"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD...He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." Micah 4:2

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Greatest Gift is for You!

Christmas decorations line the store aisles, the jingling of bells fill the air, and shoppers scurry to purchase wanted items for loved ones. Under many decorated trees, packages tied with pretty ribbons wait for a date marked on the calendar. Plans and gathered supplies anticipate celebrations in homes without many knowing or offering the Greatest Gift which began this whole holiday of giving.
Yet, with constant news of troubling times for our world in crisis, sights of many hurting people lining the sidewalks and knowledge of hundreds of homes without peace, my heart searches for every opportunity to offer the very best gift ever given. 
This gift is God's only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, sent to earth to bring us back to God. Sin entered our world bringing sadness and destruction. We chose our own way and grapple for control in a dying world. Jesus Christ came to earth and paid the price of a horrible death, full of rejection and sorrow, to reconcile us back to God and give us eternal life in Him.
It's a beautiful story of love recorded in Scriptures and history. Seeing the sadness in many eyes,  I long to share this tremendous gift with many.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak of this awesome GIFT during a class for ladies. After sharing Scripture on the covenant God made with Abram and fulfilled in Jesus, we decided to meet each Wednesday morning for 10 weeks and study the story in context. 
As our guide, we used a Stonecroft study book, Following Jesus with Luke  and the New Testament book of Luke as our text. The book encourages reading designated passages of Luke along with each chapter, and then, asks questions to help the readers think through what is actually said and how it applies to our understanding of Jesus' purpose in life. 
Because I believe that Luke is an inspired book of God's Word, I began each class with prayer, asking God to show us what he would like us to know about His GIFT. Luke 24:45

Luke's research approached actual eyewitnesses of the life and ministry of Jesus. Many were touched personally by contact with him. They heard his lessons, were touched by his power, and followed Jesus through the region of Galilee. The chosen stories, messages, and parables of Jesus were recorded as Luke depicts Jesus as the true Son of Man.

The most important message I take away from this study is God's faithfulness and overwhelming love. As far back as the Garden of Eden, God promised to send a "Seed" who would be the Savior of the world. Galatians 3:3 tells us that God preached this Gospel to Abram in a blood covenant. Although humanity put Jesus to death, resurrection shouted the victory of completion! Not even death could thwart the promise of God given in the gift of His Son. 
Now, in our day, God is patiently waiting for many to claim His gift as their very own and receive forgiveness of sins.

So, while many try to find just the right item to prettily wrap and put under a tree, I hope my readers take this post as an invitation to consider the most precious GIFT ever given anyone. The Bible says "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
"But to all who did receive HIM, who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God." 
John 1:12

God's gift is for you. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Whispers of HOPE

Once a week, I join about 12 ladies in a hang out to discuss and encourage each other to develop the habit of prayer. 
We're reading WHISPERS OF HOPE by Beth Moore. We've committed to a 10-week devotional time which we hope grows our understanding of prayer habits and teaches us to genuinely focus on set times of PRAYER. 
Beth takes a passage of scripture for daily reading and then, allows us to peek into her journal for the lessons God taught her while she read the given passages. We take the time to share how God used His word during our daily mediating on prayer and how we are learning to make it a focal part of each day.

In Whispers of Hope, Beth suggests using the acronym PRAISE in prayer, but because I'm already comfortable in a routine of habitually thinking in color, I'm trying to adopt her word into my own colorful outline. Praying in color has helped me stay focused whether I pray audibly or silently. It's just a simple outline of three colors.

These three colors have already become my primary outline in daily priorities and show up in my Bible studies, my schedule, and my relationship building. Using the 3 colors in prayer has helped me categorize what I want to say in my 3 relationships to keep my mind focused on Christ and give him glory. 
So, while reading a Bible passage, I look for any revelation about God and his personal relationship with me. I highlight it in YELLOW.  These phrases emphasize first on my relationship with God, as Creator and what He has revealed through Scriptures about Himself. Then, my position IN CHRIST because of his atonement on my behalf draws me to who He is to me. This draws my thoughts to his glory, splendor, and majesty and His gifts of grace and mercy.
The second color in my small is BLUE. I chose blue because of the blood that I see running just below my skin and giving life to my body parts. Life is in the blood. Spiritually, I was adopted into God's family of believers when I accepted the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse me of all unrighteousness. His family is royal. His family is unique and throughout the New Testament, there are characteristics that describe members of His family. These I color in BLUE so that I can learn to make them part of my choices and character.
Finally, I use RED to remember the stop sign I wish to put in unbelievers pathways so that they have an opportunity to consider Christ for the forgiveness of their sin. There are many passages that warn such people to stop and turn around on their paths, accepting God's gift of GRACE. Any warning or characteristic of these unbelievers I highlight in RED so that I will remember them when confronted with these behaviors.  

Now, getting back to Beth Moore and her book, she suggested using the acronym PRAISE in prayer.
I took the first week to just focus on PRAISE and grasp what each letter would represent while I use my three colors. I found that her PRAISE letters actually fit words I already use, making it easy for me to fit her whole devotional into my daily walk with Christ without referring to my notes during prayer! 

My prayer journal has become a doodle pad as my heart overflows with colorful details I want to discuss with my heavenly Father!

YELLOW: the Presence of my majestic Father of LIGHT and Glory...
I began with P in focusing on PRAISE to God for His glory, splendor and majesty. I thank Him for His continual PRESENCE with me throughout my day.
R causes RESTORATION in my heart as I mediate and claim by faith God's promises to conform me into the image of His Son. I consider who Jesus is and pray that throughout the day, I am a good REFLECTION of His glory.
A helps me ACKNOWLEDGE Jesus as God's Promised ONE and surrender to his Lordship in my ACTIVITIES for the day. Often I find myself just writing Scripture that proves to my faith what God has declared, and that reminds me to bow my knee ASKING him to steady my staggering steps on his straight paths.

