Crossroads

 

 

Don’t be afraid of them because the LORD your God is the one who will be fighting for you. ~Deut. 3:22 (CEB)

Do not be afraid. This is a phrase that is used throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. It seems these words are said during times of great change or before a call of service. To Abraham when he was called to leave all he had ever known. To Moses who was called to lead his people out of Egypt; to Joshua who was called to lead the people out of the desert into the Promised Land.  Gideon.., Samuel.., Joseph…

Mary was called at a young age. The first words that were spoke to her were “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30) Before Mary hears anything else, God first wants Mary to hear that she is safe and that she has found approval from God. Her identity is a gift ~ “favored child of God”. These words are meant to strengthen and empower. To others Mary may seem an unlikely candidate for helping God save the world. She is young, poor, has no social standing and she is female.  Nothing about Mary declares that she can be who she is called to be apart from God.

Mary is treasured as the mother of Jesus. At one point she was just flesh and blood, just like me, no stronger or more intelligent. What elevates her was her simple offering of herself to God, knowing that she was inadequate for what God called her to do, but with a willing heart to go where He wanted her to go. She knew she was limited in what she could do apart from God. It is her willing heart that has set her apart.

I have a gift from God, His love for me. My identity is that I am a Beloved child of God. I am called to hear His voice among my crowded and distracted life. What is my call? My call is to hear and to be willing to go where He leads me. “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it…” (Jer. 6:16) Nothing is more urgent in my life than the yearning to know and do God’s will. Every day I need to ask God, “Where are you leading me today?”

Every day is a crossroads Lord. Will I do your will, or will I follow my own desires? Lead me in the way I am to go.  I know that I am limited by what I can do on my own but with the Holy Spirit directing me I can know and do Your will. I thank You for Your love. Amen.

Shelter in the desert

Jacob left Beer- sheba and set out for Haran. He reached a certain place and spent the night there. When the sun had set, he took one of the stones at that place and put it near his head. Then he lay down there. He dreamed and saw a raised staircase, its foundation on earth and its top touching the sky, and God’s messengers were ascending and descending on it. Suddenly the LORD was standing on it and saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will become like the dust of the earth; you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. Every family of earth will be blessed because of you and your descendants. I am with you now, I will protect you everywhere you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done everything that I have promised you.” ~Gen. 28:10-15

Jacob had tricked his brother Esau out of his inheritance and his blessing. Esau was so angry at Jacob that Jacob feared for his very life. So he ran away. This scripture starts with Jacob running for his life; he is scared, tired, lonely, and feeling guilty for what he has done. He knows that he has really messed things up.

When night came, Jacob was tired so he just laid down on the ground using a rock as a pillow. When he fell asleep he had a dream. In his dream he saw a ladder reaching from the earth all the way to heaven. Angels were ascending and descending the ladder. At the top of this ladder was God.

God reached out to Jacob through this dream. I think God spoke to Jacob in his dream because Jacob knew he had messed up pretty badly, he had little hope for his future and he was scared for his safety. He was in need of some good news.

In the dream God told Jacob a few things:
-God told Jacob that the land Jacob was laying on was for him and for his children (hope).
-God told Jacob that his children and his children’s children and his children’s, children’s children would spread all over the earth and all the families of the earth will be blessed through them (future).
-And this is my favorite part—God said these words to Jacob, “know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go” (security).

I make many mistakes living in this world. There are times I wonder how God could ever forgive me. But this story reminds me that God does love me even at my worst. Even more, God keeps his promises. They are not dependent on my actions. And despite the mistakes I make God can still use me.

O Lord, You alone are my hope, my future and my security. I place my trust in You. You are my rock of refuge where I can always escape. My praise is always about You. Amen.

Getting back up

God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart, when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains shake because of its surging waves. ~Psalm 46:1-3 (CEB)

Life’s journey is not easy. It is through my struggles that I can be conformed to the image of Christ. This process of being reshaped in Christ’s image takes time. Only through the Holy Spirit can this process happen. After I have turned my heart to God, the work of bringing my life in line with His begins. Through maturity I gain knowledge, wisdom and love. My growth with the help of the Holy Spirit can be marked by an up and down movement, forward and backward, and at times even circular!

