Monthly Archives: May 2013

God’s Word = Beautiful

GodsWordBeautiful copy

Finished a painting I started long ago, then made a little video from the thoughts I found inspiring.  It is symbolic for me.  A painter tries to create visual beauty like a dancer tries to create exquisite lines or a musician works to create pleasing harmonies.  Picturing the Bible in this painting makes me recall many a morning as I searched for answers, saw words of hope for the future and passages that have encouraged me along the way.  Over time this morning practice has become “beautiful” to me.  Hope you enjoy this little “morning devotion” from Psalm 19.

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A Beautiful Life – Psalm 19

GodsWordBeautiful copyQuotes from Psalm 19 – The Message

God‘s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. 2 Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening.

Sunrise and sunset are glorious moments with spectacular colors painted across the skies.  God often presents us with masterpieces that I do not even notice.  Yet, they are silent love letters to us, His creation.

3 Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded, 4 But their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

The Great Artist’s handiwork is everywhere and His signature must be the roses.  Every good and beautiful thing God made testifies of His truth – His goodness, His mercy, His justice, His love.

God makes a huge dome for the sun – a superdome! 5 The morning sun’s a new husband leaping from his honeymoon bed, The daybreaking sun an athlete racing to the tape. 6 That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies from sunrise to sunset, Melting ice, scorching deserts, warming hearts to faith.

God gives us incredible moments that cause us to stand in awe of who He is, and what He has done for us.

7 The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. 8 The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes.

God’s Word is beauty!  He speaks to us, warns us, shapes us, fills us by His mighty Spirit whispered through the words of life.  Oh, that I would fall more in love with His Word that I might know Him better!  How my life is improved by sitting at His feet!  I have so much to learn but it scares me to think of where I would be without the Word of God in my life!

9 God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree. 10 God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds.

What God has for us is the best – even when times seem like the worst.  His Word promises that all things work together for those who love God and are called to His purpose.  What precious promises in the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter of our lives!

You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries.

Some of my favorite things – an old pocket watch, cut crystal, an antique oak table, a treasured old blanket, beautiful flowers point to a love for God’s Word.  His Word is a treasure.  Oh Lord that I would delve into Your Word more deeply that I might know You more and more!

11 There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. 12 Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool?

Yes!  Decisions based upon Your Word give me peace of heart and mind.  Decisions that I make based on my own way of thinking can get me in trouble!  You tell us straight out what is right and wrong and how to keep our feet on Your road.  Hold me tight Lord – keep me hungry for Your Word!

13 Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.

Thank you for the freedom of forgiveness!  You alone suffered and died in my place so that I might come before you clean – not because of me, for I am a sinner saved by grace.  No, it’s all because of You!

14 These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar.

Thank You for Your Word, O God.  It points me to You – the God who knows me completely, and still loves me!  Amen and Amen!

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Heart-to-Heart Fellowship

It’s so good to be home, we both agreed.  Each of us, in different circumstances, transitioned in our careers and found ourselves working from home and being an everyday participant in our grandchildren’s lives.  Neither of us were planning for this outcome, but looking back we realized God had orchestrated this timing and as we talked, our appreciation for this special season of life increased.  Before we left we clasped hands and prayed thanking God for this time in our lives, for our friendship and gave Him some practical ” I-need-you-Lord-today” requests.

Matti

Matti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sweetness of Christian fellowship means that we can talk about the reality, struggle and heart aches in our lives and we can also bear witness to how God has turned around bad circumstances for good.  We share joy, we laugh.  We encourage each other and strengthen one another’s faith.  It is heart-to-heart.  Fellowship – true fellowship in which we are sharing about what Jesus is doing in our lives today, yesterday, and in this season.  Much more than visiting or socializing, fellowship is a precious bond that can be described in terms of spiritual chocolate – it’s just “the best.”  We are designed for relationships and fellowship fills us up to the brim.

Because God is love, he treasures relationships. His very nature is relational and he identifies himself in family terms: Father, Son and Spirit. – Rick Warren

Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church.

Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God is active and working in our lives today.  By sharing what our Heavenly Father is doing, how we are responding, and what treasures we are finding in His Word, we speak on the level of “brothers and sisters”.  That special relationship we enjoy is worthy of celebration and thanks.  Fellowship is heart-to-heart.

