Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thirty Year Trust

Imagine being a young mother trying to make it in the world with your husband. Learning to know this little newborn baby and his ways takes time and effort. Preparing meals, doing daily work and being a wife also crowd in on the day. Would she really be thinking 30+ years down the road to imagine the future for their little family?

Luke 1:38 reveals the willingness of the young girl, Mary, as she heard the angel tell her about her future. In simplicity of heart, she replied, "be it to me according to your word." In modern day language . . . bring it on! (liberal paraphrase there!)

I think life may have been as she suspected generally over the next 30ish years. The Jewish feasts and celebrations of her family and friends. The craft of her husband as a carpenter was taught to the son. All those years they remembered the big deal around the birth of their son, not to mention when he was brought to the Temple. Zacharias was able to speak again prophesying great words over the son, Jesus. One can only wonder about how that whole story was passed on to their son and how he lived with it for all those years. There must have been some strong training, because He came to the public years of His ministry being able to talk with people, encourage and persuade them. He had the ability to tell stories in ways people listened. Do you think it was just all anointing from God or maybe some good home training added to His abilities to hear and follow His Father's voice? All those years, Mary knew something was going to happen. There were too many voices responding to Him. I wonder if she ever wanted to take back those words . . . "be it to me according to your word."

I wonder how many times the zealous believers among us tell God to "let it happen like You have planned!" Would we be so willing when we see what the next 30 years looks like? As one who can now look back at 30 years, I am not sure I would have had the courage to know the story before I started the journey. Would I have the courage to just go forward and know God would work it out? What would you have done if you were Mary? I wonder how we would train our children if we knew when they turned thirty years old they would be propelled into planet changing work? Oh wait . . . that actually might be something we could consider!

Have you ever heard a strong voice from The Lord telling you something about your future? Would it affect your children or home? How daring are you to accept the direction of that voice?

Father, I remember when You whispered to me, "I have called you and won't say it again." It completely unnerved me. I only knew to run to You. I never want to lose the awe that rose up in me at Your call. I don't know how many more years You have planned for me, but I do long to hear your "well done" along the way. May my ears never lose their sensitivity to Your voice and my heart always be open to Your direction.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Many Sided Wisdom of God

manifold - polupoikilos (pol-oo-poy'-kil'os) - variegated, various, many colored, many sided, woven

Ephesians 3:10 - "in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church . . ."

I Peter 1:6 - "in this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary you have been distressed by various trials"

I Peter 4:10 - "As each one has received a special gift, empty it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."

Manifold is a wonderful picture of variegated things. We often look at the word that follows manifold thinking that that's the focal point of the passage. Today, I'm looking at a word that allows the noun after manifold to take on fuller meaning.

The veil in the Tabernacle was variegated with the many colors God instructed Moses to have included. There was even hammered gold woven into the fabric of that veil. So, when the light from the lamp stand glistened on the veil, there was a different "view" each time. It was a wonderful reminder that in worship we can see the Father in various ways.

Another look at manifold comes in a more current example of crocheting. Have you ever seen variegated yarn? I used to watch my mom crocket. (I was learning to do that when I broke my arm playing basketball and never got back to the yarn!) That variegated yarn is something! It comes in four inch color strips all wound together in long yarn. It has about 6 different colors that repeat over and over. When the crocheting was complete, you could see the woven colors all together. Each time you looked at the finished work, you could see something different!

One of my favorite ideas of manifold is the disco ball. Yep! It's that mirror ball stuck high on the ceiling that reflects light out into the room from the spotlight shining on it. While I haven't been in too many discos lately, I have used that ball in musical presentations. As I watched the reflections flying around the room, I was reminded that the Father's wisdom is much like this. It was as if every one of those pieces of mirror were a piece of the wisdom of God. When the light of the Son shined on it, His wisdom could be seen!

I truly believe that when we ask for wisdom, we receive it. God has a wise answer! I've just talked about the many sides of His wisdom, but also His grace is available in that perspective too. Is there grace to cover your situation? Yes, there is!

