Category Archives: Books of the Bible

God Makes Wine With Our “Fruit!”

I will sing for the one I love

a song about his vineyard:

My loved one had a vineyard

on a fertile hillside.

He dug it up and cleared it of stones

and planted it with the choicest vines.

He built a watchtower in it

and cut out a winepress as well.

Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,

but it yielded only bad fruit. (Is 5:1-2)

Here is what I am getting out of this passage.

First, I love that this is a love song to God.  Songs can express a story in such a moving way.  The fact that the prophet wrote a song means he wanted to convey an emotional connection.  He felt so deeply about the subject that he wanted to sing it, like a mournful ballad.

And that means that these are verses we should listen to with our heart.

Second, knowing that God is the loved one, and the vineyard is his people. we can see from the wording how much God takes deliberate and tender care of his people.

  • He locates the vineyard on a fertile hillside.  There is plenty of nourishment.  This is also true for us today.  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (II Cor 9:8)
  • He clears out the rocks.  This is a theme we see all through the Bible, that God takes away the things that can make us stumble.  “For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Ps 56:13)
  • He builds a watchtower so the field is protected.  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  (Ps 23:4)

Third, we can see that just as the vineyard was planted to yield fruit, God intends for his people to fulfill the purpose for which they were created. Like the vines, we were intended to grow and produce.

  • For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10)
  • “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

Lastly, the passage tells us that the husbandman of the vineyard cut out a winepress.  He intended to do something with the fruit so that it would be useful.  Isn’t this how God works with us?  We do our good deeds, and he multiplies them!

  • Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 
  • “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt 17:20
  • “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. . .  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Matt 25:23, 29
  • Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously . . . And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work  II Cor 9

So that brings us to the question of the day.  If we are designed for a purpose, to do good things, and if God can multiply, can we not have even the smallest bit of faith or make the smallest of efforts?  It is exciting to think what God will do if we step out!!

Today I went to a doctor appointment.  I prayed beforehand, knowing that God is amazing and we should expect him to work in amazing ways.  And then I knew I needed to act in order to give God something to work with.  So I was friendly with the nurse and doctor.  In the course of our conversation I got to share with the doctor that I go to church with one of her former interns.  She asked me what church I go to so I got to tell her.  And then I handed scripture cards to the nurse and her co-worker before I left and they really appreciated them.

It doesn’t feel like much.  I was struggling with feeling emotional and gloomy this morning.  But I got centered on the good things, remembering God’s love and joy, and that I am a child of the light.  (I Thes. 5:5)  And when I did that, I could smile at the nurse and reach out of the little ball I wanted to curl myself into.

It reminds me of the parable of the talents.  One person was given ten talents, another five, and another got just one.  God still expected the person with one talent to use what he had.  It would have been easy for that man to think, “I just have one talent.  It’s not going to make much of a difference.  I don’t need to do anything with it.”  Or he might have thought, “What if I try to invest it, and lose it?  I’ll feel like a failure.  The master will be mad.  Let me save myself the emotional pain and just do the safe thing and hide it in the ground.”

So that is our challenge.  Let’s practice faith, even if we only have a tiny bit to practice.  Let’s do something, even if it doesn’t feel like very much.  It’s our job to have faith and do good works.  It’s God’s job to make these into something of consequence.

Last night we had house church.  A family was there as a result of an invitation I gave out when I was voting.  Another woman was there because I had followed up on her after I met her at church.  There are so many times I’ve made efforts and nothing has seemed to happen.  But we keep on trying, because sometimes we can see how God is making wine out of our fruit!!

(The woman on the left is the one who came to house church when I invited her.  She is shown here with the amazing Kenonia!)

 

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Filed under Faith, Isaiah, Mutiplication

Living Victoriously

taking-the-plunge

he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.  Isa 4:4b

You know, by the time Isaiah came around, it was clear that the people of God had a problem. They kept messing up.  Over and over again, through the flood, the Exodus, and living under judges and kings, they fell into serious sin.

So that is why this little verse in Chapter 4 of Isaiah is significant.  Let me break it down, as best I can.

First, it talks about bloodstains.  What are they? I believe the bloodstains represent guilt.  The Israelites are guilty of hurting the needy, instead of helping them.  “Righteousness used to dwell in her—but now murderers  . . . They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them. (Is 1:21b, 23b)  They are guilty of defying the Lord.  “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.” (Isa 1:2)

Next, what is the spirit of judgment?  We certainly know that God exercised judgment all through the Old Testament.  He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness.  He flooded the earth in the days of Noah because every inclination of man’s heart was evil. (Genesis 6:5) Joshua’s acquisition of Canaan was God’s judgment on those nations. (Genesis 15:16) And much more.

