Why Am I Ridin’ The Crazy Train?!

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Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; Isaiah 51:1

Ever been the brunt of a cruel and twisted joke? I have, yesterday! I walk into MY Walmart and the baking aisle had been split into two different locations none of which I could find. The eggs, cheese, yogurt even the juice boxes for crying out loud were all mixed up!!! Who thinks up these things! I’m sure it’s apart of some ingenious marketing strategy to flip a store but really!! I know my Walmart (or I used to) to where I could organize my list according to my path through the store (maybe that sounds a bit OCD but I take 6 kids, two carts, and grocery shop for a family of eight) and this method allows me to complete the mission in 45 min flat (not included the check out time… but that’s another story for another time).

I figure who wants our crazy train in their store longer than we need to be! I guess Walmart likes me more than I thought because now we have increased our shopping time to a 2 hour quest of which we may or may not emerge with the correct dinner ingredients! (Just grab some frozen waffles this train is leaving the building!!)

“Can someone please help the crazy train lady in aisle 8?!!” I haven’t heard that over the intercom (yet) however can you relate to wanting some help with the crazy train of thought your mind can take at times!!? Read Genesis 16. You can’t fault Hagar from the train of thought her mind took. Talk about interesting family dynamics. Do you see in verse 5 Sarai’s response to the building drama? You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering… That tends to be a typical knee jerk response for many of us. We look around for who’s fault this can be traced back to. Sometimes our hurt is caused by someone else but finding the one to blame has never really made my problems go away, the thing is still done and the act still hurts. There is no lasting healing in the blame game.

Abram in verse 6 tries to wash his hands of it all, Your servant is in your hands… I’ve found ignoring the problem never makes it go away either it just ends up rearing its ugly head again at the most unexpected times and usually with such ferocity that even I’m taken by surprise!

Hagar’s response is to run away (verse 6). Blaming, ignoring, and running from issues has only led me to a ride on the crazy train of thought, and that train only heads to the deep dark zone. But Psalm 139:7-12 states, Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful I know that full well. Do you know this full well?!

In that passage it makes no reference to any exceptions to the rule and God’s word is Truth (John 17:17). He loves you and can find you in the deep dark zone. And wouldn’t you know Genesis 16:7 states, The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert – God can find you in the desert places of your mind, in the places you feel hope has died.

In Jesus hope never dies, He is our living hope! 1 Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – Notice there was a stream in Hagar’s dessert. That’s impossible you might say but, See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 The probable is not any harder than the improbable for our God! Amen!

God engages in conversation with Hagar… wait are you thinking, well gosh if I could only hear the live voice of God I could get off this crazy train too!!… For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thought and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 Sounds to me like the very alive voice of God!

God speaks purpose and great promise over Hagar and don’t you know He does for you too!!! Sometimes we need to pray, read His word and CHOOSE joy, re-frame our situation from His perspective and filter our thoughts through the Truth of His living Word. I’m in no way saying this is easy. There have been times the desert place of my mind has been created by the shattering of my heart to dust like sand that can feel like quicksand. But He can find you even there and lift you out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he can set your feet on a rock and give you a firm place to stand, it says in Psalm 40:2!

Paul when chained to a guard was able to write, Rejoice in the Lord (not in your circumstance but in the Lord and he knew that would bear repeating as desert winds can be deafening at times) I will say it again: Rejoice! Verse 6, Do not be anxious about anything (somethings? NOT ANYTHING), but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds (yes your mind so that you can choose to exit the crazy train) in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:4,6 

Nothing can come to us that isn’t first sifted through God’s hands, hands that are able to make all things work for good (Romans 8:28). So Gen. 16 ends with Hagar understanding more of who God is, more of His character. Her heart now just a little more deeply romanced by His love. She says in verse 13, You are the God who sees me… That same God sees you too. Not only is He able to lock eyes on you in a crowded room but He also knows your name. Lets turn to John 20 and please read 10-18.

Do you see we enter the scene with a girl crying outside a tomb… but wait, sometimes the sorrow that stretches your heart to the breaking point might be what Jesus is using it to stretch it to hold overflowing hope and joy (Eph. 2:4-7)! This girl also comes with a history (don’t we all), in Luke 8:2 tells us she was cured from seven demons! The number 7 is the number of completion in the Bible so could it be she was considered completely gone yet we serve a God of the living not the dead (Luke 20:38), His specialty is resurrection!!

