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Monday, November 20, 2017

Cups

My husband and I aren’t big collectors of things. But one thing we always seem to gravitate toward when we’re in gifts shops or department stores is coffee mugs. Coffee mugs to use at home. Coffee mugs to take on the go. Big ones. Small ones. Different styles and colors. We love them all. I keep telling him we have to build a bigger kitchen just to fit all the mugs we’d like to own!

But we don’t buy mugs just to say we have a lot of mugs and to display them. We get them with the intention of using them. As beautiful as they all are, they are only useful to us when they are filled - preferably with coffee or hot tea, please! A filled cup is my happy place.  

And just as my filled coffee mug is useful to me, so is a filled ‘cup’ in the Lord’s Hands. His ‘cup’ being a human heart. How beautiful are all His cups. They, too, come in a variety of sizes and colors and shapes and styles. Some are like chalices. Some are like long bottles. Some are like mason jars. And some like to-go mugs. They are all precious, beautiful, and unique. They each are made to carry out a specific purpose. 

And they each are useful 
when filled. 
But not filled with just anything! 
When they are filled with Wine, with Living Water, with His Spirit, with Him!

1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”

What this means in terms of our ‘cups’ is: we can only give out what He puts in. We are empty cups that can not fill ourselves, and the life-giving Drink can only come from One Source: Him. See, it’s actually impossible to really love anyone with a godly love without God first putting that love in our hearts. It’s only after we receive from Him that we can be poured out and give to others.

What I have noticed in this world is a lot of frustrated cups. Many people want to change the world and see the Kingdom of God advance. But I’m wondering if they are missing this basic spiritual principle. They are busy pouring out, but not taking time to get filled up. Their frustration worsens as time goes on - as they continue in their own strength and striving - because you can’t give what you don’t have. 


Remember, a filled cup is always more useful than an empty one.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

The One Who Returns Things

Dads can be such softies, especially when it comes to their little girls. I know this because I live with one. My two daughters had my husband wrapped tightly around their little fingers when they were younger. Just one, “Please, Daddy!” from their little lips was all it took to persuade him. He would do anything for our girls. But He was, and still is, especially tender-hearted toward them if they ever lost something or had it stolen from them. His immediate response is to find a way to replace it, reassuring them that Daddy would try his best to help. 

Every time I watch this in action, I see one thing: the Father’s Love - for He is the One who returns things. Things stolen. Things lost. Even things we, ourselves, have thrown away. 

We see it in the Bible. Mary and Martha had their brother returned to them when death stole him away (John 11). Joseph’s father, Jacob, thought he had lost his favored son forever, only to see Joseph again in his old age (Genesis 46). And that foolish Lost Son was given back his life, even though he chose to throw it all away for the pleasures of this world (Luke 15). 

It seems God can’t help Himself. His Love compels Him. It’s in His very nature to be our Rescuer. Even though He may be angry for a moment, His compassion for His children always wins. Grace steps in and takes over. 

But deep inside, we know God doesn’t have to do any of it. We know it doesn’t seem right that God would take the hit for us. I mean, it’s not like it’s His fault. Consider Adam and Eve. It wasn’t God’s fault that they ate the forbidden fruit in the garden. And yet, even before they sinned, He had a plan of redemption in place so that man could be given back what was lost. God took it upon Himself to absorb the cost. And what a cost it was! It literally cost Him His life! So, no, He didn’t have to, but He wanted to. And amazingly enough, He would do it all again if He had to. He would do whatever it takes because that is the kind of God He is. He is ridiculously merciful and gracious - even to the point that stuns us. He’s the God that reimburses us for our losses, taking it upon Himself to give us back the things stolen, lost, and thrown away. He does this because He’s not just our God, He’s our Daddy. And that’s what Daddy's do.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Positioned On Purpose For Purpose

Take a look around.  

Where has God placed you? What has He given you? Has He opened doors for you in your career? Or has He given you a platform of influence? Or has He prospered you financially? Or has He blessed you in a way that gives you an advantage? 

If He has, then you have the same decision to make as Esther did. Esther was strategically positioned by God to carry out a calling far greater than just living the privileged life of a queen. But she had to come to terms with that. She had to recognize that she was placed in her royal position “for such a time as this.” She had to decide if she would live her life just for herself, or wield her position to save a nation and yes, change history.

Take a moment today and ask God what advantages and platforms He has given you that He wants to use for eternal purposes. When we lose our life for His sake, we find it.


***
Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” 

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.” So Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
Esther‬ ‭4:13-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/est.4.13-17.nlt

If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
Matthew‬ ‭10:38-39‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.10.38-39.nlt



Friday, November 3, 2017

A Remedy Called Thanks

Every night, my husband asks each of us in the family one question. It’s a question that makes us stop and think.

"What are you thankful for?" 

