I am a radically thankful “sheep” who passionately loves his “Shepherd”. I feel blessed that Jesus has granted me the enablement and opportunity of expressing my heart through the writing of this “desired to be’’ blessing to all.
I have knowingly experienced the sustaining power of the immeasurable grace of God and can confirm; it is more than sufficient for my insufficiencies. Therefore in my mind and heart, ‘‘grace’‘ is not a theory to be debated, but rather a fact to be embraced!
I am not a ‘’religious’’ man, choosing instead to voluntarily immerse myself in the ‘’reality’’ of a daily inclusionary relationship of spiritual intimacy with a living God who cares about and in fact orders, my every step. Steps that I so enjoy taking!
I am keenly aware of the power of inspiration and therefore would like to thank my closest friends, co-authors of “Reflections Of A Sheep’’ and sisters in Christ, Shila and Pragna.
Your lovingly imparted inspiration and involvement, not only with the book, but even more so in my life, cannot be measured but can be appreciated with all my heart. This I do every day!
May you both be richly blessed by the same measure that you’ve been a blessing to me. Thank you ladies for your often needed ‘’Holy Nudges’’!
What do you do when life crashes? When your every reason for breathing evaporates before
[_your very eyes and you are left standing in the ashes of your own lostness wondering what happened. _]
When your brain shuts down to protect itself from your ‘‘real life’‘ nightmare, leaving you unable to emotionally defend yourself. When maintaining a single thought for more than a few fleeting seconds is considered ‘‘progress’‘. When all the well-wishing observers have thrown in the towel with their well-founded fear that you don’t have long before it’s all over.
When you pray every night to ‘‘not wake up’‘ and be angered the next morning when you do. When the mountain is too high to climb. When the river is too deep to cross. When the chasm between your ‘‘insanity’‘ and your ‘‘vaguely remembered sanity’‘ is light years apart. When the sorrow is too painful.
When you are forty years of age and expecting to soon become an overnight news story to be shared with coffee drinking strangers the following morning. To repeat; what do you do when life crashes? More specifically; what did I do when my life crashed?
[_The reasons behind the fall aren’t important anymore. But the God that breathed life back into me is! My life is a testimony to this truth; God prefers resurrections over burials! _]
So, what do we do when life crashes? We look up! With whatever energy we have remaining in our souls, we look up. No matter how hideous our prevailing condition is, we look up. Why?
Because ‘‘There Is No Sorrow Heaven Can’t Heal’‘. Equally important; there is no sorrow heaven doesn’t desire to heal. Equipped with that truth, we don’t ‘‘give up’‘ we ‘‘look up’‘ to the source and author of all comebacks!
Twenty nine years ago the thought I would see sixty nine and in the process of writing a book would have been justifiably laughable. Remembering my name was the challenge back then. Well, it would seem clear that God wasn’t laughing.
He has brought me so very far from those days of the darkest of dark. You might be curious as to how God got my comeback started? Spiritually speaking, there was a moment when gazing with fear and trembling at the un-climbable mountain, my Shepherd Jesus came along side. He picked me up, put me on His shoulders, and up the mountain we went to find healing on the other side. He peered into my heart, saw the massive damage, and opted to give me a new
one rather than fix the old. A heart that belonged to Him!
A heart He has thankfully used in the lives of many others since. God does nothing for the sake of itself only. There are always futuristic secondary reasons to be revealed in time. God’s time.
It’s been a step by step journey but here I am today more fulfilled, content, productive, and well, than ever before in my life. I’m entering into my retirement with the excitement and expectation of a child on Christmas morning. I truly believe that as magnificent as things are now, the best is still yet to come!
At my very worst, God brought me His very best! When I could offer Him nothing, He gave me His everything, unconditionally! You see if there had been a condition, I wouldn’t have been able to pay it. There’s a reason they call grace amazing!
To me, grace is God intervening in a life on life support. It’s God saying; before you pull the plug on that life I have a better idea. A COMEBACK!
Psalm 121 – 2: ‘‘My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth’‘.
[_ God’s lovingly imparted power and sovereignty is over ‘‘all things’‘, in heaven and earth. That would include un-climbable mountains and un-crossable rivers!_]
At times we can get caught up in numbers, resulting in short-sighted conclusions to what should be long term desires. Therefore, we can incorrectly evaluate the effectiveness of our labors.
For today’s reflection I would like to share a personal “real life” story of a man named Ed and in doing so hopefully enlighten us all to the value of “one” from heaven’s perspective.
As exposed in my previous sharing, I had a full blown nervous breakdown at forty years of age. Twenty nine years ago life crashed and I crashed with it. As I have previously mentioned; apart from the grace of God there wouldn’t have been a comeback in my future.
In short; I was beyond bad and getting worse. I was basically disabled from any activity that involved memory or the need to hold an intelligent conversation. Driving was out of the question as my brain would freeze up leaving me periodically at a loss as to where I was going and why thus dangerous to myself and others.
Therefore, being a commissioned courier meant; no work equaling no income, with no reason to believe that things were going to improve. I had gone from “top driver” to “no driver’’. In reality; “no anything”. And that’s when a man named Ed stepped into the story. Ed was my boss of “one year” and owner of the courier company I worked for. He was an extremely busy and successful entrepreneur but as God would have it; not too busy for me!
Ed and I had become friends over our short time together but on the strangest of levels.
Ed was the guy with the Cadillac, mink winter coat, and five hundred dollar shoes while I was the guy in the Honda Civic, wearing jeans and runners. Oddest of couples to be sure, but Ed appreciated my hustle and ambition, finding them to be worthy of his frequent applause.
But those attributes were now gone, perhaps never to return. I had nothing to offer of worth as a participant in our friendship. I was damaged goods for the first time in my life and scared to death, disallowed to leave my residence for fear I would un-intentionally drift off. I was now officially a major problem to myself and everyone around me.
After a week of sitting in my basement apartment getting worse by the day, Ed called. His query? When was I coming back to work? If the question weren’t so sad it would have been laughable in a hideous sort of way. My response should have been Ed’s opportunity to wash his hands of the entire matter as I filled in the blanks regarding my condition. He should have ran for the exit, but instead proposed an idea that was by all accounts crazy from his perspective.
I should come into the office to work until my situation improved, was his plan. He would pay me full wages in the meantime. I told him I can’t drive, even to the office.
He responded; I’ll pick you up, be ready at 7:00 tomorrow morning. I warned him, ‘‘Ed you are making a terrible mistake’‘. His final words? ‘‘I’ll be the judge of that, be ready in the morning’‘. And with that Ed hung up leaving me without a goodbye or option of a retort.
Seven A.M. the next morning there was Ed in his Cadillac pulling up the driveway with me getting inside wondering which of us was more crazy.
The shelf life and expiry date of this idea would be short lived once Ed realized first hand just how bad I was, seemed a justifiable assumption by me. Well, that routine would be repeated for two months with this important inclusion for you to know. My office responsibilities? Getting coffee ( on foot ).
It was discovered both frighteningly and embarrassingly, my brain wouldn’t co-operate with anything more complicated. Within a few days I offered Ed an “out” with my apologies and expressed appreciation for his kind attempt to help. When he refused I had to ask why.
‘‘Because you have worth and I’m not going lose you’‘, was his emphatic response. What worth? [_I was brain dead! _]
But every day in word and deed Ed continued with his commitment to my comeback and in time, Ed’s viewpoint gradually transferred itself into a resurrection of my own sense of value. To fast forward; I was back on the road, re-established as “top driver” in two months with a brain that functioned again. So, is that the end of “The Story Of Ed”? Not even close! You see, Ed’s story has no end! Ed owns a piece of each life story I have subsequently touched since then!
Looking back I’m amazed at the profound impact of Ed’s generous selflessness. He by choice made available to God the much needed time for God to heal me thereby providing for me, not only wellness but also the futuristic privilege of investing in others.
Let’s do the math. Since those days there have been many lives that the “one” who Ed deemed valuable, has participated in. Now factor into the equation, those lives have touched other lives. Ed is directly responsible for each! Did he know at the time? Not a chance. Ed simply believed that “one” in heaven’s economy was worth investing in and did so. As is so often the case, we have no idea how serious the long term ramifications are to an act of kindness! But we can know this; they are always bigger than we think!
God did the multiplying but He needed ONE who believed ONE had great value! Thank you Ed and thank you God! And the story of Ed continues as does the story of Bill!
The past can be a problem depending on the severity of the experiences that reside in our rear view mirrors. To put it kindly, my past is colorful![_ _][_For the longest time I felt like the turkey ‘‘wish bone’‘ on Thanksgiving being pulled in two different directions. One by my Shepherd inviting me into newness of life, while the other reminding me of my past failures, with me in the middle doing the spiritual splits. _]
The future can equally bring its own set of distractions regarding the unknown. So, I’ve had the past, present, and future competing and clamoring for my attention.
[* I had to learn to live totally present in the present. To appreciate each day as if it were my last. *]
[_In the process, I have found that walking with God is best experienced in the ‘‘right now’‘. Not six months from now or six months ago. I’ve recognized and embraced the obvious; Today is all I truly have with the attached responsibility to be available, one more time for God to use. _]
My yesterdays? Forgiven and remembered by God no more.
My tomorrows? Entrusted into the hands of God.
My today? That’s the time frame that God trusts me with, thus in need of my undivided attention!
Matthew 6 – 25 > 27: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry _][_about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? _][_Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. _][_Are you not much more valuable than they? _][_Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?’’
Perhaps over simplified but seeing as Jesus said it, I thought I’d give it a try and have found it to be very effective. When ‘‘our past’‘ is allowed access into ‘‘our present’‘, we contaminate by regurgitation what we truly have, the wonderful gift of one more day. When ‘‘our future’‘ becomes our main focus of attention, we end up with the same net result. Perhaps that’s why Jesus cautioned us regarding both.
John 8 – 36: ‘‘So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed’‘. Free from what?
Regrets regarding the past and worries regarding the future, thereby enabling us to live;
‘‘Totally _][_Present In The Present’‘.
Constant awareness of this titled truth is of supreme importance to my heart. I’m not sure anything of lasting significance can be accomplished in me without its impact fortifying my soul with every breath.
Its deeply profound meaning provides a sweet fragrance to my life as it permeates that internal sacred place within me causing a voluntary immersion into God’s welcoming heart.
As my understanding of His love washes over my soul He then becomes “the object of my affection” and “provider of my peace”, thereby creating a “relationship” lifestyle with my Creator.
[* [_Its place of residence is in the unseen, therefore mine is a supernatural response to being loved supernaturally. _]*]
[I love Him _][’‘because’‘][ He first loved me! If He had not, I would nor could not! The unearned, unmerited, grace of God is my ][’‘because and reason why’‘_]. It’s the fuel that drives my passion forward!
long before I ever acknowledged His existence, He acknowledged mine and loved me. Long before I could do a single thing to respond to His love, He loved me. Long before I knew I had a need, He met the need for me! That’s breathtakingly amazing and reveals a quality of love that cannot be comprehended but incredibly, can be experienced.
Psalm 52 – 8: “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever”. Loved by God with a love that cannot be shaken!
Simply stated; what a wonderful heavenly security my ‘’Shepherd’’ has provided for me to live in.
He leads me by “still waters” He “restores” my soul.[_ _]Daily!
In the heart of Jesus which do we find?
Jesus being the same, yesterday, today, and forever, allows us with confidence to embrace what we discover as permanently ‘’never-changing’’, knowing that it’s the quality of His non-wavering character that dictates our final conclusion.
Let’s delve into a biblical scenario where Jesus finds Himself with an opportunity to expose to us the true identity of His heart. One He wishes for us to know, intimately. The reality is; we must know Him to emulate Him. We can’t be conformed to multiple choice vagueness.There
is only ONE Jesus. As we study the scriptures may He come out of the shadows and present Himself to us in all of His radiant glory, crystal clear for all to see!
The story of Lazarus: Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus has become sick unto death. The news is sent to Jesus complete with a request for His quick return, with the hope and belief that if He could get to the scene on time Jesus could and would heal His friend. These folks had faith!
Seeing the “big picture” purpose, Jesus delays and upon His arrival is told Lazarus has been dead for four days. The accusations fly and their faith becomes a thing of the distant past. It’s amazingly predictable that when faith leaves, fault finding arrives, as was the case in this story. It was time for them to let Jesus know exactly what they thought of Him and so they did!
What’s the matter with you Jesus? Did you not care enough? If you had been here [_your friend Lazarus would still be alive. This is your fault! _]
“If you had been here”? Well, that’s interesting. Do we hear a little faith resurfacing? It’s called a back handed compliment. Faith in the Healer but not in the Healer’s heart. Once [_finished with their attack, they wept. _]
Our Lords reaction? Well, there was more than enough faulty thinking available for Him to lower the correctional boom on all their heads, therefore reciprocal fault finding would have been a justifiable option.
So, what did Jesus do? He wept with them and for them but to be clear, not because of them. He wasn’t offended. He was more than secure enough in Himself to graciously withstand their verbal assault regarding His integrity. He simply wept because they wept, magnificently all the while knowing, this story was far from over!
In the midst of the tears Jesus demanded that the stone covering the tomb of Lazarus be rolled away, followed with His confirmation of authority over death, as He spoke life into the corpse of His friend with these magnificent words: ‘‘Lazarus come forth’‘! Saving His best for last, Jesus with His final word on the matter declares to all in attendance His transcendent truth. ‘‘I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live’‘!
Jesus had turned their sorrowful mourning into jubilant joy! Interestingly in the midst of their euphoria, the story doesn’t reveal a stream of apologies coming from the accusers of Jesus.
More fault un-acknowledged by our Lord. This is the heart of our Savior! A heart that can be trusted to look beyond our faults and minister to our needs.
“Grace”: Not a one-time experience nor a one-time application. Grace is the, “can’t do without” [_perpetual inclusion in my daily life. _]
[_Without meaning to, we as humans have a habitually repetitive habit. A word or phrase of massive importance can innocently be repeated often enough to eventually diminish or dull its profound clarity and severity. _]
Our minds get used to saying and thinking it and in time, file its content in the ‘‘I already know it’‘ section called our memory. It’s not that we forget it but its upfront, constant, immediate relevance becomes a thing of progressive vagueness. With new data being inputted into the computers between our ears every day, the immensely important can get buried, or at the very least, suffer slippage in our minds and hearts.
Grace is to be inhaled, appreciated and acknowledged with my every breath. A lifestyle that includes a keen awareness that apart from the grace of God, I would have [_“nothing” nor would be “anything”, of sustainable quality. This obvious to me truth, is something I need occasional reminding of, as was the case when I sat down to listen to some music recently. _]
A ‘‘peppy’‘ upbeat song by Israel Houghton was cued up entitled, “I’m still standing”. A type of tune that removes any prevailing clouds that might be lingering in life’s atmospheres with its mega joyful melody.
One time through, with my feet feeling the desire to dance, I felt God prompt me to slow things down and listen carefully to the lyrics. As I recorded the words on paper, God spoke to my heart.
If not for your goodness, if not for your grace
I don’t know where I would be today
If not for your kindness, I never could say
I’m still standing
If not for your mercy, if not for your love
‘’I most likely would have given up’’
If not for your favor, I never could say
I’m still standing, but by the grace of God
There are certain lines in certain songs that speak volumes regarding one’s testimony. When you hear them there’s an immediately, “That’s Me” recognition. ‘‘I most likely would have given up’‘ _][_is mine.
Hindsight is a powerful perspective at times. To remember where you were in comparison to where you are can [_be spiritually shocking in the best of ways to a sheep. _]
Many people’s walk with God have had a “straight line” texture within their context. I can’t claim that to be descriptive of mine in the slightest. His goodness, His kindness, His mercy, His love, His favor, and His grace are the reasons I’m still standing. But by the grace of God! Humbling no doubt but grace has a way of doing that to a sheep.
Romans 8 – 38 > 39: ‘‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’‘.
Do you get the impression that the Apostle Paul had been asked “once too often” the question regarding our security in Christ with the ‘‘what about this’‘ attached query’‘. So he drops the laundry list on the folks in Rome with his emphatic final statement: “Nor anything else in all creation”. Just in case I’ve missed something!
How magnificent is the all-inclusive, all-sufficient, provision of the cross. The perfect Lamb of God sacrificed to ensure a perfect result. Nothing left to chance. God didn’t gamble with the life of His only Son. As Jesus proclaimed from His tortured hanging state; ”It is finished” all of Heaven agreed with a unanimous, Amen.
As I pause within the stillness of my soul today, I reflect on “that day” and ask myself the question; who was Jesus directing that comment to? Generically speaking, “the world” would be the answer. But I don’t have a generic Savior therefore He was speaking to me personally!
Today I celebrate His perfect love that transcends my imperfections. Today I hear the voice of Jesus assuring me that His gracious love is more than sufficient for me.
[_I’m reminded that His choice was birthed out of His refusal to “not love” me. His incomparable love for me was my Lord’s motivation that drove Him to a cross. _]
As we hear our Shepherd, pre-crucifixion, in the Garden of Gethsemane asking His Father; “if there is any other way”, we simultaneously hear His Father’s answer of NO. You see His Father’s answer was solely based on His love for me as well. I think the truth that Paul is cautioning his Roman listeners to adhere to is; don’t humanize God’s love for you. You will come up massively short. Our security is in our position “in Christ”.
A position purchased and sealed by His shed blood. Blood that washes white as snow!
Therefore while our conditions can change, our positions cannot!
“He is all our righteousness ( apart from Him we have none ) we stand complete in Him, and worship Him”. ‘‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain’‘! Worthy for a very justifiable reason!
[_Isaiah 42 – 3: “A bruised reed He will not brake and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out”. _]
It was a few weeks back on a Saturday morning. Our Lord turned a seemingly innocent stroll to the corner store, into something beautifully amazing. These orchestrated by God moments are far from rare in my life so I should be accustomed to them by now, but the reality is they are all as unique as God himself is unique. No twin-like experiences when ministering to God’s unique creation!
‘’Availability’’ is a wonderful mindset to embrace as a lifestyle. As you see the accumulation of one event after [_another, you realize that being used by Jesus is neither a sacrifice nor a job, but rather a privilege. One that can’t be earned or deserved, but rather a blessing imparted by His grace! _]
Over the years I have learned; It’s not about being ‘‘good enough’‘, ‘‘together enough’‘, or ‘‘having it all figured out enough’‘, but rather ‘‘available enough’‘.
Let’s be honest: If God used the first three qualifications to qualify, very little if anything would actually get accomplished. If you are the possessor of a heart that cares and are available, you are; ‘‘GOOD TO GO’‘!
I am seldom if ever, warned in advance. They just arrive! I’d say “out of nowhere”, but we all know that isn’t true! Our Lord’s reality is most clearly seen in the trenches of life. He runs to the weary, the worn, the broken, and the weak and you get to see the magnificent visual of His love in action! Thus, privileged!
She was a middle aged lady, perhaps forty five. Simply a person I held the door for as we both entered the store. Nothing special here of note. A little polite chatter in the store and we exited together.
‘‘Bill, you seem like a nice man’‘, she said. I had been asked my name in the store. Thank you, I responded. And here it came: “Would you care to hear my story’’? ‘’You seem to be someone who would do that”.
Over the next forty minutes I would be made privy to a perfect stranger’s real life nightmare. A perfect stranger to me but not at all, a stranger to God.
[_ Her present day reality had created itself a deep dwelling place in her life. It had entrenched its foothold and dominion as the voice of authority with its repetitive negative imaging regarding her worth. She had learned to emulate the negatives very well thereby giving in her mind, credence to their insidious content._]
In her state she couldn’t hear much, so a speech wouldn’t have been appropriate or beneficial. So, what to say? More importantly, what did God want to say?
The few “label removing” words that came out of my mouth seemingly caused light to pierce her darkness, if only for a moment.
Sometimes that’s all it takes to begin the process of re-directed thought. There are times in life when the opinions of others, “recorded’‘ in the “audio tape” of our minds, must be erased and replaced with God’s viewpoint.
I believe these were words that Jesus will remind her of and encourage her with, going forward. Simple but profound words that my own life testifies to their truth.
“You were not born for this but rather something far more glorious. Your Creator God, who loves you beyond anything you can imagine, would like you to know that”.
Sometimes as we walk in the Spirit we experience a God of “few words”. For my new ‘‘broken’‘ friend it seemed God felt less was more. Fewer words but ones she needed to hear for now.
I’m learning that God doesn’t say what we can’t hear but what He does say is always lovingly sensitive and applicable to where we are as individuals in life. But, be sure of this; God is always talking into our needs!
On my exit, appreciative two-way hugs ensued accompanied with what I perceived to be a smile. In her life, a long time coming and long overdue smile. As I headed back home, I did so with a far greater sense of thankfulness for all God has provided for me within my ‘‘New Life’‘. I could very easily be the one telling the story rather than the one hearing it. Actually, I have been the one with the story! On some level, haven’t we all?
John 3 – 16[textileRef:153180915459c9339160a77:422:cspan[ ]‘‘For God so loved[ ]the world[ _]that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not parish but have everlasting life’‘.
The scripture that pretty well everyone breathing on planet earth knows or has heard. I memorized it as a child under the tutelage of my Mother. I could repeat its words on cue with perfection. So I ‘‘knew it’‘ but didn’t ‘‘know it’‘, where it matters. That would happen much later in my life.
[_To this day the many layered insights enveloped in our today’s scripture reference still leave me overwhelmingly amazed. _]
I think of the pre-crucifixion scene in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus in such terrible anguish sweats drops of blood as He cries out to His Father; Is there any other way? Only to hear a response of No. To which Jesus responds; ‘‘Thy will be done’‘.
I’m aware, that two-way conversation was on my behalf, motivated by my Lord’s inconceivable love for me. I’m also cognisant of this fact. Jesus had ‘’choices’’ in the matter!
He didn’t have to, He chose to. More personally; He chose me over Himself. The bible describes it as ‘‘No Greater Love’‘. It’s been a long time since our scripture reference has been a ‘’quickly said to get a cookie from Mom’’ dynamic in my life.
It is now branded on my heart[_ _]with its each and every day reminder that I have ‘‘much worth’‘ as dictated and displayed by a cross my Lord hung on for me. My Shepherd’s ‘‘by choice’‘ worst day was my best day.
To be understood by me? Never. To be thankfully and sincerely appreciated by me? Always! Needless to say, you could correctly remove my name from the story and personalize it with your own. Whosoever means whosoever!
A wonderful song to enhance today’s reflection:
Above all powers above all kings
Above all nature and all created things
Above all wisdom and all the ways of men
You were here before the world began
Above all kingdoms above all thrones
Above all wonders the world has ever known
Above all wealth and treasures of the earth
There’s no way to measure what you’re worth
Crucified, laid behind a stone
You lived to die rejected and alone
Like a rose trampled on the ground
You took the fall and thought of _][_me, above all
John 15 – 13[textileRef:153180915459c9339160a77:524:cspan[ ][_(][_ Jesus speaking_] [_) _]‘‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay one’s life down for one’s friends’‘.
Breathtaking, don’t you think!
The list seems endless and continues to compile further additions to its already innumerable count. In short: I’ve been blessed beyond measure. God has been an incredible Father to me no doubt!
[_Saying a simple ‘‘thank you’‘ seems inadequately trivial as a response to the grace He has showered on my life. Perhaps within the context of that truth I find the reason for my need to express, through whatever means available, my appreciation and love for Him. _]
[_My closest friend has suggested on occasion that I have a ‘‘very special _][_relationship’‘ with God. True, but with one ‘’not so minor’’ correction. I have a relationship with a ‘‘very special God’‘! _]
He’s always on my mind and is connected to all I do as ‘‘we’‘ go about ‘‘our’‘ days together. It seems obvious to me that the ‘‘I’‘ of my life has been transformed into the perpetual ‘‘WE’‘.
Very special indeed, but not through the earned efforts of my hands nor a formulated daily ritual, but rather an intimate specialness imparted by the grace of God’s heart.
[_I love loving and being loved by Him! It’s my natural state of mind as I live and breathe on planet earth. It’s effortless, as it was in those very early days in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve as they freely walked and talked with their Creator God. _]
Quite the blessed landscape God has granted me as a lifestyle. It’s spiritually delicious to say the least. To see Him in everything and everyone is a spectacular visual of unfathomable worth. It’s heaven’s currency being continuously, generously, and graciously poured out on my heart daily.
What a wonderful life! What a wonderful God!
Back to my ‘’personally’’ spiritual introspective question: How do I thank Him for all of this?
[_ Sincerely loving Him back, seems to be the only option of expression available that comes close to satisfying the need in me._]
The bible is clear when it comes to the order of His love. He loved me ‘‘before’‘ I loved Him. In fact before I ever acknowledged His existence, He loved me!
It’s impossible for my heart to be casually ‘‘underwhelmed’‘ by that truth!
Imagine, He knows my name. He doesn’t love me as merely the member of a group. No, it’s uniquely and intimately personal. Equally, He loves being loved by me as an individual!
Therefore I have concluded, loving Him with all my heart is the only offering I can place at His feet as my way of saying thank you.
When you think about it, what else does He ‘‘need’‘ from me that He can’t provide for himself?
I’m reminded of a story in Luke chapter 7: verses 36 through 38, involving a ‘‘sinful’‘ women:
‘‘When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, He went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.^[_ ]^[_A woman in that town who lived a ‘‘sinful life’‘ learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.]^[_ ]^ _As she stood behind Him at his feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them’‘.
What a beautiful visual of unbridled love between a ‘‘sinful women’‘ and a ‘‘sinless Jesus’’!
Putting gender aside, I am the women in the story as would be confirmed later as Jesus states: ‘‘The one who has been forgiven of much will love much’‘. Perhaps that explains me.
Nehemiah 8 – 10: Nehemiah said, ‘‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength’‘.
Psalm 100:[_ Shout for joy all the earth_]
[_Worship the Lord with gladness _]
Come before Him with joyful songs
Know that the Lord is God
It is He who made us and we are His
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise
Give thanks to Him and praise His name
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever
His faithfulness continues through all generations.
1 Peter 1 – 8: ‘‘Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy’‘.
If we are ‘‘gifted’‘ with a ‘‘heavenly created’‘ joy of such high quality that ‘‘Inexpressible and Glorious’‘ is its textured descriptives, it should spill over within its inability to be contained or suppressed. It would seem as the world becomes desperately void of this ‘’necessity of life’’,
God through the co-operation of His people displays heaven’s answer. Thankfulness!
