The Color of Trust

 

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“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
This is “my” verse right now…not necessarily because I feel it, but because I know it. God spoke to my heart recently and told me to start speaking my faith, not my circumstances. Not that it’s wrong to share your struggles with a friend…sometimes that’s necessary to help you get a clearer perspective…but what are you talking about MOST in your daily conversations? Fear or faith?
God says if I trust in Him, if I put my confidence in Him, I will not wither, even in a drought…my life will bear fruit. So even when I feel the heat of life’s circumstances, I choose to trust my good and faithful God. He has never failed me.

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Short-People Problems

Yesterday I was reading the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. I wasn’t raised in church, but even I know the song that goes, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he…”. (You’re welcome.) This passage is only 10 verses long, and on the surface is a nice story about how Jesus saw short, little Zacchaeus, even up in the tree, and called to him by name. Zacchaeus is usually depicted in children’s stories as a small, chubby, pleasant-looking bald guy. I’m not so sure he was. Pleasant, I mean. In reality, he made his living by being unethical, and was probably pretty tough. That would be my guess.

I like to imagine what the stories in the Bible would have looked like in real life (because they are real life), so I broke it down.

Jesus:  Is in town.  He is on the move (that will preach, all by itself!).

Zacchaeus:  Tax collector.  Chief tax collector.  Head honcho.  This man is filthy rich.  But not rich from old money.  Rich from new money.  Extortion money.  Money extorted from his neighbors and kinsmen.  Not a very popular fellow amongst those neighbors and kinsmen.  He wanted to see who Jesus was.  He had heard of him, heard he was coming.  He was curious and intrigued by what he had heard.  But he couldn’t see over the crowd (I can relate).  I can picture him trying to squeeze through, standing on his tiptoes, finally giving up and climbing a tree to get a better view.  Maybe he was also  positioning himself so he could be seen by Jesus.

Jesus:  Came right to Zacchaeus, because he knew where Zacchaeus was.  Jesus looked up at him, acknowledged him, spoke to him by name, because Jesus didn’t just see his job, he saw Zacchaeus.  Jesus gave him a mission.

Zacchaeus:  Immediately and quickly came down and met Jesus with joy and excitement.

Other people:  The usual crowd who surrounded Jesus…Disciples following.  Healed people.  People who hadn’t been healed yet.  The desperate.  Pharisees whispering and pointing fingers.   The curious, the complaining, the jealous, the threatened, the judgmental.

Zacchaeus:  Stood before the Lord, grateful and repentant.  He didn’t need a sermon or theological exegesis.  He met Jesus.  Zacchaeus took Jesus to his home (that will preach, too).  He owned his mistakes, his crimes.  Then he voluntarily made the best restitution he could.

Jesus:  States to the crowd that salvation had come to the house of this repentant sinner.   “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”  Luke 19:10.

Even those who don’t even know they’re lost yet…Jesus came to find them.  Us.  He came to find us.  He knows us by name, he knows exactly where we are, and that is very good news indeed.  Our lives don’t become complete when we “find” ourselves.  Our lives become complete when we look Jesus in the eye and realize he is all we need.

 

Eleos

 

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God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Have mercy on me when my many doings take time away from being. Have mercy on me when my thoughts of others become critical because they don’t look like me, or think like me, or do the things I do. Thank you that others don’t look like me, or think like me, or do the things I do. God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Have mercy on me when my tongue is sharp, when my heart is unloving toward another. Have mercy on me when I place my wants and desires above another, when I am uncaring or dismissive of another’s wants or desires. God, have mercy on me, a sinner, when my heart is apathetic toward the plight of another, just because I don’t understand it, or when I become judge and jury of another’s thoughts or ways. Have mercy on me for plowing into my day without first spending time with You, my Peace, my Wisdom, my Deliverer, the lover of my soul, the very One who shows me how to love. God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

God, have mercy on me, a sinner. – Luke 18:13

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. – Psalm 51:1.

 

Get Down and Stop That!

Went on a mini-retreat last week at a local abbey located in the middle of nowhere. This particular nowhere is quite beautiful. The abbey office was closed when I arrived, but there was still a welcoming committee.

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Friendly fellas. They were my constant companions every time I went outside. They were sweet and fun, but when I tried to take a picture of anything, there they were! And I couldn’t even get a great picture of them, because they were so happy and loving and on the move and in my face! Pet me! Love me! No, pet ME! My turn!

There were muddy paw prints. Dog drool. Doggy breath. It was when I was on the nature trail that I started to get a little aggravated….they were everywhere, tromping through the early morning wetness, here they are, there they went, no here they are again, slurp slurp in the creek, pant pant all over my pants…they all but knocked me over a dozen times! Dadgumit, they were messing with my peaceful solitude!

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Then I leaned way down to take a picture, and this happened…..

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Splat! I went in the wet leaves, with those big, lovable lugs right on top of me! I couldn’t help but laugh, and then I looked at this picture. And I realized. Those sweet, clumsy galoots were part of the story. Part of the experience. And I knew at that moment that I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

I wonder…is there anything in your life that seems like an interruption, an irritation? Something you just don’t have time for, didn’t ask for, but there it is, can’t avoid it? Apparently I needed to get knocked right off my self-righteous shoes, thinking those sweet dogs were somehow in the way of what I wanted to do. In reality, they were a lovely, precious element to the trip, and added a whole new dimension to it.

I don’t know what your current interruption or irritation might be, but ask God to give you His perspective on it. Ask Him to help you see the circumstance with His eyes.

