Monthly Archives: September 2019

The Sweet Connection

“God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”  John 4:24

God is Spirit.  That says it all.  He’s a powerful, invisible entity.  He’s characteristics like love, goodness, wisdom and holiness.  He can’t be contained by space or time.

Jesus says that the way we must worship God is with the part of us that is spirit.  It makes perfect sense.  That inner thing we have that is intangible and dynamic must reach out to connect with like.  It’s what our spirit was made for, and longs for.

And when our spirit connects with God the Spirit, that’s when the magic happens. You know, for so long I’ve felt discouraged in my ability to be like Christ.  I’ve been sure he wants to call me out for a hypocrite.  I’m sure he thinks, “I did it, so you can do it.”  But often I can’t do it, or I don’t want to.  It is very obvious to me that I don’t have Christ’s heart or stamina.

But lately I’ve singing and praising God more.  As as I have, I’ve felt that sweet connection with the Spirit more.  It’s so positive and good.

And it makes me want the sweetness more.  I find myself wanting to read the Bible more, just to be in the spiritual, not to get something out of it.  Because that’s usually how I approach my Bible study, like I’m going to dig and find treasures.  This is great, but it’s different than just being with the Spirit.

I also find that I can take the blissful connection I feel in singing, and extend it into my daily walk.  I can come back to it when I start to feel troubled.

This reminds me that our daily life is to be a constant worship to the Lord.

  • Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1 
  • “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess His name.” Hebrews 13:15

I’m only scratching the surface, but I’m seeing real changes in my heart.  Before, I really wanted to watch television or read books in my free time.  I knew it was an escape for me, a way to get away from the stress of the world.  I knew it would be better to go to God with my stress.  But I often couldn’t figure out how to want to make this happen.  The next time I was tired and used up, I would go to television again.

But now, I’ve found that sweet place of both rest and inspiration, and it’s something I want to do instead.  My desire to watch television has actually decreased.  Now, as I cook dinner, I put on praise music and pray for all kinds of things.  It’s one of my happy times, instead of one of my times of just pushing through.

I say all of this to say that I am feeling now like it is possible to be more like Jesus.  He not only meditated on the Word, he not only prayed, but he worshipped in spirit and truth.  When he went to a quiet place to pray, I think he deepened his sweet connection with God.  And then he stayed in that zone throughout the day.  He didn’t just think of the truth and do right.  He spent time with the Spirit, and that helped him to want to do right.

You know, in my marriage, I can be all about what my husband should be doing for me.  He should help around the house more.  He should pay more attention to me and my needs.  And so on.  But when I think of how much I love him, and just give to him out of that love, it’s so much better.  The other concerns melt away.

That’s the same way I think it is with our relationship with God.  We can pray all the time out of our needs and what we think we need from God.  And, of course, he does want us to come to him with our needs.  But our relationship also needs to be spent in loving him and giving to him.  That’s when it all comes together for us.  That’s when our heart feels full.

Our love needs to connect to his love, our spirit with his.

So let’s work on worshipping in spirit and truth.  Let’s find ways of deepening the sweet connection.  It’s not going to be easy.  Each of us probably has something different that creates the magic for us.  Music may work, but one person likes one song, and another person relates to a different one.  (I’ll put some of my favorite songs below.)  Some of us connect when we’re out in nature.

The point is that we want to be honest and vulnerable with our inner selves, and let that part of us reach out for God.  And then, we want to focus on giving to him, praising him, instead of our needs.

Because God doesn’t just want our obedience.

He wants the sweet fellowship with us.  He wants our hearts and our devotion.

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Filed under Beauty of God, John, Praise, Red Letter

Searching and Finding

You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him. John 4:22-23

Do we ever think of God actually looking for something, of him seeking?  It’s not a picture we contemplate frequently.  The illustration that best conveys it I think is in this verse, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  (II Chronicles 16:9)  God’s eyes are actively searching, looking at each person all over the world.

And today’s red letter passage says that one thing God is looking for is people who will worship him in spirit and truth.  Jesus is saying that all through the ages, God has wanted this, and now the time has come when it can come to fruition in a greater way than ever before.

What does it mean to worship in spirit?  On one hand, it means worshipping with the Spirit that is in us.  In Ephesians 5:12, we are told to sing and make music to God in our hearts right after we are told to be filled with the Spirit.

On the other hand, it means worshipping with our spirit.  What is our spirit?  I love this definition that was in one of the commentaries on this passage: “Our spirit is the part of us that was made in the image of God.  It is the place where we were made to commune with God.”  (Ellicott’s Commentary)

Our spirit is the part of us that longs to be connected with the Creator.  It’s the part of us that can’t deny that there’s something greater, the part that longs for meaning.  It sees the splendor of nature and looks for the divine.

Worshipping with our spirit is the act of reaching out with all that is in us towards the Lord.  And as we do, we connect, and feel that we are finally where we’re supposed to be.  It reminds me of the verse in I Peter 2:25, “For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 

In a very real way, since the days of Adam and Eve, our spirits have been wandering.  But now we can find the lovely comfort of being in our Father’s presence, right where we’ve always belonged.

And then what does it mean to worship in truth?  I think we have to look at the beginning of today’s passage, where it says, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”  Jesus was speaking to a Samaritan woman, and he was reminding her that the Jews had the truth.  As they went their own way, the Samaritans had fallen into doctrinal error.

Jesus was saying that God’s eyes are ranging over the earth, looking for those who will reach out wholeheartedly to connect with him, and also act wholeheartedly according to his word.

The woman at the well is thirsty, both physically and spiritually, and Jesus is saying that God is looking for those who are thirsty.

More than that, he’s saying that the only way to truly quench the thirst is to do it God’s way.  Going our own way will never satisfy.

Yesterday, my friend Marge and I studied the Bible with a young woman.  What was so encouraging about the study was that we had a deep talk together.  We talked about our marriages. We were real about our bad attitudes that messed us up.  It felt so healing to recognize the inner gunk, and work towards making it better.

How often are we real about what’s going on inside?  That’s the way to find depth of our inner thirst.

Then our spirit can reach out for the water that will satisfy.  As we connect, our spirits will soar more and more away from the inner gunk of life.

And we will recognize that our own best efforts have messed us up.

We will realize, as never before, that we want to worship in spirit and in truth.

God’s eyes searches because he wants to bring us back to himself, where we belong.  He is completely happy to have us with him.  We are completely happy to be there.

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Filed under John, Red Letter, Spirit

The Lifeline of His Presence

“Believe Me, woman,” Jesus replied, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”  John 4:21

The book of Exodus has pages and pages of instructions on how to build the tabernacle, the place where God would reside, and the Israelites would come to be with him.  It wasn’t just something slapped together.  Every detail was carefully planned and executed.

tabernacle2

Later in history, the Israelites would build a more permanent dwelling for God — the temple.  This would be even more elaborate and detailed.

temple

From looking at the tabernacle and the temple, we can see that having a physical place where people could go to be with God was a huge deal.

To the Jews, the location of the temple was also important.  It was in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.  The last temple was destroyed in 70 AD, but modern Jews still consider the area of Mount Moriah, the temple mount, to be sacred.  At this point, a Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, is built on its location.  Jews are allowed to visit certain parts of the area, although some traditional Jews will not walk on the temple mount, because they don’t want to unintentially enter the holiest of holies.

temple mount

But Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman, who worshipped God, not in Jerusalem, but at Mount Gerizim.  Why the difference in places of worship?  When the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 721 BC, some of the Israelites were taken away into captivity, and some stayed behind.  Those who stayed  intermarried with Gentiles, and produced a new race of people: the Samaritans.  Samaritans believe that the true place to worship God is not Jerusalem, but on Mount Garizim, where Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac.  This has been such a strong point of contention that if a Samaritan converts to Judaism, they can be required to refute Mount Garizim as the center of worship.

mount gerizim

So we can see why it was such an epic statement that Jesus said that the time was coming when the center of worship would be neither in Samaria, nor in Jerusalem. Everyone was extremely focused on where they could go to be in God’s presence.  And Jesus was saying that they wouldn’t have to go to one place or another any longer.

He was saying that they would have the Spirit, and God would actually reside with them.

That is incredible.  If it meant a lot to the Jews and the Samaritans to have a place to physically be with God, how much more can it mean to us today to carry this place around with us?

It can make all the difference in our lives.

I love this passage David Takle wrote in “Forming: A Work of Grace,” “My first step in being connected to God is to believe with all my heart that He really is as close as my next breath, that He permeates the membranes of my body and exists in and between every cell of every part of me.”

It’s so true.  We need God’s presence.  Realizing that we have it is the first step in connecting with him on a deeper level.

I’ve been having trouble lately with waking up in the middle of the night and feeling very negative.  I can’t seem to find even one positive thought.  God’s love seems so unreal.  After studying out today’s passage, I began to just try to believe that God is with me in these dark times.  I found that I could do that, and it helped.  Then, I could remember that it makes God’s heart happy to be with me, and that he was genuinely concerned about the struggle I was going through.  I prayed that he would show me a way to get back to sleep, and he did.

Being in God’s presence is the foundation of everything we need as a Christian.

This past weekend, I worshipped at the North River Church of Christ in Atlanta and our old friend Travis Hawkins was preaching.  He reminded us of how Moses said to God, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”  Ex 33:15

travis preaching

How can we go out or do anything without God?  Whatever we’re going through spiritually, the starting place is to believe that he is truly with us.

Today, let’s all make the belief that God is with us our lifeline.

It was vital to the Jews.  It was vital to the Samaritans.  It is vital to us.

 

 

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Filed under God With Us, John, Red Letter

Jesus Knows Our “Five Husbands”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I will not get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are correct to say that you have no husband.  In fact, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. You have spoken truthfully.”  John 4:15-18

Jesus got right to the heart of the matter.  I think he named the biggest symptom of this woman’s “thirst.”   She’d had five husbands.  Maybe she had terrible fortune, and they all died or divorced her.  But I think it’s more likely that she kept looking for a man who could fill that deep feeling of inadequacy in her, and none of them could.

I think she was left in a place in a place of broken dreams, where she hooked up with yet another man out of her longing to find love and affirmation, but all she got was someone who wouldn’t even commit to her.

I read something today in a book that really struck my heart, “How many of us ever felt entirely safe in the cave of another human being?”  We so often don’t feel safe.  We have trust issues.  We expect that we will get hurt.  We’re anticipating that life will let us down.

So to me, it was huge it was that Jesus brought this up, this source of pain and disillusionment. It’s something many of us can relate to.

What would Jesus bring up if he saw me?  A couple of days ago I was meeting with a friend at a coffee shop.  We were talking about our lives, and there was a man sitting close to us who surely could overhear our conversation.  I couldn’t help but wonder if he was listening.  And as I talked to my friend, I confess that my pride started getting in there, and I was thinking how good the advice I offered and my Christian walk sounded to the man.  What puffery!

I think Jesus would say to me at that time, “Girl, don’t even go there.  I’ve got your number.  I know what’s behind all your sounding good.”

He would tell me that he knew my “five husbands,” that he knew all my efforts at performance and success that came from my deep longing for affirmation, that he knew all of the ways that I don’t look so good, that he knew the place I’d gotten myself in.

You know, in life coaching, they are always teaching us to go deeper.  We don’t settle for the surface conversation.  We seek the “ouch,” the thing that’s behind what someone is saying.  Because when that is identified, the person can see it and move forward.

So I’m glad that I can admit my brokenness to Jesus.  He already knows it.  I don’t have to look good.

And when I’m at my wits end because I can’t fix things, and I’ve already gone through five “husbands,” it’s the most comforting thing ever to know that he came to be the only way to make things better.

