Monday, December 16, 2019

Understanding 'Holy'

Bible, Christian, Jesus, Religion

We all have some vague understanding of 'Holy' but for most it is not an easily definable word or concept.
HOLY  is a rare and unique word in the sense that it is the only word we have that is totally meaningless if God is removed from any definition.
Yet, the word is one we are all very familiar with . We all know God is Holy,  The word is used in 544 verses in our Bibles.  In fact, the word Holy is imprinted on most Bible covers.  Yet it is strangely a word people struggle to define.
 God is Holy, which we readily acknowledge.  Yet, there is a commandment in Leviticus 11:45 that says ... "Be holy, for I am Holy!"   How shall we obey this command if we are not sure what 'holy' actually is ?

'Holy' is a word that has always held a very reverent place in my mind and heart and always brings a sense of awe when I hear it or even think it .... but it was only recently that God enlightened my mind to grasp a deeper understanding of what it means.

To be 'holy' means to be always true to character.  It means that all of the time, every time , in every way,  in word or deed there is a purity of character - an unchanging and unvarying action and reaction in every situation. Who then can be holy but only God?
As it states in James 1:17 in reference to God ..." the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."    No shadow of turning refers to the old sundials which indicated the time of day by the changing of the shadow on the dial .   With God there is no variation of change - as He is in the morning , so is He at night ...  no sun or anything else has any effect of change in who He is.

Understanding the unchanging character of God has only one conclusion -- God is totally and always dependable.   He will always be true to Himself -- we can trust that He will never change.   And we can know without a shadow of doubt that all of  His promises are true.  If God even once, in one person's life reneged on ONE promise , He would no longer be holy. 
Every promise of God is true, all the time, for everyone to whom the promise was made - to every child of God trusting in Him.

Let me give you an example from my own life - recent events. 
One of God's promises are found in Philippians_4:19  "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." 
Our default is often to limit that verse to a monetary promise but of course it refers to  much more.  Financial security cannot and does not meet all our needs -- often not able to meet the most important ones. 

Recently, my husband had an accident with my granddaughter in the vehicle.  He was picking her up and was coming off my daughter's driveway.  A parked vehicle was blocking his view of oncoming traffic and he inched out a little too far into the street and a gravel truck -  the driver of which said the sun was in his eyes and he could not see -  drove over the front end of my husband's vehicle - first with the front tire , then with the rear tire.   No one was hurt in the accident and while there was no damage to the gravel truck our little Toyota was totaled.  My husband does not do well in emergency situations like this, and tends to panic.  He called me but I was not able to get to the accident scene to help.  
God in His foreknowledge knew what was going to happen that day and while both my daughter and son-in-law would have been at work, God made other plans. That morning my daughter woke up with a slight cold and called in sick . Since she was going to be home, my son-in-law took a Family-day off work and so both of them were unexpectedly at home.   
Yet God's provision went further.   Had they been in the house they would have experienced the shock of hearing the horrible crash and their first thoughts would have been fearing the worst !  No, God spared them that.  They had gone out to run a quick errand and came home just in time to see my husband and granddaughter standing -safe and sound-  on the street looking at the accident..   No trauma for any one !  And my daughter  - who is a take-charge kind of person - immediately made sure everything was taken care of regarding the accident. 

My brother and his wife moved about 12 hours away from extended family to a city up country.  My sister-in-law was diagnosed with a rare cancer 8 years ago but her doctor found a little known drug that has extended her life far beyond the medical expectation.  But now she was getting worse.  She had a strong desire to come visit her sister and felt well enough to do so.   She was here only a couple days and ended up in emergency in the hospital. They quickly diagnosed her as beyond help, and within a week or so was placed in hospice.  A beautiful and caring place to be for end-of-life patients.   Now she was with extended family and friends and receiving good and loving medical care - all of which would not have been available where they live.   God knew, God provided in giving her the desire and ability to come visit her sister, knowing that this is where she would want and need to be!  

I lost a very dear friend to cancer in the last year.  I lead a woman's bible study group that she was part of.  We were having one of our summer lunches that I hosted in our clubhouse.  She was already not well but still having good days and she was happy that this luncheon day was a good day. As the women started coming I happened to glance over at the food table that was being filled with salad bowls and my eye fell on a plate of dill pickles.  It struck me as a little odd -- who brings dill pickles to a salad luncheon?   But, I shrugged, smiled and thought someone really loves pickles.   We had not yet gathered around the table when my friend came to me and said... ."Julie, I feel really bad... I have incredible heartburn, the pressure is terrible.  I can't stay, I'm going to have to go home."   
I responded .. "Ohh !  but someone has brought pickles !!!   Just eat one and you will be fine."  She said, "Really?"  but was willing to try and I watched her eat a pickle.  Someone distracted her and she walked away.   Not many minutes later, she came to me and told me that she was totally fine. ALL the symptoms were relieved.  She stayed, ate and enjoyed the meal and fellowship .. God provided.  I never did find out who brought the pickles, no one confessed. I still wonder how God prompted them to bring the pickles.... or ...  just maybe did God bring them Himself?  (smile) 