So this gal Mary Magdalene stays when everyone else has gone on… when you have the Living Hope living within you, you can go from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7) you can hold on because when your strength is gone it’s Him holding on to you. She held on and who meets her, who finds her right where she is at, who sees her? JESUS, just as He promises! He saw Hagar and years later He sees Mary and He see’s you today (Hebrews 13:8) What happens in verse 16?! It’s not until Jesus calls out her specific, individual name that she understands who He really is. This is her Jesus who died but conquered death for all of eternity and is alive again… and took the time to meet with HER (1 Cor. 15:55-57)!! No greater love.

If He knows the name of each star (Psalm 147:4) He most definitely knows your name! Turn to Isaiah 43:1 and insert your name for Jacob and Israel!! Remember, Romans 2:11 states, For God does not show favoritism. So Jacob and Israel are not loved more that you, He sees and knows your name too and want’s to meet you right where you are at to speak His promises and His living Truths over you too.

Will we choose to cry out to Him who sees us, Who knows our individual names and bend our knee to listen?! Life can be like a marching band at half time… on the field the musicians feel like a scrambled mess just marching according to the conductors directions. If they look up however at the screen shot taken from the above video camera they would see that, Oh ya we are spelling something out or I see it now, its the mascots face! But if they navigated off course while on the field because it just didn’t make sense the picture would be wrecked! He knows things we don’t and understands things we can’t, (Isaiah 55: 8-9) might we just pray for ever increasing trust in Him! He understands, I mean what doesn’t make crazy sense either is that Jesus who knew no sin was crucified!!!! He understands having to remain faithful when the plan doesn’t compute logically and is excruciatingly painful. But He rose from the gave to call you to rise too, call you by name like He did for Mary, to say, like He did to Hagar, I see YOU. May we trust our Prince of Peace to drive (so we can rest) our train of thought all the way into His Kingdom.

In His promises we can trust He is using every step on the field for good, stay the course. Psalm 119:162 I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great treasure. The treasure of His Word points to the treasure of a Kingdom, a Kingdom of which is inside us (Luke 17:21) He puts His treasure in us regular old cracked up jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:7)! Amazing grace! A Kingdom of which He won for us by rising from the grave after His sacrifice in our place on the cross! If we want the promises we have to trust His processes. The crazy train stops here. You know… the frozen waffles are right next to the frozen dinner section, that much they have not moved, so maybe it’s not so bad and we will have a half decent dinner after all.

Jesus, direct my train of thought, transform and renew my mind, fixing it on You the perfecter of my faith. Help me remember the solid Rock from which I was cut, and to wallpaper my mind with the Truth You speak over me in You living Word. Thank you for all the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy things You have given me to think about. May I choose joy in You because You see me, know my name and have won for me a Kingdom of the everlasting kind! Praise Your Name Jesus, Praise Your name.

Independent Read: Phil. 4:8, 2 Cor. 4:7-9, Romans 12:2, Hebrews 12:2, 2 Chronicles 16:9, Psalm 94:19, Psalm 95:1, Zeph. 3:12-17, Revelation 17:14

 

Pursued, Persuaded, Redeemed

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You see at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6

He’s always doing that you know…. things, at just the right time… For me to know that the events between mid Isaiah chapter 52 through 53 are now fulfilled prophesies of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection made 700 years before He even set foot on this planet is mind blowing!! I can’t even control the events of my own life DURING my lifetime let alone think of having it planned and figured out 700 years before hand! There in lies one of the many reasons He is God and I am not. So why do I still find myself vying for the position subconsciously in my thoughts, words and actions at times?!?

Take a quick look with me at the Bible’s hall of fame, also known as Hebrews chapter 11. A chapter in which are listed people just like you and I with every kind of imperfection that God decided to pursue. These people chose to let God persuade their heart in a love relationship with Him so lets take a look at what amazing things can happen to a life that bends to His persuasion.

Land on verse 31 of Hebrew 11. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. First of all Rahab is listed in the hall of fame, WOO HOO go girl!! What an honor right! But tell me she is not up in heaven maybe thinking, at least at first… really God, prostitute Rahab, and not even A but THE prostitute Rahab! Sharing the whole truth of our testimonies however is often times the key to someone else’s freedom in Christ isn’t it. After all is said and done however notice in Matthew 1:5 God has breathed her name into His redeeming Word now not as the prostitute but as Rahab the mother of Boaz in the genealogy line up of none other than Jesus Christ Himself! Talk about redemption!! And talk about doing things on time! Verse 17 states, Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ. You couldn’t make this stuff up it’s just too good isn’t it!!

