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- authentic faith
- balls in the air
- chris tomlin
- cosmic coup
- death. resurrection
- duck in a row
- Following Jesus
- God's rule
- if our God is for us
- kingdom of God
- life principles
- Northern Virginia Christian Writers Fellowship
- paradise lost
- Potomac WIM Connection
- relationship with God
- safe place
- satan's fall
- Solid Rock
I am joining the Potomac Ministry Network in this 2015 Week of Prayer.
Because it is my conviction that prayer is a most important aspect of our lives as believers, viagra I come to this week looking to our Father for clarity in a life too often plagued by confusion and fear. As Richard, mind Bishop of Chichester, 1253, reflects may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day.
So we set aside time at the beginning of 2015 to pray. I encourage you to carve out time daily during this week for intentional times of prayer.
Prayer is a spiritual discipline. I love the insight John Ortberg shares in his study The Life You Always Wanted, As with a marathon runner, the secret to winning the race lies not in trying harder, but in training consistently—training with the spiritual disciplines. The disciplines are neither taskmasters nor an end in themselves. Rather they are exercises that build strength and endurance for the road of growth. The fruit of the Spirit—joy, peace, kindness, etc.—are the signposts along the way. As you train in righteousness in the coming year, I would invite your consideration of a spiritual discipline often overlooked – the discipline of lament.
The Spiritual Discipline of Lament
Lament makes us uncomfortable. It means we fix our attention on the brokenness of our lives and our world. It requires we pay attention to our loss and grief. Lament is a familiar scriptural theme. We often see King David lament the losses of his life. In the antecedent to his soliloquy on the faithfulness of Yahweh, Jeremiah laments the bitterness and the gall of his soul. Jesus includes morning in the endowment of the blessed. Blessed are those who morn…. He weeps over Jerusalem as well as the untimely death of His friend Lazareth. Isaiah describes the Savior as a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.
The brilliant strategy to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem – broken down with its gates burned with fire – came following Nehemiah’s prayer, in a season of lament. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayer before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:4 In fifty-two days the returned exiles rebuilt the wall surrounding Jerusalem resulting in this response from their enemies. … all the surrounding nations were afraid…they realized this work had been done with the help of God. Nehemiah 6:16
In our pursuit of God’s mission in the earth, we must not turn a blind eye to the discipline of lament. Could it be that the discipline of lament is the stuff of which victory is made?
What are the broken walls in your life? What losses have you covered over? Lament the state of this culture without God. Out of your sorrow, allow God to “enlarge” our soul and transforms us into lovers of Him and others. (Dr. Peter Scazero, Enlarging Your Soul and Church Through Grief and Loss) and birth in you strategies of rebuilding.
I have trouble asking for help, seek for a favor, for accommodation. It seems wrong to me – selfish. I don’t mind if you ask, but I have a hard time being the asker. Truthfully, I think I’m afraid to be turned down.
Asking God? I’m more confident praying for you. For me? I’m okay with the big stuff, like God bless my family, help me make wise decisions, etc. The specifics are so much harder. Those things that either happen or don’t. What if God says “no?”
My impressions from childhood include hearing “no” often. As a mom, I recall how frequently my default answer was “no.” The request required too much of my effort and attention, was too costly, or it was just easier to say “no.” I regret my self-protective penchant for “no” when it should have been a self-sacrificing “yes.”
So I project onto the Heavenly Father my own flawed perspective.
Several reasons for reluctance occur to me:
- Asking for specifics puts God on the hot seat. What if He says “no” when I was so sure He would answer? I don’t like to pray prayers that don’t get answered. I want to pray prayers God can answer. (I know “no” is an answer and am quite experienced in the trusting when I don’t understand.) I do trust God’s heart and His ways, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting to pray prayers that receive a “yes” answer. Sometimes I feel safer to not ask rather than to be disappointed or cast God in a bad light.
- Or perhaps I am convinced I am not worthy of His help. I am so disorganized. What right do I have to pray for help in the chaos I created? I am too bad. I have made too many mistakes. Why would God help me out when what I deserve is the trouble I’m in?
- Why should God bother with me? My troubles – significant to me, though insignificant in the grand scheme of things – just don’t rank up there next to world peace, global hunger, war, and the environment.
