A death and an invitation

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split. Matthew 27:51

Have you ever stood, feet bare or protected, in a river’s rushing water? The river’s rocks slippery under your soles, the water colliding with your body somewhere between  ankle and knee? The river’s water pressure as it rushes by you feels strong enough to sweep you away too, taking you unwillingly along it’s travels downstream.

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Yet you stay placed, as the water sweeps by. Your body stronger against the current, your confidence deepening in your stance as moments pass along with the hastening river.

As the calm confidence settles your mind, the once roar of the rushing waves becomes a symphony to you, and the greasy rocks now glisten with polished colours like sun illuminated stain glass.

And you breathe, breathe freely and openly in this place now that the fear is edged out, replaced with the assurance that your posture will hold you from being swept away.

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My friend, I believe, know that is what God wants for you too. He wants you to breathe even when those thundering waves of difficulty threaten to sweep over you, to take you places along the currents you swore you would never go.

Sometimes these threats are pressures from relationships, where convictions and obedience are strongly opposed. That friendship, that mentor, that boss, that potential romantic partner you seemed to have waited for forever, is now asking you to join in to activities that once was the old way of living you turned from when cleansed that day in baptism, in acceptance of His way.

Sometimes threats can be from circumstances we never imagined we’d be in: a divorce, an estranged child, disease, a crime against us, and injustices.

We may even create our own threatening waves from our brokenness leading us to seek solace in things of this world that harm rather than bring life.

Yet Life is where we can turn to–no threat can defeat it.

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We celebrate this weekend the Hope that was given to us, the new way of freely living that opened to us with the tearing away of the veil.

Paul reminds us in Hebrews:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10: 19-23

This gift of freedom, this forever grace from our transgressions is due to the shed of blood on that cross of an innocent Man by ones who were slaves to their pride and self-righteousness–ones who felt threatened by the freedom that was being offered to them.

But you, my friend, can accept this freedom gifted through His offering to have your heart cleansed with the sprinkling of His grace, and your body washed to purity.

There is no barrier between You and the One who will not let the threatening rivers sweep over you. Will you accept His invitation to draw near to Him, the forever faithful One who will be your help, your protector, and your strength giving you His peace no matter how thunderous the rivers waters rush around you?

Will you, my friend, accept the invitation of an unconditional Love that surpasses all our understanding?

Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross to rescue me from sin and death and to restore me to the Father. I choose now to turn from my sins, my self-centeredness, and every part of my life that does not please you. I choose you. I give myself to you. I receive your forgiveness and ask you to take your rightful place in my life as my Savior and Lord. Come reign in my heart, fill me with your love and your life, and help me to become a person who is truly loving—a person like you. Restore me, Jesus. Live in me. Love through me. Thank you, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. Retrieved from Ransom Heart

 

Army of Trust

“I feel bad for it. It’s got enemies in there and I’m sending in the best army I have!”

My friend giggled. “I’ve never heard someone describe their body parts in third person context before.”

I’ve been a bit under the weather lately, so to speak.

I’ve had to send in armies for these uncomplicated conditions. Armies of antibiotics, vitamins, herbs, and ‘google’ remedies to fight the battles against these viral and bacterial critters. It’s taken a few tries though, to find out which armies are going to win that battle, and bring peace once again!

I used these medicine armies to battle something I could only feel in the flesh, but I could not see. The pain I experienced a warning to something that needed attending to, needed help in the fight to become healthy again.

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Our pain experiences in life are so often derived from our challenges, felt not in the flesh, but emotionally in our mind and in our heart too. We might find ourselves wrestling with forces that ask us to compromise our integrity, our values, our morals for the sake of a corporation’s definition of success, or for the sake of wanting to belong, or for the sake to avoid conflict with that relationship we feel we could not live without.

God’s word says:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

We may fear feeling the pain of being alone, rejected, judged, so carefully navigate away from possible battles by hiding in timidity, or not using our gifts for God’s glory.

Thankfully, in God’s goodness He gives us the medicine we need, fights for us to become restored through Him, provides the remedies to withstand the attacks that can snare us.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trust in the Lord will be kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

Instead of fearing man, relying on man to build-us up, we can be free by trusting in God promises to renew us, strengthen us, and carry us, always.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

We can rely on His promises that He will fight for us.

“This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15

 Do not fear them, for the Lord your God is the one fighting for you.” Deuteronomy 3:22

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And God, in His goodness, has provided His power within us!

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20

“For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” Colossians 2: 12 

Whatever battle you may find yourself in today, my friend, may you place your hope in the One who can fill you with the joy and peace His goodness wants for you.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

A tough decision

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 

Matthew 1:18-19

Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary came from his faithfulness to the law, but his wanting to do it quietly shows how he wanted to protect Mary too. By quietly divorcing Mary, not loudly exposing her to the judging public, he may have been intentionally protecting her from being stoned. I can imagine, between wanting to uphold the law and protect Mary, that he must have felt he was between a rock and a hard place. And there was only one option to make the best out of the situation.

