To experience God

 

Jesus said to him, “If you are able! – All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” ~Mark 9:23-24 (NRSV)

“If we are to experience God, we must be open to God, to the mystical, to the divine, appearing in our lives. And we must have an openness that is free of any preconditions about how that will happen. Looking for God in a godly form is the great historical mistake. “  ~From In Pursuit of the Great White Rabbit by Edward Hays.

Open my eyes, Lord so that I may see You in my life. Not the preconceived ideas I have about You, but as You truly are. I want to experience You in my life this day. Amen.

The call of my heart

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed ). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter ). ~John 1:35-39 (CEB)

Are we looking for a miracle worker, a warrior to fight our battles, a savior to put right our lives? Just like us, in Bible times people flocked to Jesus looking to him for various reasons. Here in our reading we see when two disciples came looking for Jesus. The two disciples were followers of John the Baptist and were with him when he watched Jesus walk by and they heard him exclaim “Look here is the Lamb of God”. He surely must have known that to speak of Jesus in such a way would invite them to leave him and transfer their loyalty to this new and greater teacher; and yet he did it. There was no jealousy in John. He had come to attach men not to himself but to Christ.

John the Baptist was the first witness to Jesus’ identity and mission. John the Baptist begins a chain reaction of witnessing and discipleship, combined with affirmations of Jesus’ identity in titles: Lamb of God, Rabbi/Teacher, Messiah, son of God, King of Israel, Son of Man, Jesus is the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote. Once Jesus was pointed out the two disciples decided to follow Jesus. It may well be that they were too shy to approach him directly and followed respectfully some distance behind. Then Jesus did something entirely characteristic. He turned and spoke to them. That is to say, he met them half way. He made things easier for them. He opened the door that they might come in. God does not leave us alone in our search. He comes out to meet us.

The initiative must be ours to begin with though. God will not force himself on us. But when the human mind begins to seek and the heart begins to long God will come out to meet us. Jesus began by asking a most fundamental question, “What are you looking for?” The question is very relevant of the Palestinian time. Were they legalists, looking to have conversations about the Law like the scribes and Pharisees? Were they ambitious time-servers looking for position and power like the Sadducees? Were they nationalists looking for a military commander who would smash the power of Rome like the Zealots? Were they humble men of prayer looking for God and for his will? Or were they simply puzzled, bewildered sinful men looking for light on the road of life and forgiveness of God?

It would serve our selves well if we too allowed God to ask of us, “What are you searching for?” Some of us might answer that we are looking for security, a position that is safe, money enough to meet the needs and wants which will take away basic worries in life. Some of us are searching for what they would call a career, an opportunity to put their talents and abilities they believe themselves capable of doing. But these aims can be distorted as the world tells us what is important and what is right. Some of us are searching for some kind of peace, for something to enable us to be at peace with ourselves, with God and with others around us. This is the search for God; this only Jesus can meet and supply.

One point of hope that I pull from this reading is when Andrew shares with Simon Peter that the Messiah has been found. He brought Simon to meet Jesus, who looked at him and said “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Peter” When Jesus comes out to meet us, he doesn’t just see us as we are or as we used to be He sees us as what we can become. Jesus didn’t go into all the details or his purpose for his time here on Earth. He simply asked, Follow me. As the disciples obeyed and left their past behind them Jesus revealed more and more of his purpose to them. One of my favorite verses on the Bible comes from Jer. 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with a hope.” It gives me great comfort to know that God not only sees the actuality of who I am standing here right now but he also sees the possibilities of who I can become. God does not label me by my mistakes or by the lack of my ability. He says to me, Follow me and I will bless you and give you hope. He asks simply my obedience.

My search for God and learning what His will is for us is close to my heart. Sometimes it is hard to trust prompts from God. I have struggled for years trying to trust what I felt in my heart. But one thing I have finally begun to understand is that God places a desire and a passion in our hearts to do the things He calls us to do: Philippians 2:13 says “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (You will have a love & joy & passion for doing the things God has created you for & calls you to do). God calls to our hearts. He asks us to just believe.

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If you made it to the end of this long post I will share with you that this is part of the first message I ever gave to a group. I celebrate one year of stepping up to what God has called me to do. No longer am I hiding from who God has planned for me to be. I am thankful for all that He has shown me this past year. I am eager to see what else He has in store for me.

Heavenly Father, I simply thank You for all you have done in my life. I thank You searching for me when I was lost and didn’t listen to me when I said that I didn’t want to be found. I thank You for the Hope you have placed in me. Help me to show Your love to others. Amen.

Transformed

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb. ~Psalm 19:7-10 (CEB)

What if, instead of reading the Bible, you let the Bible read you? … What would happen if we approached the test less aggressively but even more energetically and passionately? I wonder what would happen if we honestly listen to the story and put ourselves under its spell… not using it to get all our questions about God answered but instead trusting God to use it to pose questions to us about us. What would happen if we trusted ourselves to it – the way a boy opens his heart to a girl, the way a patient trusts herself to an oncologist? ~From A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLare

What would happen if we changed our opinion that the purpose of scriptures was not what we can get from God but to learn how to be “at-one-with-God”, that the overarching theme of Scripture has to do with transformation made possible through learning to live a ‘with-God” life.

Just what would a transformed life look like if I approached reading my Bible in this way?

Heavenly Father, help me to transform into who You would have me be as I read Your words this day. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14). Amen. 

Forsaken

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. ~Luke 24:28-35 (CEB)

There are many references to people in the Bible who have felt forsaken or alone. Quickly scanning books like Job, Lamentations and some of the Psalms finds people with these feelings. Jesus too experienced that feeling of forsakenness. But Jesus was able to move from that forsaken lost place to feeling the confidence of a beloved child of God. The resurrection becomes the final proof that God can be trusted.

“Jesus’s journey from that forsaken feeling to confident trust gives hope to us in our times of loneliness and fear of being forsaken. If the theologians are right and God never does forsake us, we can remind ourselves frequently of God’s presence. Establishing a way of life that intentionally makes us present to God is one way of removing the feeling of God’s absence. Regular times of prayer and regular times of corporate, worship offer opportunities with the One who made us and loves us.” ~Rueben P. Job

Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your word. I thank You for sending Jesus into this world. May I model my life after his in all I say and do. Give me the strength to also say “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Amen.

Prayer and worship

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat. ~Psalm 19:1-6 (CEB)

We have lost the sense of the sacred in what we do. Every act we do can be a form of prayer. Fixing dinner can be prayer. When I smile that can be a prayer. Painting a picture or singing a song that can also be a prayer. When I do anything that brings joy to the Creator of the world, it is a prayer. It is a sacred act. Often we forget that the ordinary daily movements of life can be sacred.

Also taking notice of He’s creation around me can also be a form of worship. When I notice the changes of light with the time of the day or the season; the suddle colors of the hours before sunset as they change to amber and gold then into the darker shades of night… the songs of the birds, the wind on my face…   Every time I stop and notice I can feel the tension release from my stomach, my shoulders relax and my thoughts clear. For that one moment in time when I say “Ah”, I worship the One who created that ever changing scenery.

May I not be too busy this day to be in worship and prayer, O Lord. May I recognize the sacred in each moment of this day. May I not forget to see Your wonders around me. May I ever be thankful for the simple moments in live. Amen.

True happiness

Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.~ Phil 4:6-7 CEB

“As we grow older, we tend to become control freaks. We need to control everybody and everything, moment by moment, to be happy. If the now has never been full or sufficient, we will always be grasping, even addictive or obsessive. If you’re pushing yourself and others around, you have not yet found the secret of happiness. It’s okay as it is. This moment is as perfect as it can be. The saints called it the “sacrament of the present moment.” ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

Living in the moment is the truest form of happiness. When I am reliving the past (good or bad) or worrying about the future I forget the now. God is in the now moments. God is in the moments that I listen to my son rattle on… and on and on. God is in the moments that I stand still long enough to hear the words my daughter sings drift out of her room. God is in the moments I slow down long enough to swing on my porch and talk with me husband.

There is a fine line between being prepared for the future and trying to control its outcome. May I not find myself falling into the trap of control this day. May I find the joy of the now.

Heavenly Father, help me to remember today to stop and smell the season’s smells, to notice the beauty around me from sunrise to sunset, the music in the air. Help me remember to not be aggressive or obsessive trying to control my happiness. Let me instead be present in this moment that you have given me. Amen.

My prayer for you

This is why I kneel before the Father…  I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.
Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.
~ Ephesians 3:14, 16-21 CEB

Stop and remember

Jesus’ disciples had forgotten to bring any bread, so they had only one loaf with them in the boat. He gave them strict orders: “ Watch out and be on your guard for the yeast of the Pharisees as well as the yeast of Herod.” The disciples discussed this among themselves, “He said this because we have no bread.” Jesus knew what they were discussing and said, “ Why are you talking about the fact that you don’t have any bread? Don’t you grasp what has happened? Don’t you understand? Are your hearts so resistant to what God is doing? Don’t you have eyes? Why can’t you see? Don’t you have ears? Why can’t you hear? Don’t you remember? When I broke five loaves of bread for those five thousand people, how many baskets full of leftovers did you gather?”
They answered, “Twelve.” “ And when I broke seven loaves of bread for those four thousand people, how many baskets full of leftovers did you gather?”
They answered, “Seven.” Jesus said to them, “ And you still don’t understand?”
~ Mark 8:14-21 (CEB)

 

Sometimes I forget to stop and remember. I forget to slow down and understand. I forget to grasp the meaning that Jesus has for me. I forget to see. My eyes are not on Him.

When I don’t hold on to the truths that Jesus has shared with us I find anxiety and a restless heart robbing me of the peace that is promised when I place my trust in God. I stand there wondering why I am anxious… oh, I forgot to trust God again.

Life sometimes is too full. It holds so many opportunities with activities and distractions. When I find myself so busy is it any wonder that I grow anxious and lose my sense of peace and tranquility?

Heavenly Father, today I choose to remember that You alone are able to care for all that exists; I can trust my all from the smallest concern to the largest. Today I search out Your wisdom and love. I know that when I place my trust in You the gifts of peace, hope, calm and joy will be mine in abundance. Amen.

Forever

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~Luke 21:33 (CEB)

Today I needed to hear words that would never pass away. We live in a world with constant disappointments. Someone lets us down, someone doesn’t do what they promised. Sometimes things just don’t go the way we planned… or hoped. But Jesus’ words will never change. There is steadiness in what I read in the Bible. I know that I can count on God to be and do what He says he will do. Human beings will disappoint. I know I have disappointed others who counted on me. But it does my heart good this morning to see the words in print telling me… that though it may seem that nothing lasts forever God’s Word remains.
Lord, it can be hard to bounce back from disappointment but I thank You this day that You will never disappoint. I thank You that Your words are true and will last forever. Amen.

Armor

 

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate,  and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. As for me, pray that when I open my mouth, I’ll get a message that confidently makes this secret plan of the gospel known. I’m an ambassador in chains for the sake of the gospel. Pray so that the Lord will give me the confidence to say what I have to say. ~Ephesians 6:10-20 (CEB)

These verses from Ephesians are some of my favorite. As I am looking for strength outside myself, I find that these verses promise me strength through God’s armor. Since I am an active person I like the visual given here of putting on specific things to enable me to stand strong. One point that stands out is in verse 13, a warning is given. We are to pick up the FULL armor of God. We shouldn’t be careless and only put on a few of the items before heading out into the world. We need it all, the belt of truth, the breastplate of justice, shoes to spread the good news of peace, the shield of faith. and the helmet of salvation. Leaving off any one of these items leaves us vulnerable. It is interesting to note that all of these things are defensive items that protect and create a wall of protection for us. The only offense we have is God’s Word.

Heavenly Father, continue to help me stand strong. Remind me to place upon myself the full armor You have provided me for my protection as I seek to be your hands and feet in the world. May I carry Your word deep within me this day so that I always know Your truth. Amen

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