I have to be honest. There are some nights that thankfulness is the last thing on my mind. I'm stressed. I'm exhausted. I'm irritated. But it never fails...recalling all the Good becomes as refreshing to me as cool water on a burn. Gratefulness has a way of clearing my head and giving me perspective. And surprisingly, it turns out to be the very remedy I needed. 

There is a phrase that has been swirling around my mind lately: We only have what God gives us. If we complain or covet, we are, in essence, saying to God, "You're not doing a good job taking care of me." If we lack, we should ask God, but all the while remain thankful and content with what the Lord has already given us. We keep the attitude that He is Good and gives us what we need. And if we don't have it yet, we either don't need it or we should wait patiently for Him to give it. 

You have probably heard the illustration of the pessimist and the optimist. The pessimist looks at a glass and complains it's half empty. The optimist is thrilled that it's half full. It's the same idea when it comes to our gratitude toward God. We can look at what He has given us and shake our fists that our glass is only half full. OR we can rejoice when we think of all that He has given us and overflow with thankfulness that God would be so kind to give us a glass that has so much in it! And just a side note... God does not hold Himself back from us when we seek Him. When it comes to spiritual blessings, our cup OVERFLOWS. So if we have nothing in this life, but have Jesus, we are still richer than royalty and have great reason to give thanks! 

So, if you are having a lousy day, or week...or decade!, here's a phrase that may help… 
A better day is just a THANKS away.

It's hard to be miserable while you’re counting all your blessings. The mud of negativity is washed away by our gratitude. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Simon’s Science

Simon loved Science. He fell in love with it at a young age. He read all kinds of books about it. He went out and did his own exploring in nature. He bought his own Science equipment like telescopes and microscopes. He even did his own homemade experiments. He was more than a lover of it, he was a huge fan.

His friends encouraged him and said that what he really ought to do is get involved in the Science community. So he took a Science class at a local facility. At first, he loved it because he saw that there were more science lovers out there just like him. He loved being able to share his love and knowledge of Science with them and learn new things from them, as well.

But over time, he started to enjoy the class less and less. The teacher was harsh and questioned his commitment to Science if he ever missed a class. His classmates would sometimes gossip about him and judge him. They had no reason to, other than their jealousy of his passion and knowledge of Science. Simon grew discouraged with each passing day until finally he stopped going to class altogether after his classmates burned him during a chemical experiment. They said it was an accident but it only confirmed his feelings of rejection. 

The class experience left Simon so wounded that he didn’t even want to think about Science anymore. Just looking at his telescope brought back memories of pain and rejection. It was hard now for him to separate his love for Science with the trauma of Science class. So he decided to put Science out of his mind...forever.

But passion is a funny thing. We can try to quench it, but it never really dies in the human heart. We may try to silence it, but it never stops singing it’s song inside us. It simply waits for us to awaken to it again. 

And awaken it did inside Simon’s Science-loving heart. A meteor shower was said to take place. And his home, located on the side of a hill, was in the perfect place for Simon to view it. He knew this would be a phenomenal opportunity for him. But he also knew it would mean pulling out his old Science equipment. Just the thought of opening that closet door made his stomach ill. How could he face all those ‘skeletons’ in there? It was much easier for him to hide it all away, than deal with the painful memories. But when he heard another news report of this can-not-miss opportunity, Simon realized he just had to find the courage. 

So he somehow mustered up enough strength to crack open the door. And when he did, out rolled a old grey compass. Now, it wasn’t just any compass. It was his first compass. In fact, it was a compass that his grandfather gave him when he was very young. It was the compass that sparked his very first love for Science. 

Simon burst into tears at the sight of it. All his first love memories came rushing back to him as he picked it up and held it gingerly in his hand. His tears hit the face of the compass like rainfall, washing away the dirt and dust that had accumulated on it for the years it was put away into hiding. 

“How could I have left you for so long?” Simon said to the compass. “How could I reject my First Love? Well, never again. Never again will I let this world get between me and the Science I love.”

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Pen

The Master made a beautiful pen and kept it safe, deep inside His pocket. He used it to write personal letters to the ones He loves. Though the pen was tucked away, she could still hear the voices from the outside world. It was hard for her to block them out and they would often influence her thinking. Because she wrestled with these voices, she became restless in the Master’s Hand whenever He picked her up to write. She would resist His leading and push against Him to write something different than what the Master desired to pen through her.  

The Master was aware of her resistance and spoke kindly to the pen. “Do you know who you are, my dear?”

She thought it was a trick question. “A pen, of course.”

“Yes, but do you know what kind of pen?”

“I suppose, one that writes.” she answered.

“Well, yes.” He chuckled. “But do you know what you’re made of?”

She paused and looked up at Him. “I have no idea.”

“My dear,” He said, lifting her gently, “you were crafted out of the wood from the tall Tree that is in the center of my Kingdom. And do you know what kind of ink I have filled you with?”

Again, she could not answer, realizing she really didn’t know who she was.

