Are you growing concerned?

Are you becoming more aware of the news?  From financial issues, and suffering of those around us, to the world events – horrific news, startling, and possibly very overwhelming.

My husband and i have been a part of the prayer team of our church, and so we find ourselves filtering things through soft and purposeful conversation with God.  Painful bodies, fearful moms, unemployment, disobedient children, struggling marriages, and on and on.   Our needs as people are very great, and our dependence is growing greater and greater on God himself to provide and meet the needs.

But i must tell you that while i know our needs are important they seem to pale in comparison to our brothers and sisters around the world who are giving their lives for their faith in Jesus.

As I stand to sing worship choruses these past Sundays I realize how privileged we are to gather publicly, to give voice to our hearts cry of worshiping our great God without fear of imprisonment, beatings, death.  So as i close my eyes, and lift my heart and my voice to God I find myself lifting those believers around the world to Jesus, and ask for his presence in their lives.

Remembering Al and Eileen – We have friends who are Pakistani nationals, and have lived around the world. They are believers in Jesus.  And these last 10 years their government has not permitted them to leave their nation.  They are surrounded by 99.5% of their fellow citizens who believe in radical Islam, or tribal factions.  They have a life that is constantly one word or one action from death.  Al told us the last time he was visiting in the states that we need to pray for the believers in Pakistan like this:

  • Lord grant them wisdom to know your word, your heart, your spirit
  • Lord grant them favor with their neighbors that those who do not know Jesus might see his love extended through your people in that place.
  • Lord give opportunities to love, help and share your word with those who do not know
  • Strength, courage, boldness, fearlessness, God’s favor.

As the news continues to churn out photos and video of Christians being executed for believing in Jesus I can;t just stand in church and sing a worship chorus.  I am compelled to cry out for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted.  And i am compelled to cry out against the acts of injustice, shocking violence, of global bullying on a massive scale.

The rising tide of hatred and hostility of Christians is joined by the growing antisemitism that is playing out in the world.  Many are saying these are times much like that of pre-WWII, where people were being fed propaganda, believing ideology that was filled with venemous hatred, doctrines of demons.

America is not the same nation it was 5 years, 10 years, 20 years ago.  The news media is whipping up a hostility toward Christianity, our government is embracing poor judgement, and the leadership of our nation is growing sketchy.  Being a Christian is becoming a dangerous decision, with frequent news of charges pressed, court cases, etc for simplly living out our faith.

The winds of change are blowing.  Are we there in prayer, standing firmly asking our Great God and King to meet us, change our hearts, accept our repentance, and heal our land?

I am growing concerned – not of God, because i know he holds everything in his great care, but i am growing concerned that fellow believers seem to have little sensitivity to the great need to pray, to seek God with everything in our souls, and to ask for the needs of our fellow believers that are hurting.

“Father, forgive us for our self focus.  Forgive us for not praying for our rulers, our government, or leaders.  And forgive us for letting your word slide from our lives.  We repent today, and ask you to fill our  hearts and minds with your spirit, your word, your strength.  And we bring our brothers and sisters who are being fiercely persecuted to you.  Please be their strength, glorify yourself in your people, strengthen and embolden your church to stand in the presence of evil, and know your plan is to bring many to salvation.  

We pray for those who are the persecutors… may they come to know they are persecuting your people, and that you know every thought and act.  May you show yourself to them in dreams, visions, and manifest fear in their very souls.  We ask for their salvation, we cry to you to turn your enemies to repentent believers.  In everything may we sense your spirit, your provision, your protection and your love.  And may the world sense this too.  Amen”

Hunger for heaven

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, – Philippians 3:20

As this sin scarred earth grows older, and each of us grow in our faith it seems like we are differentiated from the world in greater and greater ways.  Like a citizen of a foreign country visiting Cleveland it is noticable they are not from around here.  They may not speak the language, or understand the culture.  They may have no clue about how our government, or politics work, the sports we watch, the arts we enjoy, the food we eat.

We, the believers of Jesus, live on the earth among a world that wants to run to pleasure, selfish gain, idols and self centered lives.  How we live, practice our business, and  raise our families should look different because we are different.  We are just passing through. This is boot camp to strengthen us and build our faith up.

We know we are here for just a time… and one day we will be either called home to heaven, or we will see Jesus return to take us home.  We are called to watch and pray, wait for the redemption of our souls.  This day will come.  Until then we are ambassadors of the most high, and we must demonstrate in our life, our speech, and our choices that our citizenship is in heaven.  With the power of our great God we can to that!

