Saturday, August 24, 2013

What Defines You?


Possessions?  Position?  Opinions of others?

The examples above are certainly what society recommends to sooth our disgruntled souls.  If you just bought (fill in the blank) certainly happiness would be free flowing.  If you just had a certain job...  If everyone liked you...  These definitions can wreak havoc on our self-understanding, especially when we feel that we are without these things.  What then?  If we don't have the possessions, the position, the good opinion, where are we then?  Not only do such definitions encourage us to feel lousy about ourselves, but they also may motivate us to judge others with our definition.  Whether that judgement is positive or negative depends on how much or how little of whatever it is we want that they have.  Whew!  That's a lot of work, a lot of calculating, a lot of stress...

Perhaps there is something more.  What if none of these measures define us?  What if we let go of all these societal constructs that try to force themselves upon us day in and day out through the media and through our encounters with one another?  What if we embrace the true definition of who we are by understanding Whose we are?  When we believe in Christ, it is His love, His grace that defines us and those around us.  Our response not only to ourselves and one another changes dramatically when we fully accept and embrace God's definition of who we are.  Rather than seeing what we do not have, we see Who has us.  God defines us as His righteousness -- His right-ness.  When we live as God's righteousness, we see those around us as God's righteousness.  How we feel about ourselves and one another is radically changed.  You are God's righteousness today and every day.  May we embrace God's true definition of who we are, praising Him for this wonderful and transforming gift.

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (Christ) we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21 NRSV

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Say the Name

say the name


As I read my Jesus Calling devotional this morning, I was reminded of the critical need to immediately call on the name of Jesus no matter what we face.  I was convicted of how when faced with an unexpected change in my day, I immediately go into whirlwind of damage control, search and rescue, and how can we fix this, my mind racing with every possible scenario to explore, when the first thing to do is call on Jesus.  Even when I don't know what to say, saying His name is enough.  Not because saying his name brings Him to us because He is with us always and has never left our side, but because saying His name reminds us that we are in His presence and that He is walking through whatever challenges we face with us.  It is for our peace that we call on Jesus for "He is our peace".  Ephesians 2:14a.  Let that soak in.  Jesus is our peace.  When we are upset by the storms of life the only peace we will find is in Him.  When we scurry and try to figure things out on our own, I don't know about you, but my mind is rarely peaceful, but that is because I am not turning to Christ first, saying His name first, trusting Him for who He is.  What a change in my day to day choices and decisions if I made it a constant practice to speak the name of Jesus first..

One of my favorite ways to remember how natural speaking the name of God is is through breathing.  One year at a staff development retreat, a clinical psychologist taught us how saying Yahweh was as natural as breathing.  When we inhale "Yah" and exhale "Weh", we see how our Creator formed us to be able to speak His name within the most necessary part of our being.  Like breathing, saying the name of God brings life and hope and peace in all things we do.  I want to seek to make saying the name of Jesus as natural to my life as breathing.  Will you join me?

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  Philippians 2:9-11

Friday, August 16, 2013

Letting Go

Letting Go

In the hurried morning, things don't go as planned, tense words are exchanged, hearts are repentant, forgiveness is requested, grace is extended and yet receiving the grace, forgiving the self seems challenging at times. How do we let go of the guilt and remorse? It is only in the letting go, in the receiving of grace and forgiveness, that we are freed and can walk in the abundant life God gives. It is in the turning to God in these moments that we find the embrace of the One who desires to free us from the entanglements of our forgiven past and strengthen us to be who He created us to be.

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sabbath in the Midst of Agony

"Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment."  Luke 23:56 NIV

The leader you have been following for many months  has died a cruel death on a cross.  In your disbelief and shock of what has just happened, perhaps you begin to recall snippets of words he spoke seemingly trying to let you know that this was part of the plan.  Or perhaps you are so overwhelmed by the agony of the day and sleepless hours you have spent following closely to the anguish all around, you have no more capability to think, to ponder.  Overwhelmed with grief and loss, the tears may not even come or they may pour out in abundance, your head covering, your robe splattered with droplets of salt-filled tears.  Agony.  Sorrow.  Loss.  The women at the foot of the cross knew these all too well, but in the midst of their inner-anguish, they clung to Hope, they clung to obedience.  They knew that practically, their first gift to the body of Jesus would be to anoint his body with spices and perfumes, to prepare him for burial as custom required, but they also knew that dusk was on the horizon and there would be no time to prepare the body before the Sabbath.  They would wait for the Sabbath.  They would be obedient and rest on the Sabbath.  Then, they would prepare the body.

In this Scripture that is part of a story I have heard so many times, the obedience stood out.  They made use of the time they had, but they didn't over do it.  In the midst of sadness and grief we may feel the need to keep the wheels spinning, to keep talking about what has happened, to work on a solution to the situation, but the mindless, fretful, "busyness" was not required.  They chose to embrace the commandment for Sabbath rest.  I cannot believe that it was a coincidence that the Sabbath occurred when it did right after Christ's suffering and agony.  For in the agony, in the pain, in the loss we need Sabbath more than ever.  The pursuit of continual communion with God restores our souls and brings us back to our only source of hope.  For these women, obedience to God was like breathing and after a day of rest, they discovered the truth that we as modern-day believers already know, joy comes in the morning.

