Saturday, October 13, 2018

Blessed are those who hunger... Part 1

--Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6

It seemed too good to be true.  Me, acceptable to God, just as I am? He knew my heart's desperate desire for acceptance. I couldn't earn His extravagant love or unconditional acceptance by good grades or perfect obedience. I'd certainly tried.

Like many teenage girls, I was high strung and under a lot of pressure to perform.  I knew I'd have to go directly from high school to the work force, and back then secretarial positions required shorthand, which added two hours of homework to an already full load. My fear of failure had my anxiety at a constant spike and my emotions hindered my ability to focus. You may laugh, now, but back in the early 1970's, I had to drop a business class in order to take Home Economics so I could graduate. Then,  I picked it up second semester. My mother and I were having problems and I about hit bottom.

I craved the presence of God because of the love and I acceptance I felt.  Receiving it from the magnificent God who created the universe with a single word created a deep hunger and thirst for Him.

Though I was raised in a Christian home, we didn't always attend church, but one gift my parents gave me was the absolute certainty that the Bible is God's absolute truth. He was and is always the answer. I didn't understand how to apply the scriptures, I just knew that He was. And so I studied.  Looking back at those years when I was a teenager and a very young adult, I marvel at how little I really knew. One thing I did have was faith. 

The promise, above, is that we'll be filled.  Filled with what? His righteousness.  Not our own, which is as filthy rags. (Isa 64:6) His, Christ's righteousness. The same righteousness that was accounted to Abraham in Genesis 15:6. He believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

In The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, John Stott said it best:

There is perhaps no greater secret of progress in Christian living than a healthy, hearty spiritual appetite. Scripture addresses its promises to the hungry. God 'satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things'. (Psalms 107:9)

Yet in this life our hunger will never be fully satisfied, nor our thirst fully quenched. True, we receive the satisfaction which the beatitude promises. But our hunger is satisfied only to break out again. Even the promise of Jesus that whoever drinks of the water he gives 'will never thirst' is fulfilled only if we keep drinking.  (John 4:13-14; 7:37)

More than once as a young woman, after my little girl was asleep, I left dishes in the sink while I spent time with Him. As a lover of music, hymns and worship choruses, it was no hardship to sing praises and dance. Night after night in some of the most difficult days of my life, I spent time in the Word and often filled page after page with my deepest yearnings.

During that time that I moved beyond head knowledge into a deeper relationship with God. It was only by satisfying that hunger and thirst for Him by devouring His Word, spending time with Him in prayer and yielding to the Holy Spirit that my life begin to change. This is where the healing of my mind, my will and my emotions began. It was and is a continuing process.

But being filled with His righteousness isn't the only blessing. It's only the beginning, and I'll explore more of this subject in a later post.

    For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.  Psalm 107:9  

Friday, October 12, 2018

God's Ancient Feasts, Part 1, Passover

Did you know that God's ancient feasts are about Jesus the Messiah? No, I don't mean Christmas and Easter. I mean the original feasts that God  instituted in Exodus. They're clustered in the Spring and then in the Fall. They are the feasts of: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, and Tabernacles. Also, the most holy day of the year: the Day of Atonement which falls between the feasts of Trumpets and Tabernacles. Each week I'll talk about a different one.  First, Passover.

 Foods prepared for Passover Seder
(clockwise from top) unleavened bread,
 parsley, horseradish, charoset
If you're familiar with the story of Moses, you know that Passover was instituted by God just prior to the final plague.  Through nine previous plagues, the Egyptian Pharaoh agreed to release the descendants of Jacob from slavery and then changed his mind. In preparation, God instructed the Israelites to kill a perfect male lamb of the flocks--sheep or goat-- in the first year of life and place some of its blood on the doorposts and lintel. They were to eat the lamb that evening, roasted in fire, with unleavened bread, in haste.

Exodus 11:4-5 explains: For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.  About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. (Ex. 11:4-5)
And that's how it happened. The firstborn in the homes of those who obeyed and applied the blood of the Passover lamb to their doorposts and lintels of their dwellings were spared.

Do you remember when Jesus was crucified? It was at Passover. It is His blood that cleanses us from sin and makes us acceptable to God. His was the perfect, eternal sacrifice. Jesus, the firstborn son of God, shed His blood so that our sins can be passed over. In fact, His blood doesn't simply cover our sins, it cleanses us from our sins. Some say that the meal that Jesus ate with his disciples--the last supper--was the preparation meal before the Passover meal. I've heard others say that the moment that Jesus died was the time appointed that the Passover lamb was killed in preparation for the feast that evening. It's no wonder that  Jesus is referred to as the Passover lamb.

