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“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you..png

Ask. Seek. Knock. These are the familiar words from scripture I’m reminded of as I read about the wise men from the East.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2, MSG)

Carols romanticize their journey, but traversing hostile territory for months and even years left a band of mysterious travelers vulnerable to ill-meaning enemies and a hostile environment. Sand storms. Raiders. A limited food supply.

Still, men following after nothing more than a star and the certainty of conviction sought the infant king, Jesus.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

Bold in their quest for the Promise of salvation, the men stirred up hatred within king Herod’s heart and fostered fear in the lives of those comfortable with the status-quo. After all, an infant king threatened the power and position of a man with a bent toward fits of rage and murder.

Neglecting their own safety, the foreigners pressed hard for answers.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

Whether they arrived at the child’s home with an entourage of camels and servants in tow or were merely a couple of bedraggled, travel-worn seekers, the men must have paused at the threshold of the simple village home.

They knew. This moment would forever alter both their lives and their eternal destiny.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. (Matthew 2:11 NIV)

 

If Christ is our focus we can pursue him relentlessly-certain of a destination that ends with us...in His presence. Click To Tweet

Like wise men on a pilgrimage, we’ll wander into hostile territory. Face our own enemies of disease, distress, and difficulty. But, if Christ is our focus we can pursue him relentlessly–certain of a destination that ends with us in the glory of His presence as we offer our humble gifts of love and adoration.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

 

Thoughts to Ponder

  • What is your heart’s cry today? Is there something God longs to give you, but your pride, fear, or unbelief have kept you from asking for it?
  • Do you continue to seek Christ with the passion and devotion of the wise men or are you struggling to follow after faith? What action step can you take today to seek Him?
  • Do you raise your hand to knock at the door only to refuse yourself entrance because you believe you’re unworthy? Perhaps you turn away because of resentment, self-incrimination or shame. Christ stepped out of heaven and into a manger because He loves you–just as you are. Abandon your baggage at the threshold, Friend. Since He took it from you at the cross, you can leave it there.

 

Peace and grace,                                                                                                                            Tammy

 

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The place name dogged me all week–my thoughts returning again and again to the words of John 18:5.THE NEW YOU

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. (NIV)

Familiar with the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, I knew of the events preceding the crucifixion. The humble Creator stooping over the dirt-encrusted feet of His disciples and cleansing them of Jerusalem’s desert sand—the actions of a servant. Christ—breaking bread in the presence of beloved companions and a friend turned foe.

But until a few days ago, my eyes seemed to pass by any mention of Kidron Valley. What could be its significance? Why hadn’t I noticed before? Jesus walked purposely through the Valley of the Shadow of Death to reach the Garden.

The symbolism is too rich to ignore. Kidron Valley, meaning black or sad, was a burial site to Jewish kings, priests, and prophets encased in tombs along the rocky slopes. And today? Thousands of limestone coffins stand end to end—the bodies of Jewish hopefuls awaiting deliverance through the long-awaited Messiah.

I can almost imagine Jesus surveying the valley and its surroundings. There, high on the slope, He could make out the southeastern edge of the Temple. How many hours had He spent within its walls proclaiming the truth? Inhaling deeply as He passed by a stand of olive trees, Christ might have swept His gaze to the far edges of the landscape and noticed the Mount of Olives. Did His stride quicken as He anticipated ascending into Heaven from that hill—the Father’s call beckoning Him home?

Determined, Jesus continued on as the dark valley rose sharply on either side–evening shadows deepening. He knew the history of the place—He’d seen it clearly from Heaven’s throne room. Christ knew of the treachery encased between the walls of this gorge—when the Chosen Ones had displayed worthless idols here. The people turning away from I Am not once…not twice…but three times. (1 Kings 15: 12-13, 2 Kings 23:6, 2 Chronicles 19:16).

Jesus knew—they would again turn from the Way and choose another.

