Shafts of Glory

While my husband was driving us to our son’s home, I read out loud.  I read the chapter, Awe: Praising His Glory, from Timothy Keller’s book, PRAYER.

The following paragraph by Keller moved me profoundly:  First we should learn to do what C. S. Lewis speaks about in his book on prayer, Letters to Malcolm.  He deliberatively tries to see all pleasures as “shafts of the glory as it strikes our sensibility . . . . I have tried . . . . to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration.”  By “pleasure” Lewis means things as diverse as a beautiful mountain valley, delicious food, a good book, or a piece of music.  What does it mean to make every pleasure into adoration?  He quickly points out that, while we should give God thanks for every pleasure, Lewis means something more.  “Gratitude exclaims . . . . ‘How good of God to give me this.’  Adoration says, ‘ What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’  One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.”  He learns to instinctively think “What kind of God would create this, give me this?”  He concludes that while he doesn’t succeed in always keeping this discipline, it has enriched both his joy in everyday life and his concentrated times of prayer.  He says we “shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest.”

I loved the picture in my mind of following the sunbeam back up to the sun – the discipline of not only being thankful for the sunbeam, but the subsequent adoration of the one who made and sent the sunbeam to glorify my day.  I breathed a hurried prayer, “Lord, I would love to write a blog post about this.  It would be so neat if You would give me a photograph of a sunbeam.”

I kept reading to my husband and completed the chapter.  We reached our destination and enjoyed an evening of fun and fellowship with our son and his family.  As usual, our granddaughter Alyse gave up her room for her papa and I to sleep in.  As soon as I awoke the next morning, I raised the blinds in Alyse’s room and was greeted by glorious sunbeams  peeking out from behind the tall, old evergreens that shielded the morning sun!  I grabbed my camera and ran to the front porch to start snapping pictures.

I thanked God for the sunbeams and answered prayer.  I pondered what kind of God created light and this exquisite beauty for a summer morning.  I pondered what kind of a God hears and answers prayers.  What kind of God?  A powerful creator God.  An Artist God – The Artist of all Artists.  A loving, attentive Father God.  A Father God who delights in giving His children joy.  I adored my Creator God, my Father God!

O Lord God, teach us that gratitude and adoration intersect.  Teach us to follow the sunbeams back up to the sun.  Teach us awe and wonder over what kind of God gives us such beautiful and bountiful pleasures and gifts.  Teach us to turn our gratitude into adoration.

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Keys and Doors

I have a new friend.  Her name is Lona.  When she came for dinner on Easter, she brought me this kitchen towel as a hostess gift.   It reminds me of her, not only because it was a present from her, but because she does open big doors with little keys.  I know because I pray with her every week.

In Matthew 6:19, Jesus told Simon, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Simon had just made his confession of faith, telling Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”   Jesus had replied by calling him Peter, which means rock, and saying, “On this rock I will build my church.”

The church is the living fellowship of all those who believe that Jesus is the The Christ, The Son of God. Jesus is the chief cornerstone of the church.  Peter, the Rock, was the first man to understand and believe that Jesus was the The Christ, the Son of God, and as such, he was the first living stone ( see I Peter 2: 4) placed upon the cornerstone of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Church is built upon the belief and confession that Jesus is The Christ, The Son of God.  That is the door that opens the Kingdom of heaven up to anyone who would believe.   All of us who share this faith are living stones built up over the centuries upon the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ.

Like Peter, every believer is given the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.  The keys are to bind and to loose. To forbid and to allow.  To close and to open.  What do we bind, forbid, and close?  What do we loose, allow and open?  We loose, allow and open when we share the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ.  We bind, forbid and close when we deny the lies of the evil one.  We bind and loose whenever we exercise this authority in prayer.  We speak and believe the word of God given us in the Scriptures and apply them to the lives of our families, churches, and communities.

Lona has beautiful brown eyes that sparkle with the life of Jesus.  She comes to prayer expectantly.  She uses her keys, exercising her authority to bind and loose confidently when she prays.  I hear her.  I learn from her.  Sometimes during our hours of praying with Jesus, He shows her what He is doing, and she giggles with delight. I hear that laughter and I know bad things are being locked up and good doors are opening for those we pray for.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for giving us the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  We are humbled and grateful.  Open our eyes to see doors that need to be opened and to doors that need to be closed.

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Living Dead or Born Again

Life can leave us feeling dead.  Have you ever felt that way, breathing and exchanging air but starved for life, longing for change but powerless to make changes, longing for a heaven on earth, the kingdom of God in the here and now? Or do you believe  you are living, oblivious to the fact you are really dead?  It might be better for you to be one of those who feel dead and are seeking life!