Unfortunately, so much of the richness of our Christian heritage has been lost because we've failed to understand its Jewish roots. So the next time you see a familiar holiday on your calendar you might do a little digging. That holiday may have meaning to Christianity as well.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Soft Answer

There's a reason why God says, "A soft answer turns away wrath." (Prov. 15:1)

Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! (James 3:5)

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes on Facebook would agree that anger is rampant. For two years I hardly ever logged in, not even to see what's going on with family members. What passes for communication now days has gone far beyond letting our voices be heard or speaking against what we consider wrong.

Years ago I stopped watching the news, choosing to pick and choose what I want to see from different news sources on the internet. News based talk shows are unwatchable. There's little civil dialogue that will enable any kind of open-minded communication. So many have degenerated to the level of an unhealthy rage, frustrated people screaming insults at anyone they believe disagrees. Someone's pushed their hot-button. The problem is that no one is listening except those who agree with the speaker. Everyone who doesn't and might be receptive has been alienated by the condescension and contempt that drip from every syllable.

It's a downward cycle. A person feels disrespected and flings an insult at a group of people who presumably hold a position that offends them. One of that group responds with an equal insult about that person's intelligence. And thus it continues. Soon, more and more people are offended. Innocent bystanders are hit with outrageous rhetoric. Emotions heighten and open minds close. Now, everyone is offended.

There's a place for the full and open expression of opinions. My social studies, government, English, speech and debate classes--back in the dinosaur ages--were full of opinions, even unpopular ones. We were assigned or chose positions. We learned how to see both sides of an issue, how to recognize and understand how people come to their conclusions, and yes, how to counter.  Back then, not so much now days, basic courtesy was essential. During a discussion of a miners' strike, accusations of, "You don't care if your workers die and their families starve!" weren't allowed.

Civility and respect are missing in action. We rage at one another in slanderous words that dare to judge the thoughts, motivations and contents of the heart of anyone who disagrees and then consigns them to a fiery hereafter that the speaker sometimes doesn't even believe in.

Is that really how to win friends or influence people? It certainly won't get our views a fair hearing. So when we're about to post a rant  we need to ask ourselves, (1) what is the desired or expected response and (2) will the post give it to me?

Beyond the practicalities of getting the response we want, words have power. Words can comfort or crush the spirit, even when spoken to ourselves. They can poison the mind and the emotions, both in the ones who speak and in the ones who hear.

There's a place for passionate words and plain spoken truth. In Ephesians 4:15, the apostle Paul instructs us to, "speak the truth in love." It's impossible to make no moral judgments. All of our laws are based on someone's idea of what is right and wrong. The scriptures are full of judgments. Paul rebukes the Corinthians for not removing a believer who was involved in continual, flagrant sin. Where we're going seriously wrong is in our attitudes. The wrong kind of judgment is finger-pointing condemnation not of an behavior, opinion or policy, but of a person.

How we treat people matters.

Matthew 5:44  love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?

Monday, June 04, 2018

The Greatest Love of All

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay one’s life down for his friends.  - John 15:13
Not long ago a friend of mine said that he works so that he will be worthy to be saved by God’s grace. Immediately, something rose in my spirit, and I said to him that no one is worthy to be saved, to which he immediately agreed. None of us are worthy. That’s the entire point of the cross and the shedding of His blood for our sin. We don’t deserve it. It isn’t that many of us haven’t done good things and even tried to follow the golden rule. But those good works cannot make us acceptable to God because His standard is absolute perfect purity.
But why when He loves us so much? The answer lies in the nature of God.  No sinful person could stand in the presence of the power and holiness of God without being consumed. The manifestation of that power and holiness would destroy us. God is that holy. We’re fragile.

It’s not that He’s expecting us to meet a standard beyond our capability.  God wasn’t surprised that Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. In Revelation 13:8, Jesus is referred to as the Lamb (who) was slain from the foundation of the world. He knew before He said, “Let there be light,” exactly what would be required of Him.
Stop and consider the enormity of sacrifice. He, equal with God in His majesty and authority, lowered himself and became like one of His own creation.  He came to people He created in order to complete a new covenant with mankind, knowing that some would reject Him. He didn’t just die for our sin, but He became sin, the total and complete antithesis of His nature. All for those He loved.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! Luke 13:34 (NKJV)


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Memories in the Strangest Places

Now days with a good camera in every cell phone, snapping a photo to capture a memory that will become precious and knowing the light is just right is common. But when my children were growing up there were twelve, twenty-four or thirty-six shots to a roll of film and each roll had to be sent away to be developed. It's no wonder that a lot of years the photographs were of Christmas around the tree, a birthday, graduation, Now, we can be more spontaneous.

