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"I was afraid, because I was naked..." (Genesis 3:10)

Hadn't Adam always been naked? How long had he lived in the Garden of Eden, strolling around in nothing but his "birthday suit", feeling very comfortable?

What was different?

Sin!

Sin takes that which was innocent, and causes us to feel shame. Sin twists that which was pure, and makes it adulterated. Sin perverts that which was holy, and makes it profane.

In some ways, nothing had changed. Adam and Eve didn't suddenly become naked. The Garden didn't suddenly become polluted. God didn't suddenly cease His strolls through His creation.

In some ways, nothing had changed, and yet everything was fundamentally different. The external remained the same. The internal was radically changed.

Funny, it works the same in reverse. When we come to Christ, in some ways, nothing changes. We are not beamed directly to heaven. We don't grow a halo. We don't suddenly understand all the mysteries.

And yet, everything is fundamentally changed. The external remains the same, but the internal is radically changed. And that's the naked truth.

"The man said, 'The woman...'...The woman said, 'The serpent...'"(Genesis 3:12,13)

I wonder what would have happened if Adam and Eve had simply repented?

They didn't. They didn't accept responsibility. Each had an excuse for what they had done.

Does that sound familiar?

Don't we still do that?

Rare are the people who are able to accept responsibility for their own actions and their own situation. Most position themselves as the victim of the action of another.

Ironically, when Adam and Eve denied their own responsibility, they denied their creation. For they were given response-ability, the ability to respond to their circumstance in ways that gave glory to God, and the instant they claimed not to have that ability, the instant they claimed to be a victim of the action of another, they disowned their own creation, and surrendered their power to live as the children of God.

I know of so many who are not willing to take responsibility for who they are and for where they are. And they whine and complain, and put a negative spin on everything, and in so doing, give up the power they have to live as the children of God.

When we deny responsibility, we deny the power that is ours.

"...this slight momentary affliction is preparing us..."

(2 Corinthians 4:17)

I heard somebody once say that there is no reality, there is only the perception of reality.

At first, I disagreed, and yet, the more I thought about it, and the more I continued to think about it, that might be right.

Paul talks about "momentary afflictions". What he was talking about were such things as beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonments, illness, eviction. These were traumatic events that Paul referred to as "momentary afflictions."

Paul's perspective was not on the things that he suffered, but on the glory that was waiting for him. Seen within the context of eternity, the difficulties he faced, difficulties which would have overwhelmed many people, were seen as nothing more than "momentary afflictions."

Maybe that's a good perspective for us to have.

We know that the victory is already ours. We have already been assured of our eternity. We know that we will know a peace and a joy beyond all measure - a peace and a joy that will have no end whatsoever. How can anything we experience here, in the light of eternity, be anything more than a "momentary affliction", an inconvenience?

Oh, I know, there are tragic things that happen to us and those around us - and they can be hurtful - but seen within the eye of eternity - their pain lasts only for a season.

"...we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen..." (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Faith is seeing above the surface.

A few years ago, I was sitting along a river that ran through the property of a Catholic retreat house outside Chicago.

Suddenly, a fish leaped above the surface of the water, flipped over, and returned beneath the surface. And the water was again quiet.

I thought about that fish, for a long time. It lived beneath the surface. The river bottom was its world and its reality. And then, for just the briefest of seconds, the fish saw above the surface. It saw a greater reality than the river bottom. It saw what had been unseen.

Isn't that exactly what faith is?

Faith allows us to see above the surface of our lives, to a greater reality. Faith allows us to see above the circumstance of our living, to the One who is over all. Faith allows us to see above the trials of our lives, to the glory that will be revealed to us.

Faith looks at the cross, and sees above the surface, and recognizes the Savior. Faith looks at the empty tomb, and sees above the surface, and recognizes a new power for our living.

Faith sees what is unseen. It sees above the surface, to the greater reality, which changes life beneath the surface.

"The sabbath was meant for man, not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27)

There is an ancient legend about a man who hired a servant to help with his work. The servant was very efficient in his efforts and proved to be a great assistance. So efficient was the servant, that the man who hired him withdrew from the work, and simply allowed the servant total control and responsibility in the conduct of the work.

Soon, however, the servant had become indispensable. He was so efficient, and had become so knowledgeable in the area of the work, that the man who hired him became fearful that if the servant were ever to leave, the work itself would collapse.

It was then the servant began to make demands - more money, more benefits, more time off, more authority. And the man capitulated to every demand, fearful that the servant might leave. And whatever the servant required, the man provided, even when the demands exceeded what would normally be due to a servant.

The servant had become the master.

Jesus reminds us that the rules, the commandments, the statutes, are all meant to serve us, not the other way around. Even something as sacred as setting aside the Sabbath was meant to serve mankind - not the other way around. And when keeping the Sabbath no longer served mankind, it was not to be kept.

Sometimes, we allow things like by-laws, rules, traditions and budgets, all of which are designed to serve us, to become bigger than what they are - and the servant becomes the master.

 

 

"And He (Jesus) looked around at them with anger..." (Mark 3:5)

Did you know this is the only place it talks about Jesus being angry?

Even when He drove the moneychangers out of the temple, and overturned their tables, and said they had made of the house for God a den of thieves, the Bible does not say He was angry.

Do you know what Jesus was angry about? Their hardness of heart - their legalism - their lack of compassion - their insistence on a following of the letter of the law.

Jesus was angry that compassion and kindness had been replaced by controlling attitudes. He was angry that love had been replaced by legalism. He was angry that acceptance had been replaced by arrogance.

Ironic, isn't it? The Pharisees were simply insisting on an adherence to what they thought of as sacred - the commandments - and Jesus was angry.

What God wants from us is not a slavish obedience to the law. What He wants from us is not a heartless compliance to commandments.

What He wants from us is exactly what He tells us in the book of Micah - "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8) Anything else - even if it is a keeping of the commandments, makes God angry.

 

"I will attend to you for your evil doings," (Jeremiah 23:2)

We always sit down to a banquet of consequence.

The height of our arrogance is to think we are somehow not accountable, that we can choose to live in any way we please without paying the price.

It doesn't work that way.

Rest assured, if there is something going on in your life right now that is evil, there will be consequence. Oh, maybe the consequence might not be death, or exposure, or humiliation, but if we walk outside the way of God, there is always a price to pay.

God calls us to live in a certain way because He knows that is what is best for us. And if we choose to live in a different way, then we go against what is best for us, and we suffer the consequence.

If we live in a lie, we learn not to trust. If we mistreat our bodies, either by sleeplessness or drugs or overeating, we shorten the length of our life. If we are vicious and vindictive, we lose our friends. If we break promises, we are not taken seriously.

Of course, the ultimate consequence is removed. God took upon Himself what our sins deserved, and while we might experience the result of our disobedience in this life, we nonetheless live with Him for eternity.

He ate our banquet for us.

 

"I will set shepherds over them who care for them." (Jeremiah 23:4)

Everything depends upon leadership.

That's true in every organization and institution, from a nation to a business to a church to a family.

God spoke through His prophet Jeremiah and said He would give good leaders (shepherds) to Israel. The former leaders had not been good, and Israel had suffered.

Every organization will go in the direction of its leadership, and if its leadership is courageous and caring and visionary, the organization will thrive. And if its leadership is tentative and self-serving and short-sighted, the organization will falter.

That's especially true in a congregation. Those congregations with dynamic leadership and thriving, meeting the opportunities and challenges facing them with power and creativity. While those congregations whose leadership is more focussed on management and maintenance eventually sink to a level of mediocrity, and wither.

Pray for leadership in the congregation. Pray that God would raise up leaders for His church, leaders who will have an eye for what God would do, and a heart for people. Pray that God would raise up leaders who have courage and faith, and aren't swayed by politics or self-serving interests. Pray that God would raise up leaders who share His heart.

Everything depends upon leadership.

 

"and might reconcile us to God in one body..." (Ephesians 2:16)

God does interesting mathematics.

He divides many into one in order to get one.

Interesting, isn't it, that Jesus took all the sins of every person of the world into Himself on the cross. Every being who has ever lived was comprehended in the body of Jesus, and as His body suffered the wages of sin, every being who has ever lived died with Him in the "one body."

Now, those of us who have faith in Him, because we died with Him in the "one body" (Jesus), have become "one body" (the Church).

We are one. We are united in Him, and there is a great equality and fellowship. And we can rejoice together.