But God had another plan, another option for Joseph, beyond the law, and beyond his own rational thinking.

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But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. 

Matthew 1: 20-21

Continue reading “A tough decision”

Awakening the wonder

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And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered for awhile, will yourself himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:1

I started something new today. In a spiral notebook, using my new gel coloured pens,  I created the following legend:

Gratitude                                                                                                                                                               Miracle                                                                                                                                                                   Where I am at                                                                                                                                                      Success                                                                                                                                                                 Quotes and Scriptures   

With my pink gel pen in hand, I wrote today’s scripture verse which is also my verse for the year as it encompasses my word for 2017: RESTORATION

But do you notice the strike-through, the mistake I made when writing? Instead of himself, I originally wrote ‘yourself.’ In other words, I slipped (unconsciously) into restoration by my own efforts.

God sure does work in mysterious ways doesn’t He?

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The other day, after opening up to a friend where I am at, questioning, she said, “It sure isn’t always easy during those times when God is silent.”

I stared silently back at her. Silent? I hadn’t even contemplated that God is being silent. I’ve been asking a lot of ‘why’ questions lately, and praying for something, anything to show He works here among us, while in this world of flesh. With my own intellect and reasoning, I want to know and see.

In today’s reading time:

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3   

“The childlike heart is vulnerable, teachable, joyful, creative and filled with wonder. There’s a difference between being childish and childlike. Childishness is a posture of stubborn challenge. Childlikeness is a perspective of hopeful curiosity. Every question you ever ask is one of challenge or curiosity. Let childlike wonder awaken you again as you let go of all offense at the past and fear of the future.”                                                                                          The Creative Way Meditations, Ted Dekker

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Yes, I’d say His ways are mysterious but hopeful…

As this year of 2016 comes to a close and if, like me you are in this season where God seems so silent, my hope for you is that your childlike wonder is awakened and that you know God’s grace restores making you, as He has promised, “strong, firm and steadfast.”

Happy New Year, my friend. Thank you for sharing in my travels this past year, and for sharing your perspectives which has ministered and blessed me beyond words. I look forward to our continued awakenings and wonders expressed in 2017.

 

                                                                                                                                                          

 

 

 

STOP IT! (I)

There’s a song on the radio I often hear, even daily perhaps. And three words of the chorus often repeat in my thoughts, whether I have been exposed to the tune that day or not. They drop in like unseen raindrops, showering me over and over, until I finally take action, mindfully unfolding my umbrella, creating shelter between them and me. But the words unceasingly pelt , grabbing my attention, over and over.

Christ in me.

 

Alright! I say, in frustration, as I bring down my umbrella, look up and allow the wetness to cascade on my face. The falling rain drops absorb into the corners of my eyes, and into the canals of my ears. I lick my lips of the water, pure and clean. I cannot keep the rain away.

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But what do You want? I just can’t seem to be good enough, ever…..

I bow my head, bend my knees, and sink down into the sodden grass. The rain showers on me, drenching my hair, chilling my bare arms, and soaking my blouse.

I’m tired.

Continue reading “STOP IT! (I)”

A peace in the perfect design

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The pelts of a dribbling basketball accosted me as I rounded the usual curve on a pathway between homes that opened into an urban park. My earbuds in, I did not ordinarily hear the sounds of play but today was different. The melodies that accompanied me on my habitual daily walk had been muted. Having no beat to tread to, or song to stride with, my steps seemed spasmodic, uneven and irregular. I’d lost my rhythm in the silence.

Earlier, discouraged and disappointed, I laced my running shoes and stepped out of my front door. The chilly breeze of an autumn evening scratched my cheeks. I pulled my hood up over my ponytail, and hit the music icon on my phone assuming  lyrics would release me from my hurt feelings. My ears were belted by Michael W. Smith.

There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear

Inwardly I groaned.  And wondered if I had any tunes to conspire with my mounting crabbiness. Something with lyrics like:

You got it right /  to be uptight/ as life ain’t going your way/ so just be cool/ and know you ain’t no fool/ so stamp your feet/ and tear down that tree/ for you deserve to retaliate!

And the corner of my lips turned down, pierced together with irritability. Kind of catchy that tune. Maybe something Brad Paisley would sing. Or Carrie Underwood. There’s that scene in that music video of hers where she takes keys to her cheating boyfriends supped up truck…

Quickening my pace, I dug my hands deeper into my jacket pockets. Despite the crisp breeze, I felt my forehead perspiring and my palms heating up. I pulled my hands out of my pockets, flipped my hood off and undid the front zipper of my jacket. Great, my stomach is now cramping. What’s up with that? And that basketball sound is crashing in my head. Is a headache coming on? 

