Minuscule to Magnificant

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.

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This is serious

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.

scribeGod 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.
 *  http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2012/05/23/dress-code-or-not-what-you-wear-matters/
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/do-something-different/201304/what-your-clothes-might-be-saying-about-you
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Freedom

FreedomSo 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

Prayer:

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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Cosmic Coup

imagesToday and tomorrow we remember. But… Sunday is acomin’.

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)

images2UQ7G0KH

Death cannot keep his prey — Jesus, my Savior!
He tore the bars away — Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes.
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Christ Arose
Robert Lowery, 1874

He wears the victor’s crown!

Hallelujah, He is Risen!

The Lord is Risen Indeed!

 

Shine the light; defeat the dark

 

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Safe Place in Trouble

imagesV2LVBYSSThe 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.

Has established
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.
Established Zion
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. imagesMBHAVAZNAs 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.

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Principled Living

Ever wonder how you ended up in the mess you’re in?dangerous-cliff

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
Ephesians 5:15

Image: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericsavitz/2011/05/03/profit-disasters-du-jour-qsft-sons-wwww-oplk-motr/
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Let Your Faith Go Public

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)

Herodian
http://www.victorie-inc.us/oil_lamps.html

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.
(Matt. 5)

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.
(Gal. 5)

… 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.
(Phil. 2)

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

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Faith – It’s Personal

creation-of-adam

http://bonniewilks.com/2008/03/25/the-topaz-of-ethiopia-cannot-equal-it/

Judeo/Christian faith is personal, health centered in relationship. The first words of Genesis unveils God’s masterpiece, click the consummation of his creative genius – persons, living souls, created in his image, for his pleasure. God initiated relationship with them. God hung out with Adam and Eve.

Trust undergirded, protected, and maintained that God-mankind relationship. When man/woman chose to severe the relationship, the Creator enacted the fix – a fix set in place before the foundation of the earth. God, himself, would bear the cost to renew the relationship. The choice to go our own way, seek our own good, ignore the righteous claims of Creator  God not only damaged the relationship, it put us at war with the Creator. For God, renewed relation was essential. So at great personal cost, God paid the price for our going astray.

The whole of Scripture chronicles the quest for renewed relationship. The quest is God’s. He is looking for those whose hearts are completely his. He is seeking personal relationship.

One of most personal portions of Scripture is Psalms, the book of Jewish hymns. These songs are full of the personal connection the writers shared with God. Hear my prayer, O Lord. You are my Refuge. Come rescue me. Teach me your way. I will sing praise to my God. You are my God. You are my stronghold. I will tell of your mighty works. The personal pronouns shout relationship, friendship.

The Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth reciprocates the relationship. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. His eyes are on those who fear him. He delivers them and keeps them. The love of the Lord supports me. God sets apart the godly for himself.

I find it a pretty astounding notion – God wants to be my God, my friend. This creator: the one before whom the sea fled, the rivers turned back, the mountains skipped, and the earth trembled (Psalm  114); the one whose voice thunders with power and majesty, breaks the cedars and shakes the desert, twists the oaks and strips the forest bare (Psalm 29). This God desires relationship with me. He wants to be associated with me.

It’s not easy to wrap my mind around the fact that this is personal. But the evidence is clear. This faith, this relationship is personal.

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Life and Faith

I’ve been thinking about the place of faith in my life, rx faith informed by the Judeo/Christian Scriptures.

American culture likes to compartmentalize life. We assign home, ask work, family, leisure, politics, religion, health, education…and whatever else pops up to little life cubbies – public cubbies and private cubbies. I’ve been workin’ on this life thing for awhile, and I can tell you the day ends long before all the cubbies are attended to. What we end up with is not only the demand to classify the pieces, but then, the necessity to prioritize.Dog_Riding_a_Unicycle_and_Juggling_Balls_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_100211-114638-995053

We like our ducks in a row and the balls in the air perfectly synchronized. What a thing of beauty. But then a duck wanders off or you sneeze and miss one of those balls. Life happens.

Yikes. No wonder we are schizophrenic.

We suspect integration would be a good thing, but haven’t a clue how to go about it. Or perhaps we’re not completely clueless, but we’re certainly too exhausted to proceed.

I would like to suggest those life cubbies are, at best, an inadequate approach to life.

I would also like to suggest that faith is intended to integrate us. Even for those who disclaim faith, they do believe certain things about life and how it fits together. What we believe governs how we think and how we act. What we believe shapes our world.

What beliefs shape your world?

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If God Be For Us

I woke this morning to a song… 

And if Our God is for us, healing then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
What can stand against? *

What a great way to wake up.

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) God is for me; the stuff of faith and victory. How glad I am that God is for me.

God is for me. This statement begs the question, “Why is God for me?” That is the question, isn’t it? We can’t quite believe it and somehow think there must be a catch. You’re right, there is a catch of sorts. This is so much bigger than just me.

http://screenrant.com/paradise-lost-movie-canceled-legendary-pictures-kofi-150353/
http://screenrant.com/paradise-lost-movie-canceled-legendary-pictures-kofi-150353/

You recall common legend? The hero believes he’s found the fabled paradise. He’s worked and studied until he finally figures out the path to paradise. Finally, his quest successful he arrives, usually with a group of eager followers among who lurks the villain intend on surreptitiously obtaining ancient treasure. The centerpiece of paradise is the untouchable object center stage. It glows and pulsates and draws closer inspection. The temptation to possess this ultimate treasure overcomes our hero or perhaps propels our villain forward and the no touch zone is breached. Paradise implodes, cascading into ruin. Our hero barely escapes with his life sans the treasure and hopefully our villain is destroyed in the ruins. Makings of a great movie, huh?

Though simplistic, folk legend mirrors the story of God’s perfect world. Because of His desire for relationship – not subservience – God’s perfect world held the untouchable, God alone as Lord and King, most high. When Satan declared, “I will be like the most high,” the torrent of destruction commenced. So, too, did God’s plan to set all things right.

God is at work to restore divine order. That effort, in its entirely, is God’s alone, however He has chosen to call out a people who belong to Him; His holy nation who live in His presence, enjoying the blessing of His rule. He is forming an eternal kingdom from the rubble.

God is for us. God’s endorsement brings to us the blessings of His rule. He delights in blessings His people. But, of highest priority is the restoration of His reign.

From Psalm 105
Give thanks to the Lord, make know His works. V1 Sing to Him, tell of His mighty acts. V2 Glory in His name. V3 Look to the Lord and His strength. Seek His face. V4 Remember His wonders, miracles and the judgments He pronounced. V5

He remembers His covenant forever. He remembers the oath He swore. V8

He brought out His people. V43 He gave them the lands of nations. V44 God was for them. Why?

That they might keep His precepts and observe His laws. V45

Paradise was lost. God is working out His plan to restore divine order. Why is He for us? Of all the wonderful promises to those who fear, love, and obey the Lord, the final end is primary. “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15)

God is for you. You are part of His plan to restore His reign to this earth.

* http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Our-God-lyrics-Chris-Tomlin/5BEE9C4610ED10D7482576E9001703F5
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