Archive for March, 2013

Feeding On Jesus

I have had a tendency to want to read books about the Bible, or devotionals with a verse and someone else’s commentary. They are easy! Why wouldn’t I be drawn to that? I’m a busy mother of 4 boys who teaches full time on the side. I need someone else to do the study and the thinking for me. I don’t have time to sit down and read the actual BIBLE. The idea is, you do the reading, the studying, the learning…and then share the high points with me.

Last summer, over my break from school, I began to use my time off to do some more in depth study of the Bible. I still used commentary, but I spent more time than I had in the past reading the actual Word. I began to pray before I read, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And God has used this to grow my faith. He has begun doing some amazing things in my life, and I am incredibly grateful, and humbled!

Today I read a passage in the book of John. I am not going to quote the whole thing here, so you will need to look it up, so be prepared:-) In John 6:48-59, Jesus tells a group of people that they need to eat the bread of his flesh, and drink the life of his blood in order to have real life. There were some in the crowd who questioned what Jesus was saying. Quite honestly, if I were in that crowd and heard Jesus speak that way, I would have thought he was nuts…and pretty gory. But Jesus insisted that he was not like the bread that their ancestors ate. (I would think not!) What was the message behind the zomie-body-eating-gruesome message?

Let’s make some connections. In John 1:5, the author says this, “In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him. In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.” Jesus is the Word of God. The Scriptures are also called the Word of God. Coincidence? Of course not!!! Was Jesus really suggesting that we eat his flesh? Or the pages of the Bible? No! He was telling us that we need to read the Word as though we are devouring it. Take it in, feed on it, completely ingest it into our very beings. But there is more.

Jump to Romans 12:2. “Do not change yourselves to be like the people of this world, but be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.” Be changed. That is not you doing the changing. You don’t “be changed.” Someone does the changing for you. That someone is the Holy Spirit of God. When you feed on the Word of God, and submit what you ingest to the work of the Spirit of God, He uses it to nourish you, grow you, change you.

The more you feed on the Scriptures and allow yourself to be changed, the more you will find yourself craving the Word. It is like a chocolate addiction! Once you have experienced it, you can’t get enough:-) So bon apatite!

PARADE FOR ONE

   I passed through a town today shortly after the funeral procession for a fallen soldier.  Flags lined the streets from one end to the other.  A somber, yet proud moment for the town and the surrounding area as they recognized the man’s sacrifice and honored his service to his country.  I couldn’t help but be affected by the scene.

   As I drove through, awed by the sight, I thought of another parade of sorts.  The Triumphal Entry when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, riding on a donkey.  The crowds lined the street to see this one man.  There were no floats, horses or fire trucks.  No police cars, military vehicles, or flags…just Jesus.  Yet they came.  Crowds of people.  Some waved palm branches.  Others laid the branches, or their coats, on the path for Jesus to walk over.  The excitement must have filled the air…anticipation and hope for the one who would rescue them.  And yet we know how that all turned out.  Jesus was indeed lifted up, but not in honor.  He was lifted up on a cross to die, mocked and hated.  His funeral procession was virtually non-existent.  In fact, all of his closest friends deserted Him.  Only two men carried Him away, prepared His body and placed Him in the tomb.  

   Three days later Jesus arose from the dead.  He appeared to His disciples and over 500 people before He ascended to Heaven.  You would think that a man coming back to life would warrant a parade that would lead to an enormous celebration.  But that did not happen, either. 

   Though I was long past the honored serviceman’s town, I continued to consider the flags.  Then I thought about a parade in glory.  Can you imagine?  Instead of the red, white, and blue of our nation; flags glowing pure white, waving high in the air.  People gathered in a crowd as far as the eye can see and beyond.  Not a one concerned about being bumped or jostled.  No one’s toes being stepped on.  No one reaching for a chair because their back aches from standing and waiting.  No worries.  No frustrations.  Just anticipation.  Then.  Just then, with the sound of perfectly made, holy trumpets, Jesus appears to greet all those He calls His own.  Oh the joy that fills the soul!!!  When the  rustling sound of millions, or trillions, or who knows how many, souls bowing to their knees and declaring Jesus Christ as Lord literally fills every particle of air.  The moment Jesus finally receives the honor and glory due Him.  What incredible hope we have for our future.  What peace and joy are waiting for those of us who believe.  I can’t wait!!!!  Maranatha!!  Our Lord comes!!!!

   PRAISE BE TO GOD THE FATHER, JESUS THE SON, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT FOREVER AND EVER!  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

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“I pray that what you want will be done.”

