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Posts Tagged ‘Religion and Spirituality’

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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Candle between the hands Stock Photo

I’ve been away for a few weeks–crying out to God.  Praying…weeping…grieving…and daring to hope despite my fear and unbelief. This heavy burden–unfairly thrust upon precious innocents–seems out-of-place with what I would consider a plan to “work all things together for the good of those who love Him”.  Yet, I know trials are a natural part of life this side of heaven and–sometimes–they drive all hope from the  soul.

Then–a miracle…a prayer answered in unexpected ways…a promise fulfilled.

If your journey seems to have ended in a dark, cavernous hole take Hope.  If you’ve uttered the same desperate words again–pleading with God for evidence of an answer–take Hope.  If you can’t imagine something good coming from something meant for evil, then take Hope.

Have we forgotten?  It was in a dark, cavernous hole Hope was born. Hope was the answer given for the redemption of people calling out for an answer…for deliverance…for more than all of this.  And Hope was–and is–the promise that reassures God’s glory and our holy cleansing will come despite the here and now of our struggles.

Because of Hope…because of “confident expectation”…we celebrate Advent.  We wait…knowing that He–the very Christ who was and is Hope embodied–will one day return and will bring to completion that which he began in the bowels of a cave while shivering in the cold.

Take Hope, dear friend.  He is the miracle…He is the answered prayer…He is the promise fulfilled.

Thoughts for Advent

As we light the first candle on the wreath, may we remember that Advent is a posture of expectation, waiting, and sureness.  We, dear ones, are eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of what began long ago.  Whatever our struggles or burdens today, remember that Hope promises much more and we push on “toward the goal of the upward call of Christ”. (paraphrase Phil. 3:14)  Hope came down that we might have life–and have it abundantly.  We can trust in Hope–He is not a mere wish, but the fullness of reality and power wrapped in tender skin.

So dip the match closer to the wick…watch as the flame leaps to life…and hope with expectation.  Hope is alive.

Words of Power

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  (Hebrews 11:1)

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“If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods …”

Daniel 3:17-18a (HCSB)

Hand in a hand - Stock Photo

I want to offer words of encouragement, but my thoughts are jumbled…incomplete…fractured.  What insight can I offer through simple impressions on a page?

Perhaps in knowing that another struggles with heart wounds from the past or fears the days ahead you feel less alone.  Or, when you hear the pleading prayers of a mother for her hurting child you realize someone understands.

Yet, I’m reminded that Another understands completely.  He is the one who walks beside us–no matter the place or circumstance.  The World holds no power over Him.  The roaring flames may lick at tender flesh and the World shouts, “Burn! Burn!”  But, He is there–ever protecting, faithfully guarding, lovingly guiding.  Follow me.  Don’t be afraid.  I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.

And despite our human frailty and doubt, we trust and believe.  And when we don’t?  He is still there.

Then…deliverance.  We breathe deeply and everything is fresh and new.  Our lungs fill with the sweetness of God’s goodness and mercy and we know–those wounds, fears, and fires are only momentary.

 

Reflection

Have you been asking God to deliver you from a difficult situation?  How have you seen his faithfulness in the midst of the struggle?

 

Word of Power

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.  Isaiah 46:4

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wheat fields

The arid prairie stretches to the horizon–it’s tanned face lined and creased–pulling away from itself because of the summer heat. And I’m reminded of my grandfather’s face. A farmer accustomed to toiling in the heat of the day, he was a man who enjoyed the feel of the earth sifting through his fingers.

And those grooves in  Grandpa’s face? They were the tell-tale signs of someone immersed in the day-to-day trials, frustrations, and pleasures of watching something nearly invisible grow into a gold-stemmed  life-giver.

I wonder…What sort of story does my face tell? Do the creases around my eyes convey joy? Are the lines around my mouth visible reminders of a mother impatiently pursing her lips or a woman smiling at the sight of her tousled children?

Even more–do I bear the likeness of Christ? If you were to talk with me or meet me for coffee, would you see that Christ has poured himself into my heart?  Is His love and compassion etched deeply enough in my life that you might notice Him?

 If only the day-to-day trials, frustrations, and pleasures of marriage and motherhood will leave spirit-impressions!  One day, maybe you’ll notice those  as much I noticed the creases in Grandpa’s face.

Scripture for Reflection

In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

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With Words Love Faith Hope Royalty Free Stock Photo, Pictures, Images ...

 

Live with the end in mind.  As I mull over the meaning of the phrase and how it might impact my life, several questions demand consideration.

The first–Why live with the end in mind?  There is enough motherhood mayhem and workplace drama to consume just one day of living.  How can I cast my vision beyond a teenage son’s struggle with depression or the uncertainty of managing a better-than-fiction public relations issue?  One word of scripture presses through these everyday, human concerns.  Faith. 

In the midst of my average-woman-regular-living, I can place my hand just above my eyes–diminishing some of today’s distractions.  And, if I look closely enough, I can see it dimly…far off in the distance.  The promises of tomorrow exchanged for all of my todays.

Why live with the end in mind?  Because the beauty of each day is only a foretaste of something better.  Because the struggles of being human will one day be discounted as nothing more than momentary.  Because the way I live now points toward the One in whom I trust.

 

Verses for Reflection

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.            (Heb. 11:1-2 MSG)

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.  (Heb. 11:13-16 MSG)

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When I was a young woman–still in highschool–a beloved lady in my life accused, “You’re getting to be a fanatic.”

I hadn’t joined a group of extremists.  I didn’t  lock myself to a chainlink fence and protest nuclear weapons.  I didn’t even promote a political community.  What had I done?  I chose Jesus.  Really?  No–He chose me.  Even me.