- Or maybe I am capable – I don’t need God’s help. Intelligence, ingenuity, personal charisma and strength of character will see me through. After all, ability to handle life is God-given.
So I don’t ask.
But, then I am reminded of what Jesus has to say about the asking.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Mathew 6:8)
Ask and it will be given to you… For everyone who asks receives… Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7 – 11)
If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:22)
To ask or not to ask. The choice is mine. Not to ask, to go it own my own, is to my own peril, failing to grasp the nature of my heavenly Father who welcomes my asking and delights in providing for me.
Lord, fill my heart with the faith and obedience to ask of You.
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, check which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, ed yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches. Matthew 13:31, 32
I love to garden and for many years of my adult life, I have planted a vegetable patch – acres boasting 40 foot rows to the mini patches carved from my quarter acre house lot.
Some of those seeds I hide in the earth are so small they are indistinguishable when dropped into the soil. But given the proper environment, those miniscule specks grow into plants exponentially beyond the size of their origins. Magnificent. That miraculous metamorphosis feeds many mouths and multiplies the tiny seed in virtually incalculable numbers for another season.
Jesus describes the kingdom of God – the rule of God – as a tiny seed. Within that seed, the creator has hidden everything necessary to produce, a He says of the mustard seed, the largest tree in the garden. As evidenced by the weed invasions I war against, seeds grow. If left unchecked the vegetation will take over as al la the rain forests of the earth.
The eternal rule of God planted in this world continues to grow in spite of all attempts to stop it. You just can’t stop a good thing. Let the Spirit of God plant the seed of God’s rule in your life. It will grow. That tiny seed of faith and obedience will produce in you a magnificence of fruitful living. Join with Isaiah (11:9) in looking to the time when the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth as the water covers the sea.
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows into the largest tree in the garden.
I listened, fascinated by the stories of an ancient time and long ago people whose reverence for YAHWEH grabs my attention. Taught respect as a child, I know the name of God commands my respect and it should never be cursed or maligned. But the practices of this long ago time told of an awe I have trouble relating to.
God chosen Jewish tribe called themselves the People of the Name. They would not speak the name of God. Not because it was prohibited, but because they were afraid they would say it without the proper reverence. The scribes tasked with the copying of Scripture observed careful conduct when writing the Name. Upon recognition YAHWEH as the next word to be inscribed, the scribe would break and discard his quill, leave the workplace, bathe and don clean garments. He would return to his task, write the Name, break and discard his quill, leave to bathe again, don clean garments and return to his transcribing. To me, a twenty-first century follow of Jesus, that whole process strikes me as a bit silly, at least overkill. Perhaps it is…perhaps not.
Growing up, I learned God loved me but He was also to be feared. I could get in trouble real quick if I ignored His expectations. Life consisted of a lot of rules. I didn’t want to get on God’s bad girl list. I wanted Him to be happy with me.
I matured into a growing, more accurate understand of God, His nature and my relationship to Him, based on His word. I have a heavenly Father, my abba, my daddy. (Seriously, that seems a bit awkward calling God Daddy, but I know the Scripture and that is what it says.) By the acceptable sacrifice of Jesus, I have access. I can come right to the throne of the Almighty. Jesus calls us friends.
He is holy, so to be revered. The sacred writer says, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. He does know my behavior. Paul says we will be judged according to our deeds done in the flesh, whether good or evil. He is my heavenly Father. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. He does not count transgressions against those who trust in Him. He invites me to come with confidence into His presence to find grace and help in my time of need.
However, in contrast to the ultra strict approach of the Jewish scribe, a casual view of life hallmarks modern American culture. Could this casual view deteriorate that which is serious, sacred?
In spite of psychological research supporting the fact that how we dress matters – both to ourselves and others – we have gone causal in our dress. (* examples of studies)
Once considered inappropriate public language is now acceptable and widely practiced. “There is no longer any consensus, if there ever was, on what words in the modern American lexicon are ‘indecent’ or ‘profane.’” posted on CNN, January 10, 2011, Judge Strikes Down NC Ban on Public Profanity. Polite communication appears to be almost extinct. Speech has gone causal.
The strictures of a restrictive past slip into oblivion in favor of a relaxed, freewheeling, more authentic approach to life. What ever happen to serious?