The story of Jesus praying the night before His crucifixion is one that tends to stick with a person. Then Jesus went with His followers to a place called Gethsemane. He said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with Him, and he began to be very sad and troubled. He said to them, “My heart is full of sorrow, to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.” After walking a little farther away from them, Jesus fell to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, do not give me this cup of suffering. But do what You want, not what I want.” Then Jesus went back to His followers and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “You men could not stay awake with me for one hour? Stay awake and pray for strength against temptation. The spirit wants to do what is right, but the body is weak.” Then Jesus went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this painful thing to be taken from me, and if I must do it, I pray that what you want will be done.” (Matthew 26: 36-42, NCV)

Any follower of Christ has considered the anguish He went through just knowing what was coming. To me, the very fact the the Son of God prayed to be released from this is more than enough indication of His humanness…it was certainly not something He wanted to go through. When Jesus returned to Peter, James and John and said to them that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, I doubt He was speaking just about them. But in the end He gave Himself over to the will of God the Father. “I pray that what You want will be done.” Have you ever wondered in awe at His faithfulness to the Father and His plan? It can leave a person heavy-hearted and near tears.

In The Case for Easter by Lee Strobel he spells out, in graphic detail, what Jesus’ body went through during the crucifixion. It is unimaginable that one human being could inflict that kind of pain and suffering on another. And it is no wonder a person could not live through it. What intense love Jesus had for the Father, and what indescribable love they had for us to go through with this plan to save humanity.

Something caused me to pause during the night. As I lay in bed and each torturous act of the crucifixion went through my mind, it occurred to me that Jesus didn’t give in to the Father’s will just that one time in Gethsemane. He had the power of God in Him. At any time during the process, He could have stopped the whole thing and walked away. But He didn’t. With every fist to His face, He surrendered to the Father’s will. Each time the whip with stones and pieces of glass struck His back and tore flesh from His body, He surrendered to the will of the Father. When the spikes were driven into His wrists, rendering his hands useless and sending excruciating pain all the way up His arm, He surrendered to the will of the Father. When His weakened legs pushed His body up, bearing the weight on the spikes driven into His feet, just so that He could take a ragged breath, He surrendered to the will of the Father. As He breathed His last breath, He surrendered. I wonder at what point I would have said, “Enough!”

I don’t think the words to the old hymn do Him justice, but it is all that is in my heart right now.
“Oh how He loves you and me. Oh how He loves you and me. He gave His life. What more could He give. Oh how He loves you. Oh how He loves me. Oh how He loves you and me.”

God bless you all!

The Tortoise & The Hare…Heh?

I am as surprised by this post as you are. I write as I feel led by the Spirit, and that has typically been every 2-3 weeks. But God has something new to share today, so here I am.

Allow me to put a spin on the story of The Tortoise & The Hare, if you will.

The tortoise and the hare were in a race. The hare naturally had a distinct advantage over the tortoise. His speed, of course. But there was more. He was also born on the starting block. He was ready to run the very second the gun went off. He ran with such grace and agility. His quick legs carried him almost effortlessly through the long course. As he ran unchallenged, his confidence was high. In fact, soon his conficence became pride.

“Who would dare to enter this race? ” He thought. “It would be pure foolishness. It would be nothing less than epic failure, for no one could be as good as I am. Besides, it is my right to be here, and no one else has that.”

At last the hare approached the finish line. He stuck out his proud chest, raised his arms high in victory, and ran straight into the tape held across the end. The tape stretched…but did not break. In fact, it flung the hare backward onto the track. The hare was stunned, but gathered himself and ran forward a second time, then a third, and a fourth. Each time the tape held fast, and the hare was unable to finish the race as he had expected to do.

Meanwhile, the tortoise had not been born on the starting line. He was born quite a distance away. He struggled over rocks, through crevices, and under scratchy bushes at a painstakingly slow pace just to reach the start of the race. By the time he actually entered the race, he was incredibly thrilled to be there. At times his heart was so filled with joy that he leapt up in the air as high as his short legs would propel him. At other times he would stumble and fall. But each time he would get back up, dust himself off, and continue on steady and sure of where he was going. He ran the race steadfastly, faithfully, determined to cross the finish line.

Finally the tortoise approached the end of the race, where the hare continued to run fruitlessly against an un-relenting tape. The tortoise, humbly low to the ground, crossed the line…under the tape. He was met with shouts and cheers, and many hugs from the crowd who waited on the other side. The arrogance of the hare would not let him stoop to go under, and so he remained.

In Matthew 21 Jesus told the story of two sons to some priests and religious leaders (vs. 28-31). Afterwards he said this to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before you do.” (vs. 31 – NCV).

Can you imagine the reaction of the priests and religious leaders? I can. I can see the look of horror on their faces. Absolutely incredulous! How dare he! Who does this man think he is?! We are Levites! We were born to this greatness. We are set aside as holy to God. Not only will we enter the kingdom of God, we will enter with great fanfare and glory! This is our right! And these, these…sinners (you can almost hear that word being spit out with utter contempt), they will never enter the kingdom of God. God cannot bare to look at them, let alone allow them in His presence. This man’s words against us is hypocracy in itself!

And yet, Jesus said the sinners would enter before the priests. Wow.