Back to the commandment that we too are to be holy.   How can we be holy?  Is not only God holy?   Yes ... but only because He  alone  is perfect - totally without sin.  
He commands us to be holy in that more and more we become true to the character of God.  We have His Holy Spirit indwelling us and helping us to be godly in all our ways - our words , our actions and our reactions.   We are not perfect and never will be ... BUT .. this is to be our daily aim and goal - to be true to our 'new' character, to be dependable, to be people of our word with a reputation of being trustworthy, honest, true, kind, gentle, compassionate , forgiving ... "...against such there is no law."  (Galatians 5:23) 

Let us walk in faith - knowing, believing that our God - because He is holy is ALWAYS dependable and true to His word and will fulfill all His promises.   
And let us strive to be holy, even as He is holy. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

A Field of Bibles

 Recently I dreamed a dream.
I dreamed I was looking over a field that stretched as far and wide as I could see.  
The field was dry - not a blade of grass, not a thin weed grew anywhere. 
 There was nothing but dust. 
But spread out across the field in neat rows, covering the whole field were Bibles. 
Black leather Bibles with the letters HOLY BIBLE imprinted in gold across the bottom front.

I awoke and thought, 'That was a strange dream'.  But I immediately went back to sleep, 
only to dream the same dream again ... exactly the same in every detail, 
nothing added, nothing taken away.

Having the same dream twice caught my attention and nudged me to think it was a God-dream. 
 But what did it mean?
I prayed, even asked for another dream to explain the first ones, but no more dreams came.
I let my mind wander over scriptures ...searching for something that would 'fit' but nothing seemed to lend meaning to the dreams.

Then, the next day when I was doing an unrelated scripture search, my eyes fell on Matt. 4:4 
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." 

I felt the YES in my spirit ... and then to my delight discovered that the verse is repeated in Luke with a repeated reference --  both 4:4.  - Matt. 4:4 and Luke 4:4.
I then turned to the Old Testament verse that Jesus was quoting... Duet. 8:3 where I read these words,

"So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not lives by bread alone, but man live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord."

The field is the earth ...  the world.   We seek what it can offer. Food , success, affluence, comfort, material goods, travel, entertainment, shelter  etc.
 There are many things in this world that are needful to us, for life and comfort but if we are 'sowing' into this world thinking we shall reap a harvest with eternal value, then we are going to be disappointed. In the end we will behold a field of 'dust'. 
Nothing of this world can ultimately satisfy, nothing will feed our spirits. We can take none of it with us when this life is over. 

Sometimes God steps back and lets us experience the dryness of what the world offers -- allows us to become hungry ... just like He did with the Israelites.  When we are 'hungry' we cry out for food. As long as we are 'happy' in the world, we do not seek God.  It is when we realize that we need more, when we feel that deep dissatisfaction in core of our being,  that we seek for eternal food. Then we desire the Water/Bread of Life that truly satisfies. 
Just as the manna covered the dry field of the wilderness, so also the Manna - the Bread of Life covers the earth.  We need only 'gather it up'.

Romans 10:17,18 says .. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed, Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world."

If we invest the energies of our mind, building our life on the words of God we will reap a hundredfold harvest, not only for this our earthly life but also for all eternity !   

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Beauty in the Artist's Hand

person molding vase

I read about a famous artist who had an unusual way of creating his masterpieces.

Working with a lump of clay, he formed a vessel on his potter's wheel.
When he was satisfied with the shape, he painted it , glazed it and placed it into his kiln. 
When the firing was completed, he lifted the lovely piece of pottery out of the kiln
 and put it into a burlap sack.  
Then taking a hammer he smashed the pottery to pieces. 
 Removing the pieces he spread them out before him on his working table, 
then with great patience worked to painstakingly fit them all back together.  
The vessel began to take shape again. 
 The cracks he filled in with gold, the gaps he closed with precious stones.  
When he was finished, he held  a vessel unique in its design and beauty.
 Truly a work of art that had great worth
  because there would never be another just like it. 

I saw the analogy immediately.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made by the Potter's Hand in our mother's womb.
But then we are put into the burlap sack of this world.
The hammer of life comes down upon us.
We are crushed by sorrow and heartache, smashed into pieces by the sin and evil in this world.
Feeling destroyed and worthless, we cry out to the Lord !
With infinite patience, the Lord gathers together all our broken pieces and  painstakingly fits them all back together again.
He fills  the cracks with the gold of His mercy and the gaps with the precious stones of His  grace. His love is the glaze that makes us shine.
God,  as the great Artist, creates  us to be the Masterpiece He designed us to be.
We are of infinite value, fashioned for His glory and  fitted for the Master's use.

Have you given Him the pieces of your soul and let Him create a Masterpiece out of the brokenness of your life? 

Monday, August 5, 2019


Meditating --  It is easy to find  teachers and gurus eager to teach the practice of meditating - easy to find books written on the subject.  Articles are readily found on the internet on  'how-to' apply the  techniques that aid in 'emptying the mind' so that one can find peace and tranquility.

While those into meditating claim its practices are ancient,  they do not go back far enough.   God is the one who declared that meditating on His Word was what would make us successful in all the ways that count for this life and eternity!
But God's meditating is not to EMPTY our mind, but rather to FILL it. 
Satan is clever in taking what is God's and twisting it or turning it backwards for his own deception.

God's purpose of meditating is to embed  His Word into our hearts and minds and magnify our understanding of it. He gave us our imaginations to make meditating a wonderfully visual experience.