One more thing to highlight God’s amazing work in and through Rahab of which He pursues each one of us to do the same, however look at how she chooses to submit to His persuasion… turn to Joshua 2 for her story. Did you read it? Good. So where did Rahab’s faith come from? From verses 8-11 it would appear that it was through rumors she had heard of their God! She heard theirs was the God that parted the Red Sea and how successful they had been in battle… from the rumors she could declare in faith, I know that the LORD has given this land to you… (verse 8) and, the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. (verse 11) She had this faith from rumors and these spies had grown up with this God and they were still testing the waters! Rahab’s courageous faith ends up rescuing her entire family – talk about stepping out and breaking the stronghold cycle in a family! She chose to run with the guys in the field rather than take refuge in the strongest most fortified walls of her city!! She was pursued, persuaded and so by faith she stepped out of everything she knew and God redeemed her life. Courageous! But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard. Isaiah 52:11 

Faith like Rahab’s produces action. See James 2:25-26. A branch on a vine does not have to stress about producing fruit right? As long as it stays connected to the vine, its source, the fruit will naturally produce. Same with us, we abide in Him and the fruit of our lives for His glory will one day be astounding! Before we close lets take a look at two more ladies who displayed great faith but first read Matthew 28:1-10.

Mary Magdalene and Mary (probably James and Joses’ mother) were on their way to the tomb where Jesus had been laid when a violet earthquake took place and an angel that looked like lightening came down from heaven! This was enough to make the big burly guards shake with fear and become like dead men! But the angel speaks right to the ladies and says in verse 5, “Do not be afraid, I know that you are looking for Jesus…” Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Do you think concerning the events that had just happened on the cross three days ago there could have been some doubts running through those ladies heads?! Uh yah! But that didn’t stop them from looking for Jesus. In all our uncertainties He is certain. We can cry out to Him, Jesus persuade my heart!! Romance my soul! Enrapture me until I’m so full up on You that I’m held breathless with Your joy! Pray that and see! But don’t give up He doesn’t hide, He promises to be found by those who sincerely seek. Look now at verse 8.

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (verse 8) When was the last time you were afraid yet filled with joy? It is my believe that a faith that produces action does not hold the absence of fear, but rather the presence of trust. Tell me there wasn’t fear inside Rahab as she stepped out of everything she knew?! And these women at the tomb looking for Jesus, it clearly states they were afraid and rightly so the events made many burly guys shake and become like dead men! But look at what these women found in verse 9… JESUS! It says He met them! Don’t you know He is pursuing you, He wants to meet you right where you are!

Will we open up to His persuasion of our heart? He wants to meet us in our journey. No matter where or what or why we’re where we are stopped Him from going to the cross for you and I while we were still sinners and you can’t tell me He didn’t know about it all sweet friend, our God had things spoken over His life 700 years before He came to earth! He went to the cross knowing all about you, knowing all about me and He still chose the nails. You and I are more sinful than we ever dared believe, yet are loved more than we could ever dare hope or even imagine!

Let Jesus romance your heart.

Jesus thank You for Your saving grace. Romance my heart as I open up to You to be all that You are for all that I need and may you develop in me a craving for You that can not be quenched but by more of You, let nothing of this world compare to my heart in Your Almighty hand.

Independent Read: Hosea 11:4, Romans 8:31-39

The Press Of The Spear – A Rescue

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The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To  him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 2 Timothy 4:18

A dear friend of mine recently turned my eyes to this passage in Scripture concerning Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3 and 4. 3:10-12 states, You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings – what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… Did you catch Paul’s statement, Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. My sweet friend got me thinking of ways the Lord has rescued me too. Now I ask you…. think over your own life and can you identify ways the Lord has rescued you? The fact that you are reading this devotional is proof He has not let you go. That no matter where you have come from or what you have gone through, He is still wooing your heart dear one.

My heart is turned to perhaps another’s rescue recorded in Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26. Let’s read it from Mark, A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. At first glance at least for me it didn’t appear to be a rescue but more like a nightmare of the worst sort. Like the kind you try to wake up from and you realize its not a dream but instead reality. Let’s picture this scene together just a moment.

Simon, the father of two boys, who we can draw from Mark’s mention of their names that they became known in the Christian circle but it doesn’t say they were with him at the time it just mentions the relation. Simon, it says was just… passing by- on his own way- just happened to be coming in from the country- I compared many different versions and all indicate the same thing, he just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, or so it would seem the victim of random assault. But maybe it was rather a divine appointment…

I imagine Simon, like many Jews at the time, longing to at least celebrate one of the festivals in the Holy City. We can relate right… a visit to the Eiffel tower in Vegas holds not a candle to a visit of it in Paris, France right!! So maybe he had just spent his life savings on this one trip and come to find all his vacation dreams were anything but what he was expecting. So here he is minding his own business when all of a sudden one of the soldiers that Mark 15:16 indicates was leading Jesus away to be crucified suddenly, I imagine, presses his spear tip into Simon’s shoulder blade…