So, He continued. “Your ink, my love, is a mixture of the Blood and Water from my River that runs throughout my Kingdom and gives Life to everything. They work together to cleanse, renew, and refresh everything they touch. My dear, you are no ordinary pen. You are the King’s Pen. You are mine. When I lift you to pen my thoughts, I am lifting the one I made and filled with my very Life. You were not created to pen the world’s thoughts. So pay no mind to the voices you hear from outside my Pocket. You are reserved for my Purposes - holy purposes. So don’t be afraid to rest in My Hand. There is no need to resist or be restless. For when I speak through you, you are doing exactly what I’ve crafted you to do.”

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Wrapped Like Golumpki

My grandmother would always make what we affectionately called piggies. Some call them pigs in a blanket. Traditionally, they’re  known as Golumpki, pronounced GOOWUMPKI. It is basically meat, rice, and spices wrapped tightly into a cabbage leaf and cooked in a tomato-type sauce. A Polish classic! And it was always found on our dinner table at every holiday meal when the family got together. It just wouldn’t be a holiday without Grammy’s pot of Golumpki.

The end product was always so delicious. But what I equally remember about them is the skill my grandmother had in making them. Boy, she had it down to a science. I can still picture her sitting at her small, round kitchen table with a tall stack of cabbage leaves on one side of her and an oversized bowl of meat & rice mixture on the other side. No measuring cups were needed as her strong, wide, Polish hands would then scoop out the perfect amount of meat and rice and place it at one end of the cabbage leaf. She then began to roll the cabbage carefully and precisely around the meat & rice mixture. She made it look so easy (though we all know that anything that looks easy probably took a whole lot of time, patience, and practice for it to get to that point) as she wrapped it over as tight as can be and tucked in the sides as snug as she used to tuck me into bed. The mixture was so tightly wrapped inside the leaf that when she cooked them in the pot of tomato sauce, they never broke apart.  In fact, it actually took a little effort sometimes to cut them open to eat them. Every piggy was wrapped tight and secure. One thing is certain, my Grammy was Golumpki Queen.

Grammy passed years ago, but her piggies live on in my memory. And today God is using them to illustrate just how secure we are in Him. (Yes, God will use even Golumpki as a picture to teach us!) In a world that is shaking and uncertain, we are wrapped in God’s arms, love, and protection like meat and rice mixture wrapped tightly in a cabbage leaf. We are rolled up, tucked in, and hidden inside Him. We are so secure, that even if we are placed inside a ‘pot of testing’ and ‘boiled in tomato sauce’, we will still come out whole. His ‘cabbage leaves’ will not fail us. He will never unravel on us and leave us boiling in the pot unprotected. 

Who can harm the ones He loves? Who can destroy the ones He protects? No one! There is no enemy that is stronger than Him. There is no trial that can separate us from Him. We are His beloved. We are His treasure. We are His precious ones wrapped tighter than Golumpki.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I AM Enough

I grew up in a religion that made me aware of sin. I knew from a young age that none of us get it right. They even labeled sin, ranking them from bad to worse. The guilt was heavy. The shame was clear.

But the solution they offered felt just as heavy. In order to get free of such sin and guilt, we were told to follow religious traditions like special ceremonies and praying repetitious prayers, in hope that we might fall into favor with God. Good service to others was also greatly encouraged. It was a whole lot of religious effort and left me feeling either self righteous when I had my p’s and q’s straight, or terribly guilty and shameful when I didn’t. I was told, though, that if I ever felt shameful, all I’d need to do is just keep trying more and be a better person. Just say your repetitious prayers five more times and make sure you get to church at least on Christmas and Easter so God can get you into His head count on major religious holidays. 

Oh boy, oh boy. Even just recalling this makes my heart feel heavy. I remember it well because this religious teaching/attitude transferred into how I was raised, and how I viewed life, and how I viewed myself, and how I related to God. It’s amazing how spiritual teachings permeate your life far more than just a Sunday morning religious service. You can’t compartmentalize what you believe about God from how you view and live your life.

So here’s the thing. The religion I had been taught had it 50% right. Yes, we are all sinners. Correct. The Bible makes it clear that all have sinned and have fallen short of the Glory of God. Because of sin, we have been spiritually separated from God. But what they failed to drive home to the people was the Good News! They talked a lot about the bad news (we are sinners) but never ‘brought the whole thing home.’ They failed to give us the Bible’s solution to this devastated place we were all drowning in. 

That Jesus died for us all and BY FAITH, NOT WORKS, we can be saved. That if we confess our sins to God Himself, and trust in Jesus’ sacrifice ALONE for our eternal life, we can be saved from this life of death! We can then relate to God in a personal way, as our Loving Father. We can be reconciled to Him and yes, even be friends with God! 

Now, yes, they did talk about Jesus. But I don’t think they ever took His sacrifice that seriously. If they did, we’d never been told that we still need to make such great effort to find favor with God. It was never just Jesus alone that we needed. It was Jesus plus the ceremonies, the repetitious prayers, and the good works. 

