What would it be like if Jesus led your personal Bible reading/study time?
In a word—awesome!
When it happened to a couple of bummed out disciples walking along a dusty road to Emmaus, they said “. . .our hearts burned within us while he talked to us on the road, while He opened the to us the Scriptures.”
That’s the experience we all want.
We want a burning heart that’s fully alive, fully engaged because of an encounter with Jesus.
Instead we feel a little disappointed or ashamed that sometimes the Scriptures seem closed to us when we read them ourselves.
It happens to us all.
For some people it’s just too discouraging. It’s enough to make them give up on the whole process entirely.
God says we are to search for Him, to seek Him out.
The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
But the Bible is a long book, a big book with lots of characters with confusing names. It’s full of old stories that take place in ancient cities and countries. A lot of it seems so far removed from our lives, our experiences. We get lost in the tall grass 😉
Secretly we ask, “Is any of this even relevant to my life?”
“How can I wade through all of it to find the parts that apply to me, to my life, my family, my journey?”
What does God want from me? For me? Through me?
What is He trying to tell me?
Jesus said, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Luke 4:4
Everything God says is pure; He’s a shield for those who take refuge in Him. Proverbs 30:5
It’s all good!!!
All of it.
But I don’t think it was random that Jesus focused on the truth about Himself when He met those two guys on that road to Emmaus.
And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
Jesus is without doubt the center of God’s message to us.
In Jesus we see the fulness of God. We see the incarnation of God’s love, His mercy, and His grace in Jesus the man.
Every story that is told reveals something about God’s own nature, His working in the world, His heart toward us, His plans, and His eternal purposes, and our part in those plans and purposes.
What’s the meaning of the burning heart response?
It says Jesus began with Moses, those first five books of our Bible, and expounded, or unfolded the meaning by explanation and interpretation.
Then He moved on to the prophets and did the same.
Jesus opened their eyes to see Him in the Scriptures.
That’s what caused their hearts to burn.
Our hearts are looking for Jesus!
I found an old post-it-note with this phrase on it: There’s a message in every miracle.
I’ve been thinking about that as I read the gospels.
I’m not sure what messages I was looking for, but I thought they might be about the others in the stories, like the little boy who offered his 5 loaves and two fish to Jesus, or a lesson in faith for Martha and Mary grieving their dead brother Lazarus.
But, it was right there all along: the message is about Jesus.
It’s always about Him.
What He can do if we just offer Him what we have.
How the trials in our lives bring Him glory.
Our tendency is to start with ourselves.
We read our Bibles for ourselves.
We want to figure out how to end our trials, conquer our weaknesses, relieve our stresses.
We want happy marriages, successful children, and fruitful spiritual lives.
Nothing wrong with those things.
God wants those too, but Jesus began by expounding, unfolding truth about Himself, to His followers.
If we start with Jesus the rest will follow.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:18
Our hearts burn when we see Jesus.
Start looking for Him when you read your Bible.
Can I share with you my prayer, the one I pray before I read from my Bible?
Holy Spirit show me Jesus, lead me into the truth—His truth, as I read today. Kindle a fire in my heart with the knowledge of Jesus and with a clear vision of Him. Then change me, transform me into that same image for His glory.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Do you ever wonder what Jesus is doing?
I admit sometimes I wonder, just what is taking Him so long??? I know He’s coming back for us. But when?
My trials make me impatient for it.
The ickiness and evil in the world make my soul cry out, ‘Come quickly Lord Jesus!’
I’ve found two passages in the Bible that give us clues about how He is occupied while we’re waiting for Him.
The first is this promise in John’s gospel.
“I go to prepare a place for you.”
He knows just what we’re gonna need for our forever stay.
He’s on it. He’s thought of everything. And it will all be perfect.
That lifts me when I feel ‘not at home’ in this world. I remember that this isn’t my real home, it’s like being on a long trip and longing to get home.
Home, where you belong, where your family is, and where you feel their love and acceptance.
Yep, even the things we don’t know we’ll need.
Like the knowledge of God that will heal our ‘soul holes’ as Ann Voskamp call them, even that will be ours.
To know God fully. There’s deep wonder in that promise.
The Grand Tetons are majestic, but God is Majesty, divine Majesty. He is brilliant in glory, immeasurable in love, overflowing in mercy, unmatched in power, and without equal in wisdom.
Don’t you want to know Him?