Father, what side of Your wisdom and grace are needed in various circumstances? Help my eyes see what You are showing me!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Thought About Eve

What do you do when you know you did something wrong but you don't know how to fix it? Then you find out you can't fix it. Then you find out - it's fixed!

Imagine waking up to a perfect world. You don't know it's perfect; it's the way it's always been for you. Then you make a choice. You didn't realize your choice would affect an entire planet and its environment. Wow . . . some choice!

Because of your choice, a shadow of sorts comes over the world. Everyone is touched by the cloud of imperfection. You were confronted by your choice and it's affect. You experienced the judgement of the Perfect One. You are sad and now you have to figure out how to live in imperfection.

The Perfect One reaches out to you for the same fellowship that you've know before that terrible choice. You never quite forget the pain of the choice, but the closer you stay to the Perfect One, the safer and more comforted you feel. He tells you One will come with whom mankind may have that close fellowship again. During the wait though, the entire earth will groan with longing for the Perfect One's fellowship.

I sometimes wonder how Eve made it through a marriage and children without anyone who'd lived before her. Yes, she had some rocky places along the way. Haven't you? She had had the experience of walking perfectly in close companionship with God. He did make a way to cover her sin for awhile and then for always.

The blood of bulls and goats lasted for awhile as a sacrifice offering to God. Finally, Jesus would be the last sacrifice needed. No longer is there more sacrificing for sin; it is not needed. God remembers our sin no more. (Hebrews 10:17) Now people can live however they choose? No so with God's people. They long for what Eve had originally. Imagine walking in the cool of the day with God? Imagine being able to come open faced (boldly) into His Presence? (Hebrews 4:16) Eve actually had this experience and because of Jesus, we can too!

Father, the thought of walking with You in a tangible way seems amazing. I know You are with me, but walking in the cool of the day brings a sweet image to my brain. I love that closeness throughout my day. Remind me, Father, that those walks together were what refreshed and directed Eve. They were not short pop-in conversations; there was communion. Looking forward to my day . . .

Monday, May 12, 2014


Growing up, I lived in a small town where people knew each other and cared for each other. People worked long hours and gave their time to help one another in times of need as well as just to be neighborly. I watched men and women work tirelessly to provide for their families.

My family was a single parent family. My mom lived in this small town most all of her adult life. I remember students of all ages coming and going out of our house as they practiced for various musical programs throughout the year. If it wasn't church related, it was for contests, or something else important. I felt like I knew many of those musical pieces as well as the students who came to practice. (At least in my head . . .)

Hardly ever did my mom stay home from work because of sickness. If she was sick, it was usually something drastic. Of course, that meant I hardly ever got to stay home for anything either. Somehow, we just doctored ourselves and went to school. My mom was a teacher, and there weren't many substitutes in those days. I don't remember many sick kids back then, but I know kids who lived out on the farms in the valley sometimes had to stay home to help if something happened. There was an inner determination which drove my mom. Even at 80 yrs old, she was getting up every day, getting dressed "for the day" and doing whatever her calendar said she had planned. Whatever her life dealt her, she seemed to "get dressed and ready for the day". Hmmm . . . I wonder if she ever heard the statement, "get your big girl pants on and face the day"?

I can imagine there must have been days when my mom didn't really want to do the things she'd listed on her calendar. Generally, those things were involving other people so she didn't really have the luxury of changing her plans on a whim. She had to show up and be present. We were often the first to arrive at school and often the last to leave. She would grade workbooks while Walter Cronkite gave a rundown of the day across the world. (Cronkite was an anchorman for the CBS Evening News back in the day.) Somehow, whatever the news, the grading was done and my life seemed untouched from all the world.

