stubborn donkey

Speaking of stubborn animals…

The story of Balaam’s donkey found in Numbers 22 in the Bible can be a pretty funny one on its face. For the uninitiated, it has some weird elements: a group of Rambo Moabites, a stubborn donkey, an invisible threat, and a Master who sees things others don’t and talks to his animals as if they were answering back.

If you weren’t seeing things from Balaam’s perspective in the story, you’d think him nuts, insane; a crazy kook of a man.

We’re not always good at pegging the origins of our opposition, and we’re not always good at seeing what God’s doing in and through us.

When you read the “rest of the story” concerning Balaam, you begin to see that indecision and greed were two confusing factors for the seer. They can be problems for us too. The bigger issue though, is a matter of spiritual acuity. Are we seeing God for who he really is, or is our image of Him muddled and confused by the trappings of this world?

When things get confusing and we’re struggling to understand, that’s when its time to create a little white space in our lives. We need to add some margin. We need to reevaluate our priorities, and we may need to get quiet before God for a minute or two.

We can do anything for a minute or two, right?

Stop. Breathe. Ponder. Meditate.

Ask!

God, “What’s going on here?”

Be still and know that He is God.

When your mind wanders gently move back to the task at hand-listening.
If a thought won’t leave, surrender it.
If a name has popped into your head, acknowledge it and say a quick prayer, then return.
Keep returning for that whole 60 seconds.
It’s just a minute, right?

In the beginning, as that new habit of meditation is forming, remember:  it’s just one minute.

Today, let’s listen.

Wait. Agree. Obey.

It may be that you have an angel standing in your way, charged with protecting you from you.

Don’t beat the donkey that’s always faithfully served your needs.
Don’t resist the God who’s always loved you well.
Don’t push away the help that has been provided for you, sometimes by hurdles and frustrations.

How many tragic accidents on the highway have been avoided by batteries that were dead, tires that went flat, and starters that wouldn’t ignite?  Maybe delays and frustrations are for our good.

When have you been frustrated in your plans, only to find it a blessing in the end? What do you hate most about waiting?

 

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mistake graphic

Mistakes!

We all make ‘em.
Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Maybe it’s simple human flailing–none of us are perfect, after all.
Maybe we’ve been tripped up by the evil one.
Maybe it’s just a matter of not thinking a situation through.
Maybe it’s the natural tendency of human flesh to screw up.

Oh, Lord, I pray it’s not that last one. As I get older, I’d like to think I’m also getting wiser.

For whatever reason, we all make mistakes.
What we do about them when we make them, is what determines if we land in the win or lose column of life.

What do you do when you make a mistake?

Do you circle back around?
Apologize?
Make restitution where it’s needed?
Quickly go to work cleaning your side of the street?

Do you actively surrender your stumbling and bumbling around to the One who can scrub you clean?

Or do you…

Persist in your error?
Justify what you’ve done?
Become so discouraged by yet another character defect showing up that you run and hide, pull the covers over your head, indulge in self-loathing and throw your hands in the air in defeat?

Last week I made a mistake.
I realized it, owned it, and addressed it.
It was hard, it was embarrassing, and the sting of it is still with me today, but I know that I did what I needed to do and that by and by, like the sting after a wasp attack, the pain will go away. Until then, I’m praying for clarity and depending on God’s grace to get me through.

How about you?

When have you made a mistake? Did you wait for an opportunity to make it right, or apologize right away?

Says Easy, Does Hard

Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Matthew 19:19 

This whole “love your neighbor as yourself” business says easy, but does hard, and there’s a reason for that.  Jesus regularly taught principles that rankled people and caused a shift in their perspective.  Jesus’ own disciples, upon hearing him proclaim in the temple that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they wanted to be one with him, said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”  Many didn’t, and the herd was thinned that day.

Truth:  There are times when living for Jesus says easy, but does hard!

We often face a struggle of the will when trying to put self in a bottle.  Being creatures with egos, we find it difficult to live out the fullness of this hard teaching about love. This week, though, Jesus has opened my eyes to see the contrast between how we help one another and how the world does it.  In the world, help denotes payback.  Few people who live without Jesus in their heart freely give either love or possessions. Some, but not many. Whereas inside the church, we’re all striving to share selfless love on a daily basis, and not just with church members.  Be it generosity, kindness, toys, or tools—we regularly share with others in ways that meet or exceed the way we take care of ourselves.

Today, if you are finding it hard to love others on the same level as you love you, know, you’re not alone.  We’re all finding it hard, given the day. Here is what I know: The only thing that stretches our Jesus muscles, is lifting Jesus weights.

What part of the Christian journey do you find says easy, but does hard?

 

 

 

 

 

Be a Jonah…try, try again!

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.  Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”  The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.   Jonah 3:1-5 

There are several things about today’s Bible passage that pique my interest.

First, Nineveh was a large city. Large enough that it took THREE days to walk through it. That’s Big!

Also of interest is the fact that the Ninevites believed Jonah when he finally got around to speaking to them about God and the destruction that was coming. They believed him so thoroughly that they prepared their hearts for punishment, even as they hoped for mercy.

The Ninevites quick decision to take action is impressive, I think. Once they heard what God was planning for them, they immediately stopped their evils ways, confessed their wrongs, and fasted and prayed, going several days without food, nor water.  The king of Nineveh even ordered that the cattle go on a fast with the rest of the city.  Everyone in Nineveh stopped what they were doing and prayed, prayed earnestly, to the God of Jonah, Yahweh.

Can you imagine the noise the cattle made when they’d gone just one day without food or water? The wailing that must have produced–I bet the commotion put goose bumps on arms all over town–and I bet it only intensified after the sun went down!  No sleep for anyone in Nineveh until this sitch had been dealt with properly.  No sleep!

The most amazing thing about this passage for me, though, is the fact that…

God gave Jonah a second chance!

 A second change, people!!!!  How good is our God!

Like Jonah, we let the Lord down, don’t we?

Like Jonah, we run in the opposite direction from His will for us, sometimes.

Like Jonah, we care about our own skin before we care about other’s.

Like Jonah, we find serving God in ways that are relevant to him, troublesome for us.

Like Jonah, we’ve failed God when he’s called us the first time, and like Jonah, we need that second chance. 

Today, if you know anyone like Jonah, will you pray for him or her? Will you ask God to give them a second chance?  Will you ask Him to put them in a spot where they’re motivated to do what He wants them to do, even if that means rough times for them?

Will you pray for their inner fortitude, strength, and faith in the only true God?  If you will, you’ll need fortification to do that job, right?  A touch from God?!  Let’s pray…

Who do you know that is a Jonah, in need of a second chance?  When have you been in need of the same?

 

 

Healing Words Speaking Grace

The following is an excerpt from Cyndy Sherwood’s devotional, Healing Words.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9a

“I have hung my hope on this truth more times than I can count. When I was remembering the horrible abuse of my childhood, his grace was sufficient. Later, when my step-daughter took her life, his grace was sufficient. When my husband had no work, his grace was sufficient. 

It is in the hard times we can most easily see his unlimited resources and his tender heart toward us.  He delights in taking care of us during adversity.  It also gives God pleasure to do great things through unlikely people.  When he accomplishes his work through weak people it reveals his unlimited power.”

Cyndy goes on to talk about grace as “a dynamic expression of the divine personality, rather than as a static attribute of God’s nature,” which is The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible’s definition of grace.  Cyndy believes that when God transfers His power into our lives, then, we get a glimpse of His grace as it was meant to operate in our world.  “When God is working in and through us,” she says, “that is His grace.”

I love Cyndy’s description of grace in her devotional.  It speaks to partnership, and intimacy, and the give-and-take that accompanies demonstrations of God’s grace in my life.

We give our weakness to God and He fills us with His power!

Today, if you’re facing a lion, a bear, or a shadow of fear…so that you’re not sure whether you can finish what God’s given you to do or not, won’t you reach out to Him and ask for a little grace to get you through?

He’s a good, good father, and he love, love, love, loves his kids.  Today, let’s trust God a little bit more in our weakness.

What do you think about grace? How do you define grace in your life?

 

Reviewing Romans

I posted yesterday that I’m moving on with my Bible reading, and using my Bible Jar to let God direct my reading. His pick?  Ezekiel!

Ezekiel AGAIN, I should say!

This is my SECOND time reading Ezekiel in three months’ time.  Believe me, left to my own devices, I would not have picked this book to read even once, let alone TWO times, but I’m sure there is a message in there for me somewhere; one especially relevant to where I am in my faith journey right now.  I suspect it has to do with speaking boldly about the other side of grace.  You know it, right? That side of grace that is not gold-plated or fun to experience, or anything we could call human success.

THE OTHER SIDE OF GRACE

The other side of grace is punishment, and while we might do all we can to mitigate it or down right avoid it, the truth is that there are things to learn in the wood shed we cannot learn anywhere else.  Valuable things.  Timely things.  God-things!

