God the Creator, Part I

“You are worthy, Our Lord & God, to receive glory and honor, for you created all things, And by your will they were created and have their being.” Rev:4:11

God is God.  He created all things.  That thought, that revelation should stop me in my tracks. Try as I might, I can not create something from nothing.

As spring has sprung here in the midwestern United States, we have been planting flowers and plants, hoping for some measure of yield in the produce department come late summer. I marvel at the beauty of the flowers as I plant them.  My four-year-old tenderly waters them with the almost too big watering can, and I think anew of how creative God is.

Revelations tells us that because He created all things, he is worthy to receive glory and honor.

He did something not one of us can hope to do: created the world and everything in it.  When I am out in nature, taking a walk through the woods, it is so easy to see God’s fingerprints everywhere.  His created beauty is unsurpassed.

Try as we might, human artists never seem to create anything more beautiful than a replica of God’s ideas.

He created everything.  He lovingly gave us this earth as our temporary home. How often do I sit and admire His creation?  How often do I offer Him praise?

A dear friend is very creative and produces beautiful works in words.  She was deeply hurt that someone she loves dearly would not take the time to read what she had written.  As we discussed this issue, I wondered how  I hurt God when I do not even stop to look at what He has created. I think I do not have time for it.

Where I live, we experience all four seasons.  Spring is such a beautiful time of renewal of the earth, and of lush vegetation. The flowers burst forth, proudly proclaiming ‘Winter is over’!  Those of us living in the snow belts greatly rejoice!

Ironically, it is also a very busy time for many who love the land: farmers must work sun-up to sun-down, preparing the soil so they too will have a bountiful fall harvest.

I know I often get so caught up in what I am doing, I fail to see the beauty bursting forth surrounding me. How often do I miss God’s call because I fail to take time to listen for it?

How often do my conversations with Him begin with requests, instead of honor and glory? How often do my exercise jaunts in nature really focus inwardly, instead of outwardly on my surroundings: God’s creation?

I am so glad and humbled that He has not given up on me, nor will He ever do so!

Let us all give Him praise and glory for what He has done!

Reflection:

1) What do I admire most in God’s creation?

2) Make time to focus on what God created, and then the Creator!

3) Offer God pure and simple, unadulterated praise and thanks for all He has created.

4) Sincerely share joy with someone over what God has created, be it a rose plant blooming, or the wonders of a beautiful sunset.

5) Make sure to “schedule” time with God each day, and make an effort to begin your conversation with praise, instead of petition.

What do you think?  Is there a topic you wonder about?  Share your thoughts! Thanks so much for reading! The next post will be up by Monday, May 28.

Breaking the Barriers

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “Plans to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

With Mother’s Day approaching I found myself reminiscing all last week.  I recalled my anticipation of becoming a mother.  I had no idea of the pressures and the stress which would accompany motherhood!

Men may ask “What stress can a stay-at-home mom possibly have?”  Well, it varies from mom to mom.  But in general, we all worry about our kids: are they eating right?, are they learning right?, did I seize all those teachable moments today? (of course not!), are they learning to share?, are they learning respect?, do we talk about God enough?, when will my child make his faith his, and not just based on mine?

We also worry about our spouses: how can I better support my husband in his work? How can I better manage the household so he is not stressed by home duties? Is he still attracted to me after x number of children and y years of marriage?

We also worry about other things, but you get the point.  If you are like me, you want everything to be perfect (is that not part of having two x chromosomes?) Yet we are human, perfection is not in our genes!

Sometimes, in striving for that perfection, we unintentionally erect barriers between ourselves and others.  Maybe others do see that facade we portray, and accept it as face value, assuming that facade is who we really are: not as a human being with tender hearts and confused minds, at times; just like everyone else.

I had the privilege of attending a Ladies’ Retreat last weekend, with a church I used to attend.  (We had relocated a few hours away, moving our home church in the process).

I witnessed something amazing!  This church had undergone many changes in recent years, and had many new attendees.  There were over seventy women on this retreat, many who did not really know each other well.  They came from all walks of life, were varied ages, varied professions.  But there was a common denominator: faith in Christ.