No matter what religion a person grows up in or believes in, all religion does the same thing. It is man’s efforts to get close to God.

But, oh, there is Good News for us all! God, in His outrageous Love for us, has made the first step and has come toward us! See, God couldn’t help Himself. He had to send Jesus simply because He didn’t want to spend eternity without His kids! He’d rather die saving us, then live without us. (Sounds like a Daddy’s heart to me, huh?)

So if you are reading this right now, and realize that you have been trying to get close to God, with no avail, it’s time you find out that all the work has already been done on the Cross for you. 

Jesus says, “Come. Come and confess your shortcomings to Me and I will not only forgive you, I will cleanse you on the inside of your guilt and shame. Because of Me, you will be made right with God. And there’s nothing further that you will need to do to be right with God. I AM Enough. Believe in me. Believe in my sacrifice for your sins. Let me into your heart and into your life. I promise you, you won’t regret it. And when you do, that is when your true LIFE begins!”

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Step One: Listen

Many times in the Gospels, we see Jesus giving His disciples instruction on where to find or receive God’s Provision:

Feeding the five thousand...Jesus gave instruction to have the people sit down. He took the bread and fish and fed the people. Then He gave instruction to collect the leftovers. (John 6)

Fishing...Jesus gave the weary disciples, who had fished all night and caught nothing, instruction on where to catch all the fish. He told them to throw the net over the right-hand side of the boat. (John 21)

Eating the Passover Meal...Jesus gave instruction on where to find the room that had everything they needed. (Luke 22)

Paying Taxes...Jesus gave Peter instruction to go fish and pull a coin out of the mouth of the first fish he caught. (Matthew 17)


****

Our Provision from God starts by listening - listening to what He has to say about our circumstances. We must consider that God actually has instructions to give us about the Provision He has for us. I think sometimes we can have a tendency to ask God to help us, but then we ‘leave the room’, so to speak, and not wait to hear what His ideas are to meet those needs. We pray and then walk away to go figure it out for ourselves. That’s like me going to the doctor and telling him I have a sick stomach, but then leaving his office before I hear what steps I can take that will help me.

God doesn’t just want us to pray and tell Him our needs. He wants us to linger awhile and listen to His thoughts on the matter. And honestly, it would greatly behoove us to do so. If God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55), we better stick around to listen to Him because there is literally no way we’re going to figure it out for ourselves!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Your Field Of Impossibles

Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. 
Turning to Philip, he asked, 
“Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” 
He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. 
Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, 
we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
‭‭John‬ ‭6:5-7‬ ‭NLT

Testing. It’s what is commonly used in schools after learning new information. The teachers want to see if you really are understanding the lesson at hand. Jesus, the Great Teacher, did the same. He often had little pop quizzes for His disciples to see (and to show them, as well) where they were truly at in the learning process on Kingdom Life and Kingdom Thinking. 

I love the conversation Jesus had with Philip as recorded in John 6. Jesus asks Philip a question but absolutely knows the answer already. He seems to ‘play dumb’ just to see what Philip would say. And Philip’s response is probably not much different than what ours might be. He looks at the situation through a human perspective and answers based on logic and man’s own resources. He assesses that even with all their efforts, it can’t be done. Jesus was asking him a question that didn’t appear to have an answer. To Philip, he was staring at a field of impossibles.  

Well, the conversation continues as another disciple chimes in and says, “There’s a kid over here with a brown bag lunch...but yeah, that’s not going to help.” Oh, but that’s not how Jesus saw it. To Him, He saw the Father’s Provision through the offering of a young child. Jesus saw the solution - and it wasn’t going to be logical.

Now, consider the situations in your own life. Are there circumstances or problems that don’t seem to have a logical solution? Things that, when you look at them from a human perspective, can’t be resolved by human effort? I’m thinking all of us probably have at least one. We all at some point, like Philip, look out on our own field of impossibles. 

In these areas, Jesus would love to flip your thinking. He’d love to offer you a solution that you haven’t considered. He’d love to show you that His way of tackling a situation is not like yours. His way doesn’t make sense and doesn’t depend on you making it happen. He’d love to show you what it looks like to depend on your Abba, your Daddy, your God. He’d love to show you how much He can be trusted. He’d love to show you that HE is enough. He’d love to show you that He is able.

And boy, is He able!

Let’s look at the rest of the story...


Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” 

“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.”
‭‭John‬ ‭6:8-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Bam! Jesus comes through! But He did it HIS way - because that was the only way it was going to work! And let’s take note. He didn’t just satisfy the immediate need. He went above and beyond and made enough for left overs!

So as you look at your own impossibles, don’t give up just because there’s no logical solution. Instead, consider that this could be God wanting to show off a little. 😉

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Banking On It

My dog, Maximus, is completely dependent on me. He can’t buy his own food. He can’t scoop his own food into his food bowl or fill his water bowl with fresh water for himself. He can’t take himself on walks. He can’t take himself to the vet for check ups. He can’t clean his own ears and treat the multiple ear infections he gets every year (ugh!). He can’t apply flea and tick medicine to himself. He can’t brush his own teeth, clip his own nails, or give himself a bath. 

