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Archive for March, 2015

Have you ever wondered why the Friday before Easter is called “Good Friday?” Considering the violence and death this holy day commemorates, such a positive label doesn’t seem to fit.

Some historians feel the original name was God Friday and through the years gradually transitioned to Good Friday. Some European countries refer to that day as “Great” or “Holy” Friday. The Bible itself does not give the day before Easter a particular name, but Scripture does give hints as to why Good Friday really is an appropriate name.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us

and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  

I John 4:10

The steps Jesus took to the cross on that day so many years ago can overwhelm us emotionally unless we experience it through the grid of God’s great love for us. 

There is meaning in each step Christ took on this earth. His merciful works, His miracles, His teachings were all willing steps drawing Him closer to the good purpose for His coming, a restored relationship with you. From Palm Sunday entering Jerusalem to the Last Supper in the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stepped forward willingly knowing what awaited Him and the great purpose it would serve:  an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

That is why Good Friday is indeed good.

 

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For truly, I say to you, 
if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, 
you will say to this mountain, 
'Move from here to there,' and it will move, 
and nothing will be impossible for you." 
Matthew 17:20b

A grain of mustard seed is between 1-2 millimeters in size. How astounding it is to me that this is all the faith God requires of us to move mountains! Faith is a powerful thing and so important to God that He said if we doubt we should not even think we will get anything! (James 1:6-7)

The things in life that are on our hearts and on our minds can consume us, and if we let it, enslave us for sometimes moments and other times perhaps a lifetime. God not only wants us, but he invites us to ask, seek, and knock on the door of His word; and to do something we can not see…to have believing faith that He can do anything and everything according to his will.

Have you ever had moments in time when anxiety was so high you could hardly breathe…when your heart felt weak, your strength was gone, and life as you knew it would be changed forever? I have. Faith was not only required but mandatory to get me through those very moments in time. But how, I would ask myself, how? I opened up God’s word and read about Him. Within the pages of His book I discovered what it was to have faith. There was a crack in this worldly framework and a heart that longed for hope and peace. This is the crack the Holy Spirit spoke through, and the very one I pray every moment of every day God’s precious Son Jesus’ light will shine through for all to see!

We see that same light of hope in the faith of so many in the Bible. Whether it was to have a baby, as in Abraham and Sarah, to cross the Red Sea on dry ground, or countless other stories told throughout His word, God displays to us the remarkable blessings of what faith can accomplish. His answers are not always our answers, but one of the strongest answers through faith I have ever received is the blessing of peace in the moment.

Is there something on your heart today… Do you have a crack that is open? His invitation is at the door of your heart. I am praying with you, and I know He is hearing us both! Many Blessings!

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Sometimes I get so frustrated with God. I pray and pray for what I want. And I don’t get it. Why?

I try to do everything I’m supposed to. I serve, I try to show others kindness and compassion, I try to lead a life of a Christian in my thoughts and actions.  I very rarely pray for what I want so why can’t He give this one thing?

Matt 26:39 reminds us that even Jesus Christ didn’t always get a “yes” in answer to His prayers.  Matt. 26:39 shares with us Jesus praying to God right before He was arrested and crucified. “Oh my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

I realize a few things from this example:

~First and foremost, because God didn’t answer Jesus’ prayer, we are forgiven of our sins.

~ He doesn’t answer all my prayers.  He knows what is better for everyone and that is what He looks at, not just what I think will make my life better.

~ Jesus was willing to be obedient to the Father, no matter what the answer to that prayer.

So with that being said, I’ve become much better at releasing my wants and desires over to God. He knows what I want, I haven’t stopped praying, but I am much better at not worrying about whether or not I am going to get what I want. In the end, I have faith that my life will be so much better.

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Noah, a farmer, builds a ship that takes 130 years. Looks pretty foolish to me, especially when there had never been rain (Gen 6-7).  Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, chases a lion down into a pit on a snowy day and kills it (II Samuel 23:20-21). Water is molecularly re-structured from water to wine through 100 instant chemical reactions to help a family save face (John 2). A hole is cut in the roof of a home to lower a friend for healing. (What must the homeowners have thought?)

On and on the miracles shared in scripture can look and sound very foolish.

