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He has empowered us to release that which binds us.One thing. That was all that stood between the young man and his goal–eternal life. He sensed it. He knew there was more than earth and sky, heart and flesh, sorrow and pleasure. From childhood, he’d recited the Law and held to the traditions of his people.

But, rote prayers and methodical religiosity left him as empty as a cistern in a time of drought and the man wondered if he’d ever discover a life-giving well that might sate his spiritual thirst for something more than dry tradition and impossible standards. He’d worked earnestly since childhood—striving to be good enough. No lying. No cheating. No murder.

 Still…the ache for a taste of forever. For unmarred perfection. For heart satisfaction.

And something, or perhaps Someone, pricked at his soul. Ask. Seek. Knock.

The world, though, had been a place of solace despite the elusive inner ache and the man reminded himself of his good fortune. Didn’t he own fine homes? Possess old money? Demand the sort of respect and deference afforded a man of power and influence?

How disappointing to hear the Rabbi’s words, “One thing you lack.”

Glancing from Jesus to his disciples, the young man’s mouth might have been shaped in an “o” of surprise. How can I lack for anything? I hold devoutly to the commands of the Torah . Servants bend their will to mine and I have enough riches for the rest of my days.

Why must the Teacher make such a request?  “Give all your wealth to the poor and follow me.

But, the man “was holding on tight to many things and wasn’t about to let go”. Crestfallen, he turned away from Jesus, unwilling to give the one thing Jesus wanted. Himself. His heart, mind, and soul. Not just pennies in the offering plate or a few self-righteously lived moments marked off on a mental score board. Not a token sacrifice of time spent reading scripture or a prayer recited in a desperate moment.

Jesus asked the man to loosen his grip on that which kept them from knowing one another, devotion to something else. Devotion to wealth. Position. Comfort. Earthly security.

Though it grieved the young ruler, he held fast and chose the comfort of now in favor of the promise of a beautiful, forever-love. The man was unwillingly to exchange the vanishing riches of earth for the unmatchable mercy and grace of One who would momentarily die for his sins.

How many of us are like the rich young ruler—clutching that one thing? Holding it fast as if our life depends upon it?

We may have even professed our faith, but might be missing out on fully living in relationship with Christ as we grip that one thing to our hearts. Loving it. Elevating it to a place of prominence. Not willing to entrust it to Him.

Perhaps some us struggle with attachment to possessions, but there are hundreds of little gods that might thrust themselves into our relationship with Christ…a woman-made relationship barrier.

Bitterness. Unforgiveness. Discontentment.

Worry. Fear. A difficult past.

Is that one thing in your life or mine leaving our hearts parched? Needing to be washed afresh with Living Water?

Oh, dear one, may He gently reveal any lack in our lives and empower us to release whatever binds us to the earthly that we might turn our hearts fully toward heaven’s  Promise.

Blessings,       

Tammy

 

Scripture for Reflection

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  (Mark 10:17-31 ESV)

 

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Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few- therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Whether traversing the streets or worshipping in the synagogue; commanding demons to depart or speaking words of healing over broken lives, He created scandal. At His name, creatures from the pit shuddered in terror while men captured by jealousy and the self-satisfying rites of religion plotted murder.

Friend to the desperate and downtrodden, rescuer of the helpless and abandoned, and miracle-worker in the lives of those considered less than worthy. The untouchables. The unregenerate. The unrighteous. Jesus and scandal were one and the same. Continue Reading »

Scandolous love

His birth announcement should have captured the mind and imagination of every pauper and king, servant and master, Jew and Gentile. If life were fair, he would have received recognition as the Appointed One from birth. Instead, the blessed event created almost as much scandal as his life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus.

Just the name of Christ invites reaction and has since the moment his first infant’s wail erupted from untried lungs; the heartbeat of heavenly love embodied in flesh. From birth, he was hunted as a prize by a king who resented the competition of a helpless babe born in a hovel to a teenaged mother and her working-class husband. Forced into hiding, Immanuel–the Prince of Peace and hope of all men–finally found home amongst an unbelieving family and a community of skeptics.

Jesus.

From infancy to adulthood, the Savior lived marked by God–innocence incarnate…divinity expressed…love revealed but also a man reviled by family, hated by society, abhorred by the religious elite.

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Jesus.

They say the more things change, the more they stay the same and today–2,000 years later–people continue to disregard, degrade, and debase a child birthed to a virgin in a lonely cave. Has any other infant created such controversy? Any other life such hope? Any other death such awe?