The birth place of joy is thankfulness. It’s pretty well impossible to be radically thankful and lack joy. These two dynamics are like two ‘’hands clapping’’. They are inseparably dependent on the other to function as to their purpose.
Living in a keen awareness of the innumerable blessings of God in our lives, tends to provide
an excellent breeding ground for the development of thankful hearts. As is always the case, thankful hearts are healthy hearts. Joy is the by-product of thankfulness!
[_Intensely thankful people don’t get depressed. Simply stated: You can’t be too joyful! The bible calls us to: Rejoice in the Lord, ‘‘always’‘! Once again heaven’s provision transcends circumstances with its ‘‘always’‘ availability. _]
Let’s not keep our joy a secret. Let’s be contagious, realizing that the joy of the Lord displayed, is also other people’s visual hope! Let’s be sure to share it with others throughout our day to day lives. To talk about it means very little. To live it means everything! Its legitimacy will not be found in a theoretical assent but rather an experiential lifestyle. The world is saying: ‘‘Don’t just tell me, show me’‘!
So, is it simply a matter of me deciding to create joy in my day? A positive thinking type mindset to accompany me as I live and breathe? I think not on both accounts. I don’t create joy; I live out that which has already been created.
As it is with a branch connected to The Vine; I don’t produce fruit I bear fruit and the world gets to share what I bear. It’s not the ‘‘Joy Of Bill’‘ but rather ‘‘The Joy Of The Lord’‘ being lived out through Bill!
To externalize this internal reality I must first embrace the foundational reason I’m to be so joyful, realizing this is not some ‘’when everything’s going my way’’ synthetic joy, but rather a joy with an attached legitimate reason for its existence.
Every human heart, whether acknowledging it or not, longs to know that it is loved, valued, and cherished by its Creator. God has created us all with this omni-present longing. It’s the ‘’from birth’’, ‘’non-avoidable’’, unseen reality that lives within each of us by design.
[_As our scripture in 1 Peter reveals: “You believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy”. Believing ‘’in Him’’ comes complete with the revelation of how very much we are loved by Him. _]
This is our ‘’source’’ and “reason why” that substantiates, fortifies and legitimatises our right to be euphorically joyful. Our unshakable, completely reliable, never changing, always present truth, that percolates in and through us without pause. Our title, ‘’Loved by God’’ simply can’t be ingested casually nor complacently. It’s amazing! Therefore the dynamic of ‘‘always’‘ applies in that our ‘‘Source’‘ never changes. From everlasting to everlasting!
Our hearts find themselves satisfied with their longings fulfilled. The net result? JOY! It’s interesting that in knowing Jesus, we also get to know our worth and value from heaven’s perspective. Society has ‘‘performance rated’‘ us from birth and will continue to do so.
It doesn’t know any other way to operate.
[_As members of the human race we often find ourselves waiting obsessively and persistently for permission to squeeze a drop of ‘‘fleeting joy’‘ from the approval rating of others. Ratings that will change like the weather. _]
Two thousand years ago heaven made a statement from a cross that could not have been more clear regarding our worth. A visual so vivid that within its profoundness to our souls, we are left breathlessly overwhelmed by its magnitude.
‘‘Before’‘ we existed, we were loved. ‘‘Before’‘ were able to perform we were seen as valuable beyond measure. ‘‘Before’‘ we loved him, He loved us and expressed His love by sacrificing His life, amazingly all the while knowing that many ‘‘would not’‘ love Him back.
This is the same love that healed ten men with the ‘‘death sentence’‘ of leprosy, all the while knowing, nine wouldn’t be returning to say thank you. The bible describes it as ‘‘No Greater Love’‘!
As we look to the cross, our Creator ‘‘fills us with His worth’‘, ‘‘fills us with His value’’ thus; ‘’fills us with His inexpressible and glorious joy’‘. Folks, it’s HIS joy that we enjoy!
The many sources God uses to teach us are amazingly never-ending and often surprising as we walk out our lives on planet earth.
They are a mid-sixties, brown skinned, moderate Muslim couple. The man is blind and is always accompanied by his wonderfully caring wife who faithfully watches over her husband.
I love our lobby encounters, with me never missing the chance for a chat. They constantly and consistently invest their mutual vocabularies in expressing their thankfulness for the blessings of God, always seeming to avoid the complaints of the struggles of blindness. In short: They are impressive!
The husband calls me his friend. He says I have a good heart. There’s always a thank you as we exit our times together. Today as I reflect on these lovely people I’m left wondering; Does he know I’m a white Christian? Does he know what a white Christian looks like? Has he actually ever seen one? Does he care? Has his wife told him that ‘‘his friend’‘ isn’t a Muslim and if so, why has there been no alteration to his comfort level with me? My conclusions: He can’t relate to me from those perspectives. He can only ‘‘sense’‘ whether my appreciation for him is sincere.
So, today’s reflection isn’t about Muslim versus Christian but rather the subject of ‘‘sight’‘. What a magnificent gift of God! But as is the case with all gifts, it can be brutally abused. My sightless friend doesn’t have to navigate his way around biases based on ‘‘what’‘ I am. Therefore he has direct access to ‘‘who’‘ I am, which is where my true sacred value resides.
My sight should not impede me from doing the same! Otherwise ‘‘the gift’‘ becomes the curse. I’m reminded of Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well. We all know that in our Lord’s day, ‘‘Samaritan’‘ and ‘‘Woman’‘ qualified you as a bottom rung dweller on the food chain of importance. His point of focus wasn’t ‘‘Samaritan’‘ or ‘‘Woman’‘ but rather “Person”. Jesus seemed to be blinded, by choice, to her ‘‘what’‘ as He spoke directly to her ‘‘who’‘.
[_ The lesson I learned through my blind friend? If my eyes aren’t used to ‘’appreciate’’, they will be abused to ‘’depreciate’’.. The most wonderful lessons come from the least likely of places when I’m paying attention._]
[_First off, I thank God for mountain tops. While not purposed as a place of permanent residence, they do provide those much needed seasons of restoration and spiritual re-energizing. But as nature teaches us, nothing grows on top of a mountain as is the case with us. _]
All the God imparted valuables of our walk with Jesus are birthed in valleys. Those cherished wonderful treasures that make us more reflective of our Lord’s heart and more effective to our world.
The “good stuff”, often produced from the perceived by us, “bad stuff”. The healed who are now enabled to participate in the healing of others.
[_Therefore, valleys are not to be avoided but rather embraced as a heavenly designed place. The place God displays His ability to make “all things work together for good for those who love Him”. _]
Perhaps the most profound of Christ like characteristics incubated in the lushness of a valley is ‘‘compassion’‘. The bible states and His behavior verifies that Jesus was full of compassion. Often we read: ‘‘He was moved with compassion’‘. It’s obvious throughout scripture that the life of our Shepherd was driven by a heart for others, all the way from heaven’s glory to a cross.
As we venture out into our daily lives we do so aware of the quality and consistency of the compassion that is perpetually being bestowed upon us. On our worst days we may even wonder why, but not so much that we deny its inclusionary access to our souls. We know that’s the way grace works with it’s unmerited, unearned security and we wear it as such.
The problem arrives when we are asked to reciprocate in kind to the rest of God’s valued creation.
[_We see the obvious discrepancies in others and evaluate them based on what we see. The obvious always lacks complete information of all the many and complex realities involved. _]
[_One such reality is the ‘‘why’‘. So, we find ourselves stuck on the fault while Jesus looks beyond the ‘’faulty obvious’’ and ministers to the ‘’deeper need’’. _]
Our Lord never speaks to a symptom ( the obvious ) but chooses instead to move past it into the place of ‘‘the cause’‘ of the symptom. He’s a spiritual surgeon of unequaled talent.
We are called to be dispensers and expressers of our Lord’s compassion to our world. No easy task I admit! How do we avoid being spiritually disabled as usable vessels in God’s hands when it comes to imparting this heavenly substance of compassion?
[_How do we get past the frightening and at times frustrating ‘‘obvious’‘ of others? _]
We remember the valleys, when in our brokenness Jesus embraced us. We remember when this same Jesus touched our untouchable state and made us whole. We remember our level of thankfulness when we discovered He cared. We remember how our love for Him blossomed within that amazing revelation. We realize by choice ( it takes a choice ) that if He cares about us to the extent that He does, He must care about “all” others equally.
We ask Him to [_help us see the “why” and when we can’t, to trust that He does and respond as He would. _]
[_I’m thinking of the man with leprosy that Jesus healed. I doubt he ever looked at others with leprosy the same again. I think when he saw leprosy, he now simultaneously saw hope in the unforgettable face of Jesus. His visual didn’t get stopped at the sickness but rather pushed through to see the Healer of the sickness! _]
Heaven says: Everyone qualifies for compassion or no one does. Selectivity plays no role in the equation. I can’t disagree! I believe gestures of compassion are applauded in heaven like none other because more often than not, they involve being inconvenienced. I also believe that those who are willing to “take the call” may not have to “make the call”. That sounds like something Jesus would say.
[_The obvious is a symptom. When we choose to look past it, we become trusted to discover the cause. The compassion of Jesus, in and through us, is the dynamic that gets us to that place of privilege. “But for the grace of God so go I”, becomes our mindset reinforced by our histories that remind us: There was a time, “so I went”. The time compassion was birthed. The place? A valley. _]
There’s a formula that seems repetitively unavoidable. To minster to pain appropriately, you need to have felt pain. Once God gives the pain purpose, it’s not nearly as painful anymore.
Compassion always blesses both giver and receiver and may I add, Jesus Himself. It’s interesting to me that the substance this world lacks the most, is the very substance it desperately needs the most. Our Lord’s COMPASSION! In and through us!
I am learning that God is no respecter of time, places, nor [_my age. This morning at 2:00 AM I hear a ‘‘wakey – wakey’‘ in my spirit. _]
As to not mislead, my first inclination wasn’t spiritually inclined, in fact the furthest thing from it. No, this was a time to roll over and go back to sleep like any other ‘‘normal’‘ human being would do. It’s not the most straight forward exercise to interpret God’s leading when you’re half comatose, so roll over I did with this persistent ‘‘wakey – wakey’‘ becoming more annoying by the minute. So up I got and to be honest, a little frustrated in the process!
The apartment building I live in has 24 – 7 access to the laundry room. Now wide awake with nowhere to go, I thought knocking off my laundry would be an intelligent thing to do with my perceived un-intelligent strange awake-ness.
I “sheepishly” slipped downstairs with the hope that I wouldn’t be noticed. Being sixty nine, it’s not wise to give folks reasons for concern regarding your emotional stability!
As I entered the laundry room, much to my amazement, I had company. A nineteen year old young man who lives in the same building as I, was doing his laundry which I immediately interpreted as much [_stranger than me being there. _]
I’ve known John since he was seven. While being soft spoken, shy and timid, he’s always been cordial, pleasant, and polite in our seldom available chats. I know his parents to be equally friendly people, often giving them credit for their son’s respectful attitude towards me.
Have you ever gotten the feeling when interacting with others that what you are seeing and hearing isn’t indicative of their ‘‘behind closed doors’‘ reality. A feeling you can’t substantiate but strong enough to get your attention with its prevailing sense of eerie uneasiness. So it was with John.
So there we were, both looking suspiciously out of sync with the world, considering the time and our location.
“So Bill, now that you’re retired what are you doing to occupy yourself”, John questioned. That answer lead to further questions which lead to further answers which lead to the revealing of the subject matter God intended for John’s consideration: ‘’Peer pressure leading to ‘’misplaced loyalties’’ with full discloser on my part as to the accompanying costs.
Yup, John and I [_ at 2:00 AM- ISH in a laundry room talked about my time in jail as a young man due to “misplaced loyalties”. With his undivided attention he listened intently to every word as if they mattered. ] [_Do I know for sure that the shared information was applicable to John’s life? Well, listening to his final words as we parted company would strongly suggest so. Words, that while having an illuminating content for me, were most certainly orchestrated by God!]
“Bill, you know what is really cool about your time in jail? God is using it to prevent others from landing in the same predicament”. Rather ‘‘strangely’‘ insightful for a young nineteen year old teenager who is simply doing his laundry at 2:00 AM without a worry in the world, don’t you think.
John is the “reason” I was awoken this morning. Folks we serve a God who cares and invites us into the privilege of participating in His care for others based “solely” on our availability.
And yes, that availability may be called on at 2:00 AM when we’re “half-asleep”, begrudgingly co-operating through the haze of “half awake-ness”. You see it’s not really US answering the call but rather HIM answering the call through US. I’m reminded of a quote shared with me from my dear ‘’Sister’’ Ina who is also the ‘’Prettier Half’’ of my dear brother Glen.
“The quality of your love can be measured by your willingness to be inconvenienced’’
Have you ever had the experience of being in the middle of listening to many and varied conversations in a room, and God gives you a ‘‘holy nudge’‘ prompting you to pay attention to what you are seeing and hearing as if He wants to make a later point of importance?
[_This past weekend I had the privilege of spending Sunday with my sister Cathy, brother-in-law Paul, and some friends in New Market. _]
[_At days end my friend Sheryl drove me home. Upon arriving and in the solitude of my living room, I felt encouraged by God to re-live my day slowly and carefully, paying specific attention to each life story represented by each person present. They were all uniquely different. Some similar but none identical. Some further along in the “process” than others, but all magnificent in their own right! _]
As I sat on my couch I was overwhelmed with this one singular truth that connected us all. God’s loving hand of grace and faithfulness in each life!
[_None of us could claim ‘’behavioral perfection’’ nor ‘’spiritual giant’’ status. None had avoided ‘‘falls’‘ along the way. We all had been “broken” at one time or another for varying reasons and in varying degrees. _]
But there we were, still standing and sharing! Still voicing the amazing virtues of our wonderful God! Still proclaiming our faith in Him! In short; Still loving Him! Lesson learned; We had all spent, and for some, “present day spending” time, visiting the deep valleys of life. Those scary dark places where light strains to be acknowledged. Thankfully on Sunday, we all through our storied journeys were reminded of this inspiring truth. A truth that speaks peace to our storms.
God’s grace and faithfulness has and always will be, more than sufficient for our insufficiencies!
Therefore on Sunday, we by ‘‘reciprocal’‘ grace were free to applaud rather than critique each other’s journeys! Net result? We loved each other as we are loved by Jesus! WONDERFUL!
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call
Those are four lines from a beautiful Israel Houghton song. As a sheep I need to know the truth interwoven in those lyrics. Not in my head but rather in the very depth of my being. You see, I’m a sheep, not only with a Shepherd but more importantly, ‘‘in need’‘ of a Shepherd.
[_We all know that the least qualified creation on earth that should act independently is a sheep. They will walk right off the edge of a mountain if left unattended. But that’s not our lot in life. _]
Our Shepherd calls us the object of His affection. He has imparted to us His undivided attention. We are graciously exposed to His comforting and assuring voice of direction. We depend on His love, compassion and grace that He always and faithfully provides.
He encourages us to not worry, not fear, and not be anxious because He knows how deeply He loves and cares for us and how emphatically capable He is to watch over us.
[_We think we know the extent of His loving care but if the measurement is unfathomable, then it would be reasonable to assume our conclusions are dreadfully inaccurate and inadequate. _]
[_He knows how completely able He is to meet our every need and asks us, for our own peace of mind, to trust Him and to rest in his promised provision. He is not a man who can lie. He is the ‘‘perfect’‘ Son of God, without spot or blemish who considers us His ‘‘prize possession’‘. _]
[_He paid a tremendous price for us. It would seem He thought we were worth it. That is not explainable but I know it’s true. Based on His cross, He opened the door of relationship so that we could enjoy a mutually loving, intimate, perpetual, closeness with Him. _]
He holds us in the palm of His hand and won’t let go. We are safe and secure from all alarm! I never get tired of being told that. You see I’m a sheep! That’s all I truly ‘‘need’‘ to know!
John 10 – 11: ‘‘I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep’‘
John 10 – 14: ‘‘I am the Good Shepherd. I know My sheep and My sheep know Me’‘.
Isaiah 40 – 26: ‘‘Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: ‘‘Who created all these’‘? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength none of them is missing’‘.
My goodness [that’s magnificent! That’s majestic! That’s our God! This is the One we pray to. This is the One we trust. This is the One who is _][’‘for us’‘. _]
[_So, I’m asking myself today; in the light of our scripture reference, which Goliaths warrant my attention and fear? _]
Here’s another question that might be helpful once answered: Was the Apostle Paul exaggerating when he said: If God is ‘‘for us’’, then it doesn’t matter who is against us?
[_Well there was a Goliath in the bible that a lot of God’s people trembled at the sight of. He being the original ‘‘Goliath’‘ has instilled himself as the prime example of ‘‘fear not’‘, with the caveat; unless what or who you fear is bigger than God! _]
Young David did the math and down went Goliath. The [_others didn’t and ran for the hills. _]
[_There’s so much to learn from that biblical event but perhaps the most important to us on a daily basis is the reminder to: ‘’Always Do The Math’’. _]
Avoiding to do so leads to a downward spiral into anxiety. [_Anxiety short circuits our ability to reason within the context of our understanding of God’s sovereign authority. _]
We then magnify the Goliaths and in the process de-magnify our God. Next stop, PANIC! The remedy for panic? The Math!
[_Let’s listen in to some profoundly insightful advice from our friend _] [_Isaiah: 41 – 10: ‘‘So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand’’. _]
And God adds to the story: Please keep in mind; I’m the One ‘‘who created the starry host’‘!
I wonder at times if we aren’t our own worst enemies. By the inflating of our ‘‘questions’‘ do we not simultaneously deflate our ‘’answer’’?
More all-inclusive assurance: We all have Goliaths, some bigger than others, but none bigger than God! Heaven’s math is our always available ‘’soft place’’ to land our emotions when things ‘’look’’ out of control.
So, what is the ‘’never changing’’ foundational truth that substantiates ‘’heaven’s math’’ as being fact? The created ‘’never dictates’’ to the Creator!
[_ 1 Corinthians 15 -57 : ‘‘But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’‘._]
If we could eavesdrop into heaven’s dialogue concerning us we wouldn’t hear the word victim attached to our names. You see from heaven’s perspective that would be utterly impossible and that which heaven says, is our true reality. We can’t have biblically described ‘‘victory’‘ and remain a ‘‘victim’‘. We can feel like, talk like, and act like victims but we can’t actually be one. Simply stated; we can’t be a victim any more than we can be a dog. We can bark all day and eat dog food but that’s as close as we can get to actually being one.
You see our victory isn’t ‘‘in us’‘ but rather in Jesus! God gives us the victory, ‘‘through’‘ our Lord Jesus Christ. From the cross Jesus said: ‘‘It is finished’’. All inclusively finished!
He took our emotional infirmities on Himself, therefore when Jesus was resurrected so were we, as victors!
He was victimized. His tomb housed His victimization. When he triumphantly arose from the dead, all His abuse was left behind in the tomb as He emerged victorious, victim to victor. His grave couldn’t hold Him therefore neither could His abusers! Therefore, neither can ours!
Thus, His victory _][_imparted to us through His resurrection is our present day reality to walk in as we delight in the Lord celebrating His all-inclusive provision of newness of life with every step! If we believe Jesus was resurrected then we cannot also believe we are victims.
What ‘‘we were’‘ and what ‘‘we are’‘ have nothing in common with each other. Those two mindsets can’t comfortably co-exist together. Lazarus, once raised from the dead, didn’t continue to act dead. Nor should we! So, why do we?
We haven’t been given the gift of ‘‘amnesia’’. We have memories. Our victory is found in our new resurrection imparted provision where we find ourselves gifted with the ability to dictate the impact of our ‘‘what was’‘. We have all of heaven’s limitless creativity at our disposal to create new memories. Ones that displace the old, walking in ‘‘newness’‘ of life being the net result.
When coming upon a ‘‘from birth’‘ crippled man, Jesus asked the question: ‘‘Do you want to be healed’‘? Strange question don’t you think? The man had never walked, why wouldn’t he want to be healed?
Jesus knew the attention the man had received from his disability would vanish once healed. Attention for a bad reason can be seen as better than no attention at all. A comfort level with ones disabled ‘‘known’‘ can cause a person to tolerate their status quo. Keep in mind: The man had never walked! Jesus knew this scenario was far complicated than a straightforward YES.
[_Well, the man chose wisely and was healed. The question is; was the man healed because of him or because of the Man who asked the question? I’m thinking a combination of both. Jesus provided the ‘’offer’’ of wellness but the man had to choose to ‘‘walk in it’‘, as it is with us. _]
[_ Today Jesus asks; do we want attention from being a victim or attention from being victorious? _]
The work’s been done, the price has been paid, the re-labelling has taken place in heaven. The
tomb is empty! If Jesus isn’t there then neither are we!
[_Now it’s just a matter of us walking in the victory that Jesus has ( past tense ) provided. Faith is a gift from God with the always attached caveat of ‘‘our choice’‘ determining its activation. _]
As documented in the bible, the ‘‘X’‘ crippled man didn’t leave the scene walking with a limp. Nor should we. As Lazarus discovered, Jesus doesn’t make us ‘‘less dead’‘ but rather ALIVE!
Psalm 139 – 13 & 14: ‘‘For You ( God ) created my innermost being ( who I am ). You knit me together in my Mother’s womb ( what I am ). I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. I ( my entire being ) know that full well“.
Here we see the Psalmist exposing our dual every day realities. The first eternal with the second being temporal, while housing the eternal. In our totality we are meant to be amazing in that we are created by a totally amazing God. Indeed, His works are wonderful!
But our two realities are not equal nor should be seen as such. Our secondary ( what we are ) has major limitations attached and although necessary as a dwelling place, is in no way equal to the contents of the dwelling place. [_One of our two realities is predestined and ordained by God to have prominence in our daily lives. Keep in mind; our ‘’what’’ is no more than the house for our ‘’who’’ to dwell in. _]
What a magnificently transcendent lifestyle we have been graciously gifted with by our Lord. To commune with Him spirit to spirit being led into improvisational impromptu scenarios leaving us always overwhelmed with a sense of privilege that heaven would permit us to participate in its desires for others.
It was the Friday before Mother’s Day and getting the renewal sticker for my licence plate was on the agenda. As I entered the licencing commission in Markham it took no time at all to feel the tension in the room.
[_ There was thirty of us in an area that comfortably could have accommodated fifteen. As customers continued to file in the frustration level grew! One leaving three arriving type of situation. Nose to nose was everyone’s in the moment state._]
Faces getting closer and nastier by the minute with the verbalizing of their massive discontent sprinkled throughout their back and forth dialogue for all to hear.
I was tempted to leave and come back later when things were less hostile. At 130 pounds soaking wet, if violence broke out, it was reasonable to think I shouldn’t be there.
But, 130 pounds is ‘‘what I am’‘, therefore reconsidering my choice, I decided to flash a little ‘‘who I am in Christ’‘ _][_at the problem.
With a loud authoritative voice, needed to drown out the justifiable complaints, I asked for everyone’s attention. Strangely they all quieted and focused on my presence, a little like hungry Pit Bulls ready to eat!
[_’‘Please excuse me for a moment folks I have something to say of extreme importance’‘! _]
With my captive audience still silent, likely thinking I was crazy, I proclaimed; ‘‘On behalf of myself and all the men present; HAPPY UPCOMING MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL YOU GREAT LADIES’’!
Well the entire room broke into hysterical laughter accompanied with many comments of thanks and hugs. I like hugs ( from ladies )!
The tension was gone! Still having their attention I took the liberty to give my speech on the incredibleness of woman, being the ‘‘givers of life’‘. While almost losing my male audience I did manage to receive more hugs from the ladies!
Aside from the humorous aspect of it, I’m sharing the story to make a very important point. We are ‘‘room changers’‘ as we walk in the power of the God’s Spirit. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!
[_ Even if you're 68 ( pushing 69 ) 5 feet - 8 inches ( in shoes ) and 130 pounds ( soaking wet ). _]
[_ Psalm 42 -1 _]: ‘‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you my God’‘
What an amazing mystery is the internal longing of a sheep for its Shepherd. A saved soul for its Savior. A redeemed heart for its Redeemer. Our scripture reference is so graphically revealing with its use of the word ‘‘pants’‘. We may not have seen a deer pant but we’ve all seen a dog in that dehydrated condition. Water to the dog is not an option but rather a life sustaining necessity! And so it is with us, as the psalmist so beautiful depicts using his ‘‘deer’‘ metaphor. ‘‘Panting’‘ doesn’t conjure up in our minds a sense of casualness. No, there’s a tone of desperation being revealed in the word ‘’pants’’. A ‘’having to’’ motivated by a ‘’wanting to’’. I think back to the early days of walking with my Shepherd and realize my passion for Jesus has increased incrementally over the years. You might think the opposite would be true, having been exposed to His ‘‘living and loving waters’‘ innumerable times. It would seem within its contents, those waters have a God birthed desire for more. So we drink deeply, all the while knowing our thirst will return by God’s design. The heavenly created order; We thirst and God quenches from the river that never runs dry.
I recorded a song many years ago that comes to mind as a perfect word pictorial to describe the matter, from God’s perspective. Please allow me to share.
I always hear my children when they bow to pray
I never fail to entertain all that they say
I mourn with every sorrow I grieve with every pain
[_Yet all the while I’m strengthening and blessing them again _]
I want so much to be their source from which they feed
For I and only I can give them what they need
That’s why within the pages of My written word
Time and time again this simple line is often heard
Ask of me, don’t turn to any other
Can’t you see, you could never be a bother
Just believe that I can be your answer, my beloved child
Ask of Me, don’t search in other places
Can’t you see that I’ll be your ‘’Oasis’’
In that dry and thirsty world you live in
I will be your cup of water, if only you will give in
And ask of Me.
So I’m left thinking, why would God design this ‘‘internal longing’‘ in us, and make Himself the only source of satisfying the need?
Because He ‘‘longs’‘ to have us draw near to Him. He ‘‘longs’‘ for us to be dependent on Him. He ‘‘longs’‘ to express His love towards us and concluded, making us by design needy would cause us to: _][_ASK OF HIM.[_ _]
Therefore mutual longings being fulfilled! Sounds like a relationship to me.
Jesus has been crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, thus alive! He appears to His disciples who have basically thrown in the proverbial towel, unaware of His ‘’alive’’ reality.
On the shore Jesus is seen from their boat preparing breakfast for the boys. One can only imagine that moment of celebration! But not for all. You see for one there was a massive problem.
It was only a few days prior that Peter had fearfully denied knowing Jesus three times. Even worse, he had rebuked Jesus at their ‘‘last supper’‘ for saying it would happen! ‘‘Not me Jesus, I would die for you. I don’t know about these others but I repeat, not me’‘. Wow, he even took the opportunity to take a shot at his brothers in Christ!
