IT’S A LOVE STORY

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

The Gospel is the grandest love story of all time.  And who doesn’t love a love story?

dfc678d8dd553dda87244ac9ee105776How much better does it get than Mr. Darcy coming across the moors one misty morning to proclaim his love to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice.   It is heart stopping; just exquisite.

My favorite love scene of all is from the Sound of Music.  Maria, never thinking she would be a candidate for love, is approached in the garden by Captain Von Trapp.  The setting is a blue-green, surreal world at dusk ~ captured in soft focus in the movie. He approaches her tentatively, so as not to overwhelm her.  He speaks to her with a bit of a light hand.  “I thought I might just find you here!”  His playfulness disarms her and the rest is history.  As a young girl, I remember pretending I was her.  I had a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach as their true feelings were revealed.

No matter who we are, we want to be the object of someone’s love.  We want to be the main character in the love story.  We long for a lover who will risk it all for us, who will throw reservation to the wind and go to great lengths to win our heart.  Most never know that it is Jesus they are longing for.

He gave up everything to come to us so that He could proclaim His love and rescue us from what would be impending doom.

Someone once said, “We come to the cross long enough to get saved but not long enough to get loved.”  The greatest tragedy is that churches are full of God’s children who have no idea how much they are cherished.

I used to wonder why I didn’t feel more love for Jesus.  Obedience was absolute drudgery.  God showed me that it was because I didn’t know how much He loved me!  I hadn’t opened my heart to receive everything He wanted to give to me.  And here’s the thing ~ God created me to be a responder.  “We love him because He first loved us.”  Once my heart is captivated by the love of God for me, I will spend it all on Him.  No price will be too steep.

Melt my reservations.  Every one.  Amen

Journal Question:  Jesus is approaching you.  He softly calls your name.  What is your reaction?  Run and hide?  Look up for only a moment before losing your nerve and looking away?  What is it you’re afraid of?  Tell Him.  He already knows.

Wearing A Prophet’s Shoes

But as for you, Bethlehem, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.  Micah 5:2

The Old Testament contains over three hundred references to the Messiah and all of these were fulfilled in Jesus. old_book_-_basking_ridge_historical_society_1They provided a solid confirmation of His credentials as Messiah, Anointed One, and Intercessor that would release and deliver His people. They referred to the time and place of His birth, His death, and His resurrection.  I’ve heard it said that using the science of probability in reference to just eight of these prophecies, the chance that any man might have lived to fulfill all eight is one in one hundred trillion!  There should not be any doubt that the scriptures are the inspired words of God.

The prophet Micah, whose name means “who is like Jehovah”, was a strong prophetic voice.  He knew his God and stood ready to tell a rebellious nation that the Lord was coming. Can you imagine what it must have been like to walk in his shoes?  To be one solitary man of faith in the midst of an unbelieving people?  More times than not, to be a prophet was to be lonely and misunderstood.  They held the revelations of God in their heart, and though spiritual realities were stunningly real to them, they had a difficult time getting anyone to take their truth seriously.  Their spirit resounded with the message and it must have changed the fabric of their internal world.

The quill that penned the prophetic words of a ruler arising out of Bethlehem must have shook in the hand in the writer.  Though Christ wasn’t born for another seven hundred years, Micah watched the birth of Christ from the grandstands of heaven.  I need to see that life is often about what will happen later ~ in the lives of my descendants.  At the very least, I will also see Your purposes prevail from heaven’s gates.

My joy can start now, Lord,  if I look into the future with the eyes of faith.   I will pray, and then declare, the scriptures because they are still prophetic.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

He Hadn’t Seen His Father In 12 Years

After three days, his parents found him in the temple. His mother said to him, ‘Son, how could you treat us this way? Your father and I have been anxiously looking for you.’ And He said to them, ‘Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?’ Luke 2:46,48

