And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. Mark 1:10-12

The same Spirit of God that descended on Jesus at His baptism proceeded to lead Him out into the desert to be tempted. That can be emotionally confusing to me as I seek to find a comfort zone in God’s character. One incredibly tender moment during His baptism ushers in stark moments when the humanity of Jesus is stretched to new limits. Why was that necessary?

Many bible teachers weigh in on the answer. One belief is that Jesus needed to be tempted in every way that we are tempted so that we know that we can run to Him as our High Priest. That was certainly accomplished in the wilderness. But there is another possibility.  By being led into the wilderness to be tempted, and by prevailing with righteous choices, He fulfilled what the Israelites had not been able to do during their 40-year wanderings. They had been led from Egypt to the Red Sea, then to the wilderness, in order to test their new faith. The pressures revealed the immaturity of their faith.

Ah, but testing would reveal the perfection of Jesus’ faith. He repeated Israel’s journey to complete what they had failed. One indication that this might be true is the passage Jesus quoted when Satan first tempted Him to turn the stones into bread. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” The context of Deuteronomy 8 is Israel’s wilderness experience.

Jesus came to redeem what was broken. The nation of Israel failed miserably while on their journey to the Promised Land. Jesus redeemed it by going into the same wilderness and doing it right. As His child, I am called to share in the redemption of what is broken. The Spirit of God leads me into situations where I can redeem the sinful patterns of my family. I am often led into places that mirror my own past experiences so that I can do it right the 2nd time around. I find that the stakes are high when I feel the most fragile. I can enter a wilderness with the best of intentions and with great resolve to succeed. But the nature of my wilderness will test my limits. Passion to succeed never brings success. This is a spiritual endeavor, not a human one. For me to pass the tests that the wilderness brings, I will have to humble myself and acknowledge my utter helplessness without the Holy Spirit’s help. Prevailing with righteous choices will only happen as the Spirit of God, resident in me, rises up to empower what is impossible with human effort.

Jesus redeemed Israel’s sin. What sin, whose journey, might He want to redeem through me today?

It’s exciting. It’s impossible without You. I am Your servant. Amen

Make me to know your way, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Psalm 25:4

I can judge nothing with my senses correctly without consulting God.  Nothing!  What looks lush one day can be a wasteland tomorrow.  What looks barren today can become lush once the hand of a miracle-working God touches it.  I can never judge a book by its cover.  I just never know enough to run my life successfully!

May I learn from those who have walked before me.  Does history not teach me that God chooses the least?  The ones others pass over?  He chooses the uneducated, the spurned, the unpopular.  When people choose leaders, they choose with their senses.  They go for charisma and good looks.  God’s man, as with Jesus, may be someone others walk by and never give a second thought.

God might call me to embrace a place, a calling, a companion, a direction in life that appears to be wrong.  It may not glitter.  It may have little earthly appeal.  I should not second-guess God’s voice.  Jesus was born in a stable, not a palace.  What seems so common is transformed by the wind of the Spirit into something heavenly.  That principle of the kingdom applies to people, to land masses, and in fact, to anything that waits to be touched by a God who turns deserts into gardens.

Are you facing a crossroads today?  Does one way appeal more to your senses because it seems more fertile?  Be careful.  Commit yourself to prayer.  It would be a tragedy to suffer a bias caused by a feast for the eyes.  We risk settling, working, and marrying in Sodom.  Remember Lot?  Abram let him choose his future home.  Lot chose a city in a lush valley, pitched his tent there, and it ended up being Sodom.

I shut the eyes of my flesh and journey with You through the back door of blessing.  In Jesus name, Amen

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the stretcher they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:12-16

A dead son, an only son, was touched by Jesus. He rose to life and then ‘Jesus gave him back to his mother.’   In 2 Kings 4, Elisha laid on the dead son of a godly woman, her only son, and this boy also rose to life. The story concludes with the same line. ‘And he gave the boy back to his mother.’