The Psalmist said, "You are my rock and my fortress. For Your name's sake, lead me and guide me." (Ps. 31:3)

Little did I know that a work ethic and sense of perseverance was being modeled and built into me. As I came to know The Lord personally in my teen years, I realized all along God had been watching out for me. He used families and friends to help grow me. All along God had his hand on my life. Over the course of time, I've had to weed out the difference between never taking time for myself and having the world revolve around me. I've seen moms on both sides of that fence. I have the feeling my mom seldom took time for herself, but I know she did what she knew to do. Busy was good. I'm still learning how to rest. The key, it seems, is God's leading and guiding.

How are you being lead today for the sake of the name of The Lord? What of your calendar's plans do you know are His leading and guiding your day?

Father, I'm thankful for the home in which I was raised. I knew I was safe; I knew I was loved. As I came to know You, I learned to be even more thankful for my home. Help me realize today, that even from the beginning, You have been my rock and my fortress. Every day, You offer to lead and guide me. You desire to write my calendar plans. Thank You, Father, for giving me such strong people in my life at an early age. They showed me how to work and push past challenges and persevere.  Here's my day, Father. I will listen for Your plans . . .

Friday, May 09, 2014

An Abiding Heart

Psalm 51:17 "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."

broken - shabar (shaw-bar') - to burst, to break into small pieces where the inner parts are exposed

contrite - dakah (daw-kaw) - to pulverize to mere dust; to crush; has the picture of reducing to the consistency to talcum powder

despise - bazah (baw-zaw') - put to shame; take away esteem

Have you ever watched your kids get caught at something and there was that "moment"? You know, the "moment" when they are deciding which is the best way to go - give you that innocent "kid" smile or that "ok I'm caught, now what?" look! King David had those very options when he made unwise choices, tried to hide himself and then came full circle back to the bare truth that he had sinned "against God and God alone". (Ps 51:4). While our kids may or may not understand that, I believe the sooner we all learn it, the sooner we will come to love the "wonder" of brokenness.

This study is not about the sin or the repentance. It's about the work that God does after repentance (or right along with it). True repentance brings out a God given desire to "make it right" or somehow "do" something. God doesn't necessarily want those kinds of "sacrifices". What He loves to watch, with full loving, no shame acceptance, is a broken and contrite heart.

The heart, being the place of understanding and emotion, is where God loves to work. Being broken by Him involves having large or small issues be exposed to the light of His love. Remember, He doesn't dismantle our dignity - He has placed us in His Son, Christ Jesus. But He does want every part of our being flooded with His light. He does want our depravity exposed. That's where the Holy Spirit lovingly nudges and breaks into the hidden areas exposing the need for Him. We are not meant to be left hanging there exposed though. Thus, the next step of having a "contrite" heart.

"Contrite" has to do with being the consistency of a fine powder. Have you ever seen talcum powder? You know how fine it is? Originally, it was made from a rock yet pulverized to very fine powder. That "pulverizing" is a picture of the word "contrite". Now the purpose of being contrite is not to lose our identity. The chemical makeup (DNA) of the rock was the same whether in a rock form or a fine powder form. The difference was that the powder can stand on the surface of the water. It is pliable and much more conformable as talc than as a rock. The picture of a contrite person is one that has not lost his identity (I am still a child of the living God). But, he's one that has given all his "rights" and "ownership" to the surface of the place on which he rests (or floats)! Of course, we are IN Christ Jesus! We are not our own, we are bought with a price. It's the ultimate picture of "abiding"! Abiding in Him, I rest completely on the plane of who He is. When I start walking in my own understanding - I sink like a rock!

Can you imagine this kind of abiding? How do you respond to the full floodlight of Christ on your life? Who owns the "rights" in your life?

Oh awesome Father,
Abiding completely in Your Presence is where I want to be! I am beginning to see that my rights are not as favorable to me as Your Face. I know my imperfections will show up in the light of Your Presence, but I also know You clothe me in Your righteousness. I understand that sacrifice isn't just a place I don't do a few things I wanted to do. It is where I surrender myself to You. I give myself to Your plan for Me. Help me see abiding as less about struggling and more about resting completely in You. I open my heart to You . . .