 

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Strained Relationships

Acceptance – there is a lot of thing in life we just have to accept, and things we should never accept.  Knowing the difference is the challenge.  This is true in many things including strained relationships.  Before my days leading a Celebrate Recovery the “Serenity Prayer” seemed a cliché.  Now, after having repeated every week for thirty-seven weeks, the words have sunk into my soul and I realize their incredible power.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

It’s that wisdom to know the difference – that is what keeps us on our knees.

English: Their are thousands of artworks creat...

English: Their are thousands of artworks created in the art world depicting St Paul. This painting was created by the famous artist called Rembrandt. It hangs on the walls of the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many years ago my husband wrote an in-depth Bible study on the life of the Apostle Paul, and since then I have been especially captivated by the many human and God-inspired facets of this sinner turned saint.  Paul was indeed a “people person.”  Although many of his adventurous and dangerous ministry endeavors were circumstances he had to face alone, there were at the same time many close people in his life and they played some important roles.

Of particular interest is Paul’s relationship with Barnabas.  This was a close spiritual and destiny-joined relationship.  In Acts 13 the Holy Spirit spoke to a small group and said:

Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.”  Acts 13:2b

Broad Overview of Geography Relevant to Paul o...

Broad Overview of Geography Relevant to Paul of Tarsus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re not just talking about two great believers who became friends.  God put them together and gave them a common destiny, a calling to accomplish in unison, a glorious partnership to complete a specific ministry.  And together they made tremendous strides for the gospel.

Consider some of the things which occurred in the relationship of Paul and Barnabas, and how these experiences have a bonding effect when people go through them together:

  • Road Trip!  Paul and Barnabas not only traveled together, they did so in a place and time where travel was primitive against today’s standards and time-consuming.  Think about some of the bonding that has taken place on family road trips, and why we tend to travel with those with whom we feel a closeness.
  • Common successes!  Paul and Barnabas worked together in boldly proclaiming the good news, and people listened and were converted.  Think of how a team grows together when they are working well together and they are on a winning streak.
  • Persecution!  Nothing brings two people together as much as having opposition.
  • Prayer!  Real, heart-felt prayer, and much of it is an intimate activity as two people join their souls in seeking the Almighty and clinging to His promises, direction and provision.
  • A Shared Goal!  Paul and Barnabas were passionate about the ministry God had entrusted to them.

Ponder what a deep spiritual relationship Paul and Barnabas enjoyed.

Until, they had a major disagreement.  That’s a polite word for an argument.

The two agreed to revisit all the cities where they previously preached.  Then, Barnabas suggested they bring along his cousin John Mark on the journey.  Paul didn’t like the idea.  He felt so strongly that the two agreed to separate – with both Paul and Barnabas choosing different traveling companions and they split.

The Expositors Bible Commentary explains the situation in these terms:

The fact that Luke does not gloss over the quarrel between Paul and Barnabas shows his honesty.  Yet far from letting the disagreement harm the outreach of the Gospel, God providentially used it to double the missionary force, with Barnabas taking Mark and returning to Cypress (cf. 13:4-12)…Paul’s selection of Silas to accompany him on his return visit to the churches was wise…Silas was a leader in the Jerusalem congregation.”    by Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III

Could it be that God would allow people of this spiritual stature and depth of relationship to disagree so that their effort might be “doubled”?  It’s a curious thought.  It is clear in later Scripture that Paul and Barnabas reconciled, and that is key.  The “Son of Encouragement” – Barnabas and the major writer of the New Testament certainly knew much about relationships.  Yet, they were human and at one point in time struggled with each other.

What can we learn from this incident in the lives of Paul and Barnabas?

  • Even the best of friends and ministry partners can have vastly different convictions.
  • As Luke reported the event honestly, it does no good to gloss over the incident just as if nothing had occurred.
  • If people are committed to not harming the outreach of the Gospel, God can use even these circumstances for the ultimate good and God’s glory.
  • If there is a strong disagreement and separation among such people, they are to keep working at reconciliation.  It is vital.

