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Friday, January 24, 2014

When God Seems Distant

This is such a great post, written by a friend of my daughter's.  There are some great take-aways.  Enjoy.


Real Rest… Live Freely & Lightly

“Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

Monday, January 20, 2014

What the Arrival of Jesus Means

14–16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

17–20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21–23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

1–2 8 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

3–4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.
The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

5–8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.    

Romans 7:14-25 and 8:1-8 The Message

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Skies, Signposts, & Strawberries

1-2 God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.

Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.

3-4 Their words aren’t heard,
their voices aren’t recorded,

But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

4-5 God makes a huge dome
for the sun—a superdome!

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.

7-9 The revelation of God is whole
and pulls our lives together.

The signposts of God are clear
and point out the right road.

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 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.

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

11-14 There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger
and directs us to hidden treasure.

Otherwise how will we find our way?
Or know when we play the fool?

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.

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.

Psalm 19 The Message

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Black Rook in Rainy Weather

Black Rook in Rainy Weather

On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers
in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident

To set the sight on fire
In my eye, nor seek
Any more in the desultory weather
some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can't honestly
A certain minor light may still 
Lean incandescent

Out of kitchen table or chair 
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects
now and then -
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largess, honor,
One might say love.  At any rate,
I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape);
Yet politic; ignorant

Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow.  I only know
that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality.  With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts.  Miracles occur, 
If you dare to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles.  The wait's 
begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent.

Sylvia Plath

A close friend gifted me this book several years ago; an Advent read.  I'm somewhat unconventional when it comes to typical Christmas practices, and perusing daily devotional books is not a practice I normally engage in.  But I've found this book to be quite different.  Sylvia Plath's poem, an excerpt from the book, is a great example.  If interested, you can find it here.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Growing to Maturity

Paul, to the church in Colosse:

We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.

Colossians 1:28-29 The Message

Before I started this blog, I knew this would be a key guiding verse for me.  Even from the earliest days after I trusted Christ to be Lord of my life, I longed for maturity… to be trained, guided, taught God's ways.  As the years have clicked along that thirst has not waned.  But what has surprised me is how often the route to growing up is a review of the basics.

I suppose that shouldn't be shocking, because the same holds true in many other arenas of life.  Diet.  Exercise.  Work ethic.  Yes, as we gain ground in our understanding in these areas, we become more "muscular", more knowledgeable, wiser.  But we never forget the basics.

Some of the "basics" that have served me well over the years are making prayer a priority ("pray all the time"), guarding my thought life (Power #1Power #2, Power #3), choosing thankfulnesspracticing holiness (only by God's grace!)… obviously this is not an exhaustive list!  These are disciplines, choices to be made daily.  Every bit of it can only be done by God's grace and with His power.

If you want to get really serious about growing & changing, a must-read is Dallas Willard's book, The Spirit of the Disciplines.  He takes this discussion to a whole new level!

If you could choose five "basics" that help you to become more of who God made you to be, what would those things be?  Are they biblical directives?  Are you practicing them?  What is the benefit of reviewing the basics?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

He Will Shelter You With His Wings

"1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:

He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection."
Psalm 91:1-4 New Living Translation

Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915) was one of Christianity's most prolific song writers (she wrote more than 9,000 songs).  Often when I read Psalm 91 I think of one of the hymns she penned, He Hideth My Soul (below).  (Read about her life: Crosby's life )

"A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away;
He holdeth me up, and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.

With numberless blessings each moment He crowns,
And filled with His fullness divine,
I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God
For such a Redeemer as mine!

When clothed in His brightness, transported I rise
To meet Him in clouds of the sky,
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love
I’ll shout with the millions on high.