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Posts Tagged ‘worship’

Certain lessons seem to be particularly important for me to “get” because they are being reinforced  almost weekly.  Last week an exclamation point was made on the lesson – “It may not be what you expect, but trust Me, My plan is better!”

We visited our two married daughters over the course of last week.  Rhiannon and Jeff in Chattanooga Thursday – Sunday morning and then Christin and Michael in Elizabethton Sunday – Tuesday.  Everything went pretty much like we planned with Rhiannon and Jeff, but it seemed like every plan we made with Christin had to be scrapped or modified heavily.  No worries, we were just happy to be spending time together.

Monday afternoon one modified plan had us drive to the top of Roan Mountain where we enjoyed some beautiful views from the bald mountain top.  The wonderful 360 degree view had us thinking about sunrise pics over the NC mountains.  Checking the weather in Elizabethton, 20 miles away we saw that the weather report was promising and the plan was hatched.

 

Tuesday morning we arose at 4:45 am and we were headed out of town 15 minutes later.  We were excited to see a star studded sky as we rolled out of Elizabethton heading toward Roan Mountain.  Two miles from the top of the mountain was when I first noticed the moisture on the road.  A mile from the top I noticed the stiff breeze that hadn’t been present on any of our drive thus far.  Shortly thereafter wisps of cloud started sweeping across in front of the car and for the last 200 yards I had to drive at a snail’s pace into the parking lot because of the thick fog.

We were still an hour before sunrise.  I am quite used to fog.  But fog is usually stationary settling into the low areas on windless mornings.  On the mountaintop it was foggy with a 15 – 20 mph breeze driving it.  Undeterred we gathered camera, tri-pod, flashlights and goody bag and headed up the 3/4 mile hike to the top of the mountain in a cold, drizzly, windy fog hoping for the best.

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This is about 15 minutes before sunrise and we were beginning to think the sun may not actually burn through the fog like we were hoping.

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This is when you kinda wished you hadn’t been told about the number of bear sightings up on the mountain.

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Inside the woods the wind was blocked and it was eerily peaceful.

That breeze that we experienced in the Parking Lot was a foretaste and not the real deal.  We broke out of the woods about half way to the top and realized that the exposed mountain bald seemed to increase the wind intensity by at least a factor of two.

We made it to the top of the mountain, thankful that we had also been there the day before so we recognized some rock outcroppings as landmarks.  We hunkered down behind a rock for a bit hoping the clouds would clear and we would get some sunrise shots.  But while the clouds around us brightened as sunrise arrived the wind didn’t let up and the fog never thinned.

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The view right at sunrise… at least according to our watch.

Since we had been to the mountain the day before, we knew that amazing panoramic views existed from right where we were huddled.  Yet the wind, fog, and rain made it difficult to remember just how beautiful it was.  I was struck with how graphic an illustration that is of the impact of trials in our life.  When life is good it’s easy to see God’s hand at work.  But when trials press upon us it often becomes much harder to discern God’s actions on our behalf.  It is in these times that our faith is stretched.  Holding onto the reality that we have previously experienced – God’s faithful provision, is just like remembering the mountain view we had seen the day before.  We may not see it at the moment, but we know it exists.  Our task is to remember and wait for the reality to be revealed again.

We slowly made our way back down to the car and then headed back down the mountain.  A deer  came up beside us on the road and we slowed to let it pass.  A mile down the road we were out of the fog.

As we progressed down the mountain we saw sunshine followed by a brief rain shower.  The thought passed through my mind, “Sun and rain, I wonder if there’s a rainbow somewhere?”  Through a break in the trees just prior to the final overlook I could see a shower in the valley beside the mountain and a slight brightening where the sun was trying to break through.  As we rounded the curve at the final overlook this is the view that we saw.

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We were shocked by how quickly this rainbow appeared.

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The colors were vibrant and yet it was continually shifting from a single to a double and from a full to a partial rainbow.

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For a few seconds it formed a full rainbow… and we just happened to be in the right spot to catch it in all it’s glory.

