When Love Is In Front Of You

I will never walk alone for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.  Psalm 26:3

Everyone wonders what their future will hold.  Good times or hard times?  Healthy or unhealthy?  Married or unmarried?  Financially secure or living with meager provision?  Surrounded by those who love us or mostly alone?  We aren’t granted a clear picture of tomorrow but any of us who know God as our Father can know for certain one thing about our future.  In spite of uncertainty, David says that God’s love is ever before us.  Perfect Love is always and forever in our tomorrows.

If times are good, God will join me in my celebration.  If times are difficult, He will offer open arms.  If times are rewarding, He will still remind me that heaven will be better because He will be there.  If times are tragic, He will assure me that this time of tears is short in comparison to an eternity of joy.

Picture a groom, on his knees proposing, and he says in a deep and meaningful tone, “Spend your life with me.  I can’t promise you that it will always be easy but however it unfolds, I promise to be there with you and love you.”  It’s exactly what she needs.  Love.  Companionship.  Commitment.  And for any who have not known this in their human experience, Jesus is the Bridegroom who offers what is supremely better than that.  A perfect love without the imperfection of the flesh within mortal marriages.  There is perfect companionship as the groom knows His bride completely.  And there is  perfect faithfulness as this Groom never backs away.  No matter how well or how poorly the bride loves, His love is constant and true.

Your love is here now.  Your love has always sustained me.  Your love waits for me in all my tomorrows.  You are timeless and I can rest that You have traveled ahead of me.  I’m so comforted.  Amen

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The Sin-Eater

Jesus, seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reason in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; ‘who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 2:6-7

The scribes in this story are right. Claiming to forgive sins is a big deal and no one can do it except God but they didn’t recognize their Yahweh in the face of His Son, Jesus. People will do anything to wash themselves of nagging guilt. Most refuse to run to Jesus because their own pride convinces them that they have the power to do something about it. Never has this self-sufficiency been more twisted than with the ancient practice of choosing a sin-eater within a community.

Still in existence within rural Appalachia, this ritual originated in southern England. A sin-eater was selected from among the most despised of society. Their calling would ostracize them for life. Their role was, 1.) to live in obscurity, 2.) to appear at the home of a deceased person at the time of the funeral, 3.) perch themselves at the border of the property and wait for the casket to emerge from the house, and 4.) perform the ritual of eating bread and drinking wine. All of the sins of the deceased would be transferred to the bread/wine and enter the sin eater’s body. They were believed to be the new ‘dwelling place’ of the dead’s iniquity.

Before meeting Jesus, the hymn writer, William Cowper, succumbed to a deep depression from the weight of his own guilt. While living in a mental institution, he was known to keep washing his hands and lamenting, “My guilt, my guilt. What can wash it away?” After his conversion and having looked to Jesus to wash away his sins, he wrote, Unless the Almighty arm had been under me, I think I should have died with gratitude and joy.” Within weeks, he wrote the words to the hymn, “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners cleansed beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”

There is only one sin-eater. Jesus. He became the despised, was shunned by His people, and took on the sins of the damned. He was the sacrifice for any who will apply His blood to their iniquity. Today, we do not need to wallow in guilt nor employ a scapegoat to bear our sins. Jesus did it – and then He said, “It is finished.” 

Nagging guilt need never plague me. You are a God of closure. I repent, you forgive, and it is finished. Amen

 

A Takeover But Not Of The Hostile Kind

[Samuel said to Saul] The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you and you will prophesy with them and will be transformed into another man. And let it be when these signs come upon you that you do as occasion serves you, for God is with you. And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart. All who knew him earlier saw that and said, “What is this that is come to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” I Samuel 10:6-9 

The Spirit of God came upon certain individuals in the Old Testament and as a result, they came under His influence. They were changed and equipped to fulfill their destiny as king, prophet, or servant. Is it possible that something so amazing and so rare can be taken for granted when it happens today? Yes. I can be so used to the vernacular of the ‘indwelling of the Spirit’ that I’m numb to the sheer wonder of it. The privilege of housing Glory can be tragically lost on me.

At the very moment I believed in Jesus and embraced Him as Lord, the Spirit of the LORD came upon me too. He didn’t make a visitation as He did under the old covenant. He made me His permanent dwelling place and transformed me into a new person. The same phenomenon that Saul experienced happened to me. At my spiritual birth, I was called to an eternal destiny and am fully equipped to accomplish it under the power of God’s anointing.

Those from Saul’s hometown couldn’t believe the change. They were incredulous and remarked to one another, “Who is this? Is Saul a prophet?” It was a takeover of the heavenly kind, producing the fruits and giftings of the Spirit of God. His new, unnatural abilities could only be explained by his encounter with God.

It is our privilege to walk out our calling. We are to be seen as weak, yet strong in Christ. Dull, yet brilliant in His wisdom. Unqualified, yet uniquely gifted in ways no one can explain. Anything done in the flesh will leave others quite bored. Our efforts will lack the power of that synergistic connection between God and His child.

Take me outside of what I can naturally accomplish so that Your signature is clearly legible. To You be all glory. Amen

Poised In The Perfect Position

And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening, and he lifted up his eyes and saw and behold, the camels were coming. And Rebeccah lifted up her eyes and when she saw Isaac, she fell off the camel. Genesis 24:62-63 

Human eyesight and spiritual eyesight are far from being the same thing.  Each perceives life differently. A total stranger can stand ten feet away from me and if I am looking at him with human eyes, he may not be significant to me at all. But, that person might actually be God-sent and someone important to my future and if I was in tune with God, as Isaac was in today’s scripture, I might recognize that person as significant somehow. I’d know deep in my spirit that that God put him in my path.
One day, Abraham gave his servant specific instructions on how he was to go about securing a wife for his son, Isaac. Concerned that Isaac would marry someone in close proximity (a Canaanite woman), Abraham went to great lengths to make sure Isaac married among his own people. He sent his servant on a long journey, back to Abraham’s home country, to find a bride from his own tribe. Isaac, it appears, knew nothing about this as he worked a southern piece of land in his father’s territory, far from home base.
Isaac was a young patriarch and his connection to God was alive. He had seen God reveal Himself by providing a lamb on Mt. Moriah. How could any person ever be the same after that! One evening, as Isaac went out in the field to meditate and enjoy God’s presence, he looked up to see his father’s servant approaching with a young girl on a camel. He wasn’t expecting anyone nor did he have any idea who the girl was. But because he was aligned spiritually and in God’s presence, his whole being responded to the significance of this young woman. And as for her, she viscerally reacted to the sight of Isaac. She had obeyed God by leaving home and was also walking in the light of His favor and guidance. And don’t you love it that she fell off the camel at the sight of her future husband?
Bible study is one thing. Meditation on the scriptures is quite another. The latter centers our thoughts on God’s thoughts. It aligns us with heaven’s purposes in such a way as to enable us to recognize the movements of God all around us. I wonder how many holy moments I’ve missed because I was out of sync with the Spirit. When I fail to make biblical mediation a way of life, I not only miss the voice of God, I miss the unveiling of sandaled footprints in front of me.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, more important on this day as resting in Your Word and Your presence. I don’t want to miss you. Amen

I Start With Myself

Jesus became troubled in spirit and testified, “Truly, truly, I tell you, one of you will betray Me.” The disciples began to look at one another, perplexed as to which of them He meant. John 13:21-22

The atmosphere at the Lord’s Supper grew tense. Jesus announced that one of the twelve would betray Him. In that pregnant moment, I do not believe that each wondered which of his brothers had done such a thing. I believe a dark cloud came over each of them personally as they feared it might be them.  I believe they knew some of their own weaknesses.  After all, they had been with Jesus for three years to see the stark contrast between holiness and sinfulness.

Three years is a long time to travel with someone. Their relationship with Him was intimate. What they expected Him to do, He rarely did. What they anticipated He might say, He rarely said.  Whom they didn’t expected Him to heal, He did.  When they expected Him to honor sacred Jewish traditions, He surprised them by doing the opposite.  They had had plenty of time to understand their own sinfulness in light of the contrast.  They knew pretty quickly that they fell short of God’s glory – resident in Christ.

For Judas, the bait was money. His love for riches challenged fidelity. But for any one of the disciples, there might have been another temptation to hit home and cause them to walk away.

