But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat.  John 6: 20-21

Jesus’ disciples are in a boat in the middle of the sea.  The opposite shore is nowhere in sight.  It is dark and the sea is churning.  Uncertainty and fear overtake them.  At that moment, Jesus appears and is walking toward them on top of the water.  They had just seen Him feed five thousand people with one small meal yet this sight is beyond comprehension.  His power continually surprises them.  Each time it is manifested, it is in an other worldly context and their finite minds are challenged.

Jesus, knowing their fear, “It’s Me. Don’t be afraid.”  Like a child whose parent shows up to take care of everything, their fears turn to calm.  Pounding heartbeats normalized.  Adrenalin subsided. Consider how the elements of this story live on past the disciple’s time.

All of us are navigating our lives.  Often, there’s no light on our path. Wisdom for the next step is completely elusive. The shore is behind us. Everything familiar is out of sight.  We are in uncharted waters, feeling inadequate.  The sea is beginning to churn.  Passages are difficult enough without storms complicating them.  Fears begin to intensify and rational thought decreases.  Roar of the waves bombard our senses and functioning normally is not an option.

Where is Jesus?  He is on the horizon and asks to be invited into the boat.  His words can be heard even in the midst of the storm.  “It’s Me.  Don’t be afraid.”  We realize we don’t have to make the voyage alone.  The One who can control the storm with a mere whisper is our companion.

Never has a voice been as sweet as Yours, Lord, heard quietly beneath the noise of my life. You have not abandoned Me. Take me safely home.  Amen

 

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They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?  John 8:33

The necessary and beneficial conviction of scripture is lost on me if I paint with too broad a brush.  I am like the Pharisees who heard Jesus speaking about knowing the truth and being set free.  They took a broad glance at their lives and didn’t see slavery anywhere.  They were indignant at his inferences.  They couldn’t see that they were enslaved to the deception that veiled His deity.

I can also paint with too broad a brush.  I should stop and ask Jesus, “What do you mean by that as far as I’m concerned?” Instead, I take a quick peek across the horizon of my life and check ‘enslavements’ off my list.  Alcohol, prescription drug addition, anger, sexual immorality. As they’re crossed off, I’m beginning to feel good about myself.  I declare that I am absolved completely of Jesus’ words.

Not so fast.  I have not entered the territory of my soul where thoughts run rampant, where fears control, where depression taunts and ensnares.  I have my default ways of thinking that lead me to places like hopelessness, like resentment, like futility.  Am I not in slavery to my own soul without repeated applications of scripture?  Others around me may not see the chains on my wrist as my countenance often bears no trace of bondage.  Yet, without application of Jesus’ words, the minefields of my mind will never be disarmed.  The doorway to a new world of new thought processes will never be made available to me.  David said that God delighted in him, rescued him, and brought him out into a spacious place.  He was not referring, I believe, to something geographical.  He was speaking of a spacious inner world where faith, hope, and trust shatters prison bars.

How can I identify places where I’m enslaved?  Look for what keeps me up at night?  Look at the issues over which I obsess.  Put my finger on the problems I keep trying to problem solve but can’t.  These are the places where, if I’m quiet, I can discern the bars of my cell.  Jesus promises truth for every worry, truth for every trap, and when applied, the cage that Satan promoted will begin to rattle, loosen, and then fall away.  Jesus turns the walls into a dance floor.

I don’t want to apply Your Word with a wide paint brush.  I need  a surgical strike.  Amen

When Changes Come In Waves

August 21, 2019


Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.  Psalm 42:7

Have you ever been knocked over by a huge wave?  I have.  As a child of 5 years old, I almost drowned when I was knocked under, then tumbled round and round for what seemed like an eternity.  I couldn’t get my footing for the next wave that came so down I went again.  My parents plucked me out of the water.  To this day, I’m not real fond of the ocean deep.

Too many changes in one’s life, all at once, put a person in a fragile place emotionally. It seems too much to process as each change knocks me off my feet like a towering wave.  I have no perspective as I struggle to discern direction.  When I initiate the changes, it’s easier but most change is what happens to me and I have no control over it.

How do you handle change? Do you have a strategy? It’s easy to conceive man-made ones. 1.) Cope with today and don’t borrow tomorrow’s trouble. 2.) Lean on family and friends.   This is usually the best that we can initiate without God. If things are really hard, these won’t sustain. Inner stability will deteriorate.

There is a certain kind of personality that thrives on change but I contend that it’s change they control. No one likes an unexpected knock on the door that brings tragic news. I’ve had my share of seasons where everyday brought some kind of bad news. Difficult times never seem to last a year. Instead, five years, twelve years, even twenty-two years. I’m very familiar with how that looks since severe depression runs in my extended family. I’ve seen some break with reality. Feeling that I could also follow my genetic leanings, I knew that I must draw close to Jesus and follow His lead in developing spiritual strategies.

