Heart And Soul

..he shouted… more loudly A beggar on the side of the road desires to see again. Whether out of deep repentance, compassion to serve or heartfelt love, from deep within we must desire to see and be faithful to God’s desire for us to see. Gracious God you always know the heart of those who cry out to you, for those who strive to reach you. Thank you, for in time you enable us to see again.

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Wisdom Lottery

One of my childhood memories was the time my family was traveling from Philadelphia to Baltimore to visit relatives. At that time it was about a two hour car ride. Shortly in to the trip I started asking every imaginable question that seem to come to mind. Finally, after obliging me my mother said quite irritated; “Why do you ask so many question?” Up to that point it seemed to be a fun activity. I paused a moment and responded, “How else am I supposed to get the answers?” My mother paused and said rather exhausted, “You’re absolutely right.” I remember feeling very vindicated at the time, perhaps in some small way like I had won the “wisdom” lottery. However, I didn’t cash in as I was smart enough to realize that I was wearing my mother out with my questions. Needless to say the rest of the trip was fairly quiet. I loved that my mother always seemed to faithfully have the answers. Though I am still yet to be wise beyond my years, I know that in the best of times and the worst of times, God faithfully has the answers and we must continually seek God out. My mother became irritated because she was human but God is never irritated with our faithfulness to seek Truth. For prayer is the vehicle to God’s wisdom. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?  Luke 18:1-8

Blessed

‘O that Ishmael might live in your sight!’ … Genesis 17:15-27   I had not seen my niece for a good while so when I learned that she had gone the way of Islam, I was naturally concerned. We understand Abraham as righteous because he had faith (Hebrews 11) in God that he would have a son by his wife Sarah. Yet if only for a moment, in this passage of Genesis it sounds as if he had some concern, some doubt that at the ages of 100 and 90, he and his wife respectfully could have children. But I also sense that his love for Ishmael was true and it is that love for Ishmael to which God responds in love; “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous…”.  I will always love my niece. Her desire to be closer to God took a turn that I didn’t anticipate, but I remember God’s blessing upon Ishmael out of God’s love for Abraham and know that my prayers for her are heard as well. She is beautiful. She is loved. She is blessed.

Faithful Cries

a Canaanite woman…came out shouting… but he did not answer at all…  Matthew 15:21-28  After a long night, I awoke to rare early morning barking, but payed no attention. Apparently, my Italian Greyhound needed to go out, but it was 6am! By the time I came down it was clear that indeed his barking was an emergency cry. The mess he created left me frustrated as I had far more important things to do that day than clean up his mess. Today, Jesus focused no his ministry, ignores the cries of a Canaanite woman, and his disciples, for their own reasons, implore him to send her away. To be clear, me ignoring my dog isn’t anything like Christ ignoring the Canaanite woman. My reason for ignoring Orpheus is more like the disciples – selfish and self serving. He was bothering me and interrupting my rest. Although it was the will of God that caused Jesus to keep his focus, in no way could he keep ignoring her. To do so, I believe would support the disciples insensitivity. At the very least Jesus must acknowledge her and make clear his mission. For that, God makes clear his mission. Even the faithful cries of the broken, marginalized and the forgotten are heard by Him and are healed.

Pushing God Away

…the whole town came out to meet Jesus; when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood. Matthew 8:28-34  What a bizarre event! This scripture refers to “demoniacs”, coming out of the tombs to meet Jesus, knowing what could happen to them. No doubt they were cast out of town because of a disorder in behavior. Yet, Jesus heals them by casting out the behavior. The town then wants to cast out Jesus! It leaves me to question; what’s going on in this town? What might they be trying to hide? What are they afraid of? These same questions could be asked of what is happening in society today? Is not God stronger than the “demons” of the world? To be clear, I’m not talking about mental illness. I’m referring to the kind of conscious behavior we exhibit against one another. I’m referring to the kind of behaviors God is willing to purge from us, yet knowing God’s healing power and authority, we like the towns people find our selves pushing God away. Paul encourages us to strive to be partnered with Christ (1 Cor. 10:14-11:1). If we are going to draw closer to God we too must be willing to come out from the tombs in which we’ve been cast or the town in which we find “safe” familiarity and God will meet us spiritually and emotionally where ever we are.