BLUE: Christ's love which units His family through His blood...
INTERCESSION is going to the One you believe has the power to meet needs. I bring my list of ITEMS on behalf of others and give each to my Father for His purpose and planning. I tell him what I would like to happen, but realize it is His WILL that will heal their ILLS. There are so many who need to hear from the Creator. 
S moves me into SUPPLICATION for my friends and family and even for myself. All those in Christ Jesus face STRUGGLES that can overwhelm and so I ask God's SPIRIT to STRENGTHEN their inner person and help them live God's purpose today. For many of my believing family members, there are SPECIFIC needs I mention while I am in talking to the SAVIOR'S heart. I also include Jesus' request to His Father and ask that our SOURCE of witness will be love for each other.
Our need to be EQUIPPED, leads me to pray for faithfulness in reading God's WORD daily. I pray His compelling love ENCOURAGES and EDIFIES his children through the inspired WORD. I pray that it does its work in EACH of us.

RED: Those needing to know Christ's forgiveness for sin and who can't yet PRAISE him with thankful hearts...
Time with my Father seems to always linger over my longing to share the Love of Jesus with those who do not yet know His forgiveness and have no Praise. How they need His PRESENCE in their life. My REQUESTS mention the specific names of my ACQUAINTANCES, longing for them to join God's family and know His grace through Jesus Christ. I ask God to IGNITE a fire in them that would burn with longing to know the SAVIOR. I ask Christ to give them ETERNAL LIFE as he promised those who come to Him. 

What a wonderful day His children will have together in the future when we circle His throne in glory, PRAISE and honor! I want all my family and friends to join me there! So, I close my prayer thanking my Father for His work of drawing many loved ones into a relationship with Him, then tell him I've enjoyed the special time of prayer I've had with Him, and how I cannot wait for the future day he promises each of us in his PRESENCE FOR ALL ETERNITY!

Whatever your method of PRAYER, I hope you enjoy your time with the Father and find PRAISE for our wonderful God, His grace, and His mercy on your lips today!

Friday, October 25, 2013

In Covenant with God

My life is truly a season for THANKSGIVING!
It's breath-taking to drive through the hills and countryside and view Autumn's colorful splendor and majesty declaring the glory of my Creator God. The trees and flowers have burst into colors that are exquisite and the warm sun glistens off the golden fields. On one such drive, I found myself gazing upward toward the bluest skies with white puffy clouds totally overwhelmed that the God who created this natural phenomenon also made a way for me to know Him! Coming in human form, Jesus Christ bridged a path for a LOVE relationship with God and Covenant was sealed with His blood on the cross of Calvary.

My blog has been silent for a season while I read some fantastic and life changing books. Some even claimed my earliest morning hours as I compared the content with Bible study. There has been times when I've felt like those who first heard the Gospel and searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were true!

OUR COVENANT GOD by Kay Arthur is my newest favorite book. It has made me fall deeper in love with Jesus than I thought possible and it has filled me with an overwhelming gratitude for His willingness to "walk into death" for me. Heart tears well up inside as I read the various rituals of the ancient covenant and hear Christ's words saying those same words in many of the gospel stories.
My favorite words, "I call you my Friend."
Lately, there's been reviews telling of best sellers books which try to disengage historical facts or have the premise of unbelief in Deity visiting earth, yet, this wonderful book takes a firm stand in the literal Scriptures and through much research and study elaborates what God purposed in His COVENANT with man.

Participating in the Lord's supper became even sweeter this month as I heard the familiar words from the biblical passages and realized again these were the same words spoken by covenant partners in the celebrating meal. My heart filled with gratitude to meditate on Jesus, my precious Savior, who walked into death for me and shed his own blood in covenant. With His work "finished", He sealed the covenant once for all and took the payment of my debt. HE declared me 'Not Guilty'! (Rom 3:24; Titus 3:3-8 NLT)

We become participants in the covenant when we come to God through Christ. He gives me a new identity, his weapons and belt, and his strength takes over my weakness. Each day grows sweeter in my knowledge of His grace and mercy.
Yes...I have much to be THANKFUL for in this season of my life.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Little Ears Listen...

While I enjoy the warmth of summer, the joy of watering flower pots, and a little traveling to visit family, my computer has been quietly waiting for me to journal my summer schedule.
Lately, my days have been so full. I barely get my flower pots watered before the clock tells me to rush out of the driveway, yet it's necessary to turn on the lights when we drag up the patio stairs to finish off the day.

A very fun place to be...
In spite of my busyness, it's exciting days around our workplace. For two weeks I watched 7 kids under age of 5 creatively play while their parents train in cross-cultural studies.
These families are preparing to live overseas for the simple reason to obey the command (Mark 16) Jesus gave his disciples:
"GO, and proclaim the gospel to every creature". 
These families count it a privilege to share Jesus and the good news that His death provided abundant life for anyone willing to turn to Him as their Lord and Savior. The contagious excitement of "going" encompasses all I do in the Day Care!
Tea time...

Trains tooting...
The children are precious. Their minds are so creative in play and their imaginations surprise me with many giggles and chuckles as I listen to their conversations. It always amazes me to hear their vocabulary and even some definite quotes.

One morning, I thought one precious little boy was totally oblivious to his surroundings as he pulled a toy train around the play room. There were several conversations going on around him, but suddenly he looked at me in all seriousness and said, "Don't let anyone put you down because you are young." 
Outside play...
What made this quiet little fellow give this awesome advice at that moment?
I realized he had overheard a teen helper talking about giving her testimony at the workplace. His sensitivity and purity of heart responded in complete innocence. He quietly reminded us of what the Word of God says about speaking truth with a pure and gentle response when we're asked about our faith in the Lord Jesus.

I asked the little guy who told him that - and was awed at his response...
"My DVD told me that the Bible says that to us!"
Praise God for parents who provide good and valuable listening tools in their homes! What an honor to care for these little ones who have God's truth available for their little ears, and attentively listen to God's great message which reaches and strengthens their beautiful tender hearts!

Monday, July 08, 2013

Summer is stealing my time...

I'm sorry for the neglect of this blog during this summer month. It seems when the sun begins to really shine and the weather gets a little warmer, my day is stolen as I putter outside in the garden. I love the trim flower beds, and the joy of little blossoms delight my yard with so much color!

My Iris bed was gorgeous this Spring, and I even had the joy of planting day lilies of bright yellow. Now, the New Guinea Impatience line the patio and walk way.

Summer crept up and surprised me with busyness. We took a quick trip to NYC, 2100 miles of driving in 7 days! We were able to visit with 3 generations and I absolutely loved getting much desired hugs from these precious family members.

Now, for a couple of weeks, I'm caring for 7 children under age 5 each day while their parents attend training classes in cross-cultural studies. I have 2 wonderful helpers, but with my time being so captured with the adventures of these little ones' creativity, my computer time is limited.

And admittedly, my evening leisure moments finds escape to my back yard. I relax after the busy hot days while the gentle breezes sway my hammock in the shade of a leafy maple. I reason silently that I can only do so much, but value this time by capturing some awesome reading time. I'm also having fun while studying some awesome books loved ones suggested for summer reading.

So, dear readers, thank you for being very patient with this blog.
I'll pop back real soon, but in the meantime, enjoy your summer days in the sun!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Speech Gives Evidence

Our final workbook chapter draws us to Malachi 3 - 4, yet I would like to narrow the study and close in relevance of our current affairs.
With days filled with scandals, deceit and's wonderful to lean on the Word of a faithful God and hear His promise like these found in Malachi 3:16-18:

Observation: "Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other and the Lord listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and loved to think about him."
The Promise: "They will be my people, says the LORD Almighty. On that day when I act, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient and dutiful child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not."

The recent scandals focus our attention on the Right to Privacy. Every circle of news media throws our rights around, arguing who has the authority to listen to our conversations and read our mail. Many reactions are fierce with anger filling the wires.
What will be the reaction when the anger over government interference through the use of phone taps and email checks realizes an even mightier Someone listens also?
What will they say to the Almighty Judge when they stand before him to give account for every word spoken?

Those saying "IF you have nothing to hide, there's nothing to fear." seem caustic, but it's rebuttal of "it depends who's listening and their reason" stands even more on the side of truth.
This last message from the Old Testament tells each of us the Creator is listening, and yet many of us honestly can sing...
"I know the KING, there's no need to dread".

To me, having a relationship with the Creator makes current affairs all but passing. His authority will right all wrong. He listens, records, and remains in total power over the whole world with its people and all their activities.

Several years ago, I was encouraged to read this promise of God, recorded as the old historical books of the Bible closed for hundreds of years held in silence.
There would be no more words from God until the first advent of His Beloved Son. Then, the Bible declares, "The WORD was made flesh and dwelt among us". Jesus came.
Through Jesus, I asked for mercy. God acted in grace and kindness, forgiving me and washing me clean from my sin. All my words, my attitudes, and my behavior were laid on His Son and HE nailed them to the cross. The Bible proclaims "He bore my sins. He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows...he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by his wounds we are healed...He bore our sins. " Isa 53:4-5,12.
God placed His judgment for my sins on His Beloved Son. Jesus paid it all for me.
Then, in a resurrected life, victorious over death,  Jesus declared me "not guilty". Titus 3:3-8 NLT
                                             I became "His [God's] treasure". Mal 3:17; 2 Cor 4:7

As the Lord's treasure, the Lord watches over me and LISTENS to what I say to others, who fear him and love to think about him." .
Do I encourage?
Are my words kind and uplifting?
Would my words shame me if the Lord became visibly before me?

Walker AZ Photography
When the Almighty God acts upon His earth is not really up for debate. It all belongs to Him and He will claim it whenever He chooses.
Whether one believes that fact or not will not really matter when God claims what He says is His own.

The Almighty Creator has promised to return.

Some day soon, Jesus Christ will shout "They are MINE!"
Many other passages in the NT describe in more detail who His treasure really is. I choose to believe His Word which tells me as His treasure, I have nothing to fear.
Now, I long for His coming.
Each sunrise, I wonder if this will be the dawning of that glorious Day.

For God promised "On that day, you will see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not." 
Justice will prevail.
                                   What about you?        
Are you "his special treasure" ?
Are you anxiously waiting for that day in joy or with dread?
Are you longing for the Creator to come and make all things right?

And now, as you wait for that shout, how's your speech?
Do your phone conversations and emails give evidence that you really belong in the King's treasury?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Detoured Study

Hidden within the disputations of the book of Malachi are the rich tidbits of God's history with his people! Just a mentioned name fills our minds with awesome stories of God's intervention on earth. During this week's group time, I suggested a small excursion into this deeper history to enjoy more fully the beautiful meadow of gratitude we wandered into last week.

First place we visited was Jacob and his relationship with God. We climbed into the children's overlooked foothills protecting this sacred meadow of righteousness, and found they had a Broken Vow.
That path beckoned us to go further into history and visit Abraham. With him, we looked beyond the horizon and gazed upon the stars in the heavens.
This detour was to be a fast little jaunt, a paragraph or two, but we lingered on the discovery of such rich treasure describing all believers. Although an abbreviated study of God's relationship with Abraham, the grandfather of the "children of Jacob", it looks at two separate occasions where God promised Abram the blessing of offspring. Each occasion Abraham was asked to compare this offspring to the vastness of what human eyes could not count.

Abraham received a promise of offspring two separate times.  Please click over to our detoured study Redeemed Dust Shines as Stars, then join us again as we check out this distinction found also in Malachi.   