When He returns, Friends, all doubt will be destroyed. All degradation overturned. All foolish talk silenced. He came once as helpless babe, but will reappear as the almighty Alpha and Omega. He lived within the constraints of flesh and blood, but will rule with eternal power and might. He died a sacrificial lamb, but will reign as conquering king.

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In a season peppered with politically correct acclamations and a holiday that sometimes loses its meaning somewhere between the gift wrap and tinsel, may our hearts be fortified by the knowledge that thirty-three years after His birth the beautiful child unwrapped His righteousness on the tree and offered life to all willing to confess and believe in the beautiful name of…

Jesus.

 

Today’s Point to Ponder

How can we share the hope and joy of Christ’s birth with others while remaining sensitive to their individual world views? Are we willing to step out of the comfortable to plant seeds of the eternal?

 

Bible Verses for Reflection

(KJV) Luke 2-8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 

Blessings,

Tammy

 

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-Jesus gives us hope because He keeps us company, has a vision and knows the way we should go.-

I grimace at the deep gash above the young woman’s eye. It stands out angry in dark shades of green and purple against pale skin and her mother chokes on emotion as she pulls back the curtain on her soul. “I know He could make things right for her, but He doesn’t. I keep praying and hoping. Maybe I’m praying the wrong thing. I can’t afford to be bitter toward God.”

I hear the questions buried in her words and pull them forward, examining from every angle.  Doesn’t He hear me? Why do my pleadings go unanswered when others’ receive the gift of God’s grace?  And I understand. I’ve often shared these same thoughts.

One family rejoices at the renewed opportunity their depressed teenager has at living fully after a dance with death and proclaims, “God answered our prayers” while another weeps by the mound of fresh earth–uncertain how to experience joy again now that a child gone too soon lies six feet below in the dark and their hearts barely seem able to propel them ahead.

Did you disregard those dear ones? Is any one person more spiritually worthy than another? Are words of desperation only considered worthy of your throne when uttered by spiritual giants or the most penitent of saints?

Not at all, dear friends.

Christ came as the Lamb that He might return one day soon as the conquering King. On the day of His arrival–every vestige of pain, each remembrance of suffering, and all cries for justice will find their answer in the nail scarred hands and the power of One who could not be restrained by any of it.

And He’ll gather us close and these times will somehow make sense in the eternal landscape of His love and we’ll drink deeply of unmatched joy in His presence. Our prayers–once offered as a holy sacrifice–will find their answer in the restoration of life whole and eternal.

You are not left alone. You are not abandoned. Your prayers will not remain unanswered.  He is the unchanging One who eradicated death by His own and invited us into Life. Jesus has not brought us this far to leave us without hope, dear daughters of Christ.

Take the next step. Keep praying. Trust Him. He is walking with you to the end.

 

Our Enemy may destroy what he can, but he cannot touch the soul of saint.

Throwbacks to an era of the past, small towns exemplify life’s experiences in microcosm. Simple stick-built homes of varied colors stand testimony to the men, women and children whose families have forged a living from blue-collar industry or the fragility of seed and soil for more than a century.

The gnarled, callused hands of old men gathered in the local coffee shop curve around steaming mugs of liquid and some tip their heads back in laughter at a one-liner. Friends since youth, they share a brotherhood of unspoken bonds that traces itself through the towns’ past like the purple veins intertwined beneath thin, worn skin.

Women mingle in the honey-colored community center to celebrate the blossoming of a young woman’s stomach; her cheeks stained pink as generations–both children she babysat just a few years ago and friends of her grandmother–congratulate, tease, and praise. Blue and pink paper streamers drape from the ceiling as she carefully peels tape and wrapping paper from the package resting in her shrinking lap to reveal a delicately crocheted blanket. Tears gather on her lashes as she thanks someone dear for stitching love into each tiny loop and chain.

Still, the Enemy plots ill-will against those whom he hates and the lives within small towns are no less an object of his wrath than those without. One awful day, he marshals evil and sends it ricocheting among God’s people–stealing breath from infants with souls fresh from heaven and aging saints raising hands in worship.

He is like a lion devouring and destroying wherever he roams. His roar reverberates through small towns like Sutherland Springs, Texas as he claws and maims the innocent. The powerless. The defenseless.

But, God is the great Lion of Judah. His rule and reign are eternal while the Enemy belongs to a temporary coalition of spirit rebels who will bow a knee in submission to the Defender. The One who pronounces guilt and brings justice. The One who swallowed up the little lion by His revolutionary resurrection and assurance of eternal life for His children.