What did Jesus do when he felt the pressures of his life? Got alone with His Father to pray. He reviewed the scriptures and God’s history. This is the prescription for any of us today who know that the only stability available to us is the foundation of our faith in God.

  • God knows all things future. He’s not wringing His hands over this change in my life. Acts 8:26
  • God already knows the outcome and, if I’m willing, will lead me safely to the other side. Numbers 23:19
  • God is unchanging. Though my life shifts, He is always the same. I cling to Him and not temporal things. James 1:17
  • God is still a righteous Judge even when it appears evil is winning. Psalms 7:11-13
  • God is faithful and true.   Deut. 32:4

When I’ve lost my footing and can’t see my way forward, when too many changes are happening all at once, I bind myself to You since You are my future.  You pluck me out of the deep and set my feet on solid ground.  In Jesus name, Amen

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Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth and it stands fast.  Psalm 119:90

The oldest thing I own is a cradle that dates back in my family to around 1780.  Before our daughter was born in 1979, a friend and I stripped it and refinished it.  My husband, Ron, repaired some spindles and fortified some slats.  It rocked both our children.  It still exists today and has rocked my two grandsons as well as our family’s cats.   In light of how old antiques can be, I supposed 1780 isn’t that impressive.  European antiques can date back many more centuries.

The fact that a chair, table, or cradle, made by men’s hands, still exists today and is still functional isn’t very impressive when compared to the durability of our planet earth.  Most of what men makes erodes over time.  Its components are not permanent.  God, however, made our planet, touched it with life, set its courses in motion, and hung it permanently in the sky.  However old the earth is, it still works.  It feeds us, keeps us alive, and is stable in its orbit.  God’s faithfulness and power are still the major storyline in the plot of our planet even though it groans for ultimate redemption.

Only God’s hands create something permanent; something trustworthy for us and our descendants, but it goes far beyond that.  What comes out of God’s mouth is also eternal.  The age of the earth serves to remind us of His promises that also know no end.

What kind of WORD can I pass down to my children – that they can tell their children – that will be found true and trustworthy 500 hundred years from now?  Only the Word of God.  When I hug my grandchildren and tell them that God loves them, will always love them, and will be a loving, caring Father their whole life, I give them a message that outlives every family antique.  They will test it, tell their children the same good news, and in eternity, we will share similar stories around a banquet table. No matter who the person to our right is and when he lived His life, his testimony of God’s faithfulness will have the same ring as my story. Enoch’s experience of God’s character will match the experience of my father and mother.  God is unchanging.

What is God establishing in my life today?  Whatever it is, it will last forever because He is the builder.

I stand on my Rock today and trust that You are my everlasting foundation.  I feel the joy of being part of your everlasting story.  Amen

Can You Rest In God Without Trusting Him?

August 19, 2019


Who out there fears God, actually listens to the voice of his servant? For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going, anyone groping in the dark, Here’s what: Trust in God. Lean on your God!  Isaiah 50:10-11

One of my all-time favorite songs is Be Born In Me.  It’s sung by Francesca Basttistelli.  This past week, this lyric arrested me.  Did you wrap yourself inside the unexpected – so we would know that love would go that far?  When unexpected events come, especially tragic ones, my love for God can be stretched.  I wonder if it will go as far as my fears, doubts, and theological struggles that have never bothered me before.

The unexpected can encompass something I feared might come true – and something I’ve prayed against for years.  Prone to worry, I kept entrusting my misgivings to God and then I rested ~ believing that He would take care of that thing for which I prayed.  When my prayer wasn’t answered as I anticipated, is God no longer a refuge?  Is resting no longer possible?

It takes effort to disentangle myself from the conflict of my soul and to go home as a ‘weaned child rests against his mother.’  (Psalm 131) I spent nearly a day wrestling with this issue last week.  I felt God gave me this picture.

Envision a child in wartime.  He’s playing in the street with his friend while his mother looks on from a distance.  Suddenly, bullets are flying, and bombs are dropping.  This child runs to and fro in frantic need for safety.  His eyes search for one person; his mother.  She watches him from down the street and she’s frantic.  She’s calls him, opens her arms and urges him to come to safety.  Her embrace invites him to shelter in the midst of danger.  Now, the bombs may still maim, even kill, but he will not suffer it apart from his mother’s embrace. 

God told His children that we are in a war and we are not home yet.  Perhaps resting is to catch my breath in God’s arms while the storm rages.  It is to settle my soul in His embrace while violence swirls. It is to collect my thoughts for my next steps in a posture of repose.  It is to believe that even in the worst of things, He will have the last word.  It is to cling to the Victor when it appears Satan is winning.  It is to compose a song of faith even in chaos.  It is to trust God when Satan would tell me I’ve been betrayed, to stay faithful even when circumstances would argue that He’s not been faithful.  I rest in the character of God and not in the expectation that He will deliver me from all pain. Peace is found in the security of One all-knowing and wise.  He sees what I cannot, and as it was for Jesus, God’s plan is redemptive though the plotline appears to be senseless.  My life is hidden in Christ and is also destined for glory.

