Mischief…Little Happenings…Self-Imposed Blindness…Amazing, Loving God…

squirrel mischief.jpg

MISCHIEF…LITTLE HAPPENINGS…SELF-IMPOSED BLINDNESS…AMAZING, LOVING GOD…

God used prophets, priests and judges to lead the people of Israel. There was a particular kind of closeness to God that meant visions and miracles and triumphant victories. Yet…they were a stubborn and stiff-necked people. Like with us…some things started with a little mischief. But once you start…things often get complex…even out of hand.

Despite God’s faithfulness, love and amazing direction, they would repeatedly get sidetracked, worshipping and serving other Gods. Oh the sins that followed!

Despite God’s faithful leading, the Israelites wanted to be like other nations so they asked to have a king to lead them. Samuel was the prophet, priest and judge during this season. Despite his warnings about the kind of taxation and oppression it would ultimately mean…they were relentless in their demands for a king.

Obviously, it hurt Samuel to feel he was being rejected/replaced. God said, “Samuel…they aren’t rejecting you…they are rejecting me. Let them have what they ask.”

Prior to Saul becoming king, there is this seemingly random little story tucked in God’s word. It tells how Saul’s dad’s donkeys got loose. Saul and his servant were sent to find them. They went from place to place, endlessly searching for these stubborn, wayward donkeys. Saul was about to turn around and go home but his servant mentioned how there was a man of God (Samuel) nearby and, “Everything he says comes true. Maybe he can tell us where the donkeys are.”

Then…wonder of wonders, despite their random wandering, they “coincidentally” ran into Samuel.

Seriously? They had been searching everywhere for these foolish donkeys and they “just happened to” run into Samuel? This was the man who would pick Israel’s first king. God’s plan was for Saul to be that king! Can anyone deny that these very daily events and yes…this crazy donkey-search was orchestrated so the people of Israel could have Saul as their king?

Small events add up to the life God intends. Sadly, this was something God did not want for them. This was something they chose because of ego and sin and a desire to be like their godless neighbor nations.

Yet…God picked a king for them.

Why? Because, as always, He was on a mission to provide what the people needed in order to ultimately be drawn to Him. There was a lot of pain attached to choosing the leadership of a king, rather than the leadership of God. Rebellion always means pain. Rebellion is blindness by choice. To rebel is to choose not to see and hear what God is saying. It doesn’t start with total rebellion. It starts with the little things.

God understands us though. He knows that to force us would mean an unrepentant, unchanged heart. He knows that eventual desperation will give us the best opportunity and desire to call out to Him. God formed us and knows our psyche and knows what it takes to drive us out of our self-imposed blindness. It is still our choice, of course. But He is ever working to open our eyes through our disquieting circumstances, the prayers of others and the power of His convicting Holy Spirit.

He has a custom-made plan for you and me so that we can live out the custom-made life He has designed for our peace, joy and purpose and… the glory of His name…

2 Timothy 3:12-17 (NIV)
12  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
13  while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,
15  and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
17  so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

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Be the Light…Discover Purpose & Joy…

Three flowers

Be the Light…Discover Purpose & Joy…

During the darker times of your life or just…times when you realize your heart isn’t where it should be toward people or ministry…don’t beat yourself up. Jesus isn’t.

But…He does expect you to come to Him and work through it. He wants you to come to Him a hundred times a day, if you need to!

When I say, “Work through it.” I am not talking about it taking an hour or a day or even a week.

We have things. All of us have things. We have backgrounds and God-given personalities that make it feel impossible to do certain things God is asking us to do. How can that make sense? Perhaps He has given you a more introverted personality and you need/want to be alone. Yet…He asks you to be “the light of the world”. No…He tells you that you are the light of the world!

He also tells you that He will equip you to do what He asks us to do. Would you give your daughter a crayon that is the wrong size for her tiny fingers and dexterity and then ask her to draw a fairly advanced picture? Would you tell her she can’t leave the table until she does? Would you openly criticize her and slap her hands when she dropped the crayon repeatedly?

Gosh…brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

Our God loves us with such a perfect love that He came to earth and lived as a man and then…this Holy, sinless God took on Himself all of the unbearable ugliness/wickedness of our sin. He took our place so that we could live in relationship with Him forever.

Remember, He put Adam and Eve in a garden… the most satisfying place for the soul of man. He walked and talked with them…laughed with them and marveled with them.

That is the life He intended for us…the life He wanted for us.

He is the perfect parent. He wouldn’t create you with a particular personality and then beat you up for not having a different one! He wants you to lean into Him in order to find the strength to do the things He is asking you to do. He wants you to lean into Him when you have just done something that wore you to a frazzle. You only did it because you knew He wanted you to reach out in this particular way.

Slowly…through each small obedience…we learn to depend on Him and take the hard steps rather than excusing our own inaction. Our faith grows. Our joy grows. Our sense of accomplishment and sense of purpose grows.

