Love Looks Like Death

LoveLooksLikeDeath

We don’t normally pair love and death, except to express love for those who have died. But consider God’s love. This is that love that died on the cross for our sins, so that we may have eternal life with God. This is that same love that comes to live within us, and causes us to die to self: die to our fleshly desires, die to our selfish wants, die to putting ourselves first. This is the same love that causes us to put to death the things we loved in our flesh, and instead take up those things that God loves.

John 12.24 – 26 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

What needs to die in order for God to get our attention? What needs to die in order for us to commit to Him? What needs to die in order for God’s purposes to be fulfilled for His glory?

Many of us have long been praying for revival. Maybe this is what revival looks like.

Acts 26.18 God appointed Paul a minister To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

I see posts on the Internet about “When life returns to normal,” and “I can hardly wait to get back to normal.” I pray that life does NOT return to normal after this pandemic. Look at the garbage we allow into our homes through Internet and television. Look at the way we speak to and act toward one another. Many of the things we love need to die:

  • What do you watch on television?
  • Whose pockets are you filling with what you feed on? Think food (is it healthy?), Internet (is it edifying?), news sources (is it uplifting, truthful, and unbiased?), other media (does it feed you spiritually?): are you giving your money to Godly causes?
  • How do your words sound and look? If you eat your words, will they be sweet and/or nutritious?

God designed us, and knows best what brings us joy. His love, and sharing that love with others, is what brings true joy. We must kneel before God and accept that His way is best. We must accept that He will allow to die those things that are not glorifying to Him, or that He will use death to bring glory to Himself.

I encourage you to start with prayer and reading of God’s Word.

Isaiah 55.6 – 13 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

I hope you feel God’s call to prayer. If you do, I hope that you heed it. America, the world, must fall on its knees before Almighty God. We must humble ourselves. That means that we give up whatever we think is right and just and true, and that we take to heart His Word, His Truth. (Note: We must find out what are His Word and His Truth by reading the Bible.)

God moves through prayer. He doesn’t need our prayers. We need our prayers. God moves at His will, regardless of our obedience. But He also works through our prayers, in our own lives and the lives of others. One of the great mysteries of God is that He works through people.

Prayer does not “solve” our problems. Prayer lays our concerns before God and gives them to Him. Prayer accepts that God loves us and will do what He deems best in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Prayer places trust in God and God alone. Prayer strengthens us; through us, prayer strengthens others.

Isaiah 40.28, 29 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

I end with a quote by Elijah Lovejoy (1802 – 1837), an American Presbyterian minister, journalist, newspaper editor, and abolitionist: “If by compromise is meant that I should cease from my duty, I cannot make it. I fear God more than I fear man. Crush me if you will, but I shall die at my post.”

I pray I may be found at my post when God comes for me.

Lord, Heal Our Land

LordHealOurLand

Yesterday, as I prayed, so many things came to mind to pray about.

I had a deep devotional time in Mark 11, and I will write about that in another post.

I took a long walk.

A couple walked together, hand-in-hand, and smiling. Another couple worked together on a project on their back stoop. Children ran and laughed in the park.

Lord, knit Your families together.

I met a man on his walk, one from our church. We smiled and chatted, staying 6 feet apart.

Lord, build Your Body.

I saw a dad and son playing ball in the park.

Lord, turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest You come and smite the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4.6)

May there be tents set up in back yards, with giggles inside.

Birds were chitter-chattering, swirling in the air, tangling together; they know not that there is a virus.

Matthew 6.26 Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow nor do they reap, nor do they gather into barns, and your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

All along the way, people walking or driving smiled and waved at each other, glad to see other faces.

John 16.33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

I stopped to visit with my husband as he worked at the Food Pantry. He goes in when the shop is closed, to restock. He’s been pretty busy this week; the goods are flying off the shelves.

Lord, provide for Your people. Bless those who are in need. Thank you for the workers who meet the needs.

I heard a child cry, and a father yelling. All is not happy and well in the quarantined homes.

Lord, protect victims of domestic violence. Lead people to give their anger to You. I pray You intervene, show where our hope lies.