Blessings for the journey.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Moving from Awful to Awesome



Pain, tears, sweat pour forth and then the sound most beautiful, the sound that makes all the pain and agony of the hours before worth it, the sound of a cry from this new life who has been ushered into the world. To be part of that process day in and day out must be a beautiful experience. For Shiphrah and Puah, this was life. They lived their lives to help others give life to new hope. The life of the midwife must certainly have been filled with its share of challenges and sadness, but oh the joy it could also bring. So when the summons from Pharoah came down, what an icy chill must have run through their soul. Here was a man who in his earthly power had the capability of not only ending their lives, but now he was asking them to end the lives of many others, all the Hebrew boy babies. He was asking them to do a work diametrically opposed to what their life's work was. They were life givers, not life takers. How could the king ask this of us?

They could have taken this mandate from this earthly king, recognizing the power he had to end everything they knew, and follow his decree, but the truth is that Shiphrah and Puah held to a higher, holy Authority, they feared God. They knew this decree from Pharoah did not fit with the gift of life they had recognized came from God. The miracles they were gifted to experience each day must have drawn them in to experience an awe and wonder for the Creator God who brings life. Even today as I have been told my sister-in-law who is a nurse, the medical community still cannot pinpoint what it is that begins the labor process. The mystery of the miracle remains still and Shiphrah and Puah had a holy reverence, respect, fear of the mystery. They held God in such high esteem that the worldy values of following their earthly authority did not come close to eclipsing their fear of God.

So they didn't do it. They followed God. They honored God. They feared God.

They were able to hold in tension something that I personally find challenging, balancing God's Almighty Power alongside His Loving Immanence -- His "God With Us"ness. And I recognized and was convicted of my lack of focus on this Holy Power that is the God I serve and thought how my propensity for sin and in fact my life overall would change if I thoughtfully spent more time focusing truly on Who God is, on asking God to work in my life to foster more and more a holy fear, an awe, a reverence for Who God truly is. What would happen if I began each day, earnestly seeking to recognize the pieces of God that I am able to grasp? How would each thought and decision of my day be affected? It is one of my favorite things about God that He is completely beyond my comprehension, but nonetheless urges me on to learn more and more about who He is and grow closer in relationship with Him each day.

Shiphrah and Puah were able to recognize the Power in the God they served and God blessed them.

"So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. And it came about that because the midwives feared God, that he established households for them.". Exodus 1:20-21 (nasb)

May we each grow more in more in our recognition and understanding of God each day.

Blessings for the journey.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Beauty in Weakness


For the past several months, I have joined the She Reads Truth community in several devotional series they have offered.  If you are looking for a good devotional series, I highly recommend joining this wonderful resource.  You can even access these devotionals through the YouVersion Bible app on your phone.

The latest series I have read is "Women of the Bible" part 1.  One of the women profiled was Leah, the first wife of Jacob.  Leah has always been a character in Scripture who has stood out to me because of the sadness in her life.  Her father sneakily married her to Jacob first when the wife Jacob really wanted was Leah's sister Rachel.  How heartbreaking to feel as though you were always second place to your sister.

When I read Leah's story most recently, I noticed that the word used to describe her eyes varies from translation to translation of Scripture.  The NASB describes her eyes as "weak", but the MSG describes them as "fine".  The drastic change startled me.  Whenever I hear the phrase "fine eyes", I'm immediately transported to Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Darcy refers to the eyes of Elizabeth Bennett as fine.  I know he didn't mean that description as an insult, but rather to emphasize their beauty.

Could it be that there is a deeper meaning in the use of this word to describe Leah's eyes?  Perhaps there is room for both translations?  Perhaps, in fact, they may lead to one another, harmonizing into a beautiful melody.

Maybe this description points us to the beauty God sees in our weakness.  For in our weakness lies our reliance on God.  Weakness pushes us even further into the arms of God.  It is so natural for us to rely on Him in our challenges when we are pushed past the breaking point.  Our strengths tempt us to go it on our own, to be independent.  In our weakness, we recognize our true state of being, our utter dependence on Him and the true beauty of the relationship begins.  We begin to see what God desires -- that we would cast off our prideful, show-off self, rationalizing all that we are trying to be and embrace our lack, our weakness, and rely on Him because He is the only one who will strengthen us, purify us and complete us in the way we need.

It is not only Leah in Scripture who is described as weak, but Paul himself writes, "when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Cor. 12:10b.  Paul delighted in his weakness, for it turned the focus to Christ.  What a radical view!  Paul writes just before this passage, the word he heard from the Lord, "my grace is sufficient for you for my strength is made perfect (complete) in weakness".  2 Corinthians 12:9.

I wonder when we open our weakness up to God and ask Him to dwell within, to complete us, is there any response other than praise?  Leah certainly didn't think so!  In fact as God allowed her to bear six sons who would eventually become half of the twelve tribes of Israel, she pointed to God in almost each circumstance, recognizing that any good thing came from God's hand alone.

May we, too, be quick to praise God for the good and embrace our weakness, allowing God to perform a mighty and beautiful work in our lives.

Blessings for the journey.