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Woe Is Me or Whoa, This Is Me? Both!

undoneI’ve been thinking lately about how often I feel “undone” in the presence of God. I can be talking in conversation about Him and feel “undone”. I can be reading His Word and something strikes a chord in me and I am “undone”. I can be worshipping or praying and I’m unable to go on because I feel “undone”. I can be teaching or preaching and the reality I get to speak His Word leaves me feeling “undone”.

In those moments, God takes what He created, “me”, and does me in. I can’t move, can’t speak, can’t think; and to be honest, I don’t want to. I KNOW He is the One who does me in and He completely overwhelms my thoughts, heart, and mind and overrides my will and body. At those times I stop everything and let Him do me in! It can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours, but afterwards I am always in awe that He would care to meet with me.

One day after I was undone in God’s presence I thought about what happens in being undone. First I thought of earthly things. For example; an undone piece of meat can be NOT good for us(tasty if you like “rare” but a bit risky). Undone brownies might actually taste good though messy. How about zippers undone on our pants? NOT good and potentially bad! Leaving homework or “work” work undone? NOT smart! These situations show us being “undone” means something is left incomplete, unaccomplished, unfinished; simply not done yet!

downloadBut think about “coming undone” emotionally. We don’t like that thought as much, especially if it happens in public. We can come undone when things don’t go as planned or expected; or when something fails; or when we are superbly surprised. Having an unwelcomed meltdown where we lose all composure or self-control is usually not a favorite for most people.

After all this thinking, it came to me! Being undone in God’s presence can mean all these things AND so much more! Like a piece of undone meat, we are never done! Christians can still be tasty but it’s risky so we need God every moment to keep “doing”! Like undone brownies, we still have an impact in this world even though we can be messy. While being caught with our zippers undone can be embarrassing, getting caught with our spiritual zipper down is quite freeing, cleansing, purifying, and truly, completely amazing! See, there is no “awkwardness” involved with God – just complete transparency before the One who makes all things new. Finally, while it’s not wise to leave school or “work” work undone, letting God finish His work in us is much more productive than striving to do it alone. Plus, He loves the extra time we spend with Him “getting it done”!

Being undone in God’s presence is always unplanned just like being undone in earthly things. I can honestly say I’ve never scheduled a time of being undone in God’s presence. My undone “episodes” range from brief moments of raw exposure, being stunned in His presence, to complete meltdowns, often messy, when I lose all composure and self-control. One thing is for sure; they ALWAYS surprise and humble me. I become acutely aware of God’s presence and the fact He chooses to come and touch His beloved fills me with reverential fear of Him and I think, “Whoa, this is awesome”, as I’m reminded of who I am and more importantly WHO HE IS!

Isaiah said it this way, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5) Isaiah said this after a vision in which he saw the Lord sitting on His throne, high and lifted up and the train of his robe filled the temple while the seraphim cried out “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory!”

You would think after having this vision instead of saying “woe is me” Isaiah might have said, “Whoa, this is me! I must be God’s favorite! I mean, seriously, have any of YOU had visions of the Lord in His temple while angels worshipped Him? Probably not! This makes me super special in God’s eyes. How awesome am I for God to show me this stuff?” You would also think Isaiah would be happier than happy! Instead, he is undone. In the original language, undone means he felt cut off, thinking he would surely die at this sight of the Lord on His throne.

woe_is_meSo…being undone is like being caught with our zipper down spiritually and we realize just how totally obnoxious we are, at least in comparison to our holy God. We sin! It’s bad enough to realize just how much we sin, but to have it exposed, to be undone by and before a holy God, well…THAT is humbling.

The truth is every Christian comes face to face with their sin when undone in the presence of a holy God. The sinfulness of sin by nature is contrary to the holy nature of God, leaving us undone! Sin exposes the vast difference between us and a holy God!

Let’s face it! Just like Isaiah, our lips are unclean. We say things we should never say. We curse, we lie, we gossip, we slander, and we even say terrible things about people we supposedly love. It surprises me how often we accuse family, friends, and fellow members of the body of Christ of being terrible people, or doing horrible things. Of course we say it behind their backs and then are super sweet to their faces. We seem unaware that we are giving Satan legal right to torment our families, relationships, and churches, and even more oblivious that God sees all of it! Friends, we have unclean lips and God’s got a remedy.

coalIn Isaiah, the seraphim took tongs to gather coal from the altar and then touched Isaiah’s lips declaring his sins burned away, purged and he was cleansed. Now THAT is a WHOA and a WHOOHOO! Being undone in the presence of God leads to our sins being done as well. When we’re undone in His presence we can expect to be confess and repent of sin because we see it all clearly AND we are encouraged and lifted up because visions of God’s glory have that effect on us! We have a Mediator, and that, my friends, leaves us undone in the presence of our Lord and Savior, able to boldly and confidently approach Him!