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Long Stretch

I Peter 4:8 - ". . . keep fervent in your love for one another"

Acts 12:5 - "So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God."

John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

fervent - ektenes - (em-ten-ace) - intense, stretch out, without ceasing

love - agape (ag-ah'-pay) - an unselfish kind of love that can only be done in it's fullness by God; it prizes the recipient above the giver; it is God's willful direction toward man

The image of fervent love looks like a continuous stretching beyond the easy point of surface concerns. When God gave His Son for us, there was such intensity in His heart. The writer of Hebrews explains Jesus' fervent love this way - "who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross". Talk about stretching!

We get a little nervous to get out of our comfort zone. When God is trying to grow us into new places of His Kingdom, sometimes we shrink back or become almost paralyzed in fear. The thought of our loving Father continuously stretching out His love for us should be the foundation from which we do some stretching.

During my years of piano practicing, I remember my teacher looking at my really small hands. She was a little shocked when I couldn't reach the eight note stretch that, in music, we call an octave. My hands were as large as they were going to get when I reached about 10 years old. So, she suggested I do some stretching exercises. I sat at the piano day in and day out doing what she told me to do. Now, I have to tell you that I don't honestly think my fingers got longer nor the span of my hand larger. But guess what? Today, I can reach octaves!

What are some opportunities for intense stretching? The passages above mention prayer and relationships. Both of these situations involve getting outside the easy path and pressing on into more of something. Fervent love for one another doesn't allow for pettiness. It prizes the other's well being above our own. That stretched out kind of love goes on beyond the norm until results are seen in the life of another. It's that same kind of intensity with prayer. We might know of a situation that must be brought to the Father. We do whatever it takes to pray until that situation changes. When the church prayed for Peter during his imprisonment, I don't think it was a three minute event on Sunday morning! It's the intensity that comes over you when you know a friend is in need of God's hand in their situation. You just won't quit bringing it before the Father. It's called fervent prayer!

Open the eyes of my heart to stretch beyond the easy and the routine. May Your picture of love ever press me on to stretch for another whether it's in relationships or in prayer.I want to be a person who unceasingly presses on for all Your heart desires. Thank you Father, for helping me reach the octaves in fervency of prayer and deepening relationships. Abiding . . . pruning . . . stretching . . .

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Staying Influence

I came to know The Lord when I was in high school. My pastor and his wife took me in and taught me exponential amounts of the Word before I graduated the next year. They let me ask questions. I lived across the street so I knew them and their daughters. They were real people. They loved God and I found I wanted to be like them. I tried to follow their advice as much as I could. I still say things they taught me many years ago.

Right on the heels of those people came my sister and her family. Now this was a different sort of influencing. I moved in with them for a year before college. My education was unending! (Keep in mind I was raised in a single parent home.) During this year, I'd step out of my bedroom to find my sister and brother-in-law smooching in the kitchen. Yikes! I didn't know what to do! (run . . . turn around . . . make a comment . . .) They were laughing and tickling and loving. Their lifestyle of family and Jesus rubbed off on me. They wanted me to be a part of the family so much they even bought me a special glass that they put at my place at the table every time we ate together. That glass had an emblem of their favorite football team. They wanted me to join them in their love of this team. They lived in an area of America where this team was on every Sunday afternoon. Of course, we'd all gather to watch them play. Now, I was a little rebellious. Oh sure, I drank from the special glass, but I didn't buy the idea. Unknowingly, I learned about almost every other team in that league because I always cheered for the other team! Still, they loved me, taught me and mostly just did life in a real way all the time I stayed with them. I was so glad to be in their family; my brother-in-law even walked me down the aisle at my wedding!

