Inside Jeremiah 29:11

September 27, 2018

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 

My life is measured by minutes as well as years. If you asked me how I was at 2:30 last Saturday, my answer might be different than if you asked me what this month has been like. Devastation can characterize one moment in time while joy describes the month surrounding it.

Never is this truer than when thinking about God’s sovereignty. God is able to zero in with a bird’s eye view to share a single event of my life. When He does, He is a High Priest who is touched by what moves me. If I’m sad, His tears mingle with mine. But when He backs away to see my life in full panoramic view, His response is altogether different than mine. He sees redemption’s story and how my life begins and ends gloriously within His divine goodness. What causes me to weep today is only a blip in the fullness of time. While I must wait to see my entire life in the rear view mirror, God already sees it. The hands of time move at a snail’s pace for me, not for God.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a lifeline to so many children of God today, including me. It is the sound of hope ringing in my ears. It is the overarching banner of faith that carries me beyond agonizing moments. I know that if I define my life by the momentary, I will be as unstable as shifting sand. I can’t depend on my self-interpretation of today’s events.

For every prayer that has yet to be answered, for every injustice that is awaiting God’s vindication, for every hope yet to be fulfilled, for every disease waiting healing, the truth of God’s panoramic view bolsters my momentary faithlessness. I know that my eyes are dim where perspective is concerned while God eyes are sharp and all encompassing. He not only sees the beginning from the end, He’s Alpha and Omega. He has authored the beginning and the end!

There are no mysteries with the One who holds my life so securely. I can say, despite the moments that threaten to undo me, that His plans for me are good. I have a future and a hope that will culminate in celebration.

Grace for the moment. Faith for the future. I need both, Lord. You know. Amen

Discipleship Fueled By Joy

September 26, 2018

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

If you’ve been part of a bible study, you’ve probably heard the Bible study formula of ‘who, what, when, where, why’ when dissecting a passage.  This method is respected across the board and I use it myself.  

However I contend that it’s just preliminary to the important things that follow.  There’s more to study than getting the facts of a passage down.  When those five questions are answered, it’s not time to shut my Bible and consider my time with God finished.  What happens next will determine if I get to know and love God, enjoy God, and emerge as a passionate worshipper.  

Unless bible study and meditation leads to ~ “Lord, what does this mean for me?  What do you want to show me about Yourself?  What do I need to understand about myself now that I’ve looked in the mirror of Your Word?  What part of my heart needs to come alive that is presently shut down? “

The Word of God is meant to fuel joyful discipleship.  Walking in obedience out of duty, rather than joy, will wear thin and fizzle out.  And, more importantly, it is displeasing to God.  How far back did He plead with His people to stop making sacrifices out of duty while their hearts remained cold.  Obedience outside of relationship is grievous to the God who loves us and will not withstand trials and tribulations. We may grit our teeth to persevere but we will probably end up resenting God for expecting so much of us.  We will see Him like a drill sergeant whose harsh commands from basic training ring in our ears.  He’s perceived as an authority, someone to fear, but certainly not a friend.  

Jesus learned obedience within the parameters of an joyful relationship with His Father.  How can we know that?  Because of His personal history within the trinity.  Their existence as triune was characterized as a perfectly choreographed dance. The synergism was electric.  Everything Jesus enjoyed as part of the Trinity, and as incarnate, can and should be mine. 

Oh Father, Sometimes I am more numbed out than alive to You, more driven by should’s than want to’s.  Invade my heart with Your presence and turn apathy to joy.  Amen 

Exercise #3

September 25, 2018

But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing.
Luke 9:11

If you could travel back to 30 A.D. to watch Jesus’ interactions with people, and if you could take your camera with you, what snapshots would you want to capture? Put yourself there in the crowd or if you are looking on to witness a personal encounter Jesus had with someone, put yourself just out of sight. As you watch from a close distance, there must be a moment that stands out.

What made you choose those stories for your pictures?
What about Jesus makes Him UN-like how others might have acted?
Is your heart stirred to be in the stories, and why?
What did Jesus do, or offer…that makes you ache for the same?
What does Jesus promise You today that is identical or similar?

Talk to Jesus about your snapshots. Tell Him what you love about the stories, what you love about His heart and His actions. Ask Him to make the stories come alive in your heart as if you’d really been there. Finish this sentence in a prayer ~ “Jesus, I would have enjoyed being with you on that day because _____________________.”

For me, I wish I’d seen Him engage with the Rabbis when He was 12. I would have loved to have heard His wisdom that was not of this world. I would have enjoyed how Truth and Wisdom stunned the educated and left them confounded.

I wish I could have been one of the mourners at Lazarus’ tomb. I would have wanted to experience the power of the command that brought about a resurrection. Did anyone fall to their knees to worship Him or were they too afraid? If I only could have seen Him perfectly empathize with Mary and Martha but then change their world forever.

I wish I could have been in the upper room when Jesus washed His disciple’s feet. I would have loved to have seen their faces when my Lord visibly became a Servant.

I take joy in every story about You, even the hard ones because they prove Your deity. Amen

Exercise #2.

September 24, 2018

Be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Deuteronomy 6:12

How did you do on Friday coming up with a list of three things God made that you enjoy?  Now we’re on to the next discovery.

2. Come up with your three favorite, Old Testament Bible stories. Has anyone ever asked you what they were? Maybe you know your very favorite but what about your second or third choice? It might take some reminiscing. That will be enjoyable, I suspect. When you come up with three, this is what I want you to do. (Make notes about each one…answering these questions. And yes, if we were together ~ this is what I would ask you and also happily share my own choices with you!)

What about each story thrills you in such a way that it made it one of your three choices?
What did the story reveal about God that, when you heard it, left you astonished? What do your choice of these stories reveal about you and your story? There’s something about your own history that made these stories stand out. Can you figure it out?  If God were to act today in your life as He did in the stories you chose, what is it you’d like to ask Him to do?

Finish each of these sentences out loud to God. ~ “God, I can’t believe that you ___________.” “You could so easily have ________________.” “I always feared that You might be a God who _________________ but this story proves me wrong.” “What I love about you the most in this story is ________________.” “What I enjoy most as I remember this story today is _________________.”

  • Here are two of my favorite stories. You knew I had to tell you, didn’t you? Elisha laid over the deceased and only son of the Shunamite woman. He once prophesied that she would have the son she had been praying for and now, at 12, her son was dead. Elisha prayed in an unpredictable and shocking way and God brought about a resurrection.
  • Hannah gave up her toddler forever to the priest, Eli, in the temple. Samuel was also the son she had been waiting for. Through much travail, God answered her prayers. She gave her son back to God as soon as he was weaned. How she sacrificed but oh, how she also praised and worshiped.

In each story, God’s children showed great faith unlike any contemporary. They each challenge me to not just play it safe but to live with abandon on an edge that can be lonely.

Let the stories of Your power and glory live in us. Amen

Exercise #1.

September 21, 2018

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? Job 12:7-10

God said to the Israelites and, by extension, to us – “Remember and review.”  I’ve always believed it was to give them strength but perhaps it was also to facilitate joy. So, remember and review what? Have fun starting a list. See if it leads to a rush of joy.

List three of your favorite, God-created things, that you enjoy. Imagine telling a friend what they are. Fill in the blanks of why you enjoy them. (Colors, textures, smells, history)  I will give you two of mine as examples.

  • Cats. They are absolutely intriguing creatures. I love their independence. They aren’t push overs. You have to earn their respect. Their variations in stripes, dots, and patterns are amazing. They come alive at night. I love their whiskers ~ how they feel against my skin and how they guide the cat to know how wide an opening they can fit through. I adore their purring. When I need to relax, I put my head against my cats and let their purring relax me. They are naughty, sweet, and unpredictable. That God would think to create them and all their complicated layers of personality just makes me stand in awe of Him. And, they were created for my enjoyment.
  • Black Raspberries. I like that they are rare. They are not blueberries nor are they blackberries. They have their own distinct berry taste. Their dark purple color makes me swoon. The taste? Nothing rivals it. I try my best to grow my own in the south even though it’s not the best environment. I get shy of a quart each summer. To supplement, I’ve made it a hobby to find the best black raspberry jam out there. I have decided that an Amish farmer called Miller, in Ohio, makes the best. Every time I pick a berry, hold one, then eat one, I tell God He’s awesome.

So you get it, right? This is not hard. What are your three choices? Tell God what you love about them. Tell him how you feel about Him since He is their creator. And for a lasting effect —— print out pictures (high quality pictures) of your three favorite things. I have a high resolution photo (on canvas) of a grey tabby gracing the entrance to our downstairs. I have a half dozen high resolution photos (on my computer) of black raspberries; on the bush, spread out on an old wooden table, for sale in a farmer’s market, and finally in jam. They are switched out as desktop wallpapers. These keep my delight in God in front of my eyes. Nearly every time I see them, I’m talking to God about how creative He is, and how good He is to share them with me.

Of course, you have many more than three. So do I. That’s the fun of it. As your list grows, your worship expands. Did you ever think that enjoying God could be so much fun? I didn’t.

You didn’t create things for yourself. You’ve given us all things richly to enjoy. How could I not enjoy You as I enjoy them! They are gifts, so thank you.  You’re awesome.  Amen

I Never Tend To Forget Some Things

September 20, 2018

“Does a young woman forget her jewelry? Does a bride hide her wedding dress? Yet for years on end my people have forgotten me.” Jeremiah 2:32

Ok, so let’s talk women stuff. Ever forget to put in earrings on a day you were getting dressed up? It felt strange and you were aware of it throughout the day. Ever put on makeup and forget the lipstick? Again, so strange. Have you ever lost your wedding dress? I doubt it. We pay to preserve it and store it in moth-proof bags or even a box made for the preservation of heirlooms.

God says that we remember things that are important to us. That’s true. But Him, we can forget. How can that be! I have forgotten someone’s birthday and felt terrible. An apology didn’t make my regret lessen either. If I forget God, do I minimize my neglect with a wave of my hand? And does this not reveal how much, or how little, I treasure Him? This is not to cause a guilt trip because my relationship with God should not be built on shame and guilt. The point is what I’m missing. By failing to invest in the one relationship where perfection awaits is my loss.

You might argue that it’s hard to treasure someone who is not standing in front of you. I disagree. If you have a friend move away, don’t you still treasure what you had and can still have long distance? If your parent, spouse, or child dies, don’t you keep their memory alive by recalling what made them special? You rehearse their sayings and mannerisms all the time. Some people even live in the past.

This series is built on the scriptural encouragement to ‘remember and review’. It’s easy to do. Remembering and reviewing, with specifics, is what will revolutionize our ability to enjoy God. Those ideas will start coming tomorrow. Are you intrigued when a friend says, “Hey, want to do something fun? Try this!” Well, I hope I feel like a friend to you. I hope you are committed and excited to engage with every upcoming devotional. The ‘try this’ awaits. The only thing better would be doing it together in person.

You are a creative God. You’re called The Creator. Why shouldn’t my relationship with You be constructed with layers of creativity! I’m made in Your image and I don’t want to miss anything. Amen