Archives For God’s Word

The way

June 3, 2017 — Leave a comment


“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I put my trust in You.


Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”             Psalm 143:8


When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who know my way. Psalm 142:3

New year, new life

January 24, 2017 — Leave a comment

I’m having a very slow start. I’m just now looking ahead to the new year–the one that is already three weeks old. And in today’s instant world, three weeks is so past tense.
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But here I am, waking up from the comfortable hibernation of a family visit and seven hours of jet lag. Like a groundhog, I am looking at this year’s sun for the first time.
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To shift metaphors, I feel like I have missed that starter’s pistol. Everyone else has bolted out of their running blocks and now they are racing down the track.
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I’m yawning and stretching and wondering where I am, let alone where I am going.
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However life is more like a marathon than a sprint so perhaps all is not lost. Before plunging ahead, I’m taking the time to look back on last year [the one that feels like a decade ago], and look ahead to this year [the one the already feels half-gone].
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Because we live in eternity, it’s never too late to re-evaluate the direction we’re taking or to make adjustments or to shed an old cranky habit and take on a different approach. The promise of something new is always here, always now.
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In that spirit, here is a blessing based on Numbers 6:24-26 for the new life that is growing and that is to come:

The Lord bless you.
May you be blessed with blessing from the good and loving Father
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and keep you;
May you know the everlasting arms that hold you, that you can lean on, that will guide you to paths of righteousness and pull you back from danger
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the Lord make His face shine upon you,
May you stay close to your Father, who has brought His light into the world through Jesus. May this life-giving light that shines in the darkness and penetrates through the gray clouds of this world, illuminate your heart.
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and be gracious unto you;
May you walk in the fullness of grace that He has given to you freely
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the Lord lift up his countenance on you
Yes, may you know and live and walk in the Father’s abundance of blessing, as His chosen child, created, redeemed, sustained and comforted, in this life until the world to come.
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and give you peace.”
May you receive the gift of the Lord’s peace, that is, shalom;
of green pastures and calm waters,
guarded by the great Shepherd of the sheep;
whose love overtakes fear and anxiety, and who names you, “Beloved.”
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Be blessed.

Living Acts

February 3, 2016 — 1 Comment

As it just so ‘happened’, the day after I watched the video of the Iraqi Christians sharing their stories, I came to the book of Acts in my glacier crawl through the Bible.

I was reading The Message version, which has a brief introduction to each book written by Eugene Peterson. Here is what he says about the Acts of the Apostles:

“Because the story of Jesus is so impressive – God among us! God speaking a language we can understand! God acting in ways that heal and help and save us! – There is a danger that we will be impressed, but only be impressed. As the spectacular dimensions of the story slowly (or suddenly) dawn upon us, we could easily become enthusiastic spectators, and then let it go at that – become admirers of Jesus, generous with our oos and ahs, and in our better moments inspired to imitate him…

“The story of Jesus doesn’t end with Jesus. It continues in the lives of those who believe in him. The supernatural does not stop with Jesus. Luke makes it clear that these Christians he wrote about were no more spectators of Jesus than Jesus was a spectator of God – they are in on the action of God, God acting in them, God living in them. Which also means, of course, in us.”

In other words, Emmanuel.

As I read that, I was still deeply affected by hearing how some ordinary Christians in Iraq had gotten “in on the action of God”. (If you haven’t had a chance to watch the video yet, I recommend you do so now as it will be more profitable than anything I’m going to say here.)

And as I read the first half of Acts, I realized what I had heard on the video had the same freshness as the story that Luke tells, especially when I came to chapter 4:

They couldn’t take their eyes off them – Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in scripture or formal education. They recognized them as companions Jesus…

Again, I thought of the people in the video I had watched. I thought that what was said of Peter and John could be said of many of these Iraqi believers who lived humble lives. They worked hard to put food, literally, on the table. No jet-setting plane trips. No exciting cross-cultural exchanges. No visits to corridors of power. I imagine they experienced a fair amount of subtle and not-so-subtle persecution from being a religious minority. Probably traditional rather than cutting edge. Perhaps not so theologically savvy. Guaranteed imperfect.