The journey is never in a straight path free of bumps and strains. Throughout the process however, God never wavers and undergirds me with His grace. This gives us the hope, courage and perseverance for the journey.

It’s a journey. I take a few steps, I might fall down. I get up, take another step, and fall down again. And then I get up. . . As someone once observed, “It is not the falling in the water that drowns, but the staying there.”

Heavenly Father, Thank You for ever being my strength, my comfort and my help in times of need. Because You walk with me this day, I will not be afraid, even if the mountains crumble and the storms rage. You are my hope and my peace. Amen.

A quiet presence

Before they call, I will answer while they are still speaking, I will hear. ~Isaiah 65:24 (CEB)

Nothing makes me feel more vulnerable than car trouble.

I had had a great day with my Michigan cousins. I went out to my car at the end of the day to find it would not start. “What? (I actually said this as I put my head on the steering wheel) Lord, I had prayed about this, begged You to protect my car from issues while I was so far away from home.” It is hard enough to deal with car trouble in familiar territory but hundreds of miles from home it is overwhelming.

A cousin jump started my car and we talked about what could be the issue. I hoped for the battery but it could be as serious as the alternator. Obviously I couldn’t take the chance of being stranded on the interstate. Sitting in my hotel room wondering what I should do, an answer came to mind. I knew from past experience that someplace like AutoZone could check my battery to see if it needed replacement. Maybe they would have advice about the alternator. I thought that they could probably point me to a reputable repairman if that was indeed what I needed. I looked AutoZone up on my phone to see if there was one in town. According to the phone there was one close by. So I settled in and prayed for a good night’s rest and that my car would start so that I could drive it to AutoZone in the morning.

The next morning, after I had packed our stuff, I went out to try and start the car. It struggled but finally started. I pulled up the address on my phone to the store and headed out. Once I was out on the road I looked up while stopping at the stop sign to see my destination right there ahead of me. Two blocks from my hotel was an AutoZone. I had not noticed that it was there before that moment.

As I suspected, the AutoZone employees were able to help me. They ran tests on my battery, alternator and starter. It was just the battery as I hoped.

At first is seemed to me that God had not watched over me while I was off in a strange territory. I felt momentarily forgotten. Abandoned. When I got into the car to drive my son and I back down to Tennessee, I realized just how much God had been watching over me before I even knew that I was in trouble. There were so many factors that could have made the situation worse. And then there was the location of my hotel, just down from the store that I would need. It began to seem surreal.

God showed me that I don’t have to be on familiar ground for Him to take care of me. He can already have things in motion or in place that I don’t know about yet.  He also will also give me answers as I need them, sometimes not until I need them. When I feel alone and forgotten, I have not been. I just need to hold onto the truth that as a beloved child of God, He will provide for me.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the care You send and the answers You bring. Thank You for not abandoning me. Thank You for Your quiet Presence that warms and calms my heart. May I continue to feel Your Presence as I move through the day ahead. Amen.

Love beyond all limits

Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that~ smelled sweet to God. ~Eph 5:1-2 (CEB)Even if you have not grown up in church I feel confident that you have heard that God loves us. Maybe you have heard of God’s love through the simple children’s song, “Jesus loves me”. In church the concept of God’s love is taught but not necessarily known. It takes life experiences to begin to understand what God’s love means in our heart. But this journey towards understanding just how big, how wide how deep how great God’s love really is (Eph 3:18-19), begins with misunderstanding just what love means

For many reasons we find ourselves misunderstanding God’s love. That it is absolute and unlimited for each one of us. The reasons that it is difficult for us to receive, trust or see His love are as numerous as there are people in the world. The relationships we have with others impact us and affect our views on what love means. How we interact in relationships can be reflected in how we interact and relate to God. Somewhere along the way we may be taught that love is based on performance, control, comes with conditions… When we take our first step on our journey of who we really are in Christ, we can begin to understand the concept of God’s perfect love for us just as we are right now.