Lord, as families are spending focused, concentrated time together, please bless the interactions. Give us a desire to see, to love one another. Give husbands and wives new eyes and ears to see and hear one another through Your heart. Provide creative ideas on how to spend time together, give us flexible hearts to participate in activities that may not suit individual tastes, but that bring joy to others. May we bring out more board games and card games; more neighborhood walks and hikes in nature; more authentic projects together; more helping hands and full hearts.

What does this do to

  • The crime rate
  • The suicide rate
  • The domestic violence rate
  • The sex trafficking rate
  • The abortion rate?

Lord, protect Your families; teach them to cry out to You.

Oh Lord God, You are doing a great work in these unique times; we are in Your Hands. May we keep our hearts turned toward You. May we look to You. We have sinned, Lord God. May we fall on our faces before You and repent. May we be cleansed of our sin and turn our hearts and our ways to be obedient to You. Isaiah 17.7 At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.

Psalm 60.1-5, 11, 12

O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased; O turn thyself to us again.

Thou hast made the earth to tremble; thou hast broken it: heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh.

Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.

Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.

That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.

Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.

Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.

The Children’s Memorial Garden with Jesus

We recently returned from visiting my folks in the Black Hills of South Dakota. (It’s a beautiful place, by the way, and I recommend a visit – SO much to see and do!)

It’s always a beautiful thing to hike in the Black Hills. There is one hike I particularly endorse.

My parents live across from the St Martin monastery, housing the Benedictine sisters. They have, on their property, a beautiful, paved walk named The Via Dolorosa. The fourteen Stations of the Cross are depicted along the way. At the end of the walk there exists an amazing group of statues called The Children’s Memorial Garden.

Walk with me as we explore this touching rendition of Our Savior, face aglow with love, welcoming the little ones to their eternal home with Him. We can only imagine the joy when we, too, join them all.

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Quick Thought for Today

Our own thoughts about ourselves can be the biggest trap we construct for ourselves (and the others we affect). Better to set our minds on things above.

Colossians 3.1-3 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

The Tug of Egypt

TheTugOfEgypt

As I read through Exodus, Numbers, and Leviticus in my daily devotions, I am again drawn to the lessons God has for us in all the books of the Old Testament. I understand that:

  1. The Old Testament is God’s Story to show us our need for Him.
  2. The Old Testament shows us our sin state.
  3. Egypt is a picture of sin.
  4. Joseph is a prototype of Jesus.
  5. God wants to show us that, without His intervention, we could not, would not leave Egypt/sin.

Questions arise as I read:

  • If Joseph is a prototype of Jesus, why did God use Joseph to invite his family to Egypt? I don’t think Jesus invites us to sin.
  • After Jacob and all the Israelites moved to Egypt, life was good. But then a new Egyptian ruler came to power. The Egyptians slowly but surely put the Israelites under subjection and forced them into slavery. Why didn’t the Israelites escape while they could, and go back to their homeland? Why didn’t even a few families decide that they should return to Canaan instead of staying in Egypt?
  • After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, and all the Israelites witnessed with their own eyes the power and magnitude of God, why, when any little problem popped up, did they cry to return to Egypt?
  • What is God’s lesson to me when the spies went into the Promised Land? Only two of the spies (Joshua and Caleb) gave a favorable report and encouraged them to go because God would be with them. And all the people sided with the scared reports; they spoke of selecting a captain to lead them back to Egypt (Numbers 14.4).

As I prayed and continued reading, God brought these lessons to me:

Jesus doesn’t invite us to live in sin. He goes before us, to prepare the land so that we may live there in God’s grace. God knows we choose sin (Genesis 6.5), and that we will be enticed into more sin, and that we will want to stay there. As Joseph was placed in Egypt to prepare for the Israelites to live there, Jesus came to Earth to live in our sin with us, to show us how to live and give us hope; and, ultimately, to show us that there is a way out if we obey Him.

The Israelites did not escape from Egypt while they could. It is the same with us and sin. We are enticed to live in sin. It looks good. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Life was good in Egypt. Jacob and his sons, the first generation of Israelites who lived in Egypt, established a home there. They had children who grew up there and had children and grandchildren of their own. They considered Egypt their homeland. The new pharaoh began putting stiffer and stiffer burdens on them. Still they did not leave.

Look at the Jewish people in Germany and surrounding countries in the 1930’s and ‘40’s. They did not try to escape their homes, even after they were required to wear the Star of David. They couldn’t imagine the evil to come until it was too late.