Our Enemy may destroy what he can, but he cannot touch the soul of saint.

 

Father, 

Our hearts ache for the lives of those lost and for their friends and families. We know the Enemy thinks he has had his way with your people, but You are the Mighty One who saves and we thank you for being with your children even in that last moment before they stepped into the throne room of heaven. Not one has been lost. (John 17:12) We pray for mercy and healing in the broken lives of families and a community ravaged by evil. Reveal yourself to the people of Sutherland Springs and heal our land.

In the powerful name of the Lion of Judah,

Amen

 

Words won’t flow. They don’t  drip or even trickle from the tired edges of my mind. Wearily, I press on–searching for the right words, a creative phrase. Nothing. I decide to turn to the Word and rediscover Him.

The Word woos me with covenant love. Promises of peace. A heaven-made search and rescue strategy detailed in black and white.

Do you, dear Friend, need the Word today? Can I encourage you to drink deeply from the springs of living water?

I’ve posted a few of my favorite scriptures below to get you started.

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1.  “His mercies are new every morning.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23)

2.  “The joy of The Lord is my strength.”  (Nehemiah 8:10)

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3. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.          (Proverbs 18:10)

4.  “Come to me…and you will find rest for your souls.”  (Matthew 11:28-29)

5.  “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs.”  (Phil. 4:19)

6.  “And The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.” (Zeph. 3:17)

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7. “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the             Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:18)

8. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will       have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

9. “He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Duet. 31:6)

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10.  Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

 

Blessings to you this day,

Tammy

 

Linking up at Salt and Light and the following blogs–

Hope is Real

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In the still of the morning, my small world is quiet and peaceful. The muffled whir of the washing machine and rhythmic inhale and exhale of my old, sleeping dog just behind my writing chair are the only sounds. A few breakfast dishes litter the kitchen counter and I ignore a freshly dried pile of darks perched on the couch.

Enfolding a warm cup of tea in my hands, I pause and whisper a prayer of thanks. For a new day. For family and friends. For safety.

Yet, my thoughts continue to focus elsewhere—returning again and again to the images I’d seen splashed across the television screen. People franticly veering left and right, desperate to escape a madman’s deadly rampage during a country music concert. Mental footage of homes laid waste by raging winds and water like a child’s broken set of Lincoln Logs. The eerie, glowing skyline of California only broken by charred remains of what had once represented the lives of hundreds of people. A human right’s activist gripping photos of a recent Syrian massacre in which babies gasped helplessly for elusive, life-giving air.

Suddenly, my peaceful morning transforms and I’m overcome with feelings of helplessness.  Hopelessness. Grief.

What hope is there for a world that destroys itself? For people brought to their knees by forces beyond their influence? For victims of the evils of terrorism and hate?

I’m reminded of a moment of vulnerability and, perhaps, even accusation when Lazarus’ sister, Mary, runs to meet Christ as he approaches her home. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Mary held Jesus responsible for her brother’s death. Why didn’t you come, Jesus? All of this pain—my pain—could have been avoided if only you’d done something.

Can you hear the unspoken words? Have you ever thought them yourself? Why, God? This just isn’t right.

But, the beauty in this story? Jesus wept.

He felt Mary’s pain. He felt death’s presence. He grieved the brokenness of a world meant for so much more.

The story doesn’t end there, though. With the trail of tears still wet on his cheeks, Jesus called Lazarus from death to life.

“Lazarus, come out!”

Healing cannot go any deeper than life reborn and that is what the Life-Giving God shouts out—to you and me. To the men and women crying out for hope. This isn’t the sort of Pollyanna, feel-good hope borne of positive thinking or some falsely produced, happily-ever-after emotion from within.

Hope is real, dear Friend, and His name is Jesus.

He sheds tears over the pain of His people, but He is powerful enough to break its chains.

There is a forever tomorrow.
There is refuge in Someone.
There is Light in the darkness.

Do you hear Him calling you today? “Child, come out!”

Blessings to you today,
Tammy

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It Only Takes a Moment

And the Rock still stands. Solid. Unmoving. Ever-present.

The base of the purple-tipped mountains blurred softly along the undulating edge of the rising fog like the folds of a heavy curtain lifting ever so slowly to reveal the hardscape of Nature’s beauty.

It was only a glimpse. An impression captured on the way to work when, amidst the rush of traffic, I paused at a red light; the Father revealing a simple truth in the imagery of clouds ascending toward heaven.

Sometimes, in the practicality of living, I forget to remember the beauty around me. The living, pulsing artistry of day and night. Moments shared with friends and family. Memories hewn from joy, tears, loss, and celebration. I even forget to remember God’s beauty.