So for Peter, he had to be torn between two unpleasant scenarios. It’s terrible that Jesus is dead but perhaps more terrible for me if He’s not. Keep in mind we’re talking about ‘‘early Peter’‘.
[_You see Peter knows, that Jesus knows, about the denial and has to be assuming the worst with no ‘‘outs’‘ as an excuse. Guilty beyond guilty and deserving of whatever he gets. Time to face the music face to face, fully expecting every sin to be on the table for exposure and discussion. Peter approaches his, ‘’hoped to be’’ still available Lord, while aware that rejection was the deserved and likely result of his shoreline encounter with Jesus. _]
Well, the list of sins were endless. Our Lords main issue must have been where to start! Let’s see: Peter’s pride. Peter’s arrogance. Peter’s over inflated opinion of himself. Peter’s under inflated opinion of Jesus. Peter’s misguided authoritative critique of the other disciples. Oh there could have been a plethora of ‘‘I told you so’s’‘, with justification!
So, what did Jesus do? He embraced Peter with one question. Peter, do you love me? Which
Jesus repeated three times, perhaps significant based on Peter’s three denials. Peter answers with what must have been a tear soaked face and a voice trembling to get these words out of his mouth: ‘‘Yes Lord, I love You’‘. Then I’m thinking Peter wonders: What about the denial?
Surely Jesus wants to talk about that rather important event? I basically betrayed Him!
[_Peter my brother the answer is no. Just, do you love me? With that question answered Jesus says: Come on Peter, let’s go feed some sheep. ‘‘My sheep’‘, of which you are one Peter! _]
We serve a Savior whose preference is ‘‘resurrections’‘ and seems dis-interested in ‘‘burials’‘!
Psalm 23 – 4: ‘‘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’‘.
A hypethical story if I may, to make a profoundly important point of reality:
A young Father decided it was time for his five year old son Kevin to take the plunge. With Dad at his side, Kevin had managed to navigate his way through the complexities of walking.
Walking was then followed up with running without incurring irreparable damage to Kevin. Bicycle riding was the ensuing challenge but with Dad firmly holding the back of the seat, it was deemed a success with Kevin’s knees remaining fully intact.
But now it was time to take on the super-scary stuff. This would take man sized courage and Kevin simply wasn’t a man. Never the less, off they went to test their faith in the nearest body of water available; the neighbourhood swimming pool.
[_Dad positioned himself in the water a few feet away from what was hoped to be an eventual ‘’leaping’’ Kevin. _]
[_The youngster’s mind raced as he did the math of it all. This was no time for quick decisions in Kevin’s mind. People drown doing this sort of thing; thought the young man. OK, check list time. _]
Dad is further away than usual. That water looks pretty deep. Do I really need to know how to swim and after all this was Dad’s idea not mine. Perhaps simply avoiding water might be the better course of action.
‘‘O.K. Dad, I’ve decided. The mystery factor of the unknown has caused me to conclude staying dry is the safer choice, so I’ll pass on the idea and if it’s all the same to you; let’s go home’‘!
Kevin’s Dad, now suffering from hypothermia presented this truth for his son to consider before officially throwing in the towel.
Have I ever let you down? Have I ever been absent in your life’s adventures? Have I ever given you the impression that I would suggest something and not be able to back it up safely? Have I ever ‘‘not’‘ been a good Father to you?
You see son, the point isn’t you jumping, it’s me catching.[_ ‘‘Even though’‘][ this all looks scary, my presence, as has always been the case, guarantees its safety and success. So Son, ][’‘fear not’‘][ and jump!_]
[_Hypothetical stories have a way of speaking volumes to our hearts. In our ‘’most’’ challenging of moments our Shepherd is ‘’most’’ present. In our ‘’most’’ frightening of times, ‘’who’’ we are is trumped by ‘’Whose’’ we are. _]
[Our leaps of faith are always destined to land in the arms of a waiting and loving Father. One who calls us to _][’‘Fear Not’‘ ][_and jump, _][’‘Even Though’‘ _]life looks a little too deep for a swim.
It’s in those unsure seasons of life, God asks us to keep in mind; It’s not the ‘’jumper’’ but rather the ‘’Catcher’’, who determines the final outcome of the jump!
Well, Kevin ‘’jumped’’ and landed safely as advertised. In doing so he had once again proved that his Father’s history of trustworthiness could and should be, justifiably ‘’trusted’’.
Ephesians 2 – 4 > 6: ‘’ But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus’‘.
With all due respect for being ‘‘nice church goers’‘, that’s not why God went to such extremes at Calvary. There was a much more profound purpose in His heart when He sacrificed His one and only Son and raised Him from the dead. His reason? That we would also be raised from the dead into newness of life thereby becoming [_vibrantly alive in Christ, exploding into our world with the power of the indwelling life of Christ radiating from our daily attendance on planet earth. _]
Our scripture reference is written by Paul completely in the present tense, therefore I see no reason to delay in living it. The Apostle is saying to the Ephesians, this is your present state.
This is who you are in the immediate. What you ‘’once were’’ is not what you ‘’are now’’. You are ‘now’’ alive and radiantly so.
Imagine the influence we’d have if we ‘’lived’’ what we say we believe. My goodness we’d be scary! Every step taken, profusely alive in Christ! As was the case with the early church, we’d certainly be noticed.
Those early followers exploded in numbers because they exploded in ‘‘reality’‘. They were ‘‘living’‘ something super-natural that their prior ‘‘religion’‘ could not produce.
They were taken seriously. No one mistook them as an ‘‘alternative’‘ philosophy. No they were the ‘‘real deal’‘ and were known as such. They were obviously and radically different. They were living extraordinary lives in an ordinary world for all to see.
They were unstoppable and undeniably alive! No doubt, we should be nice. We should also be church goers. But most importantly, we should be shockingly alive 24 – 7.
Why? Because according to our scripture reference, that’s what and who God has made us RIGHT NOW!
Well I turned 69 and now with all the festivities being over, I find myself left with a wonderful problem. I don’t know how to be 69. Every time I try, my attempt seems almost laughable. You see ‘‘walking in the Spirit’‘ has its intrinsic advantages beyond the obvious. I never get ‘‘old’‘ as in; Crusty, pull up my pants higher than they were designed to be, cross my arms, put a scowl on my face, and complain about the weather and government ‘‘old’‘. In short: I don’t sound like my Dad but I do sound like my heavenly Father who is timelessly ageless.
Well, I thought this truth to be sufficiently important enough to investigate the reasons behind this rather ‘’cool’’ dilemma and discovered my spirit is agelessly eternal and being renewed constantly.
Therefore I have the choice as I live out my life in The Spirit, to reflect the internal rather than the calendared external. That’s called a good and blessed gift from God and possibly explains the Abraham/Sarah/Isaac story!
Isaiah 40 – 31: ‘‘But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like Eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint’‘.
Sixty nine and I know in my soul, there is so much more to experience in God! There is a greater revelation of Jesus awaiting my immersion into the deeper waters of my Lord’s loving heart.
Psalm 103 – 4 & 5: ‘‘Who redeems your life from the pit
And crowns you with love and compassion
Who satisfies your desires with
So that your youth is renewed like the Eagles’’
Psalm 121 – 7 & 8: ‘‘The Lord will keep you from all harm, He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore’‘. < Ageless!
On Monday as I got on the elevator to head out for my daily stroll I was privileged to meet a delightful ten year old lady visiting from Jamaica. At the end of our short encounter she asked; ‘‘Sir, may I say something’’? Sir? May I? Could this be an angel, I thought. With my granted permission she said; ‘‘You are a very handsome man’‘.
Once again God confirms His wonderful truth that a youthful attitude based on spiritual principles can ‘’drastically’’ change ‘‘perception’’. Not to mention put some serious pep in your step as was the case with my ensuing stroll!
SIXTY NINE – BRING IT ON – THE BEST IS YET TO COME!
What an amazing option God has granted His children as part of their inheritance in Christ. The enablement and empowerment to choose ‘’faith’’ over ‘’fear’’.
To live lives not dictated by circumstantial evidence but rather seen through God’s sovereign hand of authority over circumstances.
We have the God granted option of perceiving everything insightfully different than the status quo ‘‘knee jerk reaction’‘ folks.
[_ To clarify; the ‘’normal’’ societal approach to life is; see it, hear it, and react to it. Just like everyone else we can fall into that trap as well, the problem being; we’re not everyone else._]
There’s a reason Peter sank in his adventures as a water walker but let’s back up to Peter getting out of the boat in the first place. He saw Jesus on the water and translated that visual into faith. Peter’s thinking? If He can and He’s calling me to join Him, then I can as well. Perfect thinking Peter!
After taking a few steps of success, Peter then adjusted his sights to the waves and down he went. He magnified the circumstances, fear moved in, and Peter got wet! While rescuing him, Jesus asks one of the most profound questions ever uttered on the subject matter of faith.
‘‘Why did you doubt’‘? Jesus could have added: The reason you could take one step, is the same reason you could have taken as many as you wanted; Me! When you doubted, you didn’t doubt yourself, you doubted Me!
Walking by sight does provide a certain sense of human normalcy to our lives, but as followers of Jesus it’s always wrong. While ‘‘others’‘ don’t have a choice, we do. If we exercise our option of faith over fear appropriately, perhaps the ‘‘others’‘ will find our attitudes to be attractive by comparison and be drawn to our beloved ‘‘radical one’‘ Jesus.
Faith, is the gift of God that enables us to express our ‘’hallelujahs’’ as loudly in our valleys as on our mountain tops. The ‘‘unshakable’‘ gift that propelled the three Hebrew children to refuse a bent knee to the idle while the furnace was heating up. These three young men declared; ‘‘Our God will save us ( and here’s the ‘‘real’‘ faith ) but if He doesn’t we still won’t worship the idle’‘! Don’t you love that attitude!
Faith in its ongoing development, translates to transcendent over circumstances emphatic ‘‘trust’‘. The fourth man in the fire, while amazing to the onlookers was not amazing to the three Hebrew children. They had predicted it. We know Who that fourth man was. He not only provided protection but supplied Heaven’s victory music to dance to while enjoying the ‘’warm’’ confines of their over-night stay. Upon their release not a hair was singed nor did they smell like smoke!
[_As an added note of interest: Later on in Peter’s walk with God he would pray a dead girl back to life in Jesus name! His time on the water was a powerful learning experience for Peter. One he didn’t forget! Interestingly, every time I magnify the circumstantial evidence in my life, I feel myself sinking. That’s always the predictable and at times frustrating end result to my error. _]
But if I listen carefully I will hear the voice I so love saying: ‘’Bill, why do you doubt? You don’t have to. You have choice’’!
[_ Psalm 125 - 1 & 2: ‘‘Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people both now and forevermore’‘._]
We believe that the bible was written by God through people, with the emphasis on ‘‘God wrote it’‘. He orchestrated not only its writing on scrolls but the eventual discovery of those scrolls.
John, at the very end of his gospel said; If all that Jesus said and did was recorded, the world likely couldn’t house the volumes. So there had to have been God permitted omissions based solely on volume or redundancy.
But He didn’t omit the ugly in order to present to the world a book of flattering real life characters with spotlessly perfect behavior and reputations. No, He displayed the good, the bad, and the ugly for all to see.
Did you ever wonder why? Couldn’t He have skipped Peter’s denial or David’s murder and adultery? Did we really need to know how dirty some of this laundry was? I’m thinking yes.
You see the bible is a story about God first and foremost, not the characters. A magnificent God who invests Himself into resurrections, restorations and comebacks, not burials.
A God who forgives the most hideous of failures. We look at the story of Saul/Paul and are amazed. My goodness he was killing Christians and became one of the two main voices of the early church. Further of interest, Peter was the other one!
As we peruse one story after another we don’t conclude that the mentioned people were amazing, but rather their God was. Their gracious God who had a plan for their lives and couldn’t be dissuaded from His plan. Therefore the bible is not a book meant to highlight its characters but rather the God of its characters. From front to back it’s God’s story that constantly finds itself marinating in His purposed love for mankind.
The exposed dirt only enhances the quality of His amazing grace. A grace that speaks to us this day and says; There is no sin I can’t forgive! There is no life I can’t restore.
John 16 – 13: ‘‘But when he, the Spirit of truth comes,[_ ]he will guide you[ ]into all truth. He will not speak on his own;[ ]he will speak[ ]only what he hears and[ ]he will tell you[ _]what is yet to come’‘.
Oh the folly of spiritual independence. Oh how confusing, exhausting, exasperating, and frustrating life can get when we lead and expect God to follow as if seeing Him as the doer of our ideas rather than the facilitator of His own ideas. Oh how we need to become more and more aware of His presence and voice. A caring voice that often saves us from ourselves.
A voice that at times pleads with us to follow Him, being fully aware of the un-affordable cost of alternative approaches. I am learning, apart from the clear and concise direction of God’s Spirit, I can be an accident looking for a place to happen! A speeding car with no brakes, type of thing.
My un-quenchable zeal, enthusiasm, and love for Jesus can periodically have me moving faster than God’s prescribed speed for my life. If I’m listening, God’s voice always stands at the ready with this advice;[_ ‘’]Bill, you are running a[ _]marathon not a sprint. Pacing yourself is therefore important to us both. ‘’I’ll set the pace, you run the race’’.
So, how do I know when this ‘‘well-meaning condition’‘ finds itself seeping into my walk with Jesus? What are the warning signs? What should I be watching for as indicators that speed is becoming problematic?
The most obvious ‘’red light’’ I’ve noticed is ‘‘The Fruits Of The Spirit’‘ begin to diminish in sincerity and consistency. All of those wonderful attributes of the heart of God, which can only be implemented by His Spirit through me, become more difficult to exemplify in my daily life. What usually flows naturally becomes strangely awkward.
Noticing that, I then ‘’try harder’’ rather than ‘’trust more’’ only to make things worse leading to frustration. I forget; I’m the branch not the vine. I forget that I bear fruit, I don’t produce fruit. I forget what Jesus said, that apart from Him I can do nothing. I forget that I’m the sheep and He’s the Shepherd. I forget that Shepherds lead and sheep follow. In my enthusiasm to be used by God; I forget!
Today’s self-reflection has this as its conclusion. I’m thankful that I catch this occasional ‘‘spiritual condition’‘ much more quickly than I used to thus limiting its potential fallout.
I’m aware the answer can never be found in de-intensifying my zeal, or love for Jesus nor my desire to be used by Him.
So, perhaps it’s this: I don’t need more of God’s Spirit, God’s Spirit needs more of me. More of my attention. More of my sensitivity to his desired inclusion in all things pertaining to my life. More of an awareness of my moment by moment, breath by breath; ‘‘Reliance On His Guidance’‘.
[_Innocent beyond innocent. Crimeless and yet found guilty. The spotless Lamb of God. Perfect in every way. Rights denied. Physically abused to the point of non-recognition. Throughout His ordeal the bible describes our Lord’s dialogue as being very little and seldom. But what He did save His energy and breath to proclaim changed the entire world! _]
Many declare their greatness from a throne. A place of esteem with the riches of this world prominently displayed for all to admire. With all due respect, that’s the way the world works. Jesus left His throne to become nothing, so that we could become everything. Knowing we couldn’t make our way to Him, He came to us and in doing so displayed, for all to see and admire; Incomprehensible, unfathomable, undeniable and gracious beyond gracious Love! I will take that over the golden trinkets and currency of Kings and Queens every day. The others of self-proclaimed prominence have come and gone and will continue to do so.
Empires thought of as impenetrable, have risen only to eventually fall but this Beautiful One Jesus, remains forever and as we speak, sits on His throne as King of Kings and Lord of Lords in the only place that truly matters, Heaven!
[_But there was a time two thousand years ago when He spoke of His Kingship and Kingdom from a cross. A cross He hung on at the time. Mocking insults such as: ‘’You certainly don’t look like a King’’, were hurled at Him. Correct, He didn’t. He looked exactly like a slain Lamb covered in blood. _]
In the middle of His unimaginable abuse, we hear the fewest of words painting the clearest of pictures. Words that reveal the never to be forgotten true heart of Jesus. The noise surrounding this grotesque display of sub-human depravity demands that we draw to hear our Lord’s words.
The criminal hanging next to Jesus hears these words of compassion as confirmation to his dying request to be remembered: Jesus said; ‘‘Today you will be with me in Paradise’‘.
Camped at the foot of the cross, John and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, hear these words of caring concern: ‘‘John behold your Mother, Mother behold your Son’‘: Paraphrased: John please take care of My Mother as if she were your own. Mother this is my replacement as your Son. Trust him as such.
This scene so reminds me of my Mother who while dying of cancer at eighty four years of age, needed to know if her forty year old ‘’baby Bill’’, was going to be alright. ‘’I can’t leave until I know’’, she said. Who thinks of those things at a time like that? It would seem, Jesus and those who love Him do!
Having saved enough energy for His finest moment, He spoke these few final words that have profoundly echoed down through the corridors of time. Words that to some have become the sweetest words ears have ever heard. ‘’Father forgive them for they know not what they do’’ followed with ‘’It is finished’’! And as a final act of confirmation to His sovereign authority Jesus dismissed His own spirit.
While Jesus is praying for His abuser’s forgiveness, no one is asking to be forgiven. That takes my breath away. Who does that? Jesus does, as would be confirmed by the participants in His crucifixion with their final verbalized conclusion: ‘‘This had to have been the Son of God’‘. [It’s interesting how God confirmed our Lord’s true heavenly status through the very ones who crucified Him. Ones who under ‘’normal circumstances’’ wouldn’t have cared less. _][’‘Just another_] Jew being executed’‘, been there done that type of thinking. They had all seen this scene before!
But this wasn’t ‘’normal circumstances’’ and our Lord’s haunting words of loving forgiveness confirmed to His abusers the truth behind that bone-chilling and breath-taking, reality.
On that day Jesus had optional choices. Earlier He had proclaimed that ‘’No man takes My life I lay it down’’. Two thousand years ago He deferred His own well-being, instead choosing to surrender His life to minister to the needs of the entire world, while the world mocked Him.
Amazingly, in the middle of His torment He could only think of the well-being of those closest to Him at the scene of His torturous crucifixion.
[This is the heart of our Lord. This is the One who is the object of our affection as we are His! This is our _][’‘Beautiful One’‘._]
The ministry of Jesus was one of radicalism to the extreme but not simply for the sake of being radical. He broke the status quo rules of His day, always deferring to the higher heavenly purpose.
His life on earth transcended the prevailing societal mindsets to a degree that scared the religious and political elitists.
His beautiful heart superseded their collective comfort zones to reside in the heavenly realm of God’s will. He did things that were seen as ‘‘wrong’‘ to be ‘‘right’‘.
As we fast forward to today, I’m so very thankful to be able to say, nothing has changed!
Jesus can still be found with the needy, the sick, the downcast, the hungry, the thirsty, the rejects, the disposables and the[_ ‘‘untouchables’‘_].
Equally and interestingly, His absenteeism from the political and religious elite also continues, they without knowing it. As He so clearly stated to the Pharisees of his day: I’ve come for those who need Me and in your minds, you don’t.
Matthew 8 – 1 > 3: ‘‘When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed Him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before Him and said: Lord if you are willing, You can make me clean. Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man: I am willing He said, be clean. Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy’’.
The law of the day was clear. Those with leprosy were labelled as ‘’untouchables‘’. They were not to be touched by anyone or touch others. They were by law to live out their gradual death sentence in complete solitude, even from family.
As they walked they were ordered to announce their hideous condition for all passers-by to hear with this soul raping repetitive refrain: Unclean, unclean, unclean , over and over again, until it became in time their emotionally branded conscious sense of non-worth.
Their ‘’announcement’’ became their ‘’renouncement’’ to being seen or treated as humans!
Our scripture states: ‘‘Jesus reached out His hand and _][_TOUCHED[_ the man’‘ with His declaration_] ‘‘I AM WILLING’‘,[_ followed with: ‘‘And immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy’‘._]
At that point in the story, from the prevailing society’s perspective, the man became touchable. Here’s where the heart of Jesus is so beautifully exposed.
[_Jesus saw the man as ‘‘touchable’‘ before society aligned itself with a likewise conclusion. _]
Jesus saw the man as touchable ‘’before the fact’’.
Is it any wonder we love Him as we do? What a magnificently compassionate heart.
I truly believe that God orchestrates the steps of the ones who wish to have their steps orchestrated. Spiritual ‘‘events’‘ are the net result of our normal ‘‘every day mundane’’ being transformed by God’s welcomed inclusionary presence and direction. He turns our days into much appreciated, unexpected, opportunities to bless.
I refer to them as created orchestrated ‘‘God Treats’‘ prompted by ‘‘Holy Nudges’‘.
While experienced by us as, in the moment, improvisational, and impromptu; in fact they are very much planned well in advance by God’s beyond magnificent mind, according to His will and desires for others. They are always exciting within the context of their obvious reality and considered by me to be ‘‘the spice of life’‘, adding ‘‘flavor’‘ to my every step. In short: They are very cool! They are equally very real!
I walked up to the corner grocery store this afternoon to pick up some bleach. I nearly didn’t. I was a little tired from my prior ‘‘late night’‘ and after all, it was only bleach and could have just as easily been purchased the next day. ‘‘No rush’‘ I thought and yet out the door I went, as if ‘’pushed’’. Jesus orchestrates our steps, ‘’one step at a time’’ I’ve noticed. We don’t get to see the ‘‘why’‘ until the ‘‘why’‘ needs to be shown. I’m thinking Jesus thinks it would spoil the surprise.
I was delayed from my arrival as I found myself immersed in a chat with a lovely lady who was in the middle of being harassed by a stranger. I decided to intervene, acting as if I knew her to cause said stranger to move along. He did, probably intimidated by my sixty nine year old muscular 130 pound frame! With that behind me, it was bleach time.
Following me into the store was a lady with two little ones in tow. She looked and sounded like she had been put through the ringer before arriving by the mentioned two little ones. You know how they can do that to a parent on their best of days, and with all due respect, this didn’t seem to be one of their ‘‘best of days’‘. Interestingly, had I not been delayed by the first lady, I wouldn’t have met the second. Did I mention, one step at a time?
To say I ‘‘met’‘ her at this point would be slightly premature as the story for accuracy sake should be shared in its proper chronological order. I hadn’t as of yet, but I would. But what I did do is hear an exhausted lady pleading with a very loud and frankly desperate tone for her little ones to stay close. Evidently they, the little ones, had developed an innate ability to run in two different directions simultaneously, neither being the direction of Mom.
Well, time to cash out as I got in the ‘‘fast service’‘ line which interestingly, in the light of its purpose, had what seemed to be everyone in the store residing in it. The lady in question had positioned herself directly behind me with the previously mentioned two little ones still in need of constant high volume up-dating on the ‘’stay close to Mom’’ cautionary concept.
The long anticipated visual of the cashier appeared before me as if an angel of light had entered the story. Almost there, I thought. Almost out of the nightmarish sound of this poor Mother who by now, my heart had broken for.
I wondered to myself if there was a Father in the picture or was she handling the load herself. The look of anxiety on her face would suggest she had been flying solo as a parent for quite a while. Do you ever wonder who causes us to think those thoughts without judgement inferred. Do you ever wonder how we can have an inescapable instant heart of compassion for a perfect stranger?
The front door, with its assumed potential of relief was finally in sight as I paid my $1.99 for the bleach. What a visual with its promise of emotional deliverance from the noise! But with it there remained a lingering concern for the lady directly behind me, with a face that told a painful story.
‘‘Holy Nudges’‘ are real. They’re to be paid attention to. They’re neither frivolous or silly or created in our own minds. To respond to them is seldom accompanied with our knowing the importance of our response. From our perspective, we are simply saying ‘‘yes’‘ to a heavenly request.
I suddenly couldn’t leave the store nor felt a wanting to. God’s request felt seriously non-optional and I knew it. I backed up a few steps and hovering over that wonderful piece of technology that we can now ‘‘tap’‘ with our credit cards, I waited for my ‘‘soon to be friend’‘ to run her items through. When she had finished and without asking for permission, I ‘‘tapped’‘.
When she had finished and without asking for permission, I ‘‘tapped’‘. The cashier looked at me as if I had made a mistake as did the lady. I’m guessing, assumed senility was the concern causing their deafening silence. Even the ‘‘little ones’‘ got quiet. That was amazing!
There are moments in life when you have to say ‘’words of explanation’’ quickly as to prevent complicated misunderstandings.
[_Shila has a British phrase she likes to use to describe such moments; ‘‘Gobsmacked’‘. _]
The dictionaries meaning; ‘‘Extremely surprised, shocked or astounded’‘. I guess we could add to that, ‘‘speechless’‘ as was the case today.
So I ‘’spoke’’, seeing as I was the ‘‘tapper’‘ thus responsible for the awkward silence.
‘‘This one is on me today sister. You are doing an incredible job mothering your little ones. They are fortunate to have you, have a very blessed day’‘; was what came out of my mouth.
Isn’t it wonderful of God to be sure not to embarrass a mother doing her very best that He desires to bless? Isn’t it wonderful of God to have a young cashier privy to observing His gentleness and compassion without the residue of ‘‘charity status’‘ attached to the ‘‘event’’? Isn’t it wonderful of God to orchestrate my steps, ‘’one step at a time’’, in order for me to be in the exact right place at the exact right time to experience the privilege of participation?
With a slight tremble in her voice Mom thanked me as if already knowing where it came from. The young cashier smiled as though she had seen something very special. I thanked God for His trust that I so appreciate. And as for the ‘‘little ones’‘, they stayed quiet! It was a very good day!
Our titles ‘‘three’‘ descriptives for today’s reflection applies to ‘’us’’ and makes crystal clear our moment by moment reality in Jesus. We ‘‘are’‘ all three, not ‘‘becoming’‘ all three.
[_All three are accurately indicative of our ‘‘present tense’‘ status in God! Therefore we need not wait for ‘‘some time later’‘ to immerse ourselves in this God imparted profound truth. We have been given heavenly licence in the immediate to ‘‘dwell’‘ in its beautifying spiritual fragrance and in fact encouraged to do so by our Creator, who being the ‘‘Purchaser’‘, gets the final word on the matter! _]
The ongoing, perpetually lived in revelation of how we are seen from heaven’s perspective only serves to draw us progressively closer into the welcoming waters of the loving heart of our Lord continually enhancing and deepening our intimacy level thus reality, in and with Jesus.
