We Must Hang On!

In as much as we like to think we are in control…  We are not.

In as much as we like to think we understand… We do not.

Who can see the reason for the hard things that happen?

The young vivacious five year old son runs the school yard sidewalk and suddenly falls dead to the ground.

The unborn child twirls in the womb and the cord of life somehow wraps around her little neck and strangles.

The young woman battling an all-to- familiar disease passes away leaving her two young children and husband, motherless and wifeless.

Tears and anguish and loss and hopelessness follow. We want control. We want understanding. We want a reason for these very hard things.

Why must we endure and experience such aching!

Where is God when these things happen?

It can be easy to think that He is not with us, that He has turned away from us.

Do not fall prey to that wrong thinking.

The Lord is with us. He is in control. He has the understanding. He has the reasons. In my own sufferings and wonderings, I joined Jeremiah in saying:

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore have hope:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:21 – 23)

One day, all things may be revealed to us and we will “get-it.” Light will break through the darkness. 004 But, until then, we must hang on!  We must trust that the LORD knows what He is doing – what He is allowing – what He is giving us to endure.

And while we are trusting, we need to remember that the LORD IS compassionate and that He IS faithful. The LORD will carry us and we will not be consumed, no matter how many tears fall, how much anguish our bodies tremble with, how much loss we suffer.  We must never lose hope even as hopelessness crouches at the door of our souls.

God, our Creator, has  a plan and it is good.  He is unfolding a grand and beautiful story at large; He is unfolding the details and chapters in our individual stories as well, one minute at a time.  Like a well written book, each of the characters and events hinge on each other to complete the story.  Likewise, our lives, though separate, are connected through the common bond of the big-picture, the common bond of Christ.  The hard things do happen in the story. Yet…

Call to mind these things about our LORD and have HOPE.

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He is risen!  

Jesus, our LORD is very much alive and He loves us all!

Believe and trust and hope will be yours.

   

Figuratively: Where IS HE today?

Last night, I saw Him in my minds eye, bludgeoned.

I saw Him bleeding and full of sorrow and anguish.  Sweat and lacerations, mixed salt and blood, surely must have had its sting!  His human body weakened.  His human body failing; trembling, yet withstanding.  Feeling the pain of His Father turning away from Him, so that He could experience death with the weight of sin, this is what He chose. This, that I deserved, is what he chose willingly.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14

On the cross, Jesus suffered beyond human imagining.  

I cannot fit it into my brain really.  How he must have felt!

The length at which He was willing to go to save His sheep; to save me; to save you….. The overriding emotion had to be love. Only love could have kept Him nailed to that wooden cross.  For certainly He had the power and the ability to resist and his earthly enemies and the death He was destined to – because He is God, omnipotent – all powerful and over EVERY thing.

Jesus’ spirit was strong.  His spirit was untouchable by human hands.  Jesus gave His spirit up to the Father.  In His power He gave it. It was finished.

On the cross it was finished.  He bore the weight of all humanity’s sin, past, present, and future.  When He died, the price was paid. Then and there on the cross the blood sacrifice was given, and we, the sheep were set free from death and given a Way.

But, where is He today?

Figuratively speaking, where is Jesus today after the moment of His death on the cross and that moment in time when it is recorded that He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven?  

This time between last night, Good Friday and His dying on the cross, and now – the time before Easter Sunday and His resurrection? He told us as He spoke to another dying on a cross nearby.

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

Paradise is the place of rest.  The holding place for believer’s until the final resurrection.

I imagine a place of peace.  Soothing and comforting.

Jesus did not go to suffer more.  He was not tormented beyond the cross.

Jesus did the complete work on the cross; dying once and for all.

Figuratively, he is in Paradise, waiting to reveal His entire purpose for coming to earth!

“For Christ … died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust…” (1 Peter 3:18)

He died for me.  He died for you.  He died for everyone in the past, everyone in the present, and everyone yet to be born.  

I do not know about you…but I am feeling overwhelmingly thankful.  Overwhelmingly small.  Overwhelmingly loved.

Today, I imagine, in my minds eye…so that I can remember, that I am loved with the greatest love there ever is.

Can you feel it?  The love is for you too!

Simple: One, Two, Three.

Not sure of what I posted yesterday?

You are not alone;

…so Jesus, re-stated three things.

ONE: “I am the gate” John 10:7

Jesus, as the gate, means that all who enter through Him will be saved.  He is the one way to Salvation. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

TWO: “I am the good shepherd.” John 10:11

Jesus, as the good shepherd, means He is willing to lay down his life for his sheep, if needed.

THREE: “I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:15 b

And He did, because we needed Him to.

Simple: ONE, TWO, THREE.

And what do you think the reaction was to these things that Jesus said again?

The people were divided.  One side wanted to dismiss Him; the other side  entertained the ideas.   Neither side gained any understanding of the Truth; “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” John 10:24

Jesus’ reaction?

“I did tell you…” John 10:25 a

  I am God; “I and the Father are one.” John 10:30

So, here you have it.

Jesus and the Father are one; God.

Going through Jesus is the only way to get to the Father.

Just as He said, He laid down His life for ours;  HE CHOSE DEATH so that we could have eternal life.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27 & 28

My reaction?

NUTS.  Any one walking away from this offer is just nuts!

What do you think?

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Need time to ponder?   Cook up a meal and mull things over?

Try: 1,2,3, and then NUTS!

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It is my prayer that all who read this will gain understanding of the Truth.

He Knows Your Name

Recognition.

It is an amazing thing in action.

As a mom, I have experienced this recognition, maybe you  have too?

The tubular play structures are such a lure for kids; our kids used to love climbing in and through them when they were little.  These places are crowded and full of kids shrieking with excitement & laughter.  Kids are happy, parents are happy.  All is a wonderful experience until you cannot see your child anymore!

This happened to me.

Suddenly I noticed that my youngest son was nowhere to be seen.  Adults are not allowed into these climbing structures so panic easily set in because I could not locate a visual of my son.  Seeking out an older sibling, I implored him to take a trek through the play structure to find his brother; alas, minutes later the oldest emerges with the story that tells me that younger brother is stuck in fear inside one of the tubes and he points to the target tube. Luckily, it had a nearby entrance that I could get close enough to so that I could call out his name.

The tube was full of noise echoing the engagement of many other children.  Even still, I called out my son’s name, loud as I could.  He heard me and answered back calling, mommy(! ), in between sobs.   I continued encouraging him to proceed in his climb, step by step, so he could reach the next outlet…all the while assuring him that I would be there ahead of him.  And of course I was.  And my son was rescued.

Here it is: recognition in action.  

My son recognized my voice and trusted me because of who I am to him, and followed my voice.

And so it is likewise in the Truth explained by Jesus himself. John 10 says that “the sheep listen to his voice”  (v. 3a).  Jesus says he is the Shepherd and his sheep hear him. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out “ (v.3b).  The understood picture is that sheep are in the pen and the shepherd is leading them out for green pasture. “…he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” John 10:4.  The sheep trust that the shepherd is going to care for them, provide for them, and give them everything they need: food and protection.

So, the question IS:  Are you willing to be a sheep?  

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My friend Julie was.

Picture this!

In the middle of a Christmas Party many of us were lured into enacting out the Christmas story.  Groups were practicing their parts in nearby clusters – as I was being a “door to the Inn” – I glanced over and saw my friend Julie on the floor in the midst of her group.  Everyone else was standing, but she was on the floor! Dressed for a Christmas party, Julie was on all fours and decorated with a mash of cotton balls on her head! OBVIOUSLY she was a sheep!

First, she submitted to the plan for her skit.  She was willing to be a sheep.

Are you willing to submit and claim your part as a sheep?

Second, she got on all fours; no more humble position could she have taken while dressed for a Christmas party!

