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

A Life of Faithfulness

We looked at the quality of faithfulness in our study of Christian Character.  Today, though, I want to share the story of a faithful saint God blessed our lives with.  This saint exuded the characteristic of faithfulness.    Miss Marilyn Davis.

Sixty-nine years of teaching Sunday School is a pretty solid example of faithfulness.  Yet, it only scratches the surface of this saint’s example.  Courageous conviction lived with humble meekness are the right words, but the reality is so much more beautiful than the words.  Miss Marilyn lived consistently…she was the antithesis of the double-minded man in James.

Miss Marilyn could always be counted on to do what she said–even to living her entire life without electricity or running water because she made a commitment to her father years before.  I never heard her complain: she hauled coal buckets (and ashes) for heat and cooking; she carried water; she used an outhouse.  Yet all those things were simply the backdrop of a life that constantly reached out to others in faithfulness to her Savior.

She planted hundreds of  ‘Impatience” seeds each year to give to the ladies of the church on Mother’s Day.  She shared the bounty of her garden with all but the woodchucks; she had a gun and knew how to us56821_1545096159393_6199181_oe it!  She loved her woods and walking through God’s beautiful creation; and she shared it with those who wanted to walk with her.  She saved stickers and cards to give to the children.  She shopped for presents and candies to encourage the children’s attendance in Junior Church.  She shared Missionary stories to give little hearts a glimpse of devotion to Jesus.  She shared her life with everyone to give a glimpse of Jesus.

Miss Marilyn revealed the faithfulness of Jesus by the way she lived her life.  She was a woman who helped people know what the Bible said even if they didn’t open it.

As a Christian, that is how we are to live.  I am thankful for her example and so are hundreds of others.  I pray you have such an example in your life.  And I pray that God will help each of us give a glimpse to the world of what the faithfulness of God is all about.

 

Fixing Our Eyes on God

Studying the Scriptures is my joy!  Fixing my eyes on Christ as the Word reveals Him has been the cleansing and nourishment of my life for over two decades.

You are invited to dig more deeply into the Names of God with this 26-week devotional.  Fixing Our Eyes on God is designed to help you do just that kind of digging.

Taking that to the next level, use the study to witness to God’s greatness by speaking at nursing homes or local events.  Heartsong loves to help people grow through serving.  We are called to be witnesses.  This is a great tool to use to witness who God is to you personally…by Name!  Heartsong is glad to help people grow by giving their testimony.

This compilation of Devotional pieces on some of the less-used names of God will transform your life because it fixes your eyes on HIM!  This is a great resource to lead a group study as well.  If you are an experienced leader, all you need are copies of the book.  Others may wish to have coaching support to lead the group and others may prefer to schedule an author-led group study.  Contact Heartsong below to discuss which option will work best for you!

Fixing Our Eyes on God – PDF

An A-Z devotional study using lesser-known Names of God.

$1.99

If you cannot afford the suggested donation or would like to schedule an author-led study, please fill out the contact form below and indicate the specific resource you would like to have.

 

 

 

 

Can we use an Exacto Knife on the Bible?

If I believed in the ‘exacto-knife’ approach to reading the Word of God, this verse would have been eliminated years ago.

But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.  

Matthew 7:14

I wear the proverbial ‘rose-colored’ glasses whenever I can.  I detest arguing and can find a million things I would rather do than proclaim ‘my rightness’ or ‘your wrong-ness.’  Indeed, there are many shades of gray in my world.  And seeing ‘both sides’ is my natural bent.  I am maturing into one willing to stand on the lines of Scripture, though.

For God is not wishy-washy; nor does He have difficulty discerning lines.  His view is not blurry or variations of gray like mine.  Scripture is clear:  there is right and wrong, good and evil.  Scripture is clear:  there is a devil.  He hates believers, and it is his preferred mission to destroy those who sincerely call upon the name of Christ.

The devil loves cloudy thinking.  I thank God that my early years of faith placed me under the tutelage of solid, Bible-teaching pastors.  There is no room for exacto-knives when you study the Word of God.  All Scripture is written for learning, encouragement and chastening.

Christians must study the Word to know what is in it…God created and creates with the living Word.  There is no other source to know how to live. 

Not long after the verse about the narrow gate, there is another passage that chills my heart and shatters my rose-colored glasses.  It teaches us that on judgment day, many who thought they knew Jesus are told ‘depart from me–I never knew you.’

My heart aches to consider the multitudes who have, are and will miss life.  That sorrow presses me to know God more fully, to reveal Him with greater simplicity and clarity.  My heart cries for individuals to know the glory of God–and the privilege of living in the power of Christ.

To consider oneself a believer–a friend of God–is awe-inspiring, is it not?  To claim to be friends with one so powerful that their very words produce action, create substance and give life is quite a claim.  Are we worthy friends?

Friends don’t hang out with those who hate their friend.  Friends don’t walk all over their friend’s kindnesses.  Friends don’t change their friend’s words to be what they want the words to be.  Yet, many of us who call Jesus, ‘Friend,’ do all of those things.  Many who call Him Friend don‘t even know what He says.  Many simply go on their own thoughts and opinions, assuming what they think is what God thinks.

There can be no exacto-knives in studying Scripture.  If it isn’t all Truth, who determines what parts are Truth?

 Wouldn’t that make the person who decides their own god?

Heaven forbid!  Invest your time and mind in studying the Word of God.  Don’t go on what Granny taught you or the newspaper reports.  Read it, study it for yourself!  Your eternity depends on it!.

What is your favorite place to find quality Bible studies? Or why don’t you study the Word?

I’ll post some of my favorite links in coming days but I look forward to hearing yours too.

Heartsong Pets: Devotion Debut

Image

Attendees and staff at the Adult Day Care in Chester, SC welcomed the message of pets as partners who help us gain understanding of great truths from God today!  The Velveteen Rabbit, a book written in 1922 presents a beautiful message of ‘becoming real’ through the bumps and bruises of life.  Combining snippets from the book with truths in the Word, the love of God was celebrated around the room.  Sharing stories of hard times that revealed the faithfulness of God, we celebrated together Christ’s example of embracing rejection with unconditional love.

The weather–and not yet fully trained pets–hindered the presence of real-life animals…but not the participation of animals.  Many shared stories of their own beloved pets and a bag of stuffed bunnies (donated by Christ Central Ministries) stayed to offer bunny love to any in need.  The reality that pets help bring the words we know in our heads to loving feelings in our hearts was loud and clear.

Heartsong Pets is on the calendar for a devotion in late August.  If you would like to know more about participating, let me know!  Miss Pat has agreed to play, “It is Well With My Soul” next time.

Therapy Dog training classes continue.  We are tentatively scheduled for this Sunday at 3 pm.

Seeking God as a Treasure

Another concept name to feast upon today…In speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven–the dwelling place of our Savior and the Father, He (Jesus) said,

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.  Matthew 13:45,46

Just prior to that teaching is another equating the kingdom with a pearl.  Isaiah used ‘diadem of great beauty’–a crown.  Scripture abounds with references treasuring God.  Here’s another favorite of mine:

And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness–secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.  Isaiah 45:3

Miner, BiblioArchives

Miner, BiblioArchives

Diamonds and pearls (all precious ores) are created in the dark, either under great pressure or in response to an irritant.

Seeking God as our treasure requires us to press through the darkness, endure great pressure, get dirty and go through hard times.

He is worth it!  Press in.  Press on!!

My Redeemer Lives!

Redeemer.  Miriam Webster defines redeemer as ” a person who brings goodness, honor, etc., to something again…”  God who does things greater than we can imagine is surely One who brings goodness.  There is no limit to the ways Jesus Christ redeems…promised in Genesis we individually have the privilege to receive the Promise and walk the redemption out!John NineTwentyFive

Here is a great look from another webpage (www.hisnameisjesus.org)

Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I [am] the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way [that] thou shouldest go. (Isa 48:17 KJV)

What a promise. Here, we’re being told that we will be taught (i.e. instructed) of the Lord, even to profit (meaning, to benefit). There is also the promise in this scripture referrence, that the Lord our REDEEMERwill lead (lead forth, march or march forth, tread, cause to go, walk), us in the way that we should go.

The Lion and the Lamb

A word picture most of have heard of:  Jesus is the Lion and the Lamb. Check out this beautiful insight from John Piper as you mull on this truth today.

“Remove the lop-sided and distorted images of your Son that weaken our worship and lame our obedience.  May the power of the Lion and the love of the Lamb make our faith in Christ unshakeable…deliver us from small dreams and timid ventures… Make us love with fierce and humble love.  Let us share the confidence of the Lion of Judah that gave him the will to die like a Lamb and rise in everlasting joy.”

Finding your way into the presence of God

My heart aches to understand that there are those who seldom enjoy time with God; those who feel puzzled when others speak of ‘feeling His touch’ or ‘hearing His voice.’  God is a personal God, desperately desiring to connect with us.  My greatest sadness is not for those who reject God but for those striving to “DO” something to get closer to Him.  Just as Paul said to the crowds in Rome, “He is never far from you.”  Entering into His presence is a possibility any time!

Made in the image of God–body, soul and spirit–seeking Him involves all aspects of us.  Frankly, we are the barrier to enjoying God.  On the physical level, busy-ness is the biggest blockade.  Even if the activities are God-oriented, busyness prevents real interaction the Father.  Vigilance that prioritizes private God-time is critical.  Fellowship with Christians, “church,” is part of the plan of God as well.  We must enjoy His presence individually and corporately.  If your church orchestrates details of every service, make it your personal ambition to enter the presence of God in those details.  He is still there; help others find Him by letting His light flood you!

Other physical world things that can keep from God are seeking pleasures from the world instead of him.  Over-eating is an easy example for many of us.  Stress and fatigue drive me to comfort foods on a regular basis.  God asks to be my Bread of Life.  Each of us will have areas of weakness the Spirit can reveal.  Ask God what in the physical world separates you from Him.  Any physical sin (any sin for that matter) will separate us from God.  They are idolatry; things we prefer to the presence of God.  Refuse to let your body keep you from the Creator!

Then there is that soul part of us:  our mind, will and emotions.  Much of the battle of life takes place in the mind.  We are to renew our minds with the Word.  That is not a dry, wearisome task—even if you never liked reading anything!  Technology gives you amazing options to listen or watch the Word.  Find a way to get Truth from the Word into your mind because that changes everything!  Emotions flow from our thoughts, and actions come out of our emotions.  Spending time in the Word is not optional, nor is it an item to check off from a ‘to do’ list.

Engage your heart and your mind with His words and you will feel His presence—and He will empower you to exercise your will and obey Him.  It is different than just ‘spending time in the Word’; it must be time with God!  For

Lawrence OP Let the Children Come We are all children!

Lawrence OP
Let the Children Come
We are all children!

me, an avid ‘student’—and self-professed geek, enjoying God through reading and writing is easy—it is my design.  Thoughts serve as propulsion jets shooting me toward the Father.  I may pause to gaze in awe at His beauty; I may ask a question for clarification from Him or dig into a word study for more thought jets.  Seek His heart as you read and even if it is not your default design, He will meet you!

Don’t stop there!  Keep seeking.  Find new ways to enter His glory, unique ways based on how He created you!  Find a mentor who can listen to your heart and help you hear the things God is speaking into your life.

Consider using music.  Scripture-based music helps me lay down the ‘soulish’ parts of self and enjoy Him.  It quiets my busy mind and lets me focus on feeling God.  On the other hand, some find their soul so engaged in music, they fail to connect with God.  Make Him the priority.  Continually seek His presence.  Be attentive for Him.  He promises to be found.  Do not give up.  God is not distant but imminently, impressively real!

I’ll leave you with one final tool that works for me when the press of life feels too weighty.  I go for a walk.  It helps me synchronize my overused mind and underused body.  The magnitude of creation, the details and activity of nature quietly working mostly unnoticed by busting humanity resets my spirit.  To my harm and shame, the stuff of life, the cares of this world, easily stifle the still, small voice of my humble, majestic God.  He is ever-present, yet I am blind to Him.  A walk—whether on a street or in the windows—engages me with a world bigger than my own.  It reminds me of my smallness and floods me with thanksgiving for His love and wisdom.

 What works for you to enter the presence of God.  Share here, share with others:  has there been a song, a book or a worship experience that stands out?

 We are to live this life of faith together.  God blesses that we can in turn bless another.

 If you struggle to find or feel God, zap a note.  Let’s talk it through.  He loves you beyond measure.  He is waiting for you to enjoy being with Him.  There is nothing more you need to do to be loved by Him…

Me…an expression of God?

Our story begins as a creative work of God…and unfolds in the same way.  Just like the first humans, we are made in the image of God.  Pause and think on that just for a moment:  YOU are created in the image of God.  Every morning as you awake, let that truth settle into your heart and mind before you bound into the day.  Everyone you encounter has an opportunity to glimpse God in you!  Are you ready for that privilege…for that responsibility?!  Only in Christ can we ever embrace our divine purpose.

The image of God in man was marred in Paradise…and each one of us, every day, mars it more.  We are frail, fallible folks–clay jars indeed.  We make muddy messes; we have cracks and jagged edges.  God knew all that and took care of our lacks before He ever uttered the first word of creation!  (1 Peter 1:20)  So, as you prepare to go into your day as an expression of God, remember to celebrate the love that saw every sin that would mess up His plans–and made a Way in spite of the sin!  That is the God we are called to be the image of!

Finally, before you enter into your day, remember the ‘Work’ is complete. God does not ask us to do what we can never do.  Our ‘ability’ rests on this:  believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.   Jesus stated our daily work very clearly:

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  (John 6:29)

It is His work that restores us to our intended divine purpose:  being an expression of God.  God began that work–and His Spirit continues it.  Knowing God is key to knowing the image we are made in.  Studying His Names is one great way to know Him more.  The Prayer Today website has many resources for studying His Names; here is one.  Glory Glimpses on this blog offer you some devotions on the same topic; click here to consider God as the Morning Star.  Simply know that God loves you and wants you to know Him personally and share Him with the world around us gives great cause for rejoicing!

Are you hungry for more on the subject of ‘your job?’  Numerous scriptures encourage us to know we can be fully equipped for the good work God plans for us to do:  2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 1:3; Philippians 1:6 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 are some good starting points.

So:  spend some time knowing this great God you are created in the image of…and let someone see Him in you!