Monday, February 19, 2018

Compelled to Love

Year 6-Day 50: Today, I am grateful we can be compelled to love.

As human, we have many differences. We come from many different backgrounds that impact who we are and how we behave. Cultural norms, socio-economic influences and our families of origins are a part of who we see in the mirror. 

Just because something is the norm or culturally acceptable, does not make it good and right. We are called to new life when we choose Christ. That choice means some will view you as crazy. Hopefully, it is for the crazy love of Christ that changes everything. 

"Some people will not understand what the love of Christ compels you to do; do it anyway. - Sheila Walsh 

Note the semicolon. Pause, reflect and do it anyway. 

Someone once noted that Jesus spent most of his time with the very people others tried to ignore and avoid. The poor, the sick, the shady, the promiscuous, the annoyingly arrogant and those defeated by life.  They all needed to be saved from something and grace applied to their lives. Jesus profoundly deep love for humans did not interrupt his plans; it was His plan.(Could not resist the semicolon.)

When we are truly walking "The Way", it interrupts our well planned lives. It might look crazy to onlookers, but as Mama Ina Mae would say, "That's okay." His love compels and propels us to alter our days. 

"Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us." -1 John 4:11-12 (NLT) 

Francis Chan wrote a book called Crazy Love. It is challenging to those who naturally crave living in the "safety zone", and I am a "safety girl". Sometimes, when the Spirit whispers go... I am resistant. I hear my  Earworm singing the old song in my head, "Please Mr. Custer... I don't wanna go." Except it is not General Custer I am attempting to ignore... it is God leading. How many times have I ignored the prompting that would plant or water a seed of truth? I don't think I want to know the answer. Still... his word tells us this: 

"But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us."

Expressing love to others brings the God seeds of love in us to life. Love grows and blooms. We no longer need labels or to differentiate. Such things don't matter anymore. It isn't about where we come from, race, sex or bank account... we are brothers and sisters in Christ. 

"There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus." -Galatians 3:8 

"In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us." -Colossians 3:11

We are one. We are family. Yes, he compels and propels us to love more than we believed we could. When we plug into the true power source, we need not worry love will run out. Just as earthly parents love to see children living in harmony, so does our heavenly father. 

Today, I am grateful we can be compelled to love.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

No Need To Settle

Year 6-Day 49: Today, I am grateful we have no need to settle for less than His best.

What does it really mean to not settle for less than God's best in our lives? 

"Refuse to be content with just the knowledge of God, but insist on experiencing His presence."  
-Kerri Weems

"Insist on experiencing His presence." 
Kerri Weems is the author of the book "Rhythms Of Grace". I have not read it, but this quote makes me think it might have some beautiful gems inside. 

The quote took my heart to the passage that reminds us that God is not impressed simply by the fact we believe in him. He is not impressed by our ability to "be good". He never intended for us to struggle with doing the right thing or choosing the right path. I wanted the intimacy between us to be so important that we would naturally choose His way. Being His child means that good works will flow from a heart in sync with His heart. When we are seeking and chasing his heart, good behavior is a by-product. This has been debated across thousands of years, but the God never changes. Look at His Word: 

"Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God (God is one.). Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?-James 2:18-20 (ESV)

Knowing God exists is one of the first faith decisions we must make. We must first believe, but that takes us into the same knowledge category as the demons who shudder at that truth. I don't know about you, but that is not the company I want to keep. Believing is not enough. We must repent and receive.  

Many believe in God, but it isn't enough. Jesus came to restore the relationship broken by Adam and Eve's sin consequence. He came that ALL might have the opportunity to believe and receive. Yes, all. 

He came for Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews). "Red and yellow, black and white all are precious in His sight," as the old Bible song goes. Brown, tan, green, pink and peach colored, too. All of us. Jesus speaks to that truth over and over. So many times . His disciples then carried that message into future generations so that we, too,  might be believe, repent and saved. 

Jesus came to rock our the world, redefining what it meant to be sons and daughters of the living, present, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God. His left his Holy Spirit, who guides and directs us daily when we invite him into our lives. We must listen for the whispers and the nudges.

Just a quick scripture review. I had a plan but the boss of me added a few more.(wink)

"For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him." Romans 10:12

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." -Romans 8:14

"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." - Galatians 5:18

Hang with me. Just two more:
"But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." -Romans 10:8-10 (NLT)

That is a whole bunch of scripture, but it all points to the same thing. Knowledge is not enough. We must insist on experiencing His presence. I loved this next passage from the Names of God translation. It uses Jesus name in Hebrew... Yeshua. What a beautiful name it is in Hebrew, too. It feels warm, yet reverent rolling off the tongue. Last one:

"I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Yeshua our Lord shows us. We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation." -Romans 8:38-39 (Names of God Bible

So many passages, but they work together for our understanding. We don't have to settle. He designed us for relationship with him and he longs for us to return to that intimacy before sin entered into the world. Best friends, not "I know who He is" or casual Sunday morning acquaintances. We can experience His presence. 

Why would we settle for anything less than His best? 

Today, I am grateful we have no need to settle for less than His best.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Freeing Gratitude

Year 6-Day 48: Today, I am grateful for the freedom found in gratitude.

Freedom? I know that choosing gratitude is life changing. Every once in awhile, I uncover a new way to put it into words. Today is that day. This quote is from John Ortberg:

"Gratitude is the ability to experience life as a gift. It liberates us from the prison of self-preoccupation." 

John Ortberg is a tremendous teacher and speaker. He has a wonderful way of summing up big ideas in just a few word that keep me stewing, brewing and reviewing them for weeks. This statement succinctly expresses the wonder of living each day gratefully. 

Gratitude begins when we recognize that every new day is a gift. We didn't earn it. We don't really deserve it. God grants us with each new dawn, the chance to try again. This quote, also, points out that self-preoccupation is a prison. Yes, a prison.

Wow! I did not see that coming, but it is so true. There is liberation that comes when we open the gift of each new day and hand it back to Him saying "Not my will, but thine be done in my life today." In submission to His sovereignty comes peace, hope and true freedom. He is the chainbreaker. When we experience a soul deep desire to be His... it sets us free.

Our God seems to love a good paradox. Recognizing and trusting His hand, even when we don't understand his ways, allows us to be more joyful. Embracing that he understands the big picture, while we can only see one chapter... or one page... at a time. We can feel a little sick on the roller-coaster ride of life when it goes too fast or takes sharp turns. Still, we are challenged to be grateful in all things. When we surrender in gratitude, the chains of our burdens start to loosen and slip away. 

That childhood memory verse that seemed scary and mysterious at times, now calms my soul. It seems to be a theme in recent posts. That usually means I still have more to learn. I have not exhausted its lessons.  Here it is in the NLT version: 

"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him." -Romans 12:1 

When we live our lives in gratitude it is an act of worship... from sunup to sundown. A satisfaction, the world cannot give and the world cannot steal, begins to fill our day. In gratefully laying each day before the King of Kings as an offering, He guides and directs our paths. It never was about what we can do for Him. It has always been about gifting him our hearts and lives and discovering what He can do through us and with us. Yes, God with us.

Immanuel... Jesus... Yeshua...God with us, for us and not against us. In knowing him as Lord, the chains that bind us to the meaningless things of this wanton world fall away. 

When God instructed the Israelites not to covet, it was to free them from obsessing over the possessions or blessings of another... from their homes and their well-behaved thick hair to their wives. When we are grateful for what we have... what we have becomes more than enough. In gratitude, our souls are refueled and set free.

Today, I am grateful for the freedom found in gratitude. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Shower Curtains & Temple Curtains

Year 6-Day 47: Today, I am grateful for the shower curtain. 

This is a Pinterest image. Not my bathroom, but as we are always thinking about "what we will do when we remodel", it is fun to look at other people's ideas and spaces. This little bathroom is simply adorable. For me, the shower curtain adds something just right. Business on the top and cuteness on the bottom. 

A shower curtain - another gratitude point that I believe I have completely overlooked for the first five years. Yes, I am grateful for the shower curtain because it protects and contains what goes on behind it. 

