Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What if There Were No Word

This morning I sat down with my journal and Daily Bible, dated the Old Testament page then opened up my Bible to my bookmarked spot.  March 1.  There is no reading for today: February 29th.  I feel a little lost.  

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's Okay to Ask Questions

A little section from my reading in Mark is on my mind tonight: Mark 9:32-35.
"From there they (Jesus and the disciples) went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it.  For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, 'The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.'  But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him."- Mark 9:30-32, NASB

Maybe the disciples thought Jesus would question their lack of understanding.  Some of them had witnessed Him bringing Jairus' daughter back to life.  It was just in the last chapter; which as far as I can tell was maybe a a week or two earlier; that Jesus had told them He was going to suffer, be killed and rise again after three days (sound familiar?) and Peter took Him aside to rebuke Him.  And six days after that low point in Peter's life Jesus took Peter, James and John up on the mountain and they witnessed His transfiguration, saw Moses and Elijah, and heard the voice of God the Father tell them, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him."  I can't be too hard on them because I can be pretty slow to understand myself.   I had never noticed before how Jesus had removed them from everyone else so that He could have this very important talk with them.  Maybe He was even giving them the opportunity to ask questions.    I am doing a study of Ephesians and last week we covered the verse that talks about our ability to come boldly and confidently to God. (Eph. 3:12)  This is one of the blessings we have.  We do not have to fear coming to Him, not with anything.  If we have questions- He wants us to ask.  I ask all the time; like a little child I can be full of questions some days as I read God's Word.  It isn't always clear.  That's why I believe the best way to approach Scripture is in prayer.

Moving on to the rest of those verses in Mark:
"They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, 'What were you discussing on the way?'  But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest."
Are you like me upon reading this-groaning in disbelief?  Why on earth would the disciples be discussing who was greatest when Jesus had just talked to them about what was coming and they did not understand?  I must tell you, I love the fact that I get together with a group of women every week to sit down and discuss God's Word.  I love that we share our thoughts and ask questions in our desire to understand what He is trying to say to us.  I love that I am sitting here on this side of the resurrection and have the Holy Spirit for a guide.  I cannot be too hard on the disciples.  The Lord has spoken very plainly to me at times through His Word and I don't get it.  Far too often I spend my time pondering things that have no lasting value.  And even more disturbing are the times when I ponder things that I know from my time in the Word are not good for me.  So I cannot be too hard on the disciples.

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Source of All My Joy

"Send out Your light and Your truth; let them guide me.  Let them lead me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You live.  There I will go to the altar of God, to God--the source of all my joy."  Psalm 43:3-4, NLT1  The NASB reads "to God my exceeding joy."

I've been facing some interesting decisions the last few weeks and seeking God's guidance.  These verses really spoke to my heart.  I am sensing that God is leading me to make some changes.  The process He is guiding me through is causing me to take a good look at how I spend my time; look at what things have become priorities in my life.  I am pleased with some; while others it is time to bid farewell to.  You see the Lord has been doing a bit of illuminating and while I like much of what I see, some things have become a part of my life that are not helping me to become the woman God intends me to be.  

In the time that I have left on this earth I want to be led by Him.  I want a life that is consistent with someone who goes by His name.  As I allow more and more of my life to be conformed to the image of Christ my joy increases.  I love where He is leading and I am having a wonderful time walking in the paths that He has laid out for me.  Still, I can get side-tracked and wander on paths that were never meant for me.   Much left to contemplate in my quiet moments with the King.

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pondering the Hem of Jesus Garment

This morning I read these words in Mark 6:56, "Wherever He (Jesus) went--in villages and cities and out on the farms--they laid the sick in the market plazas and streets.   The sick begged Him to let them at least touch the fringe of His robe, and all who touched it were healed." (NLT1)

It started me on a search to see why touching the fringe of a garment, or the hem as many translations relate, was something that was done.  Wow.  I learned a lot about the tzitzit (pronounced Si-sith or TSI-tsis).  These are the tassels that Moses, directed by God, told the people to add to their garments in Numbers 15:38-40, "Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue.  It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God."

These tzitzit were worn to be seen, by others as well as the person wearing them.  It would be like me putting on my "Jesus Girl" t-shirt, I am much more aware of my actions and words in public when I choose to wear that item from my closet.  I've often joked with Ken that we should not get one of those bumper stickers that declares we are followers of Christ because we would have to change the way we drive.  Hmm perhaps there is something to an outward symbol...