Max is absolutely banking on one thing from me: my goodness toward him. He is trusting that everyday I will choose to continue to be good to him. In his own little doggy mind, he is trusting that the same treatment he received from me yesterday will come to him again today. 

And ya know, I really don’t think he doubts it. He’s not a nervous dog that shakes in the corner of our living room, wondering how his owners will act toward him today. No, not all. Instead, he lives in our house knowing he is one of our children. He naps soundly on the sofa, knowing that when he is hungry and it’s time to eat, the food will be there for him. He knows if he scratches to go outside, we will let him out. He feels the care and love we have toward him. He is confident in our goodness toward him.

Just like Max, we, too, are banking on Someone’s Goodness toward us. We can’t keep the earth spinning on its axis. We can’t make the sun rise and the rain fall. We can’t make our plants grow so we can eat them. We can’t even keep our own heart beating to stay alive. There are many things we take for granted and we forget that without God, nothing would be alive. Everything in our planet, in fact, the entire universe is dependent on God’s Goodness. Whether we believe in Him or not, we all wake up each morning dependent on our Creator to do His job and care for the world He created. 

And just like Maximus never doubts our goodness, God wants to get us each to a place that we never doubt His. He wants us to enter each day knowing that the same Kindness and Care He showed us yesterday, will continue into today. He wants us to rest easy in His Living Room and live carefree in His Presence. He wants us to be fully convinced that He can be trusted and be able to say, “Jesus will never let me down.”

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Marinaded

Marinade: A savory sauce...in which meat, fish, or a vegetable 
is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Marinading food is a brilliant idea. It takes seasoning to a whole new level. Instead of just being sprinkled, the food is saturated in all the good stuff. It gets into its pores. It goes beneath the outer layers and seeps deep inside the food. It makes it completely flavorful - outside and in.  

Our Great Chef knows all about such Cooking Strategies and takes Seasoning to a whole new level with us, too. He’s not just looking to Flavor the outside. (Even though some think that’s all that’s really necessary. They are only looking to appear pretty and presentable). He's looking for every part and every layer of the work of His Hands to be touched, changed, and saturated.

And what’s His Special Marinating Sauce? Does He soak us in lectures on how to be a better person, or how to be a better Christian? Does He make it about our efforts and striving? My goodness, no. He knows the only Sauce that changes us is His Kindness Sauce. It’s the same Kindness that lead us to repentance. And in that Special Marinade are generous portions of Grace, Forgiveness, and Love. His Marinade does not slap the Food into submission. His Marinade works gently. His Marinade takes time. His Marinade tenderizes. His Marinade always make us better - outside and in.  

Friday, September 22, 2017

Preparing the Landscape

Isaiah had spoken of John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him! The valleys will be filled, and the mountains and hills made level. The curves will be straightened, and the rough places made smooth. And then all people will see the salvation sent from God.’”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭3:4-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/luk.3.4-6.nlt

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:3-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/isa.40.3-5.nlt

***
We are His landscape that He is 
leveling, straightening and smoothing out. 

The things in our hearts that are like valleys, like discouragement and doubt...let them be filled in and brought up to the playing field. 

And the things in our hearts that are big like mountains, like our puffed up prides...let them be leveled and brought low. 

And let the things that are crooked, be straightened out, like our perceptions...let our minds be renewed. Let us line up with the Word of God. And our crooked actions...let our decisions be righteous. 

And let the rough places in our hearts be smoothed out. The smaller things that aren't as big as mountains, but still trip us up. Let those things be sanded down and refined.

And why? So that He may come and the Glory of the Lord can be revealed and all will see God through His Landscape! 

Prepare The Way Of The Lord!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Provider


Long before you ever said yes to Him, He said yes to you. 
His history with you did not start when you asked Him into your life. 
His history with you started even before the foundation of the world. 
He knew you before you were even conceived. 
And He began to make provision for you 
long before you ever came and asked Him for it. 
Like a father who opens a bank account for his unborn child 
and begins to save money for his/her college education, 
God thought ahead and put everything in place -
making sure you would have everything you'd need for life and godliness.
He made Provision in every way 
Spiritually, emotionally, physically...
He factored in every trial, every situation, every heartbreak.
He knew ahead of time the exact needs you would have throughout your life.
He knew every circumstance that would be too hard for you to handle.
He knew every rock and hard place that you'd find yourself in.
He knew all the impossibles.