Redeemed Dust Shines as Stars

WalkerAZ photography
Our detour in the study of Malachi took us to the home of Abraham, the grandfather of the "children of Jacob". Here, hidden in the foothills of God's promises, we found a distinction of offspring.

The first promise is found in Genesis 13:16 "I will make your offspring as the DUST of the earth." This was given to Abram as he gazed over the huge land territory where God was promising to settle his offspring and make his name great. A photo of a plowed field illustrates dust for us, blowing around with every wind, unstable and movable, shifting, affected by its environment, and deteriorating in nutrients and substance without rest from labor.
With land in sight, Abram settled his tent and there he built an
altar of worship, thanking His Creator God for his provision and care.

WalkerAZ Photography
In Genesis 15:5-6, there is another blessing given to Abraham.  "Look toward the heaven, and number the STARS, if you're able to number them...So shall your offspring be. And he believed the LORD and He counted it to him as righteousness." Millions of stars shining brightly in darkness, declaring the majesty of their Creator, lighting paths, giving direction, yet so stable, dependable in following their Master plan.

Comparing the two occasions of promise, we can see a trail of those who reject God and those who walk by faith in the goodness of God. We also noticed a difference in Abram's second response. This time his heart was involved as he gazed on God's omnipotence in the heavens. He acknowledged the Almighty Presence of God, believed the Word of God, which began a relationship of faith with his Divine Friend. He was forever changed. His faith was counted to him as righteousness. God even changed His name to Abraham, meaning "the father of a multitude of nations". This birth of faith offspring began in heaven and would span all nations, having no boundaries in their expanse.

In faith, Abraham grasped the difference between dust and stars, the natural birth and the spiritual birth. Abraham received a physical promise of offspring, naturally passed on through the composition of DUST inherited in the lineage of Adam by Creation. With this offspring, he would fill the land given as his inheritance.
Through faith, he also received the honor of fatherhood to a spiritual offspring who would believe God's word and walk by faith in the power of God. When God pointed his gaze to the STARS, a spiritual eternal family was born through Abraham's "Seed" of faith in his "offspring, who is Christ" (Galatians 3:16) ,  passing on the riches of his glorious inheritance to his spiritual children.
"Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham." (Galatians 3:7)

Understanding that the story path leads two different ways through Abraham's offspring, helps us grasp those disputing with God in Malachi. We see God is urging Dust to grasp the reality of their circumstances, their hopelessness and helplessness. Their rejection of God's righteousness leaves them vulnerable to evil which only ends in judgment. The Dust family attempts to keep rules and regulations their own way, but their end is "shame and everlasting contempt". (Daniel 12:2)
Faith in God on the other hand leads to life and wisdom. Faith gives strength and courage to follow Him in obedience. Stars rely on the Word and God is their Light, shining through them and lighting the darkened path. God's Word "became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:12) and is the "Seed" God promised Abraham.

Through mercy and grace, God declares DUST to shine as STARS through faith in His Son!

CHALLENGE In Adam's Dust, the cross was raised which held the Son of the living God, the "seed" of Abraham. Through faith in His atoning love, we receive "the right to become sons of God". (John 1:12) By his blood, Jesus paid it all and declares us "not guilty". He offers Life through His righteousness.. 
Has you released your Dust through faith in his glorious Life and Light?

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Broken Vow

“For I the LORD do not change, therefore, you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6 
We chose to take a detour to investigate the mention of Jacob, and paused in our progress to open documents containing his life's journey. 
Why did God bring Jacob into conversation when accusing Israel of robbery? 
During his adventurous trek through the wilderness, God visited Jacob and promised, "Behold I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land." (Genesis 28:15) In return for God’s promise of love, protection, and return to his home. Jacob vowed "If God will be with me and keep me in this way...then the Lord shall be my God. And all that You give me I will give a full tenth to You." (Genesis 28:20)  

On his deathbed, Jacob asked "the God who has been my Shepherd...and the Messenger who has redeemed me from all evil" to bless his two grandsons. Jacob stated this covenant was both spiritual as well as physical, extending even after his death. Genesis 48:15-16
In this blessing, Jacob placed his hands upon the boys' heads and declared, "let my name be carried on and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac". Through this bequest, they carried the blessings for all generations as a covenant with their God, who promised, "I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." In passing on this part of the blessing, Jacob expressed to his children the eternal covenant of the "promised Seed of redemption" had not yet been completed. Genesis 48:15-16
That part of the eternal blessing would be placed on these grandsons through Joseph from Jacob’s father, Abraham. Genesis 49:22-24 

So, in Malachi 3:6-12, to make it clear Jacob's vow was being discussed, God called them the "children of Jacob". God was declaring his rightful expectation of them through their father's covenant. In faithfulness, He had upheld his part of the covenant, but they had been withholding the promised tenth. He declared this robbery and exclaimed their excuses were wearisome. Yet, He also challenged them to "put Me to the test...if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need". (3:10) They could personally know His faithfulness as Jacob and really experience the goodness of a relationship with God.

The intended family heritage promised the forefathers was now being disputed between the offspring and God. God desired a spiritual relationship with them. Arrogantly, they wanted to receive an uncontested inheritance, regardless of their disobedience to the conditions of Jacob's covenant.  
CHALLENGE: Have we been guilty of breaking any vow promised to "the Lord who does not change"? 
And extending even a wider circle...
Has our generation neglected vows made in the past to "the Lord who doesn't change" which will hinder blessings for future generations? 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Harvesting a Peaceful Fruit of Righteousness

After a tough climb, it is such a relief to find a beautiful meadow between steep rocky mountains. My spirit danced joyfully and I sang as I gazed upon His beauty! I am enveloped in the sunlight of God's love and provision for me found this week in my study for His people.

