God Knows

Do you ever find yourself up a tree?

Are you looking for or waiting for deliverance?

I was recently reading the Bible account of Zaccheus in Luke 19:2-10. Remember the wee little man that climbed the tree in order to see Jesus? He was a tax-collector known for his dishonest dealings. When Jesus came through the town there was Zaccheus up in a tree trying to see Him. Jesus saw Zaccheus there and went straight to him, telling him to come down because Jesus intended to go home with him.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus would want to go home with Zaccheus? I mean, really, this guy had a reputation, why didn’t Jesus just call him out right there? Everyone knew the evil and corruption he was into. But no, Jesus goes to him and invites Himself home with him.

1 Samuel 16:7b says; “Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”

The local people could only say from what they had seen Zaccheus do, or what they had heard about him, or possibly the dealings they had with him personally. They reacted or responded as we would, from what they knew. Jesus knew differently.

Jesus tells Zaccheus that salvation is coming to his house today. This is definitely something special. I wonder what Zaccheus was expecting. I wonder what was going through his mind. It’s obvious he definitely was interested in learning more about Jesus considering he climbed a tree to see him. And it doesn’t seem as if there was any hesitation on Zaccheus’ part about having Jesus come home with him.

So Zaccheus comes down and starts out with Jesus towards his home. Jesus knows why they are headed there.

The Lord knows exactly how to deal with us. There is never any question regarding His approach to any situation, He is the One who created each one of us. Psalm 103:14 “For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

The Lord knows where we live. Acts 17:26 “From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times, and the fixed limits of the places where they would live.”

The Lord knows all that we do. Psalm 139:3 says, “You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”

The Lord know what we will say. Psalm 139:4 explains “Before a word is on your tongue you, LORD, know it completely.”

The Lord knows how we feel. 1 Chronicles 28:9a tells us, “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought…”

The Lord knew Zaccheus’ heart. Maybe Zaccheus had come to a point of questioning it all, maybe he was beginning to wonder if there was a better way. The townspeople would have no idea, but Jesus would know.

Jesus saw Zaccheus up the tree. I can just imagine, there were probably a few children around pointing at that funny little man in the tree asking their parents what he was doing. I picture Jesus smiling at the humor of the situation. It would have been rather funny.

But Jesus knew what Zaccheus was thinking, He knew his feelings towards God. Jesus looked past his self-sufficient ways and saw a seeker. For that is why Jesus came, “to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Zaccheus had probably heard about Jesus and wondered if He was for real. What was it that people saw in Him? Could He really help? Maybe Zaccheus was seeking a different way, a better way. And Jesus chose to go home with Zaccheus. Jesus chose to be with Zaccheus where he was at- in his sinful, hated, lonely place.

It seems that Zaccheus’ transformation began immediately. He was ready to make amends by repaying those he had taken from unjustly.

God knows our hearts and where we are at. God knows where in our lives we need deliverance (salvation/transformation). Jesus meets us in those places and goes with us wherever we are going. He helps us work through the process.

Here and now in 2017, we don’t know what lies ahead but God knows. He will meet you at every tree, when you find yourself in trouble and look for Him, He will be there. He knows. We can rest in that. How beautiful is His love for us! We can move forward in 2017 knowing that God is aware of us and all that is going on in our lives. We are not alone!

If you are in a place needful for deliverance or desperate for transformation know God will meet you there. He sees us and He knows.

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Hope’s Anchor

Hebrews 6:19-20 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

The hope one can have through Jesus is secure and can be trusted. It truly is an anchor for us as believers in Christ Jesus.

Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection gives me assurance of eternal life. Believing in Jesus, that He died, was buried, and was raised from the dead is my only hope for salvation. Jesus is my only hope for all of life. It is an anchor assuring me of all the Lord has for me. The future He has promised me is a sure thing.

Where is your hope anchored?