There are circumstances only God can change. There are people only God can transform. There are loved ones we need to relinquish into God’s hands to do what only He can do. When He’s done, they return to us as different people.  For this mother from Nain, it wasn’t hard for her to let Jesus enter the picture. Things were desperate and death was the end of the road. But in the land of the living, we play the Savior —- trying to fix, inspire, motivate, chide —- and we don’t realize that it’s necessary to step back in order to let God step close. Loving from afar is difficult when we’ve been the caretaker. Entrusting them to Jesus’ care doesn’t seem like the most loving thing to do. His way of bringing about a yielded life is usually much more severe than ours. We like to cushion people to make their journey as easy as possible but Jesus is not so much about comfort as He is holiness. And isn’t that what we want for them? Is any divine measure too unkind if it culminates in surrender? Is any wound too bad if it is a saving wound?

For whom do I want change so badly that I stand in the way of God? Ultimately, it’s an issue of trust. Do I trust God with someone with whom I’ve been intimately involved? Wrapping my arms around a person and bringing them to the Savior in prayer is not failure on my part. It is the beginning of their redemptive story if they will just bow at the feet of Jesus.

Help us know how to apply this. People need You first, then we can love each other. Father us and help us relinquish control. Amen

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.  Psalm 119:148

Picture it ~ It’s the middle of the night.  You’ve been sleeping sporadically because of something that’s been eating at you.  Tossing and turning, you meditated on it, turning the issue over and over again in your mind.  No more peace was gained by doing so.  In fact, the rehearsal of it only brought more distress.  Such is the result of a meditation that is not of the God-kind.

David was up at night, too.  The Jews set up night watches (in four-hour shifts starting at dusk) to keep the city safe.  He revealed that his eyes were awake before the announcement of the next shift because he was already meditating on the promises of God.

This is the secret of insight and of peace.  This is where the treasures of the darkness are found.  When there would otherwise be no rest for our heart and no peace for our mind, God gives them both as we set our heart and mind on His words.

David said, “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.”  Ps. 145:5 What works touched his heart in the wee hours of the morning?  I suspect the ones that contrasted the hurts and frustrations of his world on that particular day.  When he was betrayed, he meditated on God’s faithful heart.  When afraid, God’s power.  When trapped, God’s promise of deliverance.  When small and void of answers, God’s limitless wisdom.

I believe that meditation is most meaningful when I take the very thing that is troubling me, identify a few of the tormenting themes, then meditate on their kingdom counterparts.  God never entraps His children with words.  Every command, every insight, brings them into a spacious place where the view is expansive.  Upon seeing an old truth in a new light, we draw in our breath and say, “It’s beautiful!  The view is stunning.”

Your Words deliver me.  You are an unending meal for my soul.  Amen

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. John 7:38

A person’s deep emptiness will only be filled by a relationship with Jesus. Not only will it be satisfied but it will overflow from the reservoir of life that Jesus pours in. That is the meaning of Jesus’ words here. Even on a bad day, a believer’s heart will spill out abundant life. Get that person talking about Jesus and tender words of love will flow.

When I was 30, I sat in a counselor’s office.  My mother had just died.  Unbelievably just nine months earlier, my husband’s mother also died.  We were so young with two young children who would not know any grandmas.  My counselor, on my first visit, asked me why I was there.  I told him that I just couldn’t lose one more person.  I asked him to promise me (on behalf of God) that I wouldn’t face any more impending tragedies.  Wisely, he looked at me and said, “The issue is not whether I can promise you a life without more pain.  The issue is this ~ When the next thing happens, will you know Jesus in a way where He is enough?”  That question registered deeply in my soul and set the course for the rest of my life.

With the events of this summer and the loss of our son, I can tell you that God has been enough.  More than enough.  No matter how desperate our need has been, and still is, He is deeper still.  The faith that we have needed to believe God for strength, comfort, and redemption has been granted to us one moment at a time.  We cling to His promises and they are sustaining us even when we can’t see our way ahead yet. The scriptures we have known and thought we have understood have taken on new dimensions and each one meets us where we hurt.