 

a-sinners-prayerWhen our eyes meet the King of kings and Lord of lords, we are undone; we are filled with fear and freedom at the same time! When we truly believe He is Lord, we see His sovereignty and majesty over all and it strikes even greater awe, reverence and godly fear to the very core of our being!

So friends…I pray we are all undone! There is no greater place to be!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tough and Tender? No…Be Strong and Tender!

tenderness___by_reearadu-d3ezzclTenderness…I knew what it was but not at the level I do today (I wonder what tomorrow will bring). Much of my early life was spent being tough and not tender, more out of necessity than choice. The details really aren’t important; understanding is and hopefully sharing it! Unfortunately, I didn’t even know how “unhealthy tough” I’d become. Even though I’ve been greatly loved by God, husband, children, and friends for decades, I had still let toughness steel me to tenderness.

Circumstances finally forced a break, with toughness giving way and making room for tenderness. It seemed to happen “out of the blue”, but in truth, it was our extraordinary God making a way during an incongruous time in my life! So much was going wrong yet so much was right. The hurt was so bad, yet it was so good. It was the best of times and the worst of times at the SAME time! The challenges were overwhelming yet I felt calm in the midst of the storm. Harsh and hard-hitting things were coming from every angle yet I felt a sort of gentleness, warmth, and softness in my spirit. So…though everything seemed wrong, everything was right. Ever felt that way? Where toughness had previously made me hard and inflexible, now tenderness was making me soft and flexible, yet still strong. What happened?

  • LoveMeTSheetI lost some precious relationships but God found me in the midst of brokenness to show me my part – I learned a lot about friendship.
  • I doubted myself and my ability to be in healthy loving relationships but God made sure I saw and was certain of His ability to put me in healthy, loving, and yes, tender relationships where we can be strong in Him.
  • I struggled with trust at a level I couldn’t imagine, complete with skepticism, wariness, and cynicism hardening me even more. Instead of coddling me, God brought conviction, leading to reckless abandonment and vulnerability to Him. Though I’ve always trusted God, now I was addicted to trusting Him.
  • Worthiness, long ago settled for me in Christ, was nearly decimated. Holy Spirit replaced my feelings of unworthiness AGAIN, showing my worth in Jesus who loves like no other.

This exchange of toughness for tenderness came through the hand of God breaking what I thought to be unbreakable. It came through the Spirit of God shattering what appeared to be shatterproof. It came through gaining what I perceived to be lost and it came through admitting I wasn’t totally and completely depending on God.

When the exchange happened, I realized how much I REALLY need Him every moment of every day and night! I can’t breathe without Him. And trust me on this one; this kind of tenderness makes a person extremely vulnerable to Him and this in turn creates humility unmatched on this earth. These three things: Dependence, vulnerability, and humility can take any semblance of toughness we maintain and create tenderness unimaginable and unexpected.

I had some questions though. “How did this happen? How did God do this to me? How does God make us vulnerable? How does He position us for dependency on Him? How does He create tenderness in us for Him and others? How can we be strong but not so tough anymore?”

Tender-Lion-WebThe answers are found by looking in His Word, where tenderness is almost always united with His mercy. He showers us with His own “tender mercies” and then…we’re addicted! In both the Old and New Testaments God’s tenderness is most often associated with His mercy. For the Hebrews (Old Testament) “tender” references the “bowels” or “seat of the most tender of affections”; especially kindness, compassion, and benevolence. For the Greeks (New Testament) “tender” also refers to the “bowels” or seat of the more violent passions such as anger and love. In English, tenderness combines these same thoughts: compassion, warmth, gentleness, kindheartedness, affection, care, LOVE in the deepest parts of our being. In truth, if we could open our hearts, God’s tenderness and compassion would pour out. His mercies, which multiply without measure, would overwhelm us!

Here are a few verses from the Psalms to fill us with His tender mercies:

Screen-Shot-2013-12-23-at-11.22.01-AMPsalms 40:11 “Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.”

Psalms 69:16 “Hear me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good; turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.”

Psalms 79:8 “Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low.”

Psalms 103:4 “Who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies…”

Psalms 119:77 “Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight.”

Psalms 145:9 “The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.”

In all these verses tender mercies refer to God’s compassion and favor poured into the innermost part of who we are. We are His creations; His dearly loved children. God is the source of all mercy and it is through His compassion that we are filled with His compassion, His tender mercies. When God broke through my toughness, even that which I was unaware of, He brought His compassion and favor to sit in the seat of my emotions and then His Word answered all the questions.