Every parent knows what it’s like to momentarily lose sight of your child in public. Your stomach drops like lead when you realize that they are not where they are supposed to me. The word ‘kidnapped’ assaults your mind immediately.
28516_magnus_3d_-_resurrection_Mary and Joseph brought twelve-year-old Jesus to the temple. While on their way home, they realized that Jesus was not with them. They searched frantically for three entire days.  Re-tracing their steps, they ended up back at the temple and were shocked to find him there. He was listening in to the many spiritual conversations that took place in God’s house. Still distraught, Joseph and Mary asked Him how he could have done such a thing. His answer? “Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” He seemed shocked that they would have been distraught.
In all the times I’ve read this story over the years, it never occurred to me that Jesus left His Father to come to earth and hadn’t seen Him for twelve years. There had to be homesickness in his soul for His Father’s company. The memory of being near God was in his spiritual DNA. To visit the temple and to approach the holy of holies, the place where God’s Spirit called ‘home’, re-awakened the feelings of being home in glory. He was near His Father again – yet on earth. Did His heart break at the thought of leaving Him again? His attachment to Mary and Joseph had to pale in comparison.
I don’t know if you believe in near death experiences. While a few seem exaggerated, I believe many have been real. There is a common theme in the stories where people experienced time in the presence of God; they didn’t want to come back to earth. Yes, they loved the people they left. Yes, they even knew their death would be grieved and yet, the magnetism of God’s presence drew them. The memory of Him changed their lives forever. For their remaining days, they dreamt of the day they would once again be eternally in the presence of their Heavenly Father.

Are my times with You as life-changing? You are drawing me with an everlasting love so how could I ever want to be anywhere else!   Amen

No Place To Plant My Feet

You are the same, and your years have no end.  The children of your servants shall dwell secure.  Psalm 102:27-28

Everything having to do with the Earth is in transition.  The sun, needed to bring the flowers to full bloom, can also have scorching qualities, causing the blossoms to shrivel and die.  Everything I hold in my hands is tenuous unless it is of the kingdom and will last forever.  Is my trust in God?  Should my wealth fail, will I spiral down into hopelessness or will my faith in God sustain me?  If the favor of others fail, will I be unshakable in my identity?

If my pleasant pastures turn into a desert, will I have stored enough spiritual food to sustain me?  If God should close the door to my place of employment, the place I find so fulfilling, will I languish for purpose?

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.com

The only One who offers true stability is God.  He is the Rock upon which my feet stand securely.  He is the Anchor when the waves hit.  He is the Fortress when the arrows are aimed at me.  Though favor, wealth, and pleasant pastures are mine to enjoy from time to time, they are not the source of my well-being.  The challenge is this ~ Each one of them gives a sense of security, but it’s a false one.  Will I be astute enough to trust today’s scripture and not be fooled?  That requires more than just passive belief.  It must be active and hard-working.

While in times of prosperity, it’s easy to spout off a cliche.  “God is my security when bad things happen to me!”  Now, I may mean it but if I’m not storing up enough ‘food’ so that when I am tested, I can be nourished through the times of deprivation, how will I experience it?  I must know the One upon whom I plan to trust.  And, I must be accustomed to depending on God so that I can lean into my experience in the act of trusting.  Today:

  • There are areas where I can experience God as provider.  I lean into that.
  • There are areas where I can listen to God as a counselor.  I still myself to listen.
  • There are areas of darkness where I need to experience the light of His love.  I open myself to that.
  • There are areas of insecurity and fear where I can trust Him to face that which frightens me.  I welcome the challenge.

Life involves far more than just living what I am experiencing.  It requires being pro-active.  Digging into my faith and storing away riches for the future will be my only insurance against transitory times.

I enjoy the peace of today, Lord.  I thank you for it but I am not fooled.  Tomorrow, the winds may blow.  I make knowing you, even in peaceful times, my priority.  In Jesus name, Amen

Utter Joy

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory.  John 1:14

We know that passion can fuel dangerous causes but it can also advance the kingdom of God. Take a look at this recent video in which a group of Christians in China receive their first Bible.   http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=0FECC1NU

chair%20in%20a%20fieldAm I surprised?  I shouldn’t be.  Once I embrace Jesus, will I not embrace His Words?  Will they not precious to me?  Will I not be challenged to love what He loves?  Will I not grow a distaste for the things He hates?

If I find myself today to be lukewarm, a condition which God detests, I will also discover that I am void of passion.  I’ve lost it somewhere and must figure out where, and why.  In the meantime, there is little more dangerous to my soul than to hang around others who are also lukewarm. Once the Spirit of God revives me, I’ll begin to second guess myself and feel like a freak for caring so deeply about they so easily dismiss.  If dispassionate Christians comprise the hub of my fellowship, I will attempt to share the most beautiful and personal things of the Spirit with others who don’t confirm them.  When my stories fall flat, I will be undone. The next time around, I will reign in my emotions because I know that to fit in, my fire needs to be repressed.