“What?! Why me, there must be 100,000 other guys here in this crowd and your spear tip finds MY shoulder!?! I can assure you I’m not your guy! I did nothing!! I’m not even from here!! Seriously are you kidding me, I’m supposed to be on the vacation of a life time, I’m the good guy celebrating the festival in the Holy City!!!” This is just my own commentary and maybe these would just be his thoughts as his tongue would be too frozen in fear to actually formulate coherent words, but can you relate to that possibility? Have you been where Simon is, when everything is going NOT according to plan and you might even be thinking, yep, this is the end of me for sure! But, Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Romans 11:33 Could this actually be the perfect set up for a…. rescue!? (and the plot thickens… gosh there is no book more intriguing than His Word is there!!!)

Again I compared many versions of all three verses that mention this event with Simon and all the words listed for how they picked him are, to say the least, unpleasant! Words like, forced, seized, made him, taken hold of, compelled him, pressed into service, laid hold upon, grabbed hold of, detained, constrained… Yep can we all say we sought after an opportunity to feel those things like, NEVER, right! But here Simon is made to carry a cross that’s not even his but in a way it really is. Sometimes due to no fault of our own we find ourselves forced to carry the cross of another and sometimes we feel our own cross is too heavy. We can fall into self pity, “why am I so misunderstood, why is no one helping me, why this trial, why this load?!” I call it the “web of whys”. Clever right?! “Web of whys.” “Web of lies.” sometimes I amuse myself. 🙂 Either way, web’s are for spiders not people!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Matthew 11:28-30 Maybe you think this verse has to be a joke but honestly I’ve found it to work. Coming to Him in prayer and in His Word there is rest for a soul and we can learn from Him. What does He show us… die to self – you might be thinking, that sounds fun… but have you tried it? The moment I stop fixing my eyes on my web of whys and worries and start getting busy serving another my burden lifts just a bit. It doesn’t make my burden disappear but it does show me His grace is sufficient, His power is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

Let’s look at how this ends for Simon. Turn to Romans 16:13 and lets see what Paul says about Simon’s family, Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. Incredible right!!! I told you this Bible book is thrilling!!! Somehow the spear that Simon resented pressing him in to carrying the burden of the cross would seem to have brought not only him to a saving relationship in Jesus but his whole family too!!! God is SO good!

Simon was not a random dude in a crowd, Jesus saw a man he had dreamed up before the beginning of time and in order to fulfill his GREAT purpose and plan through this man He had to allow the press of the spear. Jesus is all about the rescue of your soul too. So if you are feeling the press of the spear and all the fear, confusion, discouragement and pain that comes with it might we just come to Him like the guy in “It’s A Wonderful Life” movie (I won’t say it’s a crime if you haven’t seen it – but it is, and I will include the clip I’m speaking of at the bottom.) and just come to Him on bended knee and cry out and just see how He answers the call to woo your heart! He is able dear one, He is able to bring you all the way, ALL the way, safely to His heavenly Kingdom. Praise and all glory to His name!

Independent Read: Philippians 1:20-21

*See that picture above… that’s a spontaneous picture I was able to take of a little one praying all on his own and isn’t that what it’s all about! Like Simon enduring “the press of the spear” carrying your cross well so that one day the torch of faith is carried on!

Confirmed Presence

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For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11

…already laid...”, Gosh I sure find that comforting don’t you! In a world that seems to demand to-do lists before we even get out of bed and our feet hit the floor in the morning God has already, already (Praise Him!) laid my foundation! Check! Now I just need to plant myself on top because, Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Wow! What a love note from the King of my heart! My Warrior who will fight for you and I and treasure our love! Are you getting chill bumps like me?! He is so faithful yet in my humanness I still sometimes long for confirmation, confirmation of who He is and of His presence don’t you?

Do you remember in Luke 1 when Mary is told she is going to conceive miraculously and be the mother of Jesus… she seeks (in a hurry, I think we would too considering the circumstances) companionship, of another that is also expecting. Sometimes we too just need to get around others in the Body of Christ that are strong in faith, sturdy on the foundation of Him and eagerly expecting His Kingdom as well.

Look what happens in verse 41, When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. So cool! Such a reminder that the Jesus in you will move something in others! Keep shining His light!!