Our world values the opposite. Our role models tend to be sophisticated, clever, educated, wealthy people. [For a large part of history, you could add ‘warrior strength’ to that list.]

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As a consequence, it is all too easy [speaking here from personal experience], to care more about appearing sophisticated and clever than being faithful to the gospel of Jesus. This isn’t a new phenomenon: see Jesus’ parable about guests at a wedding banquet in Luke 14. But as I watched the video and then read Acts, I was reminded that these are people who haven’t achieved the world’s definition of success or brilliance or intelligence.

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And I remembered all the people I have worshipped with over the years here who have far less education than me [many, in fact, who are illiterate], who make a fraction or the US minimum wage, who don’t know the meaning of health insurance. Some come from countries where the average life expectancy is less than my current age, like Central African Republic where if you live to 50, you’ve beaten the odds.

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But none of these grave–and deplorable–negatives have hindered their ability to encounter the love of God in Jesus Christ. Their lives have been transformed by His embrace. They are living witnesses to His power and care.

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The kingdom of God belongs to fishermen who responded to the call.

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The kingdom of God belongs to those who receive it like a child [Luke 18:15-17].

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The kingdom of God belongs to the broken and the imperfect, to criminals and adulterers, to the simple and the unspectacular who have trusted the saving, amazing grace of Jesus.

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The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung.

I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it

Philippians 3:7-11 The Message

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
Psalm 42:1
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There’s a short video* going around that shows how powerful our words and actions can be on the people we interact with during the day. Based on the children’s book, “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud,* it illustrates the simple truth that we can build someone up with affirming words or tear them down with unkind words.

It’s a lesson even a kindergartener understands. An impatient word can suck the life out of me; an encouraging word brings a lightness to my heart that can last the whole day.

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After I watched the video clip, I realized that’s one reason why I need and want to spend time with God. As I read His Word, He tells me how He cares for me. When I listen to Him, I’m getting my bucket filled. My cup overflows. And because my bucket leaks [thanks in part to the accuser who takes delight in saying bad things about me], I need to hear from my Father every day.

Do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand
.
Isaiah 41:10

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
” Isaiah 46:4

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands;
your walls are ever before Me.

Isaiah 49:15-16

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Jeremiah 31:3

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“The Lord your God is with you, He is might to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Your sins are forgiven…
Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Luke 7:48, 50

“Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds?
Look at My hands and My feet.
It is I myself!
Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.

Luke 24:38-39

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through Him.
” John 3:17

Hope does not disappoint us,
because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit,
who He has given us.”
Romans 5:5

Which one of these blessings is God speaking to you today?

With whom can you share His encouragement?

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Links
Video clip on how to be someone who fills buckets

Have you filled a bucket today?

I find I can easily read a passage of scripture and gloss over its import for my life. I read about other people, at other points in history and I can forget that this is also God’s word to me. Recently, I found myself doing that as I read Psalm 36.

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
Your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They feast on the abundance of Your house;
You give them drink from Your river of delights.
For with You is the fountain of life;
in Your light we see light.

Psalm 36:5-9

So I went back and spent some time translating the meaning into my own life:

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
Your love includes me in its reach. I live under it, in it.

  Your faithfulness [reaches] to the skies.
Your faithfulness extends to my life, from its beginning to end, and to the people in my life, including my family.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
Your righteousness is always there for me, tall and immovable, unaffected by the stormy assaults of evil.
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 Your justice like the great deep.
Your concern for victims of abusive power is not shallow. It’s deep like the ocean–a deep well that never dries up as You work to make things fair and right again.

 You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
You preserve me.

How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God!
Your love for me never fails. You are never impatient, irritated, distracted with me. You are never dismissive, critical, accusing of me. You are always seeking my best.

 People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
When I need shelter from the difficulties of life or from enemies that seek to harm me, I can take refuge in You, drawing close to Your side and remaining under Your protection.
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They feast on the abundance of Your house;
When I come into Your home, the place of Your presence and Your family, You invite me to feast at Your table, from Your never-ending supply of food for my soul.

You give them drink from Your river of delights.

You meet my thirst, not with mere water but with a clear bubbling drink of refreshment that fills me with joy.

For with You is the fountain of life;
My life is drawn from the never-ending life that pours from You,

in Your light we see light.
Because of You, I am.
I am able to see You only because You gave me the eyes of my heart.

Amen.

Protected by the Rock

January 10, 2015 — 1 Comment

A week spent in a region of mountain walls and towering stones has given me a fresh look at what it means that the Lord is my rock.

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The tiny village where I stayed was built between two rocks. Whether I looked to the left or to the right, I was never out of sight of a large rock wall facing me. The rocks rose up and stood guard over me. Solid, immovable, they gave protection from the elements. I felt secure, nestled in their shadow. At sunrise, I would go outside, and the rocks were there, having kept watch all night.

I traveled down into the valley, and walked in the fields. But when I returned, the rocks were always waiting for me.

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It was a visible reminder of how God never disappears from my life, of how His strength and protection is always there for me. I am secure in Him.

Entrepierres 063But the LORD has become my stronghold,
and my God the rock of my refuge.

Psalm 94:22

Along the river, a citadel fortress reminded me of how I can rest safe in the Lord.
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I love You, LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.

Psalm 18:1,2

The tiny church of the tiny village stands witness to God’s faithfulness and love.
2015 1 10 france entrepierres sisteron lurs 2015-01-03 010Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Psalm 95:1

Walking along the road, the rock never left my side.
Entrepierres 087Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.

Isaiah 25:3-4

Looking down at the citadel which has stood firm for centuries of wind and war, I thought of Jesus’ wisdom about building our house on a rock.
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Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them
will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house,
but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

Matthew 7:24-25

As I enter into another year, this is my prayer:
From the ends of the earth I call to You,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalm 61:2
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Still practicing

November 14, 2013 — 3 Comments

A person once asked me, “Are you a practicing Christian?” The question took me aback for a moment. To me there wasn’t any other kind, But then I thought, ‘Yes, that’s right. I am practicing. I haven’t mastered this yet.’
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I was reminded of that brief encounter when I started to read Lauren Winner’s Mudhouse Sabbath. She begins her reflections on Jewish spiritual practices by saying:

“Practice is to Judaism what belief is to Christianity. That is not to say that Judaism doesn’t have dogma or doctrine. It is rather to say that for Jews, the essence of the thing is a doing, an action. Your faith might come and go, but your practice ought not waver. (Indeed, Judaism suggests that the repeating of the practice is the best way to ensure that a doubter’s faith will return.)

…Madeline L’Engle once likened spiritual practice to piano etudes: You do not necessarily enjoy the etudes— you want to skip right ahead to the sonatas and concertos—but if you don’t work through the etudes you will arrive at the sonatas and not know what to do. So, too, with the spiritual life. It’s not all about mountaintops. Mostly it’s about training so that you’ll know the mountaintop for what it is when you get there.

Practicing the spiritual disciplines does not make us Christians. Instead, the practicing teaches us what it means to live as Christians.”

Given the title of Winner’s book, it’s not surprising that the first discipline she focuses on is the Sabbath. As I read her description of Jewish Sabbath practices, I realized that the Deep Sabbath I wrote about a few months ago is actually the regular Sabbath. Oops. It’s not a once-a-year activity.

Every week, with no exceptions, observant Jews set aside a day and obey the fourth commandment. They light Sabbath candles at sundown and for 24 hours, they cease from all manner of work. The Hebrew verb ‘Shabbat’ means to cease, and that includes lighting fires [no cooking, no turning on lights], and shopping.