It wasn’t until after the birth of my daughter, standing over her crib watching her sleep that I began to get a taste of what God’s love is for us. I also began to understand just how human I really was and that I could never love her enough. Matthew 7:11 says ” If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” If  I with all my faults, love my children and want so much for them can I not begin to take to heart the love God has for me? After being a mom for 17 years, I am only beginning to scratch the surface of this kind of love.

Our journey towards grasping the concept of God’s love begins with this verse in Romans 8:38-39, ” But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created”. God’s love for us knows NO limits.

Sometimes understanding is beyond our reach when life has caused deep wounds, Henri Nouwen in his book, The Wounded Healer, has this to say, ” How can someone ever trust in the existence of an unconditional divine love when most, if not all, of what he or she has experienced is the opposite of love -fear, hatred, violence, and abuse? They are not condemned to be victims! There remains within them, hidden as it may seem, the possibility to choose love. Many people who have suffered the most horrendous rejections and been subject to the most cruel torture are able to choose love. By choosing love they become witnesses not only to enormous human resiliency but also to the divine love that transcends all human loves. Those who choose, even on a small scale, to love in the midst of hatred and fear are the people who offer true hope to our world.”

I walk a narrow path of hope in the midst of a world that has only hatred and fear to share. I look not to the world to define what love means. I look to the Source that is love. Sometimes the people in my life are here to show me what love is not. Other times I am blessed with insights of what love truly can be.

Heavenly Father I thank you this day for Your love that has no limits. I thank You for those people You have placed in my life to love and to love me. May I be an example of love to all I meet this day. Amen.

A letter written for me

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. ~2Tim 3:16-17(CEB)

One of many things that fascinate me about the Bible is how it can speak to me as an individual. This is what sets scripture apart from all other writing. It speaks to every person from every background and every generation. In order to accomplish this it was written in symbolic language.

“A symbol is a representation of a greater reality. The symbol is not the reality but points to it. In order to grasp the truth of a symbol one must not look “at” it but through it to the greater reality that awaits discovery but the one who has eyes to see and ears to hear (Matt 11:15).” ~ Rueben P. Job

Jesus spoke in parables so that his teaching would have universal and singular appeal, and for that reason he taught through parables (Mark 4:33-34). If I carefully search each Bible story it will reveal hidden truth that suits my life’s situation. If I do not take the time to search the scriptures deeply, the symbols will remain nontransparent.

It is important that I take time every day to read scriptures as if it was it was a letter written just for me – as if the writer was thinking only of me when writing. Through analogies, metaphors, parables, I can enter into a personal dialog with God. There are questions that I can ask to help me understand what insights God is trying to speak to me: (1) What is this scripture saying to me about God? (2) What is this scripture telling me about myself? (3) What is the scripture saying to me about how God calls me to be in service to Him?

Heavenly Father, I stand amazed at how You speak to me today through something written over 2,000 years ago. Train me in the way that I need so I may be equipped for Your good work. Amen.

Prayer for the reader

Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive. ~Matt 21:22 (NRSV)

Not just in the Psalms can prayers be found but throughout the Bible. They are beautiful and I love when I come across them in my Bible reading. Here is a prayer that I want to share with you. Paul has written this prayer to the Ephesians but we can claim this prayer for ourselves today.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. ~Eph3:14-21 (NRSV)

Heavenly Father, I embrace this prayer as my own today. Grant strength and power through you Holy Spirit. Allow Christ to dwell in my heart so that I may know that love that surpasses all knowledge. I pray for You to work in me to accomplish abundantly more than I can ever imagine for Your glory and honor. Amen.

I know who holds tomorrow

 

 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.~ Phil 4:4-7 (NRSV)

“Rejoice in the Lord always” doesn’t end with,”unless you are doing something really important”. No, it’s a command, “rejoice always”. When I am consumed by my problems – my family, my job, my life, I am actually conveying the belief that my circumstances are more important than God’s command to always rejoice. In other words I am saying that I have the right to disobey God’s command because of the magnitude of my responsibilities. My focus on my problems puts my problems first. This is a form of idolatry- taking my focus away from God.