And soon, the blood of hundreds of thousands of lambs would spill into the wadi, filling the valley with the scent of death; innocent blood staining its walls. The disciples might have noticed a look of satisfaction cross Jesus’ face as He considered the near future—that moment when His own, untarnished blood would pour out for all sin and sinners. Once for all—if they would only accept His gift. The perfect Lamb. The ultimate Sacrifice. The exchange of the Sinless for you and me.

Each step Jesus took in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, friends, brought us closer to Him. Because of His death and resurrection, we can claim the beautiful promise of Ps. 23,

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (NIV)

 

 Thank you, Jesus, for walking the dark valley of sin that we might be the sinless ones. Praise God for His mercy and overwhelming love. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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. Hebrews 1:1

The wind is elusive—an idea felt; a reality discerned through its visible impact on the tangible.

Silver ripples dancing across the face of a lake that only moments before lay in repose—glassy and motionless. A sudden rush of sound sending hundreds of burnished leaves to the forest floor like gilded feathers pirouetting in the sky. A high-pitched roar of anger propelling icy pellets of white against an exposed face.

I can’t see it, but I believe the wind exists. I can feel it—an invisible, unstoppable power. A thing of beauty that demands respect. An uncontainable, indefinable entity.

In the same way, I have faith in Jesus–the invisible God-Man who displays His glory in the beauty of creation. Each towering mountain arching heavenward and every tender petal unfurling at the prompting of morning light. God surrounds me with observable reminders of Truth.

I can’t see Jesus, but I believe He exists. Some might call this blind faith. The sort of faith based on nothing more than a pie-in-the-sky optimism or a myopic view of being human—ignoring the big questions about suffering, death, and purpose.

But I’ve witnessed it—lived it.

His authority transforming the broken places from deep inside; resurrecting hope in a loved one who had none before; breathing life into the lifeless.

No, my faith isn’t an endless well—a spiritual place of self-created hope. I’m not a version of Super Christian or someone who believes every story posted on Facebook or printed by the Associated Press.

Instead, my faith is less about me than it is about the One who is faithful. And when I waver? Those times that I doubt Him? I remember who He is and what He has done. I grapple with my mustard seed faith in prayer—showing myself real and vulnerable to the God who already knows my heart. Still…He remains true to his promises. Hope. Peace. Salvation. Jesus.

 If you’re walking in doubt today, friend, cry out to Him. He bends down from heaven to listen to even a whispered prayer. Remember what He has done for you and that His desire is to give you good gifts. Eternal gifts.

Beautiful…imperishable…holy gifts for having just enough faith to believe.

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

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Giving God me was a moment in time—a five year old with cropped hair and knobby knees raising her hand in Sunday school. It was one of the rare Sundays my family attended church, but I met Jesus there and took him home in my heart.

That sweet encounter put me on the road to my forever home. I was as good as signed, sealed, and delivered to heaven’s doorstep.   But, that day was also the beginning of a relationship—one marked by trial, misunderstanding, faithlessness, and inexplicable, beautiful love.

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I’ve discovered that giving God me was more than the promise of Life. It’s a decision I choose to make—or not–each day and moment-by-moment. Some days I succeed. I loosen my grasp on my expectations…my fears…my hurts…my vulnerable places.

But there are times the struggle is painfully hard and I hold stubbornly to my life—unwilling to give up control of thoughts…circumstances…relationships. It’s a spirit fight—like Joshua and the angel—waged in weakness when needing God’s strength; borne out of mistrust while having experienced God’s goodness.

Three years ago, I engaged in the battle of my life. It rocked my family to the core and sent me to a place of such pain and confusion that life lost all promise and hope. I wasn’t sure I would survive the anger…the loss…the heartache.

And I wrestled with God—unwilling to give all of myself to Him. I didn’t always realize He was there with me in the filth, the dirt—holding onto me while I pushed Him away. I refused to look at Him…certain I didn’t deserve the love engraved on His palms. I shouted…I wept…I doubted my Savior. Still—He remained.

In the moment I finally gave all of myself? I realized complete freedom for the first time. Giving all of me to God was the exchange of chains for freedom,  self-condemnation for Christ’s acceptance, and the brokenness of the past for transformation in His mercy.

