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Friday, June 30, 2017

The Activator

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.” Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.” But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour. 
Matthew‬ ‭8:5-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬  http://bible.com/116/mat.8.5-13.nlt

Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people.  

Mark‬ ‭6:1-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬ http://bible.com/116/mrk.6.1-6.nlt
 *****
There is one word that is often used in the Gospels to describe people's reactions to Jesus' teachings and miracles: AMAZED. He had a way of making folks stop in their tracks and be utterly and totally amazed. And rightly so.

But what amazed Jesus? Was it the Pharisees' appearance to follow the law? Was it the disciples' ability? (This is almost laughable!) Nope and nope. What amazed Jesus is this: FAITH. Both the presence of it and the absence of it. He was amazed when the Roman officer believed that Jesus didn't even have to be present for a miracle to take place. Just a word from the Savior's mouth would do. But Jesus also marveled over UNBELIEF. The people in His hometown had plenty of it. And because of it, Jesus' hands were tied, so to speak, to do any miracles except a few here and there. 

It would seem then that FAITH was the activator. With it, we see Jesus in action. Without it, we see Him stopped. He never pushed Himself on anyone or any town, but He also didn't hold out on anyone that needed Him and asked for help. He made Himself available to all who believed.

When God looks at you, He is not looking to see how good you are. What He is looking for is the same thing He was looking for in the folks He met while on earth: FAITH. He is looking to see if you will simply believe Him when He says He loves you and wants to heal you and save you. He is looking to see if you will just take Him at His Word. 

Revelation 3:20 says: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” http://bible.com/111/rev.3.20.niv

What is it that opens the door to Jesus? What is the activator in our relationship with Him? What gets us closer to God? Our good deeds? Our efforts to impress Him with how religious we can be? No. What opens the door is the same thing that opened the door 2,000 years ago when Jesus walked the earth and touched multitudes of people. FAITH. And that is something that continues to catch His attention!


Monday, June 26, 2017

Farmer & Father



I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!
He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭121:1-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/psa.121.1-8.nlt
***

A farmer's crops are very vulnerable to nature's elements. Though the farmer does his part and all that he can to create a prosperous field, in the end he is simply at the mercy of the weather. Too much rain will bring flooding, too little will bring drought. Combine a lack of rain with a cloudless sky, and he's got himself a scorched crop. Oh the troubles of a farmer!

We are God's Field. We are the work of His Hands. And, just like a good farmer that is personally invested in his field, He takes personal responsibility to make sure His Field is prosperous. But unlike a human farmer, He is not limited in the way He can care for His Field. He has the ability to supernaturally provide whatever the Field needs. So even if the "earthly elements" aren't being kind to His Field (life's trials and circumstances are coming against us), He is able to step in and supernaturally provide what is needed.

If His Field is being "scorched" through trials, God isn't helpless like an earthly farmer. He can step in and become our Protective Shade. His very Hand covers our lives and creates a shadow over us so we can endure the harsher seasons of life. "The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night."

If His Field is in need of a refreshing rain, He won't leave His people high and dry. He finds unconventional ways to water His Field. He can supernaturally fill in the gaps where the "earthly elements" have failed us.  

See, God is more than a Farmer. He's a Daddy, too. His Field is not just a job for Him. His whole heart is wrapped around His Field. He loves His Field. He laid down His Life for His Field. He literally gave everything for His Field. So, He's not just interested in getting His Field to survive. He interested in getting His Field to thrive!

And really, when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter what the Field faces. Whether it be drought, or flooding, or hardness of soil, or hail, or even tornados - there is nothing too severe for our Farmer to handle. There is nothing He can't do to preserve His precious Field. And there is nothing He won't come through on for us. He has made a life-long commitment to His Field and promises to watch over us - not just in this life, but in the forever after.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Smoke & Mirrors

I trust in the Lord for protection. So why do you say to me, 
“Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety! The wicked are stringing their bows and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings. They shoot from the shadows at those whose hearts are right. The foundations of law and order have collapsed. 
What can the righteous do?” 