And then, what is the spirit of fire?  When we investigate the Old Testament, we see that God used fire to execute his judgment, most famously, in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah.  “Then the LORD rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah.” (Genesis 19:24)

And God uses the imagery of fire in this passage in Deuteronomy to describe what will happen when people go against him: “The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur–nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, which the LORD overthrew in fierce anger.  All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”  And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt.” (Deut 29:23-25)

So we see that God has a fiery wrath against those who show blatant disrespect to him.

And as we read Isaiah, we see that this fiery wrath was to be poured out on the Jewish people once more as a consequence for their guilt.  A complete reading of the Bible tells us how this was fulfilled as they were destroyed by foreign armies.

The application for us today is that we should be a part of this cycle.  We are also guilty of sin and, thus, the targets of the Lord’s wrath. “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.”  Eph 2:3

And we don’t think of it this way, but Jesus actually came to bring this wrath. He said in Luke 12:49, “I have come to bring fire on the earth,” referring to was the time when he would return, and all mankind would be judged.  “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.” (Luke 12:40, 47)

But, of course, Jesus also came to be our savior.  What’s so cool about Isaiah 4 is that it predicts the time that the cycle of wrath and punishment would be broken. God would “cleanse” the bloodstains.  And although on one level, this can be applied to the war that purged the land of the sinful Israelites, it also is a prophesy of Christ and his work of salvation.

This verse sums it all up:  “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? . . .  Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (I Cor 6:9, 11)

We were set to go to hell, but Jesus made a way for our sins to be washed away.

And the most mind-blowing, encouraging thing is that the wrath is now directed to Satan.  “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” (John 12:31)  

And the consequence is that Satan loses his control of us.  Jesus told Paul, “I am sending you to (the Gentiles), to turn them from the power of Satan to God.

He loses control of the world. “Then the end will come, when (Jesus) hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” ( Cor 15:24)

He is condemned. “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”  (Rev 20:10)

We are free!  Free of the cycle of sin and punishment.  Free of the bloodstains of guilt.  Free of the power of Satan over us.

And God wants the knowledge of this to give us incredible strength to persevere and serve him wholeheartedly.  I Corinthians has a monumentally heartening conclusion: “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Cor 15:57-58)

To those under the old law, at times, it must have seemed like their efforts were in vain.

But our efforts are not in vain!

And when we get caught up in feelings of defeat, and wondering how the things that need fixing will ever improve, we need to remember that we can live victoriously!!  We have God on our side, and Christ still working on our behalf.

Good will prevail.

Let’s live all out for God today.

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Filed under Having the Right Heart, Isaiah, Strength in God

On Cleaning, and Staying Centered

house-cleaning

Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. Isa 4:3

A week ago my company left.  It’s taken me days to get my house back in order.  I mopped the sun porch where the cat stayed, washed the sheets, cleaned the bathroom, and vacuumed up a ton of debris.  When I was done, it was like my head was clean, too.  Looking around at the spotless floor and furniture gave me a sense of clarity and peace.

There’s something about getting things in order that strikes a chord with me, and I think it dovetails nicely with today’s devotional.

Isiaiah 4:3 says that God’s people left in Jerusaelm would be called holy.  It was always the Lord’s intention for his people to be holy.  He said in Exodus 19:5-6, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Of course, through history, Gods’s people were often anything but holy.  So God instituted a plan to shake his people up and refine them. That’s what Isaiah 4:3 is about.  Earlier, in Isaiah 3 we read about the destruction that would overtake the Hebrews.  “They parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.” Isa 3:9

But then in Isaiah 4, God promised a restoration.  A remnant would remain, and this remnant would be purified.  The cool thing is this action was only a part of God’s amazing master plan to enable everyone to be his holy people.  Look at these later verses of Isaiah:

  • And there will be a highway called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not travel it, only those who walk in that Way–and fools will not stray onto it. Isa 35:8
  • Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the ends of the earth, “Say to Daughter Zion: See, your Savior comes! Look, His reward is with Him, and His recompense goes before Him.” And they will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of The LORD; and you will be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken. Isa 62:12

God intended to make his people holy through a divine removal of their unholiness. Isaiah 4 goes on to read, “The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem.”

Of course, we know this was untimately fulfilled with Jesus, and the incredible salvation we have through him!   “But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  I Cor 6:11

Wow.  Do we remember that we are holy? That’s how the early Christians saw themselves.  They were even called “saints,” which is the Greek word, “hagios,” that can also be translated, “holy.”

