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

Unwanted Changes

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4

Too many changes in one’s life, all at once, put a person in a fragile place emotionally. It seems too much to process. When I initiate the changes, it’s easier. But most change is what happens to me and I have no control over it. Good changes are challenging enough but bad changes, one after another, bring the onset of grief.

note_to_self__worry_will_not_change_the_outcomeHow 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

“It is well for us that, amidst all the variableness of life, there is One whom change cannot affect; One whose heart can never alter, and on whose brow mutability can make no furrows.” Spurgeon

I’m Angry But Why, Exactly?

My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.  Psalm 119:139

jesus-cleanses-temple-948976-wallpaperDavid’s definition of anger as “a zeal that consumes” is a good one.  Jesus said something similar when he turned over the tables in the temple and sent coins flying.  “Zeal for your house has consumed me.” His anger was hot, not because they had wronged Him, but because His Father’s glory was spurned.  Respect for God’s temple was absent and acts of worship were handled with a lack of integrity.

Back to David.  His zeal was engaged, not because he was personally wronged, but because God’s Word was forgotten.  This is a holy man.  He was, as Jesus was, more offended for God than for himself.

Do I ever have this reaction?   When I am lied to, am I offended for God because His law was broken?  Or, am I hurt because someone intentionally deceived me and trust was violated?  When my child speaks disrespectfully to me, do I grieve on account of the spiritual danger my child faces because of his lack for spiritual authority?  Or am I upset because my own power and authority was questioned?

A sin against anyone is a sin against God but how often do I hurt for God’s broken heart?  When the sin is against me, I can be so self-centered that my tears are only for myself.  As God helps me work my way through the hurt, I will eventually discover His heavy heart.

Sin is rampant.  God’s law is trampled upon.  I just had to open my browser and see the headlines this morning to get fresh evidence.  God is hurting over the betrayal of His creation.  Will my comfort make a dent?  Is God really touched by my soothing words?  Yes.  Jesus was God in the flesh and on the eve of His arrest, He asked for His disciple’s companionship in prayer.  He admitted what He needed from them but they didn’t come through.

Though God doesn’t need my comfort to gain strength or feel validated, He is still moved by it.  The next time someone uses God’s name to curse me out, I will tell God that I’m sorry.

My anger is often engaged, but not for the right reasons.  I want to feel what you feel and see beyond my own pride.  Amen

When It Doesn’t Mean Anything

Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.  Psalm 119:27 

I used to be immersed in a Bible-study environment.  My husband and I worked for a large Christian ministry for the first many years of our marriage.  There was a seminary on the premises as well as an adult conference facility.  The best Bible teachers, heavyweights for that time period, were frequent guests; Charles Ryrie, Vance Havner, Lehman Strauss.  The air was supercharged with excitement over who was going to be teaching next.  I was caught up in political correctness, feigning enthusiasm with the crowd.  I sat in the meetings, took notes, tried to psyche myself that what I was hearing was exciting yet, though I was certainly learning doctrine, my own soul was not affected by what I was hearing.  Did I go away and meditate on any of it?  No.  What consumed my thoughts was the need to belong to the crowd who thought it wonderful to be sitting under such excellent teaching.

Savoring BibleDavid asks for God’s help in today’s scripture.  He petitions for spiritual understanding of the scriptures so that he will be able to meditate in a heartfelt way.  Understanding precedes meditation.  Truth must always be a heart thing!

That’s what was lacking for me all those years.  Because scripture had never been personalized, and without personalization – scripture remains impersonal, the scripture was nothing more than a church history course.  I had to scan many chapters to find a verse that was, at the very least, inspirational.  On a good day, it was intellectually stimulating but the impact ended there.

How can we interact with the scriptures in a way where we are changed?  How can we become passionate about God’s Word?   Here’s a primer course.  1. Set aside 15 minutes with God.  2. Ask God to open your heart.  3. Take a short passage of scripture and meditate on it as you read it slowly.  Taste it and savor it.  4. Look for your head/heart conflict.  Do you know the truth of what you’re reading and yet you have to admit that your heart disbelieves it?   5. Define your need as a result of the conflict.  “I don’t believe this in my heart because . . . ”  6. Put it all together into a prayer.  Voice your need. Affirm the truth. Pray the scripture.

The supernatural power of God’s Word is rendered powerless in my life when I have no need of it.