A dear friend of mine was running the sessions on Saturday.  When I first learned what she planned to do, I was astonished.  In keeping with the theme of the weekend, she was going to read a list of trials many had gone through in this life.  If any of us had experienced these, we were to stand for the first trial we experienced, touch the shoulder of someone standing near us for the second, and move to the front of the room for the third.

These were women who many did not know each other well.  The list contained painful experiences.  I wondered how many would truly participate in this experience. Yet, God was at work.  By the end of the list, barely no one was seated, about three-quarters of the ladies were at the front of the room, and the barriers were torn down.

These women and myself realized anew, just because you see someone in the pew every week, does not mean you really know who they are. Just because they dress well does not mean they are not clothed in humility. Just because someone lacks many financial resources does not mean she is quite rich in spirit.  Just because someone smiles often does not mean she does not truly know deep pain, physical, emotional or spiritual.

Sometimes, we ladies assume everyone else but ourselves has it together.  We could not be more wrong.  Each of us can claim we are a new creation in Christ, but without Him we are nothing.

This Mother’s Day, I would encourage all moms to learn to let go!  Let God show you His ‘to-do’ list each day.  The house does not need to be perfect.  (Mine never is anyway!) Your kids do not need to be perfect, having the perfect childhood.  (I am convinced God gives us children to give us the gift of humility!) You do not have to be model perfect to be attractive to your spouse.  You do not need to perfectly emulate Proverbs 31, just try to live a few verses each day!

God created us to live for Him, and to love Him, and each other. Do not think that since you are a Christian you need to emulate Christ perfectly, and that when you make a mistake, you have completely failed.  Do not let the stresses of motherhood keep you away from loving as God intended. Allow the barriers we ourselves have erected to come crumbling down.  We are all in this together, and need each other! God has given us many gifts of encouragement: His Word, the Holy Spirit, and other ladies who share pieces of our lives.  Accept all His gifts with a grateful heart!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Reflections:

1) How do I see myself?

2) How does I wish others to see me?  Note the difference between the two.

3) Thank God for creating you.  Thank Him for your gifts and talents, and for bringing through painful experiences.  You are unique, and He has very special plans for you! (Jeremiah 29:11)

4) How can I realign first, my thinking, second, my actions and words, to break the barriers I have erected?

5) (Here’s the hard part!)  Put those actions and words into actions and words.  Let yourself be known, truly known, who you are.

God knowns everything about you, even the things you hide from others, you can not hide  from Him.  And, He loves you anyway! Allow that love to wash over you and for the realization that the only affirmation you need you already have: the love of God himself.

Thank you for reading! Please return next Monday, May 20 for the next post!

Service: It Doesn’t Just Happen!

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:5

What does serving the Lord look like to you?  If you asked a room full of people you would receive many varied answers.  Some people believe in writing and updating mission statements, as Stephen Covey has encouraged.

What would happen if Christians everywhere were to write a mission statement of how his family was to serve the Lord?  We would not all be foreign missionaries, but we can certainly be missionaries here at home.

The idea is we must define what we are to do. And we need to start by looking in the Bible.  Inside those pages we learn what God expects of us and what tools He is offering to help us along the way.  Reading the Bible as individuals and with our families should be a top priority.  Some feel devotional books help a lot in this department.  I would also advocate reading entire books of the Bible as a family.  I know, the Old Testament is scary for small children, not many warm fuzzies in the battle scenes!  But, kids learn an important lesson: God means business! When we disobey Him there are consequences! (A great reminder for parents too!)

Making a point to serve others is keeping with Jesus’ commands.  When we serve as a family, we are helping instill the habit of service early on, so that it becomes second nature, a  way of life, which pleases God.

Keeping God’s commands certainly serves Him.  Not always an easy thing to do, but we can discuss this with our children, saying “I really do not want to give my tithe this week, the budget is tight, but I will do it because God commanded it.  And, I will trust He will supply our needs.” Make sure to highlight when you see rewards, because that will speak volumes to your child as well.

When we pause in the daily grind, and get intentional about our faith, and focus our intentions on passing it on, we often see blessing we once overlooked.