Or…we can withdraw and declare our personalities are not fit to do what He asks. We can bemoan that we weren’t created differently and we can waste the faith-enhancing, joy-giving opportunities He has created for us.

Your choice…my choice…

Withdraw and excuse or…

Be the light and in the bargain discover joy, satisfaction and purpose through The Light!

John 8:12 (NIV) 12  When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

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CHOOSING TO STAY BLIND…

polar bear

CHOOSING TO STAY BLIND…  

Jesus healed a blind man, but the man was uncertain as to who, exactly, Jesus was. The Jewish leaders had, however, thrown the formerly blind man out for defending Jesus as not being the evil person they were accusing him of being.

After all, Jesus had healed him! He was open to knowing the truth about Jesus, he just wasn’t sure what that was.

John 9:35-41 (NIV) 35  Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36  “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” 37  Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 38  Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

 

Some of the Pharisees…religious leaders who were paying more attention to their own interests than to the truth of God were seemingly offended by Jesus saying, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

40  Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
41  Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

 The difference between the Pharisees and the once-blind man was that they had seen Jesus, they had heard the truth…but they were stubbornly sticking to their own prideful version of how to interpret that truth. Some traditions were too hard to give up. Some of them were holding tight to financial gain and social prestige.

Jesus was asking them to truly open their eyes…to hear and then to humble themselves and turn away from their own stubbornness and pride. He was asking them to see.

For some…it was just too much. They were willing to do anything to hold on to their own self-serving view of life, including refusing sight.

They didn’t want to sacrifice their own stubborn thought processes. They didn’t want to release their own pride or their current position. They weren’t only refusing Jesus and the peace and life He was offering. They were separating themselves from the most important and meaningful relationships they would ever have, in order to stay in their old, tired, empty ways.

They had the opportunity to see…to truly see! But they chose blindness.

Some things…never change.

And yet…

Ephesians 1:18-19 (NIV) 18  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,

 

 

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Now We Believe Because We Have (Finally) Heard it From Him…

like

Now We Believe Because We Have (Finally) Heard it From Him…

“Now we believe because we have heard him ourselves, not just because of what you told us. He is indeed, the Savior of the world.” John 4:42

Like these believers of old, someone can tell us about God’s love…about Jesus loving us enough to die for us and it can mean little. Or…it can mean something to us but we might not be really clear or sure of what we think or believe.

But when the Spirit of God opens our eyes…our understanding…our hearts…then we understand!

It is He who opens minds and hearts to believing and choosing His life…not the one who is trying to share the Truth .

That should be a comfort to those of us who are trying to get a friend or loved one to understand salvation or…the principals and life that God so wants us to embrace. Everyone of us has someone who is just.not.hearing. Maybe they are not hearing that we love them and not hearing that God loves them. Maybe they are hanging on to  certain sins or old hurts…to unforgiveness over things that are real or (sadly) perceived incorrectly.

It all can seem so impossible to us. Maybe the journey has been impossibly long.

But God…

God is the God of the impossible. He (not you or me) is the one who changes minds and hearts. He will move mountains to give that person the opportunity to understand…the light to dawn…and to choose well.

So…God says, “I will…I will…I will…” work in your heart…work in the heart of the ones you love. Whether it is about salvation or incorrect thinking that is damaging a life…

He is at work!

2 Corinthians 5:17–Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Ezekiel 36:26–And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Romans 12:2–Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Philippians 1:6–And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

 

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Do You Really Want to Be Well…Enough to do What God Has Already Told You to do…?

table menu glass reflection

Do You Really Want to Be Well…Enough to do What God Has Already Told You to do…?

John 5 is talking about the Bethesda Pool. This is a place where many sick people would wait for an angel to stir the waters. Once that happened, the first person into the pool was healed. Jesus talked to a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years.

John 5:6 (ESV) 6  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

The man explained that he had no one to help him into the pool and when he tried to get to the pool alone, someone else always got in ahead of him.

You think Jesus already knew this? Then…why did He ask the question?

Maybe he was calling to the man’s attention that he had lost some hope…some determination. Maybe he wanted a little indignation to rise up in that man’s spirit so that he would be determined to do what Jesus was about to ask.

Jesus simply said, “Stand up, roll up your sleeping mat and go on home!”

He could have looked at Jesus and thought, “Did he not hear what I just said? Standing is near impossible and walking…well walking is out of my realm.”

Instead…he apparently did exactly what Jesus said and…did it right away. There is no mention of him hesitating or asking questions. The next versePerh says, “Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up the mat and began walking!”

Do you know that we can pray and pray for something and never do what is required to “get up” and allow God to bring about the answer to our prayers? Maybe it is a prayer to know our purpose. Maybe it is a prayer for a better marriage. Maybe it is a prayer to know when to speak and when to listen. Maybe it is a prayer for more energy.