“There is only one thing worth being concerned about…”.  Luke 10:42

 

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THIS JESUS

It is no secret to anyone who knows me well that I love the Word of God. I love to read it. I try to live it. Sometimes some word or phrase captures my attention and causes me to dig deeper. It quite literally illuminates my path (see Psalm 119:105).   Had God not arrested my attention in 1995 and caused me to turn aside, I have no doubt that I would be homeless, in jail, or dead right now, because that is where the path I was on would have led me. I was following things that would have led to my certain spiritual and probable physical destruction, and I would have dragged others (like my family) down with me. His Word has led me down a far different, and amazing path.

Thinking of that always reminds me of the story in Exodus, chapter 3, of how God called Moses. Something off in the distance caught his attention (that famed burning bush that was not consumed), and Moses turned aside from what he was doing to go check it out. That’s when God identified Himself to Moses, and that revelation changed the course of his entire life. It took him from an isolated life in the wilderness to being the instrument God used to set a nation free. So perhaps that’s my challenge to you today….go check it out. God may not use me or you to set a whole nation free, but He might use us to help set one person free. And then maybe another. And then maybe another….

All that to get to my scriptural meanderings today.

¹Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, ²but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. ³He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. – Hebrews 1:1-3 (ESV)

So God speaks to us today through His Son, who is also identified as The Word (read John 1), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). His spoken words and teachings and the way he lived his life on earth are recorded for us in the Bible.

Verse 3 in that Hebrews passage is the one that really captivated my attention this morning. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God. Now let’s ponder that for a moment. I’ve heard lots of people talk about Jesus, and to be honest, I’m not sure all of them are talking about this Jesus. This Jesus carries all the fullness of the Godhead, all the holiness, all the divine nature of God. The “radiance of the glory of God” is the sh’khinah. That Presence that makes people fall on their faces in submission. The Encyclopedia Judaica defines it as “…the Divine Presence…a revelation of the Holy in the midst of the profane.” So that’s the Jesus we’re talking about. The one that draws us to repentance, because he loves us so much that he (the Divine) chose to live among us (the profane), and to redeem us from death, so we could spend eternity with him.

This Jesus is the exact imprint, or image, of his Father’s nature. So one must ask, what is his Father’s nature? Back to Exodus we go. Moses had asked God to show him His glory. In chapter 34:5-7 we see what happened.

“…the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…”.

I believe that God was declaring to Moses His identity, His nature, His character. Sovereign, compassionate, gracious, patient, loving, faithful, forgiving, and just (righteous). I am positive there is far more to His nature than that, but that is probably about all we can wrap our finite minds around.

This Jesus holds the universe, all that exists, together by the word of his power.

Which brings us to Colossians 1:15-20

The Son is the image of the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

I encourage you today to start a steady diet of the Word. It is fascinating, it is powerful, it is alive and can speak to any circumstance in your life.

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian or Bible scholar, I am just a lover and follower of Christ, trying to be a good “Berean”.

Acts 17:10-15

As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

 

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WORDS FOR THIS LIFE

I once thought that a lot of words we speak in this life are pointless and empty, just filling up the atmosphere with noise. There is probably some truth to that. But as I think about the vast majority of words I hear and have heard, and also the words I have spoken in my lifetime, I no longer think they are empty. I think words are full of something. Our words can be full of criticism, condemnation, hate, comparison and contention. Our words can also be full of love, full of hope, full of life. What comes out of your mouth is entirely dependent upon what you are filled with on the inside.

When negative, grumbling or snarky words come out of my mouth, I have learned to ask myself why….because there is certainly something in my heart at that moment that is being expressed by my words. And I don’t want it there. Here’s what I go back to when that happens, and it always brings me back to center:

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” John 1:1-4

“He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn – not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” John 1:14

A word is the expression of a thought. Christ, then, is the expression of the Father’s thoughts through the Spirit.

Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63.) How could they not be? He spoke out what was in him, which was (is) the Father!

In a conversation with Jesus, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68. I’m with Peter. There is no other direction, no other “way” I would choose to go, knowing what I know now. I will follow the one with the words of eternal life.

When Jesus prayed for the disciples, he said to the Father, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”

“Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” John 8:31-32.

When tempted by the devil to turn rocks into bread, Jesus told him, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. The word of God is our sustenance.

In Romans 10:17 Paul tells us, “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

If Christ is in me, the words that come out of my mouth should somehow re-present him. I am not given too many opportunities to preach, but I am given opportunities every day to share life…I bet you are, too. Just by living life the way Jesus did. Honestly. Truthfully. Lovingly. Building up, not tearing down.

God gave me the name for this blog. So the “words for this life” I will be sharing are words of Christ, words about Christ, words of life, words that reveal truth, justice, and mercy, and words to draw people closer to the Father-heart of God.

 

 

Creator God

Was just thinking…God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. But not just light. The root word in Hebrew means something more like “luminous, glorious, set on fire, shine.” When we say light, we also have to consider the absorption of light, which is what produces the vast array of colors we can see with our eyes. And we tend to think in terms of visible light, but if you stop to consider that there is a whole spectrum of light, including ultraviolet and infrared radiation…. Wait a minute…now we’re talking about energy. Hmmmmm…………..

God also said, “Let there be grass, herbs, and fruit trees,” and it was so. But not just alfalfa and thyme and apple trees. For instance, there are about 10,000 grass species in the world. 100,000 species of trees have been identified. And when He was creating the other living creatures, like insects, he didn’t stop with grasshoppers. There are over a million known species of insects.

God doesn’t do anything in half measures.   When He speaks something into existence, when He breathes life, it expands into something multidimensional. No flat pages in a dusty book. More like an elaborate, full technicolor, fully animated, breathing pop-up book with surround-sound! That’s the kind of life God brings. Beyond our wildest imagination or expectation.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21.