Devoted to Prayer

Prayer is one of those spiritual mysteries I can’t wait to fully understand some day – but for now, I am blessed to reap the benefits of direct access to God. And while He doesn’t need me to fulfill His will, I believe He delights in our prayers, praise, and requests (Proverbs 15:8)

In fact, He tells us to be devoted to prayer – alert in prayer, continuing in prayer – Colossians 4:2-3

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ. 

What does devotion to prayer look like in your life? There have been seasons in my life where every hour I was praying – sometimes every minute. Talking to God and pouring out my heart to Him was the only way through the turmoil. And not because He swooped down and fixed it in an instant, but because He was present, with me, available.

I can think of other seasons where I wasn’t relying on my communication with God – and how quickly things can spiral. A good friend shared this challenge with me, and OH MAN, has it ever stuck.

Do you go to the phone or do you go to the throne?

ZING! So many times when something happens – from exciting news to tragic circumstances – do we pick up our phone to call and talk to someone, or do we first thank God, praise God, cry to God? I want to be someone who goes to the throne, FIRST. More consistently. The big stuff, the little stuff. I want to be a warrior in prayer and build a deeper relationship with the Lord through my prayer life.

Prayer has already brought so much richness to my faith journey. I know that investing more time and focus into my prayer life will draw me closer and keep my mind on things above. When I make time to praise God for who He is – it’s so affirming for me to say out loud all of His attributes. Sometimes when I’m running I will pray the ABCs of God:  “God, you are so Awesome, you are Almighty, you are my Advocate, you are the Beginning, you are the Bread of life, you are my Comforter…” and it is so powerful to meditate on each character of God and how we have seen Him work in our life.

Some of the goals in my prayer life are going to take practice. Sometimes I find my mind wandering. And sometimes I feel like I’m rambling on and on, and the conversation is so one-sided, barely coming up for air. I’m trying to spend more time yielding, listening, waiting, during my prayer time. These are some ways I want to be more devoted to prayer in the coming year.

In Daniel chapter 9, Daniel prays to God, and says “we don’t pray and make requests because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy. I love this! Our prayers aren’t because of anything we have or can do, but are completely because God gave us this channel to talk directly to Him, and He shows us so much love, comfort, and mercy, through prayer. He doesn’t care about our fancy words, He cares about our sincere hearts.

Another area I want to be more devoted in prayer, is in leading others in prayer, and I have a great opportunity with my own family.

Each morning on the way to school our kindergartener and third grader request “Mom, will you get the prayer sticks”. During the 6 minutes between our home and the school we try to refocus the morning frenzy of getting out the door, and prepare our hearts for the day. I know that prayer is the most important key to the success of my day, and I hope to lead my kids in strong prayer habits. This is one small practical thing we do and our kids love it!

At the beginning of the school year they write down all their classmates and teacher on individual popsicle sticks. Each morning they each pull one stick out of the cup and that’s the person they pray for that morning. It’s a small and simple way to start the day. And sometimes at the end of the day they share a praise report of something specific they prayed for that friend, and how God answered that prayer. I love that they get to see God working in their world!

While Jesus was on earth, He modeled prayer for us. We hear him in the garden of Gethsemane pouring his heart out to the Father. We see him retreating from the crowds to take time to pray. He tells his disciples to watch and pray. He even gives us a template of what to pray, in the Lord’s Prayer, recorded in Matthew and Luke.

Prayer seems like one of those marvelous mysteries – God tells us to come to Him, let our requests be known (Philippians 4:6), all the while He already knows what is in our hearts, knows what His perfect will is, and knows the outcome of all things. I’m so thankful that we can go directly to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and do not need a mediator (1 Tim 2:5). We have direct access to the Creator of the Universe, the King of all Kings wants us to talk to Him, and share our heart with Him!

Do you have any prayer goals for the coming year?

 

 

What Could Be Better?

A few years ago, my daughter Gracie received a gift card for her birthday, and she knew EXACTLY what she planned to purchase. She had her sights set on a deluxe Lego set that would bring the Frozen castle to life. When we got to the toy store, they were completely sold out. And the sets they did have were half the size of the one she wanted, but not half the cost. I laid out her options: order the set she wanted online and wait 3-5 business days OR get one of the smaller sets that she could take home and play with that same day.