I realized yesterday that I do have something tangible that triggers memories.Through so many moves, I've culled my collection of sewing patterns to a fraction of what it was when I was sewing for the entire family. This little girl's dress was my daughter's flower girl dress when I re-married. She was certain that our wedding--hers, mine and Greg's--would be the first day of our happily ever-after. I still have the blue dress.

The next pattern was one I made a few times for her, but the most vivid  memory was of a bold blue floral fabric on a black background and eyelet lace petticoat, also with a ruffle. The idea was to leave the bottom buttons of the skirt unbuttoned showing the petticoat ruffle. She was in high school at the time and what I didn't realize was that such a frock--much as she loved it--drew jeers and criticism from her peers. Not knowing this at first, I was deeply hurt that she'd loved the fabric and pattern and asked me to make it for her, but rarely wore it. Communication wasn't always our strong point back then. When she realized this, she wore it to church and around the house in the evenings. But until that bit of communication, I suffered unnecessary pain.

It's natural to want to remember the good times and to want to leave reminders for ourselves to remember lessons learned years later. That's why I underline passages in my Bible. It's good to look back and remember. When the Lord brought the Israelites across the Red Sea, God told them to have each of the leaders of each of the twelve tribes to bring a large stone and pile them up so that when their sons asked the meaning, they'd remember the story of their deliverance. That's what this final pattern, here, is for me. I made for myself back in 1982, to wear during a Women's Aglow ladies conference. It was a joyous time. After years of struggle, I'd come to a place where I was happy with myself and my life. The Lord had healed many of my emotional scars and I was excited to move forward. Now I look back and marvel that I survived, as many if not most, of my problems were self-inflicted through either ignorance or self-delusion.

I have few photographs of that time, but I still have mementos that evoke memories. Memories that remind me of the greatness and mercy of God.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Every Good Gift

Every good gift and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variation or shadow of turning.

James 1:17 NKJV

We were in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, two and a half hours away from our destination of Anacordes, Washington. There was no convenient rescue, no place to rent a vehicle and no nearby auto repair. We were grateful for the tow truck USAA sent and determined to treat the episode as an adventure.

The only road to the only mechanic’s place of business was deeply rutted, packed dirt and in some places not quite wide enough for two cars to pass. As I rode higher up the mountain, squished between my husband and the tow truck driver with a nervous poodle perched on my lap, the sun began to set and the lane began to feel more like a dark tunnel. The tow-truck driver couldn’t have been more helpful, but the fumes from the diesel engine made my stomach churn, and the adventure began to wear a little thin. As darkness fell, our surroundings began to feel more than a little creepy.

Finally, after a twenty minute  bone-jarring ride that I knew would take a couple visits to my chiropractor to fix, we turned off and the driveway dipped down into one of the most beautiful hollows I’ve ever seen. With a large automobile shop on one side and a home, fenced garden and a playground for a toddler on the other, the place was lovely.

We had barely enough time for the tow-truck driver to drop us off at the U-Haul rental so we could rent a van to get our luggage. By the fourth time we drove over that bone-jarring road, I was longing for my chiropractor and a heating pad.

Sitting right on Interstate 90 in the Cascade Mountains and close to Snoqualamie Falls, North Bend is a friendly little town. We found a sandwich shop that would accept our little poodle and afterward settled into our rented U-haul to wait for our friend to make the two and a half hour trip to pick us up. I was quietly appalled at the trouble we were causing our friend. There would be, of course, a return trip to get the car.

Early Tuesday morning driving from small town to small town, we were all amazed at the beauty. It wasn’t quite the full glory of fall, but still the dew sparkled on the trees and made even the fallen leaves shine as the sun filtered through the trees. At least twice we came around a quick curve to see a little hollow with a smooth, thin layer of morning fog still hanging just inches above the meadow grass.  But, it seemed that around every bend something beautiful awaited us.

Soon, it was almost embarrassing that a couple of writers could only point and say, “Look! It’s so beautiful. Everything is just gorgeous!” Even the shape of a dead tree stump in the midst of the its hardier fellows drew my attention. Though the carpet of leaves littering the side of the road were crushed, still they shined.
As I leaned back in the seat, I felt the Lord’s smile and heard His voice in my head. “I’m glad you like it.” I got the sense that He added, “I did it for you to enjoy.”

Funny, the trip over that dirt road wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable on the return trip. Possibly it was the suspension in my friend’s van. Perhaps it was that the sense of adventure had returned.