Look at the Jews exiled in Babylon. Even after they were allowed to return to their homeland, many stayed in Babylon.

Look at America. We live in a sinful culture. We are sucked into it: television shows we shouldn’t watch; products we shouldn’t buy but we do because we’re enticed by the ads and we believe they’ll make our lives better somehow; clothing we wear or allow our children to wear; jobs we take; music we listen to; movies we watch; ministries we assume without consulting God; friends with whom we associate and how we associate with them; Internet sites we visit, and amount of time online, both of which detract from our walk with God; words we use or continue to listen to that do not glorify God. These are every day sins we don’t even think about because they are an integral part of our lives, and EVERYBODY DOES IT. We are using our families and friends and neighbors and media as our plumb line, instead of God.

Is there any escaping this? To where do we flee? We haven’t a “homeland” as the Israelites did, no physical Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. My heritage is Irish and Czech, among others; am I supposed to try to go back to one of those countries, to live with “my people?” I was born an American, and this is my home. Just like the children of Israel: they were born in Egypt, their families were born in Egypt, and that was their home. They became slaves to Egypt / slaves to sin in a subtle way, and then there they were, crying to God to save them. [I think, in America, many of us have not yet come to the point to realize that we must cry out to God to save us. We have it too good, and we don’t want to be saved.] [We, as Christians, do have a homeland, by the way: it is the Person of Jesus Christ, and God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We get to carry our homeland with us all the time, and go to it for all eternity.]

God allowed the children of Israel, living in Egypt, to come to the point of crying out to Him. He needed them to understand their need for Him, to know that they could not save themselves; but to know that they needed to be saved. [God still works the same way. He brings each of us to the point where we know we must cry out to Him, know He is the only One Who can save us because we are slaves to sin and cannot save ourselves.]

After God displayed His glory to Egypt and the Israelites, after He saved His people from bondage, after His people witnessed miracle after miracle, proving that God loved them and had in mind a beautiful life for them; after all that, when the Israelites faced hardships and seemingly insurmountable odds, they cried to return to Egypt. (Exodus 14.11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Numbers 14.1-3 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?)

In our own lives, we easily forget the power of God that saved us, and that same power that is still available to us. The lure of sin is strong. Sin is our comfort zone; it’s where we lived for a long time, and we had conditioned ourselves to arrange our lives around it and make do. This new life of blind obedience to God, depending on Him for our daily need is too scary. We can’t see what it will look like, so we go back to what we knew before. The Israelites could not see into a future with God, could not imagine His glory in their lives on a day-to-day basis.

As modern Christians, we are fortunate to have God’s Word at our fingertips. We are infinitely blessed to have God’s very Holy Spirit living within us! Even with what God has given us, it is a hard thing to live in day-to-day obedience to God and depend on His mercy and grace. It takes strength to step out in faith all the time, and to depend on God to provide whatever we are going to need. We can empathize with the Israelites in their desires to go back to what they knew.

[Sometimes it’s not we, ourselves, who are struggling with sin and the desire to return to it. Sometimes it’s a loved one. We can see it in someone else’s life. We must have compassion on those who struggle with sin. It is a strong force. Thanks be to God, He is stronger; but we must have patience, and pray for those who struggle.]

When the Israelites had finally reached their promised destination, when they were on the verge of entering into the Promised Land, when they had traveled in the wilderness for months, when they had lived day-by-day upon God’s provision of water and manna and protection, when they saw the gorgeous fruit of the land they could have; they gave up. The spies came back with a scary report, and everyone believed that the giants living there would swallow them up. They really thought that all this was for nothing, and they wanted to return to Egypt.

REALLY??? Well, yeah. It’s hard to believe that sin has such a strong a pull on us. Hard to believe unless you’re in the throes of temptation, yourself (or love someone who is). Whether it’s finances or sex or power or tobacco or alcohol or drugs or language or anger or fear or bitterness or food; we hear that siren call of sin – the one that’s personal to us. We’re ready to give up all the promises God gives us for the future, in order to have that one little taste again of the past.

If we want sin, God allows us to follow it.