  • This life on earth hold for us very, very few sure things. It is often said that taxes and death are the only sure things on earth. But Jesus is our sure hope of knowing God as our Heavenly Father.                                                                                   John 14:6 says, “Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life . No one comes to the Father except through me…”
  • This life on earth is often full of trouble, full of pain, and full of discouragement day in and day out. It is easy to lose hope unless it is anchored in the Truth of God and His Word.                               John 16:33 tells us these words of Jesus,“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
  • This life on earth often leaves us feeling abandoned, insecure, helpless, just floundering, not sure of anything. But in the midst of all of this, if you are a believer, you can have this anchor, hope in the sovereign God of the universe. Believers are anchored to God in faith. He is God, all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, and fully present. He is with us. He holds us in His love.                                               Isaiah 54:10 says ‘For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord”
  • This life on earth is often filled with expectations and obligations. We feel pressured to please and perform. We feel pressured to earn all we can the prestige, the bonuses, the accolades. Sometimes we even think we can earn our way to heaven, but that is not true. Jesus did that work for us on the cross. Our hope is anchored in Jesus, we can do nothing to make God love us more. So, the pressures off, we can know the peace of having the Lord’s grace in our lives.                                                                         Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”

Jesus is our all in all. There is much uncertainty as we move forward in 2017 but take heart, one thing is sure, as believers, we have this great hope anchored in Jesus. Praise God for the hope that is ours.  

 

 

 

Sharing God Realities

Are you sharing about the Lord with others? I hear so many Christians say that they are not good at it or that fear gets in the way when an opportunity presents itself.

I probably am one of those who would answer with one of those two excuses. But I just realized something that may seem very obvious, yet it really resonates with me.

I want to share a little story before I explain my realization. I am involved in a prison ministry via the mail. Bible studies are sent from a church in Texas to prisoners and then when the studies are completed they are forwarded to me. I read through them, write notes, encouraging words, and prayers on them before returning them to the prisoner.

One of the prisoners that I have been doing this with was recently released to a less restrictive environment outside of prison. She wrote me a letter telling me of how the Lord has been working in her life in many amazing ways. Before leaving prison she wrote it all into a song and sang it for the other prisoners. She explained that the name of Jesus or God was not to be spoken in that prison, yet she was allowed to sing her song of testimony. She said that she was not afraid to share about what her Lord is doing in her life.

This got me to thinking, what is the difference here? She is a new, baby Christian. Then it hit me, she is looking, expecting, noticing the Lord’s work in her life. She is focused on Him and what He is doing is all important to her.

I, on the other hand, am often very scattered , pulled between many things, and often not focused as I should be. It became obvious to me that in order for anyone to be filled with excitement about what the Lord is doing in our lives and to have a desire to really share their God-realities:

  • We need to recognize His presence.
  • We need to look for Him at work on our behalf.
  • We need to be aware of His work and acknowledge it with a thankful heart.
  • We need to be expecting Him to be at work.
  • We need to be looking for where He is at work around us.

It is so encouraging to hear others share of what the Lord is doing in their lives. It is faith-building for us as believers. And I believe as we share our God-realities with the unbelieving world they too may get a glimpse of Him, His presence, and especially, His love.

Are you looking for the reality of God in your life today?

  • What do you see Him doing?
  • What is He teaching you?
  • What is He asking clear to you?
  • What door is He opening?

Think about it and then make a point of sharing that God-reality. Feel the joy of knowing that He works on your behalf and encourage another heart with it.

Rekindling: 5 Ways I am Intentionally Drawing Close to the Lord

James 4:8 “Draw close to God and God will draw close to you. Wash you hands you sinners, purify your hearts you hypocrite.”

Did you come away from the holidays feeling exhausted? Were your days busier than you expected or desired?

I noticed that through the holidays my time with the Lord was reduced by the busyness of preparations and celebrations. Reduced, both, in depth and in the amount of time. It seems that although my intentions were good, my to-do list overwhelmed me and the tyranny of the urgent took over.

The beautiful thing about a relationship with the Lord is that He doesn’t leave. He waits for us and desires us to draw near. He is never too busy for us.

Do you feel the need to rekindle the flame in your relationship with the Lord? I know I do.

Satan loves nothing better that to pull us away from the Lord and Savior whether it be by busyness or tiredness.

James tells us that we are to draw near to God and He will draw near to us. I am choosing to be intentional about drawing near to Him. How do you intentionally draw near to the Lord?

I have five specific ways that I am drawing near, seeking the Lord in relationship. Some are daily parts of my quiet time, others once or twice a week.

  1.  I am doing an 18 months Read through the Bible plan. I record the portions of Scripture that speak to my heart in my prayer journal.
  2. I am seeking to know the Lord more through Lectio Divina with Summer Joy Gross in her Slow Word Movement at A Thirst for God. It is a short time of scripture reading, meditation, and prayer. (A more thorough description is found at www.biblegateway.com/blog/2013/09/lectio-divina-divine-reading/)
  3. I am also digging deeper into the Scriptures through Jan Johnson’s book Meeting God in Scripture. Another practice of Lectio Divina. (*see  note at end of post.)
  4. I am making a point of choosing to have a heart of thankfulness writing a daily gratitude list of 3-5 blessings each day.
  5. Prayer is another facet of my intentionality in seeking the Lord. Prayer is interspersed through all of these practices as well as in writing out my personal prayers in my prayer journal, and praying through my prayer list. I use the idea of the Prayer of Examen (this link has information about Lectio Divina also) to go through my day and think about my attitudes, actions, responses and reactions.

The most important part of all of this is it is a means, not magic. I  only want to know the Lord more through His Word and prayer. I am not legalistic about any of it. When I begin to look at my time with the Lord as an obligation, I miss the relationship. More than anything I want to know His presence.

The remainder of James 4:8 speaks of our sinfulness. It seems all too often that this is the part that is overlooked. We need cleansing. We are called to confess and repent. To confess is to tell the Lord of our wrongdoing. To repent is to turn away from our sinful choices. It is helpful to think back through your day before the Lord asking the Holy Spirit to help you remember your thoughts, attitudes, actions, responses, and reactions. Our snide responses, angry reactions, and selfish attitudes are often dismissed in our minds but are detestable before God.

I want to live mindful of what the Lord desires of me. It is so restorative to speak with the Lord about it all and know His grace is there for me. It is like a nice hot bath before bed, washing off the dirt of the day, both cleansing and refreshing. We can find grace and mercy at the throne of God (Hebrews 4:16).

It is only when I am intentional in seeking the Lord with my whole heart that He tells me I will find Him. He wants to meet with us.

How will you rekindle your relationship with the Lord? There is nothing more important than drawing near to the Him.

* Note: It is very important to know that as we seek to learn more from the Lord in His word through any kind of listening to Him that we:

1- protect our minds and hearts with a prayer, that the Lord alone may lead and guide us in our understanding.

2- take anything that we think we hear and search the scriptures to make sure that it does not go against anything in God’s Word.

Satan desires to deceive us and mislead us in any way that he can. We must be mindful of this and be sure that we are seeking the Lord. Don’t put yourself in danger of being misled by the Deceiver.

Pressing On

Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heaven ward in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is reaching toward the upward call of God. He is looking to the day when he will meet his Maker, and there, have to give an account for his life. Paul’s desire is to hear the words “well done, good and faithful servant.” Is that your desire too?

It is mine. Here we are in 2017, and I, too, want to live my life pressing on toward that upward call. But, what does that mean? Paul tells us that God is working in us to bring about His perfect will. Paul says that he isn’t looking back behind him, but he leaves the past and reaches for the future, pressing on toward the goal.

Paul was concerned with his faith walk, he wanted to grow in the knowing the Lord. He wanted his faith and trust to grow deeper. He wanted to grow in Christ-likeness. We, as Christ followers should be like-minded. We, too, should want to grow in Christ-likeness, and in knowing the Lord more deeply. We need to search our hearts and seek the Lord in prayer in order to determine where we are in our faith-walk. You might ask:

  • Where am I growing in my faith?
  • Where am I lacking in knowledge?
  • Is there a specific area that I am struggling in that I need wisdom for?
  • Where do I need more faith?