I can’t wait!
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12
The second thing Jesus is doing is praying for us. Constantly. Faithfully. Wisely. Effectively.
Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.
Hebrews 7:25 NLT
He intercedes with God on my behalf and on your behalf.
We forget to pray for ourselves and others, but Jesus lives for it!
We’re at the forefront of His thoughts. Don’t let the enemy tell you that Jesus has forgotten you—it’s not true. He numbers the hairs of your head. No detail is too small, no care too mundane, and no need too great for Him.
Jesus is waiting for that coming moment, that appointed time when He’ll return for His us and we’ll never be separated from His presence again.
We’ll see and enter into everything He’s prepared for us.
We’ll know all the prayers He prayed for us.
We’ll be all He has planned for us to be.
We’ll know as we are known.
The old song says, I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop, in that bright land where we’ll never grow old.
I don’t know what kind of dwelling Jesus is preparing, but I know it’ll be perfect.
While in France we toured some of the great French Chateaux. This one is Chateau de Villandry. Beautiful, but a maintenance nightmare 😉
I said I’d blog about France, but instead I ate croissant, lots of French pastry and traipsed all over soaking up art, architecture, and the bucolic French countryside.
It’s all as beautiful as you’ve heard, but I’m sorry to report that there is still too much smoking in France.
Have you heard about the movement called Slow Living?
Life in an African village is a model of Slow Living.
There are 12 hours of daylight all year round and the strength of the midday sun can sap of the vitality of even an Olympic athlete. Nobody wears a watch and there are no clocks on the walls of their mud huts. The changing seasons are invisible, but follow a regular pattern of anticipated rainfall. Farmers know when to plant in hopes of rain that will make their crops grow.
They prepare the soil, they plant their crops, then they wait.
In the western world we rush.
We pushback against the onward march of the clock and try to pack as much into every minute, every day as is humanly possible.
That can’t be good over the long haul of a lifetime.
We’re getting ready to head back to the States and all the hustle and bustle of modern life ~ a lifestyle designed around productivity and as the poet* said “getting and spending”.
Not a lifestyle designed to cultivate a rich life in God.
I hadn’t heard of this concept of Slow Living, but I like it!!!
Want to slow down a little?
Want to begin to savor the good things, the simple things in your life?
I hope you’ll find something enlightening in this offering from houzz.com
I’m calling this Slowdown Sunday 😉 Even God took a day off!
This is the poem I mentioned earlier in this post. Parts of this poem deeply resonate with me.
Don’t look for doctrinal perfection in it, it’s just poetry.
The World Is Too Much With Us
I hate it when life goes from Technicolor to black and white and icky feelings creep into my heart.
They’ve usually hitched a ride on unkind thoughts spawned of misunderstandings, less than stellar behavior, or the more common varieties of thoughtlessness. It doesn’t matter if I’m the victim or the perpetrator. Either way the track plays over and over. Side A is called Justification and on the flip side is a song called Blame.
None of it pleases God. None of it blesses others.
It’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of love.
As children of God we have at our disposal an unlimited reservoir of love.
. . .because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
A love so powerful, so complete, it allows us to love everyone. Even those who offend us, especially those who offend us.
Forgiveness is the stiff wind that blows away the gloom of icky feelings.
Forgiveness is letting go of the hurt and allowing the love of God to flow from my heart toward that person once again. It’s relinquishing my right to ‘feel’ offended and surrendering the moral high ground of ‘aren’t they so awful’, look how they treated me.
What if I’m the one that did the hurting?
What if my words, my judgment, my selfishness were the cause of another’s pain?
The cloud of icky is gonna hang on like San Francisco fog in June until I fess up, humble myself, and personally accept responsibility.
And—it brings my spiritual life to a grinding halt. FULL STOP.
God isn’t gonna overlook it because I’m not comfortable with conflict resolution. The discomfort of the whole thing will etch itself deeply in memory and serve as a deterrent in the future. He insists on reconciliation.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
We can’t control what others think or say.
That’s between them and God, but we can exert significant influence over our own thoughts. What we think will lead to what we say.
Jesus said it this way:
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
“The tongue is the tail of the heart. The heart is known by how the tongue wags.”
We’ve been ministering in Africa for weeks now and I’ve heard teachings from the book of Philippians over and over again.
Here’s God’s counsel on setting up a filter for our thoughts:
~ worthy of praise
think about these things.