When I was working full-time for a publishing company and living a maxed-out life, I decided one year to stop doing laundry and grocery shopping on Sundays. It was a rather radical step, but I was surprised how easy it was to work those activities into the rest of the week.

Now I face other, more subtle challenges. Since Sundays is a prime work day for Jack as a pastor, we’ve tried over the years to take a regular day-off. But as I reflect on it, that’s not the same as a Sabbath. A day-off is something your company gives you for you to do whatever you want or need to do. A Sabbath is a holy day, set apart, and spent in the presence of God. Another oops.

After reading Mudhouse Sabbath, I decided it’s time to try yet again to take a weekly Sabbath. In other words, it’s time to practice. And that means I need to be ready to stumble and fail because establishing a new life habit doesn’t happen over night. Then I discovered a small group guide with a section [pages 10-12], “Developing a Sabbath Practice.” Over the course of a month, it helps you shape your Sabbath practice by having you reflect on what to exclude from your Sabbath. Then it has you practice weaning yourself off those activities, and also think about what to include.

I’m still working through the guide. I’m still thinking about what boundaries I need and want to put on the day. I’m still working on preparing better for the Sabbath, too. Winner writes that Jews spend Sunday, Monday and Tuesday remembering the Sabbath, and Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday preparing for it. Having tried and failed a few weeks to take a Sabbath, I can see the wisdom in that.

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This week, our Sabbath day fell perfectly into place. Monday, Jack and I walked to a nearby park, enjoying the cathedral of eucalyptus trees as the sun rose. Later I went with an old friend who was visiting and had a special hammam [Turkish bath]. I stayed off the internet and read a book. We ended the day sharing a meal with our visiting friends: roasted lamb and couscous stuffing and special desserts from a local bakery.

The Sabbath was so enjoyable that I’ve found myself thinking about it every day since then. It has helped me feel loved by God. It’s been a reminder of how He cares for me. I’ve experienced the joy Isaiah told about:

You must observe the Sabbath
rather than doing anything you please on My holy day.
You must look forward to the Sabbath
and treat the Lord’s holy day with respect.
You must treat it with respect by refraining from your normal activities,
and by refraining from your selfish pursuits and from making business deals.

Then you will find joy in your relationship to the Lord,
and I will give you great prosperity,
and cause crops to grow on the land I gave to your ancestor Jacob.”

Isaiah 58:13-14

I’m already beginning to think ahead to this coming Monday. I need to carve out some time to plan and prepare for it. It might not be as perfect as last Monday, but that will be alright. I’m still practicing.

What about you? What spiritual habit are you practicing?

This past weekend, six days early, we went to the Independence Day celebration at the American school here. Along with streamers of red, white, and blue, and hamburgers with real sweet relish, there were American products for sale. I’m always like a kid in a candy store when I see familiar packages that have been long imprinted in my memory. They don’t call them brands for nothing.

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Blueberries are my favorite fruit and I’ve only seen them for sale here once in 13 years. The picture of fresh plump blueberries looked so good, as did the dark dried blue berries inside the package.

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But once I got home with the bag, I realized I had been snookered. When I looked at the label more carefully, I discovered they weren’t blueberries at all. I had bought dried cranberries infused with grape and blueberry juice concentrate.

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Pretty sneaky, if you ask me.

I also bought what I assumed were cheddar potato chips.

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Again I overlooked the fine print. It turned out I had not purchased potato chips but a “popped chip snack.” When is a chip not a chip? When it’s not made with potatoes but with potato parts: potato flakes and potato starch to be specific.

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Thus, ‘popchips’ [the company doesn’t seem to believe in capital letters] are the hot dogs of snacks.

Unfortunately, it’s not only American products that use deceptive advertising. Here’s a British box of granola bars:
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I thought I was buying blueberry granola bars except Jordans uses the same bait and switch as Ocean Spray. Instead of juicy blueberries in these cereal bars, there are blueberry-infused diced cranberries, raisins, fruit puree, and then last–and certainly least–dried blueberries.