 

Broken Cisterns

spigot

I am a city kid…. and the only understanding of water sources i have known are the sinks and spigots in my house…. Water comes as i turn the handle.  It is so very easy, and so instant, yet i know there is a complex engineering design behind those spigots.  And there are people employed to keep the pressure up, the purity of the water consistent, and the service constant.  Cold on the right, and hot on the left.  A ready water source is right there in our homes, works, schools and churches  in this modern age.. piped in, pumped in to us with ease.  I have never had to search for water, with the exception of a camping trip as a child, for fun.

The bible talks about water in many ways, including storage of water.  I have chosen to write this blog about a passage i was again reminded of as my husband and i listened to the bible on his cell phone. (we love the app uversion.  its is so handy, and always with us.)  He is reading through the bible in 90 days, and over the weekend he approached the book of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah always speaks deep to my soul but i must admit i would not have wanted his job.  He was called to preach the truth, and call for repentence to a people who were stubborn and unresponsive to God.  But the book that God called Jeremiah to write speaks to us, as warning, as call to repentance and as hope for the future.  In the midst of listening I heard the passage that took me back to my first days as a christian, and a teaching that i have carried deep in my soul because I can say I was guilty of this myself.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” – Jeremiah 2:13

Throughout the bible God does not change.  In the new testament Jesus identifies himself as the Water of Life, and speaks of his word as water to wash the soul.  And here, centuries before he speaks through Jeremiah reminding us that he is the spring of living water.  For a people who live in arrid climates water is essential, for life, for refreshment, and for sustainability. In our modern age where water is readily available we may not think as much about the need, or the absolute blessing of refreshment that water is.

In this passage God is speaking to the heart of the matter, and that matter is a serious one.  His chosen people, whom he has seen through so much history with, have forsaken him.  Forsaken is a harsh decision – it is to abandon, to lay aside never to return, to give up on.  What a contrast in terms.  God is always calling, pulling, drawing, watching over, protecting, providing.  And his people, in this passage, have dropped him like a hot potato.  In itself that is very sad.  It is tragic.  But that is not the whole story.

The passage goes on to say that instead these same people have dug cisterns.  Not being so familiar with agrarian terms, i hit the internet and learned that cisterns are defined by wikipedia as:

cistern (Middle English cisterne, from Latin cisterna, from cista, “box”, from Greek κίστη, kistê, “basket”) is a waterproof receptacle for holding liquids, usually water. Cisterns are often built to catch and store rainwater. Cisterns are distinguished from wells by their waterproof linings. Modern cisterns range in capacity from a few litres to thousands of cubic meters  effectively forming covered reservoirs.  – Wikipedia

Cisterns are a planned attempt to capture and store water.  It probably took great skills to figure out how to create such a thing, which drives home the point.  It took ingenuity, engineering, planning and skills to execute the plan. They put forth great effort to make this plan happen.  They put forth great effort to abandon God and his living water.

But the plot thickens more.  God tells us that these cisterns were built, but they cannot hold water.  As men and women we have a limited capacity for somethings, and we need to discern what is beyond our scope.  The living water is freely offered by God… without requirements to design, engineer, build and test out cisterns.  We must look to him for the source of living water, and know that he will supply our every need for that water.

So maybe there was a time when you went it alone, decided that the source of water for your life needed to be something you created, designed, engineered, and tested.  If you a re like me you would one day realize how leaky the design is, and the water contained in that cistern was fouled, polluted, and far from satisfying.

But the water of life was that and more.

(Jesus said) but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:14

The invitation is there.  Jesus calls us to repent of those broken cisterns, and turn to his living water.  I just love Isaiah 55:

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

Glorious Day!

resur

Resurrection Sunday is here.  And we are the most blessed of all humans, to know the truth of the glorious love of our Savior, the willingness to endure the cruelty of humanity, and to lay his life down to pay for our sin. To be willing to lay aside his powers as God Almighty, and inhabit a tent of flesh, to live among us, and to understand our sorrows.

This is a glorious day. The tomb is still empty, and Jesus stands victorious over death and the grave.

Let us relish this day with great joy. Sing a bit louder, love a bit deeper and worship him with a lot more zeal.

Christ is risen, and our debt of sin is paid.
Christ is risen, and death is defeated.
Hallelujah! He is risen indeed.