 Are you willing to be as humble in your heart before the Shepherd?

Cotton balls on the head made her part scream, awesome!  Simple obedience to the total involvement of her part made the whole thing work.

So, third:  Are you willing to obey and follow along to make the whole thing work?

Plain and simple, here’s my pitch:

Do you recognized His voice and will you trust Him because of who He is and follow His voice?

The Shepherd is Jesus.  And He is calling your name!  He wants to lead you out of the dark pen of a sin and into the pasture of eternal life.  He will be there ahead of you.  He will provide all you need: food and protection.  Food for body and soul. Protection from the darkness and all that endangers the soul.

Once again, are you willing to submit to, be humble before, and obey the voice that calls to you?

He knows your name my friend.

enjoy:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CC8puwexBBo

 

WOW, every time!

Typically,

the baby is named.

Then soon after,

the other names, begin to flow.

My parents named me, Sheryl.

But, some used to call me Sherry and Sher… logical to see the connection.

The other names I had were buggy, and zipper, and twinkle toes, and whaaa-bird…not so easy to see the connection. That is because these other names were born out my looks or of things I did or things I had.

Buggy? …because our family car was a Volkswagon Bug – the only one in the neighborhood.

Zipper? …because I was so skinny – my friend’s older brother teased that if I stood sideways and stuck my tongue out, I’d look just like a zipper.

Twinkle-toes? …because I spent many hours in the ballet studio – twenty years of dancing in fact.

Whaaa-bird? Because I would let out an audible Whaaa sound every time I picked up 2″x 12″x 16′ planks – I worked as a carpenter for  a while in my young adulthood.

Names.

We all have them.  Some we like, some (?) – maybe not so much.  But all the names tell others who we are and often give an indication to what we are about.

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I love the fact that no matter how many times I read the Word, I find fresh nuggets of truth.

The One and Only.  This name just never stuck out.  Honestly, I never noticed it.

But, the other day…the three words, One and Only, jumped right off the pages of the book of John, and hit me!

What an awesome name!

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I read it.  I pondered it.  I rolled it around and around in my imaginings….and came up with WOW every time! Imagine,

to be the ONE and ONLY.

I love it!

I love that Jesus is named this way so that there is no question.  Not even room for a hint of confusion. John says, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the father, full of grace and truth.” 1:14

and then in 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s right side, has made him known.”

It’s in the name.

Who is He?

The One begotten Son from God the Father…

The One who is at God the Father’s right side…alive…in heaven, now (is = present tense)…

It’s in the name.

What is He about?

The One who makes the Father known to us…

God the One and Only meaning Jesus is God;

and Jesus revealed to us who God the Father is through His actions on earth.

No question!  Such a clear depiction of Jesus.  I love that we do not have to try and figure out who the One and Only is …the Word tells us.  Don’t you just love it when everything is obviously clear?

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The One and Only, full of grace and truth, came to draw us into faith so that we would believe on Him.  The One and Only willingly took on the sins of us all, died on the cross, and arose victorious, and lives today at the right side of the Father: Truth.  And Grace.

I know whom I believe in; whom I pray to; whom I worship!  No confusion.

How about you?

Listen and be blessed.

 Praising God for giving us the One and Only!

SIX DAYS and COUNTING!

Walk the Walk: “Expressions” – Part IV

You’ve heard it!  We all have;

that admonishment to “walk the walk” — meaning: back up your talk with your walk!

This is exactly what God expects of us as well.

Walking with God is active — it is alive with doing!  James tells us that our faith needs to be active & alive with doing as well.  That’s just the way faith is!

I am a visual person.  I love props – I need to see it to remember it; thus my sandal, rock, and olive leaves shown to you the last few days.  And so I must visualize and ask, just what does that close walk with God look like?

Take a moment to contemplate:

Lakesides Moms 024

W.

The WILL.  We must be willing to align our will with God’s will.  We need to stop thinking our way is better than God’s. There is no room for Frank Sinatra’s mantra, I did it my way, in a close walk with God.  Even Jesus surrendered and gave in to the Father’s will as he prayed in the garden of Gesthemene.

A.

Actively seek an intimate relationship with God.  This means time spent urgently pursuing Him; knowing Him needs to be our all consuming focus.  Just as we are willing to forget the dishes, the laundry, the kids and even eating, in order to finish the scrapbook project, or the work report, or the garden planting…we need to put mundane things aside to draw close to God and make it our desire to know him more deeply every day.

L.

Lifestyle.  Walking with God is a lifestyle – a way of living life.  It is not a Sunday morning or high holiday event.  It is a daily choice of living a certain way; the way is by constantly aligning our will to God’s and making time for talking and meeting with him every day; praying, reading, worshiping.

K.

Keep at it.  Don’t give up; walking close to God is a challenge and it does come with costs.  Just remember, our walking IN faith is always rewarded by a faithful response from God.

I invite you to throw off ALL that hinders you as Hebrews 12: 1 – 3 says…

…throw off everything that hinders (your walk)

…run with perseverance

…fix our eyes on Jesus

…consider him (Jesus)

WHY?

“…so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3b

WHY?

So that we may each please God and  live our lives IN faith.

Walk the Walk my friends!

The Olive Leaves: “Expressions”- Part III

Would YOU do it?

Stop & abandon EVERYTHING that fills your normal routine; quit your day job and do the crazy thing? Well, that is just what this one man did, without question.  Without argument. Without hesitation.  Genesis 6 tells us that God came  to Noah and told him that the  earth was filled with too much violence and He is going to destroy the people and the earth; He told Noah to build an ark to save his family.

Why Noah?

“Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD….Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” Genesis 6:8 & 9. Can you  imagine what it might be like to be found in God’s favor! Can you imagine what it might feel like  to be considered blameless among all the other many, many people around you!

 So what was Noah’s response?

“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (Hebrews 11:7a) “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” (Genesis 6:22).

What faith Noah had!  

He was so in tune with God… so in sync… he accepted the insanely crazy job asked of him and did it exactly as he was told.  Noah listened and obeyed.  That simply.

Talk about close walking with God!

I imagine Noah suffered criticism, and antagonistic jeering….perhaps persecution even…known as the “crazy lunatic” in town(?).  Yet, it also seems obvious that none of that matter to him.   He was confident in his actions because he had such a strong faith in God. Olive leaves seem appropriate to represent Noah. Lakesides Moms 021 We know that Noah did successfully build the ark and that the flood and destruction did come upon the people and the earth.  We know that after the flood a dove brought back an olive branch as a sign that the waters were dissipating and soon Noah and his family could get back onto dry land.

Olive leaves represent the promise upheld by God; the reward of listening, obeying, and walking close with Him. God saved Noah’s family.

We can see clearly that Enoch, Abel, and Noah each enjoyed a close and intimate walk with God and each were seen as righteous men, standing out from the others around them.  We see that God often asks His people to do things IN faith and, despite the cost of walking in faith, God always has a faithful response.

To Enoch, he gave eternal fellowship in heaven and spared him the suffering that goes along with dying.

To Abel, he spoke well of him and he gave him a legacy.

To Noah, he saved Noah & his family from destruction and gave them the honor of starting the human race afresh.

I love the pattern of God’d faithfulness!

No matter what He calls us to do in  faith…no matter what it might cost us…He always has a faithful response and rewards us for our faith in HIM.

I am left desiring a closer walk with God…aren’t you?

Walk the Walk : “Expressions” – Part IV posting tomorrow.

The Rock: “Expressions” – Part II

What was the murder weapon?

Having just my imagination…I am assuming it was something just like a rock – if not a rock itself!

Lakesides Moms 015 Motive? Jealously.  Green eyed jealousy for sure. This is what happened: “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did.” Hebrews 11:4 That’s it. Simple right action before GOD.  Abel knew what was pleasing to God. “…Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” Genesis 4:4a It was Abel’s faith in God that enabled him to be willing to give of his first fruits.  No questions asked.  He just did it.  He honored God and worshiped God with his offering and it pleased God. “By faith, he was commended a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings.  And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.”  Hebrews 11:4b

Imagine being commended by God?

Imagine being spoken well of by God?

As Enoch did….I am sure Abel did.

Abel surely must have had  a close walk with God too!

But what a cost!

Our Faith always comes with a cost.  It may be time, energy, money, relationships, inconvenience, criticism….

For Abel? It was death.  His faith in his offering brought him death.

And yet…

Scripture says “he still speaks.”

God, in His revealing in the scriptures, gave Abel as an example for us to follow today.

He gave Abel a legacy.

I sit back and wonder….

Is my faith righteous before God?

Do I offer my first fruits in honor and worship of God?

Is my walk in faith so pleasing to God?

So, I leave in pondering again…

What have been the costs of my faith walk?  Am I willing to express in faith and take on the costs?

This is the second glimpse into my sharing at Lakeside Christian Camp this past weekend.

Part III, tomorrow: Olive Leaves!

The Sandal – “Expressions” Part I

In my minds eye I see: The two leaned in and exchanged words. Only a murmur could be heard as they spoke in hushed tones.  Intense in their conversation, they paid no attention to anyone else around them.  Focused and committed, it was obvious the two were close friends! Out of the murmur came a belly – felt laugh.  Bursting forth with animation, the two laughed util the tears fell!  Holding their sides, their guffaws subsided and they began to take notice of the passer-by’s and walked for a moment in contented silence.

Comfortable.

Confident.

They walked.  And walked.

Every day they walked together.

They?  Who were they?

One was God, himself….the other was Enoch.

Do you know him?

His story is found in the book of Hebrews.  This is what was said of him: “By faith, Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death…God had taken him away.  For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”  Hebrews 11:5 Here’s where the sandal comes into the picture. Lakesides Moms 017 The Sandal represents Enoch and his walk with God.  It is clearly inferred that Enoch had a close walk with God and that pleased Him.  And as Enoch walked closely with God, he surely acted in a way that pleased God.  Sooooo much so…. God could not resist and just took him. Where?  To the heavenly realms. Why?  for eternal fellowship with God.

CAN. YOU. IMAGINE?

My mouth hangs open in thought for a moment!

What kind of  walk that must have been!

And then, I take a look at my own walk…..

how does it compare?

“And without faith it is impossible to please God….” Hebrews 11:6a

The next questions beg to ask… how strong is my faith?   How am I expressing my faith?   Am I pleasing God? And so I leave that to pondering. For me. For you…. This is a glimpse at Part I of what I shared this past weekend with about 70 women at the Lakeside Christian Camp and Conference Center in Pittsfield, MA.

Stay tuned for Part II & III & IV of this sharing!

EVIDENCE

Yesterday it was sleeting.

There was slush, mushy and thick, on the walkways, I almost slipped.  Buses were late and fingers were numb.

Today, the sun is shining and the sky is blue and there is not a single slush mound anywhere.

EVIDENCE!

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Puddles are shrinking and mud is deep.

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Bare feet long to squish in it! So, they do!

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Yes, this is New England. Yes, Spring is on the way.

And children want to play.

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EVIDENCE.

Basking and warming.

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Yes, this is evidence beyond the seasonal change morphing as we watch…

Newness pokes its head out from the softened earth and potential beauty promises delight…

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EVIDENCE.  It is clear.

OUR GOD IS FAITHFUL!

“He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.”

Psalm 146:6

Time does not alter His goodness.

Praises cannot be contained inside of me today as I reap the blessing of such a good GOD and feel spring in the air as it brushes my face with tickles of sun rays gently painted across my cheek.

What an awesome GOD is He!

Thank you Father for the goodness of a new season –

EVIDENCE

of your faithfulness and love for your people everywhere.