I have kept a prayer journal on and off for years.  I have also recorded service projects for each daughter throughout her homeschool years. When I have written down the prayer requests and service projects, both personal and others, I have seen so much more clearly where God’s hand helped those situations. I have also noted how much we all grew as a family and as individuals in the Lord.  It has also served to help me remember how God supplied all my needs, even the ‘little’ ones which troubled my heart.  I encourage our daughters to do the same, and have been surprised how much they have witnessed to me as a result.

Maybe yours is not a family of writers, but one member could record requests at a meal each week, and review them and see what God does over the course of time.

Thanksgiving Day is a wonderful time to break out the prayer journal and service record and see how God has been faithful.

Once you get intentional, prepare yourself for blessings you never imagined!

Reflections: (One to ponder each weekday!)

1) How serious am I about my faith?  About my relationship with God?

2)Does I recognize God wants a personal relationship with me? Christianity is so much more than a list of dos and don’ts!

3)How can I be more intentional about my faith and service to God?

4)How can I encourage others to be intentional about their faith and service to God?

5) Please, share what you have learned about being intentional, and how you are planning to foster your faith through focusing on it!  Please share how you serve, it might spark of wave of service! Your sharing will help encourage others! Just click the “comment” button!

Please return by Monday, May 14 for the next post!  And thank you, for reading and encouraging!

I Can Praise YOU In This Storm

Trials were our focus this past week.  Many of us are presently enduring trials.  I hope and pray that each of you has someone with whom you can talk and pray.

Those of you who have contacted me, please know you are held in prayer, beyond today, and our conversations can continue, through email only.  Some things are not meant for the internet. I ask all of us to pray for the community reading and responding to this blog.  We can pray without knowing all the details, just know there is a prayer need!

There are presently many, many people enduring trials.  Accompanying these trials is often excruciating pain.  Pain of the heart can tear away at the soul, if left untreated.  Such pain can serve as a cancer.  Beginning with just a some cell, dividing into more, and growing expotentionally, until it can no longer be ignored.  Do not let it steal life!

God truly cares about the things we endure.  He cares about our hurts and pain just as much as He cares about our physical needs.  We know that God wants to provide for believers physical needs.

He also wants to provide for our emotional needs. Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” As a nation, we tend to ask God to provide for our physical needs but shy away from any emotional requests. Do we decide to deny ourselves God’s help because we think we can handle it ourselves?  Or, do we think those needs are insignificant and we do not need to take them to God?

Psalm 56:8 “Record my lament, list my tears on your scroll, are they not in your record?”  God desperately wants us to openly communicate with Him about every aspect of our lives.And, we know this, but it bears repeating, He already knows our needs: physical, emotional, and spiritual.

He wants you to invite Him into your world.  Not just thanking Him for His great provision of food and health.  But He wants asked to share in our struggles- the ones others do not see.  The ones we feel fully responsible for, the ones slowly eating away our soul. He wants us to ask Him for assistance and healing of our hearts and souls. God waits patiently on us to ask, He will not push in abrasively. But He will hold us accountable to His laws.

King David was called “A man after God’s own heart”.  King David often tried to live a life of obedience. David also knew he was human.  He realized when he had sinned and was separated from God by that sin.  He also realized how greatly he needed God’s attention and affection. He realized how much He needed God’s healing hand for emotional well-being. He knew he would not be emotionally well until that relationship was restored. Psalm 51:10-12 “ Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me, the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.”

If you ar hurting because of a sin in your life, take it to God.  Openly confess your misdeeds.  Ask for forgiveness, and for strength to resist temptation in the future.  Then, allow the peace of God to wash over you.  Do not allow Satan to serve it back to you on a platter.

If you are hurting emotionally because you are watching others make poor choices, know those choices are also breaking God’s heart.  He appreciates your love and concern, and He loves and is concerned with those you love; but He also loves and is concerned about you.

Recognize you need His peace.  The situation may not change today, but your reaction to it can.  Allow God to grant you that peace which passes understanding. He loves you!  He wants to help you!

Reflections:

1) Do I tend toward asking God for only physical needs, abandoning my emotional needs in His presence?

2) Do I fully understand God’s desire to meet ALL my needs?

3) Am I prepared and willing to be THAT open with God?  Remember, God is faithful and will never, never, forsake us!

4) How can we emotionally encourage each other? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!  We can all benefit from your ideas!

