Context

Context

The trees in the photograph below are at least 20 feet high but against the expanse of the sky, appear much shorter. Context makes a difference.

David and Goliath. In this well-known Bible story, the two opponents used starkly different contexts to assess each other. Goliath viewed David from his over 9 feet frame, donned with a bronze helmet, a bronze coat of mail that weighed 125 pounds, and bronze leg armor. On his shoulder he held a bronze javelin and in his hand a spear with a shaft as heavy and thick as a weaver’s beam, tipped with an iron spearhead that weighed 15 pounds (1 Samuel 17:4-7, NLT). I imagine that in Goliath’s mind were memories of his many victories that earned him the title, “champion.” He looked at David and was insulted. As he walked toward David, he sneered in contempt and roared, “Am I a dog that you come at me with a stick?” Then “he cursed David by the names of his gods” and yelled, “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” (1 Samuel 17:41-44, NLT). Context.

David looked at Goliath and saw “a pagan Philistine” who was allowed to “defy the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:26). He looked at him and recalled that the LORD had rescued him from the claws of the lions and the bears that attempted to steal lambs from his flock. David looked at Goliath and believed that the LORD would also rescue him from Goliath (1 Samuel 17:34-37). In response to Goliath’s taunts, David replied, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (1 Samuel 17:45-47, NLT). Context.

The context Goliath used to assess David was himself but God was the context David used to assess Goliath. We know how that storied fight ended. What context are you using to assess the challenges in your life?

 

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Beloved. You.

You are beloved (1)

Whatever the name on your birth certificate. Whatever names others have called you. Your truest name is, “Beloved.”

Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either” (1 John 3:1, VOICE).

“This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10, VOICE).

The Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, testified, “We know how much God loves us because we have felt his love and because we believe him when he tells us that he loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him. And as we live with Christ, our love grows more perfect and complete; so we will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the day of judgment, but can face him with confidence and joy because he loves us and we love him too” (1 John 4:16-17, TLB).

May we believe God when He tells us that He loves us dearly. Remember, He is not a man that he should lie. Let His word stabilize your emotions and banish all doubt suggested by your circumstances. As stated in this note in the VOICE translation related to 1 John 3:1-2,

“When we feel like we are not good enough to be loved by God, we should remember that God’s love is greater than our doubts. We must silence the sounds of condemnation so we can hear the voice of God’s loving assurance and remember that He has selected us to be part of His family.”

My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2) 

Beloved. That is who you are.

Look full

Look Full

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,” Helen H. Lemmel instructs, in the refrain of her classic hymn with the same name.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face.” “Look full in His wonderful face.” I understand that to turn my eyes on Jesus requires me to turn my eyes away from something or someone else that had my focus, instead of Him. And, perhaps too often, I need this reminder in all seasons of life, especially those characterized by difficulties. During challenging seasons, like Peter, I focus on  adverse circumstances around me and quickly learn that such focus can lead to near drowning experiences.

But what does it mean to, “Look full in His wonderful face”? Let us consider the definitions of look and full. “Look,” the verb, is to direct one’s gaze toward someone or something or in a specified direction. “Look,” the noun, is an act of directing one’s gaze in order to see someone or something. Definitions of “Full” include complete especially in detail, number, or duration; lacking restraint, check, or qualification; and not lacking in any essential: perfect.” Based on these definitions, to “look full in His wonderful face” is to direct our gaze toward Jesus intentionally, completely, without reservation or qualification. This is not a casual or accidental act . There is no distracted engagement here.

When was the last time we directed our gaze toward Jesus, intentionally, completely, without reservation or qualification and in a sustained manner? And how do we do so? I think the process begins with the recognition that we are not focused on Him. What are some of the signs that we are not focused on Him? They include complaining, worrying, and being anxious, self-centered, and/or confused.

The process of directing our gaze toward Jesus intentionally, completely, and without reservation or qualification also requires us to know what things distract our attention from Him and those that help us focus (and refocus) our attention on Him. The latter includes consistently reading and meditating on His Word, praying, praising and worshipping Him, recognizing His goodness and giving Him thanks.  With each passing day, the turmoil in our world increases and our need to consistently “Turn our eyes on Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face,” grows.

Prayer: God, help us keep our eyes on You. Increase our ability to recognize the things that distract us and help us daily to prioritize our relationship with You. Amen

 

No greater thing

 

No greater thing

Salvation.
Clear air and water.
Shelter.
Belonging.
Peace.
Safety.
Purpose.
Work.
Grace.
Forgiveness.
Sleep.
These are some of the needs I have in common with other human beings.

I also have wants. Wants  that I sometimes mistakenly view as needs. And sometimes the list is long. Here are a few:
A bestselling book.
Life to be fair.
High end clothing and shoes at rock bottom clearance prices.
A luxury car that is fully paid for.
The news that a long lost relative left me a fortune.
To never have a bad hair day.
(Did you see any of yours on my list?)

