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Posts Tagged ‘jesus’

Philippians 1:4-6 “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

As a newlywed, were you surprised to discover you and your husband failed to share all of the same expectations?  Disappointed because he left the toilet seat up?  Startled to learn he was as much in need of the cross as you?  I was.

When we exchanged our vows, I hadn’t realized the number of expectations both David and I had of each other.  I knew my husband would lovingly tolerate mood swings, easily give up the majority of closet space, and avoid comparing my cooking to his mother’s.  In turn, he assumed I would recognize the value of his waxing the pickup every weekend, the importance of creases in Navy uniforms, and the necessity of always arriving 20 minutes early for church on Sunday mornings.

Our expectations weren’t wrong, but they were inaccurate.  Preparing for deployment is similar.  Planning ahead, while important and certain to ease some transitions, will not eliminate challenges each of you will face.

Moses had expectations, as well.  After fleeing Egypt, Moses built a life for himself in the desert of Midian.  He gave up privilege for wealth, started a family, and grew old.  Moses knew the routine.  He enjoyed life’s predictability.  He knew what to expect.  Until…God called him to the unexpected.

For over 400 years, the Israelites had suffered in Egypt.  In fact, they had been brutally enslaved.  Children were torn from their mother’s arms, old men felt the sting of the whip across their backs when age limited productivity, and starved young men could only beg for mercy at the cruel hands of their masters.  In despair, God’s people cried out for relief…hope…deliverance.

You may know the story.  God sent Moses–a man who had once been accustomed to the riches and pleasures of royalty and now lived the humble life of a shepherd—to rescue Israel.  But, what could God do with a bent old man—a recluse?  Even Moses doubted God’s wisdom.   “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  (Exodus 3)

Despite his fears and insecurity, Moses remained faithful to God’s commands.  He asked to have an audience with the king of Egypt.  While it may seem surprising, Pharaoh granted the request—likely because he wanted a good laugh.  Think about it.  Pharaoh held the power of the world’s richest nation in his hands.  Commerce and trade were booming.  The military was unshakeable.  Wealth and education were hallmarks of the kingdom.  The ruler of Egypt had nothing to fear from a desert hermit.  Wouldn’t it be amusing to invite this unkempt, senile, stuttering fool to the foot of the throne?

So…Moses entered the glorious halls of the palace.  Unimpressed with the beauty around him, unafraid of the guards escorting him, and uninterested by those snickering in amusement at his blue-collar appearance, he approached Pharaoh and announced without hesitation, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:  ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.”

Laughter filled the room as Pharaoh and his court heard Moses’ words.  Did this white-haired relic realize he was addressing the most influential man in the world?  Surely, this hermit realized his life was at stake?  Was he insane?

Locking his gaze on Egypt’s king, Moses waited for the noise to subside.  He doesn’t realize who You are, Lord.  He is his own God. What a fool!

Finally, the room grew quiet.  Pharaoh’s face hardened.  He had expected Moses to be a cowering old man tottering on the brink of sanity.  Instead, he recognized strength and determination in an enemy more than twice his age.  Unwilling to admit it to himself, the great king of Egypt knew the Hebrew God had set a plan in motion the moment Moses entered the gates of the royal courtyards.

Remember, friend, the One who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow can also use the unexpected in your life.  Yes, it will be difficult to give up comfortable routines.  You may yearn for the security of predictability.  At times, you might even feel as if you’ve been exiled to a foreign land—abandoned to a place apart from your husband or the life you had known.  Your expectations—for your life, your family, and your faith—will be altered and changed in amazing ways when you give them to God.

Suggested Scripture Reading

Psalm 93

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Was peace an illusion?  For years, my haunted heart yearned for its calming balm.  Christ promised His followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.   I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27)  But the tears scattered across my people and the anguish twisting my stomach evidenced a complete lack of peace…  How I longed to claim that peace as my own!

I’ve come to understand that, in many ways, peace is something Christ offers but we have to choose it.  His perfect peace is available, but in order to claim it we must lay down our troubles and fears.  It’s as if a beautifully wrapped gift has been placed at our feet–waiting to be unwrapped.  When we clasp today’s worries tightly in our arms–refusing to give them up–it’s impossible to pick up that which we have longed to take hold of.