According to several sources the tzitzit was also used as a symbol for authority.  The point they made was that when David cut off the "corner of King Saul's garment" (see 1 Samuel 24) he was taking away his authority, that is why David's conscience pricked him about what he had done and he prostrated himself before Saul.  Everyone, including Saul, knew that David had been anointed by Samuel to be the next king, which is why Saul feared David. In the cave at En Gedi, David had literally taken Saul's authority and at that point he probably could have taken the throne as well.  But he didn't, instead he let God choose the time for him to receive the throne.  This act convinced Saul that David was telling the truth.  David's contrition at this time was an act that gave authority back to Saul.  Following that reasoning to touch the hem of Jesus garment, to touch the tzitzit, was recognition of Jesus authority to heal.  I find that all very interesting.  

But even more interesting to me; what really caught my attention today: "all who touched it were healed."  It did not matter who they were, what they had done, what their illness was, whether they were clean or unclean Jesus healed them all; no limits, no conditions.  Sometimes I live like I am not even in need of the Great Physician.  Sometimes I neglect to seek Him for His healing touch; thinking that I am not worthy.  Sometimes I even harbor thoughts that my wounds are too deep to be healed by a touch from Christ.  Oh foolish heart of mine, when will I ever develop the kind of faith that believes that all things are possible through Christ?

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Every Morning

I hope I never forget the image of my oldest son bounding down the stairs of the apartment complex with this bouquet of roses.  They were for me.  What a wonderful, thoughtful, sweet, son his father and I have raised.  He has a very special lady in his life and yet he still thought of his momma on Valentine's Day and together they picked out the perfect gift for me, dead flowers.  Yes, I love to get dead flowers!  Totally impractical, which is what makes them such a great expression of love.  Sometimes my family gifts me with a rose bush or some other flowering plant I can add to my garden, but somehow they do not touch my heart in the same way.  Dead flowers; they really do not make much sense as a gift, they last but a few days, whereas the plant will continue to bloom year after year.  And yet they speak volumes to me of a love that is new every morning.  In season and out of season dead flowers bloom.

The cross- it really does not make much sense.  Why would God suffer and die for me?!  I was a stranger, an enemy, someone far away from Him.  And yet He loved me even then.  He had a plan from before the world began that would show me just how much He desires to lavish His love upon me.  Here I sit with knowledge of that love, with all of my sins, past, present, and future forgiven, a place at His side reserved for me in heaven, and yet my love falls short.  He has shown me what love is, that it is often impractical and doesn't make sense.  He asks that I in return love Him with all of my heart and soul and mind and strength, which totally makes sense in light of what He has done for me.  Is it impractical to make time each day to read His Word and pray and listen for His voice?  When so much needs to be done, when so much competes for my time, worthy of it or not, do I have time for the Lord?  Do I make time for the Lord?  Is this where loving Him with all of my heart and soul and mind and strength begins?  
I've been in a dry spell and in my search for why I came to the conclusion that it is just plain laziness.  There are other things I want to get done- and yet everything else seems to be suffering as well.  It makes no sense.  Seek ye first the kingdom of God--perhaps it is not so impractical.  When I rush through my quiet time just to get it done without really taking time to meditate upon His Word, to listen for His voice, to really pray for others rather than just a quick, bless them, heal them; I rob myself of something better.  Something that I need to refresh everyday.  
The thing about those dead flowers: they are beautiful at first but they begin to fade and wilt and soon there is nothing you can do but put them in the compost pile.  God's mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23)- He has a fresh bouquet for us everyday.  It gives me a  picture of Him bounding down the stairs towards me with a beautiful new bouquet as I come out to meet Him in the morning.  He is delighted to see me, share something new, and remind me that His love never fades and never dies- everyday is a resurrection morning.

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

In the Dry Times

It has been awhile since I shared my quiet time routine.  Today I would like to do that again  in the hopes that you are encouraged to have your own daily time with the Lord.

Deb's quiet time space
My time begins in God's word.  I like to start here because I feel I need to listen to the Lord before I jump in with all of my thoughts.  I am reading through the Bible with a plan that includes an Old Testament, New Testament, Psalm, and Proverb selection each day. As I love to journal, I have a small three-ring notebook that I keep with me as I read and pray.  It is divided into sections, the first ones being, O.T., N.T, Psalms, and Proverbs to correspond with my reading.  I make note of the date and what verses I have read.  Then as I come to something that "jumps" out to me that day, or something that I feel I need to spend some time thinking about, or something that speaks to me about God's character; I write out those Scriptures in the appropriate section.

