Some say they have never heard him sing, while others shake their head and walk away. Do we take time to listen for the soloist? A trained ear will hear him. Let us look for him.
Haggai was the Lord’s messenger and his message to the people of his day was “…I am with you, saith the Lord.” Haggai 1:13, KJV He is with us, it’s true. I saw him one day as a child wept as she recited John 3:16. It wasn’t fear but God moving her one step closer to him.
Special services make it easy to feel God’s presence and for the Christian whose life has been freed of sin, there is a rush of joy wanting to express gratitude to God for taking away the trouble in their heart. The world cannot understand the concept that what makes one holy also makes one happy.
Did you ever wonder if God has moments when he can’t contain his happiness for those who trust him and come to him through his son Jesus Christ? Zephaniah gives us the answer.
“He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
Who would have thought that God can be so overjoyed that he bursts into song? The scripture may be speaking about his people Israel, its conversion and restoration and the glorious times which are to follow, but in essence, it is talking about accepting Jesus Christ as Lord.
A shepherd rejoices over finding a lost sheep and a woman rejoices at finding her lost coin, so to, all heaven rejoices over a repentant sinner (Luke 15:10). This is, if we so must rate it, the ordinary joy of heaven. But Zephaniah steps it up to the next level and wants us to know that God becomes involved too. The conversion of the Jews is a subject of peculiar delight and exultation to God himself!
He will save; he will be Jesus; he will answer the name, for he will save his people from their sins. Prior to this, their life is a shadow.
In the original language God is referred to as Yehovah Eloheycha, "The self- existent and eternal Being, who is in covenant with you." What a covenant it is!
No song of lament here, only overflowing pleasure in people finding out who God is. Is it any wonder that as we read scripture and understand its meaning that our enjoyment of God should increase? I am amazed and humbled to know that God actually sings about me.
Lost people returning home mean everything to God and nothing tells it better than the parable of the Prodigal Son and the young man who showed arrogant disregard for his father’s authority as head of the family.
After all the mess the young man’s life culminates, we see his father running to him full of love and compassion. God’s love is constant, patient and welcoming. What did it take to bring you to your senses that you were in need of a Savior? Or what will it take? The son in this story was as lost as the coin and the sheep in the other two parables, but now God puts flesh on the “lost” of mankind.
We want to exclude people who aren’t clean, let someone else take care of the castoffs of society. They deserve what they get. That’s where this guy’s brother was at. Like the older son, it may be a case that you never traveled down a path away from God and don’t see the need to rejoice when a scumbag comes home.
God’s people must not stand aside and above, but must join in heaven’s celebration when those who were lost have been found.
When you read from the gospel of Luke, pay attention to the part about the shepherds, it’s just not a good read, its there for a reason. Shepherds were not allowed in the city. They were outcasts of their day. Many were thieves and untrustworthy. Jesus would come, not to the proud and powerful, but to the outcasts, the humble, those considered “last” on the social lists. It was to these men God brought the first news of his Son’s arrival.
Listen to the music everywhere, the sounds of great joy! Never tire of all the renditions proclaiming the birth of the Savior of the world. When all is silent, listen for the soloist. Do you hear what I hear? A God, a God so full of glory and grace who sings because another one of his children has come home. Was it you?
It's hard to come back to a place of normal. After a while, normal feels stranger than when every thing went wrong and you were left with sorrow and emptiness as you try to piece your life back together. There is no choice, there is no direction to go but up. That is a good place to be, because this time you can determine with the help of God “I can make it,” and instead of wallowing in your state of affairs you use them as building blocks.
We all fail. It's what you do with the lessons failure brings, what it teaches you, as you move on to become stronger and owlish in the future. There is enough despair in the world that you can stay under the circumstances forever or you can set a new goal and anticipate future success.
It reminds me of the woman (in fact several women) in the Bible, that had nothing left to live for and was prepared to die along with her son after she made them a little cake with some oil. Elijah enters the scene and asks her to feed him... first. She tells him what she is about to do and he says two important words, “Fear not,” and then proceeds to tell her to make a the cake for him first.
This is kind of funny because if you know anything about Elijah at all, you know he himself had reached a point where he prayed that he might die. He was afraid of a queen named Jezebel. So when we think of the Bible as a bunch of old stories, we need to look again and find every instance where what was happening parallels our lives and use it to improve ours.