  • To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” (I Cor 1:2)  (You can find other instances of Christians being called saints in Acts 9:32, 9:41, 26:10, Romans 1:7, 8:27, 12:13, 15:25, and the list goes on.)

So back to my analogy about cleaning.  I’m not like a German house frau.  My home isn’t always spotless.  But when my house goes on the market, that’s a different story.  Then I am wiping things down and vacumming every day!  My goal is not as much to clean, but to maintain the cleanliness.

So the way this all ties in is that we repent, and God makes us clean and holy, like when we do a deep cleaning on our house.  But just like I maintain the domestic tidiness when my house is for sale, it’s also up to us to maintain the holiness of our heart.  (Okay, it’s not a perfect metaphor, but work with me.)

And the verse that is powerful for me and I’ve been using lately is, “Remain in me, and I also will remain in you.” (John 15:4)  If I stay centered in God, it keeps me from cluttering up my heart with all kinds of other things.  It keeps me dealing with my sin.  It reminds me of what is important.

Here is a video I got from my life coaching studies that actually helps me with this.  It’s an exercise in staying focused.  When I do it, I think of being focused on God, not this guy’s face!  I think of myself choosing to think of God instead of the million other things that distract me. I picture myself settling into Jesus and staying in him.

Oh, how troubled and distracted we can be!  Our insides can feel like our house after a toddler play date!

God has made us holy, and when we center in him, we can maintain this holiness and feel clarity and peace.

Ahhh.  Do some belly breaths, and inhale God’s goodness.  It’s going to be okay.

 

 

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Filed under Holiness, Isaiah, Peace, Surrender, Uncategorized

A Heart That’s Prepared

The Lord says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald.”

In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings. Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle.  The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.  Isa 3:-16 26

As I’ve been reading through Isaiah, this passage seems appropriate for today.  I’ve seen so many scenes of devastation from Hurricane Michael.

Hurricane

Hurricane2

This reminds me of these verses, because it shows how we can be walking around one day, feeling rich and all together, and the next day, find that everything is in ruins.

Now I am not at all saying that the hurricane was a part of God’s judgment, like the disaster forecast in this prophesy.  I’m saying that we need to be careful to not be complacent and full of ourselves, thinking we have it together and taking what we have for granted.

We need to be careful to not be haughty.  God doesn’t look very kindly on the haughty in this verse.  The Hebrew word means, “to raise up to a great height.”  It’s used of King Saul when he’s described as being taller than the other people.  It definitely conveys the idea that you think you are above everyone else.

And that is what the women that God condemed were acting. The passage even goes on to describe them in kind of a comical way, with necks that are stretching up.  I get this picture of society gals with thier noses in the air.

haughty woman

I would enjoy laughing at them, if I didn’t know that I can be that way too.  Oh sure, maybe it’s not so obvious.  But how easily do I get down to the level of a servant? I have to say, as I have served hurricane victims this past week, my heart has some work to do!

Here are some great verses that help my heart in this:

  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Phil 2:3)
  • Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:5-7)
  • But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.  (James 1:10)

It also helps my heart to remember that the things I take for granted could be gone at any time.  It could be my turn next.  Here are some verses to help me think more soberly:

  • So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (I Cor 10:12)
  • Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  (Prov. 16:18)
  • Then [the rich man] said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. ” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Luke 12:20

Life can change at any moment. I’ve seen that first hand this week.  And at this point, I am thankful for the wake up call to my heart.

Let me do a better job of being prepared, and be better able to say, as Mary did, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it happen to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

It’s easy to think it’s all about me, that I have it together.

God says that I need to stop stretching my neck, and instead, bow before him.

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, . . . You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Luke 12:40)

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Filed under Humility, Isaiah

The Real and Firm Presence

Sunrise

Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy.

It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.  Isa 4:5-6

This is the coolest passage!  In my blogging about Isaiah, I’m skipping over the last part of Isaiah 3, and the first part of Isaiah 4, and focusing on these words, because they are just what I need to hear.

The verses talk about a time when God will establish his presence with his people as a very firm and real thing.  They harken back to the time when he led the Isrealites out of Egypt, and through the desert: “And the LORD went before them in a pillar of cloud to guide their way by day, and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel by day or night.” (Exodus 13:21)

The imagry also references the tabernacle in the desert that Moses set up.  God’s presence would come down on the tabernacle in a cloud of glory.  When the cloud was over the tabernacle, the Isrealites knew they were to stay where they were.  When it lifted, this signified it was time to travel.  “So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” (Exodus 40:38)

So Isaiah 4:5-6 was prophesying about a time when God would establish his presence as the same thing that the Israelites had.  And Isaiah went on to describe this presence as a protection, refuge and hiding place.

