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Posts Tagged ‘eternal life’

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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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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Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving. 2 Cor. 9:7 (MSG)

 

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Against all odds, thousands of nut-colored seeds unfolded beneath ground and thrust their heads bravely through the hard crust of the last Montana snow. Each tiny sprig of green represented survival—a seasons-long battle spent dormant tucked below the inhospitable prairie soil.

They also represented the Farmer’s hard work.

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Before the sun cast its morning glow across the cliffs and beyond the creek, the Farmer sat astride the John Deere tractor with his favorite hat—the one my grandma hated—perched on his head. Nearly every day of every season; year after year, the Farmer worked the land.

In the summer, burnished stalks of wheat swayed in the wind until the heads bent low and heavy from the weight of their burden. By the time the prairie grasses stood bronzed by the sun, crops had been stripped and were left bare but for the craggy stubble alternating with the brown of the earth. Just before the cold held the land firmly in its grasp, the Farmer tilled the soil—turning and breaking the sandstone that ruptured the surface with a hatchet—and then carefully poured seed into neatly made furrows. If the seed was healthy and conditions were right then the Farmer and his wife—the one who taught me to make my first pie—might have something to show for their hard work.

What would have happened, though, if the Farmer failed to buy good seed? Or, if he had only planted every other field? Would the results have been abundant if the Farmer was unmotivated or shrugged his shoulders? God has a plan—I don’t really need to do anything.

The scenario seems foolish, I know. But, don’t we sometimes take the “hands-off” approach to sharing ourselves with others? I do—more often than I’d like to confess. Honestly, it is just hard to share Christ with others! I’ve mentioned before that I am a people pleaser—maybe we all are to an extent. But, I REALLY want others to like me. To respect me. And honestly?   I even want a few people to think I am special. Can anyone out there relate?

But this week, I read Hebrews 13:15-16.

“So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This “insider world” is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus’ name. Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others.” MSG

I have a problem—a problem with holing up in my spiritual tower like an old, miserly Scrooge hiding away in his chamber and unwilling to share with others. Instead of coins, though, I have received the abundant and eternal treasure of the one and only Savior! If I fail to share the truth of Christ with a world struggling to survive the seasons and trials of life then I am not doing my work. I will be like a Farmer failing to plant the seed and work the ground.

Friend, my heart aches to take as many people as I can to heaven with me—by God’s grace and the work of the Spirit. Today, then, my prayer is that I would set aside the burden of self for the burden of people who need to hear about Jesus and the hope that He offers. Lord, give me a heart to join you outside—despite the conditions of rejection, derision, or animosity. Teach me to cast off my grudging, reluctant participation for an active,   hands-in-the-dirt approach to sharing holy love and true Life with others. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

For years, I’ve struggled to understand.  How can there be rest in a world like this…in the here-and-now reality of government sponsored terrorist attacks, state approved drug consumption, and families reeling from the long-term effects of terminal illness…abuse…divorce?

Religion tells us we’ll find peace in doing…living life in a certain way…proving to God that we are worthy of approval. 

Television “experts”  and self-help gurus reassure that we create our own peace–“Happiness is in your spiritual DNA. It is what you experience when you accept yourself…” (Dr. Robert Holden).

The world promises we can find peace in the anesthetized power of sexual encounters…bank accounts brimming with wealth…or the uninhibited consumption of a non-demanding, high-resolution screen.Fish Symbol on Cross

No…religion robs us of joy and promotes the desire to help others–a desire born of a self-centered motivation to earn heavenly favor.

If happiness were  innate, then there would be no such thing as genetically based mood disorders.  Say “goodbye” to depression.  Adios, anxiety!  We have the power!

And money?  Sex?  Inanimate screens?  In and of themselves, they aren’t bad.  As givers of hope, though, they are only mere fillers for unmet emotional and spiritual needs!  As soon as the money has been spent, the comforting arms have disappeared, or the ‘off’ button has eliminated the constant Twitter and Facebook feeds then what remains?  Lonely, broken people.

Jesus?  He promised something more….a one-of-a-kind, once-and-for-all, happily ever after.  It may seem slow in coming, but there is a place prepared with you in mind, Dear One–your forever home with a tender Father willing to temporarily move into time and space in order to bear your burden and mine .

This is a sort of rest that extends beyond the ten o’ clock news and personal problems.  Soul-rest exists in the glorious triumph of Christ’s resurrection, His assurance of  forgiveness, and the holy grace of eternal restoration.

Scripture for Reflection–

Isaiah 53:3-4

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Brilliant shafts of light passed through the windows as I sat silently…listening for God to instruct my heart.  Closing my eyes, I invited Him to meet me during these few quiet moments set aside for prayer and reflection.

Glancing at the sheet of prompts held in my hands, I struggled with the response–not because I didn’t know the answer…but because I did.  Today’s devotion penetrated with the question…What are you excited about?

The answer surfaced quickly–an undesired intruder provoking speculation…questioning…uncertainty.

What was I excited about?  

Nothing.

I feel as if I’m living in limbo…wondering about God’s plans for my children, my family, and my life.  And like a man standing on a mountain top in the midst of a snowstorm, I can’t see the other peak just beyond the valley.