Thank you very much for reading! Please return Monday, April 30, for the next post.

Thanks for the trials

Ever feel overwhelmed by life?  Ever wonder when you will stop hitting the wall or running into roadblocks?

Sometimes we may blame God for challenges.  But, God promises to never give us more than we can handle.  He also promises He will provide a way out  when we are tempted. (I Corinthians 10:13)

While those verses reassure us, we may often still wonder: why?

Satan roams the earth looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)  Do you think he is interested in someone with atheistic beliefs?  I would imagine he is after those of us pursuing truth.  Those who are marked as God’s child, those God has called to himself.

Those are who Satan wants to challenge, and make stumble, and thoroughly frustrate. Think of Job.  We read Job was a righteous man, even offering sacrifices on behalf of his children before he knew of any sin.

God did limit what Satan could do to Job- Satan could not take his life.  But, Satan did steal his wealth, all his children, his livelihood, and temporarily, his health.

Job also realized loneliness in serving the Lord.  Yet Job never cursed God.  He never denied His existence.  When his good fortune abandoned him, Job refused to abandon his faith.

As we know from the end of Job, God later restored everything taken from Job, and even blessed the later portion of his life more than the former.

So when you are experiencing trials, know you must be doing something right. (Counter-intuitive!) Satan would not go after you if he did not perceive you as a threat. (Don’t I want to threaten him for a change?!)

Each trial we face also blesses us with an opportunity to draw even closer to God. (Seriously, I do not pen that lightly, this life can be extremely difficult.) But, if we allow ourselves to completely surrender to God, we will see His answer.  It may not be what we thought, it may not be how we imagined, but it will be blessed by God.

Good relationships are the ones which stand the trials over time.  Our relationship with our heavenly father grows and our faith is strengthened through trials.

Tips for surviving a trial:

1) Pray.  “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. Phil.4:6)  Give it to God.  Day by day, moment by moment, whatever it takes.

2) Control your thoughts.  “Whatever is true, nobel, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. Phil 4:8)  Stay positive!

3) Take care of yourself.  Get enough rest, eat healthfully, and exercise. If you take care of your body, it will serve you better.

Reflection:

1) Look back over your life, identifying a few trials.

2) How did you handle them?  Did you let them grow your faith?

3) How are you better prepared to handle trials in the future?

4)If you are enduring a trial right now, please ask for prayer from people you trust.  Please feel free to email me for  confidential prayer.

Please return by Monday, April 23, for the next post.

Does He Still Feel The Nails?

If you love me you will obey what I command.” John 14:15

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.’ this is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘ Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Matthew 22: 37-39

Easter services are over.  I hope Easter was especially meaningful to you this year.  Amidst the egg-dyeing, candy consuming madness,  I hope you found time to reflect on God’s great love- The Greatest Love- He has for each and every one of us.

I also hope you feel encouraged.  When life hits some bumps in the road, you do not need to remain discouraged.  Evil cannot prevail.  Christ has already won!

As I put away the decorations, and use up the leftover food, I wonder how tomorrow will differ from today?

How will my attitude, my actions, my awareness differ?

Reading through the Easter story accounts in the gospels opened my eyes to things I missed before.  Although Jesus was the Son of God, He felt fear.  His humanity shone through.

As I think of Jesus praying in Gethsemane, repeatedly asking God to take away this cup, I ask why He went through with it?  He certainly did not deserve that humiliation, that pain, that death.  Why did He endure it?  He could have called 10,000 angels, but He did not.  Why did He choose it?

The answer is obvious:  He loved you and He loved me so very much and wanted to see us reunited with God the Father, and with Himself.  His sacrifice on Calvary was the road God authored as our way back to Him.  The only remaining roadblock is our own pride.

Jesus had a choice.  Because of His deep love for you and for me, He chose the most humiliating death, the criminal execution on a cross, so that you and I might have the chance to live with God for eternity.

That is the reason my life needs to be different.  Every day on this earth should count.  I need to honor and glorify God with each thought, each word, each deed.

If Easter means what we say it means, that the innocent Son of God, died a criminal’s death for me, my life ought to reflect that love.