I’m so thankful that I’ve lived long enough to have noticed; It’s not HIS ‘‘inclusion’’ in my life as I once thought but rather HIS ‘‘ownership’‘ of my life as I now think, that has transformed my every breath into transparently revealing relevance.
It would seem the revelation of the ‘‘immensity’‘ and ‘‘quality’‘ of love bestowed upon us from our perfectly faithful Savior has no limits nor end, thus our love for Him never grows dormant with its ‘‘verb like’‘ activity always churning in our hearts in response to His grace.
If we have been ‘‘purchased’‘ and we have, then an acknowledgement on our part of an ‘‘ownership change’‘ would seem not only appropriate but more importantly beneficial to us all. He reveals Himself to those He owns and we get to peruse His beauty continuously. What a visual! What a God granted by grace, landscaped lifestyle to live in! _][_What a divinely appointed ‘‘three faceted garment’‘ of identity we have been given to wear!
It’s an amazing life to be a sheep who has acknowledged its present day status as perpetually
[_Loved, Valued, and Owned by its Shepherd! _]
We sheep should live it according to its amazingness! We are no longer slaves to other’s ‘‘opinions’, we are children of God, by His choosing! That’s the truth! A truth that by its very nature is wonderfully empowering.
It’s interestingly insightful when realized; while we don’t get to dictate ‘’truth’’, we do get to embrace or reject it. By choosing to embrace it we don’t change ‘’truth’’ but rather ‘’truth’’ changes us, making us a far more accurate reflection of who we truly are in Christ!
As a sheep I must be constantly cognisant of my sheepness. Sheep have tendencies that make them ‘‘in need’‘ of a Shepherd. The list is long and seldom complimentary. Cute and cuddly are two of their most prolific attributes.
After that ‘‘needy’‘ sets in as their status quo daily reality. Jesus said: ‘‘Apart from Me you can do nothing. That sounds like good advice when embarking on a ‘’sheep-like lifestyle’’.
So is Jesus mocking our state in life? Is Jesus bragging on Himself at our expense? No and No. He’s simply cautioning us as to our dependency as sheep in Him.
By using the emphatic descriptive nothing, Jesus is highlighting something of importance to enhance our understanding that in every way imaginable a sheep’s well-being is totally contingent on the care of its Shepherd not in itself.
So, when do we begin to be less needy? Never, by design. Jesus desires that we cling to Him.
If you’ve ever seen a child clinging to its Mother’s hand at a crowded mall, you get a crystal clear metaphorical picture of the reality and extent of our God designed dependence on Him.
Matt Maher wrote a song that’s lyrics come to mind as beautifully applicable:
Lord I come I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without you I fall apart
You’re the One who guides my heart
Lord I need you, oh I need you
Every hour I need you
You’re my one defense my righteousness
Oh God how I need You
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are Lord I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
So teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus you’re my hope and stay
Another one of those songs that remind me of my ‘’sheep’’ status and standing! We are all born into this world as sheep. The real question is; who will our Shepherd be?
While the world applauds and encourages self-independence, heaven cautions against it as a spiritual lifestyle. You see at my best of moments, the ones when Jesus hands me a spiritual surf board and I catch the biggest of inspiring waves, I’m reminded; the board and the waves are His. I’m just a thankful surfing sheep!
As humans we don’t wear the title ‘‘dependent’‘ very well. Within our prideful humanness it has a demeaning flavor to it. One that our palates take time to appreciate but once realized that our ‘‘every hour need’‘ is accommodated by our Shepherd’s ‘‘every hour availability’’ we find a tangible sense of peace in our ‘’dependence’’.
We conclude; it’s not about our dependence but rather Who we’re dependent on, that makes all the difference regarding out ‘‘titles’‘ comfort level of wearing.
Retrospective thinking is an incredible tool that God gives us to better understand this gift called life with all its spiritual complexities and mysteries. We see repeated patterns in those hindsights that give us insight regarding God’s perpetual involvement in our lives. Looking back I find it fascinating as I realize, I am simply not the same person I was one, two, or three years ago. I reflect on those past versions of me and am shocked at how much I’ve changed and grown.
Did I purpose for that to happen? I don’t think so. Did I have a purpose? Yes. To simply love Jesus with a desire to be used as an expression of His love for others as my way of saying thank you. Not much more complicated than that. It was never thought by me as sacrificial but rather reciprocally appropriate. Blessed to be a blessing, type of mindset. Lately I feel God has added a layer to that ‘‘one dimensional’‘ visual, expanding my spiritual horizons in the process and perhaps revealing something of interest to us all.
While we are firmly established in our desire to walk through daily open doors of opportunity that God provides, we are simultaneously being prepared by God for our futures. Those already established, in waiting, new opportunities to bless.
Therefore in the process of living out our days in the immediate, we are being constantly up-graded by God to accommodate our tomorrows. That process is being carried out in the ‘‘unseen’‘ but very real, parallel dynamic of our lives. Thus as followers of Jesus, our lives are never spiritually dormant.
Vibrant activity abounds on two levels, the seen and the unseen. While blessing those around us, we are being progressively adapted to be a more accurate reflection of Jesus therefore better enabled to minister to the deeper needs of others in the future. Simply stated: Five years ago I was admittedly ‘‘not ready’‘ to participate in the things that God involves me with today, which provides a true indicator of the never ending process of change in our lives. To be clear: It’s not by our might nor by our power but by God’s Spirit that this actively takes place. It’s a spiritual reality that always aligns itself with God’s divine purposes that He has pre-planned for our lives. Therefore our individual pre-ordained stories are being revealed to us one chapter at a time. So, does this just happen? While somewhat true there is a personal choice involved, as is always the case. We have to back up a step or two to discover what and who initiates it.
‘‘Simply Available’’. Since uttering those words of sincerity from my heart and with the assistance of hindsight, I’ve learned that growth in my relationship with Jesus is directly related to my availability. Availability constantly exposes me to the revelation of His heart and love toward others. Jesus then takes on a deeper reality in my own heart causing me to fall more deeply in love with Him, thereby increasing my desire to be used by Him.
What a magnificent ongoing ‘’paralleled-purposed’’ lifestyle!
Being allowed the privilege of partnering with God is the invitation of a lifetime. There is a reality in Jesus that is shockingly radiant and awaits those who are ‘‘simply available’’.
Scripture _][_confirms to us; _][_God can do amazing things through ‘‘willing hearts’‘. Jesus took some very smelly fishermen and created in them, some very ‘’fragrant’’ lives!
What a massively challenging six words out of the heart of our Shepherd, the magnitude of which is further clarified, magnified, and enhanced, with this from Jesus statement: ‘‘Love others as I have loved you’‘. Jesus, wanting to avoid any confusion regarding the importance of this subject matter and its application in the lives of His sheep, introduces the all-inclusive ‘‘quality factor’‘: ‘‘As I have loved you’‘.
In order to proceed into these ‘‘deeper waters’‘, I must first come to grips with this question in need of an answer; How am I loved by Jesus on a daily basis? Once that query is concluded, I can now see others as equally loved in the identical same manner.
When it comes to ‘‘freely giving’‘, clarity is a wonderfully humbling and important dynamic in a sheep’s life. It circumvents the tendency to develop an over-inflated opinion of one’s self, which can translate if left unattended, to an under-inflated opinion of others, tragically at times, including the very person of Jesus. We can end up presenting a Jesus that is far more like us than like Himself, resulting in Him being evaluated by others based on our distorted presentation. Unfair, to say the least.
In the spirit of total transparency: More often than not, I’m ‘‘freely loved’‘ by God in spite of me rather than because of me. Oh how I wish that I was all that God wants and enables me to be all the time. But I am not and yet still loved by God simply because He wants to and has chosen to love me.
On my best days and my worst days, His love is unchangeable and unshakeable by choice. His choice! This is the love I am loved with. This is the love I am asked to love others with freely by MY choice.
Who can ever say they have earned such love? Who can ever say they deserve such love? Therefore, who can ever say our Shepherd’s request is unreasonable?
[_Based on my understanding regarding how I am loved, how can I ever conclude that another is not worthy of the same from me? _]
Before I knew Him, I was loved by Him. To what extent? Two thousand years ago from a cross my Shepherd proclaimed to ‘‘the world’‘, which included me; [_To This Extent! _]
On that day the Perfect Son of God paid my debt in order to be able to present me to His Father as likewise perfect without spot or blemish. All my many defects hidden behind His cross. The result? Perfectly forgiven!
My only way of tangibly expressing my true thankfulness for His favor is to love Him and others in like manner.
Peter, when asking Jesus about the subject of ‘’love based’’ forgiveness felt a clarifying number of ‘‘needed times’‘ one must forgive would be handy to know. He suggested ‘’seven’’ as a self-thought generous conclusionary amount.
We can all imagine Peter waiting anxiously for the number eight to arrive, thereby in his mind, divinely allowing him license to explode into a ‘‘now justifiable’‘ state of un-forgiveness. I’m not laughing folks, I’m relating!
Jesus responded with this alteration. No Peter, seventy seven! Well, do we really believe Jesus was saying at seventy eight you can pull the plug on the idea? No, He was cautioning Peter; long before you get up into the seventies you are going to realize the true answer to the real question is this; You are to forgive to the extent that I forgive you and Peter you have no idea how much you are going to have to be forgiven of very soon! Once you do, you will have a much deeper understanding of the subject.
You will also understand that ‘‘unlimited’‘ forgiveness and love are co-habitors in the spirit of a sheep as is the case with its Shepherd!
‘‘As I have loved you’‘ and ‘’As I have forgiven you’’, are co-equals and must be possible or we wouldn’t have been asked to implement them into our lives. And Jesus said; ‘’By this they will know you are Mine’’.
In reverse order but equally true; ‘’If you don’t they won’t’’!
John 6 – 63: ‘‘The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you, they are full of the Spirit and life’‘.
[_As a sheep I have at my disposal ‘‘the gift’‘ of a life that Jesus described as ‘’abundant’’. Seeing as my Shepherd didn’t have a pillow to lay His head nor a permanent residence the last three years of His life, I can safely say He wasn’t talking about materialism. _]
The ‘‘abundance’‘ spoken of by Jesus was in reference to heavens currency. The things that will never pass away nor deteriorate over time.
A magnificent life that is lived out with the unseen as its motivation. A profound life that interacts with heaven with its every breath. A life that has been blinded to the obvious therefore enabled by God to be lived out in the visual of the glorious.
I believe ‘‘that life’‘ is available. A life that is led by the Spirit. I can visualize that lifestyle and find it tantalizingly attractive. I can imagine every foot step being orchestrated and anointed by God as I co-operate with my choice of always present availability.
[_I put myself in ‘‘the boat’‘ with the disciples and ask; What would I have done with Jesus standing on the water? Would I have sat with the majority in the boat and played it safe out of fear? _]
Or would I have transcended my fear and followed Peter into the water ‘‘for fear’‘ of missing the opportunity to find out if what was being offered was achievable.
So, we have the same emotion of fear from two opposite perspectives. One pushing me forward and into the water, with the other shrinking my divine potential for safety sake.
I’m reminded of the scripture in Matthew 16 – 25 where Jesus says: ‘‘For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will save it’’. I used to wonder what life meant within that context.
Lately it’s becoming clear to me that Jesus was referring to an exchange of my ‘‘predictable natural’‘ for His ‘‘improvisational divine’‘. The gift of an ‘‘Abundant Spirit Life’‘ in exchange for my safety first, low risk approach to walking with Him.
Peter risked his natural life for the opportunity to experience the transcendent. I truly hope I would have been fighting Peter for ‘‘first in the water status’‘. My most spiritually chilling thought? That I would have listened to the majority’s cautionary advice and stayed painfully dry.
Philippians 4 – 7: ‘‘And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’‘.
Proverbs 3 – 5 & 6: ‘‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight’‘.
Isaiah 26 – 3: ‘‘You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in You’‘.
Is ‘‘perfect peace’‘ possible or simply a flagrant fantasy propagated by our desire to escape, abstain from, or flat-out deny reality?
First of all, if it’s the peace that comes from God it has to be perfect and not contingent on circumstances. Furthermore, God would never ask us to enter into the impossible.
As scripture makes clear, while many things are impossible with man, ‘‘all things’‘ are possible with God. So, I think it’s better said; Perfect peace is always ‘‘available’‘, which fittingly puts the onus on us.
[_The first two scripture references we are using states: The peace of God will transcend our understanding. Therefore it likely won’t make sense in the light of our circumstances. It’s not peace after ‘‘mission accomplished’‘, but rather peace in the middle of the mission. _]
Our third scripture brings us to the divine equation that dictates our end result. ‘‘Perfect Peace’‘ will be an experience for those who ‘‘trust’‘ in the Lord and ‘‘not’‘ in their own understanding.
To be sure, this is not easy but it is doable and as previously mentioned always available. I’m thinking it’s a matter of daily personal choice. How much am I willing to trust God? How much do I think God is trustworthy?
Those aren’t questions of a generic nature where all God’s children shout on cue Amen! No, they’re intimately and personally unique based on the specific issues of our lives.
I do know this to be an across the board, all-inclusive truth. Our loving heavenly Father wants for us to live in ‘‘perfect trust’‘ of Him therefore ‘‘perfect peace’‘ within ourselves.
These two ‘‘perfects’‘, it would seem are inseparable. So, at the end of the day it’s our choice as individuals. The question I have recently asked and answered of myself is this; If I’m not planning on totally immersing myself in the waters of complete trust in God, what might BE my plan B? GOOD QUESTION!
Song of Solomon 5 – 16: ‘‘His mouth is full of sweetness; Yes, He is altogether lovely and desirable’‘.
What a magnificently beautiful word pictorial describing Jesus! So revealing, so welcoming, so non-threatening, so accurate.
Romans 8 – 29: ‘‘For those God foreknew ( us ), He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son ( Jesus ), that He ( Jesus ) might be the firstborn of many brothers and sisters’‘.
And here we discover the ‘‘fly in the ointment’‘ in regards to our walk with God. He and we are very different and yet we have been ‘‘predestined’‘ to be conformed to His Son’s image. That would equally suggest being ‘’re-formed’’ from our own.
It seems scripturally clear this spiritual transaction is God’s, ‘‘in the beginning’‘ plan for our lives. While loving the first scriptural reference, we all in varying degrees struggle with the second. Let’s be honest; In the natural, the task seems overwhelmingly daunting!
Almost one of fantasy rather than reality. The good news; He not we, perform the necessary spiritual surgery. Aren’t we all thankful He doesn’t hand the scalpel to us!
The Church is a complicated organism, individually and collectively. Complicated to us but not to God. That’s comforting to know!
The roads that are traveled to the ‘’Cross Of Christ’’ by the ‘‘Body Of Christ’‘ are many and varied to the extreme. Ever tribe and every tongue. We are all in our own way representative of those multiple roads.
[_Based on that reality, I think at times we can find ourselves susceptible, to slipping into a somewhat ‘’self-created’’ image of our Lord. An image rooted in our life’s unique experiences. _]
Our humanness, personalities, background histories, cultural upbringing, and non-cookie cutter status as individuals, can cloud the visual. Through the dynamic of repetition, our minds can embrace our ‘‘altered to fit’’ conclusions, transforming them into ‘‘fact’‘ in our minds. Therefore, we can innocently distort the image of our ‘‘Altogether Lovely One’‘.
Another hypothetical story to enhance a point of importance;
A Father and his oldest Son ventured out the day before Christmas to find the ‘‘PERFECT TREE’‘. Their search would exhaust their entire day but as the sun set, there it was, in all its magnificent glory.
They gently loaded it in the car and rushed home to share their discovery with the family. ‘‘Oh my, the tree is shockingly perfect in every way’‘, they said.
It was now late but in their excitement, this was no time to sleep. Decorating this specimen of perfection was decided as an immediate priority. Sleep could wait! The family had overtime accumulated boxes and boxes of decorations, which they applied one by one to the tree.
As time passed and with their sleep deprived eyes closing, they just had to take a step back to admire what they had accomplished. While the majorities conclusion proclaimed the tree’s ‘’enhanced by them’’ beauty, the youngest of the family wept. The majority, thinking the little guy/minority to be ‘‘over tired’’ they politely asked him what the problem was. While unable to hold back his tears the younger noticed something profoundly true as he expressed his heart; ‘‘I can’t see the PERFECT TREE anymore’‘!
We come via many different roads no doubt, but our individual thoroughfares of arrival are predestined by God to merge into one. ‘‘The road less traveled’‘. A road void of self, paved with the uniqueness of Christ himself. A road where Jesus stands radiantly glorious directing and orchestrating our lives. A road that finds us all magnificently enabled to be magnificently different! A road that wears His ‘‘altogether lovely’‘ image, unencumbered by the trivialities of biased thinking!
In order to walk this road successfully, we must at the very center of our being, have firmly entrenched an un-tainted, accurate, spiritual visual of Jesus. His heart once revealed to us enables us to reflect our ‘‘privileged’‘ revelation. A revelation from our Creator of such sacred significance, that we the created, don’t get to ‘‘alter it’‘ but rather ‘‘embrace it’‘ as is.
Ornaments do not enhance perfection but rather, hide it!
I John 3 – 1: ‘‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are’‘!
‘‘Lavished’‘: What a perfectly accurate descriptive of God’s imparted love for us! Visualizing the word ‘‘lavished’‘ I don’t see ‘‘sprinkled’‘ or a ‘‘tea spoon at a time dispensing’‘ but rather a ‘‘pouring out’‘ leaving us recipients immersed in its abundance!
We live out our days in a defective world that presents constant challenges to our contentment in Christ. In the process of putting one foot in front of the other, we mustn’t forget our options.
We have the ‘‘privileged’‘ of spiritually residing in the welcoming warmth of our true identity as children of God with all the benefits that title entails. A truth that has the tangible ability to transcend that which the world offers, rendering it provisionally secondary by comparison.
My goodness; loved by God as His child, always and forever. Now that’s a blanket of security to wrap one’s self in. A love that never fails, never gives up, and never runs out! All provided by grace.
Privileged ‘‘option’‘? How does the ‘‘optional’‘ dynamic come into play? To walk in a semi-awareness or un-awareness of God’s gifted love diminishes its impact. We have the option of doing so. To relegate it as an add-on, side-benefit, or simply a nice thought, is a choice we can make. That would be a strange choice in that; His love never changes while all else does. His love is eternal while all else is temporal. His Love gives life transcendent meaning, always warming the heart with purpose imparting relevance.
His ‘‘lavished on us love’‘ is meant to be predominantly worn not periodically visited. As we clothe ourselves accordingly, we find a secure, moment by moment foundation of rest as we put our complete trust in ‘‘The Rock Of Our Salvation’‘, Jesus.
[_Perfect peace is the net result of living in a keen awareness of being loved perfectly. A perfection that can never be found in an imperfect world. Jesus said in John 14 -27 : ‘‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’‘. _]
Our ‘‘option’‘ is a privileged gift from Jesus we should be choosing to take full advantage of!
What an incredible blessing it is to be a follower of the ‘‘Unchangeable One’‘ in the midst of an always changing world!
Jesus said: ‘‘It is more blessed to give than receive’‘. Don’t you just love how heaven’s directives are always diametrically opposite to the worlds!
As we empty ourselves with our every day availability at the feet of Jesus, He spills out that which we have been blessed with on others, thereby creating room to accommodate fresh infillings of blessings in our own lives. We don’t find ourselves living on the ‘‘old’‘ but rather constantly re-energized, re-filled and re-inspired by our Lords imparted ‘‘new’‘ mercies every morning. My goodness, what an amazing lifestyle to be a giver!
Jesus knowing that to be true, makes ‘‘giving’‘ our priority. He challenges us to step out of the boat of our self-thought comfort zones of security and trustingly dive deeply into the waters of His generous heart, thereby adopting His heart as our own.
This was the case with a little boy who had a few fishes and loaves that his Mother had made for him before heading off to hear Jesus speak. I doubt that the little boy or his Mother had any idea that 5,000 would eventually be fed from that little lunch! Well as we all know, that day Jesus made a little boy a spiritual celebrity. One we are still talking about two thousand years after the fact!
So what did this little boy do with his little lunch that was so ‘’hugely’’ impressive? He gave what little he had to the greatest Giver this world has ever known! The end result? Heaven’s multiplication factor kicked in. That little boy ended up eating ‘‘more’‘ than he brought and took left overs home to share with his family and, let us not forget, 5,000 were fed!
How wonderful it is when we realize, that little boy’s trusting generosity allowed him to be an even greater blessing as he returned home with our Lord’s abundant provision and blessed His family with the left overs. As an added note of interest; that little boy came home with more than left overs.
He came home with a ‘‘story’‘. His story! It would seem, givers get to have stories. Stories so precious that the one’s owning them wouldn’t trade them for all the money in the world! If the reality of Jesus is fading into vagueness, the re-igniter is ‘‘giving’’. Perhaps ‘‘giving back’‘ would be the better choice of words. God knowing the importance of a generous heart has afforded us multiple avenues to travel as givers. He has left none of us out due to lack. A cup of water given in His name can and will be turned into an ocean by Him! In the most realistic of ways, it’s not about the cup of water or the little boy’s lunch but rather the One it’s being given to.
[_Jesus said; ‘‘As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren you have done it unto Me’‘. _]
That which is done unto Jesus is guaranteed to be blessed and multiplied! Your reward?
You get to own the story regarding the day when Jesus turned your act of kindness into an ocean! Priceless! Therefore, at the end of the day you become the previously mentioned by Jesus, ‘‘MORE BLESSED’‘ in the equation!
I’m sure by now most of you have heard the song ‘‘Good Good Father’‘. The moment I was introduced to the lyrics I knew I would ‘‘have to’‘ write about it someday.
Many a tear has been shed during its singing as my friend and I have embraced it as our own. God has been so very good in both our lives, so it’s experientially personal to us.
[_Duets abound as we feel our spirits soar like eagles into heavenly places, tasting a special closeness to our heavenly Father. _]
Who can truly explain what happens to a heart when the revelation of its ‘‘loved status’‘ by its Creator becomes a reality. Perhaps the answer can be found in our original purpose of existing.
To be worshipers and lovers of God with an internal longing to relationship with Him allowing in us a sense of completion. In short; It feels like home. It feels like belonging. It feels complete!
Oh I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased and that I’m never alone
You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am
Oh I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching for answers only You provide
Cause You know just what we need before we say a word
You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways, to us
Oh it’s love so undeniable I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable I can hardly think
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
Into love love love.
[_ Wonderfully transparent lyrics! Experience is truly a gift. So much of what was once ‘‘faith” has now become ‘‘fact’‘._]
I’ve seen God’s goodness in action on my behalf consistently and continuously for a long time. As a sheep of forty two years and counting, ‘‘I’ve heard the thousand stories of what ‘‘they think’‘ He’s like’‘. I’m so thankful that I’ve also heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night.
I confess to not knowing all there is to know but I do know this; He’s a good Father and we are loved by Him. It is ‘‘who we are’‘ from heavens perspective. When that unchangeable love is received and walked in by us, it becomes ‘‘who we are’‘ from our perspective, completing the equation and enabling us to be better equipped lovers of God and others! Our walk with God and His creation becomes ‘‘A Matter Of The Heart’‘. The heart is the place where all sacred beauty resides. The place where our ‘‘Good Father’‘ communes with us perpetually throughout our days turning them into spiritually inspiring events. It’s a very good thing to be a sheep!
Galatians 5 – 18: ‘‘But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law’‘.
Have you ever purposed to go for a walk with the intention of saying ‘‘hi’‘ to all who cross your path regardless of age or gender? It can be fascinating. The other night Shila and I ( mostly I ) did just that as we embarked on a stroll through a park near her home. We made contact with about fifteen people by the time we were finished. All the while I felt prompted to pay attention to their reactions. They were all exactly the same; a few seconds of shock, followed with a smile and finished off with a reciprocal ‘‘hello’‘. Perfect strangers, different cultures, different races, different genders and different ages, all with the exact same response. No one ignored our greeting, thinking us ( mostly I ) to be crazy.
[_I think as God’s people we should be saying ‘’hello’’ to His creation as often as possible. If you dare to take up the challenge you will notice as I did; Many people in our world feel somewhat invisible and ‘‘smile’‘ when they discover they’re not! _]
Walking in the flow of God isn’t always the ‘‘big splash’‘. Acknowledging another’s existence with a sincere ‘‘hi’‘ activates our salt and light status and in the simplest of ways declares to that person; you are ‘‘seen’‘ therefore you ‘‘matter’‘.
I also believe the bible teaches that ‘‘all’‘ Shila and I ( mostly I ) ‘‘touch’‘ will be blessed. We will have to wait for a night when Shila feels far more brave before trying that out! I’m thinking; in that ‘‘I’m not under the law’‘, the chances of getting arrested for doing so are minimal!
Have you ever stood in ‘‘real’‘ AWE? Finding yourself ‘’awestruck’’ as you experience the ‘’no doubt’’, ‘’undeniable’’, ‘‘divinely’’, ‘’unique’’?
We live in a society that seems to relegate hugely impactful words into generic, tediously repeated, cliché type expressions, thereby demeaning their true descriptive relevance to one of vague meaninglessness. Take for instance the word: AWESOME. Today, everything that is perceived as ‘‘remotely good’‘, is now all-inclusively awesome.
So I’m thinking; if everything is awesome then ‘‘nothing’‘ is truly awesome! To experience ‘‘true awe’‘ we must elevate our desired visual to a higher place. One that, while appreciating the mastery of creation, sets its sights on the Creator.
Jesus is referred to in many ways throughout the bible but the most majestic reference is to His, ‘‘in the beginning’‘ status and Creator of all things that have ever been created, by simply speaking them into existence! The Sun stays where the Sun stays because it was told to, by Him! The Sun doesn’t have a choice! ‘‘THAT’S AWESOME’‘! Therefore, I’m making the call. Jesus qualifies!
The dictionaries meaning of AWE: ‘‘The emotion aroused by something or someone, awe inspiring or astounding’’.
My meaning of AWE: As an experience awe is: A miraculously understood response to a transcendent visual that is beyond one’s natural ability to comprehend, leaving one speechless with its obvious super-natural clarity. Therefore true AWE isn’t casual!
Recently while at church standing with the congregation during a time of worship, it was as if the roof of the building was removed and Heaven itself descended, paying us a visit. The roof reference, not literally. The Heaven reference, absolutely!
Well, we all know that God is always with us but this was tangibly and obviously different, like a descending invisible warm blanket of our Lord’s embrace. An unexpected kiss from Heaven. It was Sacred, it was Holy, and I knew it. Simply stated: It wasn’t and then it was! In a moment in time I was standing in presence of perfection, with a sense of belonging to that perfection.