Good Friday Indeed

Thoughts flood my mind today of the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate payment of randsom for my very soul…..
… The torches and guards in a garden, the betrayal by a kiss.
… Unfair trial
… The crowd screaming for blood
… The public spectacle
… The fear and denial by Peter
… Gambling by the Roman guard
… Loyal to the end were the women
… Gut wrenching anguish
… “Father forgive them!”
… Seperation
… Darkness
… “Tetelastai!”.  It is finished.
… Death
… Earthquake
… Dark sky
… Temple curtain is torn top to bottom
… Body in the grave
…. Stone, guards, the watch
… Disciples hide

Ah, Friday, that Friday would change everything.  Forever more sin is paid for.  Thanks be to God that the story did not end on a Friday.

Life is fragile – handle with prayer

I think we have all seen these sayings on bumper stickers and such… often overlooked or undervalued, the message of the value of prayer is something we need to take a harder look at.

We received news this week of a sad situation – young family seems to have everything to celebrate, yet underneath that fancy veneer of smiles and positive words is a swirl of chaotic stressors that would drive anyone to their knees.  At their wedding there were bright hopes, sparkling white gleaming thoughts of a lifetime to be spent in love, nurturing one another, upholding each other. Fast forward in time and there is rampant unemployment, which has brought stress to everyone, unexpected health concerns and developed the fullness of a character that seems to have an abusive side, and is far from upholding and nurturing.

We are so very helpless to intervene, yet we have the most powerful solution on this planet… and that is the power to pray, to ask almighty God to wade into this swirling hot mess, and sort it through, bringing hope and healing and restoration and joy.

So we pray.  And hope, and wait and watch.  It is good to know that God is true, a keeper of his word, and that he loves our family more than we do.

So here are some of the promises God has made to us that i am resting in today for this family:

  • Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all your iniquities; who healeth all your diseases. Psalm 103:2-3

    He sent His Word, and healed you, and delivered you from your destructions. Psalm 107:20

    Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to your body, and marrow to your bones. Proverbs 3:7-8

    Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise. Jeremiah 17:14

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you. 1 Peter 1:3-4

    I love those who love me. Those who seek me diligently will find me. Proverbs 8:17

    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

Healing, restoration, and the promise that we are never seperated from the love of God are promised, and by faith we will wait on theLord to move on this young family with power and might.  

Perhaps this is a story of part of your family.  Perhaps you know someone who seems to be ravaged by life.  My prayer is that we will join our hearts and take these situations to the Lord, believing with all faith that He is able to bring the powerful change that is needed.

Lord, this life is so short, and spent apart from you it is futile.  We lift up this young family with health issues, emotional issues, unemployment, the stress of one income, and the many ways they are being pulled apart.  They are yours, and you have promised you would keep that which is yours.  Bring conviction of sin, healing of the heart and emotions, restore a means of income, and a sense of stability, and most of all, protect this family from further devistation.  You are able.  I will rest on your character and promise today for their future. Amen”

The weight of knowledge

My morning reading took me to ecclesiasties today and a verse jumped into my focus:

Knowledge…the understanding of theory, fact, or deep insight into a matter.  The word is weighty, draws our thoughts to research, study, and education.

So when I read this verse today I found myself agreeing.  I thought of a number of situations that would fit this insight:  the doctor meeting with a patient to explain a cancer diagnosis.  Clearly the doctor had deeper knowledge of the physical processes of disease, and has seen this play out enough to know the future might be grim.  Or the president assuring a nervous nation on 9/11 that we will be ok when their face said different.  Or that military officer arriving on the doorstep of a mother to bear news of her son’s death in battle.  Knowledge is a deep responsibility that is not always pleasant.

We as Christians possess deeper knowledge of life, of hope and of the future. We hold insight that God has shared through his word. And there are times when this knowledge becomes a responsibility to pass on. Do those who cross your path know why you sing or endure hardship? Do they know the truth that they are loved? Do they know there is more than just this life? We have the knowledge…let’s share it.

Thinking more about prayer

“You may as soon find a living man that does not breath, as a living Christian that does not pray.”  Matthew Henry

Prayer has been on my mind so much these days.  As a constant companion, prayer offers a way to work through, talk through, think through the rough and tumble life we live.  I talk to God because He is:

  • More trustworthy than anyone, God listens, and gives his wisdom.
  • Better than a counselor or shrink, He gives us clarity, purpose and hope because his plans for us are for good.
  • Stronger than anything or anyone, He can overcome any obstacle, and tells me he will never allow us to be seperated
  • Wiser than the most wise human, His counsel is always right and always good.
  • Loving and merciful, He will tell the truth, and walk with us through anything, holding back the wrath we all deserve
  • Gracious, He gives us what we do not deserve
  • Able to move mountains, He is able to change even the most bleak situation, or change our thoughts about it.

Over the years of my life prayer went from something written down by the ancients that we memorized and repeated…. like the lords prayer, and the catechism.  Good words, sincere words, filled with great truth.  But they have moved to a fluid conversation with the God of the universe.  I think God delights to hear us pray these written prayers, but I bet he smiles when we just talk to him with our heart opened, and the facts spread out, not holding back with the raw emotion that comes with this life.  

“Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.”  William Cowper

That said, I have made a decision to take more time to pray, and to write more about prayer… what i have seen and what i am learning.

John 5:6

That verse reads “Will you be made whole?”

my challenges this week is to read through the book of John and yes I was reading when this passage jumped out at me . in the context  of this passage  Jesus is in Bethsaida, the place for the sick amd desperate people gather .  they gather to wait for miracle , and hope the angel visit in trouble, stirs the waters, brings them healing .  instead of an angel it is Jesus who challenges this man. He has brought himself to this place for many years… there he lays, sick, weary, almost beyond hope when Jesus approaches.  so the question resonates with me :  do I want to be made whole ?
I have been thinking about this man with his predicament .  His pattern of life must have been routine:  get up, get breakfast, go to the pool , wait for miracle , get up and go home .  the daily routine is predictable .  Changes such as being healed from long term  illness might be a major change in routine .  when life is such an ingrained pattern change can be traumatic .  how badly do you want to change ?  how much do you want to see your life transform ? is the fear of breaking that routine something that holds you from looking for change ? 

I can ask those questions and provide  from my own life as well .  fear of being healthy and fear of change have kept me gridlock for years . There is a familiarity with ingrained routines… patterns that are predictable.  Change upsets this predictability.  There is a lot of fear that comes with uncertainty and the unknown. 

I have chosen in my life to put aside the fear and lean into the change . With my faith in God it seems that the fear of change is gone .  I embrace the willingness to see how my life can be healed day by day .  I don’t want to be that man that waited at the pool for 30 some years hopelessly waiting . Jesus calls…may we have hearts willing to respond and be healed. So he asks each of us today “Will you be made whole?”

I did more studying, because i wanted to know what the greek word for whole was, and how it fit this context.  The greek word is Hugies (pronounced “hoo-gee-ace”) and means soundness – as in a person who is sound in their body.  2. To make one whole – as in resotre health.  Strong defines it as healthy – well in body, truth in the doctrine, soundness, wholeness.  This comes from the word auxano which means to cause to grow, to increase, become greater,and is spoken of plants, babies, and the inward Christian life.

Wow – do i want to be made whole? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.  How can we go on with these lingering sicknesses that keep us back from being all we are created to be. I want to learn more, grow deeper, find my truth and shed the heavy and tattered garment of sickness, and less than wholeness. 

If you know me you know i am visual… so as i think things through my mind begins to paint pictures.  So here is mine… It is the olympic marathon stadium.  Many runners are sleak, wearing athletic gear, freely moving about. And here am I, hunkered over with a heavy winter coat, large backpack, and almost unable to move at the weight of the situation.  As i enter the stadium i realize how different life can be. I see many pass me up, running, unrestrained.  Suddenly someone gestures to the backpack – Do you really need that?  Why do you carry such a weight on your shoulders. It prevents you from being able to run?  His hands gently help to take the backpack off my shoulders.  It hits the ground with a mighty thud…. the weight removed i am able to stand up straight.  Then he says to me “Do you really need that heavy winter coat?  It is covering up all that you are… you cannot move freely with the restraint of this garment.  He puts his hand out, offering to take the heavy winter coat… and more weight is gone… There is a new freedom to move, not feel so restrained… He then offers me the opportunity to walk… “Try your legs now… walk around… doesnt it feel good to not be burdened down?”   Do you want to be made whole? healthy? free of encumberances?  Do you want that backpack and heavy coat back? You have carried so many heavy burdens in that backpack, and you do not have to do that.  Trust them to me… i will take better care of them.  And your coat – Those excuses, and plans you have made to weave a barrier between yourself and being whole – do you ever want it back? No, a thousand times no… the new freedom tastes good.  Although i am now feeling vulnerable because that heavy garment is gone, and i am exposed… i look around, and the other runners in the race are also exposed, vulnerable, trusting in this new wholeness.   Am i willing to remain in this new place?  Am i willing to never return to the heavy burdens, and garments I hide behind? 