Many of us were born and raised in the church. We have attended church every Sunday since…forever. We find security in knowing that we have spent our lives in the house of God. Salvation is ours. One day we will enter the kingdom of God with great fanfare and glory…wait a minute. What? Ouch. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.

There is a danger to being raised in the church. At times there is advantage to coming to the church later in life…salvation is a treasured gift that is accepted, not assumed. So should we all leave the church? Of course not! But we do need to recognize that salvation is not a right given to those who go to church, anymore than it was for the priests of Israel just for being priests. Salvation is given by grace, and grace alone, to the church goer, the good person, the sinner, and the really, really bad…as long as they put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. As long as they make Him the Lord of their lives. No one can assume they are Christians because they go to church, and Sunday School…not even because they were baptized (at any age), or because they went through confirmation, or any other number of reasons.

Search your hearts. Have you ever gone down to bended knee and offered you life up to God? Have you prayed, as the old hymn offers, “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.” Have you asked Him to mold you and shape you into the vessel He wants you to be? We are all cracked, warped, even broken clay pots, but God is ready and waiting to miraculously fill you and use you for His glory. You just need to place your broken vessel into His hands, and then let go.

TAKEN

The Lord giveth and The Lord taketh away.  I remember hearing that when I was young.  Sometimes it was spoken in jest, when someone lost while playing a game.  Sometimes it was said in earnest during hard times.  Then it was almost a sad resignation to God’s reigning power.  It was a faith, a trust in the One from whom all things come.  It may have been a loss of money, or property, a job, or a life.  Whatever it was, it was God’s to give, and God’s to take away.  

I read an interesting couple of verses this week.  I’ve read it before, many times.  I’ll bet you have, too.  They are Luke 10:39, 41-42:  Martha had a sister named Mary, who was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him teach….  But The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.  Only one thing is important.  Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.” (NCV)

Boy, can I relate with Martha or what?  My plate is so full, the stuff pours off into piles on the floor.  There is so much to do!  Work the full-time job during the day.  Then there are dishes, laundry, cooking, cleaning, helping with homework,  read devotions with each of the 4 boys, tuck them in, manage the the whole thing so that everyone is where they should be, when they should be, with what they should have, etc., etc., etc.  Do I worry that my house isn’t clean enough?  Oh yah.  Does it concern me that number 3 son went to school this morning with a massive bed-head?  Yep.  Do I stress that I will never get caught up on anything…ever?  Guilty as charged!

Seriously!  What world am I living in?!  Martha, Martha…MommaB, MommaB…this world is NOT my home!  What is all the stress for?  All of these things are here only by the grace of God.  The job, the home, even the boys…and I am grateful!  I am blessed!  But they could all be taken from me.  My very soul shivers at the thought.  But what I have always belongs to God before it belongs to me.

There are few things that cannot be taken from us.  Our faith, and our salvation for certain.  Luke 10:42 promises something else.  What will never be taken away from Mary?  What was Mary doing?  She was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him teach.  That is what can never be taken from her.  Does that mean our God-time will never be taken from us?  No.  I’m afraid we have a tendency to give that away rather freely.  But what we get from the time spent in prayer with our Lord, and in reading His Word; time being filled with the Holy Spirit; taught, shown, blessed, strengthened, encouraged…that can never be taken from us.  All the business, all the worry, all the stuff that we fill our lives with, is nothing.  But the time that we have in intimate contact with Jesus, that is a treasure to be stored up; perhaps even hoarded:-)

HE KNOWS US HOW?

If you are a parent, how do you know your child?  You walk into an event center with tickets to see Disney on Ice.  Thousands of kid…all over the place.  To the naked, untrained eye, they are all a bunch of little ankle-biters.  One looks like another, and that one looks like the next.  They all scream and cry and whine and laugh the same.  How do you know which one is yours?  Well of course, you know what your child looks like.  You have been with him since before he was born.  You know the hair, the freckles, the cute little nose.  Those eyes, and the pout that can melt you down to putty if you are not careful.  You know how tall they are, and what they are wearing.  What is amazing to me still,  is how I can hear my child’s voice among many, and know that one is mine.  I know you have that same incredible skill.

One way I don’t identify my children is by how they listen to me.  “Oh, I know he is mine because he is the one who listened to what I said, and then obeyed me.”  I almost laugh at that one.  In reality, if that were a true measure of which child was mine, I would have to say the one who did not obey me was mine:-)

I found something in the Scriptures this week.  Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27, NCV).  Did you see that?  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  Jesus does not know us by our voice, but by how we listen to His voice. 

There are times when I am in prayer, seeking the presence of the Holy Spirit, and I am suddenly overwhelmed with His presence.  At those times I can barely formulate a word…yet I push forward.  I somehow think that if I am praying, I must be the one speaking.  God has showed me that those moments when I am flooded with the Holy Spirit are times when He has something to say to me, and I need to listen, not speak.  I want Jesus to know me as one of His sheep.  Desperately I seek Him.  May I listen to His voice today, and be known by HIM.  I pray the same for you.

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