My only struggle with the experience has been my limited vocabulary while attempting to describe it. Perhaps indescribable is the description. Perhaps moments like this are best interpreted through spiritual sight. This much I can tell you; I know what AWE feels like!
I also discovered; being exposed to the Holiness of God is not an experience of apprehensive intimidation but one of emotional awesome admiration! So beautiful that your true desire is to simply bask in it.
Allow me to share the title of the song and lyrics being sung at the time. Perhaps reading them will help explain the ‘‘why’‘ of it all. Jesus inhabits the praises of His people. Certain songs, have within the context of their words, an anointed ability to open hearts to God’s desired visitation. Imagine, He ‘‘desires’‘ to be with us! Heart felt worship is our expression of a reciprocal desire. It’s us with open hearts saying: Come close Jesus!
You are beautiful beyond description, to marvelous for words
To wonderful for comprehension, like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp your infinite wisdom, who can fathom the depth of your love
You are beautiful beyond description, Majesty enthroned above
I stand I stand in AWE of You, I stand I stand in AWE of You
Holy God to whom all praise is due, I stand in AWE of you
[_Back to the church service: As much as I enjoyed the experience I was left painfully aware that this should and could be a lifestyle, rather than an occasional pause in a busy schedule. I concluded the reason for the visitation was the hunger for it. So many distractions for God to wait on before He gets our attention. An attention we need more than Him! _]
So, is it God that shows up ‘‘on occasion’‘ or is it us that welcome Him, ‘‘on occasion’‘? I truly wanted to simply bask in that day. I think Jesus is saying: Why not every day? Indeed Jesus, why not?
Matthew 19 – 14 & 15‘’Then people brought little children to Jesus for Him to lay His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, ‘‘Let the little children come unto Me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’‘._]
While not promoting childishness, our scripture sees Jesus thoroughly encouraging child-like hearts. I find that delightfully wonderful. In doing so He is cautioning His disciples as to the folly of getting so ‘‘grown up’‘ that seniority and age replaces child-like amazement and enthusiasm in their walk with Him.
I so clearly remember my day one. I came shooting out of that church with something in my soul I didn’t have when entering. The revelation that Jesus was real, loved me and knew me by name, wasn’t news I could keep to myself. I exploded into my world awkwardly telling all who would listen. I was twenty seven years old at the time and have fought hard over the past forty two years to maintain my ‘‘child-like heart’‘.
Strangely, it’s not an easy task. I’ve seen the cost of accumulated intellect becoming a boring replacement for a heartfelt voyage of awesome inspirational discovery with Jesus. Frankly that approach scares me.
When you remove inspiration from information you have downgraded ‘’relationship’’ to ‘’religion’’. It takes a child-like heart to be inspired therefore Jesus says; ‘’For the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’’.
On day one Jesus stole my heart. I went from spiritually dead to alive in Christ and knew it. My Lord breathed an aliveness into me that has never lessoned. In spite of all the ups and downs[_ _]I have always been a child-like sheep at the feet of my Shepherd. I’ve never wanted religious behavior to replace ‘‘real’‘. I’ve never wanted to forfeit the ability to shed a loving tear at the mention of His beautiful name. I’ve never wanted grace to feel anything other than amazing. I’ve loved Jesus a long time. He never ceases to amaze me.
[_He’s never become an intellectual exercise of repetitive numbness. Jesus has never been a religious habit to me. He’s vibrantly alive and has made me the same. All these years later I still smile when I remember my ‘‘day one’‘. That day will never allow my heart to grow old or cold. Besides, that’s not a luxury I can afford. According to our scripture, a child-like heart is an essential. The constant refrain of the mundane should never be found as a contaminant in the landscape of my life with Jesus. My goodness, He called me by name! There are things you simply don’t forget! _]
He’s never been more real than He is to me today. It’s interesting how ‘‘child-like hearts’‘ are always receptive to the deeper waters of reality, being constantly overwhelmed by what they discover! What an incredibly inspiring life style my Shepherd has provided for me. If the heart is right, a little bit of heaven can be experienced here on planet earth.
Walking with Jesus should never get old, cold, or repetitive. Why would it, seeing as His mercies are ‘‘new’‘ every morning. Given enough time to cultivate, the alternative to a child-like heart can be a heart of stone. That heart will always miss the point. I desire to walk in my ‘‘first love’‘ every day. There’s nothing in scripture that encourages me to, ‘‘grow out of it’‘, in fact the exact opposite is true.
After all these years I still ‘‘wonder in amazement’‘ why He loves me while knowing He does. Grace is still ‘’amazing’’, not having deteriorated to cliché status over time. The advantage of being child-like I suppose. Don’t ever allow the spirit of religion to steal your God given “right”
to ‘’reality’’. It’s simply too valuable to forfeit! Reality is birthed and resides in child-like hearts.
[_ It’s been over a year since my encounter with what I have come to appreciate as a ‘’major learning experience’’. A lesson I find myself in need of constant reminding of._]
Have you ever had those conversations in life that leave your ears tingling in disbelief and your imagination baffled? Those exchanges that cause you to silently think; Did I just hear what I just heard? Shockingly chilling dialogue delivered through someone who you believe can’t possibly have said what they just said.
Such was the case regarding my ‘’encounter’’. Interestingly, it’s always in the aftermath of those moments when the boomerang effect kicks in with the question; Do I think that way?
[_It was a Monday. As I walked through the doors of a long-time client, I found a mid-fifties lady employee in tears. She had just gotten off the phone from the hospital. Her young college age son had been in an accident and the news was dramatically dire. He had suffered massive spinal damage and was being operated on as the phone call was in progress. The prognosis was the cause for the tears. ‘‘Likely in a wheel chair for life, if in fact we can save him at all’‘, was all they could say within the context of professional honesty. _]
I offered the only ‘‘appropriate to me’‘ response, as I requested the privilege of praying for her son. My request was granted and we parted with my expressed desire for an update when time and circumstances permitted. It would be two weeks before I would see her again.
Good news! Her son had made it through the surgery and was doing extremely well. Hopes were high that perhaps a slight limp may be the only lingering residue of the accident with the chance that extensive therapy might even resolve that. Wow! So very much to thank God for I declared! Her response was the vehicle that God used to deliver my previously mentioned, ‘’major learning experience’’.
‘’[_I’ll reserve my thankfulness for when the job is perfectly finished’‘, she said. And my heart sank into my stomach! _]
It would take me a few weeks before I could navigate around the shock value of the ladies underwhelming response. A reaction that should have been unbridled, euphoric, jubilation. And then thankfully came the spiritually attached lesson with this accompanying question; When is it time to applaud?
As His sheep, we are on a journey with Jesus our magnificent Shepherd. A voyage of, as The Apostle Paul stated, ‘‘pressing on’‘. While walking out our granted by grace excursion, it’s important to ‘‘not forget His benefits’‘. To not only acknowledge how far we have to go, but equally celebrate how far we’ve come. To reflect with thankfulness on those past times that now find themselves firmly entrenched in the rear-view mirrors of our lives. To do so affords us the insight needed to acknowledge and applaud ‘’God granted’’ improvements.
Overnight successes in God are few and far between. Our early church brethren are biblical proof of that statement. When we get to Heaven, the bible states; ‘‘We will know as we are known’‘. I believe the thing most shocking will be our discovery of how little we had to do with our arrival. We sheep, will fall at our Shepherd’s feet and worship Him for a very good reason. Our gratitude will not allow us to remain upright.
So, we all still have some unfinished business to take care of. Therefore we ‘‘press on’‘ but not without pausing frequently to say thank you for the improvements in ours and others lives. Let’s trust that it will be done on earth as it is in Heaven and ‘‘press on’‘, knowing our finish line is guaranteed by the cross..
[_ There was once a man who needed $100.00. He couldn't imagine being able to instantly find such an amount so he decided to look for $1.00 - 100 times. ] [_Well, we are all 100 dollar bills in Gods sight, being produced $1.00 at a time. Therefore, ‘‘press on’‘ applauding each and every dollar. Heaven does!]
Philippians 3 – 12: ‘‘Not that I have already attained all this or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me’‘.
We ‘’press on’’, one celebrated improvement at a time. Consider an earthly parent as they watch their baby make its first attempt at walking. One step followed with what? Applause!
It’s the applause that motivates the second step!
The parent doesn’t say; I’ll reserve my celebration until you make it to the other side of the room. In fact the parent goes so crazy over that one step you’d think the child had just ran a marathon! Now, how much more does our Heavenly Father applaud us, cheer for us, and encourage us, to ‘‘press on’‘. In reverse but equally and reciprocally appropriate; How much more should we applaud Him for our enablement to do so!
The encounter with my lady friend taught me this: Don’t wait until ’’perfect’’ to applaud God!
If I may, would it be OK to get something of importance off my chest? To declare to the world a[_ ]full blown, shout it from the roof tops, in your face proclamation that; ‘’I can’t be bought’’ because ‘’[_I’m simply not affordable’’]!
With all due respect, how could this world ever expect to exceed the generosity of my Shepherd?
How could it even consider trying to outbid Jesus for my devotion? How could it ever hope to compete with the love He has poured into my life?[_ _]
World you need to know, you can’t afford me! I’m simply too expensive!
Although American hymnals show Rhea Miller as the author of the song ‘‘I’d Rather Have Jesus’’, Swedish sources attribute the original to Prince Oscar. In 1888 he relinquished his royal title and right to succession in order to marry a commoner who had influenced his faith based beliefs. This is Prince Oscar’s written testimony in song;
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold, I’d rather have Him than have riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands, I’d rather be led by His nailed pierced hands
Than to be the king of a vast domain, or be held in sins dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus than anything, this world affords today
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause, I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame, I’d rather be true to His holy name
Than to be the king of a vast domain, or be held in sins dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus than anything, this world affords today
When a sheep has found its Shepherd, it stops looking! My Shepherd’s name is Jesus and I would rather have Him than anything. It would seem ‘‘Prince Oscar’‘ felt the same.
1 Corinthians 13 – 1 > 7: ‘‘If I speak in the tongues^[_ ]^[_of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.]^[_ ]^[_If I have the gift of prophecy _][_and can fathom all mysteries _][_and all knowledge, _][_and if I have a faith _][_that can move mountains, _][_but do not have love, _][_I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor _][_and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, _][_but do not have love, _][_I gain nothing. _][_Love is patient, _][_love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.]^[_ ]^[_It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, _][_it’s not easily angered it keeps no record of wrongs.]^[_ ]^[_Love does not delight in evil _][_but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, _][_always _][_trusts, _][_always _][_hopes, _][_always perseveres’‘.]
Although this scripture is often and rightfully so included in marriage ceremonies, God had something far more all-inclusively important in mind with His profound communication from heaven. Love is not optional!
Our scripture starts by informing me rather bluntly, if I have not love _][_I am nothing and gain nothing! It further provides a list of spiritual giftedness a follower of Jesus may possess with the massive attention-getting qualifier BUT attached. BUT if not motivated by love they are all meaningless from heaven’s perspective. They gain nothing! As we continue reading we encounter the magnificent descriptive qualities of God’s love. This is the love we are loved with ‘‘by grace’‘! Having received freely, we are then directed to give ‘‘freely’‘ without pause.
God didn’t consider loving us as ‘‘optional’‘. _][_Had it been so, His answer to Jesus in the Garden of _][_Gethsemane would have been very different. _][_If there were options in His heart, that _][_would have been the time to exercise them. But as that day unfolded it was made clear to all; God ‘‘so loved’‘ the all-inclusive world that He gave His only Son for it/them. A past, present, and future world covered by one massive expression of love from a cross. A world that included us.
[Therefore, we being recipients of such grace, have no right to offer anything less when it comes to others. As we reach out in like manner as Jesus, we tell the world; We are His! We wear His name, bear His image, and share His love! Our love is their invitation to; _][’‘Come taste and see that the Lord is_] good’‘. Therefore God advertises Himself through our love. Thus, non-optional!
When I think of this rather lovely word I associate its relevance to that of Caterpillars becoming Butterflies.
The descriptive ‘‘becoming’‘ is rather soft in relationship to the actual morphing process.
The once rather ugly cocoon dwelling Caterpillar breaking free to discover it’s meant to be spectacular beauty is ‘’violent’’. It fights with such ferocity its very life hangs in the balance.
[_And yet without the fight, the wings of the ‘‘to be’‘ Butterfly would not be strengthened enough to fly. _]
The Cocoon and the Caterpillar, while having their individual purposes in the morphing process, are eventually left behind allowing the Butterfly to explode out of its cocoon and into the revelation of its divinely pre-destined destiny. To be a Butterfly![_ _]
The dictionaries meaning of ‘‘morph’‘:[_ ]To transform or[ ]be transformed[ ‘’]completely’’ in appearance or character. [_Spiritually speaking, that’s a perfect description of us!]
1 John 3 – 1 > 3: ‘‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us, is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure’‘.
‘‘Metamorphosis’‘ for us: The ongoing process of being transformed into something, or in our case someone, completely and beautifully different, accepting the struggles of strengthening as part and parcel of the process, thus not allowing them to be a source of discouragement but rather embracing them as God’s tool of completion. Struggles have divine inspired purpose!
Romans 12 – 2: ‘‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world[_ _]but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is: His good, perfect and pleasing will’‘.
2 Corinthians 3 – 18: ‘‘And we all who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory,[_ ] are being transformed into His image[ ]with ever increasing-glory[ _]which comes from the Lord, who is the spirit’‘.
As the Caterpillar gradually[_ ]becomes a Butterfly, we in the same way are morphing to be more and more like Jesus, and less and less like ourselves,[ ]step by step[ ]– day by day.[ _]
Sometimes the changes are unrecognizable at a glance, but be assured they are happening. How can I be so sure? Well, the scripture says we ‘‘are being’‘ transformed, therefore it’s not us doing the transforming. God has for us an ‘‘image’‘, waiting to be worn and displayed to the world. The image of our Shepherd. An image that is altogether lovely!
Image bearers of Jesus has always been our pre-destined calling and purpose. Just as the Butterfly was meant to be a Butterfly, we likewise were meant to be like Jesus. I find that incredibly exciting! He is the object of my affection for a reason!
1 Thessalonians 5 – 17[textileRef:153180915459c9339160a77:2191:cspan[ _]‘‘Pray without ceasing’‘.
Wow, never stopping, always praying? Is that what Paul is inferring and encouraging as a spiritually beneficial lifestyle for us followers of Jesus? Does he really mean, never stop? In short: Yes. But first, to understand Paul’s statement we may have to take a step back and re-define what prayer is within the context of our everyday lives.
I think what Paul is trying to relate is this: Constant commune with God qualifies as prayer regardless of where, when, how, or its contextual significance. It doesn’t have to be earth shaking nor dramatic.
[_It need not be the laundry list of requests on behalf of others or ourselves. It could be as innocent and simple as a thank you or an expression of praise for the beautiful flowers you just observed with an acknowledgement by you as to His magnificent creativity displayed in them. _]
This intimate, un-orchestrated, invitation from God to freely enjoy the blissful comfort of entering into an ‘‘instant access’‘, ‘‘drawing near’‘, experience with Him is always available and encouraged. Therefore Paul is saying; Never ceasing prayer is no more or no less than conversation with your Creator, constantly. Therefore there is no legitimate need, cause, or reason to ‘‘cease’‘ because God ‘‘never ceases’‘ in His desire to communicate with us.
I’m sure Paul would also agree with; God is always talking into our lives, therefore we should always be listening and responding.
The ‘‘never ending conversation’‘ is what Paul is prescribing as an ‘‘atmosphere of dialogue’’ thus enhancing spiritual peace and contentment throughout our days.
[_Like the old church classic states so beautifully: _]
He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share, as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
Using a human type example to make a valid spiritual point: Shila and I take walks in the park occasionally where she lives. We never do so ‘‘silently’‘. If we did, Shila might be left wondering if her presence in the walk truly[_ _]mattered.
Shila and I have a tradition; ‘‘Scrambled eggs and toast’‘ after church on Sundays. Shila is in England at present visiting her family. In her absence I can’t seem to make ‘‘scrambled eggs and toast’‘ taste as good.
The point: My life is enhanced with Shila’s presence and diminished without it and so it is within the context of my relationship with God. Constant commune is for my benefit. Now let’s take it to the spiritual:
The one we love the most will be the one we want to commune with the most. Paul is stating
that God has not only granted, but equally important desires, ‘‘perpetual’‘ two-way open access between He and We. You see ‘‘We’‘ are the ones ‘‘He’‘ loves most. Therefore ‘’We’’ should take ‘‘perpetual’‘ advantage of His welcoming invite! As our brother Israel Houghton so beautifully penned: ‘‘Your presence is heaven to me’‘. While in His presence let’s remember to talk while we walk. Otherwise He[_ ]may[ _]wonder if His presence truly matters in the walk.
It’s intimacy. It’s relationship. It’s mutual love expressed,[_ without ceasing_]! It’s prayer!
[_ Zephaniah 3 -17 : ‘‘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 rejoice over you with singing’‘._]
How interestingly amazing; God sings! Not just some generic melody that has caught His fancy, but a song crafted by Him and directed solely at us His children. Even more amazingly He sings over us ‘‘with rejoicing’‘! To perceive ourselves as worthy of being ‘‘rejoiced over’‘ is in itself a little mind boggling.
[_But according to our scripture reference His ‘‘great delight in us’‘ leaves Him with a need to express himself through song. So He sings! _]
Here’s the incredible part to this melodic equation; He invites us to rejoice back over Him with singing, thus creating a co-operative duet with Heaven. We call it worship!
Therefore worship can never be relegated to a ‘’casual thing’‘, nor a ‘’Sunday thing’‘, nor a ‘‘sing along thing’‘. God sees true worship as an all-encompassing lifestyle. It’s intimate. It’s uniquely personal. It’s an exchange of two-way expressed love, as God sings over us and we respond creating a spiritual fragrance that permeates both earth and heaven. Very ‘‘duet like’‘ don’t you think.
[_The safety of the spiritual sidelines can be very enticing, especially after a ‘‘failure’‘. Trust me I know of what I speak! We position ourselves just close enough to be observed as accounted for, but not so close as to put ourselves in a place of vulnerability. After all, we really don’t want to enhance the ‘‘failure thing’‘ with another attempt. _]
No doubt that playing it safe has its insulated ‘‘fail proof’‘ aspect of predictable comfort but could it be, that isn’t the point? Could it be ‘‘not trying’‘ as opposed to ‘‘failing’‘ is the worst failure of all? We serve a God whose reaction to ‘‘not getting it right’‘ is; Get back up, brush yourself off, and try again!
How many of us have found ourselves mired face down in a failure with the enemies voice of accusation deafening us to our Encouragers instruction thereby deferring ‘‘the point’‘ to a far later date than was the intended..
We as humans learn from failure and God knows it. As babies we are the ones who bury our heads into coffee tables while ‘‘trying’‘ to walk. We are also the ones who end up driving cars.
So does God enjoy our mis-steps? No, but His reaction to them isn’t nearly as dramatic as our own. We are not rejected because of them. He uses them all with a comeback planned for each, complete with a lesson learned going forward to include in our spiritual arsenal. A lesson we can pass on to others as they embark on being followers of Jesus.
We are a people of multiple comebacks! Peter, scriptures poster boy on the subject, would remind us that he denied even knowing Jesus at one point in his journey, to later become ‘‘the voice’‘ of the early church and preacher of the first Pentecost sermon. Even before the denial, Peter is found cutting a Roman soldiers ear off, only to have Jesus needing to re-attach it, with the lesson: Peter, ‘‘If you live by the sword you will die by the sword’’. This mis-step happened with Jesus already knowing about the upcoming denial!
[_So here we have our Lord teaching Peter a lesson completely aware there’s another mis-step waiting right around the corner for Peter to trip over. _]
As a sheep who feels he could challenge Peter for ‘‘poster boy status’‘, I’m convinced that the thing God struggles with most is not the fall, but rather the refusal to ‘‘get back up’‘. If you’ve relegated yourself to side-line status, take a good look into the eyes of your Shepherd. You will discover He wants you back in the game! You will also notice His loving glance as He reaches out His hands to help you up.
Romans 8 – 1 > 2: ‘‘Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death’’.
The flesh, with ample help from the enemy will suggest you stay on the sidelines while the Spirit says: Did you really think you’d never fail? Even more so, did you really think that I thought you would never fail? Don’t you love how heaven always ‘’makes sense’’.
When you ‘‘least feel like’‘ getting up, is when you ‘‘most need’‘ to get up! Observing the great people of God in the bible they all have one thing in common; flesh failing with lessons learned.
[_In those times, I have found it helpful to focus on the ‘‘finished’‘ work of the cross and avoid the ‘‘me finishing’‘ that which is already ‘‘finished’‘ mindset. It seems to me that when my flesh gets involved in the process, the Spirit stands back and waits patiently to remind me, ‘’Apart from Him I can do nothing’‘. _]
We all when in doubt, have a tendency to ‘‘try harder’‘ ( the flesh ) when perhaps ‘‘trusting more’‘ ( the Spirit ) would get the job done far more efficiently.
I’m aware it seems backwards, but everything in God is backwards to the natural way of doing things!
Deuteronomy 31 – 6: ‘‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave or forsake you’‘.
Deuteronomy 31 -8 : ‘‘The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid do not be discouraged’‘
Joshua 1 – 5: ‘‘No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you’’.
The ‘’repetitive’’ point to these scriptures and the one God wants us to be ‘‘sure of’‘ is this:
[_ God doesn’t forsake His own ever for any reason. The word ‘’never’’ is an emphatically strong descriptive leaving nothing to wonder about or doubt. ‘’Never’’ leaves ‘‘nothing’‘ to debate over or to peruse in our imaginations looking for ‘’alternative’’ meanings. No, ‘‘never means never’‘ and God stated it as such for our emotional and spiritual well-being._]
[_Our great God fights our battles for us, while simultaneously asking us to trust Him for the end result! As we rest in His sovereign authority we find peace in the storm. While this truth may not change ‘‘the storm’‘ it does change us in the storm. It shifts our focus from the created to the Creator. It declares; our God is bigger than any storm! _]
Therefore our concepts and impressions of ‘‘life’s storms’‘, while not being ignored, do become appropriately deflated.
[_ We have been told in scripture that the battle is the Lords not ours. He doesn’t want us fighting our own battles. _]
When we try to take on ‘‘life’‘ in our own misguided sense of strength we become spiritually exhausted. Exhaustion leads to confusion. Confusion leads to the cycle of ups and downs called the spiritual roller coaster. We are to reside in a sense of contented stillness with a knowing in our hearts that He is God, reverberating health through our souls.
When you think about it, that’s all we truly need to know on a moment to moment basis, as we walk out this journey with Jesus. He holds our worlds in His hands and loves to be trusted with them. Who among us would enter into an exam already knowing the ‘‘singular answer’‘ to the unknown questions, and then worry about the questions?
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul
Lyrics written in 1873 by Horatio G. Spafford. Still 100 percent true! Truth never changes and for that we should be eternally grateful! So, how can I, ‘‘whatever my lot’‘ live in confidence of, ‘‘it is well with my soul’‘? Because ‘‘my lot’‘ has nothing to do with my wellness.
[_My wellness is based on my understanding that at the center of my life isn’t the ‘’question’’ but rather the ‘’Answer’’, Who provides me with spiritual equilibrium. _]
John 14 – 27: ‘‘Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’‘.
Words spoken 2,000 years ago by Jesus. Words that have echoed down through the corridors of time to this day. Still 100 percent true! Truth never changes and for that we should be eternally grateful!
[It’s very hard to defeat people who refuse to make ‘‘it’‘ about ‘‘themselves’‘! A person who has died to _][’‘self’‘ cannot be intimated. It’s a very powerful platform to live life from and our God provided and prescribed, ‘‘Ace In The Hole’‘_] [_to be played in every hand that is dealt to us in our walk with Him. _]
Intimidation can only exist when the ‘‘target’‘ has something to lose. The Apostle Paul said he had ‘‘lost’‘ everything and counted it as nothing in view of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus. What Paul was portraying was a comparison and concluded his loses were ‘‘nothing’‘ compared to his gains! If I am called, enabled, and privileged to be an image bearer of Jesus, how can that happen without me becoming less of an image bearer of myself?
John 12 – 24 > 25: ‘‘I can guarantee this truth: A single grain of wheat doesn’t produce anything unless it is planted in the ground and dies. If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain.^[_ _]^[_Those who love their lives will destroy them, and those who hate their lives in this world will guard them for everlasting life’‘. _]
This scripture has been read and taught worldwide millions of times from many perspectives, with the viewpoint always hinging on one’s impression of the heart of Christ. That conclusion will determine our interpretation and motivation behind the point and purpose of our Lord’s instruction. I know Him ‘‘only’‘ as the loving overseer of my life.
Therefore, I automatically assume, His instruction is for my ‘‘big picture’‘ good. In this case the directive is, me controlling my life is in the end ‘‘bad’‘ for me.
What a powerfully revealing statement: ‘‘Those who love their lives will destroy them’’! Not He will destroy them but rather those who possess those lives will. In other words: We are not qualified, nor should trust ourselves with the valuable gift of life that has been imparted to us by God with all its magnificent possibilities. Placed in His hands, we now step into the divine potential those lives were meant to have.
Never one to present a dilemma without including a resolve, Jesus unveils the solution. Empty yourself of yourself and I will fill you with Myself. All of you for all of Me. Trade the inferior for the superior. Possessing nothing will free you from having to protect anything. Occupy nowhere so that I can occupy everywhere. It’s an invitation of supreme significance. One I find irresistible with its implications being far beyond my imaginations ability to comprehend.
The ‘’great exchange’’ is sounding incredibly beneficial to be considered sacrificial. I think we may have gotten the ‘’blessed one’’ in this transaction backwards. In our mentioned scripture reference, I hear the caring tone of my Lord’s voice inviting me into the deeper waters of His heart while strongly informing my heart that I will never be all I can be until the ‘’me’’ gets out of the way. Therefore doing so, is in my best interest.
I’m reminded of the Garden of Gethsemane scene when Jesus declares to his arresters: ‘‘No man takes my life, I lay it down’’. In a similar fashion, I feel Jesus speaking personally to me saying: No one can ‘‘take’‘ your life but if you will voluntarily emulate Me and lay it down, I will pick it up and like My Father resurrected Me I will do likewise for you. I can do so much more through you if you will eliminate yourself from the equation. If offered, I will take your inferior and give you back My superior. My goodness; How can that be anything other than amazing?
[_In the end I have an eerie feeling I cheat myself from my ‘‘what could be glorious’‘ when I overvalue Bill. While trying to retain something of questionable significance I end up losing everything of true value. It would be tragic to find out after the fact, what could have been but never was! _]
So back to my titled question: Sacrificial ? Absolutely not! Beneficial? Euphorically yes! My every moment refrain should thankfully be: ‘‘I’d rather have Jesus than ‘‘anything’‘ this world affords today’‘. Radical? Extreme? Not at all! Those twin dynamics happened 2,000 years ago on a cross. Mine is simply an appropriate response to my Lord’s ‘’radicle and extreme’’.
My conclusion: When I lay my life down at the feet of Jesus, I do myself a favor. And all of heaven says: AMEN!
[_ Luke 12 - 12 : ‘‘For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say’‘._]
I and my long-time friend and ‘‘sister’‘ Pragna, like to chat. Well to be honest the word chat doesn’t accurately describe our Saturday phone conversations from England. Marathons of between six and seven hours really can’t be called ‘‘chats’‘. We have mentioned on occasion that our initial intent isn’t a Guinness World Book Of Records qualifier, but the end result always is and without complaint!
Time passes effortlessly as if not existing as we immerse ourselves in talk about our great and glorious God. It would seem we have proven this scripture to be fact: ‘‘Where two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, there He will be in their midst’’.
It’s the Holy Spirits invited by us inclusion, that transforms idle conversations into wonderful times of ministry as spirit speaks to spirit on a three-way basis. I am blessed to have a person who equally enjoys communicating with our mutual Shepherd at the center of the commune.
The Holy Spirits involvement in our ‘‘everything’‘ is the very essence that changes life itself from ‘‘mundane religious boredom’‘ into ‘‘spiritually florescent reality’‘. It’s never about where we are but rather, WHO is with us that makes all the difference as we journey with Him as guide and orchestrator of our footsteps. With His one touch, the seemingly small and meaningless can become the big and meaningful.
[_ Improvisational life with the Holy Spirit is exciting beyond measure! We must never think we are anywhere, with anyone, at any time, doing anything, by accident or coincidence. God has a well-designed plan for our every step as I would once again confirm today._]
At the drug store I frequent in the area, I officially met a beautiful young lady named Mary. I had on two occasions, the privilege of saying ‘‘good morning’‘ to her but nothing much more than that. Well today was very different. She sought me out with a boisterous; ‘’I’m so glad you are here today’‘, as she proceeded to share her news.]
This was her last day on the job as Mary’s co-op had ended. She explained that she would be desperately looking for a new summer job, with this as the reason: ‘‘I have a condition that I’m not able to stay at home during the day’‘. A condition? What could that mean I wondered, so I asked. ‘‘My parents are abusive to the extreme and I simply can’t stand being around them’‘. And the tears flowed!
Imagine for a moment: I’m pretty well a perfect stranger. Mary barely knew me! Why was she so comfortable in sharing the private ‘‘goings on’‘ in her home with me? May I strongly suggest THE HOLY SPIRIT.
There’s no other reason why she would think I’d care less unless HE helped her think it. We talked for about twenty minutes during which I told her, that as much as her parents gave
her birth, they were not her Creator. I then proceeded to reveal God’s viewpoint regarding her worth and asked Mary to embrace it with both hands and never let go, accepting it as the final authoritative word concerning her value. She thanked me and requested that we stay in touch. I left her my email address. We will chat again!
The Holy Spirit while being invisible, is the most tangibly powerful dynamic in our lives. He’s always desiring to speak into the hearts of others through us. That makes us privileged and trusted participants in Heaven’s plan! As previously mentioned: That’s exciting!
‘‘Lasting’‘ answers to our spiritual dilemmas are not found by repeating parroted biblical clichéd mantras over and over again in the midst of our real life issues.
No doubt, we can achieve temporal relief from that practice, but in the end like all positive thinking medications it will wear off leading us back to where we started.
God offers something with a far greater permanency factor; Resurrection Lifestyles! You see, we can know and say all the ‘‘right things’‘ while simultaneously ‘‘acting on’‘, none of them. We can sit in our boats ‘‘assuming’‘ the ability to walk on water while never actually having done it. We can become intellectual water walkers with dry feet. We can become complacent with simply knowing it. If we were tested based on what we know we’d pass with flying colors. The query in need of answering is; do our lives verify what we know? Our clichés while encompassing the truth can easily become no more than spiritual pacifiers, rather than life changers.
Question: When does the empowering truth of God’s word, empower us in our daily lives? When does it transform us out of our ‘‘back seat’‘ timidity status to ‘’front seat’’ resurrection boldness? When do we stop being dictated to and start dictating to? When do we join heaven’s chorus and shout with absolute assurance; If God is for us, who can be against us [_in victorious jubilation with a sincere emphaticness that dispels all things that don’t align themselves with that truth? _]
The answer: When God’s promises and truths move south from our minds and memorization skills, to that sacred place of residence; our hearts. Faith resides in hearts not minds. Our individual walks with God are meant to be experiential to the extreme, radiating reality with each and every step we take.
While the mind busily occupies itself reasoning, diluting and debating faith as to its practical relevance, it’s the heart that turns God provided faith into perspective changing fact. Do we ‘‘repeat’‘ truth over and over again or do we ‘‘act on’‘ truth over and over again?
One, leads to a life of cliché-ism while the second explodes into a life of real-ism, where God’s sovereign reality is at the center of all conclusions. God’s limitlessness is not discovered as a tangible reality by simply knowing but rather experiencing what we know.
When they came to the tomb of Jesus, they found the stone had been rolled away by an angel.
That stone wasn’t displaced to let Jesus out but rather to allow us access to experience and see first-hand what God had done as confirmed by the angel as he said in Matthew 28 – 6: [_’‘He is not here, He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay’‘. _]
I just finished reading and re-reading a more than ‘‘three hundred’‘ year old Christian classic entitled; ‘‘The Practise Of The Presence Of God’’, written by the closest friend and spiritual confidant of a man identified as Brother Lawrence, after his passing..
Presented autobiographically, it is written by a closely intimate observer, in its portrayal of Lawrence’s life. It chronicles his all-consuming adoration, passion and love for God and God’s presence. One in the same, I’m thinking.
Oh how he valued and cherished God’s presence above all. Almost painfully so as the pages would progressively reveal. Pain with an expectancy I suspect. Like a woman giving birth. Have you ever read something that so clearly describes everything your heart wants to be, but isn’t? It leaves you desirous and breathless simultaneously! Envious while being deflated within your own humbling awareness of lack. A strange two-some to navigate around no doubt.
Perhaps ‘‘navigating around it’‘ isn’t the point, but rather ‘‘hungering for it’‘ is God’s desired direction for my response!
It’s not a long book with its less than one hundred pages in total. But my goodness it’s a vision changer. Its considered ‘‘classic’‘ status is by no means an over-statement!
So, what do I do with this offering of insightfully profound literature? One based on a man’s experience rather than a man’s theory. Thus valuable.
Do I place it back on the shelf to collect dust along with my now well established appreciation for Brother Lawrence as a follower of Jesus? Is that what I do? Or do I pile it on top of the other books that proclaim through other’s personal testimonies, the value of complete surrender to Jesus and then carry on with my ‘‘as is’‘ intact and undisturbed. Is that what I do? Or perhaps do I do this?
Look into the eyes of my beautiful Shepherd and with all the sincerity I can muster, declare to His heart: There is ‘‘no part’‘ of me worthy of retaining, if the cost is ‘‘any part’‘ of you Jesus’‘.
[_Once again ‘’Thank You Brother Lawrence” for your to be applauded example and thanks be to God it was documented. _]
A quote from the writer describing his friend Lawrence’s mode of existence; He learned to cultivate the deep presence of God so thoroughly in his own[_ ]heart that he was able to joyfully exclaim,[ _]‘‘I am doing now what I will be doing for all eternity. I am blessing God, praising Him, adoring Him, and loving Him with all my heart’’.
A quote from Lawrence; ‘‘Everything[_ _]should be an expression of my love for God no matter how menial the task’’. Everything? That’s serious and seriously impressive!
I’m aware the ‘‘state of being’‘ described in our text won’t simply fall on me as if it were an entitlement for simply showing up to some religious party.
There’s nothing scripturally or historically speaking that even infers, casual and complacent will get me to my desired destination of total immersion in my Lord’s presence.
[My longing is to ‘‘dwell’‘ not ‘‘visit’’. I’m convinced there’s a voluntary hungering and thirsting involved on my part to complete this spiritual transaction. That reality doesn’t intimidate nor discourage me, but rather inspires and enlightens my heart as to the supreme value of profound intimacy with _][_Jesus, _]He best described as ‘‘the object of my affection’‘. ‘‘I[ ]want to[ ]know Christ[ ] and the power of His resurrection’‘, not as a memorized scripture verse but an everyday reality! ‘‘Radiantly real’‘ or ‘‘nothing at all’‘ are my two choices of preference. Hot or cold but God forbid, not luke-warm. Hopefully having the[ ]‘‘want to’‘[ _]opens the door, enabling God to accomplish in me what I so desire; A removal of self! I pray to that end.
Words from an old worship chorus derived[_ ]from[ Jeremiah 29 -13 ]come to mind as extremely applicable and seriously[ ]instructional.[ ‘‘You shall seek Me and you shall find Me when_] you seek [Me with all your heart’‘. _][_It would seem, ‘‘all my heart’‘ is the price for such riches. That truth motivates and propels my desire forward as I embrace the scripturally included promise from God; _][’‘You Shall Find Me’‘_].
It’s been said and correctly so: ‘‘The road less travelled isn’t a crowded path to sojourn while on planet earth’‘. That being true, there must be room for one more sheep!
[_All things temporal have no ability to create ‘‘lasting’‘ joy with their already built in worldly expiry dates attached. It’s not their fault for failure, it’s ours for expecting them to provide that which they can’t then becoming frustrated when they don’t. _]
High above the things of this world Jesus stands at the ready to impart ‘‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’‘. Joy everlasting, in that its Provider is incorruptible and unchangingly eternal. No shelf life or expiry date. Its source is perfect therefore its quality is likewise.
[_Even the ‘‘new whatever’‘ with its momentary euphoria soon becomes old as does the euphoric emotion that once belonged to the acquisition. _]
The joy that our Lord provides ‘‘detaches’‘ our emotional dependence on this world and ‘‘attaches’‘ us to heaven’s provision.
Therefore it is not contingent on circumstances but rather transcends circumstances.
Peter and John considered it ‘‘joy’‘ to be flogged for the name of Jesus! Either they were masochistically insane or were living in a ‘‘joy’‘ that was so transcendent that it could not be shaken. A ‘’joy’‘ that had nothing to do with worldly content.
So I’m thinking: True joy isn’t an ‘‘emotion’‘ but rather an imparted by God characteristic of Jesus! ‘‘The joy of the Lord is our strength’‘!
If the world didn’t give it to us, it equally can’t take it away. Thus, safe and secure from theft and deterioration.
Joy is our ‘‘cross purchased’‘ inheritance. _][_One we have every right to and one that heaven directs and encourages us to immerse ourselves in.
[_It was quite a while ago when I met my young gentleman friend. I can’t remember how long but I definitely remember it was a Monday. _]
I should preface my commentary by mentioning that I talk to everything that breathes. They all deserve to have their existences acknowledged ‘’as important’’, so I do.
As a long-time but now retired courier, I discovered elevators to be the most anointed places of conversational ministry.
Captive type audiences realize there is no way out, therefore my fellow travellers momentary captivity always worked nicely to mine and God’s advantage.
He was only twenty two years of age. As the elevator door closed I greeted him with a; ‘‘Good morning, how are you today’‘. My soon to be friend responded with: ‘‘Terrible, I hate Mondays.
‘‘All Mondays or just this one’‘, I queried. ‘‘Yup, every single one of them, he repeated, ‘‘I’ve always hated Mondays’! ‘‘I can fix that’‘, I offered.
And the ‘‘chat’‘ was officially on! ‘‘Do you realize that’s one seventh of your life you have already deemed as hated. Are you sure you can afford that luxury’‘? He commented: ‘‘It’s always been and always will be that way’‘.
The descriptive ‘‘always’‘ sounded a little dramatic for having lived only twenty two years but out of concern I repeated: ‘‘I can fix that if you wish’‘.
[_’‘Take your best shot’‘ he consented, with a challenging tone of doubt regarding my confident claim. _]
‘‘OK, follow me’‘, I said as I directed him to his needed final conclusion. ‘‘If today is Monday then yesterday was Sunday. Yesterday in the city of Toronto hundreds of people in hospitals and elsewhere were praying for one more day and didn’t get it.
You fortunately did and you are complaining about it. Does that make sense to you at all’‘?
It took my friend a few moments to speak these life changing words, but he did eventually get them out. ‘‘NO, and thank you. I’ll never forget what you just said. That was powerful’‘!
Folks, perspective is powerful when it’s emphatically truthful!
[_1 Thessalonians 5 – 18: ‘‘Give thanks in all circumstances ( even on Mondays ) for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’‘. _]
The unavoidable qualifier to the quality of spiritual content in our choices is always found in the ‘‘motivation’‘. There is one ‘‘choice’‘ that transcends all others in the light of the One it impacts.
[_It’s important to recognize; it’s a choice that selflessly and totally excludes me as its benefactor. _]
[_I have the choice to love God. _][_That’s amazing! Especially when I factor in this truth; He gave me the indwelling ability to do so! It’s a spiritually super-natural dynamic to be able to love the ‘‘un-seen’‘ or ‘‘never-seen’‘ and yet we can. _]
It’s not a decision that can be lectured or coaxed out of me. It can’t be legislated as in ‘‘I have to’‘. I can’t be guilted or shamed into it. It’s completely voluntary. Don’t you find it compelling that God honors are right to choose? I have thought at times; would it have been in God’s best interest to ‘‘make us’‘ love Him? He could have quite easily.
So why did He leave us on our own to make such a monumental decision? Why did He expose his heart to the possibility of rejection? Did he not ‘‘so love the world’‘ to be loved back? The short answer is, No. He loved the world voluntarily, graciously and selflessly by choice.
He then left it up to the world to reciprocate in kind by choice thus making the world’s response contextually legitimate in His sight. God has no appetite for forced legislated love. What Father would?
By us activating this privileged ‘‘gift of choice’‘ what might heaven’s desired result be?
That we would bless the heart of God voluntarily, personally, intimately and selflessly, thereby creating a relationship of mutual two-way blessing between God and ourselves. A relationship containing profound importance from both perspectives.
Sometimes we peruse the landscape of the ‘’big picture’’ and conclude we are ‘‘very little fish’‘ in a ‘‘very big pond’‘. May I encourage you to embrace this truth. God does not get loved by ‘‘schools’‘ of fish. It’s one fish at a time as we step up and place at His feet our ‘‘choice’‘ to offer Him our love simply because we can and desire to do so. Imagine, we as individuals have ‘‘the privilege of choice’‘ to bless the heart of the Creator of the universe. Little fish? I think not!
He loved us ‘‘first’‘ thereby setting the standard. It’s truly our choice whether to reciprocate in kind. I love ‘‘the privilege’‘ when it comes to other matters but I must remember the ‘’purpose of privilege’’ has far greater implications than to serve my best interests!
I can’t bring my ‘‘perfection’‘ to Him seeing as I don’t have any. But I do have love and it does my heart good to know I bless His. As is always the case, choices include priorities. Perhaps with one of this supreme importance and magnitude, it’s a ‘‘first things first’‘ type of thing. As previously mentioned; He loved me ‘’first’’ therefore I will love Him ‘’first’’.
Perhaps better said; I can honor God ‘’first’’ or honor Him ‘’only’’. In choosing the second option I’m thinking the ‘’first’’ will take care of itself!
It’s amazing how all the other priorities in our lives get well taken care of when we put; ‘’First Things First’’.
John 3 – 17: ‘‘For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him’‘.
[_Bethlehem is a very profoundly pivotal geographical location on planet earth. In fact there is none like it! It was there God birthed ‘‘hope’‘ to the ‘‘hopeless’‘ in the form of a baby. _]
[_I’ve often wondered, why an infant? Why not have Jesus ‘‘descend’‘ as a thirty year old in a like manner as He ‘‘ascended’‘ as a thirty three year old. Was His first thirty years necessary, knowing His actual ministry lasted only three years? _]
Did the accumulated calluses He acquired on His hands as He apprenticed as a carpenter under the tutelage of his Father have purpose? We know God doesn’t make it up as He goes. There’s always a purpose that parallels His ultimate plan. As we speak, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father as our advocate, representing and defending us in Heaven.
His sacrifice not only purchased our forgiveness but equally His authority as our counsel to speak on our behalf. To legitimately do so, He had to live among us. He had to experience humanness. He had to experience a broken heart to sympathize with our at times brokenness. He had to walk in our emotional shoes to feel what the blisters of life felt like. In short: He had to know what it was like to be us.
Therefore, He voluntarily leaves His ivory tower existence in heaven to come as a baby. In love He empties Himself to become one of us. We can only imagine what a massive ‘‘step down’‘ that was for Jesus. We can only imagine the quality of love that would motivate Him to gladly agree to such a demotion. We can only imagine the loving intensity of His heart as He willingly came to us, knowing we couldn’t come to Him. In Bethlehem, Hope Met Hopeless and we are the benefactors of God’s desired introduction!
Hebrews 4 – 14 > 16: ‘‘Therefore since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are – yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need’‘.
[_I’m so glad there were no short cuts implemented in God’s plan for His visitation in the flesh. _]
I find great comfort in knowing, Jesus knows what it’s like to be me. Thank you Lord for all thirty three years.
[_ While leaving church a few weeks ago I noticed a very frustrated young male parking attendant trying to, as best as he could, orchestrate the safe passage of those exiting._]
As I crawled up close enough to be heard, I decided to impart a touch of levity to hopefully save the fellow from exploding. I with tongue in cheek counselled: Tell them ‘‘the first shall be last’‘.
My attempt at humour worked as he broke into a thankful laughter of relief. But he did have something of a profound nature to say before I made my way past him and out into the street.
He shared: ‘‘I don’t know what ‘‘they’‘ look and sound like in the building but things sure do change when they leave’’. He had obviously manned his post-church ministry position long enough to have established a well founded by experience opinion. An opinion that stuck with me throughout that day and in fact, many subsequent days after.
It became personally introspective to me as a possible explanation for many of the issues we have in life, leaving me with this question: Do we have a Jesus on-off switch? One that’s ‘‘ON’‘ just long enough to get our church attendance star, but never ‘‘ON’‘ so long as to interfere in our ‘‘out of church’‘ lives. Have we made ‘‘church attendance’‘ the point and not the One who is the singular reason for church?
If we met on a Wednesday at a coffee shop, would Jesus be the center of attention as He was for an hour or so on Sunday, or is that a mindset that gets re-visited next Sunday? Did we leave Him there last Sunday with a sense of confidence that He will still be there when we return?
Or did we bring Jesus with us to accompany our every breath. This is where we could jump into a theological discussion regarding, Jesus always being with us as an indwelling presence in our lives, which is true. So, perhaps the better way to pose the question should be: Do we care about His presence or is that a ‘‘Sunday to care about’‘ thing. The Switch!
I’m so thankful for my long time two closest friends Shila and Pragna. This dynamic duo are natural sisters to each other, while being sisters in Christ to me.
We lean heavily on the second as being the one of supreme importance. We talk a lot, quickly getting through the at times necessary somewhat trivial, to get to the ‘‘good stuff’‘. We are aware, the ‘‘Darling Of Heaven’‘ Jesus awaits, wishing to impart His magnificent ministry to our hearts as we invite Him to be the center piece of our times together. He never disappoints as we eventually part company more deeply in love with our Redeemer while looking forward to our next chat.
I don’t think we have a switch but if we do it’s stuck in the ‘‘on’‘ position! We’re aware ‘‘The Switch’‘ is our enemy with its always available options of convenience. Options that tend to apply the ‘’pause button’’ to our moment by moment relationship with God.
Options of convenience come at a high price. In this case, too high!
We are a bride with a groom, thus married to Christ. What marriage could possible sustain an attention span of an hour or so per week? The cost of a switch is therefore unaffordable!
Apart from the already mentioned massive benefits of being ‘‘switchless’‘, here’s a side benefit you might be interested in considering.
You attract ‘‘switchless’‘ spectacular Jesus lovers into your life.
My lady friends gladly invest themselves in my daily writing with their much appreciated layers of inspiration. Shila is my anointed spelling corrector while Pragna is the official Holy Spirit filled cheerleader of ‘’Reflections Of A Sheep’’.[_ How cool is that!_]
The word itself sounds ‘‘heavy’‘ doesn’t it. A kind of dreary dark vow of commitment to a ‘‘Monk Like’‘ lifestyle.
[_No laughing, no joy, no talking, no: Well, just no everything! _]
Nothing could be further from the truth. Consecrated simply means giving back for God’s use, what He gave to us in the first place: Our lives!
We do so with an understanding that it is in fact His complete inclusion in our lives that makes our lives worth living.
The enhancement factor of a life committed to Jesus simply cannot be equalled or measured.
[_Therefore being in one’s heart consecrated is a trusted and privileged opportunity to participate in heavens plan for others. _]
It’s all the colors of the rainbow and so much more!
The bible describes it as: Abundant Life! Not beige, nor brown, nor off-white but rather magnificently and colorfully radiant!
The consecrated life style is so beautifully depicted in this great song of the church:
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated Lord to thee
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise
Let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee
Take my voice and let me sing
Always only for my King
Always only for my King
Take my will and make it Thine
It shall be no longer mine
Take my heart it is Thine own
It shall be Thy royal throne
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Nothing ‘’drearily heavy’’ here. In fact it’s spiritually enticing as I see it. ‘’Used by God’’. What could be more thrilling than that! Consecrated is a desired in us response, to the One who gave His all for us. Not out of guilt nor an attempt to pay back, but rather a birthed in our hearts loving need to say thank you. No more and no less!
[_I highly doubt there has ever been penned three more powerful words than these: God with us! _]
The three words that changed everything, shaking the entire world to its foundations with heavens profound announcement; ‘’You on planet earth have very important company’’!
This is life altering massive news! The God of the Universe is with us!
[_Right now! This very moment! Intimately! Personally! Passionately! Emphatically! He isn’t ‘‘sort of’‘ with us, He is ‘‘absolutely’‘ with us! It isn’t hypothetically theoretical, it’s realistically factual! It’s radical! God is with us in every way imaginable that one can be with another! _]
God wants us to acknowledge and be overwhelmed by that truth, as we explode into our days with this revolutionary revelation branded on our hearts. As is my usual pre-sleep routine, I cued up some good music to listen to, landing on an old worship chorus. As the lyrics washed over my soul their truth left me in absolute awe. My goodness, God is with us! May we never relegate that thought’s hugeness into something smaller to accommodate our finite minds comfort levels with being blown away.
Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior glorious Lord
Immanuel God is with us
Blessed Redeemer living Word
Truly amazing! I’ll sleep well tonight!
Matthew 1 – 23: ‘‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel ( which means ‘‘GOD WITH US’‘ ). I never get tired of hearing that!
Contentment is not found in the understanding of all things but rather in intimately knowing the One who does.
1 Timothy 6 – 6: ‘‘But godliness with contentment is ‘‘great gain’‘.
Philippians 4 – 12: ‘‘I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the ‘‘secret’‘ to being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want’‘.
Proverbs 19 – 23: ‘‘The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble’‘.
My goodness! Doesn’t this sound like a spiritually fragrant atmosphere to spend our days in! It has a kind of, euphoric flavor to it.
Well, before we proceed let’s be sure we aren’t over simplifying the word or confusing it with another word.
‘‘Content’‘ and ‘‘Happy’‘ are not the same. Happy is externally motivated. Its life span is always determined by the next event, good or bad.
Contentment, while not necessarily changing the immediate circumstances of life, does change ‘‘us’‘ in the middle of circumstances.
Here’s the wonderful transcendency of contentment over happiness.
Contentment is a choice that is not contingent on anything other than our choice to choose it! Contentment derives its legitimacy from that sacred place where we intimately commune with Jesus.
[_You will notice that the descriptive ‘‘happy’‘ is suspiciously missing in our scripture references. The Apostle Paul said: ‘‘I have learned the ‘‘secret’‘ to being content. I think ‘‘happys’‘ absence is the secret. _]
Paul had learned the superiority of one over the other and decided to live in the superior! In Paul’s life, his frequent visits to prison we not happy occasions. Being beaten by his enemies and often left for dead would also be disqualified as ‘‘happy times’‘.
So what was Paul talking about? You see happiness and contentment are far more than semantics meaning the same thing. They are two totally different mindsets with two totally different net results. I think Paul is saying: Happy is fine but there is something so much more valuable available to us.
Paul’s ‘‘secret’‘ was found in his desire to be consistently ‘‘mindful’‘ within the context of what and Who he knew. His circumstances were completely unrelated to his contentment.
So, what did Paul base his contentment on? What could be so incredible as to have him relegate his circumstantial life so emphatically, as confirmed in Philippians 3 – 8: ‘‘I consider everything a loss because of the ‘‘surpassing worth’‘ of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them ‘‘garbage’‘ that I may gain Christ’‘.
For Paul, the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus was the singular component to his sense of peace, reward, joy, and yes contentment. A worth that was understood by Paul as never changing, thus eternally significant beyond measure. All else he concluded was fleetingly trivial by comparison.
Paul would also say in: Philippians 3 -10 : ‘‘I want to know Christ – Yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death’‘. Paul wasn’t saying he wanted to die but rather ‘‘die to himself’‘ in order to become more ‘‘alive’‘ in Christ. Thus; ‘’the power of His resurrection’’.
[_All resurrections must be prefaced by a death and Paul knew it as he wrote: ‘‘For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain’‘: Philippians 1 – 21. _]
Was Paul simply an extremist or did he realize, the extent of his contentment was directly related to the extent of his ‘‘knowing Christ’‘.
I’m thinking, Paul came to a place in his spiritual life when he understood: There’s ‘‘knowing’‘ and then there’s ‘‘KNOWING’‘, and chose the deeper waters of the capitalized version of the word as his preferred lifestyle.
A version that made Paul the powerfully undeterred man he was as he lived out this mindset; I don’t have the luxury of waiting for my freedom to be content, therefore I will choose to be so in my imprisonment.
Contentment is Heaven’s antidote for the ups and downs of ‘‘fair weather faith’’. It also removes us from the spiritual roller coaster we can find ourselves on when ‘‘happy’‘ is entrenched as ‘‘the ultimate goal’‘. So, is being happy wrong? No, as long as we realize that it can and will change, thus not a mentality to attach our spiritual well-being to.
Contentment when displayed ‘‘in spite of circumstances’‘, is powerfully persuasive to a world that can barely spell the word! Contentment maintains our calmness and stability during the storms of life. Contentment says; I may not always be able to be happy but by the grace of God I can always be content, by choice!
[_How often we question God when it comes to our lives. Why ‘‘did’‘ this or that happen? Why ‘‘didn’t’‘ this or that happen? The ‘’created’’ challenging the ‘’Creator’’ seems to be the thing most humans feel entitled to do and truth be known, we all do it at one time or another. We can be a touch ‘‘fair-weather’‘ when it comes to our dealings with the Almighty. It’s good He is more than big enough to handle our often ‘’selective short-sightedness’’. _]
But have you noticed, we don’t question ‘‘why’‘ God loves us. We can’t possibly think it’s because we are all so loveable, so we simply accept ‘‘by faith’‘ that He does and leave it there, interestingly not having the need to understand ‘’why’’.
For today’s reflection I would like to step up and ask the never-questioned question and hopefully in the process discover and uncover the heart of God towards us, within all its magnificence?
God’s love is pure and holy. It’s ‘‘gift like’‘ in its makeup. Its texture has a stabilizing effect on our souls. It’s without spot or blemish. It’s perfect in every way! We find ourselves in awe of its unfathomable depth and beauty. It’s not of this world nor tainted by this world. Its dimensions are without measure. Its divinity allows it to be unimaginable yet experiential, simultaneously!
So back to the question: Why God do you love me? Who am I that you would love me? What could I ever have done to warrant such love? What could I ever do to maintain it? I need a ‘‘why’‘ God! There’s always a ‘‘why’’.
Then we hear the sweetest of responses: My child, My love for you isn’t about you but rather Me. I loved you before you knew Me. I am capable of loving you in your most unlovely of states. My love is in fact unconditional and all-sufficient, as is My grace. It’s of a quality your mind is unable to comprehend. It came at a very high cost to Me.
[_Therefore it’s completely secure in that I initiated it. My love isn’t predicated on what you do or don’t do, but rather on what I chose and choose to do. I have chosen to love you, that’s your ‘‘Why’‘. _]
And my soul finds rest in His transcendent love. Thankfully, He doesn’t love me because of me. I would be the never-ending ‘‘weak link’‘ in that scenario.
[_God covered that probability by making Himself the determining factor. _]
What an amazing love, but now I’m left wondering; With all this being true and immensely appreciated by me, if I were to reciprocate by submitting to have my heart expanded by God to accommodate more of Him thus less of me, would I then be better able to love as He loves in all situations with all people, in a likewise un-conditional fashion, simply because I choose to? Now that would be a ‘‘desired result’‘ worthy of pressing into!
Unless of course, I’ve surmised that I am loved because I’m so lovable! Not!!!
Acts 1 – 8: ‘‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’‘.
Those were the last words spoken by Jesus before He ascended to heaven. ‘‘You will receive power’‘, would suggest they didn’t have it at the time of our Lord’s final instructions.
Power is not found in how much we know, nor a specific personality type, but rather the person of the Holy Spirit intimately empowering us. My point: It’s not our power but us allowing by invitation His power to flow through us.
The wonderful news: We all qualify! Under the anointing of the Holy Spirit there are no limits to what God can accomplish through us. Why would there be? He’s God!
A great illustration is found in the third chapter of Acts as we find Peter and John walking down a street on their way to the temple. They come upon a man who was crippled from birth and begging for his daily needs. Peter declares; ‘‘Gold and silver I do not have but what I do have I give you, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’‘!
Later, Peter sets the record straight as the onlookers are amazed by what had happened. ‘‘Fellow Israelites why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk’‘?
So, what did Peter and John have that they didn’t have before Jesus ascended and the Holy Spirit descended? Omni present, promised by Jesus, Power! But as Peter made clear, not their own. The same ‘‘powerless’‘ Peter who had denied Christ was now the ‘‘powerful’‘ Peter. So much so, that later he would pray a dead girl back to life! There is only one explanation for Peter’s transformation from ‘‘coward’‘ to ‘‘courageous’’. Power!
May we all embrace the truth that the same power that inhabited Peter inhabits us all.
Therefore we are to be inhabited, not inhibited. Let’s go out into our worlds under the anointing of the Holy Spirit putting aside our insecurities and fears and watch God be God in all His glory, in us and through us!
For those who hunger to participate, I believe the day is coming when we will be at the grocery store when a lady has a heart attack and we will pray her back to life.
[_Then we like Peter will proclaim; Fellow Canadians why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had brought this lady back to life? It’s in the name of Jesus that she lives! _]
And our Lord will be highly exalted. The news people will have to show up and we will be witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. God will use these events to glorify Himself and make known His reality through His own! Just like in days gone by. Days ‘’too far’’ gone by!
Let’s not be like the young man who goes to the school dance every Friday night, but never actually dances out of intimidating fear. We are all invited! ‘‘Whosoever will may come”.
BTW: When the young man finally broke free from his fears and danced, he discovered he liked it!
Last week I was asked by a friend and fairly new follower of Jesus, the meaning behind water baptism.
After going through all the ‘‘ins and outs’‘ of the subject, I landed on the simple but profoundly sobering answer to her query, complete with a lesson for my heart to embrace.
‘‘Baptism is an external expression of an internal experience’‘, I concluded. A conclusion that echoed in my heart, exposing a truth of great value that will serve me well going forward for the duration of my time on planet earth as a sheep. That description is ‘‘applicable to’‘ and ‘‘indicative of’‘, all I do! Absolutely everything about me resides under its umbrella of influence.
Deuteronomy 13 – 3: ‘‘The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and all your soul’‘.
My first time reading that scripture I interpreted it as ‘‘God’‘ finding out. After much closer consideration it hit me; He already knows, it’s ‘‘me’‘ who God is saying needs to find out! ‘‘The test’‘ is for me to discover what my internal reality is with Him. Heart and soul being internal, will always reflect their hot or cold conditions externally and God knows it.
This is so very reminiscent of Peter’s encounter with Jesus on the shore when our Lord, with plenty to talk about, asks ‘‘the question’‘: Peter do you love me? Equally Jesus knew, it was Peter that needed to answer the question for Peter’s sake. Before Peter is given one drop of instruction he is asked ‘‘the question’‘.
Loving God is the beginning place and foundation to a radiant life in Christ. I was created to be a lover of God. It’s my ‘‘from the beginning’‘ destiny. In doing so I fulfill that destiny. To the extent of my love for Him, will be to the extent that my foundations are sweetly fragranced with His presence. Their textured strength will be equally established by that same love. All ‘‘external expressions’‘ evolve from that sacredly intimate place. Therefore, it would seem of paramount importance that I make periodic temperature checks. In the book of Revelation I am cautioned to be ‘‘Hot’‘. So I’m taking that as the prescribed temperature of my seeking.
I can love many things that are connected to God without loving Him. I can love my church and not love the ‘‘Reason’‘ for my church. I can love worship and not love the ‘‘One’‘ I’m worshiping. I can love writing and not the ‘‘One’‘ who gave me the opportunity to write. I can love singing and not the ‘‘One’‘ who gave me something amazing to sing about. I can love my salvation and not love my Savior!
There’s a story in the bible regarding ten men with leprosy who were all healed by Jesus. While ‘’all’’ were healed, nine of the ten felt no need to say thank you. They loved their healing but not their Healer.
[_We read that story and are mesmerized knowing these nine were afflicted with a slow and painful ‘‘death sentence’‘. One that left them ostracized from community and family. _]
We ask ourselves; How is it possible to be given back ‘‘everything’‘ and not love the ‘‘Giver’‘ enough to say thank you? The ‘’one’’ who did, the bible says was made ‘‘whole’‘. Wholeness is internal! Loving God is the initiator of wholeness, thus fundamentally non-negotiable to my spiritual well-being.
[_ Nine out of ten! 90% is a frightening number but if it shocks me by its size into understanding its commonness, I will hopefully take measures to land in the 10%. It's where reality lives! _]
So today I hear ‘‘the question’‘ ringing in my ears: Bill, do you love Me? You see, Jesus knows that ‘’I need’‘ to know.
My heart tells me, all else is secondary in importance to Him therefore should be secondary in importance to me.
The scene is the crucifixion of Jesus. We have two groups of people in attendance.
First, there are those who knew Jesus and are mourning His soon to be death. As a group they are experiencing their worst nightmare! All their time spent together with Him, the promises that were repeated over and over again by Him, nor the magnificent miracles they saw Him perform, could pierce through the grotesque darkness of what they were beholding. No one is saying: ‘‘Jesus said He would rise again on the third day. It’s going to be OK’‘. No, not even his Mother or closest disciple John could muster up a single word of hope.
Their grief had blinded and deafened them to what ‘‘had been’‘ said, done, and promised. The visual they were exposed to had broken their hearts and faith. Post-crucifixion, they would all confirm this truth by returning to their pre-Jesus lives and even when visiting the tomb of Jesus, they were not expecting a resurrected Savior, thus shocked to find His body missing.
Coping with their loss was now their new reality. Their reason for breathing had just died and with it died their purpose. Jesus was their everything and He was gone. They had no ‘‘what’s next’‘ on the menu. We can only imagine the depth of their total sense of lostness.
The second group were the ‘‘mockers’‘. Those who found the event entertaining and a perfect opportunity to hurl insults at who they assumed, was a helpless man hanging on a cross. His executioners were man who enjoyed participating in torturous behavior.
Others would have been some of those present at moment of decision regarding Barabbas or Jesus as to which would be set free. They likely dropped by to take one last shot at justifying their blood thirsty screams of ‘‘crucify Him’‘.
So, we have our two attending groups. The ‘‘mourners’‘ and the ‘‘mockers’‘.
Neither truly understanding the massive significance of what was transpiring, each with their own debilitating reasons why. But in the middle of this myriad of sadistic insanity and broken hearts, heaven speaks a magnificent word of clarification through the ‘‘least likely’‘ mouth!
As we know Jesus was crucified with two other men, both criminals, one on each side of Him.
[As we draw close and listen to the dialogue between Jesus and one of those men, heaven’s choice as to who God chose to speak His clarifying truth through, is revealed as recorded in _] [ Luke 23 - 42 & 43 : ‘’Then he ( the criminal ) said, ‘‘Jesus remember me when You come into Your Kingdom’’. Apart from our Lord’s subsequent: ‘‘It is finished’‘, that was the most profound statement of the day! That man didn’t say ‘‘if You do’‘, he said ‘‘when You do’‘ enter into Your Kingdom. The only one who ‘‘got it’‘ was a criminal hanging on a cross being executed for his crimes. I don’t believe on his way to Calvary that man ‘‘got it’’. I don’t believe when they were driving the nails in his hands and feet, that man ‘‘got it’‘._]
[_I do believe that in a moment in time heaven ‘‘gave it’‘ to him to proclaim and suddenly he knew that the One hanging next to him was in fact the Son of God and based on that, ‘‘the man’‘ had a seriously time sensitive request: ‘‘Jesus remember me’’. _]
I didn’t know who you were before, and I’m not exactly sure how I know now, but I do. So please ‘’remember me ‘‘WHEN’‘ You come into Your Kingdom’‘. And our wonderful Lord responds in verse 43: Jesus answered him, ‘‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’‘.
Just imagine after seeing and hearing for hours from both groups for different reasons, the ‘‘it’s over’‘ visual and audio, heaven in a heart beat drops this revelation into the man’s soul; IT’S NOT OVER! And you, the most ‘‘unlikely of all’‘ are the only one present, who knows that reality at the moment!
Don’t you just love God’s ‘‘least likely’‘ recruits! The next time you discount your ‘‘usability status’‘ based on your self-thought ‘‘un-likeliness of choice’‘ remember our friend in today’s reflection. We’re still talking about him and we don’t even know the man’s name.
[_Our ‘‘nameless’‘ little boy with a few fishes and loaves still finds his way into Sunday church messages. _]
There was a widow with ‘‘no name’‘ who gave a penny ( a mite ) for the needy that Jesus found so incredibly impressive, He gave her honorable mention in the bible.
You see it’s not about them nor about us, but rather our great God who loves using the ‘‘least likely’‘, thus qualifying all, as useable in the outworking of heaven’s story!
Philippians 4 - 4 > 9 : ‘‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. Whatever you have learned, or received of, or heard from me, or seen in me, put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you’‘.
Wow, what a challenge! What Paul is describing in our scripture reference is not remotely ‘‘common’‘ with its ‘‘always’‘ qualifier. This isn’t descriptive of: When everything’s going my way, rejoice. Nor, when I’ve gotten what I wanted, rejoice. No, this is a ‘‘regardless of the weather’‘ lifestyle the Apostle Paul is laying out for the Philippians to embrace and follow. We know that Paul’s life was far from trouble free to the extreme, so when he says always, he’s talking about some serious scenarios.
So I wonder: What would be the net result if I immersed myself without wavering in Paul’s instruction. He gives us a sneak preview at the end of verse nine to the likely impact: ‘’And the God of peace will be with you’’ and earlier stated: ‘’And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’’.
I believe my spiritual and emotional life ( heart and mind ) would be transformed! Now that sounds like a worthy cause to invest my energies in!
2 Corinthians 3 – 18: ‘‘And we all who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit’‘.
What a powerful scripture! We are literally being transformed into His image with ‘‘ever increasing’‘ glory. No casual dormancy inferred here. No I’m sitting at the side of the ‘‘road less traveled’‘ in ‘‘neutral’‘. What’s being described here is emphatically active and intensely ongoing. We who have been granted, ‘‘with unveiled faces’‘, access to the ‘’progressive’’ unveiling of our Shepherd’s glory, find ourselves spiritually expectant with the anticipation of wider, higher, and deeper promised revelations of Jesus to behold. As we breathe, we are constantly being exposed to a clearer visual, then re-invented to reflect a more glorious likeness of the One we call, Altogether Lovely! Now that’s never endingly exciting!
We know Jesus, as seen from any perspective is beautiful. It would seem, His beauty is such that it can’t be ingested in one sitting so we are brought back to His banquet table over and over again to delight in Him from different angles, thereby knowing Him better. Knowing Him better always results in loving Him more! Loving Him more always results in wanting to be more like Him. ‘‘From glory to glory’‘!
Imagine, our Lord’s beauty is so magnificent that we have to be fed it incrementally one drop at a time. I’m guessing God knows, anything more intense would stop our hearts.
[_This is our Shepherd! How incredibly blessed and privileged we are to have been given by grace, the opportunity to partner with Him as His sheep! _]
Zechariah 9 – 16: ‘‘The Lord their God will save His people on that day as a Shepherd saves His flock. They will sparkle in His land like jewels in a crown’‘.
[_And the more we become like our Shepherd the brighter we will sparkle! The revelation of Jesus can never be exhausted. He’s that magnificent! There’s always more of His loveliness to discover. _]
Don’t you just love being a sheep!
Matthew 28 - 16 > 20 : And Jesus came and spoke to them saying, ‘‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you; And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’‘.
I find it profoundly interesting that immediately after Jesus enlightens His disciples to His all authority status, He says GO! These disciples had spent three years with Jesus. They had seen Him perform many astounding miracles. They saw Him crucified, buried and raised from the dead. Therefore they knew He had serious authority!
Up until then Jesus ‘‘did the doing” and they ‘‘watched’’. Jesus ‘‘taught the teachings’‘ and they ‘‘listened’‘. They themselves had basically done nothing at all, YET! So, their Lord’s final words were not a reminder regarding Him but rather an announcement concerning them: ‘‘Things are about to change on a massive scale’’, for you! The authority I have, will soon indwell you by My Spirit.
Therefore GO, DO, and TEACH in My name, using My ‘‘residing in you’‘ authority! The things you have seen me do, greater things than these you will do!
[_Shockingly empowering words spoken by Jesus but to his disciples, declarations that had to be strangely confusing. _]
Their leader was about to leave, with instructions that to them in their immediate natural, must have seemed impossible. Jesus also threw these words of mystery into the equation: ‘‘It’s good that I leave’‘. How is that a ‘‘good thing’‘, they must have wondered.
[_They were so stunned that after Jesus ascended, angels had to appear asking the disciples the question: Why are you still standing here? _]
Peter likely thought: We’re taking a moment to process what we just heard and seen. It’s all a little overwhelming!
[_Jesus, in His final words to His disciples made two major information imparting and confidence instilling statements that need to ring true in our lives today. Statements of extreme clarity, comfort, empowered enablement, and assurance for us all. Thus, the reason Jesus waited until the last second to announce them. ‘’Last words spoken are seldom forgotten’’. _]
‘‘First’‘: I have been given all authority. ‘‘Second’‘: I am with you, therefore the authority that I speak of will be residing in you always. Translated to our personal lives: I have all authority for you to use as you speak Heaven’s viewpoints into the issues of your world and I will always be with you and in you! ALL and ALWAYS are emphatically powerful words! By His Spirit Jesus has taken up ‘‘permanent’‘ residence as the overseer of our lives.
Whether on the ‘‘mountain top’‘ or in the ‘‘valley’‘, the same truth applies, always. A truth we are encouraged by our Lord to embrace with both hands and never let go.
[_These statements of Jesus can be trusted as fact. They are the foundation to our ‘‘new reality’‘. _]
[_A reality that is ‘‘in the world’‘ but does not adhere or bend a knee to ‘‘the world’‘. We are no longer victims of circumstance, we are circumstance overcomers. In fact we are circumstance changers! _]
As His children ‘‘things have changed’‘ for us, as was the case with these disciples of Jesus.
[_ We neither have to, or are encouraged to, be common or ordinary in the way we live life. As we walk in our inherited changes, Goliath’s will fall. They have no real choice. We are called, anointed and ‘‘authorized’‘ to dominate, not be dominated!_]
When we entered into this spiritually intimate relationship with Jesus our external was never again meant to have predominance over our conclusionary thinking.
From the inside out is our ‘‘new’‘ direction and directive. Our internal dictating to our external in heavenly imparted ‘‘all-authority’‘ power!
Isaiah 48 – 17: ‘‘This is what the Lord says, your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel. I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should GO’‘.
What our Lord teaches and His direction will never align itself with the natural. Why would it? That would constitute a serious down-grade of gargantuan proportion. In fact His leadings will always be diametrically opposite to natural.
No doubt, going ‘’against the grain’’ can feel awkward. But going ‘’with it’’ can feel painful!
When you think about it, we were not called to fit in but rather stand out. If a person has ‘‘the answer’‘ why would they choose to reside in ‘‘the question’‘?
We are by Gods design and choosing, the residing places of the literal essence and presence of God! Not a truth to be ingested as a fantasy type feel good thing, but rather a powerful reality to walk, talk and breathe in!
We, like those early disciples should take a moment and process that information. ‘‘THEN GO’‘ AND LIVE IT!
Isaiah 41 – 10: ‘‘So do not fear for I am with you; Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’‘.
‘‘The Lord is OUR Shepherd, WE shall not want’‘
[_ John 16 -13 : ‘‘I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble ( the seen ). But take heart, I ( the unseen ) have ( past tense ) overcome the world’‘._]
1 John 4 – 4: ‘‘You dear children are from God and have ( past tense ) overcome them because the One who is in you ( the unseen ) is greater than the one who is in the world’‘ ( the seen ).
Our first scripture reference in the Gospel of John is interestingly pre-cross. We hear Jesus proclaiming ‘‘He has overcome the world’‘ while in His immediately future lies an arrest, conviction and crucifixion. The ‘‘seen’‘ strongly suggests that Jesus has been overcome! The ‘‘unseen’‘ says, not at all. Those in attendance including His own are saying ‘‘He is finished’‘ while Jesus is saying ‘‘It is finished’‘.
Then in 1 John ( post-resurrection ) we see John applying the all-important layer of transference from ‘‘I have overcome’‘ to ‘‘you have overcome’‘.
The combination of both scriptures exposes the ‘‘I in you and you in Me’‘ promised by our Lord dynamic and foundation to our justifiable peace.
It’s our position ‘‘in Him and Him in us’‘ that allows us heavenly licence to have peace in the middle of our storms! In fact power over our storms! It’s why we are different, uncommon and not ordinary. Our Shepherd has provided for us a banquet of available, indwelling, and imparted, faith information to enable us to dictate to our hearts and our world, OUR higher truth. It’s not that we ignore THEIR obvious, we just don’t adhere to it.
Our lives as sheep, are to be lived in the world of spectacular unseen faith. Heaven has called and anointed us to do so. It’s where our power of the cross resides. No doubt it’s radicle. But what could ever be more radical than hanging from a cross while simultaneously declaring victory!
Galatians 2 – 20: ‘‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body ( the seen ) I live by faith ( the unseen ) in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me’‘.
Just one time, wouldn’t you just love to stare into the face of darkness as it shows up with its attempts to distract or scare and proclaim; Do you have any idea how close you are to your worst nightmare and watch it run!
[_I think it would become an addictive behavior. I also think it’s an available heavenly prescribed behavior! Don’t fear, don’t worry and don’t be anxious are all encapsulated in ‘‘live by faith’‘. _]
If we’re going to ‘‘do’‘ the ‘‘don’ts’‘ then how does that make us different than anyone else?
Romans 1 – 16 & 17: ‘‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed. A righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written; The righteous will live by faith’‘.
[_Faith is so much more than dormantly claiming to be something. It’s actively acting, thinking, and talking like the something we are claiming to be. Something very powerful in God’s eyes. Let’s bless Him by living it out in all its meant to be glory! _]
[_ Hebrews 11- 6 : ‘‘And without faith it’s impossible to please God because anyone that comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him’‘._]
So what is the God pleasing ‘‘faith approach’‘ to our days? Taking hold of and applying the all authority status of ‘‘Christ in us’‘ and walking in it with enthusiasm and conviction.
Overcomers to the extreme by faith, because He has overcome! Past, present, and future tense!
This heavenly equation, while scripturally described as having the utmost of importance, so often finds itself being the most neglected. I’m not sure why. It’s a spiritually chilling mystery to be honest. One that drives me back, time and time again to the story of the ten men with leprosy that Jesus healed. All were healed but only one was made ‘‘whole’‘. The one who felt the ‘‘need’‘ to ‘‘say’‘ thank you, was not comfortable with the assumption that Jesus probably understood. You see he had a burning ‘‘need’‘ that the others didn’t have. Little did he know that his ‘‘need’‘ would be the pathway to his ‘‘wholeness’‘.
I’m convinced that the non-returning nine were thankful on some level. No one could be that oblivious. They had just been given back their lives top to bottom.
Of course they were thankful, but casually and complacently so. Thus, not near enough to express it!
On that day Jesus gave each of the ten the exact same blessing. Jesus then waited. How do I know He waited? Well, all ten left together but the one who came back found our Lord standing exactly where he had left Him, ‘‘waiting’‘ at the scene of the multiple healing.
What Jesus didn’t do was chase the men down the road insisting they say thank you. No He waited, thereby allowing the ten to determine their own wholeness. Jesus provided the blessing, but it was they who would determine its degree of impact in and on their lives.
It would seem that Jesus finds a person’s ‘‘need to be expressively thankful’‘ delightfully refreshing and most worthy of His attention and indulgence. He knows He’s not dealing with the majority but finds much value in the ‘‘One’‘. I find it amazingly beautiful that my Shepherd isn’t interested in numbers. He gracefully passes by the complacent majority always in search of the ‘‘One’‘. The thankful one. It would seem His interest is in quality over quantity.
Here’s the spiritually ‘‘chilling’‘ part: The nine never did say ‘‘thank you’‘, choosing instead to adopt a comfort level with their ‘‘casual’‘ mindset toward this massively important spiritual dynamic. A mindset that would leave them ‘‘never whole’‘ by choice and never knowing why.
The nine who never returned prove to us: We can deem casually complacent as acceptable and become so comfortable with it, that in time we don’t even notice the ‘’condition’’ as it becomes our normal lifestyle! Again chilling, with its self-destructive ramifications!
Expressed thankfulness is the biblical pre-requisite to wholeness. It’s the ingredient that completes the ‘‘heavenly equation’‘. It’s the action that blesses the heart of Jesus the most. That’s a truth that cannot be avoided, therefore worthy of pausing for a moment to expose its importance.
It’s interesting how God provides humbling real life examples to fortify and verify His truth. I have a grandson named Kellen. He’s often God’s tool of teaching me valuable lessons.
When given a gift from Grandpa, he won’t stop saying ‘‘thank you’‘ until he’s convinced I know he is thankful. It seems important to him that I know. Kellen is only five years old and has always been like this. He has a wonderful heart.
He hasn’t spent a single day in Bible College or for that matter reading the bible. He doesn’t have a shelf full of commentaries. I highly doubt he would claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
He does go to Catholic School where he was taught to say grace and will fight you for the ‘‘privileged calling’‘ to do so. You see it’s his job and one he takes seriously!
I love the blessing that Kellen is to me. In his own ‘‘little’‘ way he teaches me ‘‘grand’‘ and ‘’wonderful things’’. I never miss an occasion to bring him a gift.
I so enjoy his extreme, non-optional mindset toward thankfulness. It’s in those moments I get a glimpse of how Jesus must feel when we do likewise.
You see, thankfulness ‘’kept a secret’’ defeats _][_the purpose of being thankful. _][_In our story of the ten lepers it’s interesting to note: _][_The one who returned was asked by Jesus; Were there not ten?
That would strongly _][_suggest Jesus notices both the returners and the non-returners. It’s important to be the ones asked the question and not be the ones the question is being asked about.
Expressed thankfulness while costing nothing, is seen by Jesus as having great value!
In short: Everything we do and say causes a reaction. Thankfulness inspires the one being thanked, while a lack of it creates the exact opposite result.
Therefore casualness when it comes to thankfulness, is a spiritually toxic mindset with far reaching implications. Thus emphatically important!
[In the 23rd Psalm David is making a verbal stand of defiance. ‘‘I will fear no evil’‘! I refuse to submit my emotions to fear. I will not bend my knee to anything other than my trust in God Almighty! I have made a choice to honor my God by proclaiming His sovereignty over all things including my circumstantial evidence. I will deny access to that which suggests my Shepherd is less than what He declared Himself to be. I do not believe my Lord is intimidated by anything going on in my world, _][_therefore I will follow suit and: _][’‘fear no evil’‘._]
Romans 8 – 31: ‘‘What then shall we say in response to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?’‘ In other words; What does it matter who is against us!
[_Paul knew his God very well and concluded, it’s not about who is against us but rather Who is for us that will dictate the final outcome of ‘‘all things’‘. _]
Paul further downgrades the comparative relevance of ‘‘all things’‘ in Romans 8 – 37: ‘‘No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us’‘.
That’s rather emphatic don’t you think! So, if we do fear it seems clear, we do so by choice or habit but not necessity.
While neither David or Paul are denying the existence of evil, both are declaring that fearing it is wrong, realizing that their God is greater than evil!
Each man had their own unique run-ins with evil throughout their lives. Experience being a wonderful teacher, led them both to the same conclusion. A conclusion we have every right to embrace as our own.
Fear is a crippling emotion that disables the soul. It enslaves us! It puts all the magnificent attributes of walking with God ‘’on hold’’ while we entertain its tantrums as it screams for our attention.
Heaven’s antidote? Denied access, based on our understanding of God’s almightiness! Simply stated: We will fear no evil because God said we don’t have to!
As those living on planet earth, fear will show up from time to time. Its ‘’showing up’’ won’t be the determining factor as to its effect, but rather how we react to its ‘’showing up’’.
God knows this to be true and has given us an appropriate reaction. ‘’Fear not’’, with a reason: I’M GOD!
Psalm 27 – 5: ‘‘For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me high upon a rock’‘.
Psalm 55 – 8: ‘‘I will hurry to my place of shelter far from the tempest and storm’‘.
Psalm 61 – 4: ‘‘I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings’‘.
Psalm 91 – 1: ‘‘Whoever dwells in the shadow of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty’‘.
How magnificent an inherited place of safety our Shepherd has provided us! God has always been the protector of His own.
[_From the days of the children of Israel’s forty year trek through the wilderness we see God providing faithfully and always. A cloud by day to protect them from the blistering daytime sun and a fire by night to keep the evening desert chill from having impact on their comfort. No food, no problem as God provides Manna from Heaven to feed His children. With their Egyptian enemies charging from behind and the Red Sea in their immediate future, God parts the waters providing safe passage for them to cross while using the very same waters to destroy their haters. _]
Wow, these children of Israel must have been quite the righteous folk! No, just the opposite was true as they mumbled and grumbled throughout their every step, complaining all the way to the Promised Land. You see, God made a promise before they left Egypt, reinforced by His ‘‘grace’‘!
Here in the Psalms we see David referring to ‘‘the tent’‘ which in his day was the place of God’s presence. David knew that in God’s presence was absolute protection, therefore he ‘‘hurried’‘ to it.
He had many enemies therefore trusting in God’s provisionary protection was paramount to his survival emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
David is the one responsible for penning; ‘‘The Lord is my Shepherd I SHALL NOT WANT’‘. His vast experiences in life provided an unshakeable foundation of truth, thereby allowing Him to trust in his Shepherd, with just cause!
As we fast forward to today, we find nothing has changed. The Lord is still ‘‘our’‘ Shepherd and ‘‘we’‘ shall not want. As we walk through the blistering heat of our often difficult days we are covered by a cloud of protection from the U.V. rays of life’s experiences. When we need the comfort of his warm embrace by night, it is always there and never denied. Wow, we must be quite the righteous folk! No, you see God has made ‘‘us’‘ a promise, reinforced by His grace! Wonderfully humbling don’t you think when self-sufficiency is replaced by absolute reliance.
Staying with the present and correcting the ‘‘nothing’s changed’‘ comment: The ‘‘tent’‘ David spoke of as his place of refuge has changed. We are now the ‘‘tent’‘! The dwelling place of the ‘‘Most High’‘ and ‘‘Almighty’‘, with instant access to His ‘‘all-inclusive provision’‘.
With David ‘‘the tent’‘ seemed to be a place of ‘‘coming and going’‘, while for us, a place of residing. Residing and trusting in a promise. God doesn’t make promises and then leave it up to the recipients of His promises to fulfill their completion. He has always made Himself the determining factor. Aren’t we all thankful for that!
2 Corinthians 1 – 20: ‘‘For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘‘Yes’‘ in Christ. And so through Him ( Jesus ) the ‘‘Amen’‘ is spoken by us to the glory of God’‘.
Isaiah 9 – 6: ‘‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace’‘.
John 1 – 1: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God’‘.
Within the vastness of the universe Jesus created, planet earth is a dot. Therefore we are a dot within a dot. And yet He came for us at great cost to himself! As those who love and follow Him, the beautiful descriptives pointed out in our scripture reference in Isaiah have been experienced first-hand. He have known Him as: Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and our Prince of Peace and may I add: ‘‘Our Great Light’’!
I love how God writes us into the story in verse two of chapter nine: ‘‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: They that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined’‘.
Ephesians 5 – 8: ‘‘For you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord ( positionally ). Live as children of light’’ ( experientially ).
1 Thessalonians 5 – 5: ‘‘You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness’‘.
Isn’t it wonderful how God makes clear, who we are, where we belong, and Who we belong to, thereby avoiding any confusion. The world and its evaluating systems would suggest that we as people range from ‘‘somewhat’‘ to ‘‘not at all’‘ relevant. The vast majority of us seen as rather disposable in the ‘‘big picture’‘. That’s a system the bible refers to as ‘‘in’‘ but not ‘‘of’‘ regarding us. That’s a tree we have no business eating from!
As those who by grace have their citizenship firmly entranced and established in heaven we are different in the most interesting of ways.
We understand that if one life is relegated to ‘‘meaningless’‘, all life eventually follows suit.
But our Shepherd ‘‘came for us’‘ declaring by His appearance; Life is majestically sacred and never to be trivialized! So sacred, that He came to save it eternally. We are a dot within a dot but not just any dot.
We are the only dynamic within creation that is capable of intimate relationship with God.
We have been created in His image, designed and enabled to love Him. The universe can worship its creator but it cannot love Him. You see ‘‘it’‘ is an ‘‘it’‘, ‘’we’’ are a ‘‘who’‘.
[_We are those ‘‘who’‘ God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son that ‘‘who’‘ so ever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. Therefore we walk in the ‘‘light’‘ of the dignity that our Creator has bestowed upon us. _]
We have been given heavenly license and a calling to be conspicuously radiant, as is fitting for those who have seen and are in-dwelled by a ‘‘Great Light’‘.
Matthew 5 – 16: ‘‘In the same way let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’‘
The Apostle Paul said from a prison cell as he wrote to the Philippians ( Chapter 4 verse 12 ):
‘‘I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret, ‘’spiritual insight’’, of being content in any and every situation, whether well feed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want’‘.What Paul was describing as a solution to the adversities and complexities of life on planet earth life is; spiritually protective, super-natural responses to natural situations. Adversity is a very real dynamic in our lives on this planet. We aren’t immune from it. We can’t avoid nor escape its reality. A fairy-tale existence complete with a magic wand, isn’t what our Lord has promised us nor is indicative of our historied forefather’s lives.
One of those lives belonged to Paul who so beautifully shared from his place of adversity; we have been ‘‘empowered’‘ by God with the heavenly privilege of divine insight into adversity, thereby enabled to remove its instant sense of negativism.
Hindsight is a valued revealer! As I reflect back on my forty two years of knowing God there’s one thing that stands out as radiantly clear. All the truly meaningful things that have been accomplished to this point in my life have been birthed ‘‘by God’‘ through ‘‘adversity’‘! That’s a sobering truth for me to embrace. It keeps my complaining at a minimum and my praising at a maximum, thus correctly proportioned. So, in hindsight I think it fair and correct of me to refer to adversity in a far more spiritually flattering way. A friend, a teacher, and a gift from God. It’s the God granted tool He has used to make me into what I am today and what I will be in the future.
When I approach adversity with the insight of it having profound purpose in my life, ‘‘adversity’‘ has a far less ‘‘adversary’‘ flavor to it.
Let’s listen into The Apostle Paul as he explains far better than I in: [_ 2 Corinthians 12 - 7 > 10: _]
‘‘Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given ( a gift ) a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me ( adversity ).^[_ ]^[_Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.]^[_ ]^[_That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.]
Paul would also add: Be content in ‘‘all things’‘ knowing that God makes ‘‘all things’‘ work together for good for those who love Him! .
Adversity is not meant to crush but rather mold! Therefore adversity to us is what the cocoon is to the caterpillar, and may I add, soon to be Butterfly. When I think of a Mother having a child I see the same principle in play. It would seem adversity always precedes the miracle!
Galatians 5 – 6: ‘‘The ONLY thing that counts is faith expressing itself through LOVE’‘.
John – 13 – 35: ‘‘By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you LOVE one another’‘.
John 13 – 13 > 17: ‘‘You call me Teacher and Lord and rightfully so, for that is what I am. Now that I your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet. I have set for you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them’‘.
There’s the old ‘’knowing’’ and ‘’doing’’ dichotomy presented to us again. Jesus must have known our preference for knowing over doing. He makes clear this truth; From heaven’s perspective, love is a ‘’verb’’ not a noun.
It would seem our Shepherd has a serious mindset regarding love! In fact He clearly states, it will be our identification mark to the world. As a sheep is recognized by its owners branding, this will be ours.
The Apostle Paul said: It’s the only thing that counts in that faith is expressed through it. Can we therefore conclude: This is non-optional!
[_So, how do we do it? We all have experienced the struggles involved trying to replicate what Jesus instructed. May I share a ‘‘hopefully helpful hint’‘ of insight to the dilemma. _]
We’ve all tried and failed multiple times so let’s consider a different approach. Could it be that we are using the wrong product? The inferior trying to achieve the superior.
This love that Jesus speaks of is not the normal societal type. He refers to it as one possessing a quality worthy of ‘‘great reward’‘. It’s backwards to the world’s version. It’s radically different and within its difference we find its identifying characteristic as being ‘‘of God’‘, setting us apart as being ‘‘obviously’‘ His.
We have been graciously adopted by God into a ‘‘spiritually transcendent’’ society; ‘‘The body of Christ’‘. One of His making, choosing, and direction. A society that dances to a completely different drummer, Jesus.
We can find ourselves trying to live out the ‘‘transcendent radicle’‘ fueled by the ‘‘earthly normal’‘. That’s an impossible task! After failing, we then defer to our default option of blaming our insufficiency in this area on the ones we’re supposed to be loving. We can get caught in the trap of using a BIG word and applying a small meaning to it. We need to get a clear picture concerning the ‘‘quality factor’‘ regarding the love that Jesus spoke of. To find that, as is the usual, let’s look to the cross.
While being crucified, our Lord and example, was mocked with these words by His abusers: ‘‘If you are the Son of God, then save yourself’‘. Our Lords response without saying as much: I didn’t come to save myself but rather, YOU. That’s right, YOU who are mocking me!
It would seem the love Jesus spoke of in our scriptural references includes unconditional grace. Transcendent love is therefore, not easy! It transcends everything but the call to do it. So, do we just do it? No. He does it through us as we surrender our ‘‘old ordinary’‘ and embrace His ‘‘new extraordinary’‘.
And by ‘‘this’‘ they will know that we are ‘‘obviously’‘ His. They will see the quality of Him, in us and through us.
May God grant us the wisdom to allow an expansion of our hearts to accommodate and reflect His ‘‘Superior Product’‘. Jesus loved to the extreme but not simply for the sake of it. No, He loved with a purpose. One that aligned itself with His understood earthly ministry: ‘‘To reveal the heart of His Father’‘ to a world full of people who desperately needed to know God’s love for them. The bible teaches that God is love.
Jesus made Himself available each day to respond to this question: What does love require of me today? There came a day when the love Jesus spoke of would require a response beyond our imaginations abilities to comprehend; THE CROSS!
Mere hours before His crucifixion, knowing what His immediate future included, we see Jesus washing His disciple’s feet. Serving them at a table that He knew would be their ‘‘last supper’‘ together. Ministering to them, not being ministered to. As we read in John 13 – 13 > 17: He was busy establishing an example for them and us to follow.
He made their ‘‘last supper’‘ about them, not Him. Stop and consider for a moment; He washed the feet of Judas! That’s what love required!
So, what does love require of us? To understand that it’s not about us, but rather those sitting next to us, at the table of life!
It was well over two years ago since I prayed. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve prayed since. What I’m referring to is ‘‘that prayer’‘. ‘‘The one’‘ I call a prayer of utter frustration with an area of known and serious insufficiency.
‘‘The prayer’‘ that cries out to God; Father I’m sick of ME within the heavenly equation of US! ‘‘The one’‘ that changed things; more accurately stated; changed me!
[_I believe there are divinely appointed and anointed moments of profound decision making importance in our individual walks with God. They are unique, intimate, and personal. They are directional changers or directional re-enforcers, depending on our ultimate choices. I also believe, as much as they may seem to be ‘‘our ideas’‘, they in fact are not. _]
They are created, orchestrated, and prompted by the God’s Spirit. They are those one to one spiritual conversations with our Creator that ‘‘others’‘ are not invited into. Advice seeking from those ‘‘others’‘ is not welcome from heaven’s perspective during these moments of divine intervention. No, these moments are between us as individuals and God only. To call them reverently ‘‘sacred’‘ would be descriptively correct. Their long term relevance, while unknown here, will one day be known in heaven. On that day we will be shocked at the importance of our ‘’back in the day’’ chat we had with God! As we know, Moses went up Mount Sinai to talk with God ‘‘alone’‘ leaving the troops behind by God’s direction and instruction.
So I’m thinking, don’t we all have our ‘‘Mount Sinai’‘ moments when it’s just us and God with us having a keen awareness of the seriousness within the commune itself. Such was the case with my previously mentioned prayer of ‘’never to be forgotten’’ status.
So, what was my spiritual frustration that I presented to God? My insufficiency that enveloped a type of moderate torment within its content? This bothersome prickly thing that poked at my soul, needing the surgical expertise of the God’s scalpel. The ‘‘thing’‘ I was completely incapable of ‘‘changing’‘ myself!
Before presenting that answer, allow me to back up a step with a reflective confession. I have known for a very long time the quality of the love that I am loved with. The cross is tattooed on my soul and along with it, my awareness of undeserved and yet granted grace! In short: My love for Jesus is beyond measure as is His for me. How amazingly wonderful to walk in that awareness!
But with it comes an appropriate sense of indebtedness. To freely give not only what, but also with the quality, that I have freely received.
You see, prior to my prayer I wasn’t some awful human being who only cared for himself. On a scale of 1 to 10, I might have been a 6. That’s pretty good in the big picture.
[_Well, that depends on which ‘‘big picture’‘ one is looking at. This Jesus I so adored, made clear His instruction as to my dispensing of ‘‘freely received love and grace. ‘‘Love others AS I HAVE LOVED YOU’‘. By THIS they will know you are mine’‘. _]
[_I had ‘‘conditions’‘ to navigate around before implementing my Lord’s instructions while simultaneously desiring more than anything that His magnificent love would shine through me, thus identifying me as His, while honoring Him. I couldn’t think of anything more glorious than to be obviously His to that extent. Thus my problem. Thus my frustration. Thus my dilemma. Thus my prayer! _]
I as a branch, connected to my vine Jesus, had developed a ‘‘conditional blockage’’ of the heart. The ‘‘healthy’’ fruit producing nutrients of love imparted to me through my vine were struggling to by-pass my ‘‘blockage’‘. Oh some got through but more of a trickle than a flow and definitely not near enough to accomplish mine or God’s desired goal for my life.
Spiritual surgery was obviously needed and agreed to by me. My prayer was: ‘‘Whatever it takes, please do it Jesus’‘. Did you think my prayer would have been longer? Desperate times often call for short, to the point, prayers and I was desperate! Remember the one who was hanging on a cross next to Jesus. He got right to the point as did I!
[_Well, it’s been a while. I’m so very glad that I find myself today as somewhat unrecognizable from the man who cried out to His God for relief. I’m thankful for the encouragement of the Holy Spirit as I climbed my Mount Sinai to talk with God alone. _]
The previous version of me was doing the best he could but not near as representative of his ‘‘altogether lovely’‘ Lord as he wished. He needed to, along with his conditions, get out of the way and let God flow through him. I believe we call that; ‘‘dying to self’‘. God grants prayers like that easily, quickly, and often dramatically. The folks closest to me would testify to that truth as they now get to enjoy the much improved version of me. God’s version!
If you are in that season of life with God where you feel the ‘‘blockage’‘ or the ‘‘constriction’‘ of meant to be unimpeded love flowing through you, may I encourage you to climb your Mount Sinai.
I promise you this: God’s surgical expertise will not fail nor disappoint and you will be welcomed into His operating room with loving, welcoming, and caring open arms, totally absent of judgement or condemnation.
Back to our brother Moses. He went up the mountain with dark hair. He returned with snow white hair. He never again had dark hair. The change can be that dramatic and permanent!
So, if you feel God prompting you to pray that prayer; ‘‘Think it not strange that you change’‘.
As to not alarm you great ladies and to clarify the timing of my grayness, let me relieve your possible concerns. My hair was grey ‘‘before’‘ I went up my mountain!
Isaiah 61 – 7: ‘‘Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land and everlasting joy will be yours’‘.
[_ ‘‘Everlasting’‘ joy? Not intermittent? Not occasional? Not periodical? No, everlasting by inheritance! _]
From my first year on planet earth to my twenty seventh, I lived completely void of this mentioned inheritance. To categorize it as ‘‘hard’‘ would be the understatement of all time. It was gut wrenchingly hard!
The never ending tread mill of performance based approval that predictably led back to the same starting point over and over again was truly insane, while simultaneously seen by others as normal.
Well, what ‘‘others’‘ thought of me was paramount, so I continued to do my impression of a hamster and was perceived as, societally well-adjusted by doing so.
‘‘Conforming’‘ to the majority opinion meant constantly ‘‘performing’‘ to appease the masses. An appropriate metaphor: A Seal doing tricks for a fish, and considering the behavior correct.
And then I met Jesus or more correctly stated: He met me, with this scripture: Matthew 11 – 28 > 30: ‘’ Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you REST. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find REST for your souls. For My yoke is EASY and My burden is LIGHT’‘.
Wow! Rest, easy and light. A little too good to be true so I queried Jesus; Are you simply going to give me a new treadmill where I’ll end up being a religious hamster? No, He responded; I’m going to deliver you from the treadmill of performance altogether. You will now live within the context of your, blood bought through My cross, ‘‘inheritance’‘ of grace, peace, contentment, blessing, and ‘‘everlasting joy’‘. Your world is now in My hands!
[_Your status as a hamster has been changed to ‘‘child of God’‘ with all the rights afforded that title. Take the robe of My righteousness and the ring of your adopted by Me Son-Ship, and wear them with the dignity they warrant. This is your ‘‘new life’‘! Enjoy it! Going forward, I will be living My life in and through you. You will no longer be common nor ordinary. You will never again desire to ‘‘fit in’‘ but rather ‘‘stand out’‘. You will never again be a ‘‘game player’‘, you will now be a ‘‘game changer’’! _]
Well, I wish I could say everything changed in that instant. While that wouldn’t be true this is: The direction changed. Old habits of ‘‘performance based thinking’‘ are tricky to break, but as time has passed I have noticed them to have developed a strangely distasteful flavor.
By God’s patience and grace I have learned, ‘‘unconditional’‘ is a heavenly term not usually associated with planet earth and its inhabitants. It takes a while to wear it comfortably. I must remind myself I’m in the world ‘‘not of it’‘ nor should I be living according to its statutes or tendencies. My citizenship also changed that day as part of my inheritance. I now have the luxury and license to see myself and others from heavens viewpoint through the cross of Jesus, which is far more encouraging, inspiring, and consistent than that of the world or worldly mindsets.
Jesus has faithfully given me a wonderful life. One that transcends the mundane. One that offers the choice of being lived out in the realm of the spectacular.
He has made me very glad! I plan on rejoicing, everlastingly!
My daily ritualistic stroll takes me along the same route every day. One that has provided for me many wonderful adventures in God. I think of it as my own little anointed path.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be so presumptuous, but I tend to ‘’expect’’ something significant to pop up before arriving back home. I think ‘’expecting’’ helps me notice when it does!
My mindset of ‘’expecting’’, exposes a clear indication of my ‘’spoiled by God’’ status as He graciously continues to allow me the privilege of participating in His magnificent heart towards others. My goodness; what a heart it is!
I’ve learned that ‘’holy nudges’’ go hand in hand with our needed undivided attention. Our sensitivity to God’s ‘’nudges’’ are equally as important as the ‘’nudges’’ themselves. It’s a co-operative duet type dynamic between us and heaven, leaving us the most blessed as we get to ‘’see’’ the ‘’unseen’’ in action!
Each day my walk takes me past a much frequented restaurant called ‘’Markham Station’’. Today I noticed a very elderly couple, perhaps ninety years of age, struggling to remove themselves from their car. Out came the necessary ‘’walkers’’ as they slowly but surely made their way to the front door of the restaurant.
They were looking pretty ’’spiffy’’, maybe celebrating a special day, I thought. Perhaps an anniversary or a birthday caused them to go through their pre-arrival ordeal of difficulty.
I paused to be sure they made it through the front door without incident as we enjoyed a little mutual chat while I guided them to a table. With my ‘’enjoy your dinner’’ comment expressed, I left to continue my walk.
God speaks! I realize that’s a statement that makes some folks a little squeamish, but the truth is He does! It’s a spiritual type speaking. If God were to speak audibly to us we’d all have heart attacks on the spot! Think of it this way; the last act of kindness you imparted to another wasn’t your idea. God ‘’spoke’’ it into your consciousness.
I got a few steps from the restaurant when I felt God ‘’speak’’ these words to my heart. ‘’That elderly couple you just assisted; I now would like you to treat them to dinner on Me and for Me’’!
In my euphoria, ( I always get a little euphoric when these things happen ) it took me a minute or so to realize, I didn’t have my wallet with me and not near enough cash to cover the bill!
God always has side-benefits to His ideas. For me it was cardiac enhancing exercise as I ran back home, grabbed my wallet, and ran back to the restaurant at full speed, before my new friends had finished their meal! Whew!
Not wanting to confuse the elderly couple while they were eating, I simply found their waitress and with one mighty ‘’tap’’ of my trusty credit card had purchased, with God’s money, one more story of ‘’Our Shepherd’s Attentive Love’’ to share with you good folks. Our God has an amazing heart and delights in expressing it through us! Is it really any mystery why we love Him? How could we not?
Jesus, each day you have sat by my side and given me the words for ‘’Reflections Of A Sheep’’ and for that I give you thanks and praise.
You see I’m keenly aware that to have ‘’Reflections’’ one must be a ‘’Sheep’’ who has been allowed the gracious privilege of experiencing his ‘’Shepherd’’ intimately. My goodness; all the wonderful things you have birthed in me to express and then you provided the delivery system and enablement to meet my need for their expression. You really have covered it all!
[_ I know you are the ‘‘actual’‘ writer based on an acute awareness of my unqualified status combined with your obvious daily presence. A presence I value more than silver or gold and one I cannot do without. I pray that I haven’t gotten in the way of the thoughts you have wished to share. I equally pray they have been received as from YOU Lord._]
[_Jesus, today I neither want nor need your help. I can fly solo on this one. You see today I don’t want this writing to be ‘‘from’‘ You but rather ‘‘to’‘ You. Today I want you to lean back and immerse yourself in my love for a change. _]
A little reversal of roles as I see it. I want it on record, how I feel about you Lord. A type of legacy perhaps. You can resume your much appreciated ‘’normal overseer of my life’’ duties tomorrow but for today, from my heart to yours; ‘‘This one is for You my Shepherd’‘.
[_ My Dearest Jesus:_]
It was forty two years ago at the age of twenty seven when you stole my heart literally out of the blue, as you with your sweet warm voice whispered into my very cold spirit that you loved me. While silenced to others, I certainly heard it loud and clear! You went from being in my mind, a pleasant illusion of my family, to perfectly real in a second in time! What a day!
I still cry when I think of it which would include now. Tears of joy my Lord. As you know, many of those same tears have been shed over the years as I reflect on the uncountable times I gave you ample opportunity to dispose of me as a lost cause.
We both know it would have been more than justified had you desired to do so. It would seem the love that you whispered into my spirit so long ago, and the same love that caused you to hang on a cross for me, was shamefully underestimated by me as to its ‘‘no quit’’ quality.
One of the greatest frustrations in my present day life is my inability to appropriately thank you for not returning my heart to me as damaged goods beyond repair. I think I would have understood and in fact thought you had at times.
I now know that you are the Lord of resurrections not burials. That which you claim never gets given back! Again words can’t express how thankful I am for that magnificent truth!
Jesus, does it do your heart any good at all to know I never stopped loving you? Others may doubt that to be true, but you know my heart Lord. Does it help heal the pain that I caused, to know that I’ve never loved you more than I do right now? I hope so. The grace you have lavished on me has been beyond amazing Jesus.
You have created for me the life that I had always dreamed of having but was always out of step from achieving. I owe you everything and I love you with all that is within me. I sincerely suspect I will love you more and more as time goes by. You have that effect on me Jesus.
I’m looking forward to heaven when I can fall at your wonderful feet and worship you appropriately. I will know better than most, the only reason I’ll be there is You!
[_ Finally, I want to thank you for ‘’this book’‘ you have allowed and inspired me to write. What a privilege it’s been participating under your guidance and direction as you orchestrated the entire project and permitted me to come along for the ride._]
I ask Lord that you would use it to glorify your wonderful self. I pray that the love you have for your much valued creation has found itself radiantly exposed between the lines.
From your eternally thankful Sheep.
‘’The Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are His sheep. When you make Him your Shepherd, you are protected against evil and you have access to the ‘’abundant life’’. He promised in His word a life of peace, health, prosperity and above all, the salvation of your soul’’.
Bill Taylor – Shila Zinzuwadia & Pragna Ranpuria
November – 2016
Oh how often we hear the word ''journey'' attached to this magnificent gift called ''life''. Its mysteries and complexities are truly and profoundly endless! Being a man of many years, I have the advantage of ''retrospective hindsight'' at my disposal which provides multiple experiential reference points for my insights and ''Reflections''. A long and tested history is a wonderful ''proving ground'' in regards to ''perspective''. My forty two years of walking with Jesus has visited the lowest of lows and the highest of highs, Each I have chosen to transparently share throughout the book. In spite of my life's spiritual fluctuations, Jesus has been ''forever'' faithful. May His true and loving heart of restoration and transformation shine through between the pages of ''Reflections Of A Sheep''. Enjoy! Bill Taylor