Then I think of Moses.

And his plea to God, “… let me know Your ways so that I may know You [becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, recognizing and understanding Your ways more clearly] And that I may find grace and favor in Your sight…” (Exodus 33:13, AMP).

And I am reminded that everything I want pales in comparison to knowing Him intimately.

Five Minute Friday: Intentional

intentional (1).png

“Intentional” – done by intention or design. “Intention” – a determination to act in a certain way.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” He spoke light into existence, separating the light from the darkness. Making day and night. He spoke a vault called sky into existence, separating water from water. Caused dry land to appear, creating land and seas.

He spoke to the land and it bore vegetation. He made two great lights, one to govern the day, the other to govern the night. And He spoke to the waters and living creatures sprung to life. And birds filled the skies.

Then He said, “Let us make mankind in our own image, in our likeness.” And He did so. And then there was intentional disobedience. And a promise made – “Her Seed will fatally bruise your head.” “A Child will be born and a Son will be given.” And a promise kept.

“We also were chosen to belong to him. God decided to choose us long ago in keeping with his plan. He works out everything to fit his plans and purpose” (Ephesians 1:11, NIRV). Our God is intentional.

 

I am participating in a weekly writing adventure with the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung. This week’s prompt is, “Intentional.” Scripture links were added after the five minute window closed. The definitions for “Intentional” and “Intent” are from http://www.merriam-webster.com.

FMF

 

 

 

When the evening comes

Let me be singing when the evening comes

The title of this post is from the song, “10, 000 reasons (Bless the Lord),”  written by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin. I love the song and it has become an anthem for me in all seasons. When things are going well, it is a shout of jubilation. In challenging times, it becomes an instruction, a commitment, and a prayer.

I sang the song during my quiet time today and, conscious that 2018 is still in its infancy and much is unknown, the words below became a plea:

Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes

“When the evening comes.” “When the evening comes,” not if.

Evening, as in painful seasons.

Evening, as in periods of distress and confusion.

Evening, as in periods of shattering loss  and aching grief.

As we can be certain that evening hours will come in the (approximately) 24 hours of each day, we can be certain that the evenings of life will come to each of us.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth,” said the psalmist-king David (Psalm 34:1, AMP). “All times,” including evenings, as defined earlier. What makes this form of consistent praise possible? Two sources come to mind:

  1. Consistent praise is possible when we base our praise to God on His character, not on our emotions or circumstances.  Our emotions and circumstances can change in seconds but our God is unchanging. When we praise Him because of who He is, we can praise Him, with the grace He gives, in all seasons.
  2. Consistent praise is possible when we make the decision to praise Him, regardless. Note, David said “I will bless the Lord at all times” (emphasis added). “Will” is defined, in part as, the power to decide or control emotions or actions, and, a particular person’s decision or choice (merriam-webster.com). David made the decision to praise God at all times. We can do the same. Praising Him at all times is one of “all things” we can do through Christ. 

“I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” (Philippians 2:13, AMP)

Because of this truth, “Whatever may pass, And whatever lies before” us, we can be singing “when the evening comes.”

“O my soul, come, praise the Eternal with all that is in me—body, emotions, mind, and will—every part of who I am— praise His holy name” (Psalm 103:1, VOICE).

Advent: Week 1 – Hope

 

AdventWeek 1_ Hope

Introduction and Day 1

Today is the first day of the 2017 Advent Season. What is Advent? Advent is a season of preparation for Christmas and extends over a period of four weeks. As stated by  Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts, “Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas. The word ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word adventus, which means ‘coming’ or ‘visit.’ In the season with this name, we keep in mind both ‘advents’ of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come.”

Prepare. My Christmas tree is decorated. Candles stand like sentinels next to angels and a Nativity scene on the fireplace mantle. Wreaths are on the front door and above the fireplace.  Several presents have been purchased. It is safe to say that my preparations for Christmas have begun. But more than I attend to the details of my tangible and visible preparations, it is critical that I give the most attention to the  preparation of my heart.

Four themes are emphasized during Advent: Hope. Peace. Joy. Love.  In keeping with the Advent calendar, hope is my focus this week, primarily through the lens of Scripture.

What is Hope? According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, hope includes, “desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment,” “someone or something on which hopes are centered,” and “something desired or hoped for.”

Someone or something on which hopes are centered.”

“For You are my hope, Eternal One:
You, Lord, have been the source of my confidence since I was young.
(Psalm 71:5, VOICE)

“And again, Isaiah says: ‘There shall be a root of Jesse; And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in Him the Gentiles shall hope.'” (Romans 15:12, NKJV)

Prayer for Hope