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We couldn’t quite tell if the pot of gold was in that little barn or the orchard beside it.  What we knew for a certainty was that our Heavenly Father was enjoying our laughter and celebration with us as we alternately uttered words of praise and gasps of wonder while we snapped pics.

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The double rainbow was fleeting, but we saw it come and go two or three times in then 3 – 5 minutes the rainbow was visible.

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Looking toward the sun… and giving praise to the Son.

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The final pic as the shower ceased and the rainbow quickly faded.

The entire rainbow celebration lasted less than 5 minutes, but a number of things stood out to me.

  • We had to make the journey to be able to see the rainbow.  We didn’t know the rainbow was the purpose and penultimate pic of the trip, but our Father did.
  • We tarried in the dark, in the rain, in the wind, in the fog, and ultimately made close to a 2 mile hike seemingly in a lost cause, but God had a better plan.
  • We had to be in exactly the right spot AND at exactly the right time to see and enjoy the rainbow like we did.  If we had rushed at any point in the morning’s journey we would have missed it.
  • Our response to seeing the rainbow was pure wonder, celebration, and thankfulness to our gracious heavenly Father for this simple, but beautiful blessing.  And I believe He enjoyed it as much as we did.

Finally I remember where God first introduced the rainbow to His creation.  It’s in Genesis chapter 9:12-17.  And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.  Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

We didn’t get what we expected, but what we got was so much better.

And that’s just the way God is with His children.

Be blessed today and be a blessing!  If you like this, please share it with a friend.

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I had the privilege of serving as a room leader at Gauntlet 2016.  In my young adult life I was a youth leader at two different churches and I even lead a diocese-wide youth event in Louisiana.  Other life demands took priority as I entered my mid 30’s so my youth leadership became focused upon coaching and a four year stint as a scoutmaster.  Gauntlet is our church’s youth camp, but it is youth camp to the extreme.  There were over 5300 youth at the Gauntlet with another 1700+ room leaders and support staff.  We descended upon Daytona Beach in 129 buses and filled 9 beach-front hotels.  And for the first time we filled the entire Ocean Center auditorium.

I intend on posting several pics and a few highlights from the week in this blog over the next few weeks.  The Gauntlet is an environment where youth and leader alike hear clear teaching on how to become a Christian and what it means to live the life God has created us for.  It provides ample opportunity to speak with caring leaders and fellow sojourners about life’s trials, challenges, failures, and triumphs in a safe place.  Within this context each person is given multiple opportunities to identify and take their next step in the faith journey of life.

This was my second time to serve.  And I almost didn’t go.  My experience the first time was enough of a challenge that I questioned whether the Lord wanted me there.  I left the date open on my calendar and I continued to ask the Lord to make it clear if I was to attend.  About 4 weeks prior the Lord gave me the nudge that I was to go and He provided two very clear instructions.  “Don’t have expectations on how your students are to respond”  and “Trust Me.”  So I signed up.  I am so glad that I did.

That I had chosen the right path was confirmed for me on the bus ride down.  Everyone traveled down in “pods” of three or four buses.  We were the first pod of buses from our campus which also happens to be the furthest from Daytona Beach.  Just outside Jacksonville the bus in front of ours broke down.  The failure on the bus disabled their air conditioning, so our bus leader asked us to make room for the folks from the other bus.  Our boys immediately moved to the back of the bus tripling up in seats or standing in the aisle.  We spent the next 3+ hours waiting on one of the other buses to complete the trip down to Daytona and then return to pick up the passengers from the disabled bus so our pod could continue.

The AC in our bus was stretched to the max with the extra body heat and the lack of air movement over the AC coils, so it was not very comfortable in the back where the boys were all scrunched together.  But during that entire time there was no whining or complaining.  The boys chatted.  I got to know several of the young men like Hawk, CJ, Bernard, Nick, Sean (or maybe Shawn), Drey, Marcelous, Dillon, and others.  For three hours we sweated together, watching bus after bus pass us as we sat on the side of the road with the Florida sun beaming in the windows… and the mood never turned sour with self pity.  I’m chuckling to myself right now because I was, and still am, pumped at how mature the boys handled the situation.