And long before you cried out for His help, 
Even long before you thought to ask,

He made a way.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Shake Me Awake

My husband and I will watch a little television each night. He'll watch with his eyes open, I'll watch through my eyelids. Haha, yes, I typically fall asleep on the sofa. When the show is off, he shuts it all down and proceeds with his nightly routine of the impossible task of waking me up to go to bed. He starts off with saying my name over and over. But I won't respond. Then he'll pat me on the shoulder. Still no response. Then he'll nudge me a little harder and say my name louder. He may, at this point, get me to open my eyes half way and mumble something ridiculous, but I'm still pretty much unconscious. He realizes at this point that he either needs to leave me on the sofa (which he knows I don't want to do because I'll get a better night's sleep in my bed), or try more drastic measures. So he begins the shaking method. With his hand on my arm, he will begin to gently shake me until I finally come to. Apparently, I respond faster some nights more than others. But he tells me there are nights that he seems to shake me until he's weary of it! Poor guy. I do appreciate his efforts, though, because in the end it's for my benefit.  

I think God follows the "Shake Me Awake" method, too. He looks upon hearts that are not Awake in Him and begins to arouse them. He may say their name and pat them to try to get their attention and wake them up in Him. But when they don't respond, the Shaking begins. The Shaking is not to be cruel to them. No, it's from His deep Love for them, knowing that they are missing all the Good He has to offer. 

He may use our trials to wake us up. He may use natural disasters. He may use ... well ANYTHING to shake us awake! And He knows some won't respond to Him unless they are shaken right to the very core of their being! 

BUT! once they are Awake, they all have one common response: THANKFULNESS. They are so thankful that God cared enough to not leave them lying there, but did all He could do to get their attention and be Awake in His Presence. They know, and even proclaim, that the Shaking was for their benefit! Thank you, thank you God for the Shaking! 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sorrows Keeper

If you're a parent of a younger child, there are probably lots of things you keep track of for them. You probably keep track of their doctor's and dentist's visits. You probably keep track of their meals. And you might even keep track of how much sleep they are getting. It's what a parent does. We keep track.

But there might be something you don't keep track of... their sorrows. I don't know any parent that writes down all the ways their child has been hurt or the times they've experienced pain. I've never heard of anyone pulling out a 'book of sorrows' and taking a nice stroll down memory lane. It's not exactly entertainment material, if you know what I mean!

But in Psalm 56, we hear David asking God to do just that. He says, 


"Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭56:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

At this point in David's life, He is looking to God to help him, deliver him. And it seems he doesn't want God to miss it. He wants to make sure God sees it all so that He can respond. So He asks God to keep track. And keep track He does. Other versions of this verse give us this impression:


You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, 
Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭56:8‬ ‭MSG‬‬


You keep track of all my sorrows. 
You have collected all my tears in your bottle. 
You have recorded each one in your book.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭56:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬


Yes, indeed. God remembers. He doesn't miss a thing. But why would He do this? Why would God keep track of our sorrows?

I think there's one main reason...He keeps track because He doesn't want us to. He doesn't want us to hold onto our sorrows and pain. He doesn't want us to keep reliving the past and experiencing the traumatic scenes over and over again. He keeps the ledger and knows just what to do with it. He nails it to the Cross, where all our sorrows were carried by Jesus, Himself. 

And our tears. Oh, our tears are so precious to Him, too! They are the overflow of our pain and sorrow! So in the midst of our anguish, we hear Him gently saying, 

"My child, don't bottle up your pain. 
Let go of your tears so I can bottle them up and carry them for you.
I love you and I AM 
your Sorrows Keeper."


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Breath That Changes Things

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds!
Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’"
‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭37:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/ezk.37.9.nlt


It's fascinating. The human breath can blow both warm and cool air. I can put my hands to my mouth and breathe warm air on them when they are cold. But I can also blow cool air on my them when I have a cut. My breath can provide whatever is needed in the moment. 

God's Breath does the same thing for us. The Father breathes His Spirit over us. He warms hearts that have gone cold for Him, and cools hearts that have been burned by the world and its trials. His Spirit is our Comforter, giving us what we need in the moment - even for those who seem like a lost cause. They are like dry bones with no breath, no life. The Spirit of God becomes like a paramedic over them, administering CPR on them - breathing New Life into them!

May God breathe over us afresh today, creating a Wind of healing across our land and over every heart. May this Wind catch the attention of many whose love has grown cold, or who have been burned by the world. And may it bring to life those who have no breath at all. Breathe on us, oh God! Breathe on us! Blow Your Wind of change!

***

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” 

"O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.” 

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” 

So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them. 

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’” 

So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. 
Yes, the Lord has spoken!’””
‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭37:1-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/ezk.37.1-14.nlt

Friday, September 8, 2017

Caught Off Guard

I love having company. But I must admit, I don't love unexpected ones. Unannounced visitors send me into a bit of a panic. It's not because I don't want to see them. I love that they have come by! I just don't like feeling unprepared. I want to open my door and feel confident about letting them in. I want to at least get the laundry off the sofa and the dirty dishes taken care of. I'd like to clean the dog hair off the furniture so they have some place comfortable to sit. And I'd love to even have a light refreshment ready to offer them. 