    Apostle Paul on St.Isaac cathedral (SPb)

    Apostle Paul on St.Isaac cathedral (SPb) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Relationships are mysterious, but God gives us examples in Scripture – some to imitate, and some to learn from and not repeat.  No one likes strained relationships, especially with people they love and respect.  Any ministry worker would look up to and seek to be like someone as a Paul or a Barnabas, human though they were.  Their example gives us hope when we are less than perfect, when we have strong convictions that we both think are God-inspired, and also the example of reconciliation at a later point on the journey.

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Friends and Ministers

They had no idea how much their visit meant and that they “made my day.”  We talked about real things, not the weather.   They had suffered a significant loss this year and we all talked about how much we all missed her.  She asked kindly about my struggles.  I knew I could share, or not, and they would be ok with either way the conversation went.  We didn’t pray but we talked about prayer.  We talked about how God is working in our lives, today, yesterday and recently.  We all agreed that God was good.  He shared about how he asks God to be a blessing to someone each day and the marvelous “divine encounters” he has experienced.  She talked about a great message she had heard, but did so after she had evidenced how much she cared for me.  Listening to her was like drinking in cool water after being out in the hot sun all day without a drink.  Her words soothed my soul because she talked about Jesus and encouraged me.  It was real fellowship, the way it is supposed to be.  They had no idea how much they encouraged me.  They came as friends, but truly, they are ministers.

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Parable of the Plum Tree

But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God…II Corinthians 1:9b

The mature flowering plum-tree in our front yard, with its dark maroon leaves and divided kid-friendly trunk, stands in high contrast to the white Victorian picket fence and white-barked birch next door.  Driving from either way down the street it is the way to spot our house.  It’s a landmark.  But it wasn’t always so.

Twenty-two years ago we picked out the rather long overgrown twig at Dorothy’s nursery in Carlotta.  We planted it on a mound in the front of our newly constructed home and had to tether it to large wooden poles to keep it from blowing away or being damaged.  On its own it was still fragile.

Decorative blooming of a plum tree

Decorative blooming of a plum tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Months passed.  The day came to remove the poles.  The tree had grown to a place where it could stand on its own. and to keep the poles there would mean that the tree would not gain the internal strength it needed to stand against the wind and rain.  For it to continue to mature, the supports needed to be taken away.

Sometimes in life our supports, either willingly or against our will, are taken away.  It may because of a change in health, the loss of someone important in our inner circle, a move, a job change, or a variety of other life circumstance.  We find that the people we leaned on for spiritual strength are no longer available in the same way they once were.

This is a time of decision.

Do we frantically try to find support replacements, or do we allow God to take away those “poles” so that we might fully lean on Him?

While Christianity is lived in community, there are some deep and shadowed passages of the soul that one can only walk with Jesus alone.  In those times we either made daily decisions that will result in either cooling off spiritually or embracing Him more fully.

When we come to a place where God is all we have, we find that God is all we need.

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The Gift of Forgiveness, Part I

We hear often how forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves.  While this is absolutely true, in the bigger picture, the ability to forgive others is a gift given to us from God…because truly “to forgive is divine.”  Within ourselves we human beings just don’t seem to have the capacity to wipe others slate clean in our minds and hearts on our own power.  Our form of forgiveness is convoluted with strings attached, hidden pockets of pain and bitterness that surface at the most inconvenient times – complete with elephant-type memories regarding the deeply painful acts and attitudes toward us.  How we struggle with forgiveness!  Pure forgiveness is indeed a freely-given gift from the only perfect forgiver, Jesus Christ.

The Lord's Prayer (1886-1896) from the series ...

The Lord’s Prayer (1886-1896) from the series The Life of Christ, Brooklyn Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know we are supposed to forgive.  The Lord’s prayer, reads in part:

and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.  Matthew 6:12

Forgiveness

Forgiveness (Photo credit: poportis)

This is clearly not an option, but a command from God who has forgiven us – that we MUST forgive those who have inflicted pain upon us to have a clear relationship with God.  But, oh how we struggle!

In a sense, granting forgiveness is like hitting bottom with a drug or alcohol addiction.  What finally causes one to surrender is unique to each person.  Those who love an addict agonize in prayer over them and keep hoping that each new crisis or even happy “big life moment” will be THAT THING that will cause that one to admit there is a problem, surrender to Christ and submit to a program that will help them overcome their addiction.  But that turning point is indeed different for every person who has made that huge u-turn in life.  And so it is with forgiveness.  For the person who knows they need to forgive and willingly travels that journey toward totally releasing that person or group of people in their lives that has caused pain, the point of letting go mentally and emotionally differs.