Although I didn’t meet and begin getting to know them until we arrived in Daytona Beach, my two roommates and new friends, Dylan and Greg were among those on the bus who handled the situation so well.  And they proved to be just as mature and good-natured as my initial impression of the other young men on bus 5.  It was truly a blessing to spend the week with these two guys, to get to know them, and to talk about what our next steps in growing closer to Jesus are.

That’s enough of a story for today’s post. So without further ado I share the first of my Gauntlet 2016 pics.

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At some point in our lives, most of us want to hear God speak directly to us, directly into our life situation.  I am convinced that intimacy with God is our highest calling.  What Adam had in the garden before the Fall is a picture of what life in Christ can become… intimate, familiar, loving, without secrets or shame, the PERFECT relationship.  But for almost all of us we are still a long, long ways from it.

If intimacy with God is our highest calling, then why do we struggle so with achieving it?  Why is it that we don’t hear about or see where God is speaking to people regularly?  Why does my prayer life feel more like a one sided conversation than a dialog?  Why is the silence so quiet?

A conversation this weekend has brought this question into my spirit and I have been wrestling with it for three days now.  While I suspect there may be other reasons, I have insight into some of the reasons and a path through a season of silence that may be beneficial for you.

Let’s begin with the order of priorities God has for us.  The most important thing God has for us is to know Him.  That is priority #1.  Not knowing ABOUT Him, but knowing Him.  He sent Jesus to earth to engage humanity face to face, skin to skin, heart to heart.  Jesus’ life on planet earth was brief – 30 or so years, but in God’s providential plan, He inspired the writing of the Word which not only fleshes out the “God Story” for the billions of us who did not get to know Him in the flesh, but creates the pathway to meet and truly know Him.  Also in His plan, Jesus’ resurrection means Jesus is alive.  If He is alive then He is knowable.  At my conversion, I believe Jesus was right there with me, talking to me, offering me life in Him.  When I accepted, He placed His Holy Spirit within me and I was changed.  I know it.  I felt it.  Others saw it and commented on it.  It really happened.  Now humanity’s enemy, the bible calls Him Satan, has periodically tried to convince me otherwise.  Most of His attempts have been to get my eyes off Jesus, my spiritual ears from listening to the Holy Spirit, and my actions away from intimacy with God.  Those times I have been diverted, quiet ensued.  This brings me to the first reason we may enter a time of silence in our relationship with the Lord.

Spiritual warfare is a reality.  The enemy actively fights against God.  The children of God, believers who have been saved through faith in Christ, are at the frontline of that war.  There are many similarities in warfare we see and what goes on in the spiritual realm, but I want to focus upon one aspect – communication.  Knowing the battle plan and keeping in touch with command is vital in battle.  This is often hard to do, particularly when the fight is intense and the din of battle drowns out all other sound.  Spiritual warfare will have times when we are getting hit with any number of  assaults.  The good news is our Lord God is the ultimate Commander in Chief.  He has both a plan and resources to win the war and bring us through the battle.  When we are in the battle, we may not clearly hear Him, but we can trust Him.  We make our requests, we hold our position, and we do what we know from His Word we are to do.  In the absence of a clear word from the Lord, we trust the Word of the Lord and the last thing He told us to do.  And we hold on.  We also look for reinforcements.  This would be Godly friends who can come alongside us in the fight.  Ones who will join us in the battle.  Ones who will also be communicating with our Commander, the Lord God Almighty, about our needs.  Scriptures for this are 2Cor 10:3-5 and Eph 6:10-18.

Reason 2.

On-going sin.  Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins – all of them.  God in His wisdom has given us a role to play in our salvation.  We repent – we turn away from sin and turn to God.  There are many things that can be said about why sin is such an evil thing, but for the sake of this discussion I’m going to focus upon just one aspect.  From where we stand sin lies in the opposite direction of God.  If we choose to run after sin, we are turning our back on God.  Have you ever noticed the orientation of our ears?  They are cupped forward.  This allows the capture and amplification of sounds in front of us.  This also provides a degree of shielding from sound waves coming from behind us.  This is a physical picture of a spiritual truth.  When we turn away from God, it becomes much more difficult to hear God’s voice calling us back to Him.  That which we are facing grows louder and more strident.  The voice of God grows harder to hear.  And God seldom shouts.  Hopefully I can come back to that theme in another post.  God can and will shout, but it is the exception rather than the rule.  His gentle whisper and subtle nudges are the norm.