Remember the Petri dishes in Biology class? Our hearts are like Petri dishes, they’ll grow and multiply the thoughts we introduce.
James tells us the tongue can be a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
If our thoughts pass through the 8 filters listed in Philippians we won’t create icky feelings in others. And the hurts we experience simply can’t grow in the pure environment of these filters. The good in our hearts shrivels up the icky feelings and we know the God of peace is with us.
photo credit: Richard Loader unsplash.com
We forgot to take a padlock to Paris!
TripAdvisor never said a word about it. Ditto Rick Steves. Same for Fodor’s France.
I don’t know when this became a thing, but the bridges in Paris are slowly being overtaken by padlocks.
The newest symbol of a couple’s enduring love.
Seeing all that gleaming colorful hardware reflecting the sunshine of a bright Paris afternoon, I had to wonder how many of those couples are still— well, you know, still a couple.
Or is the padlock a symbol of a love that no longer exists?
Christians hold the Cross of Christ as the greatest symbol of God’s love for mankind.
For on it Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
But among the sites and relics of the Holy Land you won’t see the one that most definitively and beautifully symbolizes God’s love for us.
The Cross no longer stands on the hill called Golgotha, but the love demonstrated there is as deep as ever it was.
Maybe you’ve been distracted by life’s busyness and haven’t been thinking of God.
He’s been thinking of you.
In Psalm 139 David captures the depth and intensity of the love God has for you.
Let it refresh your heart with a new awareness of His constant abiding love.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. . .
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
Psalm 139:1-6 & 17-18
There’s no one, no one, who knows you as God knows you.
Every hurt and regret, every habit and character trait. Your thoughts and motivations, your hopes and disappointments—He knows them all.
David says this truth is just too lofty, too marvelous to comprehend.
He can’t really wrap his mind around the way God knows and loves him.
He’s written on this theme before.
In Psalm 40:5 he put it like this:
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.
More than can be told.
How do you respond to that kind of love?
Respond by returning it in kind.
Take some time today to think about God. List a few of the things you know about Him. How would you describe His ways, the things He does and how He does them. Proclaim it! Tell somebody about it!
What do you think is God’s greatest desire? What fills Him with joy and delight?
The more you discover Him, the more you’ll love Him.
. . .the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
those who put their hope in his unfailing love.
The thing that distinguishes an artist is the ability to appreciate the potential for beauty in things usually overlooked or discarded. This quirky piece of art sits along Interstate 5 south of Stockton. On a cloudy January day it was strangely beautiful standing in relief against the wintery yellow field and a foggy shroud of mist.
God is an artist.
He takes what others discard and overlook and He makes from it art, something beautiful.
If we let Him.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
1 Corinthians 1:26 (ESV)
He won’t force us to be beautiful, but He’ll make it possible.
You’ve heard that He’s the potter and we’re the clay.
Have you watched a potter work with clay? There’s a lot of water to ease the process and hands that are gentle yet skilled. The potter sees in His mind what He intends and those hands gradually bring it into being.
We live in a culture of the self-made person.
I don’t want to be a self-made woman.
Having tried it I freely confess I lacked the vision and the skill to get the job done.
I want a Designer label on my life.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)
God does work in strange ways.
At least in my life.
Strange, but disguised as natural. In this case He has held in reserve for the perfect time a needed word and then delivered it at the time when it would have maximum impact for heart comfort, mind clarity, and soul peace.
I missed the entry for June 11th in an ancient tattered devotional I’m reading through—yet another time.
It’s called Daily Strength For Daily Needs.
I didn’t need this word on the 11th.
I didn’t need it until the 13th and so my heavenly Father let my interest drift to another book for two days and my bookmark stayed tucked in-between the 10th and the 11th.
And on a morning that found me feeling weak and discouraged and in need of light from above to pierce the darkness, my God delivered.
He came through.
He always does.
Absolutely nothing has changed.
Nothing but me.
The entry for the 11th has three parts and a line from the middle one, the one written in ye old language, jumped off the page and slathered me with proverbial ‘the Balm of Gilead’. ( Jer. 8:22)
Let me paraphrase it for you.
Yes, though you can’t believe, don’t give in to discouragement or panic; instead “sink into, or at least pant after the hidden measure of life”—and you know where to find it. It’s in God who calls you to patience—the daily expression and evidence of your faith in Him, to be still and know that He is God, to cling to Him in hope, to wait on Him to renew your strength, and to sit at your Father’s feet in silence.