I’d let myself become a victim to ill-temper. And what was it getting me?

What is the cost of my feeling all these unnecessary annoyances?

Continue reading “A peace in the perfect design”

From flames to forgiveness-Part II

Outwardly I spread out kindness, grace, even good-deeds, believing my actions would convert the pain of betrayal, blame and condemnation. Act yourself into a feeling, so to speak.

Outwardly I resisted, controlling and protecting through avoidance by positioning myself to not be in the offenders presence for a duration. Time heals all wounds, so to speak.

The above is an excerpt from last weeks post Journey from flames to forgiveness. This journey of forgiving started in the upside down way of the world–do and then I will be the forgiver and the forgiven; do and then I will be rewarded; do and then I will receive (worldly) blessing.

Strive to follow the rules and then I will please God and become complete in Christ.

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In our human world, it is natural to want to have rules to follow, laws to live up to, yet is that what God calls us to? Are His ways the ways of the world? Does He call us to follow the way of rules to become worthy of being complete in Him?

I tried to find my own words to answer these questions with what I think is truth but Paul’s words say it so much superior.

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily. Galatians 2:20-21 The Message

I’m struggling friends, of what to write, as there is so much here to unpack! It is the foundation for understanding how much we are loved without needing to ‘impress God.’ It is through this love, our identity in Him, we no longer are  ruled  by our egos, others opinions of us, and our human vulnerabilities. And we are free to love ourselves and others as Jesus loves who keeps no records of wrong.

(Love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:5

When we grasp this understanding that we are already complete in Christ, loved wholly and unconditionally, we no longer need to be loved by anything else in this world. Often our hurts, offenses made against us are from expectations we have on others on how we think we should be treated. Our identity gets wrapped up in our attachment to how others satisfy our egos. So when others do not live up to our own expectations, our character feels attacked, and we take offense. We become afraid and build our walls of defense.

In other words we become a slave to others opinions and treatment of us.

But Jesus showed us a Way out of this entrapment to freedom. He showed us how to love.

 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24

They do not know what they are doing. No judgement, no unmet conditions, just Perfect Love seeing the brokenness in his offenders, and keeping no record of the wrong. Instead, He rose and came back into a world that crucified Him because He loves us that much!

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When we grasp this understanding of this perfect love He has for us, where there is no condemnation, no-need to please or make-up for our transgressions, we begin to love ourselves as the Father loves us, freeing us to let-go of any need to be loved and treated a certain way to feel okay in this world. And in that way we free others too, from our own judgement and conditions. This leads us to take no offense and casts out our fears of being vulnerable because we are complete in Christ, and fully loved just as we are now.  We can then take that understanding of God’s love for us and return that same love out to the world.

Friends, I don’t pretend to know it all. Paul’s words again express this so much more superior than mine.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12

Camp on these words for a moment-Christ Jesus took hold of me. He’s got you, looking out for you, because of who He is-Perfect Love.

letgo3-35-of-1And how can we understand His perfect Love that holds no record of wrong, that does not take offense and extends only grace? I believe only through the Holy Spirit, asking our eyes and heart to be opened to Our Good Father.

Open the Eyes of My Heart-Michael W Smith

 

 

Are you accepting the invitation?

Imagine this, or maybe you don’t have to imagine. Maybe you have an experience, a point of reference that allows you to dive into this story, in heart, in spirit.

Imagine you are peering into a window of a door that you have been invited to open. The brush of a cool wind, and the smell of the fall season’s leaves entertain your senses. You lift your hand to the door knocker, grasp the brass bar. And halt.

You see through the window a table set for two. But not just a table, but one laden with colors. You see so many jewel colors of blue, red, green, yellows that they blur in a melody like a rainbow in motion!

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Your eyes focus in on the beauty of the details: a vase chock-full of your favorite blooms, a table draped in a yellow linen cloth that drips off the edges to a glistening tiled floor, pure white china plates etched with blue delicate vines, two wine glasses with tinted strawberry red stems, and two vine-patterned napkins garnished with a gold rose.

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What is this feast, you ask yourself? Why has my friend gone to this extravagance?

And you let go of the knocker, look down at your empty hands. I have not brought anything, you think to yourself. You turn, look behind you to the shadows of trees on the street. I have not done anything to deserve this extravagance, you think to yourself.

And you begin to take a step away when you hear the door open behind you. There you are! the familiar voice hails. Come in, come in! the recognizable voice summons.  Continue reading “Are you accepting the invitation?”