Following the command to rejoice always is the command to not worry. Worry implies that I do not trust God with my circumstances. Is not the God who flung the stars into space not big enough to handle my problems? Is not the God who moves continents not strong enough to fix my situation? Is not the God who sent His only son into the world to die on a cross for my sins not loving enough to hear my prayers?

Being stressed says that what I am involved in merits my impatience, lack of grace toward others or my tight grip on control. Worry and stress say that I have forgotten that it is really not about me. God has a big picture and I am a part of it. The picture isn’t about me. The picture is God’s.

The chorus from a song has been running through my mind today, ” There are things about tomorrow That I don’t seem to understand But I know who holds tomorrow And I know who holds my hand.” So what do I gain from putting God first and trusting Him to take care of my tomorrows? Verse seven says that the peace that passes all understanding will guard my heart and mind.

No matter how hard I try to control the situation, I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. I do know, because the Bible tells me, that I am to always rejoice, to give thanks in every situation and to not worry. I also know that the One who began a good work in me will bring it to completion (Phil 1:6).

Heavenly Father, may I live this day trusting that you hold all my tomorrows. When feelings of anxiety creep back in, may that be my signal that I have lost my focus reminding me to look back to you. Amen.

Hearing Gof through community

I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. ~Jer. 3:15 (NRSV)

We were not meant to walk this road of life alone. Jesus lived his life in community. From his childhood to his calling and traveling with disciples Jesus lived in community. A community of faith nurtured him, supported him and informed him (who do the crowds say I am?) We too are meant to live in a community. How else are we to find the strength to live a faithful life without the gifts offered in a faithful community of Jesus? Jesus was known for valuing solitude since he retired to rest and pray, but living in community also marked his life.

It is easy for me to forget the importance of Christian community. Susanne G. Farnham in her book Listening Hearts, states the importance of community, “Although God calls each of us personally, as individuals we see only partially. Individual perception, reasoning, and understanding are always limited. Even a person who feels absolutely certain that a specific revelation is from God may be mistaken as to how it is to be applied. Because God often reveals part of the picture to one person and another part to another person, it is prudent to consult one another to discern God’s counsel, guidance, and direction, even if there is no apparent reason to do so. While circumstances sometimes require us to ask without consulting others, the danger of arrogance and error in proceeding on our own can be great.”

Heavenly Father I thank You for surrounding me with people that help me discern Your will in my life. Without others perspective into my life I would not always understand the picture you have painted for me. I thank You for the counsel, guidance and direction that You have spoken into my life through others. Amen.

Free to love

Your faithful love is priceless, God! Humanity finds refuge in the shadow of your wings. ~Psalms 36:7

Jesus is called Emmanuel which means “God-with-us” (Matthew 1:22-23). Jesus came into the world to be with us and to guide us with his example for living. During his time on earth Jesus was in no way influenced by human blame or praise but was completely dependent on God’s will. Jesus was able to have deep compassion because his life was guided not by human respect but only by the love of his heavenly Father. In reading my Bible, Jesus is with me guiding me through the examples shown to me in the Bible. Allowing myself to be guided by God’s will frees me to love others.

When it is no longer about “me”, about my trying to get human approval, I am free to love. Allowing myself to be guided by God’s will frees me to love as He wants me to love. When I find my security through Jesus, the love, peace, joy and hope that He pours into me overflows to others (Romans 13:13). We are to be rooted in Jesus. With our roots firmly planted in his truth and established in faith we won’t be enslaved by foolish deception (Colossians 2:7). Loving God with all my heart and all my strength and loving my neighbor is the most important thing that I can offer to Him (Mark 12:33).

Heavenly Father, I struggle daily with “self”. I want to love those around me with the love Christ has shown me. May I honor you this day through showing Christ’s love to others. Amen.

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