Thankfulness

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him,  they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”  When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed.  One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice.  He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.  Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.” ~Luke 17:11-19 (CEB)

Only one of ten lepers returned to thank Jesus for healing them. It is easy to criticize the nine who did not thank Jesus for healing them. The sad realization is that is probably my average on a daily basis. I probably only thank God for one out of every ten blessing He bestows on me. If that much…

Sometimes God uses our children to remind us to be thankful. Through my sons prayers I am reminded that I too should be thankful for my bed, a warm house to call my own and a family that loves me. When I tell my son we are not to feel guilty that there are others that do not have these basic needs but that we are to thank God for what we do have, I am reminding myself of all that I take for granted on a daily basis. We are rich compared to some and for these rich blessings I am thankful. So ever grateful.

It is always right, O God, to praise you and to bless your name. Even if the harvest fail, even when economies falter, still you are our God; still you bless us richly. Help us to see your active hand in bounty or in scarcity, in pain as well as pleasure. When we fail to see you at work we fall into the sin of ingratitude, or even suppose that all that we have is the work of our own hands, the result of our own intelligence and industry. Forgive us, and save us from an existence so self-centered. Set us free from greedy and grasping hearts. By your generosity to us, teach us to be generous to others, and thus to give evidence to you that we are indeed your thankful people. This we pray through Jesus Christ, your most gracious and enduring gift to us, for whom be everlasting praise. Amen. ~From the book, This Day, a Wesleyan Way of Prayer, by Laurence Hull Stookey

When He came calling

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise will always be in my mouth. I praise the LORD— let the suffering listen and rejoice. Magnify the LORD with me! Together let us lift his name up high! I sought the LORD and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to God will shine; their faces are never ashamed. This suffering person cried out: the LORD listened and saved him from every trouble. On every side, the LORD’s messenger protects those who honor God; and he delivers them. Taste and see how good the LORD is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy! You who are the LORD’s ~Psalm 34:1-8 (CEB)

“You called, shouted, broke through my deafness; you flared, blazed, banished my blindness; you lavished your fragrance, I gasped, and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace.” ~From The Confessions by Saint Augustine

Once I began to listen to God calling to me, the more I wanted to hear. A simple taste of God’s word was not enough; it left me hungering for more. To the one who delivers me from all my fears I want even more today. I am never satisfied. As long as I seek refuge in Him I find true and complete happiness.

Heaveny Father, I thank You this day for calling out to me, for searching the dark depths for my lost soul. I thank you for finding me while I was lost, caught up in trying hard to live right. I thank You for the peace that awaits when I rest in Your arms. May I never stray so far to feel darkness’ bleak fear, help me stay in the light of Your love. Amen.

God sings

Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem.~Zeph 3:14 (CEB)

Reading Zephaniah shows us that God pleads for us to turn to Him. He does not want our destruction. He wants us to come away from our self-willed path and find a road that leads to him.

Have you ever wondered what God is saying to you when you line your steps with his? Zephaniah 3 says this:

Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem. The LORD has removed your judgment; he has turned away your enemy. The LORD, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you will no longer fear evil. On that day, it will be said to Jerusalem: Don’t fear, Zion. Don’t let your hands fall. The LORD your God is in your midst— a warrior bringing victory. He will create calm with his love; he will rejoice over you with singing. I will remove from you those worried about the appointed feasts. They have been a burden for her, a reproach. Watch what I am about to do to all your oppressors at that time. I will deliver the lame; I will gather the outcast. I will change their shame into praise and fame throughout the earth. (Zep 3:14-19)

He sings a song of joy and commands you sing too!

Heavenly Father, thank you for your songs of joy that You plant in our hearts for our day of return. I thank You that You are so willing to turn our ashes to joy, our suffering to purpose, and our pain to victory. Thank You for the calm you promise us if only we will look to You, our Hope and Redeemer. Ever guide my steps this day. Amen.

Does God really care?

LORD, how long will I call for help and you not listen? I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you don’t deliver us. Why do you show me injustice and look at anguish so that devastation and violence are before me? There is strife, and conflict abounds. ~Hab 1:2-3 (CEB)

Often I find myself wrestling with questions. In reading the book of Habakkuk I find he is wrestling with some of the same things. His primary question to God is “Why does the Lord permit the righteous to suffer while the wicked prosper?” He has a series of questions and as he continues to raise these questions, the Lord responds. Habakkuk seems to be most concerned with how wicked people can even play a role in God’s work.

The time frame for this book is during the time of Israel’s defeat by the Assyrians and Judah’s oppression of those same Assyrians. The Assyrian rule was being felt greatly. Alliances were being made with other nations instead of turning to God. Habakkuk’s vision declares that this practice of trusting in human power and strength would ultimately lead to defeat. Habakkuk reminds Judah that the righteous live by faith.