Friend, are you wrestling with God right now? Can I gently remind you that He guards you…protects you…loves you—even when the journey seems dark and lonely. Despite how you may feel, you are not alone. Why fight against God when He will do battle on your behalf? We know Christ intercedes for us in heavenly places—the victory has been won! Let’s give all of ourselves to Him today!

 

Scripture for Reflection

Gen. 22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

27 The man said, “What’s your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!” (MSG)

 

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We are, if we have chosen the good part, sitters at the feet of Jesus, just as Saul
of Tarsus sat at the feet of Gamaliel; Christ is to us our great Instructor  

–Charles Spurgeon

 

An uncommon God, He lived as a common man. Exchanging the beauty of heavenly glory for human flesh, Christ—the One who had strolled through the streets of heaven–walked the streets of everyday towns filled with common people burdened by common problems.

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He–who had known perfection–surrounded himself with the imperfect. He willingly gave up abundance for poverty, worship for rejection, and self for others.

hands-731265_1280Why did Jesus—who once stooped to breathe life into dust—bind himself to the earth…to men and women whose feet carried them further from truth and deeper into the deception of self…of false hopes and misplaced dreams…of willfulness and rebellion?

 

Because He knows what we are made of. (Psalm 103:14) And simple dust, once stripped of protection, shifts in the wind—sometimes mere inches while at other times it is moved completely from its place…drifting and unsettled. For hundreds of years, Dust had lived under the dark curse of sin–tossed about this way and that.

No one remained untouched. Suffering. Disease. Death. Corrupt men subjugated innocents to forced labor—stealing youth and hope. Outcasts—considered less than human—suffered in pain on the edges of the city while rotting flesh ached for relief. Human souls cried out to heaven and Jesus was the answer. And in becoming like the rest of us, God made clear the extent of his love for Dust.

 

A love so encompassing and grace-filled that He intentionally wandered from place to place—offering forgiveness, speaking words of love, and bringing the kingdom of heaven to aching, hurting people. And, unlike any other god before or since, the man named Jesus died to save Dust. The same feet—soiled and dirtied from travelling to the dwellings of Despair and Need—were nailed to the tree. Their blood flowed downward and marked the hill at the base of the cross. And blood and Dust became inseparable.

Jesus gave everything for this woman of dust. He gave everything for you, too, dear Friend. And at the nail-scarred feet of Jesus we receive the life of a common man and an uncommon God. 

Scripture for Reflection

Surely it is you who love the people; all the holy ones are in your hand. At your feet they all bow down, and from you receive instruction… (Duet. 33:3)

…and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. (Luke 8:35)

…but few things are needed–or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

 

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Jesus…his name evokes a variety of images. A newborn infant wrapped in rags. A man of righteous anger defending his Father’s temple. A man of generous spirit giving all of himself—even to the point of death.

Imagine the scene. Shaking uncontrollably, the woman begged for mercy as people pressed around her. The shouts and cruel slurs of the Good Ones, the Religious Ones, pierced her heart the most. Adulterer! Harlot! Worthless!

Feeling the heat of shame on her face, the woman bowed her head ready to accept the punishment. She knew death was imminent. Uttering a prayer, the woman steeled herself for the first crushing blow of rock against flesh and bone.

Suddenly, the roar of the crowd quieted as Jesus—the one some called Messiah– stepped between the Religious and the Sinful Woman. His body a shield, Jesus knelt low and carefully, deliberately wrote something in the sand. Could he have written the word mercy? Or, perhaps, love? Maybe Jesus simply sketched SIN—large enough for everyone in the throng of people to see.

Dusting the sand from his hands, Jesus rose slowly—glancing at each person in turn.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

A few shifted uncomfortably while others refused to meet the Teacher’s eyes. Many of the Religious Ones scoffed. The crowd’s fevered excitement had diminished and people began to move away from the woman. Several minutes later, the woman stood in front of her Savior—rescued from her sin, delivered from the accusers, and promised a new life because of Christ’s eternal mercy.