Jesus didn’t mind my messy life.  Like a tender father bending down to dust off his daughter’s knees when she’d fallen from her bike, Jesus picked me up.  I love you.  And I fell in love with Him, too.

At the time, my feelings were pricked.  Fanatic.

Now?  At least this dear woman saw something different in me.  Could it be  Christ had begun his transformation in my life?  Did I talk about my First Love too often?  I’m not certain.

I haven’t been called a fanatic for years, but I might not mind.  These days people call it radical Christianity.

So…how do I live radically for Jesus?   Do I sell all of my posessions to feed the poor?  Do I beat my chest at the sin hiddend behind the walls of the “dance club” or sign a petition to protect an innocent life?  Maybe.  Those could be good things…important things.

But, maybe living radically where I am means serving my family with a servant’s heart.  Maybe living radically where I am means loving that critical person I had trusted before.  Maybe living radically where I am means trusting God with my children.  Maybe living radically where I am means still loving Jesus.

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   He says, “Be still, and know that I am God…”  Psalm 46:10

Scchloop…Did you just hear it?  That was the sound of my last bit of energy being sucked away.  Do you ever feel the same way?  Are you running in circles just trying to keep up with life’s business when you realize you’ve lost sight of the most important things?

The verse that God keeps whispering in my ear today is, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  My answer, “Lord, how can I be still?  There is so much to do!”

But, life’s obligations will always encroach on quiet moments…peaceful moments…moments of  reflection…moments of being in God’s presence.  So, dear friend, wherever you are today—take a breath.  Inhale the freshness of God’s spirit.  Consider the One who created you for His glory.

Be still.  Just be.  Only for a moment.

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Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on
how to bring up children. Now I have seven children and one theory: Love them,
especially when they least deserve to be loved.
-Kate Samperi

 

 “I hate you and can’t wait to move out!  You’re horrible parents.”

The palpable ache in my chest grew more pronounced as each word penetrated the most vulnerable places within.  How could my son –now nearly grown–regard us with such disdain and lack of respect?  Hadn’t we loved him?  Cared for him?  Prayed over him?

While teenage angst and resentment play a role in my son’s attitude, there is something much more significant at the core of his hostility.  What? Simply a heart of rebellion.  A heart that prefers to go its own way–regardless of consequences.

And how I want to rescue my boy!  My arms are held out awaiting his embrace, but instead I receive the lash of hurtful insults.  Rather than allowing me to sooth the hurts masked by “grown-up” bravado, my son turns the other direction…away from his family, away from his values, and away from the God he knew as a child.

Oh, what a painful place to be as a parent!  Yet, I know the Lord understands.  Again and again God’s chosen people deserted the faithful One to chase after gods made of stone or to indulge the limited pleasures of sin.  They left their Father.  And the lesson of love in all of this?  Despite the frustration and emotional turmoil, I must be faithful to my son–in my prayers, my actions, and expectations.

God does no less for me.

Scripture for Reflection

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  (Luke 15:3-7)

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.
Deuteronomy 7:8-10

Recommended Books

Product Details

Prayers for Prodigals by James Banks

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The instant he walked through the door, I knew we were in trouble.  My seventeen-year-old-boy-man cradled his arm protectively, carefully adjusting his movements to avoid bumping into anything or anyone.

“I think I broke my hand,” he said.

“Oh, honey…

The stream of sympathetic words ended abruptly when I noticed the fresh t-shirt and Axe cologne resting in Ben’s non-compromised hand.

“What are you doing?”  I asked suspiciously.

“I have a date.”

“Are you serious?”  The situation was laughable.  My invincible son willingly ignored the discomfort of his fractured hand for love.  (He sure wouldn’t have done THAt for a family dinner!)

At times, I take the same approach to hidden sin in my life.  Those unspoken words?  Nobobdy knows my inner dialogue failed to match a thoughtful demeanor.  An embarrassing display of temper?  Only my family witnessed such poor self-control.

Quiet, below-the-surface, private sins can be easily overlooked.  At times, I only turn to Him for forgiveness and renewal when I finally admit the level of discomfort, pain, or dissatisfaction tucked beneath the exterior.

Friend, I encourage you to examine those sequestered, protected areas of your life today.  Are there places in your heart and mind that ache for the touch of Jehovah Jirah–the God Who Heals?

He is waiting to heal the hurts–both inflicted and endured–like any caring parent waiting to be called upon.  Heal our hurts, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

 

Recommended Books

http://www.amazon.com/Lord-Heal-Hurts-Devotional-Deliverance/dp/1578564409/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347416484&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=lord+heal+my+hursts

 

Product Details

http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Girls-Bible-Curtis-Higgs/dp/1400073111/ref=sr_1_36?ie=UTF8&qid=1347416579&sr=8-36&keywords=women+bible+study

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“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.”  (John 7:38 MSG)

The demands, doubts, and disturbances continued to punctuate my day and I’m exhausted.  Weary.  Worn down like a rock immersed in a stream for too long.  Have you been there, dear friend?  Are you the go-to-girl at home, work, or with your friends?  Do you desperately need refreshment?

Then drink deeply from the Living Water.  Unlike either of us, Christ is an unlimited resource.  He’s available when you’ve been up until 3 a.m. with a feverish child or consoled a friend grieving a dream unrealized.  He’ll parch your thirsty soul when others have taken everything from your reserves.

Filled to overflowing by His inexhaustible promises, you’ll be prepared to pour your life into others once again.

This Week’s Challenge  Take a walk to the Water’s edge.  Spend 15 minutes each morning with Him praying and reading Scripture.  Never read the Bible?  A great place to start is the Gospel of John.

Suggested Books/Authors

Life Lessons:  Gospel of John by Max Lucado

And He Dwelt Among Us by A.W. Tozer

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