It reminds me of some old-fashion hospitality advice: Always be ready to serve. In other words, be in the mindset that your home is always open to anyone - announced or unannounced. I know some folks actually keep sweets and specialty drinks in the house for just that purpose. Taking in unexpected visitors is a lot easier when you have thought ahead for such an occasion and prepared for it.

There's one Visitor we should always be ready for...

Jesus said, "...You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:44‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.24.44.nlt

In this passage, He's actually talking about a thief coming and breaking into your house. That's an unexpected and unwanted visitor! But the point He is making is this: Be ready. Have your 'house' (your life, your heart) ready for when He comes back. Don't be the one unprepared for His coming. Don't be the one answering the door and shocked to see that He's standing there. 

BE  READY

Be so ready that you actually live your life expecting Him at any moment. Keep your 'home' in order, ready for His appearing. (Repent of your sin. Be in relationship with Jesus. Believe in Him, alone.) Fill it with the Love of God.(Be about the Father's business and never stop doing good, loving others with the Love of God.) Be looking out the window for Him, knowing that it's not a possibility that He's going to drop by, but a definite. 


Be wise, my friend.
Don't be the one caught off guard. 




Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Zacchaeus In Your Life

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. 

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. 

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” 

Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭19:1-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/luk.19.1-10.nlt

***


Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see...

That might be one of my favorite Bible songs of all time. Such a catchy little tune that tells a story. The story of Zacchaeus brings a smile to many of us, simply because of that song. But in real life, Zacchaeus was no fun, adorable character. In his time, he was not well liked by the people. He was a chief tax collector, but the people probably would have labeled him a thief. He did not run his business fairly and the people paid dearly. I'm willing to bet that Zacchaeus would be one of the last people that anyone would want to pray God's mercy for. I mean, who would want God's goodness toward someone who has harmed them? 

But Jesus just didn't see it like that. What Jesus saw was a man who went out of his way to get a glimpse of Him. He saw a man that was not too far gone, after all. He saw a sinner in need of a changed heart and a changed life. And Jesus was willing to extend mercy, not judgment.

We see that it only took one conversation with the Savior for Zacchaeus to do a 180 degree turn. When Zacchaeus saw that Jesus accepted him - even in his sin - we watch him 'come to his senses' and do what he could do to make things right with all the people he wronged.

The question for us today is this: Who is the Zacchaeus in your life? Is there anyone you have trouble praying for or reaching out to because they seem to be too far gone, too much of a sinner, or have hurt, harmed, or offended you? Is there anyone you'd rather see God's judgment on than His mercy?

If God didn't give up on such a notorious sinner as Zacchaeus, he certainly hasn't given up on the Zacchaeus in your life. 


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Two Choices

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/php.4.6-7.nlt

There is nothing like feeling powerless in a situation. When circumstances are beyond what you can control, there are two choices you have. Worry or pray. 

Worry looks at our own strengths and resources - which always come up short. Worry requires much energy but takes you nowhere, like a stationary bike. At the end of our pedaling, we find ourselves exhausted and in the same place as where we started. 

Prayer is the exact opposite. Prayer MOVES things. As a child of God, we have the opportunity to literally change things in this world. But we don't draw from our own resources. We draw upon Heaven's. In a sense, we are taking a handful of Heaven and throwing it into the atmosphere of earth. Prayer brings Heaven's resources and power into our realm. And when we do this, look out! This is when we see God in motion! We see healing, salvation, and demons cast out. This is when we see even weather shift and political change take place. When we bring Heaven to earth, there is nothing that escapes its Glory and impact!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Taking Our Cues From Dad

In any situation, my children are watching my husband and I. They are looking to see our reaction. In particular, they are looking for one thing: our anxiety level. I think they have come to learn that if mom and dad are nervous about something, then they should be nervous, too. But if we're relaxed, then all must be well and there's nothing to be alarmed about.

I find the same to be true in our relationship with God, our Father. In the midst of any given situation, we can look at Him and see if there is anything for us to be worried about. And as we turn our gaze upon Him, we can see that God is never nervous or anxious at any given moment. There is nothing that throws Him into a spin or knocks Him off His throne. He is steady and unchanging. He is Lord - even of the wind and the waves. And in His steadfastness, we find our comfort. We breathe easy, not because our circumstances are perfect, but because Dad says, "All is well." And if Dad's not anxious, then why should we be?

***

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. 

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” 

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:35-41‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mrk.4.35-41.nlt

Monday, September 4, 2017

Confidence

Confidence has been a tricky word for me over the years. For a long time, I equated confidence with pride. If I was too confident in a situation, I would think I wasn't being very humble in it. So I would shrink back because it seemed more humble to actually lack confidence altogether. What mixed up thinking! But now I'm beginning to understand why I thought that way...

I've come to learn that there are two kinds of confidences you can have. There is confidence in self, and confidence in God. And they couldn't be more different from each other. 

