Tri-focal – Part 1

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!”And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6:6 – 11

Jesus, in the place of meeting and discussion is teaching; in the three years He ministered on earth, Jesus spent hours teaching, explaining and discussing the Word of God with people.  Jesus sees a man with a withered hand.  He also see the scribes and Pharisees watching and He knows what they are thinking – He always knows but knowing does not change what He intends to do, to teach.  He knows my thoughts before I do and the deep desires of my heart.  He knows that sin begins with a  thought and He wants to change me by changing the way I think.

Jesus saw everyone; I love that about Him.  Jesus really sees the least of them, the ones who were wounded inside and out; on this day He sees the man with the withered hand.  How often do I walk past people, barely noticing their existence or worse, deliberately ignoring the person I just don’t want to see or deal with?  Oh God, help me be sensitive to the people right around me, forgive me for the times I have chosen to ignore someone.  Everyone is wounded in some way, hurting, in need of a kind word or prayer, it only takes a few moments.  Jesus notices me, how can I fail to see those He loves and died to save.

Jesus questions the watchers about the law they claimed they knew and zealously argued and upheld; He wants them to see the true purpose of the law was not to condemn but to show our need for a Savior; the law could change behavior but it could not change a heart.  He restores the withered hand and the spirit of the man.  Jesus, the Great Physician the ultimate healer is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Up Next, Focus 2 – The Man

Just a Question

But some of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Luke 6:2

Lots of great discoveries are made because someone asks a simple question but sometimes the person asking the question does not really want an answer, they just want to see you squirm.

The Pharisees often tried to trap Jesus with their questions and that was their intent here; they had seen Jesus’ disciples picking and eating grain from the field.  Deuteronomy 23:25 specifically permits plucking grain by hand;  it was the use of harvesting tools that was prohibited.

Jesus, instead of ignoring them, asks them a question.  He asks them a question about The Bible and their own history. Jesus refers to the time when a hungry David took bread from the temple (1 Samuel 21), bread that had been dedicated to God, holy bread.

I love how the living Word, the Word made flesh, uses The Bible to expose their motives and reveal the true state of their hearts to themselves, Jesus already knows what they are thinking.   And that is what The Bible does, as we read it and meditate upon it we learn of a holy God, we see ourselves as we truly are; lost sinners in need of a Savior.  Jesus Himself is the answer to every question of your soul, ask Him your questions.

Just Passing Through…

Now it happened that He (Jesus) was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath – Luke 6:1

Most of the time when we read of Jesus, He is still; He is teaching, sitting, healing or speaking to a crowd.  Here we see Him passing through on a Sabbath, this is “not the norm” for Jesus and it gives me pause…

Is Jesus just passing through in my life, in my heart, in my home, or, worse, would he just pass unnoticed through my church?

I hope not.  I invited Jesus into my heart, I want Him to make His home there, to dwell and abide with me.  He is ready and willing to abide with me.  What changes must I make to spend time with Him, to allow Him to be “at home” with me.

Would Jesus be welcome to enter my church with His dusty feet and worn robe?  Is my church the kind of place where Jesus would want to sit?  How about His companions, the prostitutes, the tax-collector’s, the beggar’s – what kind of welcome would they experience?  Would Jesus be invited to sit in the front or would He be directed to a more hidden corner, off to the side?

What would Jesus think about what He hears and observes in my home, in my church?

I don’t want a “passing through” Jesus, I want Jesus to take over, to set up camp, to feel welcome and blessed.  I want Jesus to have the keys, to take ownership, to my home, my church, my heart.  How about you?

Happy Anniversary to Us

Today is our 29th Wedding Anniversary.  Yes, I know, most people don’t get too excited about #29; we celebrate 25 or 50 but not 29 so much.  The past 16 months have seen a lot changes in our lives, all good but not always smooth.  I am excited about this anniversary; God has pushed, pulled, nudged and carried us every day for the past 29 years.  He has brought us to a good place to live and a good place in our relationship – it has cost something to get here.  It has not always been easy or fun but it has been worth it.

A blogger I read and  admire is “Insanitybytes”, her blog is titled, See, there’s this thing called biology…”  A recent post dealt with that polarizing subject,  Submission.  Her post, combined with our anniversary has made me think about marriage and my own challenge with understanding and living in Biblical submission to this man God has given me.

My husband and I are both the first-born in each of our families, we are also both strong, opinionated leaders who lived independent lives before being married.   With two determined personalities in one small house someone had to be in charge or our crazy train would have derailed long ago.

Like it or not we are ALL under authority and we all must submit; someone has to be in charge, has to have the last word.  We all have supervisors, teachers,’ bosses, ,police, and government officials that we submit to in order to get our work done and to maintain an orderly society.  In our household, my husband is the authority.  In God’s Biblical design for the family, it is the husband, the male head of the household who has the last word.  And that is the clearest way to explain submission – the Greek word is actually, “hupotasso” which means to place in order, to come under authority; SOMEONE has to lead.

In a Jesus-centered and loving marriage, both husband and wife are equal and both should be able to voice their opinions and thoughts on all matters and both should be always be heard and their opinions seriously considered and discussed.  The wife is accountable to God to honor and respect her husband; the husband is accountable to God to LAY DOWN HIS LIFE  for his wife.  The husband’s calling is much more serious and carries greater responsibility; he is responsible to love and protect her and to sacrifice his own needs and wants for her.

In every marriage, there are disagreements and some of them are serious.  Submission comes into play when couples reach in impasse on these disagreements.  A decision needs to be made.  Whose will or opinion will prevail?  Unless my husband is choosing something that is in clear violation of the Word of God, he decides.  I trust that he has been listening to and seeking God’s will, I accept that he is the God-appointed leader over me, I have faith that God has a plan and purpose and I submit to my husband.  Most disagreements are not about matters that are contrary to God’s Word; we disagree about money, about jobs, about how to discipline (or not discipline) the children.  Even when a husband is not a Christ-follower, the wife is to let him lead the household; she is to submit.

This has not always been easy, in fact there were many times when it was incredibly difficult.  I am grateful that God gave me a husband who truly wants to be a good husband, who wants to do it God’s way and whose intention towards me has always been good.  He has made decisions I did not always agree with and I kept silent as we slogged our way through; some of his decisions were good and right, but, not all in my opinion.  He has respected my opinion and often taken my advice.  We each have our strengths, weaknesses and preferences and are content to let the other lead in their area of strength or preference.  A good example of this was parenting our young kids; I was and am much more patient and able to stay home, dealing with tantrums and endless viewings of Disney classics; he was much more adventurous and took them to the park where they could climb and get muddy.

It has been 29 years of learning, adjusting, discussion, compromise, laughter and tears.  A sense of humor and commitment to making it work, never, NEVER allowing the “D” word, and prayer have sustained us through some pretty tough times; we truly are better together.  Has it gotten easier?  Yes, but there are days we each retreat to our corner of the house, cool off and then re-group, re-visit, discuss again.  And that is key, don’t stay in your corner, be willing to admit to being wrong, to making the first move to reconciliation, to look for the log in your own eye.

I recognize that what has been true for me is not true for everyone ; even in those households where both husband and wife say they are following Jesus. If you are in a situation that is abusive, none of this applies to you – you need to be in a place of safety and your husband needs to be held accountable for his actions.

If you are struggling with your marriage and/or the whole idea of submission, talk to God, search His Word and seek wise, Biblical counsel.  Don’t use your differences of opinion as a loophole to abandon a difficult marriage but as an opportunity for personal growth and closeness to God.  Marriage is not for everyone and it is certainly not easy but, for me, I would do it all again and am hoping for another 29 years!

Happy Anniversary, Honey!

Scars You Cannot See

What did you want to be when you grew up?  At various ages and stages, I wanted to be a model, an airline stewardess, a teacher, a dancer, and a secretary.  It turned out I have been exactly none of those!  Lots of girls my age wanted to be nurses; I knew at an early age that anything medical was not for me.  I cannot stand the sight of blood, it’s difficult for me to be around sick people and I am famously not compassionate; yep, the Gift of Mercy completely bypassed me.

Years ago, my husband had surgery on his knee – it did not go well.  He was in the hospital for two weeks and came home on crutches with the knee swathed in a huge bandage.  He needed help changing the dressings.  As much as I wanted to help, I could not do it.  He had to first manage to cover the wound so I could not see it; then and only then was I able to help him finish the wrapping process.

When a man covered in leprosy comes to Jesus and Jesus touches this man, my stomach twists.  Leprosy or Hansen’s Disease, can cause severe disfiguring skin sores, large lumps and nerve damage.  Damage to the nerves of its victims results in further injury since burns or cuts are not felt, the injuries easily become infected which causes more severe damage and scarring.  Leprosy is not actually as contagious as thought years ago and can be cured with antibiotics.