I will be sharing some of my impressions from the book of Ezekiel once I’ve gotten into it a little further.  For now, I want to share some of what struck me as important as I read through Romans, the last book of the Bible God directed me to read.

I LOVE/HATE PAUL’S EPISTLES

I love Romans. I love Acts. I love/hate the Apostle Paul’s writings!

I love how Paul says what he thinks—exactly what he thinks–but I hate that he seems like a chauvinist sometimes.  I can say that here, because this is my blog, and it’s how I’ve honestly felt in the past when reading Paul’s work.  Today, I’m okay with who he was and what he wrote, because I can see what he says in greater context and so I don’t get so offended as I once did.  I don’t have time for all the drama involved in fighting Paul on the subject of women and how he chooses to address them in Scripture. His opinions are his (and sometimes God’s), and I’m okay with Paul being Paul at this juncture in life.  Why not?  We all add something different to the faith recipe, right?  And Paul has added a lot of spice, so I’m more likely to applaud him than dis him these days.

BUT I DIGRESS

What I really wanted to share here today is my thoughts, my significant thoughts, on the book of Romans. Here goes. I think…

Sin is awful and uncontrollable in/by us, but thankfully Jesus can handle it.

Anyone absorbed in self, ignores God.

Ignoring God causes a hobbling in my spirit, even as it displeases him.  A lose/lose proposition.

We need to give our old life a decent burial, and get on with the adventure!

Mercy is God’s thing! He grants grace to us, and not the other way ‘round.

God sets everything right between Him and us when we 1. Call upon Him for help. 2. Trust in Him to provide help. 3.  Release and relinquish those things we’d previously been holding on to that get between God and us. 4.  Practice intimacy with Him.

God will not walk away from Israel, even though she walks away from Him.  There still exists a fierce minority in Israel that trusts God, and they will be the agents of peace that partner with God when the broken olive branch (broke through disobedience), gets grafted back in.  If their break meant a grafting for the Gentiles, just imagine what their being grafted back onto the trunk [God], will mean for the world.  An explosion of power unseen before!

Placing your everyday life in God’s hands makes it possible for amazing things to happen in your life.

We should run from evil as fast as we can.

We don’t bring goodness to God, that He should be grateful to us. He brings it to us—and we SHOULD be grateful to Him!

We serve God best when we do so authentically.

Problems with being authentic begin with human pride, and are not the work of God.

We need to practice being second fiddle until we get really, really good at it!

[side note: a friend recently said something to the effect of, “I love people who race others to get to the bottom of the pile.”  I think she’s onto something there.  God first, others next, us last—always.]

Others need to be loved by us as well as we love ourselves.

It profits us nothing to be greedy—we will all kneel at the same place and time in the end.

Welcome those who don’t see things as you do, and don’t let something as temporary as food divide you.

If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you teach, then the way you’re living (or teaching), is wrong.

Jesus took on the troubles of the troubled, and stayed true to God’s purpose. Do likewise.

Hospitality is important, don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Love on others, complimenting those who deserve it [and I would add, need it].

What is your favorite passage from Romans?  Why do you love it so??

 

Ezekiel!

Happy Monday, everyone!

I’m beginning my week with writing about my quiet time once again, and the prayer jar I’ve talked about in the past.  Last Friday I finished up my reading in Romans, and was jones-in’ for my next pick from the prayer jar, but wanted to wait until another busy weekend had passed before I drew a new tab.

Can I say I’m loving the way this thing is going?  I’m loving how God is directing my Bible reading!!

I rubbed my eyes awake this morning with one thought on my mind, picking another tab from the jar.  I was so excited.

I prayed, then picked, and do you know what my finger found?

Ezekiel! 

Again!

This will be my SECOND reading from the book of Ezekiel in three months-time.  I think God must have a message for me in this peculiar book of prophecy.

Such an odd little book, but here I go…

Do you have a systematic way for reading through God’s Word?  What is your favorite passage from the book of Ezekiel?

The Real jesus

Lately, I’ve been feeling the need to talk about the real Jesus with my readers and friends.

I’ve felt like the world is giving people a different impression of Jesus than what the Bible says about him.

I’ve felt like revisionist history has taken over, and fake news is everywhere, and that it is impacting the work of the church as we try to make lives better.

Jesus makes lives better.

I heard a quote concerning Polycarp yesterday. He was a noble saint of God, a disciple of the Apostle John, and an early church leader and bridge to early Christianity who at some point was asked to puff some incense into the air and repeat the phrase, “Caesar is Lord.” He refused.