The remedy when on-going sin causes us to lose awareness of God’s voice is simple, if not necessarily easy.  Cease the sin immediately, repent, confess, and seek the Lord’s help through Godly friends and counselors who can help you take your next steps.  In this I have seen an accountability partner provide tremendous benefits.  God works through His people in the healing process.

Reason 3.

Emotional wounds not dealt with.  My understanding of God is that He has saved me utterly and completely.  My experience has been that in a few cases God walks me through the healing of damage created by sin, my sin and the sins others have done to me, over time.  Although I have been a believer for 30+ years, there are still times of periodic cleansing, teaching, and healing that He does in me years after I felt Him power-wash my soul.  I am getting into an area that still holds a degree of mystery for me, but I have seen this at work in my life and in others.  God will choose to heal some things from our past years into our walk with Him.  The forgiveness has long since been applied, but sometimes God wants to heal the scars.  In some cases our stuffed hurt actually encases a bit of poison that must be removed.  If the Lord wants to do the healing, our role is to allow Him, the Great Physician, to do surgery.  Covering it up, holding it in, saying it doesn’t exist does not further the Lord’s work in this area.  Giving it to the Lord, confessing and lifting it up to Him, is the right thing to do.  One of the areas I have seen this frequently take place is for people who have been victimized by sexual sin.  Opening up about this to a caring and wise counselor is a one of the most benefical steps in the healing process.

Reason 4.

Our unrealized expectations of God leading to a “God Grudge”.  An unfortunate situation often occurs when a person comes to faith.  A well-meaning soul will tell the new convert something like, “You are changed and your life will be rich, full, and exciting because you are a Christian.”  While there are many blessings that come with being a Christ-follower, absence from life’s difficulties is not one of them.  In fact, when we immerse ourselves into living a fully surrendered life we will experience times of need that lead us into greater dependence upon Him.  Sadly many believers reach a point where their expectations are not met, but rather than seeking Godly counsel, they bottle up the disappointment and trudge on.  Over time and as more unrealized expectations occur, a God Grudge develops.

I have seen this and been fortunate enough to speak words of encouragement to people to help them identify the source of their grudge and help them take it to God.  He already knows we are holding it.  He just wants us to admit it and then give it to him.  I can think of five situations where the persons took this step of faith and within a month a break-through in the natural realm of a long-standing problem was manifested.  Intimacy requires honesty.  God can handle our honesty.  We just need to be open to what He has to say back to us.  Psalm 51 resonates for Reasons 2 – 4.

Reason 5.

Disobedience to what the Lord has said.  I know that disobedience to the Lord is sin, but I want to zero in on disobedience to God’s personal word to us.  I shared my most poignant and painful example of this in a post last summer. https://areliablefaith.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/responding-to-the-nudge/.  In this story I share how I rationalized my way out of obedience to the Holy Spirit’s nudge and the consequences were significant.  This example and some lesser periods of waffling when presented with promptings from the Lord have clearly shown me that quiet ensues when we ignore what the Lord tells us.

Our Pastor has shared this with us as well.  “Have you done the last thing I told you?”  This is the question the Lord has laid on his heart when he has tried to maintain a dialog, while not being fully obedient to the last thing the Lord told Him to do.  I admit to the same thing.  A few years back I went through an extended time where the Lord repeatedly brought the same scripture to my mind as I prayed.  It wasn’t until I obeyed the practical application of that scripture that my prayer life moved forward.

God is not into superficiality.  There is no façade that works.  Obedience is essential if we desire unhindered dialog with the Lord.

Reason 6.

We are to wait.  This one is perhaps the most common for me.  And it really only becomes an issue when we get our priorities backwards.  At the beginning I said our #1 priority is to Know the Lord.  For the finite to know the Infinite takes all our life and at the end we will still fall far short of knowing God fully.  But that is what God desires and has called us to.  Part of the process for getting to know the Lord is that we walk in our second priority which is: Know and Do the Things God Wants Us to Do.  Life spent being where God wants and doing what God created us to do is a life well lived.  However, our “doing for God” can usurp our first priority – Knowing God.  When this happens we can get out of the Lord’s whisper range and we can move into the realm of silence.

I have fallen into this pit more than once.  I am an active person.  I also tend toward being a workaholic.  I struggled to type that because in my mind I am just thorough, but my wife and others have pointed this out with enough examples that I cannot deny it.  It is not uncommon for me to get involved in a good thing but fail to take the time to validate it against the Lord’s leading.  Being over-committed to good things invariably leads to being under-committed to the best things.

The solution here is pretty simple.  Make the #1 priority the #1 priority.  Isaiah 40:31 is on the spot.  “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  The shall mount up with wings like eagles.  They shall run and not grow weary.  They shall walk and not faint.”

If we seek first God and His righteousness, then we put ourselves in position to hear, to learn, and to move when He says move.  For me waiting is manifested in a number of ways, but let me share my primary few.

1) Rising early with the bible, a cup of coffee, and a heart to enjoy anything new that I perceive is from the Lord.  This may be a new insight in the scripture.  It could be a person the Lord brings to mind that I pray for.  It is often an idea that rumbles around in my Spirit picking up scriptural ties that becomes a blog post.

2) Attending worship with the sole intention of lifting up adoration and praise unto the One Who is worthy of every last bit of praise I have to give.  There was a time in my life when I had to listen to a number of praise songs, concentrating on their lyrics before I moved into deep worship.  I seem to have moved to a place where I come expectant and ready to commune with the Father in worship.  This is awesome within our church, but it now occurs regularly whenever I listen to praise and worship.

3) Serving others has become a source of blessing for me.  I have found that in praying for and caring for others, I become more sensitive to the Lord nudging me, prompting me, leading me.  I know Who the answer is and so in listening to others in need, I am open to the Holy Other speaking life and hope to them.  Sometimes it may be through me.  Sometimes it may be through another in the conversation.  But I have consistently seen the Lord minister.  My role is to simply wait, be open and receptive, and do or say what I believe He leads me to do or say.

4) Out in nature – particularly at sunrise or sunset.  For this one I generally am simply swept up into the awesomeness of Who God is… Creator, Sustainor, Artist, Master Designer, intimate Friend, Loving Father – and worship ensues.  The utterences of my heart flow unbidden to the throne of grace.  Sometimes I sense something specific in my Spirit.  Always I receive the Lord’s refreshing.

 

I know this has been a long post.  I hope and pray it has been encouraging for you.  The Father loves you and He has a message for you.  Seek Him and He will speak to you.  Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

In closing I share a few of my favorite pics from my sunrise and sunset devotions.  Be blessed my friend and allow the Father’s blessing to flow in, through, and around you to in rich abundance.

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Sunrise over Crater Lake, Oregon.

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Crater Lake, Oregon

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East Rim of Crater Lake at Sunset

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Alpine-glow on Mount Rainier, Washington.

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Update South Carolina Foggy Sunrise

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Radiant!

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The heavens declare the glory of God.

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The best man can do is but a glimmer compared to the beauty the Lord bestows on the canvas of this world. View across our front yard.

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Sunset on Ruby Beach, Washington.

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Ruby Beach at Sunset and Low Tide

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Splitting the Sky

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Rows in the heavens

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Sunrise in the South Pacific.

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Darkness tried to hide it, but the Light cannot be contained!

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Sunset over the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia.

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Sunrise over Mahon’s Pool at Maroubra Beach, Australia

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Sunset over my backyard this past Sunday.

Pretty Place, Camp Greenville, SC, Oct 16, 2015 (47)

The reason for our hope. Pretty Place, Camp Greenville, SC

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I saw a very familiar scripture in an entirely new way the other day.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say I saw it with an entirely new emphasis.  Matthew 11:28-30 is one of my favorites.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Whenever I read this previously my focus had been on gaining rest or help with the challenges and burdens of life.  I had always skimmed over the “take my yoke” part, accepting that this meant to be a believer.