FALL ON YOUR FACE BEFORE GOD, just as Moses and Aaron did so many times. Beg for mercy, beg for grace and forgiveness and strength and guidance. When faced with temptation, turn around and face God. Embrace Him instead of the sin. Ask Him. He’s there. He longs to jump in to save you from whatever it is.

But we must obey God.

Remember: God created the universe, and He created you. We live by His rules. [Also remember, His rules are for our good, and because He loves us.]

God is holy. He will not compromise; but He will forgive.

Read, ingest, swallow and digest God’s Word. He gives it to us for our good, because He loves us so much.

Read what God has to say. Learn His ways. Obey Him. God always blesses obedience.

Morning Musing

MorningMusing

One of my daily joys is watching the sunrise. I get to do my reading by a big picture window, and we get a pretty good view of the sunrise.

This morning, though, I am in a hurry. We have things to do, and I needed to leave my front-row seat and get busy. As I finished my hot drink, and prepared to get moving, the sun was not really up yet. The beginnings of color were there, but I wanted to sit a while longer and see the brilliant colors.

I wished I could put the sunrise on fast forward, watch it, then rewind so that it could happen in real time; and I could get on with my busy schedule.

But things don’t happen that way. God didn’t design things that way.

Marketers understand that people want to do things their own way, on their own schedules, so they cater to that mindset. It’s becoming increasingly important that we get to do things the way we want.

God doesn’t work that way, and it’s a good thing.

God has His own timing, and He’s in control. We are not in control.

Let’s think about slowing down, paying attention to the way God designed things, and conforming our schedules to His.

Grief

grief

I can’t say as I know much about grief. I’ve grieved for sins, for events and issues that did or did not take place. I’ve grieved over hurts and injustices. But grieving for the dead? This is new to me, as, previously, no one close to me has died.  But now my mother in law has died. I don’t know how grief feels or looks; I’m unsure of how it all plays out.

Most cultures, at some point in their early histories, developed a process for expressing grief: wailing and cries; periods of silence; wearing black or black arm bands; sitting with the body; long processions and flowers and fruit; altars with offerings; images and religious symbols. For the most part, they provided for public expression of grief and support for the bereaved. Death was a public event, and there were social rituals. Grief was allowed to be expressed in an open and unrestrained way, and was communally shared.

Of course, communities were smaller then.

People used to put more time into the serious business of grief.

We’ve rather cleaned things up in our sanitized American culture. We’ve done away with community-wide ceremonies for the most part, unless someone was quite famous. We are mostly expected to contain our grief and keep it personal. We keep some of the rituals that separate life and death, but they’ve been muted.

We’ve been busy at our house, with the visitation and funeral planning and carrying out, with receiving cards and writing thank you cards, cleaning and hauling possessions and decision-making, driving around to banks and lawyers and donation sites. We thought we might have a “normal” schedule this week, but it’s not panning out that way so far. We’re still wrapping up loose ends.

How am I feeling? Honestly, I don’t know.

Up front, I am incredibly sleepy. We have both been fighting off a viral bug that’s been going around. The bug hasn’t gotten either of us to the point of being bed-ridden or miserable, but we’ve been doing a lot of sleeping when we can; that’s something that doesn’t usually happen. And whether I get a nap or not, my nighttime sleep is interrupted frequently; I don’t stay awake for long, but I wake up a lot.

I’ve also noticed that inspiration is dry. It’s hard for me to even try writing about this. It’s easier to just not think about the blog, or reading blogs, or writing.

Am I supposed to go with this flow? Let myself grieve? Is this what grieving feels like? Should I be getting back in the saddle and getting on with what we usually do? I mean, we still make meals and eat, we still do laundry, still go to church, still go to our volunteer activities. Everything is muted, though. Sometimes it feels like I’m passing through a dream. And then the day is ended and I go to bed, just to do it all again.

We keep catching ourselves: after church, we always go to see her. We ran into someone she hasn’t seen for a long time, and we want to share that with her. Did she see that article in the paper? Oh yeah – she’s not there any more.

She’s really gone, and we’re not used to it.

A whole ‘nother side to this is that we know she went home to Heaven, and she’s with her Savior, Jesus. Much abiding peace goes along with that. We are grateful.

So we have some joy amid the loss. We can’t be sorry that her fleshly body is gone, because she wanted to go home so much, and now she’s living eternally with God, just like He promised.

What does grieving look like to you?