So…today I’m going to drop the heavy burden at His feet.  Instead, I’m going to trust Him to deal with those worries.  I’m claiming His peace this morning.  Will you, too, dear friend?

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

Action step Create a list of all of today’s concerns, worries, and burdens.  Give each one in prayer to the Lord and throw the list away.  Meditate on Isaiah 26:3 throughout the day when your peace begins to dwindle.

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At times, I’m struck by my status of being just-an-ordinary-someone.  I like it that way.   I’m even comforted by my everyday-run-of-the-mill-wife-and-mother-role.  Why?  Because there is nothing about me that could have won God over or swayed Him to consider whether or not I might be a possible heavenly recruit.  He chose me as His own because of His amazing, incomprehensible love.

Imagine El Roi, the God who sees, reviewing resumes before extending the Good News invitation.

“Hmmm…this one…Tammy Kennington?  Not too promising.  Her credentials are listed here.  Parents?  Divorced.  Temperament?  Avoids conflict and tends to beat around the bush.  Children?  Gentle, but perceived as weak by some.  Faith?  Doesn’t rely on Me like she should.

What a frightening scenario!

Thankfully, the Lord of all mercy and grace offers access to His throne and to His kingdom in spite of my messed up, trying-hard-to- get- it-right, ordinary self.  Ordinary is alright when I have an extraordinary God.

Scripture for Reflection

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.  (Romans 8:29 MSG)

Recommended Reading

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

Come as You Are by Sheila Walsh

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The heartache was raw in the words she had penned.  I thought I’d forgiven him, but then I realized I’m still angry.  This sweet woman struggled to understand how her emotions could betray her declaration of forgiveness.  She wanted to let go of the past and be released from the hold it held on her life.

Wondering how I might encourage her, these Bible verses came to mind.  Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?”   Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  (Matthew 18:21-22)

Mulling over Christ’s words, I paused to consider them.  Was my understanding of forgiveness myopic?  What if Jesus’ words meant more than the traditional “forgive and forget”?

The image of a runner comes to mind.  I picture her falling as she sprints around a bend.  Pieces of gravel and dirt embed themselves in her skin, but she’s able to cleanse the wound.  All visible evidence of the injury is wiped away until, several days later, a painful shard of rock works its way to the surface–revealing its sharp edges.

On some occasions, we might be able to forgive an affront once and we’re done with it.  But there are times forgiveness is more like tending to a slow-healing wound.  We can only cleanse the injury when we realize that it goes deeper than expected.  Those injuries may require seven times–or, perhaps, seventy-seven times–the same level of care.  It’s a process of realization.  A process of healing.  A process of forgiveness.

Thought for Today

Who have you been reluctant to forgive?  How has your inaction impacted your life?

Begin praying for that person today.

Recommended Reading

Forgiveness is a Choice by Robert D. Enright

Forgiving the Unforgivable by Dave Stoop

 

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They were easy to spot.  Every one of them was dressed in red, white, and blue and stood waving a flag with as much eagerness as a boy scout troop might.  Looking like two colorful pieces of popcorn, our two youngest children were jumping up and down.  The older two–both teenaged boys–maintained a cool exterior, but their feet shuffled in anticipation and broad grins split their faces.

As their father strode toward them, there was a sudden rushing to meet in the middle of the causeway.  People turned at the sounds of sudden commotion as the children engulfed their dad enmasse.  Dave had returned.  Daddy was home.

The scene struck me as a foretaste of what it may be like when our heavenly Father returns for His children.  What a beautiful picture!  I can’t wait to run into His arms.

Scripture for Reflection-Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. – 1 Peter 2:12 (MSG)

Just for Today-Remember to live each moment today with an eternal perspective.  Will others notice the way you carry the family name–Christian?

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If stereotypes hold true (which is rarely the case), I might imagine him as a burly, rough-around-the-edges sort of guy.  But because of his willing sacrifice, the entire world now recognizes him as the man who endured the pain of chemical burns in order to pull his co-worker to safety.