His faithful deliverance from sharp-edged difficulty. His all-embracing, doubt-replacing goodness when I’d given up on everything but merely surviving the day. His unmatched grace and forgiveness for a woman undone by the past and uncertain of the future.

And the Rock still stands. Solid. Unmoving. Ever-present.

A flash of red captured my attention and I shifted my gaze forward. Cars and vans carrying harried passengers in a rush to the next important place—work, school, daycare—hurtled by and I wondered how many noticed the lavender and pink blush of sun pushing the cold, clingy clouds aside to reveal the immovable, constant presence beneath.

I need reminders to alter my focus—like light that envelopes crimson sediment and brushes lingering vapor aside. Perhaps when I pause, I’ll notice Him being revealed in the unexpected and unplanned. In the movement of everyday ebb and flow. In percolating laughter and sympathetic tears.

It only takes a glimpse to notice Him.

 

Verse for Reflection

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Ps. 46:10

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I just keep saying I’m fine, but I’m not. This is a ‘will get worse’ as time goes by.

 Her heart spilled across the page, its pieces shattered in bits—bleeding hopelessness against the white of the paper.

When suffering settles in, an unwanted companion, and makes itself at home in the tender places of our hearts, how can hope stay alive? Is it even possible?

For the woman whose husband has both Parkinson’s and dementia…for the person struggling day after day with the hidden pain of depression…for the mother wondering if anyone understands what it is to lose the child she once held safe in her arms—He thought of you when He offered the invitation.

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“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 in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Christ reminds us to come to Him when our burden is beyond bearing; when we fear collapse beneath the weight of painful circumstances and overwhelming emotion. But, He doesn’t call us to a list of do’s and don’ts or a religious experience—He invites us into relationship.

When we take on Christ’s yoke and follow His gentle lead—despite our suffering and regardless of our hurt—we walk step-by-step through the dark valley with Jesus. And, the all-powerful God bears the heaviness. When tears blur our vision and we stumble, He guides us. When anger fills our heart and we refuse to move forward, He gently pulls us close. When hope threatens our faith, He whispers, “Come to me.”

Feelings are real, but can lead us away from the One in whom we can find true relief, hope and rest. If we trust Him enough to believe He is our salvation, we can trust Him to be with us in the difficult.

 

Action Steps to Take When You Feel Hopeless

  1. Memorize scriptures that remind you of the truth when feelings twist the reality of your eternal hope. (Matthew 11:28-30, Isaiah 42:3-4, Joel 2:25)
  2. Find a support group, counselor, or trusted friends who will listen when you say, “I’m not fine.”
  3. Read books to inspire, encourage, or educate you about your area of struggle.
  4. Volunteer or get involved with a cause related to your struggle.

 

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The traveler strode across the desert sands; the heat of the sun burning through the thin fabric draped around his body. Ignoring the grit of dirt in his mouth, the Rabbi considered His divine assignment.

Ah, yes. The woman.

While Samaria was the most direct route to Galilee, many Jews avoided the area by heading into the Jordan Valley. After all, the land was polluted with the unclean. People of a mixed ethnic group. People who worshipped differently. People devoid of the Law. People like the woman.

Determined, Jesus continued into the heart of the unclean land. Perhaps he paused briefly to pray. Or, Christ’s pace might have quickened as he anticipated a life-altering conversation. Settling wearily on the rim of Jacob’s ancient well, Jesus licked parched lips. A Samaritan woman, approaching the well, shifted her gaze when she noticed the man.

“Will you give me a drink?” he asked, indicating the clay jar in her arms.

“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.”

Clinging to the safety and comfort of societal norms, the woman nearly dismissed Jesus. Didn’t he realize Jews didn’t addressed people like her? Tainted blood. Lowly gender. A girl with a past.

Still, the man persisted—his words washing over her with a promise to fill the empty spaces of her soul. A soul as dry as the insides of the clay jar she carried.

“If you knew the gift of God…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:9-13)

Oh, the beauty of Christ who loves us as we are. We may consider ourselves unlovable. Stained by our sins. Unworthy of God’s offer to be washed…filled…restored to a spirit life overflowing with his presence.

But, Jesus sees us and compassionately says, “Ah, that woman.”

He invites us, dear one, to drink deeply of his abundance.

Ever loved. Ever accepted. Ever changed.

Go ahead, Friend. Take the cup from his hand; it’s spilling over with the promise of a life lived in Him.

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