D.O.G. – Depend on God

My devotion time was led by Hyzer this morning…our 18 oz. grand-dog who spent the night. Opening my prayer time with a plea for God to speak and untangle the chaos in my heart and mind, I immediately heard the waking whines of Hyzer. And here’s what I heard from my Father.

Want to hear from me? Listen for the whimpers of need.

Meet that need.

Show them how to get the ‘trash’ out and put the nasty stuff where it belongs.

Move around, get some exercise.

Explore with joy.

Learn something new.

Share your food.

Chew on the word.

Search for jewels.

And when you do those things, you will be with me…watching me work, for that is what I do for you.

 

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Can others hear your song?

Your song – your story – matters!

You have a story to tell!

Every life reveals God in a unique way. It is our one glorious opportunity to allow the image of God – which we are created in- to shine forth from our lives.

How we live becomes our song of God. The keys to singing your song clearly are knowing God and knowing yourself! He is your designer; you are made in His image, and He has personally planned good works for you to do. To sing your song well, you must first know the heart of God – and then find your place in His heart!

Hebrews 11:2 tells us Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. He is working in your life right now, and He writes amazing stories. As Jesus writes your story, you are the apple of His eye. He adores you and writes the story to make you shine brightly!

Journaling your faith journey moves you along the path of knowing God and finding yourself. Growing in grace and knowledge indicates movement! The devil knows God but never moves to trusting God! Like the diamond, faith develops through the pressures of life. Writing focuses your eyes on the journey and moves you forward. The following guided questions will help you hear and sing your song more clearly!

diamond
https://www.flickr.com/photos/rogerbarker/

Consider the questions below and again let the Spirit direct your thoughts to how God has revealed Himself during the tough times.

• Has it ever felt like your prayers were unheard or that God ignored you?
• When did you doubt that the things you read in the Bible were true for you?

 (e.g. Did you not feel the love of God or His power?  Did it seem like you were the abandoned child and God only loves someone else?)

• Have you been disappointed by those you thought were godly…or at least more godly than you?

• When have you needed the peace that only God could provide?

 • Have you ever had to make a sacrifice for your faith?  Have you been ridiculed for your belief?

 Faith is very personal and must be grappled with on an individual basis.  We need each other, though, to truly see God.  And we all share some common transition points in life that we can easily relate to another’s experience.  Those crisis points are important windows for seeing God and helping others see Him.  Let the Holy Spirit remind you of the fingerprints of God in such times as these: 

frozen wave against sunlight
Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

• Loss of a loved one

• Celebrations:  graduations, promotions

• Marriage

• Birth of children

• A move

Not all growth is from hard times, though. There are disciplines of faith that move us into Christ-likeness. Investing our time in the Word of God, in prayer, in fellowship and in Worship are key components of spiritual growth. Consider:

• What has helped you grow spiritually the most?  What would you encourage every believer to try?

• How has it helped you?

 • What changes in your life have you made to honor God…in obedience to God?

 • What do you recall about your baptism?

 • Are there other sacraments that are particularly meaningful?

 • Have you ever shared the story of your salvation experience?

 • Do you share with others how your faith impacts your life?

 • Do you have a favorite hymn or passage of scripture?

 • What goals for growth do you have now…where do you see God asking you to trust Him more?

 • What transitions are likely to enter your life in the next five years?

Faith stories are inspiring, beautiful and ever-changing.

Start writing yours today or let me know how I can help you with the form below.

Can YOU hear your song?

Your song is beautiful and sounds like the fruit of the spirit. It sings with the heart of God:

Free Printable Fruit of the Spirit | Fruit of the spirit, Love joy ...

 

A great place to begin to hear your song clearly is digging deep into the very heart of God. Knowing Him is the key to knowing yourself…and your song.  Fill out the form below for a free guide into the Names (and Heart) of God!

Your Light Will Break Forth!

Yesterday in my prayer time, a question from Experiencing Prayer with Jesus by Henry & Norman Blackaby pierced my heart:

“Do you spend enough time with God to know what His heart is for the world in terms of spiritual awakening and revival?”