Light arises in the darkness for the upright;
He is gracious and compassionate and righteous.
In His grace and compassion He let the light shine into my life, my mind, my heart this morning.
We don’t have Testimonial Meetings any more in Church.
We don’t have the time, or maybe the interest, and we gotta get it all done in an hour, or an hour and a half tops.
If we did have Testimonials I’d share this story.
A real life example of how the true and living God, the world making, outside of time God, planned and carried out the delivery of light just as the darkness closed in on one of His children.
I’d want to say Thank You out loud.
I’d want to declare it in the congregation of the righteous, I’d want to tell the mighty, yet everyday works of the LORD on behalf of His children.
What’s your need today?
Where has the darkness crept in and blocked the light?
~ Here’s the entry from Daily Strength For Daily Needs ~
In the day when I cried Thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.–PS. 138:3.
It is not that I feel less weak, but Thou
Wilt be my strength; it is not that I see
Less sin; but more of pardoning love with Thee,
And all-sufficient grace. Enough! And now
All fluttering thought is stilled; I only rest,
And feel that Thou art near, and know that I am blest.
F. R. HAVERGAL.
Yea, though thou canst not believe, yet be not dismayed thereat; only do thou sink into, or at least pant after the hidden measure of life, which is not in that which distresseth, disturbeth, and filleth thee with thoughts, fears, troubles, anguish, darknesses, terrors, and the like; no, no! but in that which inclines to the patience, to the stillness, to the hope, to the waiting, to the silence before the Father.
We have only to be patient, to pray, and to do His will, according to our present light and strength, and the growth of the soul will go on. The plant grows in the mist and under clouds as truly as under sunshine. So does the heavenly principle within.
You can read from Daily Strength For Daily Needs through Christianity.com
Photo Sebastian Boguszewicz
It seems to you like this will never change.
From your perspective this is gonna go on until . . . well, forever.
Nothing has happened even though you’ve prayed. The days turn into years and he’s just not interested in spiritual things.
It’s enough to make a grown woman cry.
And you have.
There’s an aching aloneness every Sunday when you awake.
The most loving group of believer’s still can’t compensate for his absence, his unparticipation in the thing that means everything to you.
Even in a good marriage, a happy marriage, the ache is bone deep.
The longing to share God with the man you share everything with.
This morning I read about Joseph in prison in Egypt.
Tucked in the fold of his jail time storyline is the strange tale of two of Pharoah’s servants who are also there.
Pharaoh’s cupbearer and his baker are both doing time for some offense. Each having had a troubling dream, they recount them to Joseph and he gives each man the interpretation of his dream.
Have I lost you yet?
Didn’t I say this was gonna be an encouragement to wives with unbelieving husbands?
When Joseph tells the cupbearer that he will be restored to his position he also asks the man to remember him and speak to Pharaoh to get him out of prison. He wants this trial to end. Who wouldn’t?
But the man doesn’t carry through.
After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile. . .
*First word of encouragement—don’t think God doesn’t know how time feels to you in your trials.
AFTER TWO WHOLE YEARS
God knows how long you have been waiting for the desire of your heart.
He is waiting too.
God loves your man more than you do. He’s been pursuing him since long before you were in his life.
That truth is important in helping you keep a single motivation for his salvation.
God’s will is that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Getting our personal investment in a husband’s salvation out of the mix is tough, but necessary.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you purify your motives.
*Second word of encouragement—God is at work in your man’s life.
Even if you don’t see it. Even if he doesn’t seem to know it or respond to it.
God is at work for His own purposes.
Ask Him to send others into your husband’s life with a Jesus message and a compelling example of Christianity.
Stop preaching to him yourself. Only talk about spiritual things if he asks.
Otherwise just live your faith and let him experience the beauty of what God has done in his wife 😉
*Third word of encouragement—you’re growing stronger as you wait on the Lord.
God is at work in you stretching your spiritual muscle and strengthening your faith. This is the ministry He’s committed to you, to live before this guy and to pray for him consistently. Here’s a little commentary from Psalms about Joseph’s time in prison.
His feet they hurt with fetters; he was laid in chains of iron and his soul entered into the iron,
Psalm 105:18 AMP
Let your soul enter into the iron.
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
1 Peter 5:10
after you have suffered awhile. . .
