl Harbor

Man's walk on the moon

The Kennedy assassination

The sinking of the Titanic,

and more recently

The attacks of 9/11


It's hard to find real news anymore. These days, everything is written with an agenda. The media seems to think that politics is (or should be) the center of our world. Good news stories, if they are reported on at all, are regulated to the last 15-30 seconds of a news cast.

Suffice it to say, we could all use a little good news. So for the next 30 days or so I'm going to be offering just that: Good News from the Scriptures.

The stories in the Bible aren't Hebrew nursery rhymes designed to delight and entertain. Rather they are a record of people, just like you and me, chosen by God to love and serve Him. Their story, like ours, is really His story. We can learn from the failures, successes and the events that shaped their lives. Ultimately, through the scriptures, in both the Old and New Testament, we meet Jesus.

And Jesus is the best news of all!

I hope you'll join me.

Shalom,
















Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Inspired by . . . Nothing Has Changed


"But take care: keep careful watch on yourselves so that you do not forget the things that you have seen with your own eyes; do not let them pass from your minds as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children's children." Deut 4:9
   


In the last six months things have changed for us. For some, these changes have been significant. For most, they have been unwelcome and undesired. We have experienced fear of the unknown. Financial challenges. Stress due to relational boundaries, or lack thereof. Health concerns, and for some, devastating loss.

By some degree, for all of us, life is different now.

But one thing has not changed:


GOD


Nothing about Him has changed. He still loves you. He still cares. He still saves. He still gives strength to the weary and comforts the brokenhearted.

He is still a JUST and RIGHTEOUS God. He is still on His throne. Still in control. Still the conquering King. Still coming back.

He is the same today in September of 2020 as He was in January of 2020. (and He will be the same on November 4, 2020, too!)

It's tempting to want to remember our life before COVID and lament what we have lost or missed out on. And there is certainly a place for grieving that loss.

But let us not forget, for ourselves and for our children, what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will do.


"You are my God. Show me Your favour, Lord:
I call to You all day long.
Fill Your servant's heart with joy,
for to You, Lord, I lift up my heart.
Lord, You are kind and forgiving,
full of love towards all who cry to You.
Lord, listen to my prayer
and hear my pleading.
In the day of my distress I call to You,
for You will answer me." Ps 86


When it comes down to the things that really matter, nothing has changed.

May you find comfort and hope in these truths.


Shalom.











Monday, September 7, 2020

Inspired by . . . Expect good from Me





Do you expect great things from God?

"The shaping of the way we choose to think and tend our heart may be the greatest act of cultivation that any of us ever perform. We choose how we think, we choose the framework for our emotions and our actions. That choosing is the elemental act of a Cultivator."
Whether or not you've considered yourself a "cultivator" this word from Lancia Smith is worthy of your consideration.

The more I read her words the more I realize what a radical statement it really is. In a world where everyone wants to blame someone else or something else for their circumstances the idea that "we choose" (and are therefore responsible!) runs counter to our culture.

The world, is a great influencer. Our families, and those in authority who we are taught to trust, can have a deep impact on the shaping of the way we think. That is why the framework is critical.

We choose the framework:

Our Feelings
Public Opinion
Academia
Peer Pressure
Authority Figure
God - The Bible

The framework we choose will also impact how we answer the question posed at the beginning of this post.

Do you expect great things from God?

I've been asking myself, really asking myself, this question ever since Lancia shared the Mueller quote in her introduction to Cultivating last month. I've struggled with the answer because I found that if I answered honestly, I could not unequivocally answer, "YES!" In other words, my "YES!" came with conditions.

I believe God can and does do great things. No issue there. No doubt! But experience has taught me that He often allows less than great things in our lives.

And if your response to that is that I'm missing the point, you're exactly right. And you're a lot farther along in this journey than I.

You see, experience is one of those things that shapes our thinking. Sadly, for many of us, experience has taught us not to expect great things from God. At least, not for ourselves.

Even when we have the right framework in place, i.e. The Bible, we can still get mixed up in our thinking.

The key is which side of the frame we choose to stand on.

Do we view our experiences through the Truths of the Bible or do we view the Bible through our experiences?

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Ironically, for someone who tends to see the glass have full, I can be very cynical at times. I have to constantly redirect my weight from leaning on my own wisdom (and sometimes that of others) to leaning on the Lord. To trust Him, wait on Him, believe His promises. To acknowledge His right-ness in all things. Even when they don't make sense.

Our experiences are vastly one-sided and can quickly skew our perception.

The truth is, God saved us and gave us a purpose [in Christ Jesus] before time began. (2Tim 1:9)

Before time began. Did you catch that?

This is not a God capable of doing less than great things!

My experiences have blinded me to reality. They have blinded me to the Truth!

Maybe some of your experiences have done the same. Maybe even now your circumstances are blinding you to the Truth about God.

It's imperative that we view our circumstances and experiences through the framework of God's word. Only God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Everything else changes. Everything. He alone remains steadfast and true.

He alone remains faithful to His promises.

From Him we can, and should, expect great things!

Shalom,













































Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Inspired by . . . My cup runneth over




I know I wrote about this passage last week but I keep coming back to it.


David wasn't perfect but he was quick to acknowledge goodness and blessings from the Lord even when, on the surface, his life was anything but blessed. David spent more than a decade running from a Saul, who was intent on killing him. Chaos, uncertainty, and danger had become the new normal. A far cry from the peaceful life of a shepherd boy that David had once known.


Anyone else out there longing for a peaceful meadow dotted with lambs about now? 🙋‍♀️


Yet, in the midst of the chaos and danger, David was able to write this:


5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.