Many have asked me if I am angry with God.  I don’t understand the question.  What happened is not His fault.  Our son made a choice and God has been there to pick up the pieces of our hearts.  We are swimming in the ocean of His love even though grieving.  Living water carries our tears and our praises.

Father, You are still the beautiful answer to every cry of my heart. Amen

An Open Heaven And Its Impact

August 7, 2019

“Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He walked with us?”  Luke 24:32 

Does my heart burn when Jesus speaks?  Does it burn with conviction, but more often, does it burn as having been affected by a supernatural influence?  Have I known a series of life-changing moments when the heavens opened and all became clear?

On the very day that the tomb of Jesus was found empty by Mary Magdalene, two men walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  Both disciples of Jesus, they were in deep discussion about the report that Jesus was alive.  Incredulous, they couldn’t imagine it was true.  At that moment, Jesus appeared and walked with them though they didn’t recognize Him. He challenged their unbelief about the resurrection and began to remind them of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah’s life, death, and rise to glory.  His words were so dynamic that when it was time to leave them, they begged Jesus to stay longer.  Later, when He broke bread with them, their eyes were opened, and He disappeared from their sight.

Then they had this conversation.  “We should have known.  Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He walked with us?”

When Jesus speaks, His words are potent.  I’m stunned.  A bit dissociated.  Unable to connect with the mundane.   Sleepless due to the excitement I feel.  Voraciously hungry for more.  Convicted of my sin.  More alive than I’ve ever been.  Wordless to describe the experience.  This is the aftereffect of hearing the Rabbi’s voice.

Like the old hymn, “He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.”  Any given day could be an ‘Emmaus Road’ day.  There are seasons of revelation.  Sometimes Jesus gives me an ‘open heavens’ kind of day and other times He is silent.  I must live off the memories of His last visit.  But one thing is for sure ~ His words bring physical, emotional, and spiritual impact.  David knew.  “My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned.”  Psalm 39:3

 If I live the breadth of my Christian life trying to model the principles of the Bible as if it were mere literature, not only won’t it be exciting but it won’t sustain me when storms hit.  Oh, this is not how it’s supposed to be.  I’m praying that you will have a ‘burning moment’ today, a supernatural appointment with the Spirit of God.  Set your heart in listening mode.

I don’t even have to wait for You to show up on my journey.  You’re inside.  My heart is ready.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32

Kingdom seeds are so powerful when they are planted on earth. Jesus gave an example of this when talking about the tiniest of seeds, the mustard seed.  Each one grows into a 10 foot plant. Great things always start small.

How much do I really believe in the seeds of scripture? When a need is so great, whether in someone else or in me, it can seem hopeless to personalize a few verses. What difference is it really making when I don’t see immediate results? Does speaking a few kingdom words over an ocean of need even impact the void?

My greatest mistake would be to be misled by earth’s odds. If I look at the probability of change like I look at filling up a beach ~ one grain of sand at a time ~ of course I’ll give up. But that is not what happens when I consistently sow the seeds of heaven. These agents of the kingdom are energetic and highly effective. When inspired, and then spoken, they begin the process of change. How do I know? Jesus said, “If you plant it, it will bear fruit.” Whether I can see the changes is immaterial. God works in the deep, in the unseen and imperceptible.  He does soul surgery in masterful ways long before human beings can see the fruit.

What kind of seeds do you need to plant today? Belief. Joy. Peace. Unity. Sobriety. Pure sexual appetite. I need to plant faith seeds ~ faith that God holds the answers to unanswered questions and is trustworthy.  So, I speak God’s Word outloud over myself.  When declared, faith is ignited and spiritual forces are put on notice. It is the legal equivalent of serving the enemy legal papers. Oh, the cumulative effect of God’s spoken Word over time – spoken over me – spoken over the earth.

I believe and I have seen with my own eyes ~ my own transformation. Amen