But God is faithful.  Forgiveness is for real.  If we are seeking to obey Him in this area, He will provide that necessary ability to forgive fully, but it is a journey.  It is a process.  The gift of forgiveness – the ability from God to forgive others is a sweetness to our soul.  It brings smiles and relief and often times reconciliation and tenderness to a relationship that looked like it was beyond recovery.  Forgiveness is a miracle.

Forgiveness is and isn’t many things.

Forgiveness does not mean that we minimize what that person has done.  Forgiveness most certainly will cost us in some way.  We may have to endure the consequences for the other person’s sin against us, and perhaps for a very long time.  Forgiveness does not mean we necessarily go back to “life as normal.”  The act of forgiveness sometimes means that we are separated from that person, yet our hearts are at peace.  Sometimes, the relationship becomes stronger and more connected with granting forgiveness.  We do not have power over the outcome of granting forgiveness, but obeying God by forgiving is always for our good.  The is greatness and exhilaration in the peace that God provides to our souls when we forgive.

Forgiveness lesson from flowers

Forgiveness lesson from flowers (Photo credit: juliejordanscott)

Forgiveness is freedom.  We give up the notion to desire any punishment or ill will toward that person in our minds.  We can pray that God will bless them and mean it, and go on with our lives.  We find ourselves to be “bigger”, stronger, more generous and sweeter human beings.  The best part of forgiveness is that it opens the doorway to run to God full throttle, leaping up into His arms and experiencing that sweet communion that cannot be described in words.  There is nothing between God and ourselves when we willingly forgive others, and in the process admit our own sins and weaknesses.

Our hearts are softened by granting forgiveness.  This too is a gift from God.

I will given them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them.  I will take away their stony stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations.  Then they wil truly be my people, and I will be their God.  Ezekiel 11:19-20

 

 

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No Business of Mine

Personality tests come in various shapes, sizes and colors, so I’ve learned.  At a Christian women’s retreat a couple of years back the leadership team decided to use a short, fun, colorful personality test both as an ice breaker and way to divide into teams.  This particular quiz divided the room full of women into “reds,” (outgoing, take charge individuals), “yellows” (conscientious rule-followers and hard workers), “blues,” (tender-hearted harmony seeking people) and a minority of “greens,” (thinkers, learners and problem solvers).  While all these tests are just indications, and it is pointed out that most people have more than one “color,” this quiz indicated a predominance toward these characteristics.  I was a green.  Greens like logical approaches and need to know the “why” behind decisions and like to think of helpful solutions.

This image (when viewed in full size, 1000 pix...

This image (when viewed in full size, 1000 pixels wide) contains 1 million pixels, each of a different color. The human eye can distinguish about 10 million different colors. Judd, Deane B. Wyszecki, Günter (1975). Color in Business, Science and Industry . Wiley Series in Pure and Applied Optics (3rd ed.). New York : Wiley-Interscience. p. 388. ISBN 0471452122. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The life of faith in Christ has a particular challenge for the “greens” among us.  The very essence of faith means we usually don’t know the “why” and we don’t get to create the helpful solution.  We place much in God’s hands and trust that He is indeed working all things together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (reference:  Romans 8:28).  Then we trust, wait and obey.

In the classic devotional, Streams in the Desert, a verse from Joel is the basis for a great comment by C.H. Spurgeon.  First the verse:

And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.  (Joel 2:32)

All of us, no matter what personality “color” we lean towards can find ourselves in that “whosoever.”  When we come upon troubles and trials and perplexing situations we can take these words of C.H. Spurgeon to heart:

Charles Spurgeon (C.H. Spurgeon)

Charles Spurgeon (C.H. Spurgeon) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My case is urgent, and I do not see how I am to be delivered;  but this is no business of mine.  He who makes the promise will find ways and means of keeping it.  It is mine to obey His commands;  it is not mine to direct His counsels.  I am His servant, not His solicitor.  I call upon Him, and He will deliver.  C.H. Spurgeon

Even as a “green,” is so comforting to know the final outcome of that which concerns me is not my deal, it’s His business.

 

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