It is imperative that I know my own weaknesses well. Self-indulgent introspection doesn’t reveal them. Only the mirror of the Word of God does. I must let the Word judge my heart. I must accept what God shows me, and then I must allow God to start changing what I love too much that could threaten our relationship. Yes, I could easily be a Judas. I have had Judas moments.

I have known the bitter gall of failure. I have drunk the wine of self-hatred. I have questioned God’s radical forgiveness. But grace won. Failure, repentance, and forgiveness are great teachers. I remember from where I’ve fallen and, because of the grace of God, He will empower me to finish the race well and avoid a Judas kind of detour.

I don’t love others unconditionally without Your help. I can only love YOU unconditionally by Your grace, too. Challenge me and my affections. Amen

Will It Be You?

Last night was the night for dreams.  This was one of them.

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There was a gathering at church.  There were a few who believed that God was going to do something powerful in the meeting.  They saw hints of glory, the stirrings of something holy, but their expectations were dormant so nothing ever manifested.  People mingled normally, hugged each other and said how long it had been since they’d seen one another and before long, the scheduled time for the meeting to end was upon them.  For the few who had hoped for God’s presence, it felt like the time had been a waste.  People had gotten dressed up, came a distance, spent the time, made refreshments, brought gifts to one another, but if the point was meeting together with God’s Spirit, the time proved empty.  The people were so used to a dry outcome that the majority didn’t even register disappointment.

The emcee looked around for someone to close in prayer.  Then it happened.  A servant, with a heart alive to God, opened her mouth with an imploring, passionate plea for the Spirit of God to touch people’s hearts.  Need after need was verbalized and the possibilities of what would happen if God came to breathe on each one was born.  The desperation for such a move of God was acknowledged.  The desire for a miraculous outcome was painted with words and then time stood still as the Spirit of God began to stir the hearts of God’s people.  The tease of heaven entered the room.  Normal disappeared.  Extraordinary came into view and no one knew where God would take them.

How many meet together without an expectation of glory?  How many know, and quote, the verse of God being in the midst of two or three but rarely anticipate anything out of the ordinary?  How many have stopped hoping to see God?  How many have never felt Him, or heard Him, nor seen what happens when His Spirit takes over the room?

Someone needs to step up to pray; some dreamer who is in touch with heaven’s possibilities, some quiet saint who knows God and what He can do, some experienced child of God who understands people and sees their desperate need and steps forth to set the stage in prayer.   Fresh fire needs to fall.  Who will rise up to shatter the form of godliness  with petitions for the real thing?

As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.  Acts 11:15

 

House Of Cards

Everyone who comes to me, and hears My words, and acts upon them, I will show you whom he is like. Luke 6:47

There is a saying, “he’s a house of cards.” A person who appears strong can really be someone who crumbles when the right storm comes. We just can’t see beneath his intimidating exterior. If you’re old enough, you could tell numerous real-life stories about those whom you once feared but who were revealed for the weak people they really are.

Jesus goes on in this Luke passage to reveal that there are those who have built their life on sand. When the wind comes, their house blows over because they fashioned a foundation outside of Christ. Like ~

  • Someone who controls others in the need to feel powerful.
  • Someone who rules with fear in order to be feared.
  • Someone who hides from emotional engagement in order to avoid vulnerability.
  • Someone who bullies others in a an attempt to feel powerful.
  • Someone who pretends to know everything for fear of being wrong.

If you have been the victim of someone who appeared strong, perhaps even scary, you know how long it took for you to realize that there was weakness underneath the façade. When you finally took your stand in Christ, you saw them morph into the person they really were.

As I write this, I am listening to the news about the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Heartbreaking! A recent poll shows that 60% of our people believe that our world is unraveling. Yes, God is clear about the message of foundations and that upon which we build. Whether a person, or even a nation, any infrastructure that fails to be God-centered will crumble.

A house built on sand can look pretty impressive for a while but in the end, inevitable storms will test the bedrock.

In whom do we have our trust? Anyone other than you is a house of cards, Lord. Give me wisdom as I take stock of my own foundation and as I assess whom I fear. You are my Light and my Salvation. Whom shall I fear? Amen