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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.


Blessings,


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)

Shalom.










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.


Shalom.












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)

Shalom,



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.

Shalom,



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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)

Blessings,






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 . . . 

Joy

Beauty

Kindness

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 . . .

Joy

Beauty

Kindness

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.

Blessings,