Let me share my morning 'meditation' on a familiar passage of scripture - Jesus' own words, from Luke 11:33-36.  It is the passage that speaks about the 'eye being the lamp of the body', and the body being filled with 'good' or 'bad'.
"The lamp of the body is the eye. 
Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. 
But when your eye is bad your body also is full of darkness."

A 'lamp'.   No one reaches for a lamp in the brightness of the noon day sun. A lamp is useful only in darkness . The light of a lamp reveals what is within the reach of its beam.
I imagined a street that lay in the darkness of a moonless night.
I saw in my imagination that two women  were making their way down the street, each carrying a lamp to light their way.
One swung her lamp to the left side of the street.  Her lamp revealed a garbage dump full of waste - a mess of the discarded remains of what was perhaps at one time useful to someone. 
The other woman swung her lamp to the right side of the street  to reveal a park-like setting with, benches, trees, flowers and a  market displaying tables of  fresh fruit and vegetables , from the bountiful harvest of surrounding farms.

I watch and realize that the two women each carry a basket.  The  two women  move to  opposite sides of the street and begin filling their baskets from what they find, one from the left side of the street and one from the right.  They then carry their baskets home and  fill their cupboards with the contents.
Later that day, I receive an invitation from first one woman , then the other, to come join her for dinner that night.

Which invitation do you think I will accept ?

Why did God use the analogy of a lamp to describe our 'eyes' ? 
We would walk in darkness if we had no eyes.  It is our eyes that allow us to 'see' what is around us. Our eyes open to us the world we live in.   We see destruction, we see evil, we see war and hate,  but we also see beauty and love and peace and harmony. 
Our eyes 'see' what we direct them to see.  What they have gathered is stored into the 'cupboards'  of our mind and heart and soul. 
Then when we invite people into our life --  we 'share' with them  from what we have gathered -   
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of this heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

What we focus on we gather. What we gather is what we store.  And what we store determines who we become, and what we have in our 'cupboards'  to share with others.

As we go through our day, we direct our eyes to the 'left' or to the 'right'.    What will we focus on? What will we gather to put into our 'storehouse'  - our heart and mind ?   Will it be the good things of truth and righteousness and love - the things that are of the Kingdom of God  -  or -- will we gather the things that corrupt, that destroy , that fill our mind with unworthy thoughts , that stir in us a lust for things that do not edify, things that entice us embrace the world and make us vulnerable to the temptations and deception of the enemy?
Remember, you put in your basket  what your eyes focus on throughout your day, and the contents of your basket  cannot be simply dumped out when the day's journey is over,  but will be brought 'home to be stored in the cupboard of your heart'.. 

Do you need to clean out your cupboards today ?  Remove by God's forgiveness the things that destroy and corrupt ?
Do you need to change some habits ...  pay more attention to what you put in your 'basket' ?
Then, with His grace, focus on those things that fall into the list of Philippians 4:8 ... :"Finally brethren, whatsoever things ........."

Sunday, July 14, 2019


Ark of the Covenant
                                                                                                       photo by Igor Rodrigues

I'm sure the Israelites wondered and wished for a glimpse into the Ark of the Covenant that  hid the items God had commanded to be put it it.  Not only was looking into the ark forbidden but the ark itself was concealed under cover when it was moved with the tabernacle from resting place to resting place.

Our curiosity is easily captured when we hear of something that is hidden.   We even wrap gifts to give to the recipient  the added pleasure of discovering something 'secret'. 

We have, without question,  an innate motivation to search for what is concealed or hidden.
A God-given instinct to help us to find Him? 

I learned something recently - a detail perhaps, but a detail that fascinated me. 

The Greek word Aletheia is mentioned 110 times in our New Testament and is always translated 'truth' in verses such as .... 
John 8:32 "Then Jesus said .....   and you shall know the truth , and the truth shall set you free!"
John 17:17 "Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth."
John 14:6  "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth and the life...."

Our understanding of 'truth'  is simply 'something that is true, a fact' ,  but that is not what the Greek word conveys in meaning. 
Aletheia means --  'to unforget, to unconceal' ...   Letheia means to forget, conceal and when the 'a' is added to the beginning of the word, the meaning changes to indicate 'the opposite'.  The same way our English 'un' changes a word meaning - for example ,  'do'  and 'undo'.

I found it interesting when I considered the scriptures that contained this Greek word. 

I invite you to follow me in my thought path ....

In the beginning, God ....   Those are the first words of our Bible

God was in the beginning, the great I AM,  and He is the Source and the Creator of all things.  All things belong to Him,  all authority and dominion are His, and there is no voice, no word, no created thing that can come against Him or contradict anything concerning who He is or what He wills to do. His word stands without question, without shade of meaning - His word is absolute,  and there are no gods beside Him to add controversy in word or deed or authority.

Adam and Ever were created in His image and walked in the beautiful Garden of Eden in perfect fellowship with God.   Then came the fall, the turning away and ... the rest is history, in fact, a cycle of repeated  history over the last 6,000 years.

Over and over again, man has chosen to 'forget' the words of God, to 'forget' His loving commandments,  to 'forget' His warnings,, to 'forget' His miracles and His wondrous deeds on behalf of man for his good. 
We understand that in the big picture . We are all familiar with the stories in our bibles and we readily shake our heads in disbelief at how foolish the Israelites could be to 'forget' the God who so loved them. We look in disgust and horror at men like Adolf Hitler who we readily acknowledge 'forgot' any good God put into their hearts.
But ...  the Bible is written for our personal 'learning, admonition, edifying'.   When we read the scriptures we must turn the Light - away from others -  to shine in our own hearts and lives.
Over and over we 'forget' and come up with our own words, our own works and desires and purposes. We set ourselves up as the 'masters of our own fate'.   We do 'what is right in our own eyes'.  And over and over again we add to our 'forgetting' , and in our 'forgetting' state we are convinced we are right and all is well. 

There is something powerfully deceptive in forgetting, isn't there?
I recently went grocery shopping for my Dad and I forgot to pick up an item on his list.  It didn't bother me at all, I was not even aware that I HAD forgotten.   It was only back in his kitchen when I glanced again at his grocery list that I had an 'unforgetting' moment of clarity. It was only in the 'unforgetting' that I became aware of what was missing and aware of my guilt.

We feel no conviction, no remorse, no need for repentance or change, in our 'forgetting' . As it is impossible to see anything when we are in the dark, so also,  in our forgetting we are totally unaware that something is missing or wrong. We are blissfully ignorant of the fact  that what we believe may not be based on God's truth.

Unforgetting ...    Jesus says ... "I am the way, the truth, and the life"  -- what if we substitute the word 'unforgetting' ?
"I am the way, the Unforgetting, and the life."    Do you see how that adds depth of meaning? 
Only in Jesus -- only in searching out  His words .. can we 'unforget'  the things in our minds, in our emotions, in our actions  - contrary to His Word - that we have allowed because of our 'forgetting'.
Unforgetting'  can only happen if and when we hold up our words, thoughts, deeds to His Words -- Just as I did not 'unforget' the grocery item, until I looked again upon the written words I had 'forgotten'.

We are not even be aware of our 'forgetting' if we do not search the scriptures to discover again what God said - if we do not search out the ancient paths, the old stories that teach us so much about God's will and character, the scriptures written by God's inspiration. 
Jesus came to draw us back to search for Him.  Keeping our eyes on Him, listening to His words will cause us to 'unforget' and bring us back into agreement with what He has declared.
Jesus 'unconcealed' for us the messages and purposes of God for us. 
He is  our 'Unforgetting' ..   The only One who can shine a Light to reveal what we have 'forgotten'.   

How much of God's word have we 'forgotten' ?    How often do we just accept, without question,  what is readily accepted in the world around us ?   How often do we stop to consider if something has been spoken or done because some word or character trait of God has been 'forgotten' ?
Let us be diligent to 'unforget' where we have turned aside to our way, and look to Jesus who is our 'Unforgetting' Guide.

Monday, May 20, 2019

When Times Were Good !

Have you ever wished you could go back in time when everything was 'better' ?  When your life was comfortable and you were happy and the future looked bright ?   Before your life fell apart? Before pain and suffering and tragedy changed everything ?

You are not alone.  I think most of us have been there at one time or another.
I was reading in Job yesterday  and realized that this is exactly what Job is wishing for in Chapter 29 of his book.

Look at his opening cry .  "Ohh I wish I were back where I used to be when times were so good!"

And he reminisces , listing all the things that defined him and his life - in the 'good old days'.

God was good, God was His trusted provider, protector, friendly Counselor. 
Job's children were all around him, his well-being was like cream under his feet. Even the rocks poured out affluence before him. 
He was respected everywhere he went.  The younger men did not dare show their faces  when Job sat at the gate - the older men stood to honor him, even the princes deferred to him. 
When Job opened his mouth and spoke, it blessed everyone who heard, and everyone marveled at the wisdom of his words. 
His righteousness was the standard to look up to. His judgments were just and true
He made God the most important focus in his life -  he lived by every word from His mouth. In fact it was more important to him than food (Job23:12).
Job was known for his philanthropy. His care for the poor, the blind and the lame was legendary.
He searched out the victims and freed them from the wicked who mistreated them.
He was secure, he was blessed beyond measure, he lived as a King. His God was with him.  Life was good and it could only get better - until the day he died ! 
Or .. so he believed.
We have all experienced it.   One morning begins as any other and we are totally unaware how drastically our life will change before the day ends. 
What a shock it must have been to Job when everything he thought was unshakable was shattered.  The loss of his servants, his flocks, his children, his health.   He fell from being the most respected to the most abhorred.  Even his wife saw only a hopelessly dark future.."curse God and die" was her advice. His friends accused him, "it must be your fault!"

What if Job had never been tested by God ?   What if Job's life had ended as it began?  Would we even know about him?  Perhaps not, except as a footnote in our bible as the example of  a perfectly blessed man.  What would we then have drawn from his life?  Proof that if we live godly lives we will be blessed and protected from all tribulations or life-sorrows?   
Then when hardships come, as they do to all of us, would we have been so shaken in our faith that we are left believing that we have been rejected by God?

Do you think Job was aware as he sat in sackcloth and ashes scraping his sores and mourning the death of his children that he was living out an example that would make his name a byword familiar on lips thousands of years later?
Would he have had any idea that the worst of his life was the best of his life if measured in terms of harvest value?   "Except a seed falls to the ground and dies... "

Job is our comfort when trials come our way.  Instead of letting our faith be shaken, our faith is our anchor. It will carry us through.  Look at Job's words -  interjected into his cries of despair  
 "But He knows the way that I take - 
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold!" (Job 23:10)

Are Job's words  echoed in I Peter 1:7 .... 

"In this you greatly rejoice, 
though now for a little while, if need be, 
you have been grieved by various trials
 that the genuineness of your faith , 
being much more precious than gold that perishes, 
though it is tested by fire, 
may be found to praise, honor and glory 
at the revelation of Jesus Christ,"

Friday, May 10, 2019

How Stupid are We ?

boy and girl answering questions on white paper
 "Let me help you"

I was reading Isaiah 28 and was captured by the words and thoughts of God expressed in verses 23-29.
My husband and I over breakfast talked about the gifting some people have - amazing abilities to play musical instruments or have some outstanding gifting in the field of art or science.

But reading this passage it made me realize that our tendency to compare ourselves unfavorably with those who seem 'divinely' gifted, is  really wrong.  Every one of us is divinely enabled and gifted to do life in our own uniquely designed way.

God speaks almost in a condescending sarcasm to bring this point home to us .  Sometimes that is the only way 'we get it' , isn't it ?

God says, "Listen to me .. lend me your ear ... hear what I am saying ... " 
When God repeats something three times , it must be important, - we need to pay attention!

God says, "The farmer that wants to plant seed, is he so stupid that he just keeps on plowing without knowing when to stop? Does he just keep turning the soil over and over ?" The obvious answer is 'no'.
God points out that the farmer knows when the soil is ready for the seed, and then he spreads the seed ,  each kind of seed in its 'appointed' place. A field of cummin, a field of wheat, a field of barley or a field of rye.
Everything done in a right order.
So how does man know to do this?   Is it not because God Himself gave him the enabling gift that itself teaches him?

God's goes on to point out the skills the farmer uses to harvest his crop. Does he thresh the black cummin with a threshing sledge?  No, of course not. It would be s stupid farmer who did not use the right instrument or tool  for the job needing to be done. 

I wonder ....  do you think that when we try to emulate someone else, when we try to copy what we admire in someone else, that we are, like the farmer using the wrong tool for the job?   Is that why we so often feel like we just don't measure up ?   Why we feel we are so 'less than' or we feel so inept at doing life and cannot find that satisfying place of worth?

We are so prone to value only the 'big' things --  monetary wealth, movie star fame,  CEO of a company, someone with university degrees,  a violin virtuoso ...  or a well-known musician or singer,  a brain surgeon, or scientist.
But if you examine anyone who fits in that list you will soon find that no one could ever reach the pinnacle of achievement or fame  without a whole lot of help from people who have other gifts and abilities.
Take for example the violin virtuoso,  what did they need to become who they are?
 A limited list would include,

  • a God-given gift 
  • someone skilled in crafting the instrument
  • care-givers who recognized and encouraged their gift, who made room for it by providing the finances needed 
  • teachers 
  • merchants who provided the necessities of life -- food, clothing etc.  - which of course includes the farmers, labourers, manufacturers who provide the merchants 
  • concert venues -- people who organize them 
  • people to provide means of travel to said concert invitations  and accommodation 
  • reporters, journalists who talk about their gift/ability to create awareness 
  • people who enjoy and attend their concerts or buy their recordings
I'm sure you get the picture  ...  No man is an island, and no person stands alone. No one is unimportant. - no one unneeded. 
I believe that only doing what God has gifted and enabled you to do will give you the satisfaction and contentment with life that everyone seeks.   If God calls you to be a bricklayer, you will  be much happier being the best bricklayer you can be than trying to fit yourself into the role of a real estate agent or banker or wishing you could have been a world famous surgeon.  

The bible is full of character stories - men and women and children - rich, poor, Jew, Gentile, righteous or not ... Yet looking at each of their stories we see how they either fulfilled God's purpose for them, or what happened when they decided to define their own purpose.  In every case only following God's purpose allowed  them to achieve their highest fulfillment!  

I love Wednesday mornings in our church -- when the women of Morning Break come together for fellowship, bible study and prayer.   We always enjoy coffee and goodies.  Behind the scenes, there is a young woman who every week gathers up the dirty cups and dishes and washes them  and puts them away.   No one really pays any attention to her service but if she didn't do it , we would soon not be able to enjoy our coffee and goodies because everything would be a dirty mess.   I love to go out of my way to thank the ones who do the behind the scenes ministries that are so important but too easily ignored.  
I wonder if that isn't how God looks down on us ... Does He seek out those that serve Him in little ways that no one notices ?  I believe He does !  On judgment day we are going to see what God meant by "the last shall be first"!!   Those who quietly served here will be openly rewarded there ... 

And so they should be , should they not?

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Sin Evidences in Broken Relationships

Love in any language warms our hearts , doesn't it ?

This morning I opened my Bible to Isaiah 59:1,2  which says ... 
"Behold , the Lord's hand is not shortened, that I cannot save, 
nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. 
But your iniquities have separated you from your God
 and your sins have hidden His face from you."

As I read and pondered those verses,  a thought struck me  -- 
 'Sin can be measured by broken relationships'.  
 I realized that every sin affects a relationship,  with God and/or  another person. 
Is there a sin that does not evidence itself in broken relationship ?  I can not think of one. 

Perhaps the strongest proof text is  I John 2:10,  that states there is no sin in the one who walks in love.  Therefore the converse is also true -  sin lurks in the absence of love.   
God is love and when our words or actions are not motivated by love, we hide or separate ourselves from each other and also from  God. 
As Jesus said, all the commandments are summed up in 'love' -- that we "love God and love our neighbor." 

Understanding the Hebrew word for love gives us a wonderful definition of what 'love' lived out is.  Looking at the letters of the Hebrew word for love we see the following meaning -  "love is to give - it connects the giver and the receiver -- until they become as one".   
Isn't that what Jesus also said?  "Love thy neighbor as yourself?"     
So  agape love is to give to another until it is the same as giving to oneself. 
We have just celebrated the greatest sacrifice  ever made to restore relationship between us and God - sin separated us, but Jesus' love restored us! 

But to go back to my original thought that sin always results, or evidences,  in broken relationship.  
If I am upset with my husband and think angry thoughts , even if I say nothing to him,  he feels it and there is a 'brokenness' in our relationship. - whether or not I feel justified in my feelings.  
If I have an unthankful attitude,  it will show in my criticism or complaining and again I have affected my  relationships with others.   
If I am rude to a salesperson who does not meet my expectations of service,   I have broken a relationship. 
I think you can make your own list .... 
If there is a break in relationship, we cannot deny that sin is present. 
A broken relationship with another person also affects our relationship with God, as do our 'secret' sins. 

If there is  a broken relationship between us and someone -- be it big or small -- and we come to God in prayer ... then let us remember what He says in Matthew 5:24 , and "as much as depends on you"(Romans 12:18) restore our relationships. 

"Leave your gift (prayer) there before the altar, and go your way. 
First be reconciled to your brother,
 and then come and offer your gift (prayer)." 

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Life Conquers Death

tomb stone surrounded by flowers

God's creation is full of the promise that YES, life is stronger than death!
We are not alarmed at the death of winter, knowing that spring will burst forth with joy !
We endure the darkness of night, waiting for the morning sun to arise with glorious light.
Hope is ingrained in us - death cannot be the end.  We cling to that hope by planting flowers in graveyards filled with crosses that symbolize that ultimate victory of resurrection Sunday.

Hope - expectation - faith -  We believe ! And because we believe we do not sink into despair.

Again it is the time of year when we reflect on that Day above all Days  -  Resurrection Sunday !  What was intended by evil to be the ultimate in defining DEATH, instead unfolded  in victorious, eternal  LIFE! 

BUT ...  we celebrate this day as those who have read the book, as those who look with the knowing of hindsight. We know death's hold on Good Friday was weak - we know  Jesus - our God, our Saviour -  arose having conquered death, not only for Himself but for you and me.   We have read and know all the promises that are ours through faith in Jesus. 

BUT .. what if we had been one of those who stood beneath Jesus' cross on that Friday and grieved to a depth we cannot fathom. Grieved not just the death of someone they loved, but grieved the death of all their hope that the Messiah had finally come to set them free!  But no, He was dead and so were all their hopes.  Had they been deceived?  They awoke  to a world that was dark, their hearts empty, their minds too distraught and dead in profound shock and sorrow  to even think .. "what now?"
Yes, Jesus had told them He would rise again, but they did not understand.  What they knew was that Jesus was dead ...  it was over ... they had hoped in vain.

I try to imagine their joy when the resurrection words were spoken - first to one, then another and another , spreading like the morning rays of the sun. 
Think of when you laid a loved one to rest ... you walked with bowed head from the grave ... you awake with the weight of grief heavy upon your heart .. and then .. the phone rings and someone tells you your loved one is alive and well !!    Could you even contain the responding emotion ?  Maybe disbelief is the cushion that gives your mind time to absorb such incredible news. 
Just like Jesus' loved ones ...  disbelief ... then a glimmer of hope...  then finally that exploding joy that focuses on only one reality ... JESUS IS ALIVE !! 

As we remember...   may our hearts fill with that pure joy of what Jesus did for us !
 He rose ... He conquered death that we might live .. .not just in this earthly life but forever more -- in His presence ! 
Let us rejoice  - not in His death -  but in His LIFE !!!!  In HIM we too have LIFE eternal.   

"If  Christ be not risen, then our faith is in vain ...  
if He did not rise, then we also will not rise from the dead ... 
if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable ...  
taken from I Cor. 15:13-20

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Cross of Good Friday

Cross In A Cemetery

The Cross is probably one of the most readily recognized symbols. Yet for many people it is so familiar that it has lost the ability to connect people with the emotional event that changed history.
Two thousand years ago,  the cross was the torture instrument that killed the Son of God who came to earth to reveal God's love for mankind.

I think of that day.  I think of what it must have been like for the people who witnessed it.  For those who loved Jesus, His family, His followers, it must have been agony to watch - what thoughts, emotions whirled over and over in their bewildered minds and hearts. 

But then there were also the chief priests, the scribes, the elders who watched with cold hearts and mocking voices.  It is hard to imagine how these religious leaders could be so hard, so cruel that they  could take pleasure in the suffering of Jesus.  Finally, they had won - Jesus would trouble them no more!
They said mockingly, "If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross and we will believe Him."    Will those words come back to haunt them on judgment day?  Jesus DID come down from the cross and LIVED .... but did they believe?   No.

There were those who simply walked by, with only a turn of the head to look upon the one suffering on the cross and blasphemed Him, mocking that Jesus had said He would destroy the temple and build it up in three days !  How ridiculous...

I look at the Roman centurion who stood and watched and was so moved he cried out ...  "Truly this was the Son of God!"    I wonder,  when Jesus rose from the dead did this centurion seek out the disciples of Jesus and became a believer ?  I like to think that he did.

We are once again remembering Good Friday - believers and non-believers are reminded of that historical day.
 Everyone has a response ...
-- a shrugging of the shoulders and dismissing it as something irrelevant to them
--  a passing  regret that a good man was condemned to a torturous death
--  a thankfulness for a holiday from work
--  a mocking that people have lifted this Man up to be God - and created a religion around Him
--  a tug at their heart and a wondering thought  -  could this be the Son of God? What does it mean?
--  a humble recognition and deep thankfulness and profound gratitude that this One on the cross came from heaven - God in human flesh -  to suffer for mankind, to offer to every man the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

What will be your response ? 
Do you hear Jesus ask, as you lift your eyes to His cross .....

"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?  
Behold and see ..."  
Lam. 1:12

Monday, March 25, 2019

Combing your Feathers?

Recently we came upon this beautiful heron posed on a branch of a tree beside the road.  He remained long enough for my husband to capture some excellent photos.
In downloading the images I realized I didn't know much about the Blue Heron and did a bit of research.

Once again what I learned reminded me that no matter where we look we are confronted with the unmistakable fingerprint of God's  goodness, wisdom and creativity in nature.
To Him be all the praise and glory !

The Blue Heron is well equipped to take care of its grooming needs to stay looking photo-perfect!  Feathers need to be put into place and carefully groomed and cleaned. 
But how ?

He comes equipped with his very own comb and cleaning powder.

The Blue Heron has what is called Pectinate Toes. The center toe on each leg is longer than the other two toes and has along the side ridges that function like our toothed combs.
This 'comb' is perfect for arranging and preening his feathers, but simply preening is not enough.
The Blue Heron's love of fishing has the consequence of his feather getting rather grimy and he needs a way to clean them.

Falling  over across his chest the Heron has feathers that are uniquely different from his other feathers.   The feathers on his chest  grow continually and fragment - becoming almost like 'hair' , and they act like a 'washcloth' to clean his toes and also produce a cleansing and protective powder for his grimy feathers. 

A quote from the Cornell Lab of Omithology says .. "Great Blue Herons have specialized feathers on their chest that continually grow and fray. The herons comb this 'powder down' with a fringed claw their middle toes, using the down like a washcloth to remove fish slime and other oils from their feathers as they preen. Applying this powder to their underparts protects their feathers against the slime and oils of swamps."  

Isn't that amazing?
If God has so uniquely provided for the needs of the Blue Heron, how much more will He provide for our every need !

Philippians 4:19 "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

 Note that God does not meet our needs according to what we see around us, or what the world could possibly provide for us   -   no, God provides out of His riches in glory !!
  I don't think His bank account is ever in need of funds , do you ? 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Israel and the Olive Tree

Olive trees near Florence

When God inspired men to write down His words in what we call the Bible there is never a word wasted, never a word untrue, never anything scientifically in error, never anything fictitious.
I continually learn new details about something I did not know before that reveals yet  again God's infinite wisdom and attention to detail.
Recently, I learned some very interesting facts about the farming of olive trees in Bible times that support  Paul's analogy using the olive tree to illustrate the relationship between Israel and the Gentiles as God's people. 
This analogy is found in Romans 11:2-25.

The following characteristics of the Olive tree make this passage deepen in meaning and enlighten our understanding in its application.

1.  An olive tree can lose its fruitfulness and become unhealthy. 
A farmer watched carefully over the health of his olive trees , to maintain their ability to yield a good  crop of olives.
So also God watched Israel blessing them, caring for them, wooing them to Himself  but they became wayward and rebellious ... finally, He declared them hopelessly 'unfruitful' .. He says .. "All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people." (Rom. 10:21) 

2. Save the tree, don't destroy it ! 
A farmer with limited time and space was not willing to just cut down the unproductive olive tree. He desired to save it .
So also God, was not willing to totally reject Israel and start over ..  In Rom. 11:1 Paul declares .. "Has God cast away His people?  Certainly NOT !"

3. Grafting restores the life of the tree . 
The olive tree farmer knew he could bring back the health of a suffering olive tree by grafting in branches from the wild olive tree.   NOTE - The olive tree is the only plant where the wild is grafted into the cultured - in every other plant grafting it is always the other way around, the cultured grafted into the wild. 
Paul's analogy could  fall apart except for this unique fact about the olive tree.   The cultured tree was Israel, the chosen people of God, 'cultured' in God's vineyard.  But in God's plan the Gentiles - the wild olive tree - would be grafted into the cultured olive tree of Israel - so God created the olive tree with this unique characteristic. His foreknew how important this little detail would be to Paul's analogy. 
The work of grafting involved the farmer cutting off some of the branches of the cultured olive tree. He would then cut branches off the wild olive tree and graft them onto the cultured tree where the branches had been cut off the cultured tree. 

4.   Keep the cut off branches. 
When the farmer cut off the cultured branches he would lay them down at the bottom of the tree. 
  For three and a half years the cultured olive tree would force its sap up into the newly grafted in wild olive tree branches...  Then, after that time, he would bore holes into the grafted branches and graft back in the 'dead' olive tree branches that had been lying on the ground for 3 1/2 years.   These branches came back to life and become 'jealous' fighting for their share of the sap.
 The now healthy tree brings forth an abundance of fruit ! 

Isn't that the neatest picture of what Paul talks about ?  How the 'fall' (to the ground)  of the original olive tree branches  is not meant as their rejection ...but that these 'dead' branches will again be grafted in and come back to life. 
Paul even refers to the horticultural fact that these grafted back in branches will be provoked to jealousy, recognizing what they have lost and desire to once again to become fruitful in God's kingdom. 

The careful 'grafting' produced  a 'healthy tree'  of both Jew and Gentile. bringing the two into one so that "all Israel will be saved".  The olive tree (Israel) restored to health and life by the grafting in of the wild olive branches (Gentiles) fulfilling God's plan  that the ONE people of God  would "preach the everlasting gospel to those who dwell on the earth - to every nation, tribe , tongue, and people !"  (Rev. 14:6) 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Love DOES Make the World Go Round !

I was to give a short devotional talk at our Special Events morning - a love themed Non-Birthday party - and as I was considering what to say  the Lord dropped the above visual into my mind.  

February is the 'love' month -- and we are all familiar with the saying "Love makes the world go round"   and we smile.  But it is literally true !  
Our God IS love, and in His love He spun the earth on its axis when He created our universe.

When my granddaughter was four years old, she was one of the youngest in her kindergarten class.  Even at that young age , friends were her goal .. the more the merrier ! 

There was a girl named Sherry in her class and this girl for some reason rejected my granddaughter from her 'inner circle'.   It hurt my granddaughter's feelings but she was determined to win this girl over.   Every time I saw her she would tell me about Sherry and how she needed to be her friend, but Sherry would not play with her. 
She would phone me and say , "Nanna, we have to pray for Sherry..." 
She would spend time and care to draw her a special picture.  Or she would offer Sherry the treat in her lunch....  She even asked her Mom if she could buy Sherry a gift and in the store she ever so carefully examined everything to find just the right thing --  but over and over her gestures were turned away..  She tried everything her little self could think of and she became more and more troubled and burdened for this girl .
One day I was at her house and she again talked about Sherry and then asked ... "What is that called when someone, someone ... is ...  "and she fumbled for the right word.   I tried to help... " when someone is sad?   depressed?   upset?"  "no ... no ...  when someone has a broken .. " 
"Oh .. "I said , "you mean a broken spirit?"   I knew she was too young to know what that was, but she grabbed onto it and declared .. "Yes, that is what it is, Sherry has a broken spirit!  We have to pray for her broken spirit , Nanna."
She never gave up but at the end of the school year, nothing had changed. My grandmother heart ached for my little granddaughter because I saw how much pain it caused her to not be able to win this girl for her friend.
My granddaughter is now half-way through a 5 year program to become a Music Therapist. She will be reaching out to the disabled, the handicapped , the challenged and yes, those who have broken spirits.

I have often thought about how deeply my granddaughter felt the pain caused by the rejection of her  offers of friendship and I can not help but think it is a picture of how God feels when He is pushed aside by His children.
We easily repeat John 3:16 and think about God seeking to save the lost ... and of course He does - He does not want anyone to perish.   But ,  I think His deepest pain is when it is His own children that He cannot reach.
God longs for His children to spend time with Him... but too often we are too busy.

We live in a hectic, busy society where there are more distractions for our attention and time than ever before  and many days we focus on just getting through everything that crowds onto our to-do list!

 But think of a specially busy day where it seems what can go wrong does go wrong .. and then in the middle of that day, the phone rings and its someone with an emergency who needs your help.  Would you not drop everything and rush out to help?
Someone has wisely said that we always have time for the most important thing.
What if we made spending time with the Lord so important that everything else could be dropped or put on hold? 
George Muller discovered a secret ...  He said the more he had to do in a day, the more time he had to  spent in prayer just so he could get it all done!

If I am making you feel guilty,  that is not my intent.   I want to melt your heart to respond to the longing of our Lord's heart to spend time with His children.

I love the story of the prodigal son.   When he had been away from his Father and then finally decided to come home, he was ready to grovel in guilt at his father's feet... but what did the Father do?   He brushed his guilt aside and declared .. "I'm just so happy you are here!"

I found this beautiful poem online that so describes God's love for us... His children.

God’s love for me,
is unfathomable . . .
for, His love for me
is immeasurable.

 His love rises,
higher than the sky
it goes further than . . .
any space shuttle can fly.

God’s  love for me
is unbelievable . . .
for, His love for me
is undeniable.

His love goes deeper,
than the ocean’s floor
it goes further than . . .
any miner can dig for ore.

God’s love for me
is unexplainable . . .
for, His love for me
is unconceivable.

His love is wider,
than the whole universe
it goes further than . . .
any light the stars can disperse.

There’s nothing about me,
that is lovable . . .
yet, God’s love for me
is unstoppable!

Copyright 2018
Deborah Ann Belka