This is a clock known only to God.
Joseph didn’t know what God was doing in Pharaoh, or why he had to stay in prison so long. We don’t know God’s timetable, but we know Him.
Trust Him to bring your man to Jesus.
Trust Him to see you through the waiting.
It seems like it should be easier after 43 years.
I must not be doing Christian right.
Shouldn’t I continually feel God’s presence and absolutely know His ‘perfect’ will by now? Why don’t I pray without ceasing? Why don’t I live a more selfless life? These are the questions I can waste a lot of time asking, but I know who’s really asking those questions.
My Adversary. The Accuser.
God, my Father, never asks those things.
He knows my frame, that I’m of the dust and cobbled together by His power, that’s enough for now.
This dust sculpture doesn’t have to last forever.
God knows what I will be. He’s in a completely different time zone and when I arrive there none of this dust will cling to me. This corruption must put on incorruption. Mortality swallowed up in immortality.
Learning to walk with Him is a long course.
Receiving from Him takes practice. I keep trying to do it all myself as though I could. How to receive transformation? How do I let the power flow in and up to overflowing?
First I’m asking for it.
I think I’ve quit depending. Quit expecting. Maybe even quit believing it could be so simple.
From now on I’m asking for abiding.
I’m asking for companionship. I’m asking to hear and receive.
I’m quieting the shoulds and tearing up the To Do list.
Walking with God isn’t about productivity; it’s about knowing Him deeply and enjoying Him fully.
There is some barren terrain between all that I know and the way I that I live.
A recalibrating is long overdue.
He’s been patiently waiting for me to tire of self-reliance and turn again to Him.
The Christian life is described as a race that’s set before us.
The old exhortation is to lay aside the weight and sin that so easily entangles us and run with endurance the race that is set before us—looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
Looking to Him.
I’m asking for companionship and then looking to Him.
There’s a beautiful thrilling mixture of peace and excitement when I think about what God has planned.
I know He has divine plans for me, for all of us whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. BIG PLANS.
To the world none of it is BIG.
They’re all wearing spiritual Kevlar that protects them from absorbing or being penetrated by eternal thoughts.
They never escape the earth’s atmosphere but spend all of this precious life focused on getting and spending. They seek to make a name for themselves and the yardstick in each one’s hand is his fellow man.
Believers do it too.
Can we finally break the habit of self-measuring and trust Him for the growth and the end result?
He wants to welcome each of us with a “Well done good and faithful servant”, but distraction and the desire for “other things” chokes out the life sustaining word.
We hear, but not really.
It doesn’t sink down into our ears.
Life is a limited commodity.
I want to use it wisely.
I can’t accept a mediocre existence.
I believe in eternity and I care about people.
I want the talents He entrusted to make a good gain. I want to see a few people in heaven because I was faithful in my walk with God.
That’s what I really truly desire, a small part in the salvation and the edification of the people I have the privilege of meeting in this life.
I want to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, to love the unloved and teach the sincere seeker. I want women to love their husbands and children and men to be kind and caring. I want children to grow up knowing God because their mothers knew Him. I want husbands to want to know the God who changed their wife—filling her heart with love and her days with kindness and caring. I want pastors and their wives to be uplifted finding joy and peace in their calling.
I want to feel His presence as I minister and study and pray and cook and clean and walk through a village, to live as an example of a believer in love and faith, to trust God as Sarah learned to trust and then received strength to conceive.
It’s not to late for me to bear miracle fruit in my old age.
I refuse to look back wistfully and think what might have been.
My eyes are facing forward and I have fixed them on Christ.
That plan He has will get revealed day by day and His strength is gonna flow through a pipeline called faith until it bubbles up and spills out of my life 😉
Church Interior photo by Jeff Sheldon
Here’s a Humpty Dumpty lesson from KSBETH.
Have you had a lesson like this of your own?
Loved the quote from Oscar Wilde!
when i was little
went with his family
the painted desert
the exotic land of
i was so excited for him
and a little bit jealous
i ran to his car
when i saw them
pulled in the driveway
he jumped out
‘i have the best souvenir in the world!!!’
beyond my expectations
a miniature version
of this stunning desert
all under glass
in one place
anything like it
there must have been
grains of sand
of all colors
and i was in awe
of its beauty
it felt like
i had gone there too
we had an idea
it was brilliant
‘let’s shake it up all together and see how pretty it is
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