Nehemiah thought his training as a wine steward prepared him to become a contractor/architect and rebuild a wall? Joshua didn’t assume that the sun couldn’t stand still. (Joshua 10); Elisha didn’t assume that iron ax heads don’t float. (II Kings 6); Mary didn’t assume that virgins don’t get pregnant. (Luke 1); Peter did not assume he could not walk on water. (Matthew 14)

Perhaps we need to re-examine our idea of faith to realize the goal of faith is not the elimination of risk. In fact, like the men with talents to invest, isn’t the greatest risk when we take no risk for the Lord? The more you’re willing to risk, the more God can use you. And if you’re willing to risk everything, then there is nothing God can’t do in and through you. Sometimes stepping out in faith and being willing to risk means forgetting the assumptions built on logic, history or circumstances. Sometimes, it means doing the opposite of all that sounds reasonable. Abraham and Sarah had a good life…a life of wealth and stability, and God told them to “go” without even telling them where He wanted them to go!  And they went!

When King David danced before the Ark of the Lord, his wife thought he was an embarrassment and looked pretty foolish. (II Samuel 6). But David wasn’t seeking approval of men, rather David found his identity and security in the Lord God.  One Hebrew word for worship is “hallal,” meaning “clamorously foolish.”  Think about it, we sing songs to someone we cannot see, raise hands to someone we cannot touch, pray to someone present in the invisible only. When we realize we have nothing to prove to others, but only to rejoice in the love of our Lord God, we experience the greatest freedom to be all that He would have us be. That produces a happy dance in my heart and often times in my feet. I hope it does yours too.

One author states it well, “If you aren’t willing to look foolish, you’re foolish. In fact, faith requires a willingness to look foolish….Part of spiritual maturity is caring less and less about what people think of you and more and more about what God thinks of you.” Christ tells us to become as little children, who can at times look foolish and silly because they trust that their world is being taken care of. We are equally assured as we recognize we are God’s children. So, let’s step out with “foolish looking” faith and take a risk for God today.

Mark Twain said, “20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

 

 

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“And I pray that Christ will be more and more

at home in your hearts as you trust in Him.

May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.”

Eph 3:17

I want to have faith like Abraham! (Romans 4:16-24) Abraham never wavered, but believed God’s promises. Because of that faith, God declared Abraham righteous.  Scripture states we too, through faith, can be assured God will also “declare us to be righteous if we believe in God, who brought Jesus our Lord back from the dead.”

Despite that heart-felt desire for great faith, most often I am less like Abraham and more like the father seeking healing for his son who exclaimed, “Lord, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.’” (Matt 9:24)

So, how do I strengthen my faith?

When you bake bread, you use various ingredients that must be mixed thoroughly or the bread will not turn out correctly. Jesus uses a similar illustration regarding faith:  In order to fully experience a life filled with confidence and faith, every aspect of our life must be permeated with God’s Word. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast used by a woman making bread. Even though she used a large amount of flour, the yeast permeated every part of the dough.” (Matt 13:33 NLT)  We can strengthen our faith by digging into Scripture…and it can be fun!

~ It is exhilarating to have God’s Truth come alive. It constantly amazes me the new discoveries I can make even while reviewing passages that I have read many times. For years I have read a chapter of Proverbs every day, as there are 31 chapters. My Bible is filled with notes, highlights and underlined portions and yet, each month I see something fresh and new. Recently, in Genesis 15:5, two words jumped off the page—“God took”…God cared so much for Abraham that He met him at the place of his need, but then took Him to a different place to shift his perspective. Wow! How many times do I limit God because my perspective is not His?

~ Strengthening our faith not only comes from reading God’s Word, but letting it soak into our life through study.  For example, studying the miracles of Christ opens our eyes to see the bigness of our God, but also how He cares about even the small aspects of our lives. For example, how many bottles of wine did Jesus make when He turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana… 757 bottles of wine! When I first read that, I vocally challenged the writing I was reading, but reviewing John 2, the 6 “jugs” of water held between 20-30 gallons each. If Christ can do that, is there anything He can’t do for you and for me?

~ Half of faith is learning what we don’t know, but the other half is unlearning what we think we know. Jesus repeatedly tells us, “You have heard it said, …but I tell you…” (Matt 5-7). When we study God’s Word, review His miracles, investigate the facts of creation, etc., our faith is strengthened.

~ There are more than 7200 promises in God’s Word. Studying just one promise a day would take more than 20 years.

As we consistently lean in to God’s Word and His Promises, God will help us to overcome our unbelief and our faith will grow strong and unwavering.