The warm wonders of a morning shower happen behind the shower curtain. The curtain gives privacy and keeps the waters contained so that they do not burst forth and do damage on the other side. Shower waters are warm, wonderful, cleansing and awakening, but they are also a great force that if not contained, would wreak havoc in the bathroom. I need to be grateful for the shower curtain. 

When I started this post, I wondered how it could possible have a spiritual connection, but then it hit me. The Old Testament if full of references to the temple curtains. They were given specific instructions on how to make and hang them. The Ark of the Covenant was kept behind a curtain. The Holy of Holies was protected by a special curtain and priests only entered it a few times a year with careful preparation or they would face certain death. Our God is holy. He righteousness and justice are a part of his character.  He can love the sinner, but he cannot tolerate sin. Yes, there were great preparations before passing through the curtain into the most holy place. 

One of the most powerful scriptures... in my opinion... in the record of the days of Jesus crucifixion and burial is this passage that is recorded in Matthew 27:51 and Mark 15:30. 

"At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart,"

From top to bottom, not from bottom to top. God initiated not man. 

It is so easy to miss the significance. Priest used to be the ones to go before God... but Jesus came to restore our relationship through his perfect sacrifice, so that we could all be intimate with God as he designed the relationship in the beginning. Jesus came as Immanuel to be "with us" and sent the Holy Spirit so that all might have daily intimacy with God. The temple curtain that protected the Holy of Holies was no longer needed to separate us and we could through Jesus, enter into his presence. Wow! Right?  

Fabrics do not rip from top to bottom by natural fiber weakness. They rip from bottom to top. God acts outside the laws of nature when it pleases him. He makes the rules and he can break the rules. When he does, we should pay close attention. He is speaking. 

As I write this, lent has begun. We are less than 40 days to Easter. To enter into his presence, we simply need to quiet our hearts, humble our spirits and seek his face, recieve his grace and invite "thy will not my will" into our days. Sometimes, He can be pretty overwhelming when his love and peace wash over our souls. He is good. He is patient. He loves his children. 

Every day shower curtains are practical and protect. Now, I think I might remember to think about the miracle of the Easter season each time I pull one closed. We can "go behind the curtain and into His presence" and know the cleansing power of his grace and love. The more time we spend there, the more we crave... and the more we savor His goodness. Not just experience it, but savor it. 

Today, I am grateful for the shower curtain... and the curtain that ripped from top to bottom on that most holy of days so long ago.  

Thursday, February 15, 2018

True Love & Butter

Year 6-Day 46: Today, I am grateful for true love... and butter.

True love is a love that is true. It isn't necessarily romantic but it is very real. Although romantic love from a love that is true, is really special. True love melts... like butter... and makes everything better.

Scientific studies can be tainted by bias, but over and over again, we get reports that in moderation, real butter is good. Thank goodness. It tastes better than the fake stuff and it melts like none of the imposters. 

"True love is like butter. There are no substitutes for the real thing." 

Coke used to borrow a song lyric for their commercials, "Ain't nothing like the real thing baby." (Good morning Earworm... now he's singing". Let's face it. The real thing is always better. 

For so many years, a people longed for a Messiah. Not really sure what what he would look like, but they had all kinds of ideas. A baby born to a woman the town gossiped about because of her pregnancy and the way her customary betrothal was handled. Not completely customary.  They were likely the talk of the town. 

Then, the child was a bit different. He loved to spend time in the wilderness, but obediently learned his earthly father's trade. He was unusually perceptive, with a deep understanding of the scriptures. Mary and Joseph loved him with the deep abiding love of a mother and father. For Joseph, who was present at his birth... Jesus was his son... not by genes but by the love that grew out of choosing Mary and choosing to be a father to the child conceived by God. Did he wake up even one day after the angel's visit feeling ordinary?

True love. Love that is true. It sticks through thick and thin. Somehow, weathering the thick and the thin makes it stronger, sweeter and more special. Yes. True love, love that is true... it melts our hearts and makes everything sweeter..

Romans 12:15 works again:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."

Memorize it. Live it. Savor it. Celebrate it. Embrace the gift. 

Today, I am grateful for true love... love that is true...and butter.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Simple Measurements

Year 6-Day 45: Today, I am grateful for a simple measurements.

Math was not my favorite. I wasn't completely awful at it, but sometimes my numbers would get mixed up and the answers would be wrong. Now, fractions are kind of my sweet spot. Fractions were cooking and I understood cooking from an early age. 

Even to this day, the measurement conversions from ounces to cups come quickly. Of course... fractions used in cooking... are a math skill used often if not daily. To me, they are simple measurement. 

Today, is Valentine's Day. This cute little heart-shaped measuring spoons captured my eye, as they have cute little phrases on the handles. Humor, kindness, fun & happiness are all ingredients in love. 

Jesus gave us a new commandment as a measuring tool... and as evidence that we belong to him. It is a simple measuring tool... but simple does not mean it is always easy. Here is the scripture:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”-John 13:34-35

Loving others is not a suggestion, but a commandment. Some days it comes naturally. Other days, we have to love more intentionally. The more we exercise it, the easier it comes. We can't change how others act toward us or treat us. We can choose how we respond to them. Sometimes, it is the pinch of kindness and the dash of humor that help stir up love and affection. 

Unlike some recipes where ingredient measurements need to be more exact, adding extra love never hurts. We cannot always please people, but Christ will not measure our love by how others respond. Love poured out and kindness sprinkled may not be appreciated or reciprocated... but it may soften a heart heart more than we know. 

Some sprinkle the seeds of love, some water... and others have the joy of watching it bloom. The commandment it to love others, not to be sure others love us. We are loved by a love that was willing to stretch out his arms across an old rugged cross and die in our place. Oh, how deeply we are loved. 

His love is profoundly deep and wide. He fills our love cups to overflowing so that they run over on others. "By this all people will know that you are my disciples... if your love one another."  

I am so grateful His math isn't hard. 

Today, I am grateful for a simple measurements.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Heart of Flesh

Year 6-Day 43: Today, I am grateful for a heart of flesh.

Love month continues. This Old Testament passage resonates the with the good stuff. It is as if it echoes through the many centuries before this one. That is because God's word is not just holy.. it is living. It has a heartbeat. 

Today, I want to savor the reminder that that those who seek His face are gifted with a new heart... and a new song. I really need to memorize this verse. 

"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." -Ezekiel 36:26 

The world can harden our hearts through the prizes, treasures, success and fortune it offers. Because it never satisfies, the human heart hardens. We think "the next thing will make me happy." It never will. Our souls were created to be in relationship with our Creator. He is our missing piece. He is our missing peace. Only seeking his face and his grace will bring joy and contentment into our lives and soften our hardened hearts.  

A heart of flesh can be scary. It means we feel more. We see more. And yes... we hurt more. It sounds scary but in truth... there is nothing more divinely human than a heart of flesh. 

In my SS class... I love my SS class... we are doing a John Ortberg study. It is called "I'd Like You Better If You Were More Like Me." It is looking at relationships, intimacy and being faithful to Christ in our relationships. It is a good one. A few weeks ago, he instructed us to learn and live out these words to improve all of our relationships. 

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. -Romans 12:15

Let's look at it in "The Message" for a very modern day expression of the meaning. 

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.  -Romans 12:15

When we feel others joy, laughter, sorrow and pain... we are feeling with a heart of flesh. It is evidence that we are not just making an appearance at a celebration or a funeral... but truly feeling the joys and the sorrows of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.

Yes... we were born for a relationship with Him... but he told us to love each other on the journey here. This is but a season... and for those heading to the same destination, we never have to face sorrow or joy alone. 

Love increases joy and divides sorrows. Isn't that an interesting? It is true, right? It is a divine dichotomy! It brings me to my knees in awe and gratitude of this God who loved us so much he sent his son to be with us, for us, not against us... and to pay our sin debt.  His crazy, relentless love for us amazes me. 

A heart of flesh... a gift from the Father... exemplified by the Son... and whispered by the Holy Spirit... what a special gift. It is not a trophy or a prize, it is a gift. It is the miracle of new life in Christ.  

Today, I am grateful for a heart of flesh.