When Jesus went out into public ministry, He invited some people to do real life with Him as well. John 1:39 says they stayed with Him. Whatever happened during that "stay" had an influence not only on these guys but on the people they invited to come and see Jesus. One very inconspicuous man to stay during that time with Jesus was Andrew. Interestingly enough, the Bible doesn't have great stories about Andrew other than he stayed with Jesus. One very pivotal day in Andrew's life, he introduced his brother, Peter, to Jesus. Well, the rest is the story of a disciple who stayed with Jesus through thick and thin eventually saying, "Where else can we go for the Word of Life?" Ok, I know Peter denied Jesus for a few days, but honestly, if that was all the time he denied Him, his track record was pretty good. Check out the book of Acts in the Bible. Peter's work is stunning. But remember, Andrew had stayed with Jesus first!

 Sometimes in life, we need examples of what it means to "stay". Jesus invited His disciples to "abide" in Him. Interestingly enough, the same word is used in the John 1 passage (stay) as in the John 15 passage (abide). His Word makes us clean, but the "real life" part is in the abiding (staying). Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so we would know His staying power after He left the Earth. He abides with us.

Who has been a "staying influence" in your life? For whom do you exhibit that kind of example? (Let me just say, it's anyone in your sphere of influence. You never know who is watching.) Jesus didn't run from the Cross; He stayed. Can you name at least three people who are watching your life and how you abide in Christ? Conversely, who are you watching?
Father, I believe You put people in our pathway both to influence and be influenced by them. Does anybody care about You because I abide (stay) in Your way of doing things? Only You know that! Remind me that You're the only one I need to please.  Thank You for those who have influenced me all these years and still do. Watching someone abide in You is such a strong example and encouragement!

Pruning the Peripherals

Recently I heard a talk from the board members of the Palisade Historical Society. They were telling about the old days of peach harvesting in the Palisade area of the Grand Valley. I remembered some of the information because as a young person I remember many people would help in the peach harvest. What I didn't know was how much preparation went into making the peach harvest so plentiful.

Many months earlier before the peaches were ripe and ready to be picked, workers went through the fields and cut off shoots of new growth. I wondered why new shoots would be cut off. Isn't that a sign of growth and newness? Actually, it's a sign of a tree wanting to do its own thing. The skilled workers knew just which branches should be trimmed so the upcoming fruit would have the maximum sun and space to grow to its full potential. This would create the best fruit to be harvested and sold.

I also knew many other families who had nice little peach trees growing in their backyards which grew rather small peaches. Sometimes the pit would be larger than the fruit around it. No one took the time to go out to the trees to prune away the growth that would take extra energy for the maintenance of the tree. It seemed like taking the extra step and growing great fruit would be of more interest to the owner. Sometimes - yes . . . sometimes - no.

John 15:2 reminds us that Jesus prunes the branches so there will be more fruit. That same idea works not only with fruit trees, but also with people walking out the plan of God for their life. All the extra branches take nourishment and strength from the main growth of the tree. The peripheral "shoots of distraction" often cause people to lose focus for the important things God is saying in their life. Being willing to have the side distractions removed would seem to allow more concentrated energy to fulfill the plans of God.

Here's a key for me . . . The vinedresser decided which branches would be removed for the tree to better produce fruit. The trees don't vote or have discussions with the vinedresser. He merely looks at the tree, determines its potential for grow in its current state, and begins to prune branches to allow for upcoming fruit. The goal is fruit. The vinedresser stands back, looks at the whole tree and its surroundings and gets to work.

Can you see how our great Vinedresser, Jesus, does the same thing? How do you respond to His work in your life? Is your goal the same as His for your life?

Father, somehow, I have not thought of pruning as a wanted exercise in my life. Its action has seemed brutal, painful and exposing. Could it be that pruning is freeing, releasing and directing? I have listened too long to those who have determined pruning as a minimizing process which means less enjoyment in life. I wonder if pruning might bring much more focus and clarity? I understand that I do not do the pruning - You do. You are the Author and Finisher of my faith. Mine is to give myself to You; Yours is to prune me for the greatest fruit bearing days in my life!