9780961519773How did this happen? Toughness came as a result of hurt, abuse, distrust, fear, doubt, loneliness, and a whole host of other circumstances. But in my toughness, I was not strong. I was just hard! How did God do “this” to me, break through my toughness with His tenderness? He did it by reminding me people I love will always hurt me and I will hurt others. Abuse, distrust, doubt, loneliness are all part of life. Fear comes at us daily. None of those things are going to stop – but toughness isn’t going to help! Jesus is! Total dependence on Him; complete reception of His compassion and favor will keep us tender!

God makes us vulnerable by showing how He sees us – as His own holy and beloved chosen ones! Colossians 3:12 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.” In Jesus, we are holy and beloved so we get to put on tender mercies. Now THAT is SOME strength! God positions us for dependency on Him by letting us be tough to the point of breaking and then He tenderly reminds us He is there in our innermost beings, deep within, full of compassion and mercy, making us strong and completely transparent before Him.

God creates tenderness for Him and others by putting a longing in our hearts. Paul says in Philippians 1:8 “For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” Bowels is also translated affection, tender compassion, or tender mercies. THIS creates a tenderness causing us to love more deeply. Philippians 1:9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,” In truth, He showers us with His own “tender mercies” and then…we’re addicted!

And finally, we can be strong yet not so tough anymore through the encouragement of Christ Jesus giving us courage to be strong and tender, not tough and tender! Philippians 2:1-2 “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion (also translated bowels and mercies or tenderness and compassion) make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

If you’ve been tough, go ahead and let the tenderness of God make you strong…in Him!

u-show-me-tender-compassion-198-dpi

 

 

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Stand and Behold…But Don’t Forget To Look and Listen For the New…Too!

Christ On The Cross by Andrea MategnaPain, sorrow, grief, agony – They are part of life! But what do we do with them? It would seem Easter is the perfect time to contemplate these deep emotions! I know I have! I’ve taken the time to consider how much pain, sorrow, grief, and agony Mary, the mother of Jesus endured as she stood by the cross, looking up at her Son as He was cruelly crucified with stakes driven through His hands and feet after being maliciously mocked and brutally beaten. The pain and agony He experienced is incomprehensible while Mary’s emotions must have been off the charts as well!

Understanding how Mary endured this onslaught of grief might just help us endure whatever circumstances we face today! We CAN and should identify with Mary because we’ve all been given the great capacity to love. In fact, the love of God IN us is limitless because His love FOR us has no limits!

We read in John 19:25-27 “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”

basketball-courtI can relate in a MUCH smaller degree to Mom Mary. Our son was a talented and successful basketball player in high school and college, entertaining to watch though his opponents didn’t enjoy watching him as much as we did. It was common for them to undercut him when he went high in the air, landing him on his back in excruciating pain. I guess the fouls they accrued were worth it to them.

Every time this happened, I instinctively covered my eyes, bowing over in my own anguish, then looked back to see if he got up. I wanted to save him, protect him; tell him to stop playing, stop jumping; please…make it all STOP! I moved quickly from pain to anger, wanting to hurt the boy who hurt my boy JUST because he was alive and on the basketball court. I wonder if that’s how Mary felt. Please…just let it be over; Stop the madness; Stop the rejection, the humiliation, and the beatings. Stop hurting my Son just because He is alive and on the earth.

Its-OverWhen my son’s final basketball season was over, I felt relief. Sure! I would have enjoyed watching him play forever. He was extraordinary. But I was tired of seeing him get hurt; tired of watching him get treatments on his back so he could get back out on the court only to be hurt again; tired of watching him be strong on the outside when inside he was breaking. I was glad when it was finally over.

I imagine when Jesus’ earthly life came to an end Mary felt relief. Sure, she would have enjoyed watching Him continue His ministry forever. He was extraordinary. But she also must have been tired of seeing Him be rejected, hated, mocked, whipped and beaten; tired of watching Him be strong on the outside while His heart broke inwardly; glad when it was finally over.

Many people came to watch the basketball games to be entertained but honestly, none of them were more invested than the parents and loved ones of those men on the court. Think of the many people who stood by, watching this crucifixion! All of them were inconsequential in comparison to those who loved Jesus and stood by His cross as He hung in pain; His mom, her sister, two other “Mary” friends, and His beloved friend, John who stood close by.

Holding handsThank God Mary had significant, special people to get her through this seeming nightmare. I imagine as she stood by the cross she reached out to her friends; holding on to them for dear life; letting their strength seep into her as they held her up!

When my son would get hurt and there wasn’t anything I could do, I grabbed hold of my husband, daughters, in-laws, or friends nearby. I reached out knowing I could rely on them because they shared similar thoughts and feelings as me. Sure…we all experienced it differently but the love binding us together, love for a son, a grandson, a brother, a friend, or a friend’s son helped me as I stood and watched.