Christ’s spirit of generosity was lived day by day with intentionality. Dear ones, let us live intentional lives with Christ’s glory and the good of others in mind!

Scripture for Reflection

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:1-8)

 

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The path to the land of abundance lay ahead–easily navigated and under the protection of the King.  Yet, the people chose to wander aimlessly–the brown of the desert soiling their feet just as their complaints marred that day’s praises to the God of Israel.  And like a low-hanging curtain of smog restricting the full scope of a city’s skyline, the limitless sand, rock, and mountain seemed to repress the beauty and hope of God’s promise to his people.  You remember the one, don’t one? God had seen the oppression and enslavement.  God heard the groaning and crying.  And God promised to deliver the Suffering Ones to a new land…a new home…a new hope.

But, the blistering heat of the sun penetrated flesh and bone.  Parched lips yearned for the feel of sleek relief rolling across mouth and tongue while complaints poured from them as easily as a flash flood racing through the wasteland.

The people had forgotten–or, at least failed to remember–they were free!  No longer slaves…cowering in fear of the coming day, uncertain of survival, constrained by unbidden circumstances.

Free!  Free to worship…to dance…to dream.

Wouldn’t it seem that with a promise like the one God pronounced, the people would have continued to rejoice?  Celebrate?  Hope?  Didn’t the God of heaven pronounce that he would “bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey”?

Still, God’s own children grumbled in their newfound freedom.  Unhappy in their current circumstances, men and women turned away from the hope of a soon-to-be-tomorrow to a here-and-now reality.  They gave up their leader for a party, the true God for a Guernsey,  and a quick trip to the “land of milk and honey” for forty years of meaningless meandering.

If I’m honest, I recognize myself in the story.  Maybe you, too, see yourself there–feet burning as you tread across the barren land.  If only we had stayed behind!  Egypt wasn’t wonderful, but we would enjoy a draught of water from the well and a bed of reeds to lie upon.

My story is a bit different, of course.  This walk…this journey as a Christian is harder than I’d hoped.  Sometimes, living like the world–like Egypt of old–appeals.  Surrounded by the pollution of worldly living, it’s easy to bend low for a sip–just once.

Enjoying one last drink.  Flirting with the boss.  Watching barely concealed porn in the form of a newly released movie as reflection of social norms.  Intentionally allowing harmful words to wound another.  And the list continues for each of us…our Egypt.

We’ve all succumbed to Egypt…to ourselves.  But God’s promise is still as true for us as it was for His chosen people.  Stay the course, dear Friend,  whether you are on the desert road or in an abundant land.  We have been freed to look forward to an internal inheritance!  We have received Jesus Christ himself for both here-and-now and our soon-to-be Forever.

Scripture for Reflection

…we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  (Ephesians 1:11-14)

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us[a] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col. 1:11-13)

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“EGR,” she quipped with a smile and an exaggerated sigh.  My quizzical look prompted a response.

“You know…extra grace required.”

Unexpectedly, our prayer for others had shifted from intercession to a Christianized version of gossip cloaked in false compassion.

And I wondered…how many people say THAT about her….me….you?

Wishing I hadn’t asked for an explanation and feeling stained by the knowledge, I realized Christ knew the truth from eternity past–I had been born wrapped in an invisible package of sin.

If others knew the truth?  If they only knew about the unkind–even cruel–words that have crossed my lips…the ugly thoughts that have flitted through my mind…the actions shadowed by regret. Can you relate, dear friend?

Extra grace required.

But, there is something beautiful about my story….about the story of every person who has a personal relationship with Jesus.   Even though He knew me as a sinner, Christ envisioned me as a saint.  Even as lies or curse words were breathed from my mouth, the Life Giver imagined a tongue calling out His name in praise.  Even my rash, selfish actions fail to stand between me and the person I will someday become–the one He had in mind more than forty years ago.

There is no doubt…before I ever took my first breath, Jesus knew.

Extra grace required.

And, He loves me anyway.

 

Scripture for Reflection

For it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:8 NIV)

…Everything that we have–right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start, comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:27 MSG)

 

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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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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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