When you take these things into consideration, you may want to look at them through the lens of your scripture verse for the year as well as through the lens of your word of the year. One or the other, or both, if you have them both. Both have helped me in deciding how I need to press on.

My verse for the year is “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope in the power of His Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

This verse reminds me that one area I need to press on in is learning to trust God more so I might live in joy and peace throughout this race of life. I desire to overflow with hope in Him. These are beautiful gifts of a growing faith.

I need hope in the Holy Spirit for when life seems impossible or when I feel inadequate or fearful. It is so easy to get hung up on our failures and our mistakes. It is too easy to feel like giving up. But, Paul says, “Press on.” He wants us to look to God, look toward God, press on toward the upward calling He has on you and your life. 

My word for the year is “yield.” This word also helps me to see where and how to press on. It is easy to try to be or to think you are self-sufficient, trying to control things. It is in that place where I live driven and striving. But as I said, in an earlier post, I want to reach for a faith that yields to the Spirit’s power, to be more open to Him. Although, I must say, it is much more comfortable for me to try to do it my way. It feels safer when you have yourself believing  you are in control. But that is a lie of the Enemy.

I need:

  • God’s Spirit’s power to permeate my inner being.
  • His love to saturate my heart.
  • His peace to penetrate through all that holds me in anxiety and stress.
  • His hope to be infused in my life and inspire me to live out my faith boldly.
  • His joy to overflow my soul and result in praise and worship.

My yielded self is changed as He fills me. More of Him, less of me. I need to yield to His transforming power within me in so many areas.

  • in learning to be present
  • in learning to be transparent
  • in learning forgiveness
  • in learning to choose wisely
  • in learning to rest in His love

Pressing on means moving forward with willingness and with your mind focused on the goal. I will pray as I press on, pray for His leading and His work in me.

This all may look a lot different for you but I urge you to set aside a chunk of time to look at what pressing on means for you.

Press on toward the heaven ward calling that is yours in Christ Jesus. May your soul be refreshed as you press on.

A New Year and New Plans

James 4:13-16 “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and are money. Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for  little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If  it is the Lord’s will we will live and do this and that. As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.”

I love to plan and these verses stop me in my tracks. James isn’t telling us that planning is bad in and of itself. He is telling us that the problem comes about when our attitude is wrong.

It is so easy to go about life in our self-sufficiency. Matthew Henry, in his commentary on these verses says that “We are always to depend upon the will of God. Our times are not in our own hands but at the disposal of God. All we design and all we do should be with submissive dependence on God.

Proverbs 27:1 “Do not boas about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”

There is not one of us who knows when their last breath will come. Yet, we often assume that we are in control of our future and think that everything will go according to our plans. All too often we don’t give a second thought to God’s plan. Everything in our lives is dependent upon the will of God. We will live if it is His will, we will do this or that, if it is His will.

It is God who is in control of our futures. We are fully dependent on Him whether we recognize or acknowledge that fact or not.

James tells us we “boast” in arrogance when we discuss our plans separate from from God’s will. Yet, if we think that just using those words “if God wills” makes it any different, we are wrong. It is about what is in our heart. It comes out of our belief system.

Do you believe God is sovereign? Do you believe He is the One in control? We have what we have because of God’s grace. And James is reminding us here to recognize our dependence.

  • Our plans need to come out of prayerfulness.
  • Our plans need to come out of a submissive heart.
  • Our plans need to come out of wiling dependence.
  • Our plans need to come out of acknowledging His sovereignty.
  • Our plans need to be accompanied by thankfulness responding to what the Lord has given, done, and what He is doing.

It all starts in our hearts, and our hearts need to remember that our lives are about God’s purpose and God’s will He created us to serve Him and bring Him glory.