I’ve asked myself this question today.  If the Scriptures were taken from me, would I be as upset (on the opposite end of the continuum as those Chinese Christians are joyful?   Do my friends resemble this particular body of believers?  If so, our fellowship is contagious and combustible.  If not, perhaps it’s time to change spiritual company.

I’ll never leave the company of those who are on the move for Your kingdom.  I’ll never settle for less than fellowship with passionate worshippers.  Amen

After Saying ‘Thank You’, Make a Vow!

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High. Psalm 50:14

Have you ever noticed how few people ever say ‘thank you’? We are, by nature, selfish and entitled. Because we believe we deserve better, saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t occur to us as often as it should. I can also be offended when I think another’s ‘thank you’ isn’t grand enough for what I gave them. Because they didn’t go into enough detail, or because it took them too long to send an acknowledgement, I call them ungrateful. While it may be true in some cases, my propensity to hold a grudge should be checked against my own sin of entitlement.

I’ve heard it said that Adam and Eve’s offense against God wasn’t necessarily pride but ingratitude. They had access to every single tree created except one but they felt that even that one should be theirs.

Woman Read the Bible and Drink Tea or Coffee
Woman Read the Bible and Drink Tea or Coffee

If I’m going to measure a ‘thank you’ against the weight of the gift that was given to me, then I’m guilty of not expressing a proper ‘thank you’ to God. The level of my acknowledgement is far beneath what it should be. I casually thank Him for forgiving me when I fail to realize what would happen to me if He hadn’t. I forget to thank Him for my health until I languish for a time under a chronic illness. God owes me nothing and yet He gives me everything. I pray that my thanks won’t be just a whisper under my breath but an audible, hearty alleluia.  Perhaps my thanksgiving will be contagious and I will help create an environment of gratitude where everyone considers taking part.

The Psalmist encourages an additional exercise ~ to perform vows to the Most High.  A vow is a serious thing.  It binds and it also brings about consequences according to the purity or impurity of our words.  Too many vows are spoken carelessly; vows to join a secret society, a fraternity, or a swearing to adhere to the ‘family way of doing things’, etc.  I can vow to never forgive, to never trust men, to never be poor. These entrap, these are binding and set my life on a set of railroad tracks. Jesus was clear as to the danger.  He said, “Don’t make false vows but only vows to the Lord your God.”

So Father, deepen my gratitude for the privilege of being your child. I vow to finish this race well. Like a bride who stands at an altar, I vow to love you all my life. I vow make you my treasure above all other people, and all other things. Amen

Finding The ‘Thank You’ In Your Heart

 I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.  Psalm 9:1

Thanksgivings, like any holiday, can be wonderful or imperfect, in varying degrees.  During the push to get ready for the big family dinner, feelings can get put on a back burner.  The days following, however, are often difficult because we re-live what was missing.

Life is all about perspective.  We know that.  But when things get difficult, God’s children struggle to find a perspective that means something deeply wonderful.  There is a list to encourage us to think thoughts that go upward instead of outward.  Looking up alters discouragement.  How does it work?

gs3

  • When loved ones will be missing from my table because of distance, emotional or geographical, I  will still be thankful that God hears every prayer I pray for them.  He will be near them though I will be far away.
  • When normal holiday sentiments get stuck in my throat because times are difficult, I will be thankful that glorious eternal sentiments are mine no matter the circumstances.  I am God’s child.  He is my Father.
  • When I see the faces of those I love around my table, I will be grateful that my love for them is just a little glimpse of the great love the Savior has for each of us.
  • When thoughts of the future overwhelm me, I will be grateful that it is only the immediate future, not my eternal one, which may be challenging.  For every difficulty, God will take me by the hand and walk me through it, smoothing the way.
  • Many of my family are in heaven and will be missing from my Thanksgiving table.  I can give thanks that we will sit together at another banquet table, one that eclipses the most beautiful gathering on Thursday.  Jesus will be the One serving us.
  • If, by chance, I have to look into the face of one who has not loved me well and I find there is pain with the memories, I will give thanks that I belong to One who is not like that.  Anything I need, He is.  He is the great ‘I am’.

Thanksgiving is not confession made through gritted teeth.  God does not force children to be polite little robots.  Instead, He encourages thanksgiving for what He has already given us and what is yet to come.  If I’m short on a list because of the imperfections of yesterday, I need only open the scriptures and put my name in the meta-narrative of redemption.  Every stunning promise is mine.  Every beautiful thing awaits me.

With tear filled eyes, I will thank you!  Amen