Jesus meets MaryFriends, all of us have times in life when there is nothing we can do but stand by and watch. What DO you do when there is nothing you can do? Let me suggest reaching out to touch someone and let them touch you too! The love and strength of a friend’s touch can be a source of strength coming from our source of strength, Father God. A friend’s touch can seep through our bodies and spirits to bring renewed strength to stand. Touch is something we can all do! AND, there’s something else; eye contact!

Platon-Varquez-Son-Behold-Your-Mother-16x20-Oil-1996While Mary stood by watching, Jesus looked down at her from the cross and their eyes met. Mother and Son! I think if Mary wasn’t already hanging on to her friends for dear life, she did, the moment she made eye contact with her Boy. The helplessness she must have felt at that moment is haunting. Perhaps she was tempted to look away from His pain but she couldn’t. Did she cry, scream, shout, or attack the attackers? Did she plead with the guards to take her Boy off the cross? What message did she convey with her eyes as she gazed into His eyes; the Boy she birthed, nursed, raised, loved, and watched grow to manhood? When their eyes met, what depth of love did they communicate to one another?

One time the athletic trainer called us down from the stands because our son was hurt badly. When I walked into the training room and saw him in the throes of severe pain, my heart broke. When his eyes met mine I saw desperation. He didn’t speak but I imagined only two words…HELP ME! And there I stood…helpless! My touch wouldn’t still the pain…my comfort wouldn’t ease the torment…my prayers though welcomed wouldn’t end the torture he was experiencing…my sympathy was useless…and at that moment…my love felt like nothing for him.

How many of you reading this have beloveds in your life who are in pain; physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual? Your touch doesn’t still their agony. Your comfort doesn’t ease the torment. Your prayers, though welcome, don’t stop the torture. Your sympathy is useless and your love, though deep and passionate does nothing to stop the insanity.

What DO you do when your eyes meet the eyes of loved ones in these situations? What depth of love is communicated as your eyes meet? What DO you do when you can’t help them? When you can’t take away pain from a child, parent, or friend? When there are no words to still the hurt?

6a00d8341fd10e53ef0167636db06c970bI want to do what Mary did…she stood! She watched! She looked into her Son’s eyes. And then…she listened to Him. In the throes of pain and agony Jesus did the unthinkable; He declared a new love relationship! He glanced at John and then at His mom. “He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’” Jesus He gave His mother a son, and his beloved friend a mother.

Mary and John had a decision to make. They had to take their eyes OFF Jesus and behold one another! Look away from what “was” and look at what now WAS. They looked into each other’s eyes as mother and son! Wow! If I were Mary I might have screamed, “NO, I don’t want John. I want YOU Jesus!” But Mary, in the midst of sorrow, looked into the eyes of her Son; she heard His heart, she heard His words, and then she looked away to behold the new!

Take time today to consider how Jesus gave up His mom to do His Father’s will. He was always thinking of others so He made sure His mom had a son to carry on with. And Mary? She is quite amazing too! She gave up her Son to do her Father’s will. She was also thinking of others so she went home with John to be his mom…AND she let him be her son. Pretty special…Pretty healing!

Whatever you’re facing today…whatever loved ones in your life are facing today… give them up to your heavenly Father to do His will. Know God has a plan and He gives us friends and loved ones to stand with, to touch, to look into each other’s eyes, to behold, and to embrace the new, whatever that might be!

 

 

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Hail Santa Claus! Not! But What Does That Even Mean?

downloadMy husband, daughter, and I went out to eat at a local restaurant where it was noisy with lots of conversation and laughter. Our food was served and we held hands to give thanks to our heavenly Father who richly provides for our every need. We finished saying, “REJOICE” in unison as a family walked past our table to leave. The smiling man looked at the three of us and said, “Hail, Santa Claus.” It happened so suddenly and he left so fast we didn’t even have a chance to respond.

what-does-that-even-mean-jackie-chanWe looked at each other, and our daughter said what we were all thinking, “What does that even mean?” Obviously he didn’t like our rejoicing in Jesus but really? Hail Santa Claus? Perhaps we just don’t know some “new” slogan out there or it is some “new” mockery against Christianity. I don’t really know! On the outside I smiled but on the inside I cried. It broke my heart. I have no condemnation for this man. I would never point my finger at him or tell him how terrible he is. I am not angry. I know he doesn’t know any better and he is just acting according to his nature. It shouldn’t surprise us. He just doesn’t believe in this wonderful God we happen to know and be in relationship with. It is a sign of the times, evidence of a godless nation. In my brokenness, I thanked God for our freedom in this land TO pray and believed we planted a seed in this man’s life, even though he is unaware of it being planted.

The next morning Holy Spirit tied this experience with a quote I read about how the hearts of Christians should break because our presence is not making a more significant difference in our land. I have to tell you, THAT is another kind of statement I ask, “What does that even mean?”  Certainly, it is tragic for Christians to remain silent, to refuse to be witnesses for Jesus, to condemn people in the world, or not to honor God in everything we say and do. However, to suggest our hearts should break because “our presence” is not making a more significant difference in our land is heartbreaking.

FJMATD-Logo-600x222We don’t look at society to see if “our presence” makes a difference! See, we are the very presence of Jesus everywhere we go. I’ve got to tell you friends, HE MAKES A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE every day in every way! We look to Jesus and let His presence MAKE all the difference in us. It doesn’t break my heart thinking “I” don’t make a difference. It breaks my heart when others don’t receive the difference He makes in us!

whats-that-smellThe Word of God tells us exactly what our presence will do in this world – and it isn’t about making a more significant difference. It is about His fragrance! 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life…”

We CANNOT know how little or how much significant difference we make in this world by looking AT the world! We CAN know it though by the fragrance GOD emits through us! He does the work. We are the diffusers! The power is in Him and we are His conduit! Everywhere we go we are TO GOD the fragrance of His Son. He diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge everywhere we go. Some people will smell it and receive life while others will smell only the aroma of death.

Certainly it hurts to know some smell death when His fragrance is diffused. But somehow, knowing it is not my job to make a significant difference by looking at how little or how much difference I SEEM to make, takes the pressure off and I can simply let God diffuse the fragrance of His knowledge through me, knowing I don’t need to “see” the difference, just “be” His difference.

jesus_public_display_of_affection_t_shirt-r51fa9b881391406db9ec8e08c5d4b01b_804gy_512When my husband, daughter, and I demonstrated our PDA, our public display of affection for Jesus, something significant happened in our lives and I can tell you it wasn’t because WE made a difference but because His fragrance was diffused which makes ALL the difference in the world. AND, I’m believing something significant happened to the man who said “Hail Santa Claus” as well. It might not be a difference WE saw, and it might not be the difference we would like to see BUT, when Jesus is diffused, when His knowledge is released, He makes a difference.

 
 

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Being Quiet Together

Recently, two of my daughters invited me to grab lunch and go shopping with them after worship services. I don’t like shopping but they convinced me some mom/daughter/granddaughter time would be fun, plus we all had birthday gifts to buy. It turned out to be much more than fun and shopping.

samGrandchildren never cease to amaze, having a way of surprising me without even meaning to do so. My sweet three-year old granddaughter Samaria asked if she could ride with me to the mall. I buckled her in and got on the road. After about five minutes of complete silence I said, “Sam, what are you doing? You’re so quiet!” She said, “Oh, Buma (her name for me), I’m just having quiet time.”

800px-thumbnailI personally love quiet most of the time since it gives opportunity to sort dozens of thoughts running through my mind or to stop thinking about things and start thinking on Jesus! However, when I’m with people, quiet isn’t the norm and might even be considered unsocial.

quietI smiled when Samaria said she was having quiet time not just because of how sweet she said it but because we were having quiet time together. I realized there’s a difference between having quiet time alone and having quiet time with someone. It was one of the most beautiful quarter hours I’ve had in a long time; being quiet with my granddaughter in the backseat, each of us thinking our own thoughts, enjoying each other’s presence without words, touch, sight, or taste.

It was a new feeling for me, or at least one I haven’t recognized perhaps because I love listening to all my grandchildren, hold and hug them, watch their interactions and activity, and kiss their cute little faces. If one of them is close by, I cannot help but talk, touch, watch, and yes, just eat them up. So to be in a place where Samaria and I were not conversing, where I couldn’t hold her hand and she couldn’t sit in my lap, and I couldn’t see or kiss her and yet feel so very close to her was amazing.  The love I experienced for this moment in time was tangible love. God had provided the perfect scenario for me to once again be renewed in the reality this is what it’s like to be with Jesus every moment of every day, living in His tangible love.

The presence of Jesus in our lives, though a mystery, is still as real as if He was here in the flesh. Surely we can’t literally hear His voice yet we hear Him speak to our spirits in many ways. We can’t physically touch His face or hands yet we can feel His touch often as we journey through our days. We can’t see Him with our physical eyes yet we see Him through eyes of faith. We can’t taste Him but we surely can taste and see the Lord is good. And we can be quiet with Him and experience His perfect peace, feeling so close to one another, it would seem we are one.

downloadThis experience then brought me to the pinnacle of quietness as Holy Spirit reminded me of one of my favorite bible passages, Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Some versions of the Bible say it this way, “He will be quiet in His love” to convey the message He is quiet with us in love or His quietness quiets us as we are renewed with His love. We are in the very presence of love when we are quiet with Jesus.

The quiet love I experienced with Samaria that day in the car was very special. It ended far too soon and I was left with the memory of our quiet time together. Yet, I smile every time I think of her words, “Oh Buma, I’m just having quiet time” because it reminds me we get to have this special quiet time with Jesus any time we want.

Jesus is with us, in our midst. He is mighty to save. He rejoices over us with joy and is quiet with us in His love. To top it all off, He rejoices, He takes great joy in us, so much so He can’t help but sing over us.

Today, I pray we’ll take the opportunity to say, “Oh Jesus, I’m just having quiet time.” Then enjoy being quiet with Jesus!

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Is it Another Day of Seeing the Same Old, Same Old Or…

downloadA kindergarten teacher was walking around her classroom while her students drew pictures. One little girl was scribbling so intently the teacher asked what she was drawing. The little girl replied, “I’m drawing a picture of Jesus.” The teacher said, “Oh honey, nobody really knows for sure what Jesus looked like.” Without missing a beat, the little girl said, “They will in a minute.”

Today, are you more like the teacher or the little girl? Really…take a moment and think about that question. I think many of us “get old” in our thinking and because we don’t really know for sure what Jesus “looked” like, we don’t give any thought to what He “looks” like. We’d rather stick with the “facts” than search for the “truth”. We’d rather be “real” than let our spirits soar and our imaginations take us to new heights.

1John29That’s what I think about when reading the BIble. Have I gotten old in my thinking and seeing? For example, John 1:29-31, 35-36 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” … Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

How do you read that? As some blasé statement like “Oh, look, there He is, blah, blah, blah!” OR do you read it with excitement and urgency something like this; “LOOK! LOOK! EVERYBODY LOOK! THERE HE IS! THE LAMB OF GOD! He forgives the sins of the WHOLE world! THIS IS THE guy I’ve been talking about! I know! You didn’t understand me when I said He is the One who comes after me but is really ahead of me. I didn’t even KNOW Him until I really saw Him! All this time I’ve been washing away your sins so you can start new with God but NOW… now that I see Him, whoa, I KNOW He’s the ONE! And it gets even better…I saw the Spirit flying down out of the sky like a dove, landing right on Him and then it stayed. God, who commanded me to baptize with water told me when I saw this, I would know! And, I’m here to tell you, now I know because THIS is Him…the Son of God, the real deal!”

imagesIf we hear and read God’s Word like this, I think we, like John would get pretty excited when Jesus comes walking toward us, right into our lives! See, every day, we are given the great privilege of experiencing His presence in a very real and tangible way! But, like John, we’ve got to be busy doing our Father’s work, and then, in child-like faith, we’ll look to see Jesus AND He will show Himself to us! Then something marvelous happens in us because Someone magnificent appears! Our spirits soar and confidence rises! Like the little girl in her quiet confidence we can’t wait to show Him to people so THEY know what He looks like too. Like John in his excitement, we exuberantly exclaim “Look, He’s RIGHT here! The One who takes away sin. Come here! You’ve GOT to meet Him!”

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It is true Christians walk by faith not by sight; it is equally true our faith is not blind faith! Seeing the object of our faith, Jesus, with our spiritual eyes compels us to walk confidently IN faith because we “know that we know” this is the One we know! See…John believed in Jesus before he saw Him with his own eyes! He had faith and it wasn’t blind. It was faith coming from knowing Almighty God. So, when he saw Jesus, his faith soared to a new level!

 

Is your faith soaring today? Have you seen Jesus recently? I’m not talking about near death experiences, visions of heaven or of Jesus as though these “prove” His existence. I’m talking about the ability to see Him spiritually! Do you see Him vividly? Does seeing Him make you feel alive? Is your faith invigorated by seeing Him and you can’t keep Him to yourself?

images (1)Whether your answers are yes, no, sometimes, maybe, I don’t think so, or I don’t know, pick up your Bible today and read John 1 with an open, surrendered heart. Let Holy Spirit show you the One who opens the eyes of the blind and lets us “see” in faith. Then, like the little girl, watch out because you’ll likely exude with confidence knowing people will see the Jesus you see. Excitement will ooze out as you tell people, “Look, here HE is. Jesus! The One who takes away the sins of the whole world.”

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us eyes to see Your Son, Jesus! Thank You for stirring our hearts today in faith, creating a longing to see our Savior Jesus, remembering He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world! That is more magnificent and humbling than words can express. Thank You for cleaning us up and sending us out. Thank You for giving us new vision with fresh faith each day we live here on earth! May we honor You in everything we see, say and do this day and always. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2014 in Faith & Worship, Uncategorized

 

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Happy Rejoicing…Happy Praying…Happy Thanksgiving!

il_570xN.316918257Americans are pretty good at giving thanks at Thanksgiving, as it should be! But as followers of Jesus, there’s more to giving thanks than just saying thank you! The “more” comes from doing God’s will! 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” The Message Bible says it this way: “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” That makes giving thanks non-optional! These verses outline an “all or nothing” trilogy! Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks! If we make this trio top priority, filtering everything we say and do through them, we’ll be giving thanks like Jesus planned us to!