My prayer is that you will say with me… lets go… lets become whole, healthy, committed to grow, and challenged to help others shed their heavy burdens and garments of shelter for garments of praise.

 

Forward, always forward

Life is a funny thing… you can have years of wonderful ease and predictable pattern, then bam, just like getting hit with a bus your life is not your life, and everything familiar is gone. As you may know, almost a year ago my world rapidly changed with the announcement of my layoff from a job I loved.

Initial reaction was much like the stages of grief = anger, bargening, acceptance. (My old Sociology professors would be proud of me to remember the Kuebler Ross stages of grief…) But a year later I can tell you I have learned several lessons that turn this possible crisis around and indeed it was fortuitous in my life. Here are the lessons I now carry with me:

1. When it all seems the most bleak you will always find out who your friends are. Good and true friends run to you, wrap their arms around you, and pray you through. I am very thankful to know who is there for me, and who is willing to walk along side me, or take that call where I just need to vent. Thank you to each and every person who has been and will be there for me. I want to live this out and be there for you too.

2. How you view the events of your life can either breath life into you or disable you. Being layed off a job intially felt very personal, very literally rejected by a select group of people. The reality is that it was probably very personal but I have amazing talents and gifts that are not appreciated by that group. Had I continued in that routine job I would have never realized how creative and capable I am nor would I have allowed my life to be stretched out of the box.

3. Never confuse what you do for a living with what your purpose is on this earth. There are certainly times when the physical work you do is tethered to the purpose you have on the earth. Some of us are blessed to know from childhood what we want to do, and what we are good at… others (like me) try on many hats, and often work using some of our skills and abilities, but never fully harness what we were designed to do. Learn what energizes you, learn what others tell you you are good at… and this is a good indicator of what you were designed to do in this life.

4. Never ever loose the wonder of simple life. You could have a million bucks in the bank and be miserable, or you can have nothing and be miserable if you focus on that. Find joy in each day – the smile of a baby, the gentle breeze on your face, the smell of fresh flowers, or tomatoes freshly picked from the garden. The simple joy of conversation, of cherishing the boquet of friends you have, of watching the stars at night, or the clouds dancing in the sky.

5. Life is too short to hold grudges, or not forgive others. It is an old lesson, but after I lost my job I wrestled with that issue majorly. The truth is the more I wrestled with holding negative thoughts about others the less I moved forward. It was like I was shackled to them, unable to move. I love freedom. I love the thought that I have been forgiven for all the things in my life that were wrong, or offensive… and I need to share that freedom with others. Forgiveness starts as a thought, but must be a consciencious intention to think in this way, make a decision to forgive, and allow the emotions to catch up. You are only responsible for your own thoughts.


6. Heal the past, live the present and dream the future. It is a saying on a magnet on my refrigerator, but there is a depth of thought to that little slogan. Until we find and deal with issues of the past we are not free to live in the present, or focus on the future. This year has been a lot of healing the past. No, I don;t have a crazy wild life to get over, but I do have baggage, just like you do. But it is good to evaluate, and deal with the hurts of the past and MOVE ON!!! The most important part of this idea for me has been renewing the desire to be an active participant in the here and now, relishing everything I experience and do. and more than that, dream a dream, and move toward it. Dreams are gifts – not all of them are fulfilled, but when they are it is like christmas morning. Amazing.

7. Dreams take courage. In my case the security of a predictable paycheck has given way to a business plan, and the success or failure of my income directly tied to the success or failure of myself to market the business. I must admit that I like predictable, stable, reliable, routine…. but I am becoming very fond of the adventure of building a business, of trusting God to open doors that I cannot open, and of knowing that in perfect timing opportunities come. There is a kind of adrenilin rush when what you dreamed, and hoped for becomes reality. Dreams take courage.

8. Never look at the past, but always look to the future. A favorite author of mine has a fabulous quote that helps hone the thought: “Driving with your eyes on the rearview mirror is difficult indeed.” – Seth Godin. For anyone who has ever either learned to drive or tried to teach someone the first and most important point of driving is to keep focused forward (unless you are backing up) and your eyes on the road ahead. It is a great life lesson to not get stuck looking to the past, but keep the eyes ahead – in the direction you are moving. A side lesson is that you will usually go in the direction your eyes focus… hmm, that makes sense.

So that is some of the whit and wisdom I am learning, embracing and processing in my life. I have alot more thoughts, but for now I think this was a good attempt to document some of the lessons. Hope this encourages you like it is has me. Thanks for reading.