You are my firm foundation in confusion, my rock of refuge in sinking sand.  Amen

Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling.  Psalm 2:10-11

Worship and trembling go together.  I’ve been so moved during worship that I could no longer stand up.  It’s a beautiful thing to be overcome by the Spirit.  He may be my home but I never get so used to Him that I fail to be affected by His glory.

 In Hosea, God calls His children silly doves.  They fail to know where their true home is and their heart has grown too cold to pursue it.  “There will come a day,” God foretells, “when they will come trembling again to their houses.”  “Trembling” means to “flutter with haste”.

A woman ceases to make God her home when she no longer believes He can offer her what she needs.  The promise of the abundant life no longer appears abundant.  There can be many reasons for this.  1.) She has experienced too much pain in this world and God is blamed for it.  She runs from the One she believes is responsible instead of understanding that He is her healing.  2.) There has been no instruction on how to make God her home so she sojourns in distant lands, looking for anyone who will offer her temporary shelter.  3.) Satan has taken advantage of her in her time of vulnerability and offered her some counterfeit ways out of distress.  Whatever the reason, leaving home is rarely a short trip.  It can often span the first half of someone’s lifetime.

There comes a day when God begins to clarify.  The fog of misunderstanding of who He is begins to clear and a woman shakes her head and realizes her folly.  God’s true character materializes in full-blown pictures in her spirit.  Hunger for His presence is awakened.  She prepares for her trip back home, back to her roots.  “Before the foundation of the world, I knew you.”  Ah yes, she remembers the verse now.  She realizes that the only place she can find the person, the Love, she’s been looking for is at home with God.  She comes trembling, with awe and excitement, to the land that has always been hers.  She comes to claim it with joy.  The theme of her life is finally summed up in one phrase ~ LOST LOVE FOUND.

Home is sweetest to the one who has been homeless.  Seeing the lights of home makes her hasten her steps.  Walking over the threshold brings waves of contentment.  It’s home.  Everything is just like she needs it to be.  Never is she more at peace than when resting with God.  Any who loses her life in Him will find it.

It took me over forty years to find my home in You.  I lived many places, emotionally, even though I called You, “Father.”  I’ve never gotten used to the wonder of living with You.  With time, ‘home’ means more, not less.  Thank you. Amen

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The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. I John 5:10

How did Jesus relate to His Father?  He taught each of us how to live as a child of God. He was a Son; I am a daughter. If I want to know what God is like and how to live in relationship to Him, I watch Jesus. This is what it looked like.

  • Jesus was completely submissive to His Father. He waited for the timing of His call into ministry. He made no autonomous decisions. The Son is able to do nothing of His own accord; but the Son is able to do only what He sees His Father doing. Jn. 5:19 So, Jesus surprises me in His choices. He chose only one man to heal at the at pool of Bethesda though many wanted it. The rich young ruler went away from Him sad but Jesus didn’t go after him. Jesus made no wasted steps.
  • Jesus was one with His Father. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17: 20 This concept is repeated over and over again in John 17 – his long last heartfelt desire expressed in prayer. It must be MORE than important. What does it mean to be ONE with Jesus, as He is ONE with His Father?

I remember flying from New England to Atlanta some time ago. It was turbulent, too hard to read and even music didn’t appeal. I finally closed my eyes and said, “Lord, teach me something powerful that I do not know.” I began to pray into that – and God gave me this picture. I saw the Spirit of God move into my being – like He did when I was 7 yrs. old.  Then He let me see myself in Him – like a puzzle piece that He clicked in place inside of His heart. I could see the edges of me, as a puzzle piece, begin to get fuzzy…like the edges were dissolving and soon, I was no longer definable. I had melted into Jesus. This is what is to think, and act, and feel – as one. 

  • Jesus’ destiny of the cross never eroded His trust in His Father.  Did Jesus have memory of His intimacy with the Father? Did He remember the Garden and the fall? Did he feel the urgency of the ages in needing to redeem mankind? Or did God subject his mind/memory to finite time just as we live? I’m inclined to think that way. Whatever Jesus seemed to know about history, about Abraham and about the Torah, He knew from studying. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. Heb. 5:8 He probably did not have all the details surrounding his coming crucifixion. He knew He was born for this purpose, He trusted, He obeyed – and the seeming cruelty of God’s path for Him didn’t cause Jesus to stumble in relationship with His Father. Can you imagine how He felt when He studied Isaiah 53 and other prophetic passages? He thought, “This is talking about me. This will happen to me.”

 I have pined to know the future, at times. I think that it would benefit, that I could prepare for what’s coming. You have not given me that but I am equipped with everything I need. You surround me with Your promises and they are sure. In Jesus’ name, Amen