As you remember, our group is studying Malachi and have reached chapter 3. The prophet explains God's displeasure by the assertion that the spiritual leaders' weariness and disobedience has actually wearied God. I believe he quotes Isaiah 43:24 "you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities". Malachi is God's final call to repent and obey the terms of the covenant with whole hearts.
Knowing their weakness and bend toward sin, in mercy and great love, God warns of His approach, "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me...The LORD who you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, coming!" 
Take notice! Wake up! Be alert! Look for him!
The messenger of the covenant is coming on the scene!

Unfortunately, Israel defied God's warning. Weary of service, taking shortcuts in mandated offerings, and overwhelmed with positional pride, they missed the offered relationship with their God. Their arrogance believed God would bring vengeance on their enemies, but they were too good to face judgment. Because they neglected to receive God's relationship, they didn't recognize God's "Word" when this Messenger "was made flesh and dwelt among us". They continued to look only for the world's Judge, the God of vengeance on their enemies, a roaring lion, and this caused them to miss the Savior, the precious Lamb of God.

In the Gospel of Matthew, a messenger comes on the scene, preparing the way through proclamations for Repentance. He was rejected and thrown in jail. He faced death at the hand of an emperor, yet, his message prepared the way for Jesus, the Lord who suddenly appeared. Misunderstanding two separate comings of the Lord, John experienced the people's arrogant disobedience and expected judgment, possibly recalling this prophecy of Malachi. To clarify the Lord's appearance among them, John sent servants to Jesus asking for an explanation.
How did the Messiah's ministry fit the warnings of pending judgment?
Jesus gently responded to John the Baptist by pointing to an earlier prophetic book, Isaiah, giving more detail to this appearance. Jesus quoted Isaiah 35, "behold, the God of vengeance, even a God with a recompense; he will come and save you." The Judge's plan included mercy, a redemption that would save from the terrible judgment. The prophetic coming of the Messiah as Light to heal blind eyes and ears and cleanse from sin came with a recompense which met the vengeance of God at the cross. Christ's first coming satisfied the wrath of God, yet He saved His people, by the shedding of His own blood. "God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world be saved through Him" John 3:17

Today, I looked at Jesus' words in John 12:46-47, "I came into the world as LIGHT so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world."
Healing the blind living in darkness, opening the deaf ears, and touching leprosy - all show physical touches of Jesus, yet, represent the spiritual changes taking place in those who receive the Word of God, believing the Truth. God sent His LIGHT into the world. This Light made those in darkness see their condition, hear the Truth leading to belief, and be cleansed of the disease of sin. All his physical miracles completely healed and pointed to what the sacrifice of His own blood does to those who come to Him.

With John, many ask "What about judgment?" 
John 12:48 speaks of the judgment mentioned in Malachi. The Word spoken is Jesus and He will judge on the last day. In mercy, God gave Jesus the commandment of eternal life, but those who do not receive Him, reject mercy and will face judgment.

During this time of grace, a just God is satisfied in Jesus Christ. Yet, many reject Him. God deals with this rejection in justice through the second coming of Christ. While we wait for His return to fix our broken world, we must be faithful to proclaim "Today is the day of salvation!"
The Savior calls in mercy now!
What wonderful Grace! The words that Jesus gave us are eternal life. Several passages answer the question of who faces God's wrath in judgment. In Jesus, we are saved from the wrath of God!
We looked at five passages stating we are saved from the wrath to come. John 3:36, John 5:24, Rms 2:8, Rms 5:9, and Eph 5:6.
As I read this precious Word, my heart overflowed with such gratitude! Jesus' own words about God's wrath is amazing and wonderful! There's no longer fear of meeting God. Christ's sacrifice on the cross satisfied the wrath of God, freeing me to serve Him with a whole heart.
While I live in this broken world, God trains me in trials and hurts to make me more like Christ. Broken people also cause a hard workout on my heart, but I grow in grace as I consider all He did for me. I struggle with the brokenness of the world, yet, by faith, I claim God promises to strengthen my faith, increase my endurance and make me all He has planned for me.

The Word is my coach in this race I run.
In Hebrews 12, I'm encouraged to "Consider Jesus".
Consider all He endured, even the shedding of blood, and my burdens become light and momentary realizing how much He did for me. God is working for my good with the promise is a harvest of a peaceful fruit of righteousness. In gratitude, I know I will lay my harvest at His feet in honor of all he did for me.

As I close this week's study time, I'm resting in the meadow of God's omnipotent love, among the blossoms of His beautiful promises, and living out His abundant life in faith. Sheltered under the good and bountiful cloud of Jesus Christ, I'm reminded of this song bursting with gratitude...
"How can I say thanks for the things that are done for me...
Things so undeserved, that you gave your very life for me...
The voices of a thousand angels could not express my gratitude...
All that I am, or ever hope to be....
I owe it all to Thee!'
                                                               To God be the Glory.....

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Slashing Through Underbrush

Treks through mountain passages may be easy to follow when the path is clear, but when underbrush, felled trees, and boulders obscure the trail; the hike becomes more difficult and often dangerous. When inclement weather is added to the climb, it is almost impossible to find secure footing.

While on this path of study, I find myself pushing away the clutter and grasping for a sure hold. I began searching the Manual as a hiker grasps with his hands while tentatively stretching a leg, searching for solid ground. The toughness of this climb has been made by cultural comforts and faithless leaders who neglect the double-edged sword provided to cut through the underbrush, so others find the true path. I'm constantly getting snagged on common thought that wants to excuse humans and make them not responsible before a righteous God of Infinite Love.
I copied this quote which wears like a trail signpost directing hikers toward an unstable path, which at first glance, looks plausible. Yet, when followed, I found it traps many on a very dangerous path of doubting God's Word. Unsure feet are gingerly placed on muddy slopes of experience, rather than biblical truth. Through these words, many believe that man is somehow acceptable as they are because God is love. Displeasure rains when 'common and comfortable' experience is brought into question, even causing some to turn away in discouragement, misunderstanding or harsh judgment. Even in the midst of storms, any opinion characterizing God must be backed by His revealed truth, helping others find solid ground for their journey.