To be honest, I had not asked Him. Perhaps I assumed I knew. Perhaps I was too busy telling Him what was on my heart. But I stopped. And today, His Spirit led me to Isaiah 58. You may remember that this chapter centers on the ‘fast God chooses.’ As I read, it thrilled my heart to see how COVID-19 has helped us move closer to the fast God prefers.

hand touching glass

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

In the passage, God tells Isaiah to ‘declare unto God’s people their transgressions.’ The outward actions of God’s people evidently were appropriate…they called to Him for justice, they fasted, they ‘took delight in approaching’ Him. But with piercing honesty, God says all of their actions were for their pleasures, in an argumentative spirit. God said, ‘Isaiah, tell them not to fast in that way to be heard by Me.’ God exposes hearts celebrating self…not Him.

This year, the legislated confinement around the world denies us Christians many of our self-centered pleasures.  Our joyful gatherings, our celebration of love shared and our church families are off-limits. Family gatherings are outside the legal guidelines too. Loved ones are dying alone. Finances are dwindling, jobs evaporating. Families are grieving losses without the comfort of friends’ hugs. All of which prepares hearts to receive the most freeing truth of all. Jesus is all we need to live with joy and fullness.

But it isn’t until Jesus is all you have that you can truly understand Jesus is all you need!

COVID has moved us toward God’s desires by separating us from the things we trust in and rely on for pleasure and contentment. But there are still actions we must choose. The chapter goes on to explain ‘the fast God has chosen.’ His fast – the things He wants us to separate from – brings incredible results!

The oppressed set free – (We are the first to be released!).

The hungry fed – (Our hearts find what it truly hungers for!).

the homeless sheltered – (We learn to shelter in His love!).

and the naked clothed – (Our flesh is covered with His righteousness!).

Moreover, as we Christians humbly receive and honestly share our struggles and longings, others will come to know His glory too! That fast produces God’s desires. Our light bursts forth like dawn and healing springs up – we fulfill the plans He planned for us!

Whenever God commands us to do something, it is for the good of all!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

  • His ways produce a well-watered garden…a place of refreshment.
  • His ways produce an enduring spring of fresh-flowing, living water.
  • His ways produce Christians who rebuild ruins and restore foundations.
  • His ways produce streets where people want to dwell.

Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy healing shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of Jehovah shall be thy rearward. Then shalt thou call, and Jehovah will answer; thou shalt cry, and he will say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking wickedly; and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul: then shall thy light rise in darkness, and thine obscurity be as the noonday; (Isaiah 58:8-10)

May Easter 2020 launch each of us on a fast from the things that are of this world – the things that we use to please ourselves – and into a life of delighting in Him!

 

STEPS OF FAITH

Where do you need to ‘get rid of the yoke among you’ – stop finger pointing and bad-mouthing?

How can you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted – what hungers, what needs is God bringing to you?

As you seek to honor His commands, Christ goes before you. The glory of God becomes your rear-guard. When you cry, He will say, “Here I am.”

 

Waiting Room of God

Grief blinds and deafens the heart. Scripture does not record many of Jesus’ followers being at the Cross…but some were there. Others perhaps buried under confusion, fear, discouragement and deafening grief fled the scene of horror. Overwhelmed by a situation they could not control, Jesus’ followers found themselves locked them in a prison of darkness. The truths they heard, the truths they believed were – for the moment – out of reach. Have you sat in darkness like that?

Take heart. Jesus anticipated that happening. Isaiah 53 speaks so beautifully of Jesus and His understanding of grief:

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not…Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” Isaiah 53:3,10

Jesus told them that when He, the Shepherd, was stricken, the sheep would scatter. He is never surprised by our ‘failings.’ He is never discouraged by (or for) us. His faith does not rest upon us. Jesus knows the depths of despair will give way to unshakeable hope. He knows the pleasure of the LORD will break forth.

I like to think that that evening, those who had been at the Cross found their friends and shared the passage Jesus spoke from when He said, “I thirst.” Throughout the horror, the Living Word drew upon the written Word for guidance.

“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.” John 19:28

Fulfilling the Word compelled Jesus even in His dying moments. The vinegary drink would have helped make His final words audible: IT IS FINISHED!

Jesus didn’t die as a martyr, He died as a victor…and knew it. But some of His loved ones were blinded by grief. The passage He quoted from is an imprecatory Psalm. Those Psalms beg God for justice…they cry out the grief that blinds to the One who heals. Those Psalms confront the evil, the wrongs endured but they deliver you to victory. They take you to praise. In the dark waiting moments, consider the power of these words:

“But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs. The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God. For the LORD heareth the poor, and despiseth note the prisoners. Let the heaven and earth praise Him, the seas, and everything that moveth therein. For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession. The seed also of his servants shall inherit: and they that love his name shall dwell therein.” Psalm 69:29-36 

At some point(s) in life, every disciple finds themselves in the despair of the ‘day after’ – in the darkness of waiting. In Jesus, there is Light and Hope. May we be the disciples who speak the words of hope to the deaf and the blind!