Looking at the life of John the Baptist, the baby inside Elizabeth, he was a miracle kid and lived a life fully devoted to preparing the way for the life and ministry of Jesus. So when we read in Matthew 11:2, When John heard in prison what Christ was doing…. Wait, from where?! John heard in PRISON! Well that doesn’t seem right! John’s the good guy! I think John kind of felt the same way, that’s why he sent his people to get the scoop from Jesus. Back to verse 2, …he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Haven’t we been there too? Caught in the prison of our own mind, chained by our own unmet expectations.

In Matthew 11:4-5 Jesus confirms to John what John really already knew… Jesus was the Messiah, John had prepared the way for the right guy, his life was not wasted. Jesus confirmed His presence. Even when we think things have all gone awry, even the things that God has not caused but allowed, its because He can use it for His good and His glory. If we can release our mind from the prison of our own expectations not being met we might realize that what He doesn’t meet, He wants to exceed. We will be free to embrace what is, instead of stay chained to what isn’t. Disappointment is a tool God can use to increase our faith but its also a tool the devil will use to destroy our faith. Lets agree not to give him the satisfaction!

After Jesus sends his response to John about who He is, He turns to the crowd and tells them about John and that He thinks he is great! Why didn’t Jesus say that to John? Maybe because He wanted John’s faith to rest in Himself and not himself. Golly if that doesn’t speak to my heart to trust Him even if I don’t get to see the whole picture this side of heaven! This life is not easy and even when we do everything right like it seemed John did, things can still take a left when you planned a right. John’s story ends with his head on a platter. I so wish even his story could have been different but Jesus prayed there might be another way to save me than by way of the cross too and there wasn’t. When we can’t find our answers we must look at the empty tomb and keep the faith because it doesn’t end this way, one day we will see the top side of the tapestry. I can trust and be grateful He is my sure foundation even when my legs feel like jello!

Speaking of Jello legs look at what happened to that army trying to arrest Jesus in John 18:6! When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. What!!?! Judas comes up with 600+ armed men to arrest Jesus and Jesus simply says, “I AM” and they all fall over!!!?! Crazy! So who is left standing? Those standing with Jesus. Incredible. Friends, He is the sure foundation laid before the beginning of time, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end! If He is A and Z I can trust Him with my L, M, N, O, P! Praise Him! Praise Him!

Jesus when I’m suffering from Jello legs please confirm Your presence, give me eyes that see and ears that hear and a heart willing to follow joyfully Your will. Free me from the prison of my own mind and the chains of my own expectations to embrace Your bigger picture and greater purpose. To zoom out and see things from Your perspective. You are I AM for all that I’ll need and I’m just so grateful You’ve already laid that foundation for me. What You don’t meet You exceed and I’ll praise Your Almighty victorious name, Your kingdom come, may Your will be done. I can rise because You are alive!

Independent Read: Isaiah 58:11, Eph. 3:20, Prov. 3:6, Matt. 28:20, Joshua 1:9

*See that picture above… we can’t see who made the footprints but they are there in the shape of a heart… as you walk by faith not sight trust His promises to direct your steps and be with you to the very end of the age.

A Faith That Keeps on Saving

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And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

Do you remember the story recently about a young firefighter, 31 years old, father of 5 with one on the way… all of a sudden he was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away quickly yet he was an organ donor. As the news picture displayed, so many people gathered to honor this hero, saving lives as a firefighter in life yet now, even now in his death saving life upon life upon life with the donation of his many young and healthy organs.

Life in this fallen world is filled with stories of tragic heart ache of which we can not explain. Yet Ezekiel 18:32 states, For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD.  It is also filled with unexplainable joys too. To those many, many lives who may have lost all hope in a miracle were granted a second chance though this young mans death. Why does it have to be this way?!

Eve in the garden focused on the one thing she could not have which was the tree of knowledge when right beside it was the tree of life! She lost sweet life grasping to have it all figured out! I feel I’ll be in the same boat forfeiting the abundant life Jesus died to give me this side of heaven and the other if I choose to devote myself to trying in my finite mind to have it all figured out. Its futile, in Isaiah 55:8-9 He tells us so. He knows things we don’t and understands things we just can’t. So how do we survive in the unknown?! I believe we go back to what we do know – remembering Jesus.

During the last supper, the night before He was crucified He participated in communion and He showed His disciples the broken bread symbolizing His broken body for us and the poured out wine symbolizing His spilled out blood for us. The cost to purchase you and I for eternal life was high too, incomprehensibly so. Do you believe this, I so pray you do! For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever would believe in Him would have eternal life. John 3:16 

When we face “unexplainably hard” we can choose to see it with the backdrop of the cross and empty grave. He did the hard thing to make sure it doesn’t end like this for us who believe. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come… 2 Peter 3:8-10. Jesus says in Matt. 24:12-13, Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. Hang on do not let your heart grow cold, hang on in the unexplainably bad of this world because we have a blessed hope coming!!!