In Jesus day, the priest was the one who would examine and diagnose the person who suspected leprosy and in that day, it was a death sentence.  The leper was required to shave his head, tear his clothes, and shout, “Unclean, unclean” when approaching people or towns.  A leper could not worship at the temple and was required to live outside the city walls; alone, isolated, unable to work, a leper suffered physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

The leper in Luke 5 comes to Jesus and falls at his feet. He implores Jesus with the words, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.”  There is so much to learn in these words and in Jesus response to this man:

  • He fell on his face – what better place to be – at the feet of Jesus!  The man totally humbled himself, he held nothing back.  What are the things I think I can handle myself?  Is there a part of me I am holding back from Jesus?
  • He calls him, “Lord” – Jesus is Lord and is worthy of worship!
  • He implores Jesus – he recognized his condition was desperate.  I need to recognize how desperate I am for Jesus ALL the time!  Jesus is the answer to every need, every question. I need to come to Him quickly and often, not just in times of crisis.
  • He understands Jesus right to refuse any request – God is sovereign and nothing happens without His permission.  Sometimes His answer is not what I am hoping or asking for; I need to trust Him to respond with what is best.
  • He believes Jesus is able – Jesus ability is limitless.  I need to approach with confidence in Him, not myself or the urgency or intensity of my need.
  • Jesus touched him – how long had it been since this leper had felt a human touch, seen a kind look on another face?  Jesus knows what I need and can touch the most wounded place in any heart.  How willing am I to extend a hand to someone who is hurting?  To risk rejection or hurt for another’s sake?
  • Jesus was willing – Jesus stands ready to help, to save all who ask and He knows exactly how and when to help.

Jesus heals the leper and sends him away with instructions to tell no one and follow the law by visiting the priest and offering the required sacrifices.  I wonder what the leper’s life was like after his healing.  He probably failed on the “tell no one” part since the next sentence (Luke 5:15) says that crowds were coming for healing so somebody said something for sure!  But how could he keep silent?  He went from a life of daily suffering and torment to a pain-free life of freedom and that is heart of the story, the heart of Jesus right there.  Jesus is willing to take us from a half-life to a whole life in every aspect.

Not all of us carry visible reminders of past injuries.  My husband still has deep, very noticeable scars on his knee, nearly 30 years later they remain.  When the leper in Luke 5 was healed, all of him was healed.  Jesus healed him of all visible wounds and marks, restored any lost fingers and toes, fixed the disfigured face, smoothed out the lumps.  But what about the scars that cannot be seen; the scars on his heart of rejection, fear, loss family and friends, of feelings of uselessness and ugliness.  These scars that you cannot see are universal; not all of us carry scars from physical injuries but all of us are wounded and hurting in some way.   Jesus is willing to heal the deepest wounds of your heart and the scars on your broken spirit; the scars no one can see.  Jesus took the leper from a life of pain to a life of happiness; from barely surviving to thriving; from isolation to crowds and He can take you, too.  Ask Jesus for  what you need, He is listening, He is willing, trust Him for the best answer – not what you want but what you need.  He is Lord.

Nothing Test

“i’m starving!”, you say when you walk in the door at the end of a long day at work or school.  Are you really starving?  Did you eat at all today?  Probably, but maybe not.  Did you eat yesterday?  Very likely.  The “I’m starving” complaint is quickly followed by it’s annoying companion, “There’s nothing to eat in this house.”  This is most often uttered in front of the wide-open refrigerator.  Are your shelves and fridge completely and totally bare?  Probably not but, possibly.  Is there breakfast cereal, some almost out of date milk? Then there is food to eat in your house, it’s just not the food you want to eat!

Hunger by choice or circumstance is a very real problem everywhere but for most of us in present day America, food is always available for purchase or can be found for free/low-cost.  We are told regularly and often the average American is eating too much and obesity is considered by many to be a serious health issue.

Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. Ruth 1:1

Famine is a devastating, extreme and wide-spread shortage of food.  There has never been a famine in America.  Gratefully, most of us don’t have any idea what it means to be truly starving.  In a time of famine, the cupboards are literally bare.  There is no food of any kind available to anyone for any price. Famine drives people to extreme lengths to obtain food for themselves and their children.

This famine drives a man, Elimelech, to leave Bethlehem with his wife and two sons and travel to the land of Moab.  Elimelech chose Moab, and while there, he dies, leaving his wife Naomi a widow.  His sons marry Moabite women and then, the sons die. Naomi is bereft of her two children and her husband.  Naomi, hearing that there is food in Bethlehem decides to return home alone.  Her two daughters in law insist on going with her and Naomi urges them to stay in their own land with their own people; one daughter in law agrees but the other, Ruth, refuses to be parted from Naomi.  The two women, mother in law and daughter in law travel to Bethlehem.  Naomi is so crushed in spirit, she now insists on being called ‘Mara’, which means, bitter.

Even in a time of famine and loss, there is blessing.  Naomi/Mara refused to see the blessing of her faithful daughter in law, Ruth who traveled with her, leaving her own people and culture behind.

When you are completely empty it makes logical sense to go somewhere, anywhere, to get full. God allowed the famine into their lives and he allows famine to overtake us.  Maybe your famine is the loss of a loved one, loneliness and sadness is crushing your soul. Perhaps you are experiencing a famine of work, you need a job desperately.  You just don’t feel connected to God, your prayers seem to go unanswered, a time of spiritual famine.  Whatever your present famine, be careful  where or who you go to fill yourself up.  Many things and people promise fullness and don’t deliver.  Elimelech chose Moab, a land of idolatry, it is much easier to turn to the world and things of the world in a time of famine, don’t turn to an idol, turn to God.

God will sometimes strip us of everything, allow the famine to test us.  What will we do when we have nothing left?  Will we turn to Him, depend on Him or look to the world or our own resources to “get us through”?  Trials are an opportunity and we have the choice to become ‘mara’/bitter or better.  Unlike Ruth and Naomi, who had no idea if or how things would work out, we know the outcome of their story.  The famine they experienced was not a coincidence and if you are in a time of famine, of being stripped to nothing, this is not a coincidence for you either.

Moving to Florida was, for me, a small famine.  I was stripped (by choice) of familiar people, places and things.  It forced me to look to God for comfort, strength and peace.  God was getting ready to do something amazing for them and through them. God has given my many new friends, a job and now I can find my way around pretty well in my new neighborhood.  God had a plan and a purpose in their famine and bitterness and He has a plan and purpose for me and you in our “test of having nothing”.  Naomi and Ruth did not see it – we rarely do – but God calls us to keep moving, take the next step and to rely on Him – it’s called Trust!

What Do You See When You Look at the Cross?

Take a moment to listen to this beautiful hymn…

My Story, My Song

It’s a thing of beauty, the cross. It symbolizes our freedom from ourselves. It was a necessary tool used by a skilled Carpenter to build a bridge from us to God.

We see crosses everywhere, especially during Easter. They are decorated, they are displayed, they are worn on our clothes and around our necks.

What do you see when you look at the cross? This thing of beauty is also a terrible thing. Our Savior died a cruel death upon it. The cross wore all of our sin.

There was a moment when God in His holiness could not even look at the cross. “Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” Matthew 27:6 

God looked at…

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300 Days – Part 3

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:5 – 7

300 days ago I began attending the women’s discipleship group at my church.

We meet together once a week for worship, prayer and sharing.  All of us are reading the Bible daily and relationally.   We share some portion of what each of us has read and learned from the Bible in the past week.  We don’t discuss it, we simply share.  We each take a turn presenting what we learned about God and our “take away” from His Word.

We work on keeping God’s Word on our hearts; an important part of our meeting is memorizing a Bible verse each week and we hold each other accountable by reciting our verses to each other.  After all the women have had a turn to share their verse and insights from the Bible, we look for a “Golden Thread”.  The Golden Thread is a common theme in our reading and shares.  It is astonishing how often it’s there.  We all have the same plan – to read through the Bible and a common goal, to know the God of the Bible.  Each one of us is reading daily from a different spot in the Bible, we all have different lives, some of us have been reading the Bible for years, some of us are “newbies” yet God is knitting our hearts together as we seek Him through His Word – only God!

Here are some practical tips to help you get started on your own 300 Day Journey:

  1. The Bible – if you don’t have one, get one.  I prefer an actual book but you can find the Bible for free online.  Bible Gateway is one I recommend.  Many people struggle with reading the Bible and there are many sections that are difficult to understand.  Use a translation or version of the Bible that is readable, the NLT (New Living Translation) is a good one.
  2. Notebook – keep track of what you have read and learned each day.  Taking notes helps you see repeated words or lessons and what God is showing you.  A simple, dollar store, notebook is good enough or use your laptop or PC – whatever is easiest for you but make notes every time you read!  Don’t worry about how it looks or sounds, this is personal between you and God.  I sometimes do little drawings in mine!
  3. Pray – Before you even open the book, ask God to help you understand.  Don’t look for loopholes or contradictions, look for what you can understand and make a note of it.  If you are a first time reader, I suggest you try some of the Psalms; Psalms (the “P” is silent) are all songs/poems.  The book of Psalms is in the middle of your Bible, in the Old Testament.  The author of the Psalms writes about every human emotion in a very honest way, joy, anger, betrayal, fear, confidence, sorrow – it’s all there.  Pray while reading, remember you are talking to God as you read along and pray after reading, asking God to help you apply what He has shown you.
  4. Memorize – pick one sentence or verse from the Bible that has a special meaning to you and memorize it.  Yes, I know it is difficult and there are tons of excuses why you cannot do it but try anyway.  Read and recite the verse over and over every day, several times a day.  I memorize by writing the verses on a 3×5 card and working on them at every red light I encounter while driving.  I’m old, I can do it, so can you!
  5. Share – what you have read and learned with another person.  You might be surprised to find others are interested in reading and sharing with you and you will start your own discipleship group!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1 – 5

I have passed the 300 day mark and it has been life-changing.  Someday I will meet the Word, the Living Word, Jesus, face to face.  Until that day, I pray I would be found faithful, I pray that for you too…

300 Days – Part 2

Conversation – the informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.

My best friend and I have regular conversations.  She talks, I listen, then I talk and she listens, pretty typical right?  But have you ever had a “one-sided” conversation?  A “one-sided” conversation occurs when the other person does all the talking and you do all the listening, or maybe you are one doing all the talking and if you are, snap out of it!

A “one-sided” conversation is really a monologue.  How do you feel when you walk away from the monologist?  I can tell you I feel frustrated and very reluctant to repeat that experience.  Maybe you did try to make some comments but the talker apparently does not need to breathe regularly because he/she just kept on talking and talking…

Reading the Bible relationally is talking and listening to God as He speaks through His written words, it is a conversation with the King – it is that simple.

Since the Bible is God speaking to His people it is to be taken very personally.  I picture Jesus sitting in my living room, waiting to talk with me, He is the living Word.  He has much to tell me and He wants to hear what I think, what I want and need, and my concerns.  Jesus wants to have a conversation with me – wow!

How I Read Relationally

Each day, I sit with Jesus and my Bible, my notebook and my coffee.  I begin reading from the point where I ended the day before.  I read until God nudges me to stop.  I might read a single word, one or two sentences (verses) or an entire chapter, it varies.  Sometimes, I talk to God about what I just read, sometimes I listen; God and I converse with and about these verses.  I may read and pause over and over again, each time with God and His Word is different.

When I don’t understand the verses I ask Him to teach me, to help me.  Parts of the Bible are difficult, I don’t let that stop me, I just keep reading, God will help me understand what I need, I may make a note to do some research later on the difficult sections.  Some verses are warnings, “Don’t do this!”  Some verses are rebukes, “Look what you did!”  A rebuke makes me pause to confess, asking God to forgive me.  Always, always, I learn something about God, something I can thank Him and praise Him for, about His character.

As God and I talk together, I am taking notes.  I want to remember what I learn and also because, for me, taking notes helps me see connections, helps me clarify my thoughts.  I do recommend making some notes.  I always write down two specific things:

  1. What I learn about God, and
  2. How will I apply this to my life – this is my “take away” or personal application.

Often, what I write ends up in this blog or is used to encourage or teach someone else, God’s Word is never wasted.

God and I are simply talking and if you overheard our conversation you would say, “Oh, you’re praying!”  You got it.  I read and then I pray about what I just read, using many of the same words and then wait till God answers or tells me to read some more.

Here is a very quick example from Psalm 27, verse 1.  God’s Word is in italics.

  • The Lord is my light and salvation – Oh God, I am so grateful for your light that leads me and for the gift of salvation – thank you!
  • Whom shall I fear? – I am sorry I don’t always trust you, I worry about things.  Help me not to let fear stop me.
  • The Lord is the defense of my life – You, God are my true defender.  I am safe only always with you.
  • Whom shall I dread? – I don’t have to worry what people think or say about me because you love me!
  • What I learned about God.  God is light, He protects and defends me from everything and everyone!
  • What is my take away?  God does not want me to worry or be afraid and when I am I can call on Him for strength and courage.  He will be my light when I am in the dark places!  He will show up! (Your take away may be different, remember it is personal application!)

I have been reading the Bible for years yet I have barely uncovered its rich treasure.  Reading relationally is drawing me closer to God than I have ever been, it is the most peaceful and productive part of my day.  My plan is to read the entire Bible relationally and then start over, I am nearly halfway there.

How did my best friend become my best friend?  How did I get to know her?  We had many long conversations.  My goal is to know the God of the Bible and that happens as we have many long conversations.

Try reading the Bible relationally – if you have never done it, it takes a bit of practice.  Pick a favorite part of the Bible and have a conversation with God about it.  Please let me know what God shows you!

What to know more? – Part 3 coming soon!