But the Lord is in his holy Temple; the Lord still rules from heaven. He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth. The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence. He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked, punishing them with scorching winds. For the righteous Lord loves justice. 
The virtuous will see his face.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭11:1-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/psa.11.1-7.nlt

***

Did you know that the devil is scared of you if you have Jesus in you? Oh, he'll try to do his best to flip it around and make you think he's the scary one. But the truth is, he's absolutely terrified of believers in Christ. He's the mouse, we're the elephant. Because of Jesus, we are the bigger and stronger ones, and can squash him like a bug with our little toe. The problem is not with our lack of Power, it's with our skewed perception of Reality. We don't fully comprehend the Power and Authority that is actually in us because Christ is in us. 

Oh, but the devil knows. He knows how explosively powerful the Spirit of God is in us. And one of his best first offensive moves against us is scaring us into hiding. If He can get us running for the hills and on the defense, he's got us controlled and where he wants us. He knows the minute we are aware of the Power that lives in us, he doesn't stand a chance. So he lies to us:

"Run to the hills!" he yells in our ears. "Danger! Danger!" he screams. 

Though in reality, we are completely safe and surrounded by the arms of our Father. There is no actual threat against us. The Reality is, there is nothing for us to fear. So any fear we feel is all just a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

But No One Clapped

I was five years old the first time I was asked to sing in public. My grandparents coordinated things with the pastor of their church and I sang a little acapella solo during their service. I didn't really know Christian songs then, so I sang the only song I was ever asked to sing during family functions - Edelweiss, from the movie, The Sound of Music. I got up there and sang it out the very best my little 5 year old self could sing it. I don't remember being very nervous because I was used to singing in front of my family. What I do remember is the sound of absolute silence when I was finished singing. You could probably hear the church mouse squeaking in those awkward few seconds that felt like centuries to me. I looked around at everyone in the church, not quite knowing what to do with myself. "Didn't they know this was their cue?" I thought to myself. "This was their time to show some encouragement. This was their time to clap!" But they didn't. Nope. Not one of them. I stepped off the platform and sunk down in the pew next to my mother. She patted me to say "good job" but all I could barely whisper to her was, "But no one clapped."

That moment could have ruined me forever. I could have very easily decided from that time forward that I would never sing again - all because no one clapped. (Even though, I had no idea, at the age of 5, that it wasn't customary to clap for anyone who sang in their church.) But, thankfully, I did not come to that resolution. Instead, I went on in the years to come to sing in musicals and competitive choirs in high school, had the opportunity to sing the theme song for a children's radio recording, went to college for a music education degree, and am now a private music teacher to other little budding singers and musicians! 

But how it could have ruined me... 

How many of us are ruined because no one 'clapped'? How many of us depend on the applause of men to determine if we will 'sing' or not? How many of us stop before we even get started simply because we don't have an audience clapping for us? 

Does a bird wake up in the morning and say, "I'm not going to sing today because no one complimented me on my singing yesterday. And if no one's going to notice me and give me some props, then forget it. I'm not singing!"? No! They sing because they want to, love to, and that is what their Creator has made them to do!

What is your song? Maybe you don't sing with your voice. Maybe your 'singing' is drawing, or writing, or acting, or carpentry, or public speaking, or gardening, or building, or computer programming, or sewing, or taking care of animals, or taking care of people... How has God made you to Sing? And are you Singing or are you holding back your Song because people aren't encouraging you enough? Remember, we don't Sing for people. We Sing for the Glory of God. We Sing because it not only gives us pleasure, it gives our Creator pleasure. So don't tell yourself and God that you won't Sing. If you do, you'll be robbing yourself of the enjoyment that God is giving you in life, holding out on letting Him receive Glory, and possibly sabotaging all the good things that can come out of it. 

So, whatever your Song is, Sing it! Draw it! Cook it! Create it! Build it! But whatever you do, take it from me - don't wait for an applause that may or may not happen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Beyond The Free Samples

The next day the crowd that was left behind realized that there had been only one boat, and that Jesus had not gotten into it with his disciples. They had seen them go off without him. By now boats from Tiberias had pulled up near where they had eaten the bread blessed by the Master. So when the crowd realized he was gone and wasn’t coming back, they piled into the Tiberias boats and headed for Capernaum, looking for Jesus.

When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free. “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.” To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?” Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.” They waffled: “Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.”