I ask myself, what habits do I have which seem acceptable to me, yet not to God?  How does Jesus feel when I celebrate Easter on Sunday, then charge into the following Monday, refusing to change?

Here’s a link to a song which gripped my heart months back.  Close your eyes as you listen to it.  Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what you are holding too close.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpHYJScbxCY

Allow yourself to honor God by making the right choices today!

Reflection:

1) Identify an area in your life you need to change.

2)Pray about it.

3) List three methods of improving this area.

4) Identify and talk to another Christian who will help keep you accountable.

5) Implement!

Please know I and many of your Christian brothers and sisters are holding you up in prayer as you complete this week! Please, each of you reading this, pray for each other as we each follow God’s leading.

Please return Monday, April 16, for the next post.

The Greatest Love Story, Part II

John 17:20-21  Jesus prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone, I pray also for those who believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” 

We  left off last week that God foretold of a Savior, and that He wanted the world to be able to recognize this Savior when He arrived.

John 17:20-21 tells us that Jesus prayed for all who believed in the Word to be spiritually one.  Not only spiritually one with other Christians, but also spiritually one with God and Jesus. (No small order!)

And, those believers were to offer a testimony of their faith so that the world would realize God had sent Jesus.

Why was it so imperative that the world realize God sent Jesus?

If we realize who sent Jesus then we begin to realize why He was sent.  When we contemplate why we begin to understand how very much God loves us.

Jesus was no ordinary man.  He was truly the Son of God.  (Matthew 3:17) “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

He was with God when God created the world. ( Genesis 1:26)

When Jesus did arrive it was not as expected.  He was a King, the Son of God, yet He was born in a lowly manger, to a simple family with humble means.

As much as God surely loved Jesus, God wanted us to understand that He understood us.  Jesus would go on to endure all we experience: hunger, hurt, misunderstanding, mocking,  and pain, to highlight a few.  Yet his experiences did not leave him bitter and sinful, as ours often do; for He was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

When Jesus began His ministry He performed miracles of all sorts: He healed the sick, raised the dead, feed thousands of people with little food, turned water into wine.

He understood the importance of celebration at a wedding.  He understood physical sensations of hunger and pain.  He understood the limitations of the human body, because He had one too!

When it was time for Jesus to begin the process of restoring humanity to God, He went off alone and prayed.

During that prayer, we read just how human He was:

He felt fear (Matthew 26:38).

He felt overwhelming depression (Mark 14:34) “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

He felt desperate, He did not wish to go through with it, Matthew 26:39, and Luke 22:42.

Yet, He allowed His godly Spirit to take over.  He prayed.  And while praying He received encouragement and strength (Luke 22:43).

After that encouragement, He acted.  He protected his disciples (John 18:8-9), He accepted His calling (John 18:11).  He showed compassion on Mary, his mother, (John 19:26-27).

He endured the greatest of physical abuse, and emotional pain:

He was struck in the face- John 18:22.

He was flogged- John 19:1.

He was forced to wear a crown of thorns upon his head- John 19:2; Matthew 27:29; and Mark 15:17.

He was humiliated with words and was struck in the face- John 19:3; Matthew 26: 67; and Mark 15:19.

He was forced to carry his own cross (the sign of a terrible criminal) John 19:17, Matthew 27:32, and Mark 15:21.

He was mocked- Matthew 27:4, Mark 15:31, and Luke 23: 35-37.

He was crucified, meaning nailed to a cross and left to die; a punishment for the hardened criminal.  John 19:23, Matthew 27:35, and Mark 15:37.

Why would God put His own Son through all that?  Why would God ask Him to do it?

Remember, God is a part of the Trinity.  God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all one.  We separate them into God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and think of them separately so we can organize them a bit in our minds.  God was a part of Jesus.  (Just as You are in Me and I am in You.” John 17:20b)

God did not just ask Jesus to sacrifice Himself, God sacrificed Himself.  A great illustration is from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. You see Asland willing to sacrifice himself for all Narnia on the Stone Table.  God was willing to sacrifice himself, so we could return to Him.

God as Jesus.  Jesus as a part of God.  Without sin.  Willing to come to earth, live as humans do, be tempted and yet be without sin.  Willing to accept mockery, shame, and blame for doing nothing wrong.  Willing to die a horrible, mutilating, shameful death of a criminal who committed no crimes.  Willing to do all that so we might return to Him.