In the third chapter of the Gospel of John,  we watch and hear Jesus tell the Pharisee Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus is puzzled and wonders, how can this be?  Jesus tells Nicodemus that flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit.  He tells him that no one has ever gone into heaven except for the Son of Man who came from heaven.  He tells him that the Son of Man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

The apostle John tells us that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.

The apostle Paul proclaims that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  He describes mankind as dead in their sins.  Indeed, the living are the living dead until they believe that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was lifted up and crucified on a cross to pay the penalty for their sin. Then they are born of God, born of His  Spirit – given His life, an eternal, abundant life that begins in the here and now.

The good news is that you don’t have to be living dead.  You can be born again to everlasting life.  Will you believe in the One who was lifted up and died for you?

 

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A Heart of Light

“It is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”   Second Corinthians 4:6   NKJ Version

This is an extraordinary, marvelous reality.  The God of the universe shines his light into my heart so that I can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

“We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image…just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Second Corinthians 3:18  NKJ Version

This is even more extraordinary.   When I look in the mirror I behold the glory of God.  How can this be?

Commentator William Barclay says, “Possibly what Paul means is that, if we gaze at Christ, we in the end reflect him. His image appears in our life.”  Commentators Barker and Kohlenberger state, “Paul concludes by noting that the progressive transformation of the Christian’s character is the work of the Lord who is the Spirit.”

As I have meditated on these truly beautiful passages of Scripture,  I have remembered the old song Mirror (from the 70’s) performed by Evie.  She told us so eloquently with her sweet, clear voice, “You’re searching for Jesus, looking to find hope for tomorrow and some peace of mind…but til’ you find him in the mirror, you’ve got a long way to go.”

Oh, Holy Spirit,  how I want to find Jesus in the mirror.  As I keep gazing at him, will you keep transforming me into his image so that I might reflect his beauty, his glory to the world.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Jesus.  I love you.

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Invisible, Not Imaginary

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Long ago a wise boy named Tim told me, “I like Jesus and Snuffleupagus.”

In a neighborhood named Sesame Street lived Big Bird.  His best friend was a four legged, gentle, soft spoken creature called Mr.Snuffleupagus.  They hung out and confided in one another.  Amazingly, no one else on Sesame Street had seen Big Bird’s best friend.  They erroneously believed that Bird’s BFF was imaginary. That didn’t really matter to Big Bird because he and Snuffy kept enjoying one another’s company and being there for each other.

Long ago in Bethlehem on the first Christmas, a BFF quietly moved into our neighborhoods.  Not everyone encountered him.  But to those who had eyes to see and ears to hear, who welcomed and received him, he became the most incredible best friend forever.

That Best Friend is Jesus.  He is fully man and fully God.  He is all knowing and all powerful.  He delivers and saves from sin and death. He is loving, kind, merciful and fun. He tells us to cast our cares on him because he cares for us.

Like Big Bird, it doesn’t really matter to me if you know my Jesus is real or if you think he is imaginary.  My BFF, Jesus, is real to me.  I know him, and he knows me.  We hang out and enjoy each other every day.

Jesus isn’t exclusive.  He has room in his heart for an endless circle of friends.  He wants you in that circle.  May you uncover and unwrap the gift of his friendship underneath your Christmas tree.

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ALL I NEED TO KNOW


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While looking in October for some yarn at one of my favorite shops, a Fiber and Book Store, I saw a Little Golden Book, titled Everything I Need to Know I Learned From A Stars Wars. I smiled, chuckling to myself, and thought; here’s the perfect novelty Christmas gift for my sons who are 40 and 38 and grew up loving the Star Wars Saga.   I purchased yarn and the books.

I have read the book, enjoying the pictures and content. Although some of its message conveys wise and valuable counsel for children and adults who are kids at heart,  I KNOW THAT EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED FROM MY BIBLE.

Here is some of the truth the Bible has taught me about God and myself and some of the realities I live in because I have believed that truth:

God created me; He wove me together in my mother’s womb.

He has loved me with an everlasting love.

He has loved me so much that He sent His Son Jesus to come to earth to live and bleed and die and rise again so that all my sin and shame could be washed away by His shed blood.

Jesus has equipped me and sent me on a meaningful journey, an exciting, challenging mission.

He has been traveling on this mission with me; in fact He is always holding on to my right hand. He has promised that no one can ever snatch me out of His hand and that He will never leave me or forsake me.