There are all kinds of ways to look at this prophesy, but I think that one application of it has to be that today we are the Lord’s temple, and we have his presence with us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”  (I Cor 3:16)

Here’s what Jesus said in John 14:26 about the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

And in this 14th chapter of John, we see the giving of the Spirit as a part of a whole narrative.  Jesus starts out by telling the disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God.  Believe  also in me.”  He goes on to talk about heaven.  “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”  Then he assures them that he will not leave them as orphans, but will come to them.  He concludes with comfort, “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give you.”

Here are two lessons I got from comparing the presence of the Lord in the story of Moses with the presence of the Lord that we now have through the Holy Spirit:

  1. The pillars of cloud and fire, and the cloud of glory over the tabernacle, were guides.  The Spirit that is with us is meant to be a guide as well.    The clouds led the Israelites through the desert to the Promise Land.  The Spirit leads us through our life on earth to heaven.
  2.  The very visible presence of God was meant to comfort the Isrealites, so they would know they were not alone.  Jesus makes it clear that we are to be comforted.  He will not leave us alone.  He is sending us the Spirit, his peace.

May we see how much of a comfort the presence of the Lord can be!  This past week was very challenging for me.  I kept getting extremely upset.  My emotions took me hostage and carried me away.  My mind went around and around and I couldn’t stop it.

It was a true Godsend that I read Isaiah 4:5-6.  When I couldn’t sleep, I pictured God being there with me.  I thought of his goodness, love, faithfulness and mercy and how these are like unbreakable tent poles that go into the ground and form an absolutely solid and reliable foundation around me.  I imagined God’s presence like the tent on these poles — warm and safe.  I saw the things that troubled my heart were like fierce winds that could buffet the tent without affecting it in the least.*

Now this wasn’t specifically the Holy Spirit that I was picturing, but it was extremely helpful to remember that God is with me.  And we live in an age when God is with us as never before, when Jesus promised he is with us always! (Matt 28:20)

How amazed and grateful we can be that God is our safe place!  We are not at the mercy of chaos.

How peaceful we can be as we realize that God is guiding us!  He does not leave us alone, as orphans, to wander aimlessly.

He IS with us, the most real, solid, reliable thing ever.

(* I got this imagry from reading Max Lucado’s book, “anxious for nothing.“)

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Filed under God With Us, Isaiah

When God’s Heart Sings

The Lord takes his place in court;

he rises to judge the people.

The Lord enters into judgment

against the elders and leaders of his people:

“It is you who have ruined my vineyard;

the plunder from the poor is in your houses.

What do you mean by crushing my people

and grinding the faces of the poor?”  (Isa 3:13-15)

In life coaching, we talk about finding and doing the things that make your “heart sing.”  These are the things we’re wired to do, and when we do them, we feel alive and on purpose.  For me, this includes being in nature, discovering insights in the Bible, singing spiritual songs, coming up with ideas, dancing, engaging in the arts.

But I started thinking this week, “What makes God’s heart sing?”

Surely his heart sings as he watches the amazing and everchanging dance of his creation on earth.  As Genesis says, “And God saw that it was good.”

But I think his heart also sings when people are devoted to him and they subsequently flourish, and become all they were designed to be.

Sadly, this is not often the case.

We’re going to come to Isaiah 5 later, but  I want to refer to it now because it lets us know so well what God’s heart is.  God says, “I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard.”  He goes on to describe Judah as a field that he planted with careful work and great anticipation, and then asks, “When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?”  The passage concludes, “And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”

So that’s why God is angry and promises judgement in Isaiah 3.  The individuals who comprise his dream are harming one another.  His beloved planting is bearing bitter fruit instead of flourishing.

Will there ever be a happy song for God’s heart?  In Zehpaniah 3, God promises,

“Then I will purify the lips of the peoples,

that all of them may call on the name of the Lord 

and serve him shoulder to shoulder. . . .

 I will remove from you your arrogant boasters. . .

But I will leave within you the meek and humble. 

The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the Lord . . .

The Lord your God is with you,

the Mighty Warrior who saves

He will take great delight in you;

in his love he will no longer rebuke you,

but will rejoice over you with singing.

Isn’t this incredible?

There are two things we can learn from this passage.

First, that God intended to purify his people so they would become what they were created to be.  I believe that Christians today are these purified people.  I love this description in Ephesians, 5:26b- 27  “just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”  What a picture of tender adoration!  Surely, when we are purified through Christ and live holy lives, God’s heart is singing!

Second, that humility is so key.  God’s plan is set in motion when we are humble and trusting. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, so that in due time He may exalt you.” I Peter 5:6

So I want to remember, and keep this as my goal — to be pure and holy, to be humble.

Surely I want to be the fulfillment of all God’s dreams.  I want to know that I make his heart sing.  I want to think of him smiling as he looks at me.

And know that as I fulfill all I am designed to be, I can fulfill God’s dreams as well.

They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.  Isa 60:21

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  John 15:8

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Eph 2:10

But I must also face that I too often fall short.  So I remember this picture of God taking his place in court.

Some of the judgment will take place at the last day.  But we also experience a judgment in the form of consequences for our actions every day.

Two nights ago, my neighbor died.  She had a heart attack.  There were five emergency vehicles parked on the street, with lights flashing, as it poured down rain and the EMTs worked to save her life.

And I thought about how I have lived across the street from this woman for nine years, and never built much of a relationship with her.

Sure, she kept to herself.  The time or two I did talk to her she didn’t seem interested in pursuing a friendship.

But now I regret that I didn’t reach out a little more.  If there is anyone I should love as myself, it is my neighbor.  But I let the selfishness and preoccupation of my heart win out.  And the consequence is that I didn’t build a connection that I could have.  God’s love wasn’t spread.  I didn’t really give his field a chance to be developed.

I have a new chance today to live better.

May I seek to make God smile.

May I become a part of his song.

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Filed under Beauty of God, Delighting in God, Isaiah, Make Every Effort, Synchonicity

When the Path Disappears

My people, your guides lead you astray;

they turn you from the path. (Is 3:12b)

Recently, at our midweek house church, we talked about how hard it is to have a good marriage, because we don’t get good examples of it from the media or society.  Instead, we get false expectations.  So we seek to have the Leave it To Beaver or the Chip and Joanna marriage where everything seems idyllic.  We think we should always be romanced.    And we don’t realize that a good marriage requires constant self sacrifice and servanthood.

And that’s why this verse hits home with me today.  It’s so true that we are surrounded by false guides, and this can lead us astray.

This morning, I was feeling sad.  I prayed about it over and over, asking God to help me with my low spirits.  Finally, I remembered my last blog, about how there is value in learning.  So I asked God, “What can I learn from this?”

And an answer came to me.  It was a breakthrough.  I need to learn that life isn’t permanent and fixed. It’s more like song says about God, “You give and take away.”

blessed be your name

I want to build stability by adding things I think will be solid and lasting.  But that’s not the nature of this world.  People die at all ages.  Friends move, or move on.  Things break.  Disasters happen. Changes take place.  It’s so true, what Jesus said, “In this world you will have many troubles.” (John 16:33)

I totally relate to Jonah, who had a wonderful God-given vine that grew up and gave him shade, and then got an attitude when God took it away.

Jonah

jonah 2

I want my shelter!  I’m trying to build this secure life, and my vines keep shriveling!

The thing is, I got mislead in what I thought my life should be.  I fell into the thinking that security comes from the people and things around me, instead of solely from God.

Literally, today’s verse reads, “Your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.

That is so true for me.  The course of my path to live righteously got swallowed up.

A lot of roads were “swallowed up” in the latest hurricane.

Hurricane Florence5

That picture really does feel like what happened to me in my mind.  The path that was so clear became unclear.

So here’s one way I’m going to try and find the path again.  I’m going to listen for that phrase, “But I’m trying so hard.” Because if I tell myself that, it’s become about my efforts, and not God’s.  I’ have to recalibrate towards God.

You know, one surprising thing I’m learning about life coaching as I study it, is that when you do it right, it isn’t hard work. It’s more like a dance.  As you converse with your client, you listen hard, and then respond to their “steps,” and this naturally leads you to make “countersteps.”

I think life needs to be more that.  It needs to be like a dance with God, where we focus completely on God, and then respond to what he is doing.

I get off track because I start focusing on other voices, especially my own inner voice of fear and need, and stop focusing completely on God.  I find myself living my life like I’m constantly blazing a trail through a thicket.  It feels clunky, not graceful; rough, not smooth.

It’ doesn’t have to be so hard.  Let’s stay in the flow, by keeping our eyes on the Lord.  He is is our only source of security, the only place to find the answers we need.

 

 

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