Some days I write a lot, other days, like yesterday, I write nothing.  I do not like those kind of days.  Usually they have a lot to say about the condition of my heart, which yesterday was really hurting to the point of actually having physical pain.  It was a dry day in the Word; which I really wanted to speak something to me that would heal my hurting heart, but there was nothing.

The next section in my journal is for praise.  Oftentimes what I have read guides my thoughts as I think about God and consider who He is.  Yesterday was not really any different, except that it was one of those days when I had to pull out things from experience and previous reading as I wrote down these words.  "Lord, all authority belongs to You- You taught as one who had authority because You do.  I praise You for you are holy and righteous.  I praise You because You are my source of wisdom and understanding.  I praise You because You are worthy of praise.  You are worthy no matter how I am feeling."  I have learned that on those days when I don't feel like "praising" they are the days when I may need to most of all.  This is a time when I am forced to take my eyes off of myself and think about the One who made me, the One who is really in control of all things.  Interesting things can happen within my soul when I choose to offer up a sacrifice of praise.

I am a sinner in need of a Savior.  The next section of my journal is titled "Confession."  I try to be very honest here for my own sake.  I don't always write down all the details if there is another involved just in case someone ever does pick it up and read it.  But for me, my failings, I write them down.  There is something about seeing them in black and white that keeps me from sugar-coating them and not giving them the attention they deserve.  I can share some of what I wrote yesterday: "I am very tempted to stop living today-not literally, but rather forget my commitments and responsibilities and withdraw from everything.  How long, O Lord...O, Father, help me not to sin in my response."

Requests are the next section in my journal.  Usually it is full of all kinds of things for myself and others.  Yesterday it was simply, "Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah."

As I begin to wrap up my prayer time I come to the section labeled "Thanks."  A thankful heart is something well worth developing.  All I could muster yesterday was, "Thank You for showing me what love is."  Sometimes that is all we can do.  Sometimes it is hard to see the beauty of a rose when you are caught in the thorns, but we must try.

Finally I come to a section labeled, "Listen."  This is perhaps the most difficult thing to master.  To quiet my heart and just listen.  How do I differentiate between my thoughts and the Spirits?  Practice.  I write whatever comes to my mind here, sometimes it gives me direction for the day, sometimes an action I need to take in reaching out to someone, sometimes a warning that keeps me on my toes during the day.  Sometimes, like yesterday, it is an encouraging word to not give up, to not lose hope.

By placing myself at the feet of the Lord yesterday I was able to move on with my day and continue living.  There was even some progress made in the thing that had brought me so low.  By the end of the day I was feeling pretty blessed and encouraged.  There is still an issue before me, but it does not seem insurmountable today.  I really feel that God answered my simple request, "Guide me."  I have no doubt that my day would have looked very different if I had not spent this time with the Lord yesterday.  I would have not awakened filled with peace this morning.  If not for that time I would be in a pretty dark place.  I am writing you this morning because I want you to know that a daily quiet time is not just something to check off of your to do list.  It is not something to put off when the day is long and hard.  I am writing you today because sometimes the process seems dry and dull, but if we are faithful despite that--if we choose to be women who sit at His feet and listen to His word anyway--God can work with that and do amazing things.  He wants to lavish His love on you today sweet sister.  Will you let Him?

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Now That is Love!

I love that Matthew closes out his gospel account with this statement from Jesus, "And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." -Matt. 28:20b- NLT1  That is love.  Not only did Jesus come down to earth to live and die and live again, but He will never, ever leave us.

Quite a few years have passed since I was a preschool teacher.  One afternoon I was with one of my sweet 2 1/2 year olds waiting for his mom to arrive.  He was the last to leave that day and I learned that he thought I lived at the school.  My response to him was how lonely I would be if I stayed there after everyone else had left and I have never forgotten what he said, "Miss Debra, Jesus is always with you.  You would not be alone."  His words come back to me often.

They have rung true when I spent a dark night pleading with God for the life of my brother whose cancer had spread to his liver.  I desperately wanted assurance that I should pray for healing and get it and instead God took me to Revelation 21: 1-5,  "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,  and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.'
And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.'"
I knew as soon as I read those words that my hope for Jeff did not lay in an earthly healing.  God had lessons to teach me about this world not being my home.  He had lessons to teach me about how through it all He would never leave me.

They have rung true when on another dark night, after the death of yet another loved one I pleaded with God just to know that He loved me.  I looked up through tear-filled eyes from my place as a passenger in the car to see a billboard that read, "I love you, and you, and you...God."  Even in a time of my greatest doubts He was with me and he knew exactly what I needed to hear.  And somehow He even arranged for a billboard to be in just the right place, at just the right time for me to see it when I needed it most.

At the lowest points in my life God has been with me.  When I have been unkind and unloving, He has been there.  When I have sat on the heights and taken in the wonders of His creation, He has been there too.  In all of the good, the bad, and the ugly that has made up my life, He has always been with me.  Now that is love!  There is not a thing I can do to chase Him away.  That is His promise to me.  That is His promise to you.

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

Monday, February 13, 2012

Calvary's Love

Here we are, the day before Valentine's.  How fitting to come to Matthew 27:32-66 for my reading today.  This is a love story written for every one of us.  A love like no other.  This is the love that loved enough to die.

Our choir sang Calvary's Love for our anthem yesterday.  There is really nothing more I can say.  Sins atoned and heaven gained.  (if you would like to listen the song as sung by another choir click here- be aware that the video contains scenes from the movie The Passion of Christ, and these are not easy to watch, but that is Calvary's love--what Christ suffered for our sakes.)

Calvary's Love
Lyrics and Composer: Greg Nelson and Phil McHugh

Calvary's Love will sail forever
Bright and shining, strong and free
Like an ark of peace and safety
On the sea of human need.
Through the hours of all the ages
Those tired of sailing on their own
Finally rest inside the shadow
Cast by Calvary's love across their souls

Calvary's Love, Calvary's love
Priceless gift Christ makes us worthy of;
The deepest sin can't rise above
Calvary's Love.

Calvary's love can heal the spirit
Life has crushed and cast aside
And redeem till heaven's promise
Fills with joy once empty eyes
Then desire to tell the story
Of love that loved enough to die
Burns away all other passions
And fed by Calvary's love, becomes a fire.

Calvary's Love, Calvary's love
Priceless gift Christ makes us worthy of;
The deepest sin can't rise above
Calvary's Love.

Calvary's love has never faltered
All it's wonders still remain
Souls still take eternal passage
Sins atoned, and heaven gained
Sins atoned and heaven gained...

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Spirit is Willing...

"Keep alert and pray.  Otherwise temptation will overpower you.  For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!" (Matthew 26:41, NLT1)  These words of Jesus to Peter that night long ago in the garden are just as true in my life today.  I wonder--even after sharing the Passover meal, even after Jesus pointedly telling them that He was going to die, that one of them would betray Him, and that this very night they would all desert Him-- did they still not get it?  As I read this morning I wondered how they could have fallen asleep when Jesus told them to stay alert and pray.  I caught myself thinking, "Not me.  I would have stayed awake and prayed.  I would have sensed the urgency that this night held."   I would have been just like Peter, "Even if everyone else deserts You, I never will."  (heavy sigh) I would have been just like Peter...which means I would have fallen asleep in the garden too.  That is a tough reflection for a Friday, but a good reflection looking forward to a new week.  Forgiven!  All the mistakes of this week are forgiven.  Tomorrow is a fresh start.  Tomorrow begins another day to practice being alert and praying; each day is a chance to grow stronger.  I love that God is a God of more than just second chances.  His love knows no limits.  No matter how many times I fall He has always been there with waiting arms to pick me up again.  I've identified some weak areas I need to pay particularly close attention to next week.  I love that God has already given me everything I need to win this spiritual battle- just read the first chapter of Ephesians if you've any doubt.  Forging ahead as a child of the King!

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Alabaster Jar

My New Testament reading brought me to one of my favorite people in the Bible this morning, Mary.  Matthew recounts the incident this way: "Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had leprosy.  During supper, a woman came in with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head.  The disciples were indignant when they saw this. 'What a waste of money,' they said.  'She could have sold it for a fortune and given the money to the poor.'  But Jesus replied, 'Why berate her for doing such a good thing to me?'" -Matt. 26:6-10, NLT1

In other accounts we learn that this was the same Mary who sat at Jesus feet and listened to His word while her sister Martha was busy with many things.  Jesus states in John's account, that Mary was anointing Him for burial.  No one else around Jesus seemed to get what was about to happen, and I maintain that Mary understood because of the time she spent sitting at Jesus feet.

Now let's look at what she did.  She used a very expensive perfume, one that according to John 12:5 was worth a years wages.  Consider that for a moment.  At minimum wage that would be in the neighborhood of 10,000 dollars in the US.  I cannot help but ask myself, how much is Jesus worth to me?  When I set the priorities of my day do I listen to the world around me, a world that does not "get" devotion to Jesus?  What is the value I place on my money, my time, my possessions; and am I willing to give them all to Jesus?  Just how much is Jesus worth to me?

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


My quiet times have felt rather dry the last few days.  I didn't really expect anything different this morning, in fact I put it off for quite a while.  I've been going through the motions, but I think I have not been listening very well.  Could it be that I am in Exodus to start with, the part that deals with instruction about how to build the tabernacle?  It has felt kind of dry.  Have you ever thought about how much detail is given.  Every bit of its construction was important to God.  Do you believe that He is just as much concerned about every little detail in your life?  "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" -1 Corinthians 6:19, NASB.

This morning He is telling me that I need to pay attention to some of the details I have been neglecting.  It does matter how late I stay up, how early I rise.  It does matter what I choose to clothe my body with, what I choose to clothe my spirit with.  It matters what I put into both my body and soul- what am I feeding on?  This God, who has lavished His love upon us, is concerned about every detail of our lives and He has given us instructions for our own temples that are just as detailed as those He gave to Moses for the tabernacle.  If I am going to be serious about becoming the woman God wants me to be this year, than I better get serious about some of the details.  Shortcuts and laziness just won't cut it and are not what He deserves from me.

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The God Who Parts Seas

I am still thinking about Faith that Moves Mountains.  It is so easy to focus on those mountains and not on the One who actually does the moving.  This morning as I continued my reading in Exodus I came to the part where the Israelites are camped by the red sea with the Egyptian army bearing down on them.
From The Brick Testament-
can you believe someone has illustrated Old testament stories with Legos?
I've included a link at the bottom of this post where you can see the rest of the story and want to thank the owner for allowing me to share some of his images with you.
Talk about a mountain that needing moving!  The people of the LORD were terrified.  Pharoah's whole army was coming after them and they had no where to run.

The Isrealites were not happy campers at this point and turned on Moses.  So not only did Moses have an army coming after him, but an angry mob of his own as well.  To be honest, I have at times felt a bit like that crowd when I have faced some of my own mountains.  Is life really better here?  Sad to say there have been a couple of times in my life when I really doubted that God loves me the way He says He does.  Despite that, He is about to lavish His love on His people once again.

Remain calm, you say?  Don't be afraid, you say?  Sometimes the world is a really terrifying place.  Sometimes I feel like there is no escape.  But just like He has done so many times before, God is about to show both His chosen people, the Egyptians, and the rest of the world, that nothing is impossible for Him.
So the LORD directs Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea and the LORD parts it-even drying out the land for His people to walk on so they can cross safely to the other side.
I've tried to imagine what was going through the hearts and minds of God's people as they made their way across the bed of that sea.  What an incredible rush that must have been!

The Lord was not finished yet.  He stirred the hearts of the Egyptians and they gave chase and followed      the people of Israel right into the sea.
But the LORD brought confusion to the army of Egypt in the midst of the sea...
and then He directed Moses to once again stretch out his hand over the sea and let the waters flow back over the Egyptians.  The entire army of Pharaoh was wiped out; by God and God alone.  Not a single one of them was left when it was all over.

And it hit me.  God is in the business of moving mountains into the sea.  He is in the business of rescuing His people.   He is in the business of lavishing His love upon us.  It started before the world even began.  He had this plan.  A plan that involved choosing us, redeeming us, forgiving us, adopting us, and sealing us. (Eph. 1:1-14)  He has forever been in charge of it all.  There is not a detail that has escaped His notice.  His plan marches forward until that final day when every knee shall bow under the authority of Jesus Christ.  Not one of the mountains along my journey is too big for Him to move out of the way.  Do I want to have faith that moves mountains?  Then I have got to get to know the Mover of mountains.  In knowing Him I will find what I long for; a faith that does not doubt.

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

 To see the rest of the story done in Legos click here.