I do understand the burden of strictures. I’m glad I don’t have to tighten the corset, button up the high topped shoes, and rustle up the petticoats to appear in public appropriately dressed. I am, however, concerned that we take care to preserve the serious.
Our ancient brothers, the scribes of Scripture, understood serious. Paul said, Be very careful then how you live, not as unwise, but as wise.
Fellow Christ followers, how we handle our lives and our relationship with God matters. This is serious.
Good blog post on reverence for God Name.
So if the Son sets you free, sick you are free through and through.
John 8:36 The Message
Freedom. The harmonies swell to fill the meeting hall, the driving beat underscores heartfelt passion. We sing our enthusiastic declaration. LORD you have set us free. What good news. We are no longer subjected.
Oppression may all but drown a faint hope for liberation, but freedom pulses in every human heartbeat. Though flame flickers, the spark sputters small, almost extinguished, freedom wafts in every human breath.
Freedom. The great classic theme. Somehow we know we were meant for freedom, not domination. Whether bound by external force or bondage of flesh or spirit, the ceaseless cry for liberty surfaces from our deepest soul.
So we sing freedom. In the company of those who believe we join the song of victory.
But, it’s the day after and we fear. Our experience reminds us of the dismal ashes of defeat. The surety of the pep rally mocks us again as we view the chains of our bondage. Habit, attitude, destructive behavior. The list goes on. We know all too well our propensity to fail.
Yet above the tumult the songs plays on. Freedom
Indeed, today, the LORD sets you free. Abandon the efforts of your own might and power, your own clever plans. Look to Jesus. The LORD will help you. Hide in the safety of His strong name.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Proverbs 18:10 NIV
Okay, Jesus, Here I am, but more importantly so are You. I’m afraid I’ll find myself groveling in defeat even after my courageous declaration of independence. Today, I choose to walk with You. I call on You for help. I look to You for insight. Thank You that You never turn Your back on those who call on You for help. I confess Freedom. You are all I need, my Source of victory.
Tell me about your victories as you walk with Jesus. I would love to hear from you.
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The horror of Roman crucifixion defied imagination, the intent being to bring supreme shame and excruciating suffering to the condemned malefactor. So, precisely as intended by his accusers, and according to divine purpose, Jesus, falsely accused and convicted, laid down his life to tortuous execution.
Isaiah describes the scene:
…many were appalled at him. His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness. (Isaiah 52:14)
The crucifixion of Jesus appeared a horrible miscarriage of justice, the shameful waste of a young man’s life, but in reality was the cosmic coup. That single event, lynchpin of human history, brought about the disillusion of all the kingdoms of the world.
Understanding this, Paul declares, I will glory (boast) in the Cross. In 1 Corinthians 2:8, he further explains, None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. The plan to get rid of the annoying Palestinian prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, accomplished the exact opposite, the cosmic coup. The horror of the cross brought about the hallelujah of heaven.
C.S. Lewis calls it the deeper magic in his classic The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The death of the innocent for the guilty, the substitutionary death of God changes everything. That single act of sacrifice: took our pain, bore our suffering, pardoned our transgressions, took our deserved judgment.
God accepted the sin offering and death had no authority over Jesus. He rose from death. Because God made him the offering for our sins, he is highly exalted above everything in heaven and earth. His name is THE NAME with all authority commanding all obeisance. (Isaiah 53, Philippians 2)
Robert Lowery, 1874
He wears the victor’s crown!
Hallelujah, He is Risen!
The Lord is Risen Indeed!
Shine the light; defeat the dark
The LORD has established Zion, buy and in her his afflicted people will find refuge. Isaiah 14:32b(NIV)
This verse caught my attention early this week on my sojourn through Isaiah. The refuge for troubled people particularly caught my attention. Like many of you, treat trouble seems to have a bead on me. Often the trouble catches me unaware and my emotional response takes me by surprise. I need a refuge.
The Lord has established Zion.
Close examination of Divine forays into human experience attests to His character and nature. God is immutable – set in concrete, solid, stable, stationary – among the many thesaurus synonyms for immutable. What God establishes cannot be shaken.
Zion, a Hebrew word used in the Old Testament to refer to Jerusalem, the city of God, the place of God’s authority, the city He loves, becomes in the New Testament a reference to the Church. When God established the Church on the cornerstone of Jesus, He established an enduring place of refuge.