Polycarp was a threat to his world and government, so he had to die.

The government of Polycarp’s day told him it he didn’t honor Caesar above Christ, he would be first tortured, then killed by being burned at the stake.  His response:  “Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” He then prayed a prayer that accepted his fate, requested he be found worthy to die among the martyrs, and praised God for bringing him to this place in life.

He praised God, people. Praised Him!!!!

Eusebiau adds: “When he had offered up his amen and had finished his prayer, the firemen lighted the fire.”

I’m impressed with how Polycarp could rise to a place of gratefulness when facing his torturer’s flame.  I believe he was able to face his fate with confidence and be counted among the martyrs for two reasons: 1. The courage the Holy Spirit gives upon our conversion is no joke. We are able to do, while in Christ, things we could never do before He came to reign in our lives.  2.  Polycarp had been looking for a way to honor his Savior his whole life, and knew this way would be the way that would be remembered.  He was right. This act of love outlived any other sacrifice he might have made in the past, and it led others to follow his example in the future.

I’m struck by the way Jesus coming into our lives has the power to completely change who we are as people.  Those who once served out of duty, after being saved, have a whole new heart and way of behaving in this world.  I only hope that I can have the courage of Polycarp when Jesus asks me to do something noble and requiring bravery.

The real Jesus gives us opportunities to serve him in powerful ways.  What will you do with yours?

Do you feel like the world is trying to hide the truth about the real Jesus from us?  Do you know who is behind that kind of masqu

Owe nothing but love

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8 KJV

Is it a good thing that the Good Book says to owe no man any thing, except your love?

It is if you are inclined to love.  If you seek out love and you’re willing to impart it to others, then a commandment to love one another comes as an easy guideline to follow.  If, however, you’re one taken to pride, or loving yourself more than others, or being miserly with your material belongs, you will find a commandment to love others a heavy burden…maybe too heavy to bear.

Oh, Christian, I hope you are among the former and not the later with regards to this command to love.   

Love works no ill to his neighbor… (vs 10).

The Bible is full of hints on how to love, how to encourage, and how to effectively display love in a community setting.  Life gives us plenty of opportunities to practice love too…to show love, share love, and embrace the love that comes back to us from others.  While some folks might be hesitant to love without restraint, others have this amazing capacity for love that baffles the mind, almost.  Would that we all spent more time praying for that love gift—for the Bible says love covers over a multitude of sins, and who wouldn’t profit from having their sins covered over more often?

This morning, would you be willing to pray for God to make you a more loving person?

Would you be willing to take a chance on love once more?

Would you be willing to put yourself in a position where others could depend on your love to be gentle with their hearts?

If you would, God can use you in mighty ways: exciting, wonderful, compassionate, and mighty ways!  It all begins with intentional living.  Today, let’s love on one another and see what happens.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another. -Jesus

Who do you find it hard to love?  What is your love language?

Bible Sass

The_Message_cover

I’ve shared this in the past, but again, I love reading The Message translation of the Bible for my quiet time with God.  It has a sort of sass to it that I like.  Is that wrong for me to admit? Well, I’ll admit it anyway.  I love the “realness” that comes off this translation of God’s Holy Word. Like the passage, for instance:

Remind the people to [be]…always ready to lend a helping hand. No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous.  It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.  Titus 3:1-7 MSG

Where else can you hear the term “dupes of sin?”  Come on, that alone is worth the read!

We are presented with countless chances each day to help one another in the faith, aren’t we?  Endless opportunities to show love and loyalty…and we get to choose whether we’ll respond in words or deed–hopefully, both!

One is moving and asks for a helping hand.

Another is sick and in need of assistance to feed a growing brood of kids.

Yet another wants to build a new habit that will produce increased spiritual awareness. They are looking for a study buddy to go through the Scriptures with them, and help them better understand the story God shares with humanity in the Bible.

In all these ways and countless others, we are encouraged by the Spirit to build a substantial and sustaining community with one another until Jesus returns.

Building community means everything to Jesus!

As God points out those Saints and sinners in need of help in your circle of influence today, would you consider what you could do to make their lives easier?

Many hands make light work, and hands that are motivated by God’s Spirit cause blessings to flow.  Today, let’s pray, considering what we can do to make another’s day easier.

Together we get better, and better, and better at meeting the call to minister through service.

Hallelujah, Praise God—May His house be a busy one, as we are about His work! 

When have you needed help and found believers willing?  Who do you know that could use a helping hand today?