She really didn’t take much time deciding – she chose to wait. She wanted the bigger and better set and was willing to wait it out.

This choice, while small in the grand scheme of things, was huge in her world. This was one of those milestone moments that showed her maturity. And truth be told, I didn’t see it coming. I fully expected her to want the immediate, the now, the joy of a new toy in the moment. She really blew me away that day, and I can vividly remember my heart swelling – my five year old is practicing good decision making, good self-control. Good stewardship. She understood the pros and cons, and even with something small like Legos, she made a big decision.

As we approach John 16, Jesus didn’t give the disciples any choices. He laid out what’s coming for Him, and what that means for them. They don’t get it, and I don’t think they want to get it. Jesus proactively answers the questions they’re all thinking, but aren’t asking out loud – He is so good to us! If the disciples were given a choice, my guess is they would choose to have Jesus stay with them in the flesh. I am sure I would have too.

As Jesus continues with His farewell + next steps, He lets them know He will send someone EVEN BETTER for them! And if you’re anything like me, your eyebrows raise at verse 7 when Jesus outlines all of this – I mean, WHAT could be better than having Jesus with us, sitting next to us, right here, right now?!

My longing for Jesus to return leaves me with some questions:

  • Am I fully aware and tuned in to the Holy Spirit that is here, NOW, and LIVING inside of me?
  • Do I trust Jesus completely, and fully believe Him that it’s to my advantage that He goes for awhile, and the Holy Spirit is in His place?
  • How am I a witness to the Holy Spirit’s power in this world? Guiding, convicting the world of sin, and glorifying Jesus?
  • Is the fruit of the Spirit, that’s living in me, evident in my life?

Gracie was able to see that waiting for the deluxe Lego set that she wanted would be better.

Am I able to see that having the Holy Spirit live inside of me, is better right now than having Jesus walk beside me? And if so, am I relying on His power in my life – the same power that rose Jesus from the dead?

Jesus Knows Me, This I Love

I recently learned a silly (crazy) trick on my Iphone. If you open up Safari, and hold down those two little squares on the bottom right corner, it will tell you how many browser windows you have open. Apparently, I never close those browser windows – yikes – HUNDREDS open. As I was scrolling through them to close some out, I found quite the range of random searches, some I can’t even remember what I was searching for.

  • Laurel or yanny
  • How big is gas tank in 16 acadia
  • Pudgie pies also known as
  • The Eliot hotel
  • Marathon pace calculator
  • Why did Simeon & Levi disinherit the land
  • Common words that begin with e
  • Mollie tibbets
  • How to Block Calls on Your Iphone
  • Jesus witty responses in Bible
  • Loading personal Fonts in Klaviyo
  • Overpronating
  • Recipe for baked goat cheese dip
  • Jungle Book paw paw lyrics
  • Another word for abode
  • Duck boats
  • Chickpeas Nutrition Benefits

Truly, I’m sitting here scratching my head at all the things going on IN my head. Can anyone relate? And while I’m trying to make sense of it all – there is one who KNOWS it all.

The Creator of the entire universe knows what color socks I have on.

The Savior of the world knows what keeps me up at night.

The King of all Kings knows the thoughts I dare not say out loud.

Our God is bigger than we can imagine – so powerful that He can come to our level and intimately know each of us. And with that intimate knowledge of every thought, every word, every action, He loves us. Not just the random things, but the important things. The things that bring us joy, the things that make us afraid, the things that bring sorrow. From baked goat cheese recipes to deep pain points, He knows.

He knows what we did yesterday and the one before. He knows our present, and He knows what tomorrow will bring. He knows the joy we will have, and the internal eye rolls we will fight against. He knows the frustration we have for others. He knows when our motives are pure and we are judged otherwise. He knows when we judge with an unclean heart. He knows when we question His plan, He knows when we delight in Him. He knows it all – and with that knowledge He still loves us. Individually and perfectly. Unconditionally, He loves. We can’t trick him with fake remorse or a calendar full of acts of service but a heart void of cheer. He knows, oh HE KNOWS.