Lord, transformation began when you showed me my need of You.  Thank you for every single crisis that drove me to you.  Amen

What Can Be Missing

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah  Psalm 32:5

Acknowledging our sin, while God requires it to be forgiven, can be a tricky thing.  I think about Cain’s confession to the Lord after killing his brother.  The pain he expressed had more to do with what he would suffer than what God suffered.  Cain said to the LORD, “Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden.  I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”  Genesis 4:13-14  There is no thought that God’s heart was broken when Cain killed Abel for doing something holy.  What’s missing in Cain’s response to God’s curse?  A real apology!  Cain never said, “I’m sorry.”  He only considers his own skin and the ways he will faint under his punishment.

flowers-sorryDo you know someone who expresses no remorse?  They are simply unable to recognize what their sin against another causes.  Many wives and husbands are cruel to each other.  Hurtful things are said and treacherous things are done.  When the one who feels betrayed speaks up, backs up, and expresses pain, remorse is absent.  But when the pain of consequences is felt, a token “Sorry!” is expressed.  There is an expectation that everything should be back to normal.  He, or she, fails to know the repercussions of his actions.

All throughout Israel’s history, God qualified the kinds of tears they cried.  God laid out the ground rules from the beginning.  “Obey me and you’ll be blessed.  Disobey and you’ll be led into captivity.”  They did well under the leadership of righteous kings for short periods of time.  Eventually though, they regressed and began to worship idols, throw their infants in the fire, and act disgracefully toward their God.  The consequences were felt.  God used enemies, like the Babylonians, to take His people as slaves.  In their great distress, they cried out to God to deliver them.  But God said, in essence, “You are not crying because you agree with me about your sin.  You’re crying because you hate captivity.”  Is this not like Cain?

I bring the message home to my own heart today.  How often have I said, “Father, I blew it.  I did ‘this’ and now I’ve lost what I treasured.  Forgive me.”  My apology was all about me, about what I lost.  I did not picture the face of my heartbroken Father.  Self-pity rather than remorse was expressed in my so-called apology.

Only You, LORD, can give me a true heart of repentance.  Amen

Who Can We Trust? Look Up!

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.  Psalm 20:7

awesome-look-sun-and-moon-together-1Lord, forgive us for looking to broken cisterns for living water. As your children, we may live wanting, groaning for your kingdom to come, but we will not be crippled by uncertainty.  We will not succumb to the anxiety of second guessing our future.  Our leaders disappoint us but You rule perfectly.  Our joy and confidence is in Your Kingship.    Each of us pray this out loud today until our whole beings believe it.

You hold our family’s future in Your hands.  You hold our health in Your hands.  You hold our security in Your hands.  You hold our disappointments in Your hands.  You have our children’s names on the palm of Your hands.  You hold us all when we tremble in fear.  You’ve got us even when we’re skeptical that Your promises are true.  Increase our faith.

We bring our leaders and broken government to you in prayer and know that only You can change them.  As we wait, we give up all rights to know why we wait.  We trust Your sovereign rule in our lives.   Your plans for us are for good – to give us a future and a hope.  Praise be to You, magnificent, trustworthy, and all-powerful Jehovah.  Amen

My Post As An Ambassador

I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me.  Psalm 119:19

High political leaders know they need ambassadors to represent them in other countries.  They look far and wide to discover the man or woman who will do the job well.  They must be well acquainted with the laws of their country, well acquainted with the wishes and strategies of the people in authority over them so that they will act successfully on their behalf.  Once chosen, there is a ‘sending’ and a mission that is unique to the country to which they’ve been called.

coa_of_us_embassy_prague_2257The ambassador leaves.  He makes his home in China, or Pakistan, or Kenya.  He does not look like anyone else nor truly live like anyone else there.  He abides by the laws of his new country but he is not a citizen.  He promotes and executes the policies of his country back home.  He speaks on behalf of the president, on behalf of the government, knowing that as he exerts his rule, his leaders back home back him up.  As long as he acts in accordance with his country’s principles, he is protected.

I am a sojourner.  Like David, I feel it.  I don’t track with the culture in which I live.  The values on earth are not in harmony with the values of heaven.  I’m an ambassador here, meant to represent my king and the laws of His kingdom.  As I rule my world with His principles, God has my back and I am protected.  I speak on behalf of God, act in His best interest, promote the laws of His kingdom.  No wonder David asks that God make his commandments known to Him.  To be in alignment with God’s precepts and live by them is to know peace and safety.  God is behind me and before me and when I’m finished representing Him here, when my time of influence has run its course, He will lead me safely home for permanent retirement in His kingdom.

My mission is clear today.  Help me rule well on your behalf.  Amen