God’s WYSIWYG [what you see is what you get]
So what does this have to do with following Jesus??? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Because like these food companies, we can take the ingredients of the gospel, make a new product, and then try to sell it in a flashy package.

Take hell, for example, which I suspect is no one’s favorite subject. I recently heard a sermon about it. The preacher talked about how Jesus is going to return not only as Savior and Lord, but also as Judge.

I have to admit that it made me feel uncomfortable. Who wants to be reminded that ‘niceness does not save’? Or that Jesus talked about hell constantly, like this verse which never seems to make it onto Christian coffee mugs or t-shirts:

And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5:30

Frankly, I cringe at God’s straight talk. But I can’t fault Him for beating around the bush. Unlike packaging that tries to entice me with false promises and incomplete claims, Jesus makes it uncomfortably clear what heaven and hell are all about:

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
John 6:40

God doesn’t use a bait and switch. What you see is what you get. Most people in our current culture find this unadulterated honesty distasteful, Christians included. When I read the gospels, I’m always taken back by how direct and blunt Jesus is. “You hypocrites,” is one of His favorite phrases.

Instead, when we talk about who Jesus is, we sometimes sound like advertisers. We want to make the gospel sound more appealing because surrender, death, and obedience are not topics that bring out the crowds.

some real, honest-to-God unpackaged, unlabeled food

some real, honest-to-God unpackaged, unlabeled food

So rather than offering God’s carrot, we give a juice-infused vegetable product. Instead of talking about God’s stick, we have a composite-wood particle board which disintegrates at the first sign of resistance. Our gospel truths become watered-down, white-washed, or health-washed. Whatever metaphor you choose, what you see isn’t what you get.

Remember: this says these bars are packed with juicy blueberries

Remember: this says these bars are packed with juicy blueberries

In reality, they have 1% dried, not juicy, blueberries

In reality, they have 1% dried, not juicy, blueberries

God has made it very clear what His laws are, the consequences of disobeying them, and what we need to do after we have broken them. Yet we hold back. We think that if we spoke honestly about God’s way, people might reject us. And we’re probably right. This is another truth Jesus didn’t shy away from. He warned His followers that they would be hated because of Him.

Many of His disciples also struggled with what He taught about heaven and hell.

“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?”…
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
John 6:60-67

What will my answer be? Once again, I’m faced with a choice.

the real thing

the real thing

May I answer like Peter:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

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I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty. John 6:35

What about you? Which of God’s truths make you cringe? How do you keep yourself from presenting a watered-down gospel?

Preaching to myself

June 21, 2013 — 4 Comments

This week, thanks to a computer crash and a glorious vacation in Ireland [more on that later], I want to share some wisdom from Justin Taylor. A couple of times every month, I read through these morning reminders to encourage myself. Unlike Taylor, I’m an early bird, but I still need to preach to myself as I start the day. My favorite one might be, “Anxiety is meant to be cast not carried.” What’s yours?

Taylor writes, “I am not a morning person. I don’t like early mornings, and early mornings don’t like me. But here are a few things that have encouraged my heart lately, and perhaps will do the same to you. Remember that a good part of the Christian life, as Lloyd-Jones said, is learning how to preach to yourself more than listen to yourself.

1. Salvation draws near. This morning I am one day closer to seeing the Lord face-to-face, and closer to the day when all that is wrong and broken and rebellious will be made right and submissive. (“For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed”—Rom. 13:11).

2. God gives me new mercy. Every day I need God’s mercy, and when I awoke today there was a fresh supply of such necessary grace awaiting me. (“[God’s] mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning”—Lam. 3:22-23).

3. God gives us all kindness. God has already shown and modeled kindness this morning to his people and to his enemies by causing the sun to rise and shine. (“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good”—Matt. 5:45).