As we draw close to the glory of Resurrection, ask yourself:

• Am I stuck in a time of darkness and waiting?
• How is Jesus the Light for my time(s) of despair and confusion?
• Who needs words of encouragement in the waiting of COVID-19?

 

 

Helpless in the Face of Horror

There are times in life we find ourselves completely helpless. We see horror unfolding. We see injustice. We see pain and suffering. Yet, we are powerless to change the course of the events. It is humbling.

HALLELUJAH!  God never despises a humble heart!

When Judas kissed Jesus in Gethsemane, the power of sin rolled forward at break-neck speed. Sin often catches us unaware…even though we launch it on its way. By the time we notice, it’s too late. At the meal earlier in the night, Jesus had declared that He was about to be handed over for execution. He plainly stated that one of his trusted disciples would be the betrayer. Every disciple, including Judas, had asked, “I’m not the one am I, Rabbi?” Later, Jesus even told the disciples, “You will all fall away from me.” His words were inconceivable to them. We don’t comprehend our weakness until it stares us in the face.

Jesus understands it. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” While Jesus wrestled before the Father in sorrow, Peter, James and John slept. At His point of greatest need, His closest friends were powerless to help. Only the Father above could give Jesus the help He needed. He poured out His heart with passion…and total trust in His heavenly Father. While flesh fails in the face of grief and horror, surrender to the Father produces eternal victory. “Thy will be done,” are words of faith and power. Jesus was not helpless in the face of horror…He was fixed on the Father’s will.

In fact, Jesus declared that He could ask the Father at any point to save Him…to send Him legions of angels. But love kept Him on mission. Love strengthened Him to walk through horror confident of the Father’s plan. Hebrews tells us ‘for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.’ Because of Jesus, that same focus can be ours.

After the Passover meal, Jesus again poured out His heart to the disciples seeking to prepare them for what was to come. He spoke of the future, of the coming Holy Spirit…of disciples doing greater works than Jesus Himself…of receiving ‘anything that is asked in His name.’ “Don’t let your hearts be troubled,” He encouraged. ‘Abide in my love, obey me.’ Then He said, ‘I tell you all these things, so you can love one another.’

Love is power that removes the helplessness. We see what Love looks like as we watch Jesus in the trial and on the cross. We see what Love most clearly when we are most helpless. On this day of Holy Week, consider:

• When has sin snuck up on you and left you powerless?
• Why is love that is based on the Father’s will so powerful?
• How does our helplessness in COVID-19 increase our understanding of love?

Holy Week 2020 – A Legacy of Love

The Disciples thought they understood Passover. It was a tradition they knew well. During that final meal with Jesus, though, the fullness of their understanding expanded exponentially. What formerly celebrated a past event became an eternal expression of the sacrificial love of God. The Scriptures eloquently say, “Having loved his own who were in the world, He loved them until the end.” Nothing of what Jesus knew was coming – indeed nothing He experienced – deterred expression of His love.

This entire evening provides another feast for our souls. The Word declares that Jesus was agitated in spirit. But He remained on mission…a servant of the Father above. During the meal, Jesus would bring the symbolism of the bread and wine to a shocking reality: the breaking of His own body and the shedding of His blood to cover sin. He didn’t replace tradition. In fact, Jesus said as you do this in the future, remember Me. The revelations of Jesus build line upon line!

Before Jesus knelt to wash the disciples’ feet, we glimpse the heart that chooses surrendered service. Knowing His authority, where He came from and where He was going, the Master chose the lowliest of work for Himself. He could have delegated it. He could have demanded it. Instead, He performed it. That’s what secure love looks like!
That same evening, the disciples argued about who is greatest. They mumbled amongst themselves. Peter even debated with Jesus his need for washing and over-estimated the depths of his loyalty. Judas, possibly even deceived in his own heart, betrayed Jesus. Those are the actions of those not yet matured in love. Those are the actions of you and me.

Yet, as Judas departs, Jesus declares, “Now the Son of Man is glorified.” Jesus sees what is to come and declares it in the present moment. That often left the disciples puzzled…and we as well! Even then, Jesus doesn’t falter in His mission. He keeps feeding and teaching: ‘A new command I give you. Love others as I have loved you.’ One of the most beautiful passages of Scripture rests here…John 17, Christ’s prayer for his disciples…for you and me. His love poured out even as He faced the darkest night.

Consider:

• When your heart is burdened and anxious, what pours out?
• When has Jesus left you confused…and how did you find your way to the Light?
• How does COVID-19 (and other dark times of life) help us love more fully?

 

PARABLES OF PASSION WEEK

HOLY WEEK 2020 DEVOTION SERIES

Holy Week Light in the Darkness of COVID-19

A pandemic is the perfect backdrop for Holy Week. The first Holy Week followed a series of horrific plagues and began with God’s people fleeing in haste. On this Holy Week of 2020, let’s join Jesus at some of the pivotal moments of His week.  Often in those passages, we see the burden on Jesus’ heart: He was troubled, anxious in heart. Emotions are part of the human experience. So, as we enter into this holy time with hearts made vulnerable by COVID-19, let us share in the ‘sufferings of Christ’ and yet rejoice knowing our passage to the Promised Land is paid!

Triumphal Entry

Cleansing the Temple – Then & Now

PARABLES OF THE PASSION WEEK

What an incredible Revival Week, Jesus’ Passion Week Parables provides. The depths of Christ’s teaching in this week are a feast this brief devotional only scans. Bless your spirit and take time to delve deep into these!

Jesus understood these were His last teachings on earth. As always, every word He spoke came from the Father. In each teaching, He pleads for a right view of the Kingdom. The day (or perhaps days of teaching) began with the Fig Tree we mentioned yesterday. The power of believing prayer casts mountains into the sea! Jesus said, ‘All things are possible to those who believe!’ His passion this week was to sow seeds of belief…to reveal wrong ways and wrong thinking.

The reason for parables involves timing and readiness of heart. The Song of Solomon oft repeats the phrase, ‘Awaken not love before its time.’ Jesus gave truth in parables that only those whose hearts were ready would receive it. Parables offer a protective power to those not ready for truth.

In the Passion Week, Jesus started with the story of two sons whose actions revealed their intentions. You can hear His heart pleading for us to go deeper than words. Jesus then shared the parable of the tenants who rejected and disrespected those the Master sent. Finally, He spoke of the wedding feast most invitees were uninterested (and even scornful) of attending. The message was consistent and clear in all three. It bounced off the hard hearts of the Pharisees who simply conjured up challenges to fend off the painful truth Jesus delivered.

Jesus directly said, “You’ve gone astray. You don’t understand the Scriptures of the power of God.” And He began to detail the ways…the woes…hard hearts create. Jesus unveiled the coming end times still pleading in parables for true believers to be watchful (fig tree), prepared (ten virgins), invested (talents) and looking toward the final judgment (sheep & goats).

The Savior’s messages to the Pharisees are to us as well. Let your heart hear His plea and refuse to respond as a Pharisee.  Allow the wound to make room for the Truth…for Jesus.

As you walk through Holy Week today, consider:

  • Pick one (or more) of the parables and listen deeply. Put yourself in the parable…imagine the feelings of the son who refused to work…then imagine yourself as the son who said you would work but did not. Then consider the love of the Father who pleads for you to come talk to Him…in every situation.
  • When have you lost sight of Jesus…even if outwardly you still read your Bible, went to church?
  • How has COVID-19 sharpened your eyesight to Jesus so you can say more whole-heartedly, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’

 

Cleansing the Temple – Then & Now

Holy Week Light in the Darkness of COVID-19

A pandemic is the perfect backdrop for Holy Week. The first Holy Week followed a series of horrific plagues and began with God’s people fleeing in haste. On this Holy Week of 2020, let’s join Jesus at some of the pivotal moments of His week.  Often in those passages, we see the burden on Jesus’ heart: He was troubled, anxious in heart. Emotions are part of the human experience. So, as we enter into this holy time with hearts made vulnerable by COVID-19, let us share in the ‘sufferings of Christ’ and yet rejoice knowing our passage to the Promised Land is paid!

If you missed the previous post in this series, visit:  Triumphal Entry

 

Cleansing the Temple

Jesus had cleared out the temple once before. At the start of His ministry three years before, His zeal for His father’s house exploded on the scene. After the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus went straight to the Temple. He was – and is – always about the Father’s business.