Don’t Take It Personal

“In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. Luke 18:1-8   Someone once told me that one day all of my enemies will be gone. At the time it was rather difficult to believe. The problem as I saw it was I didn’t know who all were my enemies. If I had to make a list I was fairly certain of who I thought they were but that was only because of the negative experiences I had with these people. What I’ve realized is that by making the judgment of who they were based on my experience alone, I risked placing myself at a disadvantage by attempting to avoid those people. There are countless stories of God using “enemies” for his glory and it was by God’s hand that those enemies were changed. As difficult as it may be the negative experiences we have with others shouldn’t be taken personally because while their actions adversely affect us, in reality their actions are against God as well. Through every joy and hardship we must endeavor to be servants of God, free our mind from those who choose not to by their actions, and persevere as we wait with expectation for God’s justice and not our own. If G0d is for us, there is no experience that will keep Him from granting justice to those who remain faithful.

In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice…  And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Luke 18:1-8

Truth Quest

...tell me both the dream and its interpretation… Daniel 2:1-16   King Nebuchadnezzar made a request, which at first glance seems unreasonable. But the dream troubled him so much he needed to be certain that the “wise men” he called upon would not maneuver the truth concerning the meaning of the dream. Dreams can be very abstract. Life experiences can be as abstract as our dreams and we don’t always understand how they may or may not be manifested in our lives. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t trust his “wise men.” Daniel was wise enough to trust God because only a living and active God could have known that dream. Through Christ our relationship with God is also living and active. Through our faith in Christ, what seems abstract will be revealed and made complete for us as well.

…I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word… your word is truth. John 17:12-19

Gift Of Praise

letsjustpraise2“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…”  Hebrews 3:1-11 Here Paul is speaking about the rebellion of the Israelites who when Moses went up the mountain for forty days and forty nights, had created an image of God which they began to worship. A hardened heart is a heart that doubts, a heart that fears and a heart that ultimately trades the hope and glory in what is unseen for something that gives a temporary satisfaction to meet an immediate physical need whether it be things or people. I believe Paul really wants his hearers to understand that we should not forget that our praise and worship is a very valuable gift from God. What sense does it make if I receive a gift from my sister and I in turn praise my brother for the gift? This is kind of what we do when we go astray and turn our attention towards things and people other than God. Yet because God loves his creation he is faithful to it. So why not give your faith a heartfelt chance and praise God today. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

Psalm 31:5, 7-8

Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God…

I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have taken heed of my adversities,
and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.

The Gift

‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ (Mark 1:29-45).  A man with leprosy approaches Jesus who then stretches out his hand to touch him saying; “I do choose.” Leprosy is a disease that causes skin sores, nerve damage, and muscle weakness that gets worse over time. Since there was no cure in biblical times, there weren’t too many things that could be worse than being struck with leprosy. Today we have various remedies and effective antibiotics to heal the physical ills the body often endures. Yet I believe Jesus’ desire to heal the man with leprosy has little to do with the body but is more about his desire to change the man’s way of thinking concerning who he believes Jesus to be. So too today, Jesus’ grace and mercy desires to meet with our faith even in in the most difficult times because while the body is a temporary gift, in the end it is the gift of the spirit which endures that is raised up with Christ.

All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses,… But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… Ephesians 2:1-10

Faith & Desperation

I lift my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come? He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber  Psalm 121:1,3

The ebb and flow of recent years has at times left me tenuous. Yesterday, in particular I awoke feeling tired and ill. Although the past weekend was extremely busy, in my heart I felt I’d earned a day of Sabbath, but in my mind I felt like I needed to do the things I have committed myself to do. Somehow the flow would be consistent and the hope I have for things to come as a result of my commitments would be held up and rewarded. Today, as I drank my early morning coffee I realized that I felt 100% better than I did yesterday. Perhaps all I really needed was rest.

I share this testimony because this weekend was not without some small yet reassuring rewards of God’s faithfulness throughout this ebb and flow of my own life. Ebb tides can’t really be separated from the flow tides. Sometimes the tides are high and sometimes low. From a physical point of view we have a tendency to pay too much attention to the ebb and flow and equate God’s faithfulness with what is or is not physically happening. When the ebb is overwhelming, the feeling of desperation rises. In our heart we know that God’s faithfulness is everlasting and ever flowing, but in our mind we question and doubt because we can’t see the flow materialize in our everyday life when we want it to occur. Things happen when they happen. In this faith journey we have to accept in both our heart and our mind that through ebb and flow God’s faithfulness is always at work. While this is easier said than done, it is worth every effort to work towards this level of actualization because in my experience it is the difference between walking in peace and walking in chaos. It helps to recognize desperation for what it is, as a form of fear. It is a response to the ebb tides of our physical life, a loss of hope. So, whenever we find ourselves with feelings of ebb tides great or small, we should remind ourselves that we walk in faith, not in desperation.

Luke 6:5 The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.

Psalm 127:2  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.

Hebrews 10:34-35 …you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward.