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
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
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
September 19, 2018
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11
If I asked three people how they enjoy God, I would expect blank stares. How do you enjoy someone you don’t know well? How do you get to know someone who is invisible? And, how do you enjoy someone who doesn’t speak to you in an audible voice? These are fair questions and the very reason this short series exists. I fear that few of God’s children know Him well at all much less find Him enjoyable. That used to be me for 4+ decades. I knew God’s resume but not His heart. I knew His history but not His mind on present matters regarding my life.
So, let’s take it out of the abstract. How do I enjoy a person ~ my husband, my child, my friend, my brother or sister? I make time for them. I do things that I love to do only with them. In an intimate relationship, there are shared memories and shared loves of certain things. I watch WWII movies with one friend, savor New England with my husband, share classical music and English dramas with my daughter, play with cats and even go to cat cafes with my son and his wife, go to the opera with my sister, and go to Desiring God conferences with a spiritual journey partner. The choices are endless but your list would look nothing like mine. Mine looks nothing like yours. That’s because no two relationships are alike. I can tell you about my relationship with God but that won’t be of great benefit to you. You have to have your own relationship with your Father. He will enjoy you, and you will savor Him, in ways that are unique to the two of you.
As you begin to carve a new path in your endeavor to find joy in God, you will begin by carving out time for your relationship. The friends and family members I rarely see, I lose touch with. I must make time for them. God is no different. Just knowing the God of the Bible can keep Him at arms length and impersonal.
You might ask if He desires you. The answer is yes. You are the object of His desire and in His desire, there is passion and warmth. There is commitment ~ enough that He gave up the life of His son to win you back from the curse of the Fall. What has He been doing until now? Waiting for you. Yes, He’s technically your Savior, but is He Your friend? It takes effort to make the Lord an intimate companion. Tomorrow, we will explore ideas for what to do in your time together. I can’t wait.
Lord, stir up desire for You. In even this, I need Your help and grace. Amen
September 18, 2018
Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Ezekiel 47:12
The holy of holies ~ the place where God’s Spirit lived. A priest could only enter one day a year and if he hadn’t atoned for his sins by making a sacrifice, he would be dead when he stepped through the curtain. For that reason, tassels were tied around his feet so that if he died, he could be dragged back out without others entering and risking their lives. It was the sanctuary of God.
Through His death, Jesus tore the curtain that separated us from the holy of holies. He paid for our sin, became our sacrifice, so that we never need fear approaching Him. Instead of God’s Spirit dwelling in the holy of holies, He now dwells in the hearts of mankind if they have made Him their Savior and Lord. I am the new temple. Inside of me, in my spirit, is the holy of holies where God’s Spirit finds His home. From that sanctuary inside, Living Water flows freely and changes the internal landscape of my life. Greenery is not threatened by hard times. Persecution can not mar the beauty. Deprivation, scorn, sickness…these are not a menace to my internal Eden. The Spirit of God lives there. How our forefathers in the Old Testament would have yearned for such a reality. They could not fathom that Yahweh could come to live inside man.
If ever I should enjoy something phenomenal, should it not be this? Should I not be so humbled and incredulous that I get to be God’s temple, that I make my highest aspiration to enjoy the privilege? I want to fully invest in the most important relationship I’ll ever have, to get to know God better than I know any earthly person. The result? Listen. Can you hear the river? It promises to flow to every cracked and barren place that desperately needs to see the promise of Spring. In the days ahead, join me. Let’s stand in the flow. Let’s learn to enjoy what only those on the narrow way are offered.
I receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save my soul. Amen James 1:21
September 17, 2018
Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright. Ps. 33:1
God created me for His enjoyment. And He created me to enjoy Him. How am I doing with both of these things? I’ve spent the first part of my life doubting whether or not God loved me like He loved others. Enjoying Him never occurred to me. I feared and served God out of duty. But enjoyed? Not on my radar.
It’s easy to love God from a distance. When He answers my prayers in a way I like, my love feels real. When I wait for an answer, my love can turn into suspicion. When He says no, my love can be buried beneath anger. I memorized Psalm 37:4 as a child. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Notice that the delight is in the Lord, not in the pleasure I receive from His gifts.
What is the foundation of my enjoyment of God? It’s His enjoyment of me. “We love Him because He first loved us.” That doesn’t mean there’s something deficient in my affection. It merely confirms that God created me to be a responder. He is the Creator. I am the Created. He reached out first. I held out my arms in response. He was the initiator. I was the reciprocator.
If I’m not enjoying God, there are some things I need to consider. I may not really believe God loves me. I can’t be general about this. I need to be specific in all the places I still carry shame and regret. Also, I may not believe the truth about God’s character. Deception causes distrust. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Cor. 11:3 When I believe lies about God, I hide and avoid. I back up. I’m shy of His proclamations of love. Who can enjoy someone you’re unsure of.
Enjoying God is at the epicenter of passion and connection. How to do it is the topic of this series. You can be sure that none of what follows will be abstract. It will be hands on and practical. Ask God to open up the channels from your heart to His because “In His presence is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16:11
If I’m not enjoying You, show me I can. If I don’t want to, pinpoint my objections. Amen
September 13, 2018
. . . so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me Get up, let us go from here. John 14:31
The Trinity had always been together, functioning in perfect harmony from before time. Their synergy is described in terms of a rhythmic slow dance. They moved in perfect sync. Each had a clearly defined role and the execution of them was achieved without the slightest hint of friction. So, imagine how their rhythm was disrupted when the Son left the Trinity to go to His mission field. Intimacy was disrupted as the Son became a child in Mary’s womb. God the Father bade His Son goodbye and watched Him leave. God was able to see into the future and though there was no fear of the unknown, there was still pain. He knew what awaited His child. Jesus did too – until He woke up as an infant in His mother’s arms.
What kept Jesus going? He was born in political upheaval and Roman rule was crude and cruel. The first way Jesus survived would due to His connection with His Father. The way He persevered was due to the love He felt for each of us. The way He endured resulted from His desire to be obedient to His Father’s call.
Jesus wouldn’t have made it without the fuel of all three catalysts. Before time, God envisioned the 40 days of temptation in the desert. He knew Lucifer intimately and could predict the all out war that would be waged. God knew who would accept Jesus as the Messiah. He knew the faces of those who would openly reject Him, too. He foresaw the close calls; the brushes with death as crowds plotted to kill Jesus. He meticulously planned each way of escape to ensure that His Son would fulfill His mission at Calvary. And yes, the Father also rejoiced, in advance, over the disciples that would be called and mentored. He looked down through the ages and saw an unstoppable church on the move. It would be battered but it would prevail. He saw it all and He felt what human parents feel at their child’s departure. Joy and agony.
The exact same way the Father infused fire and endurance into the life of His Son, He’s willing to infuse fuel into you and me. No magic formula. It’s about connection. This is the joy set before us.
I never want to live again through my iron will and gritted teeth. Always Lord, be near and fill me with Your fire. Amen