In the ensuing conversation that Habakkuk has with God, he learns that the question at stake is not how one is made righteous but rather how the righteous might face evil’s apparent domination. He begins to realize that the question at stake is rather how the righteous might face evils apparent domination. “For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.” (2:3-4) The prophet’s vision emphasizes trust in God despite circumstances. At an appropriate time, an answer will come; in the meantime, the righteous will continue to trust in God.

From Habakkuk’s honest dialog comes a hope based not on visible circumstances but in God, who ultimately triumphs over evil and all of its manifestations. I too can say despite not knowing what tomorrow holds, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.” (3:18-19)

Lord, help me find my security in You, not in my present circumstances. As long as my eyes are on You I have the faith needed to know that You will ultimately triumph over evil. Amen.

As the river flows

After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.” ~Mark 8:34-37

“Spirituality is about seeing. It’s not about earning or achieving. It’s about relationship rather than results or requirements. Once you see, the rest follows. You don’t need to push the river, because you are in it. The life is lived within us, and we learn how to say yes to that life.” ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

Today I am going to try to not swim against the current. Today I am going to rest and let the river do the work. When I try to get places by my own power, I just wear myself out. I think I will lay back and see just where this river takes me.

Heavenly Father, You say in Your Word that Your yoke is easy and Your burdens are light. Help me to make the right choices this day so I can step out in faith and not feel overly weighed down. Help me to flow better with the currents of life so that I can look up and see Your glory around me. Amen.

Searching, again

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. ~Psalm 23:4 (NRSV)

There are days I feel adrift from God. Sometimes it may be a result of my trusting in self again. It isn’t that God has moved, I have moved away from Him. Other times He has moved and I need to seek after Him. Again. Gary Moon in his Book Falling for God says it this way:

“All believers who want to become an apprentice of Christ and not just his admirer will find themselves in the blank space between the verses in Psalm 23. Because he loves us so much, the Shepherd moves on. We look around and wonder where he has gone. We feel alone, abandoned. We call out. Nothing. The voice that used to call our name is silent and does not respond when we call. He is gone. He has moved farther down the road that leads home. During the dark night experience our job is to seek God and to go to him again. When we do, we realize we are not the same person. Our relationship with him is not the same. We [too] have moved. We are closer to home and closer to union.” ~From Falling for God by Gary Moon

So whether my rough spot is due to me moving toward idols (Self-reliance) or God moving me on down the path to greater maturity, my job, your job, remains the same. We say, “Here I am, Lord, helpless without you.”

Heavenly Father, help me to seek You in all I do this day. May I ever grow more into who You see me to be. 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 John we see two disciples who 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.

~~~~~

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 three years 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 since accepting the dreams God has placed in my heart. I am eager to see where He will lead 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.

True happiness

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

Keeping it together

 

But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls. ~Luke 21:18-19 (CEB)

“How can we not lose our souls when everything and everybody pulls us in the most different directions?  How can we “keep it together” when we are constantly torn apart?

Jesus says:  “Not a hair of your head will be lost.  Your perseverance will win you your lives” (Luke 21:18-19).  We can only survive our world when we trust that God knows us more intimately than we know ourselves.  We can only keep it together when we believe that God holds us together.  We can only win our lives when we remain faithful to the truth that every little part of us, yes, every hair, is completely safe in the divine embrace of our Lord.  To say it differently:  When we keep living a spiritual life, we have nothing to be afraid of.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

Heavenly Father I thank You for the strength You daily give me to keep it all together. I know that because You love me that there is nothing I should fear. Give me courage just for this day. Amen.

Little by little

If you say to yourself, “These nations are more numerous than I; how can I dispossess them?” do not be afraid of them. Just remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your God brought you out. The LORD your God will do the same to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. Moreover, the LORD your God will send the pestilence against them, until even the survivors and the fugitives are destroyed. Have no dread of them, for the LORD your God, who is present with you, is a great and awesome God. The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to make a quick end of them, otherwise the wild animals would become too numerous for you. But the LORD your God will give them over to you, and throw them into great panic, until they are destroyed. ~Duet 7:17-23

Sometimes it feels that God is not answering our prayers. Or it feels like the situation is more than we can do. I like these verses from Deuteronomy because it reminds me that even though my trials may seem great I just need to remember the signs and wonders God has already done in my life. Just as he has been there for me in the past, He continues to be working for my good. (Jer. 29:11) Little by little God is already making changes, even if I can’t see them. The timing is slow so that when I come into the promises He has made me I will be ready to stand up under this new life and not crumble.

God is doing the hard work. He is clearing a way before me. I only need to be ready to step into that promise land once He has my path cleared.

Heavenly Father, there are some days that it is hard to remember Your promises. I take my eyes off you, see my present circumstances and soon am overwhelmed again. Today I recall to mind the signs and wonders that You have already done in my life. Today I will hold my head up high and watch You do the work. Amen.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries