Monthly Archives: March 2015

Just Get On Board!

Yeah, it's a stock picture, but it's perfect!

Yeah, it’s a stock picture, but it’s perfect!

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said,  I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”  Mark 8:1-3

Jesus must have been tired at this time.  Large crowds were with him every day.  It was really not what he intended, for large groups of people always be with him.  He kept leaving and going to other locations.  He’d tried earlier to take his disciples some place quiet to get rest, but the crowd followed him there.  He went to Tyre and didn’t want anyone to know where he was.

So here he is again, surrounded by people, surrounded by needs, for three days.  These people don’t even seem to have much sense.  They’ve gone out to Jesus without giving thought to what this would entail.  They don’t plan ahead or provide for their own needs. It’s like they see Jesus and lose their heads.  I really want to think less of them for being foolish.

I have a problem sometimes thinking people are foolish.  So arrogant.

But Jesus had compassion and met their needs anyway.  Oh man, that means I need to have compassion on those who are foolish, those who have made poor choices with their lives.  Of course I’ve made a lot of poor choices too, but I can be blind to that.

Jesus sacrificed and kept on giving to the people WITHOUT resentment.

He just took the train God put in front of him  and rode it.  It’s like he said as recorded by John, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”  John 5:19

And that’s what I want to do when things get busy, when I feel overwhelmed.  I want to get on board and ride the train God puts in front of me with a good attitude.

I want to ride the train with TRUST.  God gave me that train for a reason.

His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”   “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.  “Seven,” they replied.  He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so.  They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Mark 8:4-7

Jesus didn’t worry about HOW he was going to ride the train, he just went forward and believed God would provide.    Only seven loaves for four thousand men?  No problem, start handing it out.  Only a few fish?  Thank God for what we have, and keep on going.

The same is true for us.  Only 24 hours in the day?  Only so much energy?  More needs that resources?  No problem.  Just go forward, ride the train God has given, and believe God will provide.

And more importantly, it’s vital to THANK GOD for the little fish we DO have.  Somehow, as Ann Voscamps writes in “One Thousand Gifts,” the thanks always precedes the miracle.  Instead of focusing on the gargantuan thing that needs to be done, focus on the thing God has given us, and thank Him.  We think we need something BIG to tackle our day.  But God knows what we need, and He’s given it to us.  We just need something small, IN CONJUNCTION WITH GOD.

Here’s what happened after Jesus fed the people —

The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.”  Mark 8:11-12

What irony this is.  Jesus has just performed a major miracle, and then he goes across the water to another place, and the Pharisees demand a sign.  Jesus has already given them all kinds of signs.  They just can’t see them.

It’s good for me to read, because I realize I ALWAYS want another sign.  Jesus has taken care of me, taken care of my kids, taken care of my marriage, taken care of our church.  I could name countless ways he has helped us go forward.

But then, when I’m faced with a new challenge, I get morose.  I get anxious.  “Show me a sign of your goodness, your willingness to act,” I beg. “I feel surrounded by failure.”  But he’s already given me a thousand signs.

That’s why it’s so important to give thanks every day.  In thanking, I manifest the signs.  I remember how God has acted.

Thanking helps to trust the train.  Because many days the train seems scary.  I don’t like it.  It’s hard.  It makes me mad.  I want to choose my own train to ride instead!

But the train of God’s will always takes us to the place we need to go.

Tomorrow in church we’re singing a song that Ken and I have been wanting to do,  an old classic by Curtis Mayfield, “People Get Ready.”

Here is the theme of the song —

People get ready there’s a train comin’
You don’t need no baggage, just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
You don’t need no ticket, just thank the lord

What does the song say?  Just get on board!  Don’t get weighed down with baggage — with fears, past hurts, selfish desires, and so on.  God gave you a train today.  Get on and ride, and trust that He will provide.

What’s the ticket to get on?  Thankfulness.  Thank God for the “little” we have.  When we ride with Him, it will be more than enough.

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Filed under Compassion, Faith, Gratitude, Mark

Whats Really Important — Change at the Heart Level

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.  There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.  After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.  He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”).  At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.  Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.  People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”  Mark 7:31-37

It’s always amazing to me that Jesus didn’t want people to spread the word about his healing.  But I thought about it as I read this passage.  Jesus doesn’t want the focus to be on the fact that he can heal people.  He wants people to focus on the spiritual.

And isn’t it true, that if we have something physical going on, that’s all we can think about?  If we’re in financial difficulties, we worry about money and how we will pay our bills.  If we don’t have a car, we’re consumed with how to get where we need to go.  If we are sick, we just want to get well.

It has certainly been true for me.  When I was depressed, it defined my life.  It dictated so much about how I lived my day.

So it’s easy to see how people could get caught up in the thought that they could change their physical situation.  It’s easy to see the allure of this.  And the more people got healed, the more THIS would be the focus — physical healing.

And the less people would remember that the REAL issue is our spiritual state of being.  The real issue is eternity, not just life on this earth.

But Jesus was merciful.  Jesus cared.  So he healed the deaf man, even though it could get people’s focus off of what was truly important.

And when he did, the people were “overwhelmed with amazement.”  They were blown away.  Because they had seen this deaf man all their lives.  It was astonishing that his reality could be so changed.

We were talking at house church last night about how people are born with certain characteristics, and how they grow up in certain ways.  We discussed how it is hard to overcome destructive habits and ways of thinking to become a new person in Christ.  It’s HARD to think we can change.

And yet, in Christ, we DO change.  My husband is completely different than he was 5 years ago, and UTTERLY different than he was 30 years ago.  It is every bit as much a miracle as this deaf man being healed.

Those are the changes Christ DOES want us to focus on. These are the real miracles that MATTER, when He changes us from the inside out.

After Jesus healed the deaf man, the people said, “He has done everything well.”  You know, the people Jesus touched were fixed.  They were healed of their maladies.  They were delivered from the control of evil spirits.  Jesus ended raging storms.  He multiplied food so the hungry were fed.

It is so obvious that God COULD fix the world if He wanted to.  There could be no more pain and suffering.  There could be no more starvation.  It is so crazy that God chooses NOT to change these things.  Could it REALLY be that these things aren’t the most important thing?  Tell that to someone who’s dying in agony, or to a child who is wasting away from hunger.

I know God totally cares about these people.  The answer has to be that HE wants US to help those who are suffering, as we can.  And He wants us to focus on eternity, not the here and now.  He wants us to focus on our souls.

So as I pray for people today, let me not pray so much for their healing, their marriages, their jobs, etc. as I pray for their inner selves.  Yes, I WILL pray for all of the things I listed first.   Just like the people who wanted the deaf man healed, I want my friends to have great jobs, and financial security, and great marriages, and good health.  But as Paul said, he considered everything rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus.  (Phil 3:8) As I pray for others, let me not forget that the most important things are going on at the heart level.

Look at what it says early in Mark 7, when Jesus is talking to the Pharisees who ask him why he doesn’t wash his hands —

“Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  Mark 7:20-22

The real changes that need to occur in people’s lives are getting rid of the inward defects, the rotten spots of character that will grow and distort, even destroy, the radiant people we were created to be.

But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.  So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.  II Peter 3:14

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Worthy of Crumbs

Jesus left that place and went to the territory of Tyre. He didn’t want anyone to know that he was staying in a house there. However, it couldn’t be kept a secret. A woman whose little daughter had an evil spirit heard about Jesus. She went to him and bowed down. The woman happened to be Greek, born in Phoenicia in Syria. She asked him to force the demon out of her daughter. Jesus said to her, “First, let the children eat all they want. It’s not right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She answered him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat some of the children’s scraps.” Jesus said to her, “Because you have said this, go! The demon has left your daughter.” The woman went home and found the little child lying on her bed, and the demon was gone.  Mark 7:24-30.

As I continue my study of Mark, I am inspired by this story, because it shows a time when Jesus was willing to do something that was NOT on his agenda.

Here are other examples of God changing his agenda —

  • Abraham pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah. (Gen 18)
  • Moses changed God’s mind when He was going to destroy the people.  Ex 32:14
  • Joshua asked God and the sun stood still.  Joshua 10:13
  • Hezekiah got several more years.  Isaiah 38:5

The most amazing thing about this story is the woman. She doesn’t get discouraged when Jesus says no.   She just keeps on trying, though the door is shut in her face. And Jesus is impressed by that.

It’s almost like God doesn’t want us to be polite with him.  There’s the story of the person who knocks on his neighbor’s door at night to get bread, or the one about the woman who keeps coming before the judge asking for justice.  In a sense, God wants us to be like a stubborn child, to cross our arms and hold forth for what we want.

How many people give up too quickly? I can think of so many times when I’ve gotten discouraged and didn’t believe anymore that things were going to work out.  Times when I’ve studied the Bible with several people, and none of them made it.  Times when things in the ministry didn’t go as I thought they should.  Times when I had health problems that wouldn’t go away, or day after day of depression.

But the Bible insists that God wants to give good gifts to those who ask him.

  • Ask and it will be given to you. Matt 7:7
  • Whatever you ask in my name, that I will do. John 14:13

This story of the Phoenician woman also shows that there are lots of bad things that go on in this world.  This little girl was being abused by an evil spirit. The world is not a happy place. Bad things happen, to children no less.

And Jesus wasn’t even going to help. He was going to let the child suffer.

And I realize it’s true that Jesus will allow us to suffer as well.  We don’t live in a world where everything is supposed to be “fixed,” happy, perfect.  God allows us to be in tough situations.

Like this woman, we have to FIGHT for Him to grant relief.

Jesus didn’t come to fix the world and end all disease and suffering. He came to give us hope for the world to come.

I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2)  A couple of weeks ago I took a tour of a mockup of scenes Biblical times.  I saw a house like people would have lived in when Jesus was on earth.  The guide showed us how the man who wanted to get married would build on a room to his father’s house.  Build out of stone, it was something that took time.  It’s comforting, and really cool to think that Jesus is making a room for us in heaven, a place for us to be his bride.

And here’s one more thing about the story of the Phoenician woman. She probably didn’t even believe in God or know Him.   It’s likely all she knew was that Jesus had miraculous spiritual power.

It just blows my mind.  I can’t help but think that I have a special edge because I think I’m God’s homie.  God’s going to listen to me and work for me.  And of course, even though I know it’s not true, I feel like I have to be super spiritual so God will work MORE on my behalf.

But God shows that he is the God who sends rain on the just and the unjust.  He pays the same wage to the laborer who comes in at the last minute.  He is an amazing merciful God who gives in a way that’s hard for us to understand.  He GIVES to all, even the “undeserving.”  (Of course we’re ALL undeserving. )  On one level, no matter how badly I’m doing, God still listens and wants to give.

For us, it’s not about being super spiritual.  It’s about faith.  It just takes a heart that won’t give up or get discouraged.  It takes a person who will BOLDLY go before God and make heartfelt requests, over and over.

If there were an important person visiting Auburn, I probably wouldn’t try to go up and talk to them.  “They wouldn’t want to talk to me,” I would tell myself.  I would watch in wonder and even discomfort if someone else went up to them expecting them to be warmly received.  If I did try to go up to them and felt rejected, I FOR SURE wouldn’t try again.

But this woman did try again.

And that’s what I want to do today.  Try again.  FIGHT.  Pray again for our church.  Pray again for those who are sick.  Pray again for those who are struggling.  Pray again for those who are far from faith.  Pray in circles around the impossible prayers time and time again.

And go forward with confidence that, even if I feel sometimes feel like an unspiritual, unworthy “dog,” to God I still am worthy of “crumbs.”  Even if it’s not on His agenda, God is willing to answer my prayers.

 

 

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Filed under Faith, Self Worth

Worship that Erupts into our Daily Lives

The tradition of washing hands.

The tradition of washing hands.

Their worship of me is pointless, because their teachings are rules made by humans.’ . . .  He added, “You have no trouble rejecting the commandments of God in order to keep your own traditions! . . Because of your traditions you have destroyed the authority of God’s word.  Mark 7

I love this God’s Word translation of this passage from Mark 7.

We read this selection from Mark 7 all the time when we study the Bible with people, so I almost wanted to skip over it in my study of Mark.  But as I’ve looked at it, my heart has been struck by how much God wants us to do things by HIS blueprint, and not put our own spin on things.

It’s important that we dig into the Bible and seek out what God’s blueprint is.

So I started to look at what God intends for worship to be.  I read a great article by Michael Morrison that gave me perspective.

Morrison said, “The English word “worship” comes from two Old English words: weorth, which means “worth,” and scipe or ship, which means something like shape or “quality.”  So worth-ship is the quality of having worth or of being worthy. When we worship, we are saying that God has worth, that he is worthy. . . .  We speak, or sing, about how good and powerful God is.”

We know from Romans 12:1 that we give our whole life in worship to God — “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.”

Thus, everything about our life needs to be about worship, DECLARING that God has supreme WORTH.  Everything we do needs to shout out that God is awesome, we will put Him first.

Our purpose is to praise Him:  “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”  I Peter 2:9

In what specific ways did the people of the Bible worship God?

In the early days, they sacrificed to him.  Morrison pointed out that the patriarchs didn’t have many rules to follow in sacrifice, but one concept was very important — the commandment that they shall put no gods before GOD.  It has always been that God is to be shown the most worthy.

A replica of the altar where sacrifices to God were made.

A replica of the altar where sacrifices to God were made.

At the time of Moses they were given many more specifics about how to worship God, but the most important part was this:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.   Deut 6:6-7

Worship for God was loving Him with every bit of your being.  EVERYTHING was to be about God.  Nothing came ahead of Him.

And the Word of God also became an important part of worship.  You were to teach it to your children in all sorts of ways.

Teach children about God.

Teach children about God.

In New Testament times we see in Acts 2 the example of the first church worshiping:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

Worship included:

  • The Word
  • Fellowship
  • Communion
  • Prayer
  • Praise

It’s pretty cool that there is SO MUCH here that is relational.  The believers spend tons of time together.  They share possessions.  They give up their stuff to help each other.  They eat together.

It looks like a LARGE part of worship is ACTIVE INVOLVEMENT with our brothers and sisters!

 

Worshiping at the Auburn Amphitheater

Worshiping at the Auburn Amphitheater

And I think this extends to everyone, not just believers.  We are not just to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, but also love our neighbor as ourselves.  Think of the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10.  And remember what Jesus said in Matt. 25:40.   ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

In the end, worship is like everything else in Christian life — it’s really about the HEART. 

We want to make it about what we DO.  And we come up with all kinds of ways to DO more, put our own spin on things, just like the Pharisees did in Mark 7.  We have jam packed worship services with electronic music and multi-media.  We read books, and attend seminars and small groups.  And I’m not saying any of these things are wrong, they can be good.

But worship is an attitude.  It is a face constantly turned towards God, a heart at praise, a mind fixed on Him, a soul overflowing.

Worship erupts into our daily life.  As day after day the sky pours forth speech (Ps 19:2),  our actions pour forth the speech that God is awesome, He is alive, He cares deeply and faithfully for us.  We say it with our joy and hope.  We say it with our other centered deeds.  We say it when we deny self.  We say it when we persevere.

And of course, we proclaim it full force when we sing!  That’s a vital area of worship. “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.”  Eph 5:19

God’s blueprint for worship is that our lives declare that HE is the ONE, the only way.  Everything in us yearns to find fulfillment, meaning, purpose.  It’s so easy to let the things around us fill this need — our loved ones, our job, our leisure pursuits.  And yet if we do this, we at some point find ourselves empty, disillusioned, dysfunctional.

It is ONLY GOD who can meet our deepest needs, and show us how life is designed to be lived, and how we should go forward.

And when we acknowledge this, when we throw up the white flag of surrender and prostrate ourselves before God as the ONE AND ONLY, that is worship.

 

 

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Filed under Glory Above All, Having the Right Heart

Created to Be Given to by God

It comes to me over and over again, with greater appreciation, that God TOTALLY loves us with ALL HIS HEART.   Even if we haven’t seen it, the love has been this huge force in our lives, taking care of us, holding us together.

In  sense, God gave everything to reach out to us.

In love, He GIVES and continues to give.

I went through the gospel of Mark and wrote down the ways God gave to us through the coming of Jesus.  He GAVE:

  • Purpose and meaning for our lives — to be fishers of men
  • New teachings so we would know how to live effective lives
  • Healing
  • Repentance
  • Forgiveness of sins
  • Assurance that He would take care of us (consider the lilies...)
  • Eternal life
  • HOPE and power — “Everything is possible for him who believes.” 

One great picture of God giving is in the parable of the tenants:  “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place.

Like landowner in the parable, God gives us a fruitful life — a job, friends and family, things we enjoy.   It’s not something we would have apart from His beneficence.   All things are His, and he allows us to use them.  Most of us reading this are RICH.

Another great picture of God giving is in the parable of the tenants in Matthew 18 —

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.  At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

This servant was forgiven of a debt of 10,000 bags of gold.  An incredible amount he would NEVER be able to pay back.  That is absolution on a VAST scale.

And that is the way God gives forgiveness to us.

I love this excerpt from “Healing for Damaged Emotions” by David Seamonds, “The world is made for forgiveness; it is made for grace; it is made for love in all of life.  The need for these has been built into the structure of nature, of persons.  It is in every cell of our bodies, in every interpersonal relationship.  We are made for grace and love and acceptance.”

We are MADE to receive grace and forgiveness, to be GIVEN TO BY GOD.

As the very reflection of God, Jesus came to give, to SERVE.  He came teaching, healing, pouring out his life.

“For the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for all.”

And here is the cool thing.  The serving and saving didn’t stop with the death of Jesus, or even at the point we were saved.  God gives to us by CONTINUING the salvation process.  He still loves us actively, with full intensity.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.  Romans 8:28-29a

God is WORKING good for us by orchestrating our lives to shape us to be like Christ.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Romans 8:32

God WANTS to graciously give to us in abundant ways.

But what  is our response?  Do we even recognize that He has given to us?

I read this passage from Mark 6 about the time when Jesus had gone up on a mountainside to pray after he had fed the 5,000, and then walked on water.  His disciples saw him in the dark and thought he was a ghost.  They were afraid.  Jesus got in the boat and calmed the wind.  Mark says, “They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”

How much do we not understand about the loaves, about the miracles that have been performed in our lives, about the multiplying of something from nothing?  Do we attribute everything we have from our own efforts?  Do we disregard our mistakes, and all the times things could have gone wrong, but didn’t?

Are we like the tenants, who didn’t appreciate the vineyard they’d been given to work?  Do we think that we don’t need to GIVE BACK?

At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully.  He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.  “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’  “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.  Mark 12:2-8

Are we like the unmerciful servant, who didn’t pass on the forgiveness he’d been given to others?

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

No!  We must give thanks unceasingly!  We must give out of the overflow of our hearts.

You know, I don’t think we are supposed to obey just because we recognize the awesome God of the universe.  I think we obey because our heart is MOVED to respond when we see how much we’ve been given. 

How hard it must be for God to give and give to a people who take him for granted, whose hearts are hard to His overtures of love.  I know I react imperfectly, but may I at least warm God’s heart by seeking every day to LOVE Him with all my heart, mind, strength and soul as I give to others, love them, forgive them, all the while giving HIM thanks and praise.

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Gratitude, Love, Things I Am Learning

Completely Astonished!

When things seem hopeless, prepare to be amazed!

When things seem hopeless, prepare to be amazed!

And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with great amazement.  Mark 5:42

This verse really got my attention.  Jesus did something here that completely astonished people.

I mean, if you look at the language, it is as powerful as it can be.  The word used for amazement is strong.  It’s more like being in shock than just a state of marveling.  And then, it says people were overwhelmed.  And then it qualifies the amazement as being GREAT.

We could say the people were flabbergasted.  They were floored, stunned, shook up.

When is the last time I was completely astonished?  I think it came close when my son was awarded best nurse in adult health care.  I was just amazed at how far he had come since his early years in school.   But when I look back, there are many things I SHOULD be completely astonished about:  my husband’s spiritual growth, the same for my oldest daughter, that we are living here in Auburn being effective for God, that Markeya got her dream job, that we’ve seen so many baptized, the growth of our ministry.

These are things that totally surpassed my expectations.

When is the last time I EXPECTED to be astonished?  Not often enough.

I came across one of my old blogs today.  It mentioned this story:

A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?”  Mark 9:17-19

How many people do I see as this possessed boy — impossible to heal, impossible to be saved?  How much do I limit God’s power, instead of expecting to be completely amazed by His power?

Prior to this, in Mark 5, a woman was healed who had been bleeding for 12 years.  It would have been so easy for this woman to be swamped in discouragement, lost to hope.  But it was her hope, her FAITH, that healed her, as she reached with expectation that in spite of doctor after doctor, failure after failure, just a touch of this Jesus’ cloak would make her better.  The power went out from Jesus.  He didn’t even command it.  It just went out, drawn by her faith.

This woman had the ability to believe in HOPE.  The kind of hope the Bible Abraham was commended for:  “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations.” (Romans 4:18)

I think of the contrast between walking by sight and walking by faith.

I walk by sight so much.  I see someone and the mess they’ve made with their life and I think, “They’re not going to make it to become a Christian.”  Something goes wrong and I immediately assume the worst about the future.

Ken read this verse last night at Bible talk —

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope . . . Romans 5:3-4

I realized that hope is being able to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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And then I realized we should take it one step further.  Hope is the excited expectation of what this light can be.  Because this is the God who COMPLETELY ASTONISHES, who gives a NEW LIFE to a woman bleeding for 12 years, a child who has died, a man imprisoned by demons. This is the God who “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”  Eph 3:20

So I need to expect to be completely astonished more.

Do you know what usually astonishes me?  Bad news.  I was with a friend at a medical appointment a couple of weeks ago, and we we stunned to learn she had cancer.   A family member called me last night in tears about a sad situation, and it felt like it was out of the blue.

When that happens, I need to take strength in the light at the end of the tunnel.

They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  Ps 112:7

It is the light of miraculous regeneration, of daffodils suddenly blooming when it seems that winter is our perpetual reality.

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The power to hope is the same power that brings life from death.  I think we see in this verse in Ephesians 1 that hope, life and power are all tied together:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.  Eph 1:18-19

And when we see this, how hard is it to believe that we can be completely astonished by God?  When we reflect on our lives, and all He has done, why not have giddy joyful expectation of being flabbergasted by GOOD NEWS?

And when we do that, I think things finally click some.  Our Christian lives become more of what they are designed to be.

 

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A Friend A Day #10 — Sweet as Honey

honey

This is one of those days.

A day when I wake up feeling bleak.  When I feel discouraged because the moods came back on me yesterday.

That’s when it’s good to remember this story I read about David in II Samuel 23:

Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted.  And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David.  But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him.

I’ve been blogging about David’s faith and boldness.  But this story is about a time when David got tired, and he didn’t have the energy to fight anymore.

Even David hit the wall at times.

And when that happened, God reached down and made a way for victory to still be achieved.

Today, since I can’t rely on my own strength and initiative, I will have to rely on God, to make my day work out so that victory is still achieved.

And the same thing is true of the people in my life.  I can be a positive force in their lives to some extent.  But there’s a wall.  I can’t get them where they need to go.

What I CAN do is bring them through prayer into God’s presence, His beautiful powerful radiance, where EVERYTHING is possible.

God is so good.  His presence is so sweet.

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  Ps 119:103

And it’s always available to me. 

Yes, I have the moods.  But I am so thankful that this week I also had sparks of energy and motivation.  I blogged, “Why not assume action?”

And I took action. 

I invited Alan and Yesenia over to dinner on the spur of the moment and we ate stir fry and talked about Mars colonization and our ideas to make the world a better place, and had a great visit.  

I took my computer to the coffee shop to do some of my work from there.  I saw three women there visiting and having coffee, who were still in their workout clothes.  I asked them where they worked out, and we had a good conversation!  I made some new friends!

I mentioned to Ken that there was a classical guitar concert we could go to, and so we went.  Ken brought along one of the young campus students from Brazil, who plays the guitar.  It was his birthday, so I made him some brownies.  It was nice to get out and enjoy the music, and the company.  We hoped to make some friends among the Auburn Guitar Society, but it was crowded and it didn’t happen. 

The only thing we were able to do was have a nice chat with the freshman girl sitting next to us, who was there because of her music appreciation class.  She told us how she is from Macon, and coming to Auburn is her dream come true.  She wants to get a degree in speech pathology.  All of the guitar music in the concert sounded the same to her.  So before she left, we invited her to church.  She appreciated the invite and asked about the church. 

The rest is in God’s hands.

I’m taking action as I can, but whether I do a lot or hit a wall, it is still God who will bring victory.

Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  Prov. 24:14

Proverbs says the same thing in chapter 23: 17-18 — “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.  There is surely a future hope for you,  and your hope will not be cut off.”

My hope will not be cut off.  If I am WISE , I know God, and value the right things.  And in knowing God, I know that there is something better coming, the reward for those who earnestly seek Him.

It is just in focusing on the wrong things that I lose hope.

When you sit down with a ruler . . .  Do not crave his delicacies,  for that food is deceptive. Prov 23: 1, 3

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.  Prov. 23:4

God is the source of goodness itself.  He has the treasure upon treasure.

But who is wise?  Who can see that?

I was reading Luke 14.  It has great illustrations of focusing on God, and not valuing the wrong things.  Jesus encourages his disciples to take the most humble seat at a wedding banquet, For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

And I’ve read it so many times, but I read it again — “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

Who will see that God is so much more important than anything else?

In Luke 14, most did not.

Jesus told the story:  “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  But they all alike began to make excuses.”

I’m inviting people to the banquet, and few seem to see what I am offering.

I am offering HOPE.

I am offering the God who will swoop in and rescue us when we hit the wall.

And by ourselves, we all hit this wall, over and over again.

That is why we need the sweet presence and goodness of God.

He will give us comfort and inspiration.

He will set us on the path to true victory.

So let me do what is counter intuitive.  Let me go out and just do what I can, even though it doesn’t feel effective.  Let me hit the walls and get tired, and feel like I am failing.  Let me only invite the girl sitting next to me.

God will succor me and build His kingdom.

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.  Luke 14:13

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