4. My to-do list has only two things on it. My to-do list can feel overwhelming, but Jesus was able to summarize all 613 stipulations of the Sinai Covenant unto the size of a Post-It Note: “Love God with all that you are; love your neighbor as yourself.” Love fulfills the law (Rom. 13:8, 10; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8). As Augustine put it, “Love, and do what you will.”

5. Anxiety is meant to be cast not carried. Any anxiety I feel about today is useless (to me) and offensive (to God). God knows that I awake with anxieties, needs, and burdens. But instead of being anxious God wants me to tell him what I need (Phil. 4:6). Because God cares for me he wants me to cast all those anxieties—those burdens—on him (1 Pet. 5:7; Ps. 55:22). God is happy to “supply every need [I have] according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19; Matt. 6:33). Anxiety, at the end of the day, is a pointless waste of time that costs me a lot and gains me nothing (Matt. 6:27).

6. Rejoicing in weakness. If I feel too weak today, that’s a very good place to be. That way the joy of the Lord can be my strength (Neh. 8:10). That way I can “serve by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 4:11). “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16). God’s grace is sufficient for me, since his power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong ” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Ready for another day.”

 

Ten days before my father passed away, Nora Ann Rejoice was welcomed into the world.  Continue Reading…

Your hand on me

November 17, 2012 — 13 Comments

My father passed away peacefully last week at the age of 90. He never regained consciousness after a massive stroke, but I was so thankful I could be with him and the rest of my family as he made his journey home. During the five days, I sometimes read scripture to him. Along with the standard comforting passages, I found Psalm 139 particularly reassuring. Here is part one of a paraphrase I wrote a few years ago: Continue Reading…

Remember when you were a kid and you were served something you didn’t like? Remember how you looked forward to growing up so you could decide what to eat?

Sprouts, greens or–greens

Dragon fruit or watermelon? Hmmmm…

It’s not just vegetables and exotic fruits I can avoid now. Thanks to the internet, I can fix my settings so that I’m only shown certain news stories .  I don’t have to read about baseball or football. I don’t have to read about a country at war.

Continue Reading…

When you read, is it sometimes just a blur?

 

Sometimes when I read scripture, I have a hard time slowing down and really paying attention to what God is saying in the passage.  It might be a familiar section and I already know what it says. Or maybe I’m distracted and my mind is somewhere else. Either way,  by the time I get to the end of the passage, it’s pretty much a blur.

That’s a problem because the reason I read God’s word is so I can be reminded of His truth and wisdom and grace, and carry that with me into my day. After all, what’s the point of reading something if it doesn’t stick with me? It’s not like God has a reading chart with my name on it where He checks off what I’ve read and then gives me a gold star.

Continue Reading…

Because He suffered death for us,
He is now “crowned with glory and honor.”
Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.

Hebrews 2:9b

This morning I read this verse and thought how appropriate it is for the day between Good Friday and Easter. Because Jesus tasted the bitterness of death and separation from God, we don’t have to. Now we can have the bread of life:

“Take and eat, this is my body.” [Matthew 26:26]

Thanks to what Jesus did, God offers us a sweet and nourishing buffet:

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.

On this mountain He will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;

He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
He will remove the disgrace of His people
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.

In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in Him, and He saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in Him;
let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
[Isaiah 25:6-9]

Amen.

One thing I love about going to the beach, especially here on the west coast of the continent, is that the sea is always the same and yet it’s also always different. Sometimes the tide is low and peaceful; sometimes the waves are high and rolling. And sometimes the churning surf explodes against the old coral beds.

I’ve named these eruptions ‘waterworks’ because they are like fireworks, only made with water. I can watch them for an hour, enthralled by the dramatic bursts of white spray. If I have my camera, I’ll take dozens of pictures, trying to catch the biggest one. But no picture can capture the sound of the crash or the fishy smell of the water or the moistness carried in the air or the taste of salt that comes on my lips.

The other day when we went to the beach, the waterworks were the tallest I’ve seen in a dozen years –bigger than a two-story house.

It was a magnificent demonstration of power and I watched the spectacular display with awe and delight. I also felt some fear. The water was so high and strong that I wasn’t completely convinced the rock wall in front of me would hold firm. A couple of times it surged over the top, and I could understand how a giant wave could sweep a person away.

A few days later, I happened to read Psalm 93 and I was reminded that the waterworks’ tremendous force doesn’t come close to matching God’s power.

Sea storms are up, God,
Sea storms wild and roaring,
Sea storms with thunderous breakers.
Stronger than wild sea storms,
Mightier than sea-storm breakers,
Mighty God rules from High Heaven.

Psalm 93:3-4 The Message

Just think. This:

and this:

are no match for God’s power.

God is King, robed and ruling,
God is robed and surging with strength.
And yes, the world is firm, immovable,
Your throne ever firm—you’re Eternal!

Psalm 93:1 The Message

He is stronger than a tsunami, mightier than a mountain-moving earthquake.

He is powerful enough to destroy death and save lives.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

Psalm 46:2-3

Amen.

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who You are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with You and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

Matthew 6:9-13, The Message

Speaking of being fed

February 11, 2012 — Leave a comment

High and Holy God,
give me this day a word of truth
to silence the lies that would devour my soul
and kind encouragements to strengthen me when I fall.
Gracious One, I come quietly to Your door
needing to receive from Your hands
the nourishment that gives life.
Amen and Amen.

Bernard of Clairvaux
12th century abbot

Your true identity is as a child of God. This is the identity you have to accept. Once you have claimed it and settled in it, you can live in a world that gives you much joy as well as pain. You can receive the praise as well as the blame that comes to you as an opportunity for strengthening your basic identity, because the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame. You belong to God, and it is as a child of God that you are sent into the world.

It might take a great deal of time and discipline to reconnect fully your deep, hidden self and your public self, which is known, loved, and accepted but also criticized by the world. Gradually, though, you will begin feeling more connected and become more fully who you truly are – a child of God. There lies your real freedom.

Henri Nouwen

***

How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is!
He’s the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ,
and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him.
Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind,
had settled on us as the focus of His love,
to be made whole and holy by His love.
Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ.
(What pleasure He took in planning this!)
He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son.

Ephesians 1, The Message

***

For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
And having chosen them, He called them to come to Him. And having called them, He gave them right standing with Himself. And having given them right standing, He gave them His glory.

Romans 8:29, 30

***

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15:15

***

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people.

I Peter 2:9-10

***

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

I John 3:1-3

***
This Week’s Special
Bring My sons from afar
and My daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by My name,
whom I created for My glory,
whom I formed and made.

Isaiah 43:7

* Am I growing more easily discouraged these days?
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
I Corinthians 4:18

* Am I growing more easily irritated these days?
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:3-5

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”
Phillipians 2:14-15

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart…Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.
I Peter 1:22, 2:1

* How mean have I been lately?
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:12-13

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Phillipians 2:1-4

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
I John 4:20-21

Psalm 23

April 1, 2011 — Leave a comment

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He takes me to lush pastures, He leads me to refreshing water.
He restores my strength. He leads me down the right paths
for the sake of His reputation.
Even when I must walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff reassure me.
You prepare a feast before me in plain sight of my enemies.
You refresh my head with oil; my cup is completely full.
Surely your goodness and faithfulness will pursue** me all my days,
and I will live in the Lord’s house for the rest of my life.

Psalm 23 [NET Bible]

**NET Bible note on ‘pursue’: “This verb is often used to describe the hostile actions of enemies. One might expect the psalmist’s enemies (see v. 5) to chase him, but ironically God’s “goodness and faithfulness” (which are personified and stand by metonymy for God himself) pursue him instead. The word “pursue” is used outside of its normal context in an ironic manner and creates a unique, but pleasant word picture of God’s favor (or a kind God) “chasing down” the one whom he loves.”

This Week’s Special
Your word is a lamp to walk by,
and a light to illumine my path.

Psalm 119:105 [NET Bible]