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Filed under Healing, John

Filled, Not Depleted!

“But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:14

spring of water Kemdaejeung

To never thirst again.  Wow.

It reminds me of one of my favorite talks by Doug Jacoby.  He said having the Spirit is like the burning bush that Moses encountered.  It never burned up.  Doug was saying that when we truly rely on the Spirit, we don’t get depleted.  That really stuck in my mind, because, like the woman at the well, I want that.

And I’m still figuring out how to rely on the Spirit and not get depleted.  But I just started reading a book, “Forming: A Work of Grace,” by David Takle, and I think it’s getting me closer.

The jist of the book is that we too often make being a Christian about doing the right things by our own power, and this can burn us out.  Instead, Takle says that we need to learn to empowered by God.  To him, it’s like the difference between rowing a boat and sailing a boat.  “Instead of trying to act righteous by sheer effort, God wants us to learn how to receive from him what we need in order to transform our heart, so that we can live more like Christ by our very nature.”

This is what I really need, to be more like Christ in my very nature, so I’m  doing things out of the overflow of my heart, and not because I think I’m supposed to.  When I row the boat of Christian living all day, it can be satisfying in the short term, because I’m accomplishing things.  But after awhile, it also seems empty, like something is missing.  I feel down and strangely lacking.

How much a difference would it make if I started my day by filling my sails, instead of taking up the oars!

sailboat

How can we receive more from God/the Spirit to fill up our sails?  Here are a few ways.  The ones that became available to us after Christ’s coming and the indwelling of the Spirit are listed in bold type.

  1.  Be thankful always. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Ps. 107:1
  2.  Sing.  “Be filled by the Spirit. . .   Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord.”  Eph 5:18-19
  3.  Be still.  “He says, ‘Be still, and KNOW that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'”  Ps. 46:10
  4.  Be in nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”  Ps 19:1
  5.  Walk in the Spirit.  “Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit.” Gal 5:15
  6.  Practice being in his presence. “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
  7.  Praise him. “Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.”  Ps 103:2
  8.  Pray with an open heart.  “In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”  Ps. 5:3
  9.  Ask for guidance.  “Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Ps 143:8  “The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to that chariot and stay by it.’” Acts 8:29
  10.  Ask to be taught.  “Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness.” Ps 86:11  “However, when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.” John 16:12
  11.  Ask for strength.  “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.”  II Tim 4:17  “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13
  12.  Ask to understand God’s love.  “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is . . that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Eph 3:18-19
  13.  Seek.  “Seek and you will find.” Matt. 7:7
  14.  Pray for God’s will to be done.  “Not my will, but yours be done.”  Luke 22:42
  15.  Meditate. “On His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water.” Ps 1:2-3

Man, these are wonderful! I keep coming up with more.  Maybe you have some you would add to the list.

Studying this has really helped me lately.  On Friday, my friend and I went for coffee, and we shared with the barrista before we left.  What I loved about this interaction was that this time I didn’t just invite someone to church, and feel like I’d done my duty.  I also told them how much I want them to know the inspiration that comes from being close to God.  Not only do I want to have the right heart, I deeply desire to help others to find it.  And now I’m finding ways to do this.

markya and i

Then, a couple of days later, I started experiencing one of my tangles of emotional thinking.  Usually I would be good and stuck, but this time, I practiced being in the presence of God and receiving from him.  As I did so, my problems receded from my mind. I felt like the increased exposure to God really did change me.

I am so thankful to be getting a better understanding of how to be filled, rather than depleted.

I’m so thankful that Jesus brought the water, so that we can not just do the right thing, but have the heart to do the right thing.

And now, may this water spring up and overflow into the lives of others.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ez 36:26

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Filed under Having the Right Heart, Isaiah, Red Letter

Thirsty

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.”  John 4:13

Yesterday, I got in a terrible funk.  A couple of things happened that filled my heart with sadness, and once I was in the emotional swamp, it just got worse and worse.  I began to feel like everything was failing, or was going to fail.  I couldn’t get on top of it.

My natural instinct was to try to control the world around me more.  So I tried to think of things I could change, so I could get some positive momentum going.  But nothing was working.  Everything felt overwhelming.  Ugh!

I was drinking the wrong water.  The water of being in control.

I just finished reading the story of the Israelites and the golden calf.  Moses stayed up on the mountain for so long, they weren’t sure that he was going to come back.  So they said to Aaron, “Come, make us gods who will go before us.”  And Aaron created an idol and they all had a festival and worshipped this idol. (Exodus 32)

This all seems pretty reprehensible, and even ludicrous.  After all God had done, how could they just worship something that was so obviously man made?

But then I remember how I was thinking yesterday.  “I’ll feel better , if I can just tweak my schedule.  If I can just do this right.  If I can just keep all the balls in the air.” I most certainly was trying to fashion an idol, something that I could create that would meet my needs.

So today, I cry out, “God, meet my needs for connection.  Meet my needs to have quality time with family.  Meet my needs to be productive.  Meet my need to do something worthwhile with my time, and not just spin my wheels.  Meet my need for self worth.”

I am so thirsty.  And I’ve been drinking from the wrong place.

Today, let me stay a in kneeling position at the pool of water that satisfies.  Let me admit my deep needs, and not try to meet them myself.

As I write this, I’m looking outside at my sprinkler, which is scattering drops of water that sparkle in the sun onto my new grass.  The birds are flitting in to pick morsels from my bird feeder.  My heart is happy watching this.

Surely, God’s heart delights in taking care of me in the same way.

watering

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” Isa 55:1-2

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:19

 

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Filed under John, Red Letter, Strength in God, Surrender

Knowing the Gift of God

gift

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  John 4:10

If you knew the gift of God. . . 

Isn’t this true for all of us, in various ways?  If only we knew the gift of God, and what he is offering us.

Something that stuck with me from last Sunday’s sermon was the statement that we often miss the miracles that God is doing.  So this morning, I made a list of miracles I have seen recently.

One is that I was able to give a coaching workshop last night.  I happened to run into a business owner last week, and she asked me if I could come and address her employees.  To me, this wasn’t just chance.  It was an answer to prayer!

This morning, I got a text from a friend, responding to my query on how she is doing.  She said she is doing well!  As a young woman from China, I watched her wrestle to have faith for years.  That she finally got baptized, and has been able to win spiritual battles and remain faithful, is a miracle.

Another friend told me how she had a challenging week with her child, and came across someone at just the right moment who offered to take him for the weekend and give her time to recharge.  That was a miracle, too!

Jesus said that he had living water to offer.  This term, “living water,” is found all over the Bible.  It’s the fresh water Isaac’s servants found when they dug a well.  (Gen. 26:19) It’s the water that was prophesied about in Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation.”  It’s the water that’s referred to in Revelation, “For the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water.”  (Rev. 7:17)

Jesus was giving the gift of eternal life.   And many of us have received this gift.  But do we know the extraordinary gift of God, or have we become dull and jaded?  Do we see that God worked miracles to bring us to salvation?

I know that this is true for me.  God put me in a place where I could play my flute in a church when I was 16, and be drawn to him for the first time.  God put a young man in my life, and at the right time this young man would turn to him, and lead me to him.  After I married this man, God put us in a church that set an amazing spiritual foundation for our life.

I need to be trembling in holy fear that God would work such miracles for me, one life among billions.  I am the woman at the well. I was certainly a “Samaritan,”  miserable and living so much in the world.  I didn’t deserve for God to take notice of me.

If you knew the gift of God.  Let us be mindful, each moment, that we are saved because of miracles.  May we not take it for granted, but treat it with wonder.  May we be more reverent. More in awe.

And then, may this knowledge allow us to realize that the gift continues to give.  As we see what he has done, we come to believe that God will do so much more.

And so we ask, and he will give.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,  Heb 12:28

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Luke, Red Letter