Well, that changed last Friday.  I was worshipping the Lord and seeking His guidance for a word of exhortation I was to give.  As I sensed the Lord calling me to a place of holy listening, I became aware of a song playing that simply repeated this scripture.  Somehow it seemed like the volume increased whenever the yoke was mentioned.  As I prayed and pondered several thoughts came together which I share with you today.

First off, what is a yoke?  For many today the agrarian imagery that Jesus used may not be as familiar as it was to His 1st century listeners.  A yoke is a type of harness used to hitch a beast of burden to a load of some sort.  The burden could be a cart, something with wheels, or it might be a plow or harrow – devices used in breaking up ground.  In addition to connecting to a load the yoke connected a pair or team of oxen or similar to one another so they would pull as a team.  Finally the yoke provided a means for a driver to guide and direct the beast or team of beasts.

This scripture has a progression to it.  It begins with coming to Jesus.  For most of us this occurs when we get to the end of ourselves, a condition usually resulting in being weary and burdened.  When we come to Jesus He immediately gives us a measure of tangible rest and peace.  I remember this well and it was such a wonderful place to be, standing in stark contrast to the turmoil and difficulties of striving to do life in my own strength.  Today, I can look back and say that this was merely an initial deposit.  God has so much more in mind for each of His children if we but dive deeper into Him.  Hence the progression continues.

The next step is a big one – Take My Yoke upon you.  This is an invitation into the deepest, most amazing, most fulfilling journey this life offers.  However Jesus leaves the decision up to us whether to slip ourselves into the yoke.  As the description of a yoke above mentions this yoke will harness us to the work Jesus has planned for us.  In some instances it will connect us with others pulling in the same direction, lifting the same load.  It also provides a means for Jesus to lead and direct us.  All of these things play out in taking Jesus’ yoke upon us.

One of the greatest benefits of wearing Jesus’ yoke is that we become pupils of the Master.  Jesus says, “learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…”  There are many, many things He will teach us and I am convinced that for each one of us He knows us well enough to teach us in exactly the manner we need for exactly the work He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).  But this scripture points to a universal “learning” when Jesus alludes to two of His character traits that we are to emulate – gentle and humble in heart.  Being fitted into Jesus’ harness will cultivate gentleness and humility that blesses those the Lord sends us to and opens doors to being Jesus’ hands and feet.

As we willingly wear the yoke we will find the character of Jesus being created in us.  By His Holy Spirit we are transformed into the faith-filled followers we were created to be.  And the rest we were given when we first came to Him becomes a soul-satisfying, deep and abiding “rest for your souls”.  It is as different in scale as a spring rain is from a raging hurricane.

It is at this point that we realize the Lord has given us work which we have accomplished without fanfare and seemingly without extraordinary effort on our part.  Yet these things are well beyond what we could have envisioned from the outset.  Following the Lord, doing the work He gives us – making disciples, caring for the hurting and sorrowful, meeting the needs of those in want, encouraging the fainthearted, preaching the Word, living a life that rejects sin, but embraces the sinner with Christ’s love – these tasks, these burdens become lightly carried, yet effectively accomplished.

This scripture offers us rest, but it offers so much more.  Life as a Jesus-follower is a life of growth and constant transformation.  Where He will take us is beyond our comprehension, but it is also good beyond comparison.

Be blessed today and allow the Lord to bless through you as you take on His yoke and live.

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The Lord knows what we need.  He always, always does.  The real question is do we respond when He says, “Let Me give you what you need.”

This week marks my 10th straight week of travel for work.  I signed up for it.  Actually I like to see new places, meet new people, tackle new challenges.  But 10 weeks is a long time to be away.  A few weeks ago the Father brought me to one of those – “Let Me give you what you need” moments.  It was a tremendous encouragement to me.  But over the past few days I have realized the message of that moment was given not just for me, but to be shared with others.

It started on a Friday night.  I had traveled all week.  My wife and I sat down together and watched a melodrama we like called “Heartland”.  We watched three episodes and to be quite honest with you, I was upset with the amount of drama going on in the characters lives as I went to sleep.  Now I know it is bit silly to get emotionally invested in fictional characters on a TV show, but what was happening wasn’t totally fiction.  You see I know people who are hurting just like those characters.  I also love people who can’t seem to consistently make wise decisions and that hurts me too.  I cannot unplug from the problems of the people around me and the show that evening touched a resonant chord in me.

After a restless night of waking, praying, dosing off for a few minutes only to wake and begin praying again, I finally fell asleep around 5.  I woke at 7 with a start.  It was like I was shaken awake.  And I immediately sensed the Lord whisper in my spirit, “Come let Me kiss you.”  I have three grandchildren and they know me as Papi.  When they come over, particularly if we have been apart for a while, the homecoming has plenty of hugs and kisses.  It was with that same sense of excitement that I got up and slipped into the front of the house.

I left our dark bedroom, slipped through the lighter kitchen and into the living room.  When I turned toward the east facing front of the house, the brilliant sunshine reflecting off the china cabinet struck me with tangible force.  I was drawn to it.  As I stepped into the warmth of the sunshine I felt the Lord embrace me and I knew the reality of the Father holding his child, me, and giving him a kiss of pure love.  I don’t know how long I stood there just soaking up the Lord’s gracious love.  After some minutes, I started making a circuit back into the darkened kitchen and back into the light.  For six or seven circuits I would just stop and soak in the sunshine and the Father’s assurance of His love for me.

After some time, I found myself just staring out the back of the house to where the sun’s rays were turning the early spring morning into one of golden clarity.  And the Lord spoke one more time.  “I am not through with you.  The best is yet to come!”

That, my friends is a balm for a road-weary soul.  That is a promise I can and will hold on to.  That is a promise for everyone who puts their trust in Jesus and then pursues Him with all their heart.  He wants to be found by us.  He desires to fill us with good things.  He will transform our heart to become more and more like His heart if we diligently seek Him.

And God, my God is new every day.  The creator of the universe is able to do abundantly, amazingly more in and through us than we can possibly imagine.  All He is asking is for us to take our Next Step with Him.

To reach out when He whispers, “Say hello to that person.”

To take the time to listen in love to that hard-to-love person God has put in your life.

To read His Word because you realize it contains the Word and words of life.

To be the spouse you know God is calling you to be.

To live a prayerful life even when busy-ness threatens to overtake you.

To slip out of bed when He says, “Come let Me kiss you.”

 

Be blessed my friend and realize you are the blessing God wants to bring into someone’s life today.

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As I have shared before, I am an engineer.  So much so that my wife struggles not to roll her eyes as she says it.  My natural inclination is to observe, analyze, and critique.  This mindset helps me solve problems and improve processes.  However by themselves they are not conducive to building strong, vibrant, loving relationships.  Through the years though I have changed.  I still have these attributes, but they have been tempered.  And I am a better person for it.

I am very thankful for my parents.  They strove to raise my siblings and I right.  They taught us manners, respect for all people, putting other’s needs ahead of my own, and the importance of family.  They took us to church and established a pattern of faithful attendance.  They disciplined me when I strayed, but at the end of the discipline was always a hug and words of affirmation.  My parents established an excellent foundation for the transformation.

As I have recounted in an earlier post, I strayed significantly through my college years, trying new and formerly forbidden things.  I was a person swimming further and further from shore.  But God did an amazing thing.  He brought me to a place where I could clearly see the two choices I had.  I could continue my life of swimming in deep water and being my own master or I could chose to follow Him completely.  It’s funny because He did not threaten me with bad stuff if I chose not to follow Him.  He just indicated that life “All In” with Him would mean He would never leave me or forsake me.

I accepted His offer and a change took place immediately.  God put His Spirit within me and I knew it.  I look at that weekend and that afternoon visit to the chapel at Camp Hartner in Louisiana as my second birthday.  I mention all of this as background though.  While God entered my life in a real and tangible way at that time, a lot of my ingrained habits and thought patterns were still influenced by the worldly patterns I had become comfortable with.  The Holy Spirit had been active in wooing and encouraging me to take the step of faith before my conversion.  When I accepted Jesus as my Lord, the Holy Spirit began the work in me that has led to much positive change such as the transformation of a fairly rigid engineer into a relatively relational person who happens to have some engineering skills.

The Holy Spirit will guide you as you seek to know and follow the Father better.  Here are some of the practical steps that I was led to which have proved crucial to my transformation.  In fact they fit under the admonition Paul gives in Romans 12:1-2.  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.  Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Read the Word and Seek the Lord Early Every Day.  Start the day in prayer and quiet reflection on Who God is.  Talk to Him and let Him speak to you through the bible.  Select a good, short devotional to supplement your prayer time.  My wife and I have been blessed time and again with the short devotionals found in the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  I have experimented with doing this at other times of the day, but I have found that dedicating my first hour or so to the Lord has the greatest impact and seems to flavor the rest of the day with a sweet sense of His nearness.

Develop Close Faith Friendships and Encourage One Another.  While this needs to be within your family too, it actually must include a few close friends.  I’ve dived into this topic at length in a previous post, but it is vital that we have people we trust who can be Christ’s hands, feet, and heart to us in times of need.  And we in turn will have times when the Lord uses us for others.  God did not intend for us to do life alone.  When He looked at Adam in the garden He said it was not good for him to be alone.  That is true of believers.  God knows we need faithful fellowship.  Ask Him and He will lead you to those people who will become your faith friends.

Join the Church and Plug In.  Jesus died for the Church, so the Church is very important to Him.  Find a Church that is vibrant.  One that consistently points to Jesus and what He is doing.  Look for signs of Jesus actively working within the Church.  Signs such as growth in numbers, bondages broken, lives being transformed, consistently maturing fellowship, regular outreach beyond the walls of the Church, and joy in following Jesus.  Once you find this Church then get involved.  Consider your gifts, talents, and passion and see where you can put them to work in the Church.

Bloom Where You Are Planted.  God has put you in a place to be His ambassador.  The life you live is a reflection of where you are in your walk.  Jesus desires to use each one of us in the redemption of this world.  If you are in a hard place, a difficult place, the light and love of Jesus will stand-out more than ever.  Every believer is called to minister in Jesus’ Name.  Some of that ministry may be within the Church, but my experience indicates that the greatest need and most frequent opportunities are outside the walls of the Church.  Make this a topic in your quiet time with the Lord, asking Him to guide you to the person(s) you are to speak to that day.

Remember, it’s All About the Relationships.  Jesus left His place in heaven and entered mortal life so He could relate to us, so He could establish a relationship with us.  He loves us so much that He took our place when sin, our sin, was judged and executed on the cross.  And because of that we can live in intimate relationship with Him.  And He wants us to value the relationships that we have with others.  Because they matter to Him, they should matter to us as well.  As we grow closer to Jesus, we will begin to see others as Jesus sees them.  And we will love more and more like Jesus loves.

Have a blessed day today as you grow in your life with Jesus.

 

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As I finished my run this evening, I was struck by the thought of how good God is to us.  “He showers me with too much love,” I thought.

I don’t deserve the goodness that He pours out upon me, upon my family.

I don’t deserve the kindnesses I have experienced from total strangers in Jesus name.  They were moved to bless and it overwhelms me.

Too many times I have not done what I know He wants me to do and yet His Grace is still upon me and evident in my life.

I have had times when I was happy with my “successes” and pride was a very real issue.  I am still a man who thinks of himself way too much and others way too little.  But day-by-day He leads me to understand that it’s not about me in the end.  It is about Him.  It is about loving others with His love.

Even when I am moody and controlling, His love reaches out to me, to correct me, to lead me, to show me the way of peace and joy… which does not consist of getting my way.

Like Isaiah, I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.  But God called and sent out Isaiah and He calls and sends me out.

Like Paul at times I can only cry out, “what a wretched man I am!”

But Paul was right – “thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

He died so that I might live and know Him in spirit and in truth.  It is too much love for this man.

And that is exactly the right amount.

 

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