And with this knowledge, He calls us by name. He covers us with His banner of love, grace, and forgiveness, and He calls us HIS. He calls us KNOWN. He calls us CHOSEN. Romans 5:8 tells us that while we were yet sinners, God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us. Despite our today – He provides for our eternity.

“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did”.  John 4:29

This is all we know about what the Samaritan woman at the well went back and told the town. Can you imagine the moment when she put it together that the Messiah is in front of her, telling her about eternal life, all the while knowing her completely? She had to be so blown away, OVERWHELMED by His love, to be given this knowledge by the Messiah, despite being a Samaritan, a woman, and a sinner. The impact of Jesus sharing eternity with her and then staying with the Samaritans for two more days had to be huge for the disciples and the early church… making salvation available for all – not just the Jews. Our passage today, John 4, shows us several different examples of Jesus’ actions reflecting His perfect knowledge of the people’s hearts.

And God’s complete knowledge of each of us provides the perfect comfort, peace, and guidance that we need. The world cannot fulfill us because the world does not know us. What can be greater than being fully known and fully loved by the King of all Kings?

I love the mix up of the words in “Jesus Loves Me”  – He KNOWS me. Individual me. Imperfect me. And like the Samaritan woman at the well, I just LOVE IT that He knows me. No pretending, no faking anything – just being real and being known, and being loved through it all.

God Won’t Contradict Himself

Have you ever prayed and asked God to give you a specific direction or sign?

Or maybe deep down you knew what the right decision was, but you were hoping and praying God would show you a different (easier) way? I mean, maybe God will just give you a “feeling” to go off script for a bit. Or maybe we just want Him to tell us (again) what He’s already told us.

I find myself praying for wisdom and direction A LOT. And then I find myself praying for wisdom on when I need to pray more, or when I need to move forward with what I know from the Word or what the Holy Spirit is pressing upon me.

Here’s something cool about God: He doesn’t contradict Himself. He’s not trying to confuse us, or make His will a mystery. Salvation isn’t some puzzle or choose-your-own-adventure book. God desires us to know Him – all of Him. The more we know Him, the more we will understand His ways and the best path.

Knowing Him includes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all acting as one. And John 1 tells us that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was God. So the Word (the Scriptures in the Bible) is in lockstep with God.

My third grader has been studying math properties the past few weeks. You know, commutative, distributive, associative, etc. 2×3=3×2, (2×3)x4 = 2x(3×4), and 2x(3+4)=(2×3)+(2×4).

I don’t know what this property would be called, but here goes:

God = Word (from John 1)

God = Jesus = Holy Spirit (from the trinity, 1 John 5:8)

Holy Spirit = Word

So what does this mean? This means that God doesn’t contradict Himself. And the Holy Spirit will not direct us in a way that is contrary to what the Bible says. He doesn’t go “off script”.

The Holy Spirit won’t give you a peace to continue in sin. The world tries to manufacture peace in all sorts of ways – but true peace only comes from God.

As we pray for direction, approval, wisdom for an area of our life, let’s also simultaneously seek the Word. Let’s pray for God to direct us to scripture to help us find the answer. Let’s pray for understanding of the Word. Let’s pray for boldness and obedience to follow the Word, without looking for an excuse or contrary direction.

In the second half of Luke 16, Jesus shares the story of The Rich Man & Lazarus with his disciples and the Pharisees. There are so many fascinating pieces to this story, and the very end is what challenged me to leverage the Living Word for direction in a bigger way. Don’t wait for some sign or God to send someone to me from Heaven… but use the Living Word today.

Take a moment and read through this chapter – the Rich Man finds himself miserable in hell (his Jewish lineage didn’t save him) and begs for Lazarus (in heaven) to raise from the dead and be sent to go warn his family that hell is real and to repent of their sin.  Jesus tells them that the answer is no – his family has Moses + the Prophets (representing the Word of God) and that should be more convincing than a dead man telling them or giving them a sign. They’re either going to read the true Word and follow God, or they’re not.

OUCH – that was a zinger for me and really made me look back and wonder how often I ask God for a sign or direction on something He has already told me in His Living Word. Or maybe a time I was hoping for a looser interpretation or a loophole to something in the Bible. God’s just got to be up there laughing at me! “Ummm… Holly-Rae, quit asking me for directions when they’re sitting on that shelf five feet from you!”