Think of the men on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-34. They are pretty distressed you can hear it in their discussion, in verse 21 they say, “but we had hoped… and what is more, it is the third day…” Many of us can relate to having been there, we did hope but by the third day, third hour, third year…. discouragement began to set in. Discouragement is just a tool of the enemy, lets not let him use it on us!! 1 Peter 1:3 says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ form the dead  – We can always rise because HE IS ALIVE!

When is it these two men have their hopes lifted?! It’s when they saw Jesus for who He really was! Look at Luke 24:30-32 this is just amazing! When he was at the table with them, he took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not out hearts burning with in us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 

Could it be when we are brought to our knees in communion with Him and we are reminded of His broken body and poured out blood for us that we remember how deeply we are loved and He can restart our hearts. Reminding us it’s not success He requires but faithful obedience. He declares His Word to be like fire in Jeremiah 23:29 so if we need a heart restart, a fresh craving stirred within to follow hard after Him in the hard unexplainables of life, might we start in communion with Him in His Word! Praying that He stir up a hunger for Him like Jeremiah in 20:9, But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed. I cannot.

Like the women at the empty tomb who could not comprehend the scene either in Luke 24:5-8, but what was it that snapped them back to Truth from fear of the unknown?! Verse 6 states, Remember how he told you…. verse 8 Then they remembered his words. Have we been walking closely enough to Him, do we know His word enough that He has something to remind us of, to pull up in our minds in our time of need? No time like the present to start!!!

Isaiah 43:1-4 But now, this is what the LORD says – he who create you, O Jacob, (insert your name) he who formed you, O Israel: (insert your name) “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk thought the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in you stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you… As we can see in this passage it says when, not if, we will pass through waters, fires, rivers… BUT He will be with us and it will not end hopeless, He is our Savior and we have been redeemed and one day we have heaven!

Gosh if we could only comprehend heaven right! But right now we walk in faith not sight maybe so that the glorious surprise is not one bit spoiled. Like waiting to reveal the perfect Christmas gift for the one you love! That must be a bit how Jesus feels toward us. But He gave us His word, a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105 We have His faithful promises to cling to!

Lamentations 3:21-24,57 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed for his compassion never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. – You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.” See that picture up above of the poor raccoon, it reminds me that in this life situations and circumstances will come my way that I cannot figure out and just climbing higher on the quest to getting all the answers is futile and to my demise… I need to remember Who’s I am and climb back down into His lap and rest in remembering that the God too big for me to figure out is able to handle me and my too big to figure out situation… all the way to His Kingdom.

Jesus, fix my eyes on You who does not change like shifting shadows and help me to remember that even when I don’t fully understand I can trust in Your goodness and what Your Word says, that what harms me, You can use for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Gen. 50:20 Keep on saving lives Lord, many many lives through the surrendered life of me. I’m holding on to faith that, what no eye has seen, no ear has heard and what no human mind has conceived are the things You have prepared for those who love you! (1 Cor. 2:9)

Independent Read: Isaiah 41:10, John 12:24, 1 Cor. 13:12, Psalm 46:10

 

Not losing the gift in the hand-off

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…while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ… Titus 2:13

Did that first part of the above verse trip you up like it did me?! …while we wait… I don’t know about you but waiting is not my strong suit. I sit still too long and I’m certain I literally start to grow mold! What’s pretty about mold? Nothing! And similarly when I have to wait on God’s timing, His way, I’m afraid my attitude has a tendency to get pretty moldy. Moldy hopelessness can tend to grow when asked to wait too long, can’t it?!

Remember in Luke 22:31-32 Jesus says, “Simon, Simon Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back strengthen your brothers.” Before we go too far, my Hebrew/Greek word study bible indicates that the first “you” in that first verse is plural! Meaning it’s not just Simon that Satan has asked to sift like wheat. BUT look at John 17:9,15 where Jesus says, I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. (15) My prayer is not that you take them out of this world but that you protect them from the evil one. Satan is a thief (John 10:10) and want’s nothing more than to steal your hope in Jesus because then he’s robbed you of your faith and thus salvation. Doesn’t that stir up a desire to scream out as a reminder to self, No weapon formed against me will prosper!!! (Isaiah 54:17) (Well depending on where you are right now screaming might be a bit abnormal, at least you can write it down in all caps on a sticky note right!!)

Peter in his denials of Jesus did not lose his faith or love but as he saw Jesus led away, he lost hope that this could ever end well and fear overcame. Romans 8:28 assures us He can make everything work together for good, His glory. Why, because He paid the total price for our lives on the cross and then rose again conquering death! Where O death is your victory, your sting! (1 Cor. 15:55) Matt. 22:31-32 –have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? (not I WAS) He is not the God of the dead but of the living. Heaven is real friends!! We have a blessed hope, Jesus has conquered, He has a kingdom of which He is coming back for us for!

Remember Satan is a thief though and he will work to blind, snatch, lull, mascaraed and mix Truth with all sorts of lies to gain a foothold in your heart and mind because he want’s nothing more than to see you and I benched, sitting held in a stronghold on the sidelines of abundant life. Thinking practically… well, so how do I make sure that doesn’t happen because sometimes life can truly feel like more than one can handle and the ground under foot seems awfully, awfully shaky. Sometimes it feels like God is allowing or asking too much. But where are my eyes when I’m thinking that way?! Me!! He won me a room in His Kingdom of which I did NOT deserve and He had to pay my way by His blood! He knelt, sweating blood in a garden one night asking for this to be accomplished any other way too! But He submitted…. to save me, and you.  So whatever He has entrusted to me for such a time as this, if it feels He is asking for it back or at least for me to lay down the illusion of control I think I have over it and fully let go and place it into His mighty hand, I have to cling to 2 Timothy 1:12. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able (HE IS ABLE) to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. He is able to guard what I/you entrust to Him until that day – that blessed living hopeful day!

Don’t let the enemy steel what Jesus won for you in your hand-off!! The handing off, the entrusting to Him, of what may seem like too high a cost this side of heaven but it will not be! It will not be!!! Cling to the blessed hope! You are a child of God an heir to the throne! Do you know what that means!! We cannot even begin to fully comprehend its meaning except that it will be more beautiful than we could have ever even have imagined in our wildest dreams of wanting! Jesus’ example shows that He prayed in hours of exhaustion constantly. In my hours of exhaustion when I’m in my weakest state of mind am I following Jesus’ example or do I let myself be wide open game for the enemy?!

Something new hit me in Matthew 14:22-23 about Peter stepping out of the boat. It was verse 28. Just after verse 27 when Jesus walks out on the water and says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Peter responds in verse 28, Lord, if it’s you tell me to come to you on the water. – Now remember the waves are still roaring yet when Peter hears Jesus say, “Come”, out goes Peter anyway! This struck me because in Scripture Jesus assures us time and time again He will be with us, He will not forsake us. So yes, take courage don’t fear, in this world you will feel like you have more than you can handle handed to you and asked from you, but I think…. we have the option to take courage in the boat in the storm or maybe just maybe even as He approached the boat that night in the storm and stilled their fear with His presence He allowed the waves to rage on hoping that one with faith like Peter would be up for the adventure! An adventure so thrilling so breathtaking, one in which He could show the one up for it who He is, what He’s like when your willing to trust Him to take His hand and walk through the waves, on top of the crests, in the wild wind! I think He was longing for someone to know Him to those depths and lengths. He didn’t force anyone, we can ride the storms of life in the boat or we can take His hand and and willingly surrender it all to His will, His way, “Show me You Jesus, I’m coming in close, I’m getting out of the boat.”

Verse 30 says Peter saw the wind… now you can’t see the wind only the effects of it right… maybe that’s left to interpret as what do we see as the effects of our “wind”.  In this scene it was literal waves for Peter, but what effects are the “winds” in yours and my life creating? Is it allowing the devil to get a foothold in your hope? Or is it emboldening your faith to say let the “wind” rage but Jesus call me out!!! The waves are going to rage and I see no light or end but I want to trust You. I’m on this ride called life and I don’t want to get off only having seen things from the perspective of my seat on the boat! If You are going to allow the waves to grow to heights I can’t handle on my own I don’t want to wait them out in the boat, I want you to use them for all that they are worth – show me Your glory as I step out and by Your will I’ll live to tell about it so someone else will not lose their promised blessed living hope in the process of handing off to You that which only You can guard perfectly until that day.  Thank You that Your grace is sufficient.

Independent Read: 2 Cor. 4:16-17, Heb. 12:2, Phil. 4:8, 1 Peter 1:3, Romans 8:37

*See that picture on top, its a beautiful flower no mold in sight… don’t let the devil steal your seed, don’t grow weary in the wind, on the waves, in the rocks, always hope because He is faithful thus you can grow, even thrive, in the midst.

 

Another page in our love story.

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“…If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.'” Luke 19:31

On this snowy day in March, (Yes March! It seems to have come in like a lion this year!) it’s just the coziest sort of day to be thankful for all the good and lovely things that God has given me to think on (Phil. 4:8). Curling up under an afghan to watch a little “Pollyanna” is always helpful too.

You know in that movie there is a not so nice person that tries to control the town and even the church to which Pollyanna reminds people that no one can own a church, its God’s. This reminds me of how often our decisions can be influenced by fear. No good decision is made in fear, good decisions are made in faith.

I’m reminded of Pilate in the unfair trial of Jesus leading up to His crucifixion. I can find 7 times throughout the gospels that Pilate declares Jesus innocent, he can find nothing to accuse him of (Matt. 27:23, Mark 15:14, Luke 23:4,14,22, John 19:4,6). Yet in fear of the crowd and his boss, so to speak, he ends up giving in to what they want. Pilate makes the decision in fear to send Jesus to be crucified against his better judgment.

The crowd was pretty intense chanting “Crucify! Crucify!” (John 19:6) John 6:7 records the Jews saying, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”  However if you look back at the law in Leviticus 24:16 it says, anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Um, did you read what I did?! It said stone not crucify. Isn’t that what happens to our hearts when we start living in the law and not grace, in religion and not relationship. We read the Word with binoculars instead of a mirror. This world is all about getting ahead rising above the next guy but Jesus was about coming down. He went from a throne to a manger, from being worshiped by angels to a carpenters job, from being the creator of thorns (Gen. 3:18) to wearing a crown of thorns, from being Judge to being judged. That kind of humble sacrifice takes strength beyond my comprehension! One in which I pray somehow He will work out in my heart as I pray to submit and surrender my will to His.

This brings me to another thought in Luke 19:28-40 pertaining to Jesus triumphal entry. Go ahead take a moment to read it too.

Does verse 30-31 strike you like it did me?! Talk about surrender, I mean what if that donkey was all they had, what if it was a favorite friend, a child’s faithful confidon, what if it was like the child they could never have or something they had just given their life’s savings to purchase or maybe it was what they were going to sell in order to survive a bit longer until they could find work, maybe it was one of many, but maybe it felt like all they had was being taken away. You ask why and the explanation is just, “The Lord needs it.” WHAT?!?!

Maybe the owners of the donkey knew Scripture maybe they didn’t, but if they did… 1 Kings 1:33 states, he said to them: “Take your lord’s servants with you and set Solomon my son on my own mule… Jesus wants the donkey to proclaim to the world that He was the chosen Son of David to sit on Davids throne! And Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation gentle and riding on a donkey. Jesus wanted the donkey to show the world He was the one the prophets had spoken about! And do you notice in Luke 19:28-29 This donkey was planed for before He had even entered the city!! Verse 30 displays Jesus attention to detail! This donkey was chosen for GREATNESS it had a predetermined GRAND purpose to fulfill with it’s life but the owners were going to have to let go to trust Jesus with out all their “whys?!” being answered.

The only thing I can see in letting go in this passage that would have made making the decision to trust in faith rather than say no and cling to what they felt was theirs in fear of all the unknown, would be knowing Who needed it. Knowing the Lord, knowing this Jesus; and we can through His Word too!! He is the lion we can’t tame but can always trust. He is the lamb that was slain and the lion that has triumphed. He is called Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11) and all His promises are “yes” in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20).

Jesus, please, You say it only takes a mustard seed of faith to move a mountain (Matt. 17:20) so today please grow in me that mustard seed of faith to trust You when if feels like You need my “donkey”. When everything in me want’s to cry, NO! That’s mine! Help me to let go of the illusion of control and to rest in the promises of Your Word and in Your faithfully good character. To know it’s really You and not me that holds all things together. (Col. I:17) Give me eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart to follow joyfully beyond what I can understand and to sense Your presence… I AM. To hear after, the Lord needs it….dear child “haven’t I promised you that everything is working together for good to those who love Me (Romans 8:28)? Haven’t I promised you that I will bring you to a glorious end (Jeremiah 29:11)? Haven’t I promised you that I will complete that which I’ve begun in you (Phil. 1:6)? Haven’t I promised you that I will restore to you the years the locusts has eaten (Joel 2:25)? Haven’t I promised you that no weapon formed against you shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17)? Haven’t I promised to supply all your need (Phil. 4:19), that if you seek Me first, everything will be added unto you (Matt. 6:33)?” So that I can respond in faith not fear. Okay, Lord. I trust You with my “donkey”. Please keep me close with my hand in Your Mighty one as You walk me through this next chapter of our love story together.

Independent Read: Deut. 31:6

*That picture on top… that’s a mustard seed… and it’s growing. 🙂