This path of thought caused a difficult climb and as I pushed back the underbrush on this trail, I was slapped with overgrown weeds of post-modern thought. This is a man supposed philosophy, leaning heavily on experience superimposing absolute truth. Through God's precious Word, precept upon precept shows God's Love uprooting these acceptable weeds through His Mercy and Grace. Because of His Mercy, His Grace touched me and I'm no longer broken. I'm no longer the same! In an instant I was changed, no longer "as you are" characterizes me. I'm filled with joy and praise with a heart full of gratitude and thanksgiving because my loving God met the condition of his holiness through the blood of His beloved Son. He provided Himself the Way to make me a new creation. He placed me in Christ Jesus, drastically changing me from death to life, and dressed me in His righteousness.

In Scriptures, we're told it is "God, being rich in mercy, because of His great Love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our sins, made us alive together with Christ" (Eph 2:4)  Because He so loved the world, He sent His beloved Son. (John 3:16) This Son, Jesus, was rejected and died on the cross to forgive the sins of the world. Yet, this forgiveness must be received. (John 1:12) God openly invites all, "whosoever will, may come." under the condition that we believe His Word concerning Jesus. When one responds to His truth, agreeing with God concerning his need, he receives Christ's life, making him a new creation, being change from death to spiritual life.
To continue 'as you are' would mean you remain dead and unforgiven.

I found through research that this teaching of leaving us "as you are" is characterized by the "dissolution of cold hard facts in favor of warm fuzzy subjectivity". By dissolving God's Word, we begin to lean on our own understanding and in our own strength, try to improve our experiences in a broken world. This philosophy thwarts growth and development in those who have been made new creations. God placed His new creation IN CHRIST and gives victory over brokenness only in Christ.
It's easy to point at experience and see that left to ourselves, we fall flat on our face, but God's Love never leaves nor forsakes us. Looking only at ourselves, many accept failure in the battle of the flesh against the spirit, convinced they are "not as they should be". Jesus said our "should be" is found as we "abide in Him". (John 15) We're not to "lean on our own understanding", making truth relative by measuring our own experience. Remaining in Christ, our measurement is Christ's holiness, the very Truth of God. Removing Truth makes "should be" impossible for man. Relative truth undermines God's declaration that the believer's condition is "more than conquerors".
Again in Titus 3, we are told just how much we have been changed. "He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did...He declared us 'not guilty'..." NLT (Titus 3:3-4)
We have been declared 'not guilty'.

Christ's declaration of acquittal begins the slow process of conforming us into the image of His Son. 2 Peter 1:3-8 explains "his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness! And by that same mighty power he has given all of his rich and wonderful promises."
Peter further encourages us to "make every effort to apply the benefits of these promises to our lives" by adding to our faith in God's work of a new creation. Through addition, our "Faith produces a life of moral excellence, which leads to knowing God better. Knowing God better leads to self-control, which leads to patient endurance and on to godliness. Godliness leads to love for other Christians and that grows into a genuine love for everyone". NLT (2 Peter 1:3-8 italicized mine)

A life of faith pleases God. This process is just as He has planned for each of his children. Through faith in His power, we are exactly what we should be where we should be - abiding in Christ.

The challenge for this week really took a hold on my heart and so I pass it on to my readers: 
                                    "How often do I truly take God at his Word?"

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Checking our bearings...

Quite often while hiking through mountains, we glance back to where we've been. We let our eyes wander back over the trail and recall the challenges we faced. We realize that the thick, rough and hard places enabled us to be where we now stand. Then, before moving on, we check the compass against our direction, and with refreshed determination we move forward.

This third session "Going big or going home" seems to be one of these pauses. The Messenger speaks of past challenges through their own history where God's love and faithfulness carried them over a very rough trail. Yet his message rebukes them on their present location.

They had veered off-track in disobedience, short-cuts, and plain old boredom!

There was a time when God declared a covenant  between His treasured possession and Himself. He promised blessing and they agreed to walk God's path, giving Him their whole heart while being led by Him. Yet, they had strayed very far from their agreement, blazing paths of their own. They whined of feeling short-changed and unloved, but God declares His displeasure. The Messenger showed their position was actually despising God's Name. Their service gave God no honor and their expressions of worship were a "weariness" to God.

As we study this particular disputation with God's people, we may need to seek a deeper commitment in our own spiritual journeys. Taking time to consider where we stand can only be measured by His Word. Hopefully this examination causes a more firm determination to move forward on His path under His leadership. Looking at their choices, we can learn not to veer off to find our own way or make our own rules.

Unfortunately, along the spiritual path, there are obstacles, hindrances, and roadblocks tempting shortcuts toward easier paths. As in this message, there are even weary leaders who want to take shortcuts, trim God's perfection, or push their own agenda, taking their own path. There are scoffers, mockers, and doubters who slacken the pace, making confusion rule the trek, and desiring to thwart progress, they cause some sojourners to quit altogether. For others, complacency or apathy hinder progress, elicit arguing and whining, dividing travelers from each other and encouragement.

Not only is this resting spot a much needed pause for contemplation, but it might also be a warning for a tougher hike ahead. We need to forge our determination to stand firm, be committed to God's path, and encourage each other to enthusiastically move forward.
Until we are called to "Go Home", let's agree to "Go Big" with our awesome God and Leader!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cave Challenge...

Insolence affected generations
The Path on "Oracle" Mountain took an unexpected turn, leaving Malachi to retrace the historical portrait of his audience.

This excursion led me to discover an uncanny resting place among the dense mountain foliage. Conspicuously hidden from sight, a large den housed a terrified young man named Gideon, threshing a small amount of grain he shook from a meager bundle.
Contemplating his plight, I realized his story might be common in many younger hikers today. His childhood was etched with warrior stories of great heroes and glorious victories. He knew of the terrifying, yet victorious wanderings his people had experienced years ago when they followed their God's guidance. He spoke of their lessons toward faith under their mighty God's protection, peace, and provision along their trails.

But to this poor young man, those stories were history and not reality for him. There was obviously something missing in Gideon's demeanor. Courage sketched his stories, but he was disguising fear behind a shadow of timidity. His constant glances nervously darted toward the cave's opening, stretching his gaze beyond to scan the valley. His meager possessions displayed poverty, and the small basket of grain exposed a lack in harvest.

Valiant victory possible 
In spite of a victorious history, a sad synopsis ruled the travelers of his stories. They had rejected God's Way, erecting superficial paths of their own choosing. Their shortcut trails led into enemy camps, capturing many with deep pitfalls and defeat for their families. Relationships built on trust and safety were replaced by trickery and deceit. Their choices resulted in bondage, but worse, as seen in Gideon, they forged confusion, fear, and doubt in younger generations who were also conquered by their own personal fears and wrong choices.

For seven years of Gideon's life, the enemy encamped against them in the valley. Like an army of locust, they would ascend the mountain slopes, destroying anything in their wake, and making a clean sweep of homes and gardens. All possibility of harvest or retaliation were squelched immediately. The younger men knew only obstacles and personal defeat, remaining stagnant in faith, fearful and hiding in caves along the mountain range. Their future was bleak, outlined by hunger and doom.

My heart admitted silently some of these same spiritual conflicts of fear versus courage, but before I left this dejected scene of Judges, the Guide visited Gideon's dark cave and changed his future. The Guide declared this young man's potential as "a mighty man of valor", promising His own strength would be provided for success. At first, Gideon was very apprehensive and questioned the obstacles his people had already experienced. He asked permission to solidify his assurance before he left the safety of the den. The Gentle Guide bent low and deposited a little moisture exactly where Gideon requested. This expression of grace enlightened my understanding the awesome power of God's Presence.

Gideon realized spiritual disobedience in his family as the lack of power and confronted it by destroying the erected false gods. Then, he faced off with the enemy. Observing his victories encouraged me on my own mountainous trek. Through faith, my potential and strength are derived from this same mighty Guide. I've known joy in His Presence. His power sustains me, and each spiritual victory galvanizes my faith, embracing me in His intimate love.

Challenge to pray & encourage youth
Also, considering Gideon's potential and his victories, caused me to take a serious look at young people on their spiritual treks with this Guide. Old stories may intrigue the youth today, but they also need encouragement to focus on the Guide and keep climbing vertical.
I thought of possible paths of encouragement in which I could involve our small group. We resolved to include them in some of our climbs, allowing them to experience awesome victories and stake their own claims. Through our examples, we hope they learn to consistently hear and follow the Guide. We realize their obstacles and enemies may differ from the ones we face, but by being aware of their needs, we can encourage whenever possible.

One day, we'll stand together on the victorious summit, but until our hiking is done, we learn by the laurels of past stories. Our own tales can demonstrate how doubts and fears are defeated by a fresh claim of the Guide's Presence. He leads us forward and upward, commanding us to pray for 'each other', but also spur 'each other' for a good climb!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Path on "Oracle Mountain"

For the next several weeks, my spiritual trek has been asked to follow the path set out by Malachi, the messenger, who came to the spiritual leaders of Israel with the 'oracle' of the Word of the Lord.

I want to thank Lisa Harper for her stories and insights into this last book of the Old Testament. I'm anticipating new lessons in my time alone with the Guide through the pages of The Manual. I also look forward to time weekly spent with the small group of sojourners who come to take this hike into what I've dubbed The Path on "Oracle Mountain".

I can only imagine how heavy this burden was to Malachi. It was no surprise to find other translations used "burden" to replace "oracle. This isn't a letter of recommendation, nor is it a message of praise for a job well done. Lisa found "a love that never lets go" within the lines of the message, but the message itself is a strong rebuke for handling sacred instructions corruptly. It looks strongly like a citation given egotistical leaders, and a warning for followers to change paths quickly.
God approaches through six rhetorical disputations, giving Malachi a message to carry to the spiritual leaders and the people.

As I read the disputations, I was struck by how "sassy" the responses are to God's rhetorical claims. It's not easy to correct defensive children, but wow...this really had to be a tough call for Malachi! Not only is he sent to the children of God, but to leaders who defiantly wore their disobedience while strutting as elite servants, daring anyone to call them down!
I think this study is going to show some real character from a Messenger who speaks clearly, standing courageously tall beside an amazing God of infinite love.

You're invited to study and comment along the path! 
Please let me know any of your insights as you read the manual and trek this mountain. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

For those tears...

Dear Beautiful One...
I see your wounds.
I see your cuts and scars.
I see how this world of sin has treated you
And how sickness mars
         Your very spirit
It thinks it has victory over you
By disease taking your created beauty;
Using infection to pierce and
Leave you so black and blue
        Your very body
May seem broken and crumbled,
A heavy weight for My life within.
Your blood spills on tables
Like my Son's did for sin.
        Your very heart
Yes, I see their hate of Me bruising your heart,
And shattering your feeble frame;
But in My mission, you take your part
Because, my beautiful one, you bear My Name.
                                   for my courageous older sister
                                                           written by Debi Weaver on April 6, 2013

"And Jesus says, "Come to the waters, Stand by my side.
I know you are thirsty; You won't be denied. 
I've felt every tear drop when in darkness you've cried
And I've strove to remind you...that for those tears I died."

In honor of a very sick sister, these words spilled from my heart as I prayed for her to know God's love today. So many of our loved ones are forced into tough circumstances, endure loneliness, horrible pain, and even stumbling in weakness. Yet, they continue to shine their flickering lights for God's glory.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The "So that " Compass

When hiking in unknown territory, a compass and map become vital tools for knowledge. With them, survival is certain by knowing location and your direction becomes clear.

The Bible is considered a map by many Jesus followers. Lately, I've been realizing that certain phases in Scriptures are used as a compass.
"So that" phrases are like arrows in that compass for me, showing the direction God points for the benefit of His followers. "So that" phrases show up often after commands God has given His people, clearly pointing toward the good benefits experienced when certain paths are chosen.

The Creator God wants His people live life in knowledge for their own good. He wants us to know Him, the Guide, so we have purpose. He wants us to believe His Word as a map through the mountains and valleys of life, so we are no longer lost. He wants us to understand that He exists, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. These directional tools are His recurring theme, giving insight and answers for hikers who seek to know their destiny.

Recently, I was given one of these "so that" pointers, showing God's reason for choosing His followers to be His witnesses. God declared it was a parental choice He made for the benefit of His children.

My path of study took me into Isaiah 43:10 where God declares "YOU are my witnesses, and the servant whom I have that you may KNOW and BELIEVE ME and UNDERSTAND that I am He."

Throughout my trek as one of his followers, I was constantly taught that witnessing is a responsibility of every follower of Jesus Christ. We were to pass on the "gospel". I cannot recall if I was taught the benefit would be so that others know God, or if that was just the assumed reason. I may have just concluded it would benefit others to know Christ as their personal Savior.
I'm sure that I never realized God wanted me to be His witness for my own good.

Yet, here it is clearly explained. God declares that by honoring His command to be His witness, I benefit in three ways.
God commands me to be His witness, so that I may KNOW Him. 
In my prayers, I've asked God to help me know Him better, but here, God responds to my prayer with this "so that" phrase. He points to witnessing of Him. "Talk about Me and you will  know Me!". The more conversations where God is the subject, the more I learn His character. My words make my actions take the risk of trusting Him. I learn that when I talk about Him, I'm grasping the depth of love He gave me. Also, in conversations, I become more aware of His Presence. As I mention His character to others, my desire is to become more like Him. The more I talk about Him, the more acquainted I become with His ways. Witnessing is as if I've been asked to give a referral for Him, and as I speak of His qualities, I hold a better knowledge of Him.
God calls me to be His witness, so that I may BELIEVE Him.
God declares my witness will instill a more firm faith in me. Telling the story of Jesus and relating His promises reminds me of His love and presence in my life. As I see changes in my behavior because of the work He is doing, my trust in Him is solidified. My believing becomes more tangible. I begin to believe He will do even more than I ask or imagine. Speaking His name publicly and seeing Him work in me affirms my belief in Him. When my actions back my belief, I find Him faithful.
God calls me to be His witness, so that I may UNDERSTAND He is.
God declares my witness of Him will lead to understanding He is exactly who He says He is. I begin to understand the awesomeness of His work in this world and even how involved He is in the little details of my life. I begin to understand how He orchestrates encounters, meetings and other opportunities in my daily activities for me to talk about Him.

And now, I understand why.
God declares
"You are my Witnesses...
so that you may KNOW, BELIEVE, and UNDERSTAND I am He".
How are you doing?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Coastline wishes...

I looked back at my journal entries while living on the coastline of Penang, Malaysia. During January, my spiritual trek led me into the final speeches of Moses and his reminders of importance. With many references to "these words" in Deuteronomy, Moses referred to the Ten Commandments written on stone tablets. Through reminders of "these words", Moses teaches the Grace of God reaching even into my generation in a desire that His people know Him.
My studies traced Moses' footprints through his own pilgrimage with God, and I often found my heart responding just as Moses did after his face time with the Creator.

On this particular afternoon I stood on the beach and gazed out as far as I could see while envisioning Moses view the vast reaches of land promised to his forefathers.
To my right, I saw the dark plush majestic mountains rising out of the water and to my left, the landscape continued with sand and waves meeting in outline forms. Looking closer, I took in the array of ethnic groups adding contrast in clusters around beach restaurants, hotel pools, and behind them, my gaze caught the upward sights of hotels and city apartments rising to meet the sky. Cars, mini-vans, motorcycles, and trucks carried produce and people, but most looked too busy to enjoy the scenery. Many identified their staunch beliefs by their customary outfits, and even some restaurants' glistening trinkets and scents of spices spoke of ethnicity.

The colors of business and vacations lining the beach added contrast to the vast span of blues and plush deep greens of the mountains as I put footprints in the wet sand. The shores of a calm Malacca Strait were relaxing and peaceful,  and as I walked along the water edge, an urge to speak with the Creator overwhelmed my spirit. As I tried to describe my powerful emotions affected by this landscape of beauty, I was wonder-struck at the possibility to personally speak to the Creator!
As I stood in wonder, I wanted to shout like Moses, and ask the groups speckled along the beach...
"What god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts...?" (Deut 3:24)

Right there on the beach, the questions linger from Moses' day..."Who has a god so near to them as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And who has rules so righteous as the word of grace from our God?"
Who has made himself known to his people like this God of Creation?"

My wonder turned to thankfulness.
This God of Creation has made Himself known! He created this sea and the gigantic mountains rising out of the sea. He formed the waves that splashed my legs and slid back into the depths. He made each person decorating the beach, and even the stray dogs and horses walking the beach with hopeful owners making a livelihood.
And He shows Himself in all His greatness through every detail of Creation!
As I contemplated His greatness, I was awed by our possibility to know the Creator.

At that moment, I wanted to shout "I know HIM!" to each person. By just the scenery, I could point out His greatness, His vast and intricate details, His power, and His goodness! If given more time, I would pass on His "words" of love, and share the rest of His story.
Oh, how I wish I could have shared the love of God,
the visit of this Creator to earth,
and what He did to redeem His world!
And as old Moses, I would warn them not to miss "these words" written on stone, or the sights and sounds He provided so that each of us could really know Him.