They jumped at that: “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!” Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.”
‭‭John‬ ‭6:22-38‬ ‭MSG‬‬
http://bible.com/97/jhn.6.22-38.msg
***

Everyone loves free samples. And many companies are happy to give them away. You can practically have lunch just by walking though the grocery store and feeding off the samples they are giving away for free. If you ask the average person though, most of them are not interested in purchasing the product. They're just looking for some free food. 

It seems these folks we read about in John 6 were doing the same thing. After Jesus fed the 5,000, they came looking for Him. But just like running for free samples at the grocery store, these folks really weren't interested in making a commitment to Him and 'purchasing the product'. They were just looking for some more 'free samples'. They were only looking for Him to meet their earthly, worldly needs. Nothing more. Nothing deeper. 

Jesus recognized this and basically said, "I get it. You're here because I fed you. But, listen, God sent me not just to feed your bellies but to feed your souls. I AM THE BREAD that will keep you satisfied your whole life. Come after this Bread. Go deeper with me. Make a commitment to me. Buy the 'Product'!"

How many of us take this 'free sample' approach with God? We aren't really interested in throwing our lot in with Him, taking the plunge of commitment, and following Him. We're really just looking for Him to make life a little easier for us. We want Him to meet our earthly needs, but nothing more, nothing deeper.

But Jesus says the same thing to us: "Don't stop there! Don't just want me for provision. I Am sooo much more than that! I Am the Bread that will feed you for a lifetime! I Am the Gift that keeps on giving. I Am offering you more than just free samples. I Am offering you LIFE! Take the plunge! Make the commitment! Buy the Product!"

Monday, June 19, 2017

Undone & Giving In



God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭MSG‬‬
http://bible.com/97/heb.4.12-13.msg


You know you're in the presence of God when you are undone, unraveled, and filleted opened by Him. His Word slices through our confusion, our doubt, our defenses, and our 'keeping it all together' pretenses. His Word comes in like a contractor on demolition day - pulling down the old broken pieces, moving things out to create more space, and prepping that space for all things new. 

God is gentle but He is also serious about the transformation of our hearts. He means business. He is like a surgeon who handles his patients with care, yet uses extremely sharp tools to cut them open and get to the bottom of the problem. 

And who can resist Him when standing in His Presence? No one. We are undone. Like Isaiah...


 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭6:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬
http://bible.com/111/isa.6.1-5.niv

God's Holiness leaves us completely 'ruined' and we recognize that our religion is useless in His Presence. There is nothing we can say in that moment but "Holy, Holy, Holy!" 

But we also, in that same moment, are simultaneously ravished by His Pure Love for us. And who can push against such Love? It is like a flood gushing over us. His Cleansing, Living Water wears us down until we finally give in to Him. His pursuit is relentless and there is nothing He won't try if it means in the end we are fully His. He won't ever give up. He won't ever stop. There is then nothing left for us to do but to let ourselves go and let Him have our hearts. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Popcorn Effect

I love popcorn. I eat it everyday. But I don't use the microwaveable bags. I prefer the old-fashioned, stove-top way for a couple reasons. It's healthier with no added chemicals, and I get the bags that say Non-GMO, so it doesn't bother my tummy. But it's also more cost effective. I can get a whole bag of kernels for under $2 and get about 6 pots of popcorn from them. It's more pop for my buck.

What fascinates me about popcorn is the amount of sheer volume that comes from just a couple handfuls of kernels. There's no need to fill the pot when making it. Simply lining the bottom of my pan with oil and kernels will do the trick. And, boy, does it. If you're not aware of this kernel phenomenon and put too many in the pot, you're gonna find yourself with an overflowing pot of popcorn. Just a couple handfuls of kernels turns into handfuls and handfuls and handfuls of popcorn! You'll always get a lot more out than you put in!

God seems to love this idea - getting more out than you put in. Isaac experienced it first hand when He planted his crops one year. 


When Isaac planted his crops that year, 
he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, 
for the Lord blessed him.
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭26:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/gen.26.12.nlt

What a phenomenon! I can imagine how dumbfounded he was as he started harvesting his field. I wonder if he scratched his head and stepped back, trying to remember how much grain he planted. When it didn't add up, he knew that this phenomenon was the Hand of God! 

This is just how God rolls. It's a Kingdom thing. It's mind-blowing. But we see it in other places of scripture, too. How about the little boy that gave Jesus and His disciples his lunch to feed the multitude? 5 loaves, 2 fish. A meager meal for the boy to share. But I wonder if he knew about God's Popcorn Effect and that in the Hands of Jesus, a little can go a long way? If he didn't, he was about to find out. His little input created quite an output!

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!” 

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 ‭6:5-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/jhn.6.5-13.nlt

And here are a few more places we see God loving this idea!

The seed that fell on good soil represents those 
who truly hear and understand God’s word 
and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, 
or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.13.23.nlt

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters 
or father or mother or children or property, 
for my sake, 
will receive a hundred times as much in return 
and will inherit eternal life.
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭19:29‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.19.29.nlt

How beautiful. We serve a God that will not only match what is put in, but will even go beyond that and multiply our efforts. He is the Lord of the Harvest. He can do anything. And when we come alongside Him and labor with Him, we will always receive back much, much more than what we put in! 


Monday, June 12, 2017

His Hiding Dove

My dove is hiding behind the rocks, behind an outcrop on the cliff. 
Let me see your face; let me hear your voice. 
For your voice is pleasant, and your face is lovely.”
‭‭Song of Songs‬ ‭2:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/sng.2.14.nlt
****

In this passage, the young man is saying this to the young woman who seems to be either shy or playing hard to get with her lover. In his affection, he calls her a dove. A dove is not an aggressive, bold animal. Mourning doves, or turtle doves, are actually quite timid, according to Wikipedia. They have a beautiful dark color to them (much like the young woman in Song of Songs has) and make the most pleasant and relaxing cooing sounds.

There are two mourning doves that live on my street. I hear them every morning among the chorus of the many, small, high-pitched birds that sing. Because the doves' pitch are so much lower than the other birds, I can pick them out instantly. But when I look out my window, I hardly ever see them and wonder where they could be, even though I hear them so distinctly.

This scripture gives a similar picture. The lover hears her distinct, pleasing voice, but she has hidden herself from his eyes. He thinks she is lovely. He obviously adores her. But there she hides, like a dove behind an outcrop.

I relate to this shy, little dove. Though I'm filled with affection for the Lover of my Soul, I simultaneously find myself wanting to hide from Him. I want to sing my love song to Him, but still stay hidden behind my protective 'outcrop' at the same time. 

It is then that I hear my Lover singing back to me. His Song is Sweet and lures me toward Himself and away from my defenses...

"Let Me see your face; let Me hear your voice. For your voice is pleasant, and your face is lovely. I have loved you with an Everlasting Love. I adore you from head to toe. I'm taken back by your beauty. I can hardly hold Myself back in your presence. I'm filled with deepest affection and My eye is only on you, My Love. You've stolen My heart. You've captured My attention forever. So, do not be so shy, My lovely dove. Come away from the outcrop. Pull away from your covering. For there is no shame between us. There is no fear in Perfect Love."

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Timing Is Everything

“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?”
‭‭Esther‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/est.4.14.nlt

***
Timing is everything. I know a married couple who would say so. They met each other at the door of a convenience store. One was entering, one was exiting. They both pulled on the door at the same time. Their eyes met, a conversation started up, and right there they knew their lives would never be the same. What were the chances of such timing? They could have easily missed each other if they were delayed by even seconds before getting to the door. They would be the first to agree that timing was, indeed, everything. 

And God's timing with Esther was equally perfect. Such a beauty of a woman, in such a strategic position, at such a perfect time in history. What's important is that Esther became aware of this amazing timing, knew what she needed to do, and bravely moved on it.

Many of us want to do great things with God, but we don't understand how to move with Him. We either drag our feet to the rhythm of His drum, or rush ahead of Him like a kid running toward an amusement park. We don't understand that God makes all things beautiful in His Time. 

How smart would it be then for us to first wait on the One that creates Perfect Timing? How much of our energy, time, and finances could be channeled more efficiently if we weren't just scattering them thoughtlessly to the wind, hoping maybe God could do something good with it, but actually understood the timing of God and hit the mark at the perfect time, every time? 