…in her his afflicted people will find refuge.
Will find refuge
The Good News Translation reads … his suffering people will find safety there.
When life is troubling, we need a refuge, a place of safety. Instruction, correction, and challenge have their place. But when we are suffering, afflicted, and troubled, we need the place of refuge.
A few weeks ago, Ken and I drove into Assateague National Seashore from the Maryland end of the island. Assateague is a wild life refuge famous for the wild ponies. As we turned onto the beach road, a herd of five or so wild Assateague ponies greeted us. One pony ambled down the middle of the road, straight for our car bumper. The pony kept coming until she touched the hood of our car, then turned to the side and slid up next to the driver’s side window. Amazing! No fear for these ponies. The wildlife refuge protects from outside danger.
In the city of God, His church, God provides a place of refuge and safety.
God has designed the Church to provide an environment where His unlimited power touches the brokenness of women and men resulting in personal freedom and wholeness which brings glory to His Name in a fallen world. (Ken Burtram from a sermon, The Unstoppable Church – Fueled by God’s Unlimited Power.)
Are you afflicted or suffering? Take refuge in the place God has established. Are you responsible for the care of the church? Make every effort to insure an environment where the afflicted and suffering can encounter the unlimited power of God.
In the middle of daily living, hasty words and impetuous behavior can land us in unforeseen conflict and leave us with a barrow-full of guilt. Stepping back, we can’t believe we acted in such an ungracious manner and said those unconsidered words.
Tired and sick, discouraged and depressed, we drown our sorrows in hours of TV drivel, video gaming, web surfing, or any number of mind numbing pursuits not to mention pain killing drugs (illegal or prescription), alcohol, or illicit relationships.
Nobody sets out to sabotage life with unhealthy choices. It just happens.
All of us have been in that place of despair where feeling bad tips the scale of life way out of whack. Negative perceptions are powerful motivators shoving us toward futile, self absorbed decisions. What’s a body to do?
Cry out to the Lord. The first line of defense is to cry out to the Lord. He hears those who cry out for help. AND he helps them. He has promised never to leave you or forsake you. No place exists; there is never an hour of the day; there are no circumstances where he is not with you. No matter what, cry out to the Lord.
This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. Psalm 34:6
I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, “You are my refuge, Psalm 142:5
A second line of defense is to have a creed of principles you are committed to live by. In those crazy times when emotions are pelted with pain, living by principle gives you solid ground to regain your footing.
Be a person of principle. Principles keep you on an even keel. Principles guide you in a known and predictable direction. A person of principle doesn’t have to vacillate with every challenge. Principles are the North Star, the GPS, the guiding light when life suddenly gets stormy.
A little over ten years ago, I began to articulate my personal life principles. I wish I had done it much sooner. I want to share my life principles with you, my friends.
So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise
Faith may be personal but it’s not private.
I am a friend of God. It is personal and oh so advantageous, find fruitful, buy gratifying, rx profitable and productive. And by its very nature this restored relationship with God impacts everything about me. No compartmentalizing allowed, every part of me embraces God. Thusly, though intensely personal, faith is not private.
Faith that impacts every part of life cannot remain hidden away. Behavior authenticates faith.
Again, Psalms describes the visible evidence of those who trust in the Lord. Spoken words: extol and praise the Lord, boast in the Lord, come with offerings and fulfill vows, proclaim his salvation, declare his glory and his marvelous deeds. Behavior observed: Walk in truth, Judge in righteousness and justice, defend the afflicted, save the children of the needy.
(From Psalm 34, 96, 26, and 72)
Jesus says to his friends: You are the light of the world. The city set on a hill cannot be hid. Let your light shine so that men may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
St. Paul says: Live by the Spirit (of God) … The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
… children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation … you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.
God, whose heart for relationship, envelopes every living soul, assigns each believer the place of holding out the word of Life.
God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ has given us the ministry of reconciliation, … we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us … be reconciled to God.
(2 Cor 5)
Faith that goes beyond words and affects a way of life shouts authenticity. The public witness of our faith invites others stumbling in the uncertain morass of life to trust in the One who can restore the relationship they were created to enjoy.
There is hope. Every man/woman can be restored to friendship with God. Let your light shine; let your faith go public