David knew where his true dwelling place was and because of that he was able to be content, even call himself blessed, despite the reality of his circumstances. He didn't check out or pretend they weren't happening. Rather he trusted God at His word. He trusted God to redeem, restore, and protect him. And God did. In His time.


1The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?



"Strength" in this passage is the Hebrew word mâ‛ôz. A fortified place, a rock, a stronghold. David was able to survive ten plus years on the run because God was the center of his life.


We serve the same God, friends. He will do the same for us that He did for David. He will redeem, restore, and protect us. In His time.


Perhaps the hunger for normal that you're feeling is really a hunger for Him.


Let's dive deep and abide long in His presence, putting Him at the center of our lives while we navigate this new normal.


Shalom,













Thursday, August 27, 2020

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens Revisited, Vol. V


A brief dip of overnight temperatures into the low 60's last week gave us a hint of the changes to come. Yet a scroll through the 10-day predicts September arriving in the triple digits. While other regions are enjoying the last of the sunflowers and the first of the pumpkins, summer shows no sign of lessening its grip on central Texas.


Since it's too hot for a walk, let's just sit here on the porch and enJOY the birds, blooms, and flying flowers.



It's hard not to be impressed by the Vermilion Flycatcher. We don't see him in the yard often, he prefers a copse of trees further on. A few times every summer he'll visit the birdbath and it's always a treat!



We had some rain last week which caused our Texas Sage to burst out in joyful bloom. This Pipevine Swallowtail took full advantage!


I just love these sweet little Inca Doves. They come to feed in the evening and are always together. As ground feeders, they are constantly moving and it is difficult to get a clear shot!



Finally, the female Summer Tanager! She has been alluding me all summer. 



Are you tired of seeing pictures of butterflies on zinnias? Sorry. Not sorry. I could chase this Painted Lady from bloom to bloom all day long.


I have so many Cardinals this year! Based on their behavior patterns I'm pretty sure one pair had two hatches. This immature female is from the second hatch. It is beyond entertaining to watch them feed. The younger males wait their turn while the older males feed. I think they may deserve a post all their own!

Thank you for stopping by and letting me share my porch view with you. I pray that you catch a glimpse of His majesty in these images and feel His love surround you as you go about your day.


Have a wonder-filled week, friends!











Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Inspired by . . . I am the Lord





Have you ever heard the term task-saturated? Perhaps you've even experienced it yourself. Task-saturation is the perception or reality of having too much to do and not enough time or resources to get everything accomplished. For most, the worst thing that can happen is stress and low productivity. But in some occupations the results can be lethal.

Such as fighter pilots and Levitical Priests.

I've experienced the effects of task-saturation as I've struggled to run small businesses over the years and that feeling of being hopelessly overwhelmed was one of the things that kept coming to my mind as I read through the Old Testament book of Leviticus.

If you can get past the blood, the sheer number of required sacrifices is staggering, pay attention to the details; which animal for which offence, what to roast, or not roast, where to rub the blood and what finger to use, what can be eaten the next day, what can't be eaten the next day, and on and on. The Israelites didn't have a handy app to help them keep everything straight. They couldn't even write down all the rules! These traditions were given orally. From God to Moses, from Moses to Aaron and the Israelites.

These practices would have consumed their lives. Apart from eating and sleeping, their minds would have been focused on keeping God's laws.

Why would the Israelites subject themselves to such a consuming lifestyle? They had known bondage in Egypt; surely this wasn't much better.

We may find the answer in the closing chapters of Exodus. Because of the Israelites disobedience (remember the golden calf?) God had decided not to journey with them on their way to Canaan. He said He would send an angel ahead of them but other than that, they were on their own.

Despite their rebelliousness, this news caused the Israelites deep distress. They "put off their ornaments" and "went about like mourners." They could not stand the thought of being separated from God. Finally, after what appears to be an extended time of dedication and worship, Moses convinces God to go with them.
"I shall go Myself and set your mind at rest." Ex 33:14 RE
Once it is decided that God will travel with the Israelites, He then gives them the specific instructions for the temple design and sacrifices.

Forty-five times in Leviticus God says, "I am the Lord."

Friends, when God repeats something, we need to listen!

We are all guilty of forgetting the majesty, power, and holiness that surrounds the Lord our God.

Read >>>>Psalm 29

Reading through Leviticus may be tedious, but more importantly, it is a painful reminder of our sinful state before a holy God.

The Israelites could not have lived in His presence without offering again, and again the blood of bulls and goats. To disobey God's law meant death.

It still does.
"Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death? Who but God? Thanks be to Him through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Why didn't God send Jesus into the world sooner? I don't know. But I do know this, God's timing is perfect.
"when the appointed time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to buy freedom for those who were under the law, in order that we might attain the status of sons." Gal 4:4
There is a reason why God subjected generations of His children to these ritualistic sacrifices and a reason why, by His grace, we are spared from them today.

The danger on this side of grace is forgetting what, "I am the Lord" really means. I'm not suggesting that God wants us cowering before Him like the Israelites did at Mount Sinai, but I do think He wants us to "fear" Him. As in, "to have a reverential awe of."

I'm ashamed to think of how it must hurt our Father's heart when I come to Him flippantly or with concern only for my own wants. Never acknowledging His majesty and power. Never acknowledging the sin that separates me but for the blood of His Son.

How much better to come to Him humble, and weeping, expecting nothing, and instead, hearing Him say, "Climb up here in My lap. Let Me show you everything I have created for you. Everything I have planned. My dear child, all that I have is yours. I am the Lord."

Shalom,