So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.
 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 
Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:15-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/eph.5.15-17.nlt

Do you know what the Lord wants you to do, or are you moving thoughtlessly? Are you aware of God's Hand in your life and Awake enough to know what He wants you to do? And most importantly, are you aware of His timing and brave enough to move on it?


Friday, June 9, 2017

Given & Taken

Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17 NIV
http://bible.com/111/jas.1.17.niv

He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”
Job 1:21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/job.1.21.nlt

You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭119:68‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/psa.119.68.niv



Every good and perfect gift comes from above. It is true - God puts Good things in our hands. But, as Job tells us, He will also allow things to be removed from our hands. 

Do you hold something Good in your hands? Bless God for it. It is His Goodness toward you. Has something been removed from your hands? Then also bless God for it. It is equally His Goodness toward you. Only God sees the whole picture. Only He can see what is best for us to have and not to have. And so we trust Him - not just in the receiving, but also in the taking away. Removal of things in our lives is not His punishment toward us. It is His Goodness, yes, even His Mercy. 

Psalm 119 reassures us of this one thing: He is Good and only does Good - in the giving as well as in the taking away. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Swaddled

“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“You have enclosed me behind and before, And [You have] placed Your hand upon me.”

‭‭PSALM‬ ‭139:5‬ ‭AMP‬‬

“Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:5‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Hemmed in. Hedged in. Enclosed. Beset. I bet that's how babies feel when we swaddle them up tightly. There is no safer feeling for them than to be swaddled up in a warm blanket, with the hand of his/her parent on their head. They are completely surrounded and completely safe in the arms of the one that loves them most.


This Psalm gives us a beautiful picture of our position with our Heavenly Father. Our Daddy is not so far away like some may think. He is not distant and hard to get close to. He is but a breath away as He leans His Face in closer to ours and kisses our cheeks - like one holding a swaddled baby in their arms. We are wrapped up, hemmed in, enclosed, and hedged by His loving Protection.


Who can harm us then? Who can say we are vulnerable to attack? Who can say that we have been left as orphans? No one. Abba has made sure that His little ones are not just being looked after from above, but are tightly secured in His Blanket and being held close to His heart.


Are you feeling insecure today? Are you feeling unsure of the Love of the Father? Are you questioning your position in Him? Are you wondering if He is even near by?


Be reassured of this: God has never abandoned His children and He never will. He has never left His babies. He is a Good Daddy, a Trustworthy Daddy. He is not prone to error like our earthly dads. He can be counted on to be there when we need Him because He never leaves. He is always there, swaddling us up in His arms and placing His Hand upon us.


And yet...
There is another angle to this swaddled reality.

FRUSTRATION

Have you ever seen a baby that was tired of being swaddled? He will wiggle and squirm as he feels the confinement of being hemmed in behind and before. He wants to move. He wants to go. But his safety blanket keeps him from doing so.

Some of us know exactly how this feels - the frustration of not being able to move forward with the things you have in mind to do. It's not the enemy blocking you. It's not the results of your bad choices. It's actually the Hand of God, Himself that is besetting you. When the funds aren't there to see your vision come to pass. When one unfortunate thing after another happens that delays your forward momentum. When things, simply out of your control, trip you up and make you feel like you are spinning your wheels... It's then we must stop and consider that we are being hemmed in by God - not to frustrate us, but to protect us and keep us centered in the Will of God.

And as we squirm in His arms to break free, we can feel Him move us even closer to Himself. He understands our restlessness as He whispers, "Huuussshhh. Rest, my sweet one. For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. I am enough for you. And I promise, I will carry you in my arms to where you need to go."

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wanting to Confide

This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. Noah was the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence. God observed all this corruption in the world, for everyone on earth was corrupt. So God said to Noah, “I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth!
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭6:9-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/gen.6.9-13.nlt
***
In a world full of corruption, there was still one man who 'walked in close fellowship with God'. A man who would say God had become his Friend. A man that talked to God, heard from God, and was willing to obey God. NOAH. Noah was the one man God could actually confide in. I'm trying to imagine the scene - the day God decided to share His Secret to Noah that He was about to destroy everything. Was it over breakfast? Was Noah sitting there enjoying his morning grub and God hit him with it? Or was Noah going about his day and God pulled him aside? However He did it, the amazing point is that God was actually willing to tell him of His secret plans and let him know that, though everything was about to go south, Noah and his family, would be saved.