He has promised to give me wisdom whenever I need it and ask for it. He has promised to lead and guide me on this mission.   Sometimes I have been afraid, really afraid, near terrified, but He has calmed and quieted my heart and mind.

His Spirit has kept giving me power to obey His command to say no to anger, rage and pride. His Spirit has kept giving me power to walk in His Light and to be kind and compassionate and to forgive and bless those that hurt me. When I have failed to do these things, He has picked me up and told me to try again.

With God nothing has been impossible. Jesus has promised that I can do all things because He strengthens me. He has told me to keep believing because faith is the victory that overcomes the world.

Jesus has said that He is going to rule and reign on planet earth and that I get to be with Him. I have been looking forward to this for a long time.

The Eternal God, who has always ruled the universe and still does, has given me everlasting life and has promised I am always going to be with Him in heaven forever because I believe in His Son.   I’ve banked my life on this promise.

I obtained my role in THIS REAL STORY, THE BEST ONE EVER TOLD, by believing its truth and trusting its PLAYWRIGHT/DIRECTOR.

Tryouts remain open. The only talent required is a willingness to trust THE PLAYWRIGHT and to follow HIS DIRECTION.  Come one and all.  You are loved, accepted and needed.

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Sunsets and Strongholds

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Anger and rage are two of the things Paul teaches us to take off and get rid of in Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3.   Extremes seem to be the way we humans look at life and the way we manage things.   We either deny being angry or we express our anger in disrespectful, hurtful or harmful behaviors.   Neither extreme is helpful. one harms our health and the other harms our relationships.

In Ephesians 4:26-27, Paul teaches: ” In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

It seems to me that Paul assumes we will get angry.  First of all, we must be in touch with our own anger, rather than denying and repressing it.  Then we must confess our anger and quickly move to resolve its source and to let go of it.  Paul instructs us to do this before the day ends.

Sometimes we are unselfishly angry over an injustice.  Perhaps the Lord is calling us to do our part to make sure that injustice is righted.  This kind of anger presents the temptation to sin by omission, by failing to do the good we might do.

Most often, I think,  we experience the kind of anger which tempts us to sins of commission, Perhaps our pride is injured.  Perhaps we feel frustrated because our need to control has been thwarted.   Perhaps all we need is to ask the Lord Jesus to give us power to let go of these feelings and to wash us clean of our pride and our need to control.  Instead we express our anger in passive-aggressive behaviors that make the problem arousing our anger even worse.  Or we explode in an angry outburst, saying and doing things that are destructive, making the problem arousing the anger worse.  Nothing is resolved.  Situations escalate and relationships deteriorate.

Perhaps we are in a set of circumstances where issues truly need to be addressed and resolved.  We need to address these issues with calmness and respect, seeking solutions and understanding, rather than attacking and blaming others.  Yelling, swearing and name calling are never helpful, and are never justified for a child of God.

As I have aged as a woman and as a child of God,  I have begun to see how Paul is warning us about a very real and present danger to our souls.  I am not just preaching to the choir;  I am preaching to myself. Anger can become habitual;  it can become a way of life.  This kind of anger grieves the Holy Spirit who lives in a believer. (Ephesians 4:30)  When we are angry and sin because of that anger, we give the Devil a foothold and grieve the Holy Spirit.  Footholds can become strongholds.  We can be tied up by the enemy, while the Holy Spirit, who was meant to be our powerful ally, is instead grieving over our sin.

Oh, Lord God,  forgive me and forgive Your church for our extremes – for either repressing our anger or for using it as an excuse to sin.  Teach us to get serious about taking anger off and putting on compassion and forgiveness before the sun goes down each day.  Keep us from grieving the Holy Spirit.  Deliver us and keep us from the footholds and strongholds of Satan.   In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Serious Business

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I wore some old high heels and pretended to be Mommy.  I liked my dolls.  I liked playing dress up.   I loved my mother, and I wanted to be like her when I grew up.

Dressing up and acting like one’s parent or hero isn’t children’s play.  It is serious business.   It is the business of every serious Christ Follower.

Paul said, “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  (Ephesians 5:1 and 2)  Earlier in chapter four of the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us to put off our old self and put on the new self which was created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  He gives us a long list of behaviors to put off and get rid of: falsehood, stealing, anger, rage, bitterness, brawling, slander, and every form of malice. He tells us to be kind, compassionate and forgiving.

In the third chapter of Colossians, Paul instructs believers to put to death the “earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.”  Later in that same chapter beginning with verse 12, he says, “…as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you  may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.   And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

As a Christ Follower, I am called to dress like Jesus and to act like him.  I am called to wear his virtues and to copy his behavior.  This would be mission impossible, but thank God, his Spirit came to live in me and conform me to the image of Christ.

Holy Spirit, I surrender to your work in me.  Help me to do my part, while you do your part.  I  want the world to look at me and say, “That’s God’s girl.  She looks so much like him and has his mannerisms. You’d know her right away, even if you didn’t know her name.”

 

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Blessed

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“Oh LORD ALMIGHTY, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”  Psalm 84:12

” “The Hebrew word for “ALMIGHTY” is Shaddai. Wrapped up in that word are the characteristics of strength, nourishment, satisfier of needs, and all sufficiency.   Some scholars believe the name is rooted in a word that means mountain and refers to .”THE ONE OF THE MOUNTAINS ”   Janet Kobobel Grant from Trusting That God Will Provide,  A Study on Ruth

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121:1-2

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion which cannot be shaken but endures forever.”  Psalm 125:1

How BLESSED I am for my trust is in THE LORD ALMIGHTY, THE ONE OF THE MOUNTAINS.

How BLESSED I am because my help comes from THE LORD, THE MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.

How BLESSED I am because THE ALMIGHTY gives me everlasting life through HIS SON who died to cover my sins with His shed blood.  Like Mount Zion, I cannot be shaken.  I will endure forever, not by any merit of my own, but by His great mercy and everlasting love.

How BLESSED I am because THE ALMIGHTY  gives me strength and nourishment.  He satisfies my needs and is MY ALL SUFFICIENT ONE.

THE LORD ALMIGHTY longs to bless you.  He loves you.  COME.  TASTE AND SEE.  THE LORD IS GOOD!

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PEACE

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A friend of mine was doing her Bible Study preparation last week. She was asked to name a person she saw as filled with peace and to ask that person how she had effectively applied the peace of God to her life.  This friend named me and posed this thought provoking question to me.  What follows is my answer.

Peace is a gift and a fruit of the Spirit.  I can’t create or produce it.  How do I receive and unwrap this sweet satisfying fruit?

Jesus said in John 15 that He is the Vine and we are the branches.  He said that if we abide in Him and He in us, we will bear much fruit.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 14:17

Years ago I read Praying The Lord’s Prayer For Spiritual Breakthrough by Elmer L. Towns.  I was deeply impressed by his words:  Before you become a Christian you sit on the throne of your life.  Like a king, you ruled your life and pleased yourself.  The issue of Salvation is, Who will sit on the throne of your life?  Will you sit on your heart’s throne, or will you let Christ be enthroned there?  When you become a believer, you let Christ take control of your life. You say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ…” (Phil 1:21)  … Then we must daily pray, “Thy will be done.”  When we make that prayer daily, it is a conscious decision to  let Christ direct our lives.  That means that the Christian life is one big YES at the beginning, followed by a smaller yes every day.

Mr. Towns’ counsel led to my morning habit of putting Jesus on the throne of my life, as my King.  This morning dedication has been followed by the confession that I cannot keep jesus on the throne for even a few minutes in the power of my flesh.  That confession has been followed by a plea to The Holy Spirit to fill me, empower me, and show me what it will look like when Jesus rules and reigns in me.

My husband and I are currently reading THINK, ACT, BE LIKE JESUS by Randy Frazee.   My morning prayer is reinforced by Mr. Frazee who says, “We stay off the throne of our lives, where God belongs, and live on the altar where we belong.”

This habitual morning prayer is my strategy to attempt to abide in Jesus and to live in His Kingdom. The days that I have known real peace have been the days that I didn’t cast Jesus off the throne and put me back on it. That hasn’t been easy because I am a control freak and like to believe the lie that I won’t feel anxious, if I can control everything.  Sweet peace isn’t secured by my control but by my surrender to The King. 

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”  (Isaiah 26:3)

Over the years, as I have hidden more and more of God’s promises in my heart, my trust has grown.  As my trust has grown, so has my peace grown.  

In the New Testament Epistles (Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 4:20-32; and Colossians 3:1-17), there is a recurring theme.  We are called to put off the old self and put on the new.  We are called to put to death the flesh and to clothe ourselves with the virtues of Christ.

Two of the things that we are told to put off or put to death are anger and jealousy.  Those two sins have tripped me up more times than I care to recall or can count.  I think my peace has been in proportion to how successfully, with the Holy spirit”s power, I have said NO to anger and jealousy and YES to my King’s commands.  Peace has followed my obedience.

For me the way to peace has been to live everyday with Jesus on the throne, to trust the promises of God, and to be diligent in saying NO my old, sinful nature and saying YES to my King.

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