And within the "one body" (the Church), there is great diversity. There are people of differing gender, nationality, culture, race and background. There is so much that would seemingly divide us.

And we sometimes suffer the effects of the divisions. We sometimes struggle with those who are part of the "one body", and deal with one another in less than loving ways. The divisions sometimes threaten to separate us.

And yet, within the mathematics of God, those divisions are absorbed, and we are one.

Which all adds up to grace.

 

"through {Jesus} we...have access...to the Father" (Ephesians 2:18)

Over the last few years, I have learned about sales and marketing, and I have come to understand the value of a referral.

A referral opens a door.

If I contact a potential customer, and if I can say that a mutual friend suggested we might be able to do business together, the potential customer is instantly softened, and far more ready to hear my offer.

At the risk of being crass, Jesus is our Referral. And we can approach the throne of the Almighty God, even as He is surrounded by seraphim and the wonders of creation, and we can say we come in the name of Jesus, and we are given access.

How frightening to stand before the throne of the Lord of Hosts on our own. Believe me, there are those who have attempted it and have been consumed by the fire of the holiness of God.

Oh, but how delightful to be able to go in the name of Jesus, to be able to stand before the One who is everlasting and to say, I have come in Jesus to offer You my praise, and to lay before you my petitions. And at the name of Jesus, the ear of the Father is open to whatever we bring.

Next time you pray, do so without hesitation. Don't be afraid of what to say or what to ask for. Pray boldly.

After all, you go in the name of Jesus.

 

"And Jesus said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while.'" (Mark 6:31)

Sometimes, the most productive thing we can do is nothing.

There is a great rhythm to living, and when we are out of that rhythm, we are not as productive or effective. Rest is part of that rhythm.

A number of years ago, I spent the night in the desert as part of a spiritual retreat. I was by myself, and as the night fell (and night falls in the desert, almost with a thud), I found myself wanting to sleep, and I wanted to sleep not because I was tired and not because the day was over. I wanted to sleep in preparation for the day to come. The night did not seem like the ending of the day, it seemed more like the beginning of the next.

It's much harder to maintain that rhythm outside the desert. We have electricity and television and activities and work and family and everything else that disrupts us, and we often fall into bed, exhausted and spent, rather than simply preparing ourselves to experience the unfolding of the next day.

Rest is part of our rhythm, and replenishing our resources is necessary to being all we were created to be. God calls us to rest. He calls us to be cradled in sleep that we might wake and enjoy a whole new creation. He calls us to understand that night is simply a part of the coming day, as every created thing rises to live once more unto God.

Rest assured.

 

 

 

"They recognized {Jesus}...and besought Him that they might touch even the fringe of His garment, and {they} were made well" (Mark 6:56)

Where God is recognized, powerful things happen.

There were those who sought only to touch the garment Jesus wore, and as they touched it they were healed.

How many miracles do we need in our lives? How often don't we find ourselves crying out to God to intervene within our lives, and fix some circumstance, to heal us of some malady, whether it's physical or emotional or spiritual or relational.

Maybe all we need to do is touch the fringe of His garment. Maybe all we need to do is draw near to where He is, reach out our hand and touch Him as He passes by.

Of course, that means we need to recognize where He is. We need to see Him in places that most don't. We need to be able to discover Him right in the midst of a situation no one would ever expect Him to be in.

And finding Him there, we slide out our hand and touch, and the power flows.

God can do miracles in our lives. He can heal whatever afflictions we carry. And He is willing to. But so often, He passes by, and we don't see. So often, He stands before us, veiled by the dimness of our vision, and we see Him not.

But fear not, He'll pass this way again.

 

"A man came...bringing the man of God of the first fruits" (II Kings 4:42)

We live in a leftover world, and God wants the first fruits.

God is not satisfied with what is left over. He does not want the scraps that fall off the table, after we have fed our appetites and found satisfaction.

God wants first-fruits, off the top.

You know why?

It's so we can learn to trust. God isn't interested in what we have to give, He's interested in whether we will receive. He's interested in our faith, and whether we will trust Him enough to give off the top, even when giving off the top would seem to be imprudent.

When God receives what is left over, after we have made all the seemingly necessary allotments of our resources, it turns our relationship with God upside down. It puts us in the role of provider, and relegates God to an item in the budget, some due to be paid.

Give off the top - first fruits. Put God to the test. See if He won't provide. It's not a matter of resources, it's a matter of faith.

May you think you can't afford the first-fruits.

It's the other way around.

 

"and they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord" (II Kings 4:44)

When God speaks, things happen.

The account of creation in Genesis is a testimony to the power of the Word of God. The litany is repeated over and over: "And God said, 'Let there be'...and there was."

God had told Elisha (the prophet) to feed a hundred men with some loaves of barley and ears of grain (the first-fruits that someone had given Elisha). God said that not only would there be enough for every to have their fill (miracle in itself), but there would be left-overs.

There was.

When God speaks, things happen, and what God proclaims, comes to pass.

Maybe God has made a promise to you. Maybe you have heard His voice, speaking to you, calling you to live in a certain way or to undertake a certain ministry, or to move in a certain direction, or to attempt a certain endeavor. And you are not yet seeing the results that God said there would be.

Trust His Word!

Of course, the greatest testimony to the creative power of the Word of God is the cross, where the Word of God, seemingly silenced, created peace where there had been none.

 

"...that you, being rooted and grounded in love..." (Ephesians 3:17)

Roots determine fruits.

The first miniseries to be a smashing success on television was Roots. It was the story of the power of ancestry, and an acknowledgment that who we are is often determined by what has gone into us.

What we are rooted in determines what we take into us. And if we are rooted in love, if our roots are plunged into the soil of love, then it will be love that we draw up into us, it will be love that nourishes us, and even more importantly, when we produce fruit, when we live and act and speak, it will all carry with it the fragrance of love.

What goes in determines what comes out. And we can generally determine what is inside of us by what comes out. If we are angry, there is anger inside; worried, there is a lack of faith; bitterness, there is hurt inside.

Where are your roots? Are they in the soil of tradition? Or are you grounded in religion? If so, then that is all you will produce, that will be your fruit - tradition and religion.

Or are you rooted in love, are you grounded in the soil of the wonderful grace of God? If so, then your roots will bring forth fruits of love.

Put down roots in the love of God...Roots always determine the fruits.

 

"Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think..." (Ephesians 3:20)

Why put limits on what God can do?

I remember a rather intense discussion I had with a man a number of years ago. He thought we should pray for 100 new people to join our church in one year. I didn't want to put limits on God.

God can do and wants to do far more than what we ask or can even imagine. There are no limits with God - not even outer limits.

What are you asking God to do in your life? He can do more than what you ask!

What resources have you asked God to give? He can give more that what you ask!

What miracle do you need to have happen in your life? God can make it even greater!

Never think there is a limit to what God can do. There isn't.

Of course, we know that by looking at the cross. There we see that the love of God has no limits at all. We asked for forgiveness. God gave more. He gave redemption. We asked for a second chance. God gave more. He gave holiness. We asked to be restored. God gave more. He gave His Son. There are no limits to what God will do to have us back.

 

"There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?" (John 6:9)

What wonderfully delightful words - "What are they among so many?"

What Jesus asked the disciples to do was ludicrous. He had asked them to feed 5000 people with a handful of food. Of course, there wasn't enough food. Of course, the resources were limited. Of course, Jesus was asking them to do the impossible.

And, of course, we know the rest of the story.

Rest assured, God will always put us into a place where we are asked to feed 5000 with five loaves and two fish. He will always put us into a place where we have to do the impossible. He will always put us into a place where the only possible means of success is to turn everything over to Him.

The reason is He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to discover how much can be accomplished when we put our meager resources into His hands, and let Him bless and break and distribute our resources in the ways He wants.

What looks impossible in your life right now? What miracle has God asked you to perform?

He's given you everything you need. He's given you a tiny bit of resource, and He's opened His hand, and asked you to give Him everything. And in giving Him everything, miracles are accomplished.

He's waiting.

 

 

 

"He said to them, 'It is I; do not be afraid.'" (John 6:20)

Jesus is always in the midst of the storm.

It's such a powerful story. The disciples were on the sea as a storm billowed. In the midst of the storm, they saw Jesus riding the waves, walking along. And they were afraid.

I don't know what storm you have in your life right now. But I know this - Jesus is right there, in the middle of it, riding it through, with you.

And throughout the storm, as the wind howls and the waves toss, and your boat threatens to capsize, Jesus is calling out, "It is I; do not be afraid."

Sometimes, we don't see Him. Sometimes, we see Him, but don't recognize Him for who He is. But He's there.

Maybe life is not going well for you right now. Maybe there are health concerns, financial difficulties, relationships that are not as they should be, family issues. Life can be stormy, and our little boats sometimes seem to be taking on water.

Rest assured, He's there. There with His comfort. There with His help. There with encouragement. There to remove our fear and apprehension.

Don't be afraid!

He's there...riding on the storm!

 

"...he (Elijah) asked that he might die, saying, 'It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life..." (1 Kings 19:4)

Sometimes it all seems so overwhelming.

Life itself can spin out of control, and we wonder how we can handle it. Everything we attempt seems to either fail or back-fire, and there seems to be no point to anything we do.

It may come as a surprise, but Elijah, the great prophet of God, the very one who would appear on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses and confer with Jesus, the very personification of the prophets, felt the same way.

He was depressed...and he wanted to quit.

Maybe you're at that point now. Would you know that you are not alone? There are times when we, within our human nature, simply become weary and frustrated and overwhelmed. There are even times when death seems an attractive alternative or at least a welcome relief to the distress going on within our lives.

And when those moments come, and they do, we can do nothing better than what Elijah did, who simply cried out in the midst of his anguish, "It is enough..."

If you are at that point right now, know that God is with you. Know that you can cry out and he hears. Know that He is willing to love you and refresh you and strengthen you and comfort you.

God is greater than the most overwhelming circumstance.

 

"...and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may prove them..." (Exodus 16:4)

I wonder if we know how radical a prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread" really is.

The people of Israel were to gather a day's supply of bread, and nothing more. They were to save nothing for the next day. They were to eat what God provided, and then trust Him to provide again.

That's exactly what we pray in the Lord's Prayer. We're praying that God would teach us to trust. We're praying that He would "prove" us. We're praying that we would learn to trust His provision from day to day, and that's so contrary to the way of the world.

The world teaches us to hoard, to put away for a rainy day, to make provision for ourselves. That's what makes sense to us. And that's exactly what most of us do. We plan for contingencies, and congratulate ourselves on our prudence.

And all the while, we're praying the opposite. We're praying that we would be given the power to live day by day, moment by moment, fully aware of our dependence upon the grace of God, suspended by nothing other than His providential care and supply.

It's as we wait, day by day, with eager and open hands, in simple child-like trust for the gracious supply of God, the daily bread for which we pray, that we prove ourselves to be His children.

 

"so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men..." (Ephesians 4:14)

There is a time when child-like trust is not good, and that's when we wind up believing a lie.

Jesus commends a child-like trust. Paul warns against it. Actually, Paul warns against simply accepting what other people say about God without putting it to the test. There are those who have their own agendas, and put forth something they claim to be of God that is not, and we need to be mature enough, wise enough, knowledgeable enough, spiritually discerning enough, to know the truth.

There are fairy tales we present to our children as truth. And our children buy into those fairy tales without hesitation, and with a sense of glee. Yes, there's a Santa Claus, and yes, the Tooth Fairy leaves a dollar under the pillow (inflation) and yes, the Easter Bunny hides the eggs.

But as they grow, and mature, and experience and develop, our children come to understand such myths within their proper place. The same is true spiritually. There are, perhaps, things we always held to be sacred which we come to know are merely tradition, and in so doing, come to grasp the greater Truth.

And as we grow, and mature, and develop, we come to grasp the most profound Truth of all - that Jesus loves us, this we know, which, ironically, can only be comprehended by a child-like trust.

Sometimes, we have to mature to become children.

 

"...speaking the truth in love..." (Ephesians 4:15)

Sometimes, the truth comes with hard edges and can be wielded as a weapon.

I remember working with a woman who used the truth as a club. She had two favorite sayings: she would "tell it like it is" and "let the chips fall where they may." I spent a good deal of time cleaning up the pieces that were left in her wake. Needless to say, we did not work together long.

The truth, if it is not wrapped in love, can be more destructive than the cruelest slur.

It does no good to speak the truth if it is not for the benefit and the good of the one we are speaking to.

It does no good to speak the truth if we use it as an excuse to inflict hurt.

It does no good to speak the truth if our purpose in speaking it to someone is to gain an upper hand.