Most of us can agree rejoicing ALWAYS is a bit of a misnomer in Christianity. Instead, we tend to rejoice sometimes, when we have earthly reason to rejoice. We’ve decided, maybe without being aware of it, rejoicing without cause is just faking it. We even encourage one another in the church “Don’t put on a mask; don’t be plastic or pretend everything’s okay. We have problems just like everyone else. Just be real.” Well, those are the facts; we shouldn’t fake it, put on a mask, be plastic, be pretenders, and yes, we do have problems like everyone else. But “just being REAL” as Christians, demands that the facts NEVER stop us from doing “truth”! We are to rejoice all the time!

My-Joy-Your-Joy-300x225It’s not as hard as one might think! We won’t be putting on a mask, be plastic, pretending, or fake any rejoicing WHEN we look to the source of our joy, the target of our cheerfulness, Jesus Christ Himself! IN Him our joy is complete! Jesus said in John 15:11 “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” The “these things” Jesus spoke of center on “abiding” in Him! When we remain and stay IN Him, wait on and focus on Him, we are filled with joy; we REDO joy; we RE-Joy or rejoice always! Our joy tanks will be empty if we abide, remain, or stay set on things of this world; on people, situations, worldly comforts, and even blessings! These things come and go, whereas Jesus is constant; He doesn’t come and go! So when we let His joy remain in us, we are full to the brim all the time! No faking, no pretension, no masks – just being real in Jesus!

light-shining-through-cracks-in-doorLet me share an illustration from profound Christian author, C.S. Lewis. One day he was in his tool shed near his garden. He noticed a sunbeam shining across the shed showing up the dust particles. He’d seen the same thing many times before, but this time he was captivated by it. He traced the beam of light to the crack at the top of the closed-door of the shed. What struck him was that although the light appeared to be coming from the crack, it was really coming from a blazing star 90 million miles away! Squinting up at the beam carefully so as not to burn his eyes, he followed the beam through the crack in the door, through the leaves of a tree outside, up and beyond to its magnificent source. Lewis thought to himself how different it was to trace the beam to its source than it was looking at the beam in his tool shed.

Joining Lewis in our mind’s eye in his tool shed, we cannot help but notice how the thin beam is so much smaller and weaker in comparison to the great burning nuclear fire called the sun. Looking at the beam alone tells us so little about its great source. Only by following and tracing the beam all the way to its source are we able to see the vast difference! The little beam is certainly beautiful but its source is magnificent and awe-inspiring.

The things of earth that flush thanks from our mouths are so much smaller and weaker in comparison to the great burning fire of God found in His Son, Jesus! Looking at the beams of blessings, the things we rejoice in here on earth alone tell us so little about their great source. Only by following and tracing the beams back to their Source, are we able to see the vast difference. The things of this earth we rejoice in are certainly beautiful but their Source is amazing and glorious! We can never get so entranced by the things of this world that we forget to trace them back to the source of all beauty, the beautiful One we love.

pray_always-160604_thumbRejoicing positions us to embrace the second act of the trilogy, “Pray without ceasing”! The more we pray the more we’ll rejoice! The Bible repeatedly urges us to pray always but we often prefer to make excuses for our shortage of prayer; saying or thinking it’s not possible to pray constantly or that’s not really what He meant! Praying always doesn’t mean we do nothing else but pray; it means nothing else hinders us from praying. Luke 21:36 “Watch therefore, and pray always…” 2 Thessalonians 1:11 “Therefore we also pray always for you… Luke 18:1 “. Men always ought to pray and not lose heart…”

Prayer is simply communicating and communing with God, something we should want to do ALL THE TIME! But never forget communing is a two-way street; we don’t do all the talking; we let God speak to our spirits bringing comfort, confidence, conviction, correction, and cheerfulness to us! He makes us want to rejoice, to re-do joy repeatedly when we live IN HIM! Surely there are times of sadness and sorrow in this world; no one is saying they don’t exist. But IN the midst of sorrow we commune; we pray; we listen to His Words; we respond to His direction; we rejoice IN Him! 2 Corinthians 6:4, 10 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God…as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing…”

urlWhen we rejoice always and pray without ceasing we’ll be compelled to “give thanks in everything”, the third act in the trilogy. Notice we give thanks IN not FOR everything! This week we’ll thank God for many things. But let’s admit there are things unworthy of thanks; sickness, disease, murder, abortion, poverty, famine, fires, earthquakes. We don’t thank God FOR these terrible things! I know… some Christians think bad things make us reliant on God or remind us to trust Him more! But unbelievers think we’re crazy when we thank God for terrible things and yet tell them He is a great God, the Giver of all good gifts! We need to be real in Christ. Bad things happen and we’re not thankful FOR them BUT… we sure do thank God IN the bad times, in everything, trusting Him IN all things! Romans 8:28 “…all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

The story of Martin Rinkart might help us understand how we don’t thank God FOR everything but IN everything! Martin was a German Lutheran pastor in Eilenburg, an overcrowded refuge town during the Thirty Years War from 1618-1648 when famine and deadly epidemics raged! In the year of the Great Pestilence, 1637, the town started with four pastors. Soon, one left to work in healthier conditions and Pastor Rinkart officiated the funerals of the other two. As the lone pastor, he often conducted funeral services for as many as 40-50 people a day, burying over 4000 people that year including his own wife. By the end of 1637 the death toll demanded people be buried in trenches without services. Living in this kind of world, dominated by death, Pastor Rinkart lived real Christianity. He rejoiced, prayed and gave thanks by tracing everything back to his Source of rejoicing, praying, and thanksgiving, God Himself and he wrote the now famous hymn as a prayer for his children to pray “Now Thank We All Our God”! As you read the words, keep in mind what was going on around Him.

url-1Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore!

Martin lived in the midst of extreme chaos, confusion, and loss! But in this world, he found reason to rejoice always, to pray without stopping, to give thanks in everything because it was the will of God in Christ Jesus for him. It wasn’t WHAT He was experiencing that caused him to rejoice, pray and give thanks. IT was WHO he was experiencing!

url-2Thanksgiving MUST go with a life of rejoicing and praying! Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but IN everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” The truth is if we’re not actively giving thanks in everything we’re likely complaining about something! One doctor wrote,  “I used to think people complained because they had a lot of problems. But I’ve come to realize they have problems because they complain. Complaining doesn’t change anything or make situations better. It amplifies frustration, spreads discontent and discord, and can invoke an invitation for the devil to cause havoc with our lives.”

Complaining always leads to misery! Psalm 77:3 “I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed.” God’s answer is revealed in Philippians 2:13 “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” That sounds like a plan to me! Shine like stars! When we shine, the world will SEE Jesus in us! We cannot hide our light or waste time complaining and arguing. We are light in a dark world!

part-003The parable of candles might help us remember to stop making excuses and start shining! There was a blackout one night and a woman fumbled to the closet where she kept the candles, found and lit four of them. As she was turning to leave with the largest candle in her hand she heard a voice, “Now, hold it right there.” “Who said that?” “I did.” The voice was near her hand. “Who are you? What are you?” “I’m a candle.” She lifted up the candle to take a closer look and there was a tiny face in the wax. “Don’t take me out of here!” “What?”

“I said, don’t take me out of this room.” “What do you mean? I have to take you out. You’re a candle. Your job is to give light. It’s dark out there.” “But you can’t take me out. I’m not ready,” the candle explained with pleading eyes. “I need more preparation.” The woman couldn’t believe her ears. “More preparation?” “Yeah, I’ve decided I need to research this job of light-giving so I won’t go out and make a bunch of mistakes. You’d be surprised how distorted the glow of an untrained candle can be…” “All right then,” she said. “You’re not the only candle on the shelf. I’ll blow you out and take the others!”

But right then she heard other voices, “We aren’t going either!” She turned to the other candles, “You are candles and your job is to light dark places!” “Well, that may be what you think,” said the first one, “But I can’t go, I’m busy … I’m meditating on the importance of light. It’s really enlightening.” “And you other two,” she asked, “Are you going to stay, too?” A short, plump, purple candle with chubby cheeks spoke up. “I’m waiting to get my life together, I’m not stable enough.”

The last candle had a very pleasant female voice, sweet to the ear. “I’d like to help,” she explained, “but lighting the darkness is not my gift … I’m a singer. I sing to other candles to encourage them to burn more brightly.” She began a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.” The other three joined in, filling the closet with singing. The woman took a step back and considered the absurdity of it all. Four perfectly healthy candles singing to each other about light but refusing to come out of the closet and shine in the darkness!

ShineBrightThis world is full of darkness with many people stumbling around trying to find their way. We can be light for them! But we only shine when we reflect light from the Source of all light; when we rejoice when there is no earthly reason to rejoice; pray when we have no words left to pray; give thanks in everything, not for everything. Smile…say hello…forgive…shine…reach out…serve…! Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Happy rejoicing!                           Happy praying!                       Happy Thanksgiving!

Always_Rejoice

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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Church, Giving, Prayer, Uncategorized

 

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