In the first cleansing, the Jews challenged Jesus to present a sign to justify his actions. He spoke of ‘destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days.’ To which, the leaders simply scoffed. In the following three years, Jesus’ ministry demonstrated signs consistently. There was no need to request a sign in the latter cleansing…in fact, there was no immediate response. The following morning as Jesus and the disciples entered Jerusalem, a fig tree served to teach the disciples about the power of pure faith.

In contrast, at the temple, the Jews grappled to retain control of their comfortable religion. Responding to the conviction of the cleansing on the previous day, they chose to challenge to Jesus’ authority. He replied with a question of his own. ‘Where did John the Baptist’s authority come from?’ The Pharisees hedging response revealed that Truth was not their aim…maintaining the status quo mattered more to them. So, Jesus, said, ‘Neither will I tell you.’ He never casts ‘pearls’ before swine. Challenges and excuses reveal a heart unwilling to submit to the Lord.

But the treasures, the secrets of God, are open to sincere seekers. It often takes dark times to inspire us to seek the Light of the World.  The pandemic of 2020 is just such a time. As the world shakes with uncertainty, Truth that will stand the test of time becomes more treasured. Dark times initiate heart cleansing – which is the temple of this age. Repentance – turning from our pride and preferences – restores our heart to the temple God intends it to be: a place to meet with the King!

In this Holy Week, consider:

  • When have you chosen the comfort of religion over the challenge of faith? How is COVID-19 challenging your faith?
  • Recall a dark time in your life that led you to deeper Truths of Jesus.
  • Had there been hints of that Truth in the past that you missed?
  • What Truths of God are holding you fast in this time of uncertainty?

 

 

Holy Week Light in the Darkness of COVID-19

HOLY WEEK 2020

A pandemic is the perfect backdrop for Holy Week. The first Holy Week followed a series of horrific plagues and began with God’s people fleeing in haste. On this Holy Week of 2020, let’s join Jesus at some of the pivotal moments of His week.  Often in those passages, we see the burden on Jesus’ heart: He was troubled, anxious in heart. Emotions are part of the human experience. So, as we enter into this holy time with hearts made vulnerable by COVID-19, let us share in the ‘sufferings of Christ’ and yet rejoice knowing our passage to the Promised Land is paid! 

TRIUMPHAL ENTRY 

Jesus’ friends at Bethany were an integral part of His Holy Week.  There, he spent time with those who knew Him best: His disciples and Martha, Mary and Lazarus. In an act of love and deep understanding of Jesus’ assignment, Mary ‘prepared His body for burial.’ Her anointing of Jesus revealed a depth of understanding most missed. The miracle resurrection of her brother led Mary to a deep awareness of Jesus as the resurrection and the life. She understood that believing in Him was life itself. Her belief ‘filled the house’ with a sweet aroma.

In contrast to Mary’s understanding, the hardness of the Pharisees led them to another conclusion: ‘It is better one man die for the nation.’ Just as greed drove Judas, power and control dictated the hearts of the religious. The aroma of death emanates from hard hearts in the same circumstances where an aroma of life exudes from a faith-filled heart.

Mary’s understanding must have been a precious balm to Jesus. Receiving her loving sacrifice even as Judas’ greedy condemnation of Mary’s act pierced his ears: ‘What a waste!” Although, Jesus put no trust in humanity, He felt the warmth of shared love and the pain of betrayal. 

As he descended the Mount of Olives on the way to Jerusalem, he paused and wept over the city below. He wept for the blindness that prevented true peace for the precious people below. He wept for the very people who, in just five short days, would be screaming, “Crucify Him!” On this day, though, Jesus came into a city singing His praises. A city hailing Him as King and welcoming Him. 

They missed the significance of the donkey He chose to ride upon. Jesus announced Himself as a King who comes in peace. They saw in Jesus what they really wanted: a deliverer from Roman rule.  An earthly focus blinded them to eternal victory. It is the danger we all face when looking at Jesus.

As this Holy Week begins, consider:

  • Are you enjoying those closest to you on your journey through life? How has COVID-19 helped you appreciate loved ones more?
  • When have you worshiped Jesus as something you wanted…and not necessarily for Who He is? How did Jesus heal your blindness in that time?
  • Do you weep over the lost in your community? Do you weep over those who reject you?

Why note choose one of Bible passages to read aloud as a family?

Matthew 21:1–11, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:28–44, and John 12:12–19