Maybe the “rising up”…the first step…is something God has already told you and I to do.

He has told us to pray and spend time developing our relationship with Him daily. Within those steps is undoubtedly the discovery of our purpose through the little daily obediences.

Perhaps He has given you humbling steps to making your marriage better over time. Rather than consistently, lovingly, patiently handling the hard places in your marriage, are you ignoring His ways and taking on the “me theology” of our culture? Are you expecting a quick fix and then ditching the loving/humbling efforts…or are you handling your marriage and your other relationships like the ongoing journey that it truly is?

Maybe the prayer for more energy would be in following His wisdom each day about how you use your time. Maybe it is taking care of your body through good food and exercise and caring for your mind by seeking His face and His peace and wisdom consistently.

Maybe it is learning when to speak and when to listen. Daily, steadily, listening to and obeying His word and His Spirit within you when He says…

James 1:19-25 (ESV) 19  Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

 

 

 

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Jesus said, “My Nourishment Comes from Doing the Will of God…” So Does Yours…So Does Mine!

Goose with grass

Jesus said, “My Nourishment Comes from Doing the Will of God…” So Does Yours…So Does Mine!

Jesus’ disciples wanted Him to eat and He refused, saying this: John 4:34 (TLB) 34  Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God who sent me, and from finishing his work.

I have been reading out of a Bible from my precious Aunt Teresa who, thankfully, gave me my middle name. I love being named after her, because she loved us all so well. Aunt Teresa gave me my first “non-King James” Bible. It was a day when people were a little nervous about reading paraphrases, but being a new believer, (thankfully) I don’t think Aunt Teresa new that!

But I digress. “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God who sent me, and from finishing his work.” Jesus was talking about His life…but it hit me this morning…He is also talking about ours!

We live in a generation where even seasoned believers can be overwhelmed at how to find purpose in this media-driven, ever-changing, confusing, loud, and busy world!

If we slow down long enough to think about it, though…that verse makes absolute sense for our lives…not just the life of Jesus.

As a believer, when do you feel most deeply satisfied? Isn’t it when you truly know you are making a difference that will last? Your example will last beyond your life. Your kindness, your meanness, your giving nature, your selfish stingy nature.

Without trying…we are making a difference. Not just for today or this week or a few years. We are making a difference for generations. Our children, grands, nephews, friends, children of friends are touched by the most simple of actions.

I remember a friend of my mom who called me Judy Kaye (instead of Judy Teresa). I didn’t know this friend of mom’s well, but every time she saw me, she called me Judy Kaye with such warmth that it endeared me to her and made me feel important…worthy of that special little gesture. I am 71 and I am still nourished by her special kindness. In fact, I gave my daughter “my” middle name as though it was truly mine! When I step into heaven, I suspect this sweet lady  will be nearby. I fully expect to hear the warmth in her voice as she greets me with my special name!

You don’t always have to preach a sermon with your words but if you want to help finish the work that Jesus started…your special touch should truly preach it for you.

The bonus is…not only will the ones you influence be nourished…but so will you…all the more.

Acts 20:35 (ESV) 35  In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

 

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Come Into His Presence With Thanksgiving…And it Blesses You and Me! Isn’t That Just Like God?!…

Fireworks for blog

Come Into His Presence With Thanksgiving…And It Blesses You and Me!

Isn’t That Just Like God?!…

 John 4:46-50 (ESV) 46  So he [Jesus] came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47  When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48  So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49  The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50  Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.

Jesus said, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” This man had seen signs and wonders and he chose to draw on what Jesus had done which built his faith about what Jesus would do!

Don’t you think that this is part of the reason God tells us to “think on these things”? Isn’t it part of the reason He tells us to “come into His presence with thanksgiving”?

I believe the reason he says to come into His presence with thanksgiving is two-fold. He wants us to remember (in the midst of the painful parts of our life) how truly blessed we are and…He wants us to remember Who has blessed us.

Why? Every time we do this, it recalculates our thinking! We can be so bogged down with the things that worry or hurt us that we forget the ways He has blessed us and straightened out our circumstances in the past. The past can be as recent as a few minutes earlier! How quickly we forget!

When we come into His presence and remember to think through what He has done for us in the past and is doing in the present…our hearts recalculate and we become truly thankful to Him. Second…our faith is renewed and we can actually feel ourselves relax as our trust in His heart and His hand becomes real again. Our hope is renewed regarding what is happening to us now and in what might happen in the future.

Bottom line is, intentionally renewing our thankful thoughts before Him…is an obedience that reminds us/makes real how consistently He has blessed us and renews our faith for the now and for the future!

Isn’t that just like God! Choosing to obediently thank Him…blesses us!

Philippians 4:8-9 (TLB) 8  And now, brothers, as I close this letter, let me say this one more thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. 9  Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.

Psalm 95:2-6 (ESV) 2  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3  For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4  In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5  The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. 6  Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

 

 

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