Noah's story shows us this amazing fact about God -- He loves to fill His kids in on His Plans! He delights in giving us the inside scoop. He loves to whisper things in our ears - things He is going to do, things that reveal His character, and things that one would only tell a friend.

Through the Old Testament as well as the New, we see a God who is willing and wanting to share His Plans with His people - with those in close relationship with Him. How about Abraham? God let him in on His plans to destroy Sodom and Gomarrah (which then triggered Abraham's intercession to spare the city because his nephew lived there).



Then the men got up from their meal and looked out toward Sodom. As they left, Abraham went with them to send them on their way. 

Should I hide my plan from Abraham?” the Lord asked. “For Abraham will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then I will do for Abraham all that I have promised.” 

So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.” 

The other men turned and headed toward Sodom, but the Lord remained with Abraham. Abraham approached him and said, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked? Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the righteous along with the wicked. Why, you would be treating the righteous and the wicked exactly the same! Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” 

And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.” 

Then Abraham spoke again. “Since I have begun, let me speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes. Suppose there are only forty-five righteous people rather than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” 

And the Lord said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five righteous people there.” 

Then Abraham pressed his request further. “Suppose there are only forty?” 

And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the forty.” “Please don’t be angry, my Lord,” Abraham pleaded. “Let me speak—suppose only thirty righteous people are found?”

 And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it if I find thirty.” 

Then Abraham said, “Since I have dared to speak to the Lord, let me continue—suppose there are only twenty?” 

And the Lord replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.” 

Finally, Abraham said, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me if I speak one more time. Suppose only ten are found there?” 

And the Lord replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.” 

When the Lord had finished his conversation with Abraham, he went on his way, and Abraham returned to his tent.
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭18:16-33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/gen.18.16-33.nlt

We see similar exchanges of inside information in the New Testament as well. Remember Jesus sharing the Last Supper with His disciples? Big things were about to happen, and He took that opportunity to prep His friends for what was to come and even reveal to them who would betray Him.



Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed,
"I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!”

The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.””
‭‭John‬ ‭13:21-27‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/jhn.13.21-27.nlt

Over and over we see God wanting to confide in His People. Not that He had to. He could have chosen to keep things hush hush. But He didn't. He wanted to confide. He was looking to confide- because that's what friends do. Friends tell each other secrets. Friends share things with each other that they wouldn't dare tell a stranger. Friends trust each other with precious inside information. Friends tell friends the things on their heart and the plans they have in store. And that is the kind of Friend God wants to be to us.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Boomerang

The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness. 

The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.

Those who are kind benefit themselves,
but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.

Proverbs 11:3, 5-6, 17 NIV
http://bible.com/111/pro.11.3,5-6,17.niv

***
It's a spiritual principle. Some call it Karma. God calls is sowing and reaping. The basic idea: our actions will boomerang back to us - whether good or evil. 


When stuff hits the fan and life happens, sometimes we just can't blame anybody but ourselves. It's not bad luck. It's not a black cloud of misfortune. It's not our momma's fault. It's not our daddy's fault. It's not 'the man' keepin' us down. It's, quite frankly, our fault. It's the result of our own decisions and actions. 

I can't decide to make lavish purchases on a credit card and think I won't have heartache if I haven't thought out in advance how I will pay for it. I can't decide to have sex outside of marriage and not be prepared to face the consequences of unwanted pregnancy and STDs. I can't go out and break the law and expect to live at peace with law enforcement. 

But in the same way, we can trust that if we keep sowing good, the results will be to our benefit. 

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:7-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It's motivation for us to keep making right decisions as we follow God and never give up on Him or on doing good. 

And it's amazing how favor opens up for us when we choose to do good and do right. 

Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭11:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When we handle our finances with integrity and choose not to cheat people, God sees that and blesses us for it. When we choose to do our jobs well in the workplace, promotions often happen. When we turn the other cheek, when we forgive and love our enemies, when we give and not expect anything in return... God sees it all and the seeds that we sow will give us a good return and grow up for us in a most beautiful harvest.