Nothing can be harder than being in the pits and looking to God for answers and believing in what he is telling us, but if you are ever to mature in your faith it has to go beyond attending church and hoping things will change. You have to find answers for yourself because no one knows you better than you... and God of course.
While we do not have any prophets running around prophesying over us, telling us what God will do for us because of our obedience, we do have the Bible which is the place we need to go when anyone tells us what to do. If it does not line up with what God says, toss it away.
For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” 1 Kings 17:4, NIV
It happened exactly as Elijah told the woman. She needed food for the table and her family. Because she did for God first, she was rewarded and blessed. I'll bet that set the tongues wagging about where the woman who had no husband was getting her provisions from. As a woman of faith, you will learn to relish the things God provides for you on a daily basis and it doesn't matter what people think.
One thing to remember is God isn't keeping score of how often you fail, he is noting how often you are trusting him to get you through the night, another day or the week. He will encourage you in many small ways by doing things or showing you things that only you know about. He is an amazing God who loves each of us intimately. He touches our heart when no one else can.
The widow was destitute and had no one. There was no agency to provide her with funds to tide her over until she was on her feet and no morale support from those going through the same thing. But the one thing she did have was a belief in God.
Despite her situation, God's grace came through for her by way of provision for her and her family. He will do the same for you and please don't loose heart if it doesn't come instantly or in the way you thought it would. God also likes to surprise us and often fulfills his Word in ways we never thought of or restores us back to a place where we are able once more to provide for ourselves.
Restores always? No. I'm not claiming to look into God's crystal ball and see what is in store. Sometimes we are in need of nothing but spending time with him. Sometimes it is a place where we learn empathy for others so we can help them in their time of need.
The words of Paul in Philippians 4:11 come to mind, where he speaks of contentment no matter what circumstances he found himself in... something he learned by both having and not having.
God forgives us through his son Jesus Christ and once forgiven we begin on a path of learning about our relationship with him by what flashes before us and by periods of darkness where it's like we are abandoned by him. Both are good places to be and experience because life isn't just about loving the highs we experience, but by trusting him in the lows too.
Contentment is what brings us to a place of normal and a solid foundation where we can be unafraid to acknowledge our weaknesses and move ahead in the strength of the Lord. Do you delight yourself in what God has to say or are you looking for excuses of why it can't work?
Don't let fear stop you. The Lord is waiting for you to come back.
A mother was watching her four-year-old child playing outside in a small plastic pool half filled with water. He was happily walking back and forth across the pool, making big splashes. Suddenly, he stopped, stepped out of the pool, and began to scoop water out of the pool with a pail.
“Why are you pouring the water out, Johnny?” the mother asked.
“’Cause my teacher said Jesus walked on water. And this water won’t work,” the boy replied. (More Holy Humor by Cal & Rose Samra)
Innocence makes us laugh. The supernatural, the storm, the command of the situation and the take away from the whole incident around Jesus walking on water was not mentioned by the little boy. Is he so different then we adults?
Actually that is the way many folks treat Jesus. They want a better life. They become confused by why they can’t snap their fingers and make it all go away by doing what Jesus did. And if it doesn’t miraculously work in the moment, they toss him away and try some other solution for their troubles and return to a life that will never satisfy their spiritual needs. There is an empty space, a hollow that only Christ can fill to make things “work out” in our lives.
The prelude to Jesus walking on water was the loud, rough wind that was blowing. It howled. It churned the sea with waves. Peter seeing Jesus, bravely began to walk to him. Then reality set in and he saw and heard that “boisterous” wind whipping around him and felt the sea drenching his flesh. Fear took over and except for Jesus reaching his hand to him, he would have drowned. Have you ever experienced those feelings?
When my husband found out he had prostrate cancer, he had all kinds of wild thoughts crowding his mind. Although he knew a lot of Bible verses, they did not override all he was experiencing. He had a decision to make about which way to attack this invader of his body. It was a perfect time for Jesus to show up and say “you’re healed.” The water didn’t work in the way we had hoped. There was no miraculous healing. He could have bailed out, but chose to believe he would be healed in God’s time and by other means.
The relentless storm lasted five months until it blew itself out; however, Jesus was present with him throughout the ordeal of the weeks of radiation therapy and the subsequent side effects lasting beyond.
Sometimes we place ourselves unknowing where the end results can be fatal. Once, when maneuvering through the mountains after dark, I rounded a curve that was sharper then I anticipated. There were cinders on the road. As I firmly pulled the wheel to prevent my going over the edge, I only had time for one name to be called out. Yeah, that name was “Jesus.” The water worked. My bumper caught a tree and propelled me back where I needed to be.