 

 

 

 

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I had an epiphany moment today, or maybe I should say, Jesus Christ flipped my perception upside down. Waiting at a stop light to continue to my destination, I was prevented from taking off because of a woman moving extremely slowly in front of my vehicle. Anxious to get moving, it was all I could do not to honk urging her to move more quickly. Perhaps you too have had those types of moments when your immediate thoughts are not to offer kind words or act patiently.

My perception of the situation immediately changed, however, when she got past and I could see she had a full walking cast on her leg. Suddenly, I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed at my impatience and the lack of grace I had failed to extend toward her mentally. I was immediately struck with the truth that this was a visual example of the difference between my perception and my Lord God’s perspective. He always has all the facts, while I often jump to conclusions without pausing to get all of the vital information about a matter. Similarly, God knows the full range of plans He has for me, while like only being able to see the woman over the hood of my vehicle, I only have a partial view of the whole plan. (Jeremiah 29:9-11)

In this less than 2 minute experience at the stop light, the Holy Spirit impressed on my mind three practical reminders to take through my day:

  • My place isn’t to judge.
  • What I see before me is not always the full picture; even when I have all the facts, my perception may be inaccurate because of my experiences, cultural limitations, or other knowledge from my life.
  • Wait—God will make things clear in His time.

Jesus Christ flipped the world upside down in His day (and ever since) by making statements that seemed counterintuitive and, sometimes even foolish. Matthew 5 – 7 provide daily reminders that He calls us to look at the world from His perspective rather than based on a more socially or commonly accepted way of thinking:

Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the meek…Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness…Blessed are the merciful…Blessed are the pure in heart…Blessed are the peacemakers…Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness…

 

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“Even when I go through the darkest valley,

I fear no danger, for You are with me….”

Psalm 23:4

We all sign up for “mountain top” experiences, but the dark valleys… we would really rather avoid even talking about those kinds of things.  But God doesn’t avoid this topic, as the above verse highlights.  And that provides us with encouraging words for our day on how we can survive and thrive in the valleys of life!

Maybe some of your valleys have been intense like mine—the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, miscarriages, disabled spouse, divorce, a child who has wandered away from family, disabling disease or illness. Those valleys brought me to a point where I would pray to God, “You say you won’t give us more than we can handle, but please don’t trust me with so much!” These are the kinds of hardships that feel as though we have been pushed out of an airplane in a sky dive event with no parachute—free falling into an abyss.

But so often, the “valleys” of life aren’t the big things but are bumpy moments in our day.  Nothing is going according to plan, the children are squabbling, work is dicey, the spouse is grumpy, we feel waves of intense loneliness… These types of moments make us feel guilty because we know life is “good,” but at the moment—not so much.

Whether our valley today is an abyss or just a bump in the road, how do we survive and even thrive?  Right now, I am in a time of feeling incredibly alone, vulnerable both emotionally and physically. Yet God has wrapped His loving arms of grace around me and is reminding me that He is present—I am not alone.

In the midst of this “valley” I am learning to praise the Lord through daily reading the Psalms. Psalm 119:49-50 is one of those that reminds me of His promises, “Remember Your promises to me, for it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.” (NLT)

The best way to assure we will survive and thrive in our faith, coming out on the other side even stronger than before, is to frequently pray His promises (see verses below).  And whatever might happen in our day today, we can be certain His grace will see us through.

Protection Promises: Prov.18:10; 1 Sam.2:9; Ps.125: 1-2; Ps.91:3-4, 11-12; Ps.34:19-20; Ps.121:1-8; Prov.29:25

Promises that God Will Meet Our Needs: Phil.4:19; Matt.6:25-26, 31-33; Deut.28:1, 11-12; Luke 12:30-31; Deut.29:9; Ps.111:5; Isa.1:19; Zech.10:1; Lev.26:3-5

Promise of God’s Presence in times of fear and doubt: Isa.41:10; Isa.41:13; Isa.43:1; 2 Tim.1:7; Luke 12:6-7; 1 John 4:18; Rom.4:21; Ps.112:7; Isa.58:9

God’s Promises for times of depression: Ps.43:5; Ps.73:26; Ps.37:23-24; Ps.34:4- 7; Isa.49:15; Heb.13:5

Promise that God is Present in times of failure and helplessness: John 14:1; Isa.61:1-3; Ps.147:3; Rom.8:28; Isa.41:13; 2 Cor.12:9; Rom.8:26; Heb.13:6; 1 John 4:4

Promise of God’s Assurances in times of anxiety: Matt.6:30, 34; Phil.4:6-7; Luke 12:25-26; 1 Pet.5:6-7; Gal.5:1; Matt.11:28-30.

 

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