He gave us a road back.  He is calling your name.  Do you hear Him?  Do you hear the love which gave birth to such sacrifice?

Reflections:

1. Read the account of Jesus’s death.  You can locate it in: Matthew 26:36- 28: 20; Mark 14:32- 16:20; Luke 22:39- 24:53; and John 17:1- 21:25.

2. What have you never noticed before?

3. Identify all the human feeling Jesus experienced. Can you identify how Jesus can relate to you?

4. Pray: ask God to help you take a few moments each day this week, reflecting on the Biblical accounts of the Easter story and thank God for what you have learned and what He has done.

5, Rejoice that you do not need to be separated from God!

Happy Easter!

Please return Monday, April 9 for the next post.

The Greatest Love Story, Part I

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God  he created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27  “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31 a

Easter is quickly approaching and we will celebrate our Savior’s resurrection.  If you have not grown up in the church you may wonder what all the hoopla is about.  If you have grown up in the church, you may have celebrated Easter for decades and in time, may have lost a little of the “Wow” factor.

Let’s look at why Easter had to happen, and why God planned it the way He did.

Back in Genesis, God created everything.  You can read in chapter one He created the earth and everything in it.  He created man “in our own image”; The plural referring to God as the triune God, the Trinity: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  Man was set apart from His other creations.

God brought all His other creations before man, (Adam) and allowed Adam to name them.  Can you imagine how much enjoyment God received showing Adam all His creations?  Think of a small child proudly showing you his artwork!

Adam and Eve used to walk with God in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8).

But then one day, they decided to disobey God.  They ate from that fateful tree.  They knew that their eyes would be opened.  They may have hoped their eyes would be opened and that they too, would possess the knowledge God already had.  Satan, disguised as a serpent, had deceived them.  Indeed their eyes were opened.  They caught a glimpse of who Satan was, and why they should stay away.  They also realized God meant business!  He loved them dearly, yet would serve them their consequences as stated.

Their sin separated them from their loving heavenly Father. Sin.  That tiny three-letter word.  That word that does not appear so ugly when handwritten.  That word that is just one syllable.  Yet for something so tiny, it’s effects are so long-lasting.  Adam and Eve never returned to the garden of Eden.  Neither have you or I.

But, that is not the end of the story.  God is an all loving God,  He is also a just God.  He authored a plan to reunite Himself with his greatest love: you and me.

Prophets throughout the Old Testament spoke of a Savior who would one day be born on earth.  This Savior would save God’s people from their sin.  Because of the people’s acceptance of this Savior, they would no longer need to be permanently separated from God.

What about all the people between the Garden of Eden and the death of Christ?  Could any of them go to heaven?  Again, God had authored a plan for people to atone for their sins: sacrifice.  There needed to be a blood sacrifice of an animal when people of the Old Testament had sinned.  As I have read through the Old Testament, and I have often contemplated the sacrificing ritual.  As gruesome as I imagine it to be, I wonder if God wanted to drive home the point that when we do wrong, someone has to pay, and pay dearly for those deeds.

The Old Testament sacrifices set the stage for Jesus’ death. His sacrifice was to truly convict us of just what God was doing with His precious Son, and how deeply He loves us.

When God created man, He created him to be a thinking, feeling creation.  He created in man, a desire to worship something, so that we may look for Him.  He created us to communicate with Him, and one another.  He created us to communicate about Him to one another. God did not create us as robots who would instantly and automatically worship Him.   He lovingly gave us a choice.  A chance to choose for ourselves. He does not want our worship, our adoration, unless we truly want to give it to Him.  (That does not mean we are not to worship Him when we do not “feel” like it.  We can choose to worship Him even when our hearts are heavy.  The point is: we are not robots!)

God designed a plan to call us back to Him.  He did not desire that we be separated from Him forever. We need to live outside His wonderful garden, and we must toil for our food.   As a result of sin, we are continually needing to apologize to God, and atone for our mistakes. That was not what God originally planned to offer us. But that is not the end!  One day, because we accept Jesus, we will reside with them both in heaven, and sin will be no more. No more tears, no more pain.  Pain we caused ourselves.

God knew we would need a Savior.  He authored that Savior.  He told many prophets about that Savior.  His people knew to watch for that Savior.  People thought He would come as a king.  they imagined He would be wealthy.  But God wanted to make this Savior approachable for everyone.  He wanted the humble to not fear Him.  He wanted the wealthy and powerful here on earth, to be humbled.  He wanted all of us to recognize the deep, desperate need we each have for this Savior. He wanted us to know Jesus when He arrived.

Reflections:

1) Contemplate the “why” of Easter beyond sin.  Think a moment about the need for sacrifice.  The fact that in the Old Testament, blood needed to be shed to atone for sin.  If we still needed to practice that today, would you think twice before just going about your day? Do you realize that Jesus’ blood was necessary for us to return to God? How does that perspective change your attitude?

2) Do I often write off “little sins” as a part of my time or culture?  Do I need to take sin more seriously?

3) Do I really recognize just how deeply God loves me?  Do I allow myself to see that?  Or do I push Him away as we often do to so many other humans?  God is the one who will never fail you! He will never give up on you!

Please return next Monday,April 2, for Part II of the story!

He’s Got You!

“For He will command His Angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” Psalm 91:11

Last summer  I was on vacation with my family in Washington D.C.   We did a vast amount of walking, and at certain times, it was necessary to carry our youngest child. One such time I was carrying her in front of me, with my purse swung over my shoulder, crossing my body.  I felt fairly secure that since my purse was on and across me, I had nothing to fear.

At lunch, my husband warned me to be careful about my bag, suggesting I keep it in front of me. While lagging a few feet behind with one of our other daughters he had observed a younger man trailing me and eyeing my purse.  Without alarming our girls, my husband hurried forward and kept in step next to this young man, finally catching his eye.

That young man suddenly did an about-face and walked the other direction.

I was stunned.  (I was also horrified because I loved that purse, and had waited several months to receive it as a birthday present!)

“Why did you not signal to me,’ I asked him.

“Oh, I had you” he answered ever so confidently.

How often does God protect us, and we never even know it?

How often do I, how often do you, claim that promise for ourselves?

Because that is what it is: a promise.

Let’s look at the rest of the passage. “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.  you will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. ‘Because he loves me’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him and show him my salvation.’

Our faith will not obliterate consequences of willful disobedience.  But, here is some of what it will do.

No matter where you go, what you do, if you acknowledge God, his angels will serve to protect you.  God is all-powerful; He can protect us from anything. That does not mean we rely on our own strength, we must rely on God.

He will rescue us, because we love him.  Rescue. Protect. That does not mean that we will never experience anything bad in our lives.  But God will get us out of bad situations.  He will protect us from things far worse than what we experience. Maybe from a flat tire in a downpour, maybe from being alone while suffering a heart attack; the possibilities are endless.  The bottom line is this: whatever we face today, tomorrow, whenever, God will rescue us from it.  He will somehow find some way  to take care of us. Nothing is too difficult for him. So the next mountain you face, remind yourself, God is truly there, and He will rescue you!

He promises to answer us when we call on Him.  How many times have you heard someone doubt God’s existence?  Or ask, ‘How do you know He is listening?’  We need to claim that promise, that YES!, He will answer us.  We need to make sure we are ready to hear His answer, it may not be what we are thinking, but He is trustworthy!

God promises He will be with us in trouble.  We never need to go through anything along. Even when you are on a solitary path, you are not alone.  God is there.  And He cares, deeply, immensely.

“I will deliver him and honor him”.  Once we have walked through our trial, God will deliver us.  He will not leave us there. And after that deliverance, he will honor us.  We may or may not receive that honor here on earth.  But we can be sure we will receive it!

The final verse does not guarantee a long life on earth necessarily, (although that could be the case); but that promise certainly can be fulfilled spiritually.  And, when we love Him, acknowledge Him, and call upon Him, He will show us His plan for salvation.

Reflection:

1) Commit Psalm 91:11 to memory.

2) Look for ways God protects you this week.  I would love to read your sightings of God’s hand at work, even, especially the ‘little things’!

Please return next Monday, March 26, for the next post: The Greatest Love Story, Part I