God spoke the truth to us, and it was a truth that had teeth. He told us the truth about ourselves, how we had fallen, and how we had separated ourselves from Him. But He wrapped His truth in love, and nailed His truth to a cross and shouted His truth in an empty tomb, and whispers His truth into our hearts in the power of His Spirit.

God is love, and that's the truth.

 

"Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves." (John 6:26)

Not long ago, I listened to a man who told me he had decided to follow the way of God - because he wanted to receive a blessing. I waited for the punch line, hoping there was one, and there wasn't. He was serious, and in serious trouble.

That's what Jesus said to the great crowd of people who followed Him. He told them they weren't interested in Him, they were merely interested in what He could give them.

I have heard people talk of their relationship with Jesus as if it was a means to an end. I can remember being told that if I put my offering in the plate, God would give me even more, as if the motivation for giving was to receive, which turns God into an investment plan. I can remember talking to one woman who said she needed peace, and so she surrendered her life to Jesus in order to receive that peace, and hadn't. I have heard people say they believe in Jesus so they can go to heaven.

There are those who seek blessing, and end up impoverished.

Jesus is not a means to an end. We seek relationship with Him not so we can receive a blessing, or peace, or even go to heaven. We seek relationship with Him because He is our Lord, and so wonderful in His being that relationship with Him is all that we could possibly want, and as result of our relationship, He doesn't give us everything, for we already have it.

Jesus isn't a means to an end. He is the end.

 

 

 

"Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'" (John 6:29)

There is an ancient legend about a pious man, who wanted to do a great work for God. And he prayed, "God, tell me what you want me to do. Whatever it is, I will do it. If you want me to give everything I have to the poor, I will. If you want me to spend my whole life telling others about you, I will. If you want me to sacrifice my very life for you, I will. Just tell me what to do."

And there was silence, until a voice boomed from heaven, "This is the work I want you to do for me. I want you to receive what I want to give."

That is the only work we can do for God, you know. Scripture is abundantly clear about that. The Psalmist says, "What shall I render to the Lord for all His blessings to me?" That's another way of saying, "What work can I do here?" And he concluded, "I will lift the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord." Which is another way of saying, "I will receive what He wants to give."

Jesus addressed the issue with those who wanted to know what they should be doing to be doing the work of God. He responded by saying, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

There is no great work we can do for God, except the greatest one of all, and that's to rejoice in the work He is doing within us, to receive what He wants to give, and to believe that He is our Lord and Savior.

 

"The high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste" (Amos 7:9)

Every monument we build to ourselves will eventually tumble.

That's true in every aspect of life, but nowhere is it more true than in our relationship with God.

The people of Israel had built monuments. They had "high places" and "sanctuaries," both of which were part of their religion. They had attempted, in their pride and arrogance, to build places of worship and sacrifice, places where God could be kept and controlled.

And God said He would tear their monuments down.

It's like the old story of the Tower of Babel. The people built their tower as a monument to themselves, and to what they were able to accomplish, and they dared to think that their monument could somehow reach the dwelling of God. And their tower fell.

God reaches for us. He establishes relationship with us. He is the One who comes from heaven and knocks on the door of our hearts and invites us to open unto Him. He is the One who desires our love.

And ironically, when we know His love and love Him as well, then every place is a "high place" and everywhere is a "sanctuary."

There are no monuments we can build. The only monument that matters is the one God erected - the cross.

 

"But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary..."

(Amos 7:13)

Sometimes, we'd rather not hear the truth.

It's like the old story of the company of men out in the bush. They were hacking through the bush with their machetes when one of them climbed a tree and yelled down to the others, "We're going the wrong way." And the men responded, "Who cares? We're making great time."

Sometimes, we don't want the truth to interfere with the direction we're going.

The king of Israel told Amos, the prophet of the Lord, to take his prophecy elsewhere. Amos had brought a word of condemnation, and the king was not about to hear it. The prophetic truth interfered with what the king wanted to do.

Don't we sometimes do the same?

We are willing to hear the Word of the Lord as long as it doesn't interfere with our understanding of where we want to be and what we want to do. And if the prophetic Word begins to pierce our heart and disquiet our soul, when the Truth strikes too close to home, sometimes, we just close our ears and go on the way we had, because we were "making great time."

I would imagine there is a prophetic Word God is speaking to you at this time in your life, and I would imagine you know exactly what it is. Don't close your ears.

 

"For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will..." (Ephesians 1:9)

I love a good mystery.

I love not knowing the identity of the culprit until the very end, and I really love surprise twists. In a well written mystery, the truth is not fully known until the author chooses to reveal it.

The same is true with the will of God. I have known so many people who have struggled to know and determine the will of God. But there is no knowing the will of God unless and until God (the Author of life) chooses to reveal it.

And sometimes, we don't know the will of God almost until we turn to the last page.

Perhaps it is not ours to understand the mystery of the will of God. Perhaps it is ours simply to keep turning pages, trusting that the will of God will ultimately be revealed.

Sometimes our lives take funny little turns that we cannot understand. We thought we knew what the will of God was and followed it, only to discover that God seemed to be calling us to something different. Maybe that's the plot twist in our lives, and our story becomes a little more complicated, a little deeper, a little richer.

Maybe you're having difficulty understanding the will of God in your life right now. Just trust that He is writing the story, and keep turning the pages.

 

"...a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in {Jesus}..." (Ephesians 1:10)

There is an ancient legend about a forest, filled with wonderful and mystical butterflies. A traveler went off in search of these butterflies, hoping to trap one and receive its mystical benefit.

The traveler searched and searched for the butterflies, and on occasion thought he caught a glimpse of one, but finally gave up. And as the traveler lay down to rest, one of the butterflies floated down and alighted on his hand.

The traveler woke to find the butterfly on his hand, and in an effort to trap it, scared it away. He searched and searched for the butterfly, but could not find it, until he became tired and lay down to rest, and the butterfly came back once more.

Some things only come to us when we quit trying to trap them.

Unity is one of those things. I know so many who think unity should be a goal, that we should be bonded together, and should work toward being as one. Ironically, however, unity is one of those things that comes to us when we quit trying to achieve it.

What brings unity is a common focus. When we are focussed on the same thing, we become one in our focus.

Jesus unites all things, not by making them one, but by being a common focus. If I am in Jesus, and you are in Jesus, we are in unity, not because we have sought unity, but because we have sought Jesus, and the butterfly has landed.

 

"For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man..." (Mark 6:20)

We like for people to be good...but not too good.

If someone is too good, at whatever it is they do, sometimes it reflects poorly on us. We see the flaws in the mirror, and are made aware of our own imperfections.

Nowhere is that more true than in the area of personal holiness. If we see someone whose life is lived in the power of a close personal relationship with Jesus to the point that everything they do radiates that relationship, we sometimes find ourselves intimidated.

That's why we like to discover little blemishes in the lives of the otherwise perfect. It's nice for us to know that even seemingly perfect people are sometimes merely human.

Of course, God is the ultimate in perfection. He is holiness embodied. His holiness is a consuming fire. And before His holiness, we cannot possibly stand. The flaws in the mirror became so gaping that the mirror itself explodes, and we are no more.

Isaiah, prophet of God, once stood before the holiness of the Almighty, and cowered. And God, holy as He is, reached out with His shroud of forgiveness, and covered the flaws of Isaiah.

Rest assured, the flaws in your life are covered over by the grace of God. The mirror now shows only perfection.

 

 

 

"...because of his oaths and his guests, he did not want to break his word..." (Mark 6:26)

We all know the story.

King Herod had promised his stepdaughter anything she wanted if she would dance for his guests. She danced. She asked for the head of John the Baptist, at the insistence of her mother.

Herod had a dilemma. He could keep his word, at the expense of a man's life, or he could spare a man's life (and the man was someone he feared - the prophet of God) at the expense of his word.

He chose to keep his word.

How noble, and how disastrous. There are times when all our human virtues, our integrity and our nobility and our honor lead only to destruction. And we keep our word, and lose ourselves in the process.

Ironic, isn't it, that God faced the same dilemma. He gave His Word. But in order for Him to keep His Word, someone had to die. And that someone was His Son. And He kept His Word, but there was nothing noble about it. There was, rather, something very holy and loving about it.

Herod kept his word, and John the Baptist died. God kept His Word, and His Son, the Word, died, in order that we might be saved even from our virtues. Virtue is not enough. Grace is. And God gives grace.