Pausing, I wonder if my honest answer is unacceptable to God.   Ungrateful…unworthy…unholy–the words penetrate my heart and guilt’s shadow presses near.

Grappling with both the question and the answer, I realize my longing for more–more of holiness…more of  beauty…more of Christ–is the deep desire to know my Creator; to live in the perfection of  an Eternal Garden.

Today, though, I am living as all people do–in this strange Temporary of joy and pain, hope and fear, celebration and sorrow.

The Psalmist shared the same feeling–I want to drink God, deep draughts of God.  I’m thirsty for God alive.  (Psalm 42:2). Dear Friend, my soul yearns for the day I am fully in His presence and surrounded by glory.  That is a Forever excitement.

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As a little girl, I longed for a normal family life–a Brady Bunch sort of family life that included trips to the Grand Canyon, sack races in the backyard, and the resolution of any conflict within a thirty minute time frame.  Whatever you say, Mike. My childish longings found fertile ground in the solitude of my imagination where I created a rich landscape of characters who allowed me to foster dreams of what might be…someday.

Someday finally arrived. And from the moment he slipped the ring on my finger,  I knew we would have a “normal” family. Which we did–and do.

Our family is as normal as any other.  Socks never seem to match, the children argue about important matters…“I have he biggest spoon!” Meanwhile, my husband and I marvel at the ridiculous things we say…”Who put underwear on the dog?” These are the small delights and details of an everyday family.

But, along with the regular we’ve experienced the unwelcome–those changes in perception or circumstance that so substantially impact one person that the rest of the family feels the aftershock.  None of us are exempt from these experiences.  While we can’t identify with every situation, we can understand the disappointment, fear, and grief associated with them. Alzheimer’s…infertility…cancer…depression.

This, dear friends, is the normal of people living between the worlds of Today and Forever.  Today’s normal is a beautiful, imperfect challenge.  There are joys and sorrows; hurts and triumphs. If we pause for a moment from our rushing and worrying, we might just catch a glimpse of our Eternal Someday in a child’s belly laugh…an old couple’s tender kiss…a father praying for his family.

Someday…

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Fish Symbol on CrossI want to be your encourager today–the one who reminds you that Christmas is the day Eternity entered the world…that moment when the Holy One stepped away from God’s glory to lay shivering a midst the squalor and stench of man’s inhospitable world.  For within that unremarkable town in an unknown stable, a young woman wrapped filthy rags around the King-turned-flesh.

And she must have wept tears of joy…and sorrow–knowing that God’s Miracle-child had been meant for more.  The world should have received the Lion-made-Lamb with shouts of praise and proclamations of the Messiah’s arrival!  God incarnate should have been wrapped in blankets of silk stitched together with threads of gold and silver!

Yet for thirty-three years, Jesus lay his crown of glory aside.  The one who breathed life into the spirit of man gave up His glory the moment the power of the Most High stirred life in the virgin’s womb.  Why?  Because of love.  Nothing more.

Dear friend, Eternity entered the world that we might have eternity.  But not just any eternity, nor an eternity spent shivering in a place of corruption…a place without the Lion-made-Lamb. He lived a man’s life–from cradle to cross–with you and me in mind so that we might experience Eternity himself.

It was His plan all along–this quiet redemption.  His impoverished birth for our heavenly re-birth.  His tattered swaddling clothes for our white robes.  His unheralded nativity for our celebrated homecoming.

The day Eternity entered the world is much more that Christmas–it is Christ.

Verses for Reflection

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God.  (Luke 1:35)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor. 5:17)

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, … (Revelation 7:9-17)

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She lay limp in my arms. Not a breath escaped from the perfectly formed mouth.  Her fragile ribcage failed to rise and fall and I knew her tiny heart had ceased beating.  And, for a moment, my own heart stilled.  I paused in horror as my daughter’s lips, face, and body changed from the new-from-heaven shades of pink and cream to a dusky grey and then a deep, unsightly brackish color.

Cradling her tiny body in my arms, I began crying out. “Dave, the baby isn’t breathing!” In a blur of commotion, my child lay motionless atop her changing table–my husband exchanging his life’s breath with our unresponsive daughter. Listen…breathe…compress.

“Ma’am?”  the voice passing through the receiver caught my attention.  “Has your baby choked on something? Does she have a pulse?”

No.  My baby was dead. There was no life remaining.  One minute…two minutes.  Still, the father breathed.

“Please, Lord.  Don’t take the baby…not my baby!”  My prayers emerged loud and desperate–pregnant with a mother’s agony.  Three minutes…four minutes. There wasn’t even the flicker of an eyelid; only the steady rhythm of my husband’s counting–one, two, three, four, five.

Then…five minutes.  The hands on the clock seemed to have stilled and the three of us were trapped in that moment.  Suddenly, Heather gasped for air–an  uneven rasping sound.  At the same time, the firefighters pushed into the crowded nursery.  Like us, they were unbelieving and surprised.  My precious child was alive!

In much the same way, Christ saw his children helpless…dying…exempt from eternal hope.  And without hesitation, He exchanged his own holy life for the lives of fatally sinful people.  His life for mine…and yours.  The moment of Christ’s last breath was a promise for our forever tomorrows.  His precious children are truly alive!

Verse for Reflection:  Colossians 2:13

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