Just yesterday, Rob Nuckolos jumped waist-deep into a vat of nitric acid when he saw a co-worker fall 40 feet into the corrosive liquid.  As a an experienced contractor, Mr. Nuckolos had to have known the probable side effects of nitric acid–severe burns, coughing up of blood, low blood pressure, and possible long-term damage to eyesight.  Why, then, did he follow his friend into liquid fire?  Because Mr. Nuckolos acted out of love.  Not love as emotion or love as a feeling, but love as a noun–an action oriented, selfless giving of oneself despite the cost.

It’s an unbelieveable story–repulsive in its horror and beautiful in its sacrifice–that reminds me of the story of another man.  He was a blue-collar worker from Galilee–a town ridiculed for the worthless rabble it produced.  But, because of his willing sacrifice, the world knows him as the One who endured the pain of crucifixion in order to offer us salvation.

As the Creator of all things, Jesus knew what he would endure–temporary loss of glory, poverty, contempt, and abuse to the point of being unrecognizable.  Why, then, did the King of Kings embrace life as a man?  Because he acted out of love–the kind of love meant to bring us safely home.

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friends.  John 15:13

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I have a confession to make and a realization to share.  The confession?  It begins with the birth of ourfirst child. One glance at his precious, wrinkled, newborn face and I knew Ben was destined to attain great things.  I imagined him on stage, standing in front of thousands of people as he humbly accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.  Or, perhaps he would demonstrate such athletic skill that one day he would boast a cherished Olympic gold medal around his neck.

Impossible?  No.  Unlikely?  Absolutely.  I had succumbed to a common belief—The Myth of the First Time Mother.  Maybe you’ve never heard of this particular myth.  Well, if you’re at all like me, you have probably been part of its storyline before.  Let me explain.

Like most stories, this one introduces a few main characters who deal with a specific conflict.  My particular version involved our little boy, my husband, and me.  Our problem?  I bought into the idea that fame, fortune, or feats would secure my baby’s position in life.  As a result, other proud play-group mommies (who also found purchase with this myth) and I compared developmental achievements as if the baby to walk, talk, or crawl first somehow ranked above the other children.  One mother might brag, “My child is in the 95th percentile for height AND weight.  He slept through the night before he was even a month old.”  And someone would respond, “Well, Jenna already started potty training.  They say it’s a sign of intelligence.”

Inevitably, these conversations caused a lot of consternation and concern.  Was I reading to my child often enough?  Shouldn’t he know his sight words before kindergarten?  If we forgot to register for pee-wee soccer had I eliminated Ben’s chance for sport stardom as a twenty-something?

Finally, around the time our third child joined the family, there was a twist in the plot.  For almost two years, Seth endured the confinement of miniature casts and discomfort of daily stretches.  Other mothers avoided making comparisons to their own babies and instead offered apologies for Seth’s condition.  But, in my eyes, neither Seth’s imperfect feet nor his clunky shoes impacted who he was.  The realization?  I love and appreciate my children even more fiercely for their imperfections than for their accomplishments, resiliency, or intelligence.

Yes, I still have dreams for my children.  On occasion, I imagine them performing at Carnegie Hall or serving as an instrumental diplomat in a far-off land.  More often, though, I remove unnecessary expectations.  It’s not what they do or how they look, but who they are that matters.  Even God gently reminds us, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)

Today, look for opportunities to remind your family and friends of their importance to you–

not for what they do, but for who they are.

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“What is your Patmos?”, the speaker asked.  I sat in the audience, thinking of the apostle John–a man from Jesus’ inner circle who was exiled to this tiny island because of his allegience to Christ.  If the disciple “who Jesus loved” wasn’t spared suffering, why should I expect to live a life without trials?

Later, when I read the words of this scripture (Revelation 1), I paused.  Wow!  In the midst of John’s loneliness and afflicton,  Jesus revealed his full glory.  I am not suggesting I seek out suffering or desire persecution, but it seems that when we–like John–struggle with life’s twists and turns Christ will reveal himself in fresh, new ways. 

So…whatever your Patmos might be today, I pray you will recognize the One who is working in the midst of your situation. 

How have you seen God work in your life when you’ve been alone on Patmos?

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