What a waste when I:

  • Pray for direction that isn’t aligned with the Word
  • Look for a sign when I have the red letters in front of my face

Jesus tells us very clearly in this text that no sign (dead man – back to life – warning) will be given. We have the Living Word! Let’s use it, learn it, and allow it to guide us. The Holy Spirit is here to help us and aligns with the Word – let’s not confuse His voice for any other voices in the world!

Up next – Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally – KIDDING

Jesus is Tempted

In today’s scripture covering the words of Jesus, we look at Luke 4. This is a continuation from yesterday’s message in Luke 3, where John the Baptist taught about repentance, turning from sin, and being baptized. Luke 4 picks up after Jesus’ baptism and goes right into Jesus being tempted by Satan in the dessert. I love this picture of the human side of Jesus, and I’m going to look across the other gospels to show this full picture, because I love everything about this passage!

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record different aspects of the temptation. Most bible scholars agree that Jesus was fasting in the wilderness for 40 days, during which time Satan was tempting him. At the end of the 40 days, Satan tempted him with three specific things that are recorded in detail (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-18).

The situation is intriguing from the very beginning. The Holy Spirit directs Jesus to go to the wilderness to be tempted. Jesus was sent there for a purpose! A lot of times I think we create and walk right into our own messes – we made choices that lead to the storm we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of… But there are other situations that truly pop up out of the blue, and we are left scratching our heads with questions like… Why am I here? How did this happen? What am I supposed to make of all of this? Just maybe we are led there for a reason. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into this temptation for a purpose. And we shouldn’t underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us to places that have tempting situations. Why? Why would He do that? God uses victory over temptation as an example for others. What example is God using in your life for others? Is there an area you need to take a more black and white stand, as an example for others? Are you tempted to stay silent when you need to speak truth into a situation?

Next, we look at how Jesus was tempted. Sounds pretty familiar to the same types of things we are tempted by… physical needs and desires (bread), power (the world), and lastly, He was tempted to test God (throw Himself off the mountain).  Jesus was tempted in the same ways that Satan tries to tempt us today. It’s pretty cool that Jesus walked before us and showed us exactly what to watch for!  When you think of these three areas of temptation, is there one you need to take hold of today and claim victory?

How? How can we overcome? BAM – Jesus shows us! He responds to each temptation by reciting scripture (we find it in Deuteronomy) back to Satan. What an awesome example for us to keep the Word of God in our hearts and overcome Satan. Do you have some go-to scriptures that you can use when you’re feeling tempted? Here are a few of mine:

Keep thy tongue from evil. Psalm 34:13

Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord. Romans 12:19

Whatsoever things are good, whatsoever things are lovely, think on THOSE things. Phil 4:8

Fear not, I am with thee. Isaiah 41:10

Depart from evil and do good. Psalm 34:14

My God will supply all your needs. Phil 4:19

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. Luke 6:27

As cheesy as it sounds, I like to say them out loud. There’s power in verbally declaring victory over the enemy!

The last piece of Jesus’ temptation is His Father’s care and compassion. After Jesus endured the temptation, God sent help (His angels) to comfort and minister to Jesus. I really don’t know exactly what this means (not much is explained), but I’ve always envisioned some sort of angel cheerleading situation. V-I-C-T-O-R-Y, GOOOOOO JESUS! Oh, and I also picture them carrying lots of bread. All the bread. As a grain-a-holic myself, my version of this story is with a satchel full of naan, baguettes, bagels, all of it. I mean, Jesus was fasting for awhile!!  In all seriousness, when we are in the middle of a temptation, we can look forward to being replenished by our Father. God will restore our weary souls. Can you look back and see this provision in your life?

God is so gracious to give us this fully-man Jesus to walk before us and show us how to do life on earth. It’s no coincidence that this temptation by Satan occurred right after Jesus’ baptism.  The enemy doesn’t want us to gain any ground in our faith walk. When we declare our commitment and belief in God, the enemy will work to shake us. Let’s follow Jesus’ example and be ready, armed with the Word of God!

Feeding the Multitudes

Mark 8 opens with the miracle of Jesus Feeding the Multitudes of people with just some loaves and fish. Back in the days of Sunday School flannelgraph lessons, I never knew there were two separate events of this miracle! Jesus fed thousands – TWICE!

All four gospels record the Feeding of the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, near Bethsaida (Matthew 14:13-21Mark 6:31-44Luke 9:12-17John 6:1-14).

Then in Mark and Matthew the second miracle of Feeding the Multitudes was recorded – 4,000 people fed with 7 loaves and 3 fish ( Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-9).

We know this is two separate accounts because later in Mark, verses 18-20, Jesus reminds the disciples of the two different accounts and questions why they’d be worried about having something to eat when they just witnessed these two miracles.

Have you heard of the book or seen the quote “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? Well… I’d like to think that it’s really “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Sunday School”! So much of my adult experiences can be traced back to some of the true stories we learned in Sunday School. The Parting of the Red Sea… Danial and the Lion’s Den… David and Goliath… Feeding the 5,000.

This one is especially close to my heart, because God has continued to be so faithful in meeting my needs – making something out of nothing, when I least expect it.

Miracles of supplication and abundance have been in my life since I can remember: food on our table, a roof over our head, and clothes on our back, even when times were bleak (by western standards). I have continued to see this through adolescence, as a young adult, and as a wife and mom. These miracles have no bounds, covering me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s no coincidence that in each stage of life I’ve been blessed by spiritual mentors and discipleship. People caring for me as an “angel unaware” (Heb 13:2), at times, taking me by the hand and showing me the way.  Giving grace when it wasn’t deserved. Sharing their abundance when they had nothing to gain from me. Praying on my behalf.

I witnessed miracles as a kid, with my parents sharing their little loaves and fish and God making it more than enough. There was an old school bus they acquired in the 80s – my mom would make these massive pots of beef vegetable soup in the winter and load it onto the back of the bus. We would run it in downtown Dayton, heat it up and the homeless would get warm and have a bowl of soup. My siblings and I would tell bible stories and sing songs to the homeless people. I was seven and we were one paycheck away from being homeless ourselves. We always had enough soup and our bus never ran out of gas, it would run on fumes much longer than it should have!

In recent years there have been countless situations where God was there, turning loaves and fish into more than enough. When I left my corporate career after 13+ years, we had no idea how we would makes ends meet and manage the debt we would incur. We felt a strong leading to make this change, but financially could not make the numbers work.  And mirroring the loaves + fish, God stepped in and turned the single income household into more than enough. Only by this miracle did we not go in the red. Every month we were astounded at how the numbers worked out. True miracles, not luck or coincidences. The biggest miracle in this, is that we did not change our giving habits!

The Feeding of the Multitudes was a HUGE testimony to the thousands… but imagine the little boy that shared his food. How much more did this mean to him, seeing Jesus use his willing heart for others? Can you imagine the testimony he had for the rest of his life?

Each year our church takes up a special collection designed to expand ministry across the globe.  Each year Tim and I pray for unexpected funds to come in that month, with the intent of giving whatever that surprise is. Every single year, a large amount comes in, completely out of the blue.  An overpayment from something from years before… a surprise bonus not at normal timing, etc. Each year it’s become a fun game to see where the money will come from that special month and what we will be able to give. I share all of this purely as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and not in the least from our doing.

Whether it’s sharing and serving in our circle, or way out of our circle, God has a plan to use what He has given us. What loaves and fish do you have?

Do you have a life experience that God intends to be shared with someone walking thru the very same thing? Do you have a heart for prayer and can be a warrior for someone else’s battle? What purpose does God have for the talents He has given you? Maybe you have one of those smiles that light up a room, desperately needed in dark place today. If you are reading this and feel like you don’t have much to share, let me encourage you – YOU DO! Do you think the little boy thought he had a purpose on that day, or that his little lunch would make a huge difference? Seek the Lord and ask Him to show you what things He has given you that are intended for His kingdom.

God, you are the perfect provider, and your timing and ways are far beyond ours. Help us to trust You more and open our hearts and hands to be used miraculously for your kingdom. Give us a heart for stewardship with all the talents and blessings you’ve given each of us. Forgive us for doubting Your provision (just like the disciples) and thanks for the reminders of your faithfulness in the past. Amen.

Offended

Matthew 24 records Christ’s outline of the temple being destroyed (1-3), what will lead to the destruction (4-28), and additional things to watch for with His second coming (29-41). This chapter is theologically heavy and we could spend 800 words on each verse. But DON’T WORRY 🙂

Verse 10 pricked my heart and covers something I’ve wrestled with over the recent years:

“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another”.

I don’t know that it’s as linear as A leads to B leads to C… or even A + B = C.  But when I think of my own circumstances of being offended or being the offender… I can quickly see the path leading to betrayal and hatred.

In a time where there is great division as a church, as a nation, as a world, and on SO MANY DIFFERENT TOPICS, offense sure has a lot of places to hide and take root.

I love healthy dialogue, talking through hard issues, listening to a position different than my own. But we all know that those conversations can quickly escalate and go south.

Offended is described as resentful or annoyed, typically as the result of a perceived insult.  

I don’t think there’s a question about the bigger, black and white offenses that occur. God doesn’t call us to be doormats. Persecution for sake of the kingdom – YES… Doormat… NO. I believe we are called to use our voice when we can, especially for the kingdom’s sake. To protect the weaker. To stand for truth. But it’s in those smaller things, it seems to get a little grey. And also in those smaller things that bitterness and discord can take root in the body of Christ. I wonder if this is exactly what Jesus is warning about – destruction will come from offenses, betrayal, and hatred. And let’s face it – we’ve all offended someone and we’ve all been offended.

I need wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit to know when I need to just move on from an offense and rely solely on the Lord to heal my heart… and when I need to have a conversation, set healthy boundaries or share my truth. There are relationship we care deeply about and don’t want an offense to continue and cause more damage.

Some questions I’ve been asking the Lord to reveal to me – Where have I allowed offenses to take up space in my heart? And am I more offended when people sin against God or against me? Am I aware of the ways I offend others?

For a small example… when I learn that a friend has said something hurtful about me, gossiped, or made inaccurate statements, do I address it as an offense or let it go? And by let it go, I mean pray like crazy to not hold a grudge, but often it still creates distance and the relationship feels strained. It can take time for the heart to heal.

Personally, I’d prefer someone come to me if I’ve hurt them, even with a small offense. I’d like the opportunity to learn from it and make it right. I’ve talked to other people on this topic that do not want conversations about small offenses…it’s exhausting and there’s an unspoken level of grace and forgiveness among friends. Not to mention, resolution doesn’t always occur.

Take a really minuscule offense, for example’s sake, of going to the DMV to renew your driver’s license. You know the drill. Line A so you can get in the right line for what you’re there for. Line B to show you have a license, prove you live at the same place, etc. Line C to get your photo taken. Then you wait for your number to be called for Line D, to actually get your license. You’re SO CLOSE and then the employee at Line D tells you that you can’t renew your license because you have an unpaid traffic violation from 2000. Yes, EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO. Sure, the “said person” has renewed their license several times since 2000 and can’t recall the ticket, let alone not paying it. The DMV has no info on the ticket, only that it was only reported to the DMV in 2015 and the state lost a lot of records for 15 years and then suddenly caught up. The ticket has to be paid in the county it was issued (an hour away).

In this scenario, do you just leave with kindness and a smile and give them the ol’ Chik-Fil-A “it was my pleasure to spend 45 minutes with you today”. Or, do you (in the least snarky way possible) ask if this could have been figured out in Line A or even Line B and saved everyone’s time? I mean, really? Why do I feel the need to go all Six Sigma on the DMV? What value or gain is there? I mean, this “said person” – whoever they are 😉 are they really going to change the DMV?  While this is just a small and humorous example, it plays out the same way in bigger things.

Somewhere rooted inside of me is this spirit of truth, record setting and harmony. It all sounds good, until it turns into a spirit of self-righteousness, obsessing over the facts, or carrying around the heaviness of my own offenses to others.  I’m in a season of prayer, asking God for peace over both sides of offenses (offender and offended). To take away the weight of my offenses to others that I’ve sought forgiveness for. And to show me the difference between addressing offenses that will bring good, and when to LET. IT. GO.  This meme captures the humor of my brain at times.

Lord, thank you for forgiving me of my offenses against You and Your children. Thank you for walking with me when I’ve sought forgiveness of those I’ve offended. God, I need your healing from hurts I’ve felt. Please show me when and how to address offenses that need to be addressed. Please protect my heart from any root of bitterness, betrayals, or hatred. Fill my heart with gratitude for your grace and leave no room for an offendable spirit. Amen.

The Sabbath

Matthew 12

In Matthew 12, Jesus tackles both the Pharisees misunderstanding of the law and the Sabbath.

Keeping the Sabbath holy was one of the Jewish laws that was taken very seriously. And an easy target for the Pharisees to use against Jesus, as He was performing miracles on the Sabbath. Read through this chapter – do you wonder if Jesus had any sarcasm in his tone? Or were His responses simple and straightforward?

John MacArthur delivered a sermon in 1986 that has stuck with me the past 20 years since I first read the transcript. The focus of the sermon is making decisions when things may be gray. In the intro he shares a humorous story from his youth:

There are people who think that if you do anything on Sunday other than sit and read the Bible, you have entered into sin.  When I was a little guy growing up, I can remember when you were not allowed to do anything on Sunday that even remotely resembled recreation.  We came home in our Little Lord Fauntleroy suits, with the little stiff collar, and a little tie, and sat on the couch all day.  Couldn’t read the funny papers, couldn’t read the sports page, couldn’t look at television, couldn’t go out in the yard and play catch, couldn’t take a walk.  We sat.  The only sin we could commit, and we could commit that sin all we wanted, was the sin of gluttony. We could literally gorge ourselves on Sunday.  And, of course, most of the women spent all morning cooking up this massive meal by which we sinned all afternoon, but couldn’t – but couldn’t run it off.  And so we were stuck with the consequence of our evil.  But that sin was tolerable.  

When we read Matthew 12 (or even John MacArthur’s experience) we may scratch our heads and think “come on, Pharisees, WAKE UP”!  You’re missing the spirit of the law by focusing on the letter of the law! Jesus came to fulfill the law – what is so hard about this to understand!

But when we start to examine our own hearts and even the modern church, we can still find ourselves in a place of judgement and missing the intent of God’s ways. As much as we want to be everything but a Pharisee, our perfection-seeking, works-based theologies can lead us to the heart of a Pharisee.

This past spring I was in the thick of a marathon training cycle, filled with Sunday morning long runs. I love my time on the road – time to think, pray, meditate, sing, focus, oh…and RUN! At the same time, these runs left Sunday mornings a scramble between getting my family to church on time, not being exhausted the rest of the day, etc. While I love the run, it did make my Sundays “fuller” than I would prefer. I mean, nothing says rest like a 20 miler before 9am church! In this same cycle, my training “rest days” of no activity for muscle recovery were Fridays. For some reason, Fridays were anything but restful. While I wouldn’t be pounding the pavement, the days were full of other responsibilities that were anything but restful.

I left the training cycle with an idea.

As much as we try to protect our Sundays as a Sabbath and day to rest in the Lord, oftentimes it’s just NOT. Between the rush to church, serving others at church, prep for the week ahead, and other commitments, it’s never a true and full day of Sabbathing.

Idea: What if our family had one day set aside as a full and complete true Sabbath day.  No commitments, school, sports, activities, training. No place to go, no chores, no laundry, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Not even church. Technology free. Meals prepped, clothes laid out, ready to Sabbath. Just people spending time with the Lord, doing whatever the day brought with time praying, listening for promptings from the Holy Spirit, dreaming, sharing. Doesn’t that sound so wonderful!? We have a Saturday selected this fall and we are going to make it happen!! I don’t want to wait for a vacation away for a true full day of resting in the Lord.

Do you have any ideas on creating a Sabbath experience in your world?  Here are some additional passages about the Sabbath:

Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 20:8-11, Leviticus 23:3, Mark 2:27, Hebrews 4:9, Romans 14:5, Colossians 2:16-17

 

Wave Walker

Matthew 14:25-31

Two weeks ago our family had a trip to Wisconsin, where much of the time was spent on the water, swimming, skiing, tubing, etc. When my 8 year old was out on the water skis, we could see her from the boat smiling and singing this song from Citizen Way:

I can’t help but think of Peter singing (shouting) this song as he was helping to build the early church! From the moment he was called by Jesus to be a disciple and follow him, he was a learner. Peter asked all the questions, had doubts, and had real fears. Jesus continued to surprise Peter with his parables, life lessons, and responses to his questions – even down to Jesus telling Peter he would deny him three times. Can you imagine? And then to experience everything Peter did through Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and then the Holy Spirit coming to them. He had quite a testimony! As he was building the early church with Paul, I have to think that his time walking on the water with Jesus was huge in his faith journey, and a point he could always go back to. When things would begin to crumble around him, Peter could remember that he is a wave walker! Jesus not only did miracles in front of Peter – he did miracles THROUGH Peter.

When I asked my daughter what she knows about the real story of the wave walker, she quickly replied that Peter was in a boat and a storm came and Jesus was there and walked to the boat from the shore. He gave Peter the power to walk on the water, and as soon as Peter took his eyes off Jesus he would start to sink. But if he kept his eyes on Jesus he would not sink! I love the matter of fact faith that kids have – it’s humbling and challenges me to not overcomplicate things. . Pure and simple, keep our eyes on Jesus and we can be wave walkers too!

What miracles has Jesus done in your life? What’s your anthem of praise for who He has created you to be?

Let the Word of Christ Dwell in Us Richly

Colossians 3:12-17

The past two weeks I’ve been reading this passage over and over again…and WOW – I can’t get through it all in one sitting because there is just so much goodness to take in and meditate on.  My heart keeps going back to verse 16, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. 

How amazing that God gave us hearts and minds that can absorb truth! Paul’s encouragement is for us to LET the word of Christ dwell in us richly. We have to allow it. God wants us to be filled with the Word, himself, but we have to allow it in. Invite it in. Let it in.

Guess what else BLEW MY MIND?!  Thinking about the word of Christ. Is that the same Word in John 1, that was present at creation and also became the flesh (Christ himself)? Is it the red letters in my Bible?

Lastly, I love the word used here – dwell. Webster defines dwell as reside, live, be settled, be housed, lodge, stay.  I don’t know about you, but I want Jesus’s word to live in me, to stay with me, and to be settled in me! This isn’t a “Let the word of Christ stop by from time to time” or “Let the word of Christ be an occasional visitor in your world”. This is a DWELL. STAY. BE SETTLED.  And if that wasn’t enough, he adds “richly”. Abundantly, greatly, strongly, deeply, EXTRA.

How can we do this? Here are some areas of focus for me:

  • Pray for a passion and desire to let the word of Christ dwell in me richly. 
  • Read the Word. And if it’s going to dwell + stay, I need to read more frequently and consistently.
  • Speak, write, and sing the Word. We all learn in different ways – reading it, writing it, and singing it, talking about it, can help me retain memory.  Proven by my ability to recite the entire dialogue and songs from Psalty’s Camping Adventure, that I watched a million times on VHS (age 8).

I love that God gives us the ability to keep His Word in our hearts. He knows the power of the Word, the wisdom and peace it brings!

Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God shares a brief outline of Esther Ahn Kim:

Esther Ahn Kim’s biography is around the most powerful testimonies I have ever read. It was during WWII, and the Japanese occupation of Korea, that Esther’s journey of Faith really began. She refused to bow down at the shrines set up in every corner of her country and was eventually imprisoned for six years, from 1939 until 1945. Knowing she was destined for prison for refusing to bow to idols, Esther spent time training herself both physically and spiritually. She memorized more than 100 chapters of the Bible and many hymns because she knew she would not be allowed to keep her Bible. She spent countless hours seeking God though fasting and prayer. These times when she read the Scriptures led to greater clarity and she was able to surrender her fear of being tortured. When she was eventually taken to prison, God used her in countless way. 

Esther let the Word of Christ dwell in her richly, and when you read more of her testimony, you can see just how powerfully the Word was used in her life.  There’s nothing better we can fill our hearts and minds with than the Living Word!

God, thank you for providing your Word for us, and it’s ability to dwell in us. Help us to seek your Word and let it dwell in our hearts. We want to know You more and Your ways to become our ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen.