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I can’t but God can

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Luke 1:30-34

I laughed when I read Mary’s response. How funny it is when God invites us to participate in something unbelievably amazing and we are stuck on “what did you say about me?” or “I can’t do that, I’m (fill in the blank).”

Read the passage again. How much does the angel say about Mary? How much does the angel say about Jesus? It’s as if Mary heard the first part and didn’t hear anything about Jesus.

Mary may not understand the significance of what the angel said is about to happen but she does not run away from it. She reveals her knowledge and trust in God in what is known as “Mary’s Song” (Luke 1:46-55).

When God invites you to participate with him, don’t get stuck on your position in life. Trust his position and his word.

Read Luke 1. What has God invited you to do with him lately? When you catch yourself saying I can’t to God, listen again for the more exciting part of what he is inviting you to do. Then say out loud, GOD CAN!

Shalom

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If there is no life after death, no heaven, no hell, would you still seek to honor God with your life?

I’ve been pondering this question for a few days. Not because I’m “wavering in my faith,” but because I’m asking God what exactly is the “good news of Jesus” and how do I share that.

Ezekiel 20:20 says “keep my Sabbath days holy, for they are a sign to remind you that I am the Lord your God.” Throughout today’s chronological reading in Ezekiel 20-22, God repeats “know that I am the Lord.”

Before we can share the good news of Jesus, we have to first understand who God is. He is the creator. Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” If we can grasp just that idea, then we can honor God with our life regardless of circumstances, regardless of what others do or think (politically or personally), and regardless of all the unknowns in our lives.

Questions to ponder as you read Ezekiel 20:1-22:16:

  • What does it mean to be holy (sanctified, consecrated)? Biblehub.com is a great tool to look up literal translations and the meanings of the Hebrew and Greek.
  • What is the reason for keeping the Sabbath days holy? How many times is that repeated in this passage? Why do you think this is so important?
  • What other ways will God’s people and other nations know that he alone is the Lord?
  • Why is it important (or not) to you to recognize that he alone is Lord?
  • How could reminding yourself today that he alone is Lord impact your life… today?
  • If there is no life after death, would you still seek to honor God with your life? Why or why not? You may want to write that down and review it in a few days/weeks.

I recognize that some of you reading this may not have a relationship with the one and only Lord. It makes a difference in how life is perceived and in how circumstances are handled. None of us are perfect but when I trust God, I have peace about anything and everything. I invite (or challenge) you to read the Bible passages and talk to God as you would a person. Ask your questions and wait to see if you hear an answer. If you hear an answer, test it to see if it matches up with what you read in the Bible. Know this…

God loves YOU!

He loves you and he desires to have a personal relationship with you. Jesus, God’s “biological” son, died on a cross giving all mankind forgiveness for living as though we are lord of our own lives. All have been forgiven. But reconciliation with God must be two-way. It is up to you to participate in your personal reconciliation with God. When you accept God as the only Lord, and acknowledge that Jesus’ death on the cross is the only way to have a relationship with God, he gives you his Holy Spirit (life) which is eternal and allows you to communicate directly with God now.

Keep reading the Bible, asking him questions, and listening. Find others who are also reading the Bible, asking God questions, and listening. Lots of people read the Bible and “pray,” not everyone listens for God’s answers when they ask questions. And remember, no one is perfect. We are like children, growing in the grace and mercy of God the Father.

How to Hear God’s Instructions is post I wrote some time ago that may help those wanting to learn how to hear God speak.

Surefooted

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Habakkuk is a prophet of the Old Testament. He is not in a happy time period. Evil people are getting away with injustice and God seems to be doing nothing about it.

Habakkuk begins his conversation with frustration, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen!” God responds with, “if [my answer] seems slow in coming, wait patiently.” Not exactly the response you want from anyone, especially the God of eternity.

Even worse, God informs Habakkuk that he is going to raise up people who are “notorious for their cruelty and do whatever they like.” Habakkuk is not thrilled with that response but in chapter two, he waits for God to tell him more. God explains that justice will come in time.

Chapter three, Habakkuk writes a prayer song praising God for all the good he has done for his people in the past. Habakkuk ends with the verses above stating even though things are rough right now and there is still worse to come,

“yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights.”

Questions to ponder after you read Habakkuk (it’s only three chapters):

  • What is your “even though?” What is going on in your life that makes you cry out to God, How long must I cry out for help? Health? Finances? Relationships? Stress of work?
  • Write out your cry for help then take time to wait on the Lord’s response. He will respond if you wait and listen.
  • Write out what you think is his response – try not to add any of your own interpretation (that is not easy).
  • What are some character traits of God that are important to you? Write out those traits and find scriptures about that trait or other attributes of God. Psalm 145 might help.
  • Now get personal, what are some things God has done for you in the past?
  • Okay, are you ready for this last one? Write Habakkuk 3:17-19 using your “even though” circumstances in place of those in verse 17. Speak out loud as you write verses 18 and 19.

Definition of Sin

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s path to follow our own.
Isaiah 53:6

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.

What was the original sin in Genesis 3? Go ahead. Even if you know the story by heart. Take a quick read.

Was the sin eating the fruit? I would say, no. Genesis 3:6 says she reasoned it out that the fruit was good for her. Genesis 3:11 reveals the sin as Eve and Adam choosing their own path rather than the path God showed them.

Isaiah 55 has some very good instructions for finding and staying on God’s path.

verse 2: listen to me and you will eat what is good

verse 3: Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you find life.

verse 6: Seek the Lord while you can find him

and verse 8 tells us why we should listen and seek God for direction instead of reasoning out our path on our own:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

Today’s reading in the One Year Chronological Bible Readings is Isaiah 52:13-57:21. If you don’t have time to read all of it, I suggest you read Isaiah 53 and 55.

Questions to ponder as you read:

How do you distinguish between God’s path and what you think is “good” for you?

When have you discovered (or questioned) that something you thought was a “sin”, was not?

Do you believe God speaks to you directly? Why or why not? What scripture expresses your view?

What does Isaiah 55 say to you about knowing God’s path for your life? Jot down any verse or phrase that stands out to you and ask God what he wants you to hear.

For a little more of my thoughts on hearing God, check out How to Hear God’s Instructions.

Shout!

IMG_0261

Photo by LCrum

A voice said, “Shout!”
I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass.
Their beauty fades as quickly
as the flowers in a field.
The grass withers and the flowers fade
beneath the breath of the Lord.
And so it is with people.
The grass withers and the flowers fade,
but the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:6-8 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.

I am no expert on lawn care but I do know from experience that if grass gets too much or too little water or sun, it dies quickly. And flowers? Living in Texas I have grown to appreciate the beauty of the flowers in a field because of my exposure to them each year. Wildflower season here is amazing but it doesn’t last long.

Maintenance crews hold off on cutting grass along the highways during wildflower season (TxDOT). But once the season comes to an end, the grass is cut and the beauty of the flowers disappears.

My husband and I are entering retirement. What we have done for years is ending. And, like many, I’m not sure what retirement will look like. I think that is why some people do not want to retire. But I believe God has called all who follow Christ to be active in his work throughout this life. Our life as we know it ends but his continues forever.

This morning I read “A voice said, Shout!” and I asked What should I shout?

There are many things we can enjoy in this life. There are many ways to enhance our lives and many ways to stay busy. But this life – our personal individual life as we know it – doesn’t last long. But the word of our God stands forever.

Questions to consider as you read Isaiah 40:

What does it mean to you to compare people to grass and flowers? What images come to mind?

As you read through all of Isaiah 40, what stands out to you about who God is?

Think of something you consider beautiful, something you appreciate, or something you like to do or want to learn about. How much time do you or would you like to give to those things? How has your interest grown in these things?

How could you grow in your appreciation for God’s word?

What is God asking you to Shout!  May I suggest you start by getting to know him better and better every day through his word.

If you have never read through the entire Bible, check out oneyearbibleonline.com.

6 Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. 7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…. 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.  Matthew 7:6-7,11

I’ve been pondering the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) the past couple weeks. Amazing the perspective differences that come simply from reading all three chapters in one sitting over and over then digesting with God the overall and overlapping message. Our human nature loves to cling to pieces. Unfortunately, we often end up trampling the pieces and then tearing the messenger or the true message to pieces.

If each author of a book/letter of the Bible (like any gifted author of any book) has generally one main point or a thesis to address in their writing, then it would only make sense that the reader should not dissect the pieces of the text apart from each other else the whole easily loses its one focus.

In what has become known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus is teaching the crowd the importance of trusting God and living from the inside out rather than basing your goodness or others on what is seen. Matthew 7 continues this idea by instructing us to be aware of our own issues before attempting to help others.

The question that came to me today: Is Jesus indicating that helping others out of our own righteousness (which comes from God) is like giving pearls to pigs? Since the segment on Ask, Seek, Knock ends with “do to others…,” is the instruction more related to helping others get the speck out of their eye rather than the more commonly taught idea of praying for what you want? If it is more about helping others, it seems the instruction is to let others seek God – ask, seek, knock on his door – and not to bring the attention on ourselves or what we think we can toss at them to help. Our abilities/gifts/help are limited.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

We cannot make someone a “good” person. Only God can do that from the inside. We cannot give lasting comfort to those who mourn, or give the earth to the meek, or crown with righteousness those who are hungry for it. There are people in my life that I desperately want to experience the comfort and joys that God wants to give them in this life. But if I attempt to give them what only God can truly give, it will most likely be trampled by them (I’ve seen it happen). Maybe because they will see it as me trying to say they need to be like me. Or simply because the “good gifts” I can give are mostly external stuff or words that have meaning to me because I have wrestled with God over those words.

It is the one who puts effort in asking God directly, seeking his ways, and knocking on his door; they are the ones who receive, who find and who move forward with the gifts only God can give. The unseen and the seen. And it is the unseen gifts of God that give meaning, purpose and love for all the external gifts that he gives to us each day.

The next time you notice the speck of sawdust in someone’s eye, you might want to hold back on trying to help them too much. If they ask you for advice, the best advice you can give is for them to ask, seek and knock on God’s door. Even in discipleship, the goal is to make them dependent on Jesus, not on us.

It is much easier for God to explain why they don’t always get what they ask for than it is for us to give our opinion.

There have been plenty of times that I’ve asked other people to explain what God is doing and only been temporarily, if at all, comforted or satisfied with their response. Nearly every time that I have made the sincere effort to ask, seek, and knock (and sometimes argue and wrestle) with God, he satisfies and comforts me. Sometimes the comfort comes quickly, sometimes it takes years. If I continue seeking, he continues revealing until I find the door to move forward in my understanding of who he is and the unexplainable peace of his ways.

God offers and desires the most intimate relationship. Any appreciated relationship involves effort. How much effort are you putting into your relationship with God?


Purchase this song for .99 at
http://www.amazon.com/Good-Father/dp/B00N09XO5G

It’s summer. I’m not as busy so I thought I’d share some thoughts that come to me during my intimate time with God. Quite often these thoughts come as I’m chatting with God about my kids or in response to what God has highlighted for me as I read the Bible.

I have two teenagers. Teenagers. Full of hormones and subject to extreme mood swings. My desire for them is to learn how to live in peace and experience as much happiness as possible. This is the recipe God gave me for them (and for me).

Recipe for More Peace & Happiness

  • God:  Chat with God as you wake-up and continue throughout the day
  • Food:  Eat Healthy – don’t skip breakfast and don’t eat late at night
  • Rest:  Get eight hours of sleep every night
  • Fitness:  Exercise (cardio & weight bearing) regularly

Blend all ingredients to produce more peace & happiness. Prepare and consume daily for at least three weeks to increase thankfulness, confidence and inner joy.

What is God saying to you this summer?

Shalom

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