Job tells us “Remember O God that my life is but a breath…”(7:7a)

Our lives fly by so quickly and then they are gone. I remember on the wall above my bed, when I was little, there was a small plaque that said “One life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” All of our best laid plans are worthless unless they are God’s will. So what will living according God’s plan and purpose look like for you in 2017?

I recently read Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way. I found so much of it thought-provoking. It is a book I will re-read and go back to often, there is so much I can take from it to help me in my walk. One of the things that captured my attention was when she talked about the mason jar of wheat seeds, the contents equaling about 70 years of life, a seed for each day. Her daughter wanted to know how many Ann had left in the jar. I did a little math figured out for myself  the number of days I have before age 70 comes. “…only what’s done for Christ will last” echoes in my mind. Life is a gift- how will I use my days? 

Some questions to ponder:

  • How will I determine to acknowledge the Lord’s Sovereignty as I consider my future day-by-day?
  • How will move forward in His will, living for His purposes, to serve and to glorify HIm?
  • What will that mean for my plan this day? this week? this month?

It all starts with living humbly before the Lord, seeking His will for His glory. I think that I will start by writing James 4:13-16 in my planner as a reminder. How will you move forward?

How I Found my Word for 2017

I recently read a blog, there have been many, that discussed choosing a word for 2017. I chose a word, and then within a week, I changed it. Let me share the process. I learned so much through doing it that I think it may benefit others.

I started out by taking a look at who I am and where I am in my relationship with the Lord. I wrote down a list of words that I have had come up, again and again, in my time with the Lord. These “sacred echoes” as Margaret Feinberg may call them, gave me clear direction in vision as to what the Lord wants for me. The words that came up frequently, as I was praying and studying, were trust and surrender.

But there was more, I also found that I yearned for joy in my heart and life. I was reminded of the lesson the Lord had taught me regarding my lack of contentment. It was a definite area of heart transformation that I felt the Lord directing me.

Next, I took into consideration areas of growth in traits or characteristics that the Lord had led me in. He has been showing me my lack of praise and worship leading me to realize the connection of inner joy being the pathway to that.

I created a list of words and settled on this one word, the word was “permeate.” My thought was, “I want the Lord to so infuse His being into me”. But, later that week, I felt as if that was only a part of what the Lord wanted to see happen in my heart. So, in the end I settled on the word “yield” because there are so many areas where I need to yield.

I explored the word yield in my heart, and found the following areas in my life to focus on. The list included striving, self-sufficiency, need to prove myself, and in forgiving. Each of these require yielding, but with that yielding I realized that I will come to know the Lord really permeating me and my life. The word permeate actually adds another level of depth of meaning to my  word yield.

I took some time to look at all of the opportunities yielding brings, all of the areas of transformation that I need to be open to.

I began to think of yielding as letting go. My list of areas that I need to let go in seemed to grow, I added drivenness, fears, fear of losing, satisfying other in order to get love, obligations, expectations, and being over-responsible. When I finally finished my list, I then wrote down the take away– what I could learn when I yield in this area. I was amazed at what I discovered. One example–letting go of trying desperately to satisfy others to get love may mean learning more of the fullness of the Lord’s loving presence. I might gain a new appreciation and trust of Him as I learn of the magnitude of His love for me. Knowing of His love in a deeper way gives me freedom from trying so hard to earn love. It all works together so beautifully.

I went through each area of yielding in this manner and found that the take aways were all an intricate part of growing in Christ-likeness and in the fruit of the Spirit. All of my yielding will be the Spirit working in my heart changing me, helping me to let go. He alone can replace the sinful holding-onto with a grace-filled response that honors God.

I am adding each of these areas to my prayer journal and asking the Lord to lead me in the transformation process and help me to yield as I go through 2017.

This was a great exercise, I am so glad that I took the time to look back to see where I have been and also, in the process, see where the Lord is taking me.

I pray that 2017 is a year of transformation for each us, that each of us will be transformed for His glory.

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