I believe we can see Jesus in the midst of our circumstances both in an instant if needed or over a progressive, long haul. The key is, we have to have him in the picture to begin with. No Jesus; no peace, no hope.
To see the miraculous, one has to be in a place where nothing else will do. As long as we can work things out our way (and how we try) why should Jesus show up?
The little boy tried to walk on water by himself, under his conditions. The object is to be where Jesus is, to partner with him, to take his hand and say “help.” As long as we are safe in our little boat of ways to make things happen, we aren’t trusting in Christ to come along side and calm our sea.
Fear was gushing from those men in the Sea of Galilee. It had all but materialized when Jesus came walking toward them. Fear wants to so grasp our attention that we forget scripture and row as fast as we can away from the answer found in Christ. Only when we are headed toward Jesus can a bridge over troubled water (couldn’t resist) be constructed.
Once we are elevated above the situation, we see such a vivid surreal scene, like floating above an emergency gurney as doctors and nurses frantically work to revive you. Wouldn’t you know it, fear jumps back into the picture and tells you there is no hope for what your eyes see. It overrides the truth of scripture and we no longer walk on the skin of the water but succumb and sink into the depths of despair.
The secret to walking on water is Jesus. Doubt wants to say there is no end to the torment of the moment. We cry out like Peter, “…Lord, save me,” (Matt. 14:30).
For that to happen, to enter into that dimension of the miraculous, we have to get out of the boat of what we know and walk toward what we have yet to learn. Believing and trusting in Jesus only grows stronger when practiced.
Have you been bailing out the water because it doesn’t work? Perhaps your self-sufficiency is blinding you or what is more the truth, fear grips you each time you try to meet Jesus on the water. The only way to move past the failings and tragedies of this life is by allowing ourselves to take his hand. After all, he created both the seen and the unseen. God is willing, are you?
A few years ago I thought I missed the headlines forecasting a difficult week ahead. An in-law was dying. A transmission quit in one vehicle. Our other car won’t start... 50 miles away. Loved ones left to go back home. Doctors canceled appointments. A mother carrying a new grandchild went into premature labor and the big “C” word was floating way too close to home. Okay, so those are things that make one unhappy, now what can I counter them with?
The following week, a long awaited prospective job interview came through, labor pains had subsided, A’s & B’s came home on report cards, a house sold so loved ones could move back to PA, one vehicle was in the garage for repairs and I started the garden early. Whew!
Can’t do anything about the sadness and grief of loosing a loved one except respect it. It hurts the heart. The options for cancer treatment were given, a choice was made and we rested in God for the outcome.
Once I went to an ocean inlet when the tide was out and was shocked. I remember the mud littered with bottles, metal and other trash I couldn’t identify. The boats leaned on their keels. That was how the events of the previous week had left me; messed up and leaning in my soul.
Compound problems move me to find something to do for someone else. How was I to know it would come in such a simple form while grocery shopping? It was hardly a good time to shop with the wind knocked out of me and I was sleepy. On a day like that, you can’t find anything that you want and your fixated on why they moved everything from where it used to be found.
“Do you see the bread for $.89 anywhere?” a man’s voice interrupted my unfocused shopping. He had reached for a loaf of bread that was clearly marked $2.24. When I told him the price his hand retreated as though bitten.
“Here is bread for $.74.”
“That will do.”
A short distance down the aisle the man was looking at the jelly and jam. As I drew near he asked “What kind is this?” By now I surmised that he could not read and perhaps his eye sight wasn’t so hot either being the label had big red strawberries all around.
“Is there any here without sugar?” I found the sugar free preserves and he accepted it from my hand. He must have been diabetic too.
“Strawberry,” I said as I handed it to him.
I had interacted with a stranger who couldn’t read, a man very dependent on others to meet his needs using friendliness and quaint jokes to get him over a difficult hurdle in today’s world.
What gets you by the insurmountable difficulties that arise in your life?
Thank goodness we have a Heavenly Father who is always concerned with our everyday lives and he lets us know that he is there for us and that his Word has the answers for what we often are afraid to ask.
From experience, I know a pile of troubles occur from time to time in everyone’s life. Likewise, a collection of good things can also happen in a row.
Of what good would it have been for Christ to have been beaten and bruised if we don’t take advantage of “…the chastisement of our peace…” and “…his stripes…” by which we are healed of Isaiah 53:5?
Most people didn't have a problem joining in the celebration and waving the palm branches as Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. A problem arises however, when we are reminded a week later that those same arms are raised in anger while the same people shout “Crucify him!” We like singing “God is Good, All the Time” until that week of unbelievable hard things hit us and we shout “Why me?” in God’s face.
We understand little of the great passion of Jesus Christ. He isn’t just God in the good times, he is Lord during what we consider to be bad times too. I believe the more a person is able to erase the line separating the two, the sooner one is able to live everyday in and through Christ. It is the only way to know his peace and to experience his healing touch.
Walking in Jesus circumvents the feelings of doubt, fear and anxiety and allows us to function. It allows us a clear view to observe how God works in each event in our lives. As we rest in Him, we are revived physically and mentally and able to function in today, all because he took our grief and carried our sorrows. Jesus is the one who makes life palatable enough to go on.
He sees the pain. He knows you suffer. He sees your broken heart. He feels your heaviness. Now won’t you ask him to come and carry your load? He said he would. Let’s see… peace or stress… which do you want?
A caveman sitting under a tree writes…
“I’ll take heaven” …by golly
Man, man, magnificent man-
Creates forces that outshine the stars
He can shoot himself up and tap dance on the moon
Or hurl himself clear out to Mars!
He can unleash a force that evaporates steel,
Since he’s learned how an atom behaves.
Yet he has no recourse but to bow to the force,
That summons the dead from their graves.
The poem is from a 1996 B.C. cartoon by Johnny Hart. He died April, 2007. As a committed Christian, he found a way to tell the world what was on the inside of him. He was glad that his Christian themes made people both in the secular and Christian arenas take notice…even to the point of debates which cost him the loss of some papers carrying his comic strip. Mr. Hart’s heart was sold out to Jesus and it showed.
Scripture affirms that what is on the inside is what will become apparent to those on the outside. We can’t help it.
What’s on the inside is the essence of being a Christian. In Joseph’s case it was what kept him from the temptation offered by Potiphar’s wife.
“ But he refused. "With me in charge," he told her, "my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care.
No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her." Genesis 39:8-10 (NIV)
He couldn’t deny whose he was.
The high priests didn’t yell from the outside the Holy of Holies to God within. They had to go into that place and they knew if there was anything inside them that offended God the rope that was attached to their ankle would pull their dead body out.
David wrote, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy loving kindness and thy truth from the great congregation.” Psalms 40:8-10 (KJV)
Having Christ within not only helps with temptation but it also allows us greater latitude of peace both for ourselves and what we are able to display to others.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” Romans 12:18 (NIV).
That would seem to be a tall order, but with the peace that Jesus Christ has given us it’s more that you can imagine. If you’re still capable of “loosing it” perhaps you need a nap or maybe you need to give that area, that besetting sin, to God to cleanse.
How wonderful to be able to walk through life at peace with the strength that God gives to combat the temptations from the dark side! Having Christ within also helps us when we are traveling at the speed of light.
“We're in no hurry, God. We're content to linger in the path sign-posted with your decisions. Who you are and what you've done are all we'll ever wan.
Through the night my soul longs for you. Deep from within me my spirit reaches out to you. When your decisions are on public display, everyone learns how to live right..” Isaiah 26:8-9 (MSG).
Life happens. To take it too seriously makes us grouchy and miserable to be around. Johnny used humor much like Erma Bombeck did. Below is a letter she wrote back in answer to Father Tom Walsh. He asked her if she thought humor is healing.
Dear Father Tom:
I suspect that you have me confused with Norman Cousins. He’s several inches taller, and he laughed his way through illness. He got a best-seller out of his illness. I got three children. Those are the breaks.
…What I have been doing for 16 years in my column is to put my life in perspective, the frustration of raising children, the loneliness, the pain, and the futility of it all. And it works.
Good luck. I miss you at St. Thomas. Was it something I said? Erma
I surmise that when the Jesus Christ finds residence within our hearts we would be wise to listen to a little girl who was to have heart surgery. The Dr. asked her if she was afraid.
The doctor explained what he thought he would find when he looked into her heart. She corrected the doctor.
“When you look in my heart you will find Jesus.”
“And they said one to another; did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” Luke 24:32 (KJV).
What is inside the Christian defends, gives peace and lightens the load. Living for Christ gives you heartburn. The best way to cure it - share what lies within you with everyone through whatever talents or means God has given you.