The confidence that I always tried to have was confidence in self. The 'I can do it' attitude. With this type of thinking, I didn't have room to fit God into it. It was all about my own strength and ability. But of course, because I'm human, my own strength would often fail me. When this happened, my heart would sink and all my self confidence would dissolve. I'd then have to muster it up again with positive self talk and be determined to not let it get me down...until my strength failed me again. You can see what a nasty cycle this can be!

The second kind of confidence is the kind that young David, the shepherd boy, possessed. It's not a confidence rooted in self. It's a confidence rooted in who God is and what He can do and is willing to do. David had spent many a nights worshipping and getting to know God as he tended sheep. He saw what God could do through him when he beat up lions and bears to protect the flock. David grew in confidence on those hillsides. Not a confidence in self, but a confidence in the Love of God and the Strength of God. So, when the day came that David saw Goliath, he didn't have to stop and muster up courage and confidence to face him. He was already convinced in who God was and confident in what He was able to do. David faced Goliath fearlessly, confidently, and without reservation or hesitation because his confidence was established in God alone - not in himself. 

It's interesting to note that Goliath and the Philistine army were quite confident in self - intimidatingly so. He was tall, strong, had years of experience, and had a plethora of weapons and military support. I guess you could say, in part, the heart of the battle between David and Goliath was a battle between confidence in self and confidence in God. And we know who came out on top! 

Confidence in self will always be rooted in pride, will need to be mustered up, and will land us in a pit of despair when it fails us. Confidence in God has nothing to do with self at all, but everything to do with Him. It shifts all expectation onto God alone and it will never fail us. It's a confidence that says, "I can't, but He can!"

***

The Philistines now mustered their army for battle and camped between Socoh in Judah and Azekah at Ephes-dammim. Saul countered by gathering his Israelite troops near the valley of Elah. So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them.

Then Goliath, a Philistine champion from Gath, came out of the Philistine ranks to face the forces of Israel. He was over nine feet tall! He wore a bronze helmet, and his bronze coat of mail weighed 125 pounds. He also wore bronze leg armor, and he carried a bronze javelin on his shoulder. The shaft of his spear was as heavy and thick as a weaver’s beam, tipped with an iron spearhead that weighed 15 pounds. His armor bearer walked ahead of him carrying a shield.

Goliath stood and shouted a taunt across to the Israelites. “Why are you all coming out to fight?” he called. “I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul. Choose one man to come down here and fight me! If he kills me, then we will be your slaves. But if I kill him, you will be our slaves! I defy the armies of Israel today! Send me a man who will fight me!” When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken.

Now David was the son of a man named Jesse, an Ephrathite from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. Jesse was an old man at that time, and he had eight sons. Jesse’s three oldest sons—Eliab, Abinadab, and Shimea —had already joined Saul’s army to fight the Philistines. David was the youngest son. David’s three oldest brothers stayed with Saul’s army, but David went back and forth so he could help his father with the sheep in Bethlehem.

For forty days, every morning and evening, the Philistine champion strutted in front of the Israelite army.

One day Jesse said to David, “Take this basket of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread, and carry them quickly to your brothers. And give these ten cuts of cheese to their captain. See how your brothers are getting along, and bring back a report on how they are doing. ” David’s brothers were with Saul and the Israelite army at the valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.

So David left the sheep with another shepherd and set out early the next morning with the gifts, as Jesse had directed him. He arrived at the camp just as the Israelite army was leaving for the battlefield with shouts and battle cries. Soon the Israelite and Philistine forces stood facing each other, army against army. David left his things with the keeper of supplies and hurried out to the ranks to greet his brothers. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, came out from the Philistine ranks. Then David heard him shout his usual taunt to the army of Israel.

As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright. “Have you seen the giant?” the men asked. “He comes out each day to defy Israel. The king has offered a huge reward to anyone who kills him. He will give that man one of his daughters for a wife, and the man’s entire family will be exempted from paying taxes!”

David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”

And these men gave David the same reply. They said, “Yes, that is the reward for killing him.”

But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!”

"What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question!” He walked over to some others and asked them the same thing and received the same answer. Then David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him.

"Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”

"Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”

But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!”

Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before.

"I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.

Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled.

David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.

So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword. Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head.

When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they turned and ran. Then the men of Israel and Judah gave a great shout of triumph and rushed after the Philistines, chasing them as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron. The bodies of the dead and wounded Philistines were strewn all along the road from Shaaraim, as far as Gath and Ekron. Then the Israelite army returned and plundered the deserted Philistine camp. (David took the Philistine’s head to Jerusalem, but he stored the man’s armor in his own tent.)

As Saul watched David go out to fight the Philistine, he asked Abner, the commander of his army, “Abner, whose son is this young man?”

"I really don’t know,” Abner declared.

"Well, find out who he is!” the king told him.

As soon as David returned from killing Goliath, Abner brought him to Saul with the Philistine’s head still in his hand. “Tell me about your father, young man,” Saul said.

And David replied, “His name is Jesse, and we live in Bethlehem.

‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭17:1-58‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/1sa.17.1-58.nlt