Friday, December 28, 2018

The Prince of Peace...

For those who need peace...

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Celebrating in the darkness...

I am going to repost this again, just because it seems like more people than ever are looking for hope this Christmas.

Perhaps you, whoever you are, are wondering this:

How can we reconcile celebration with everything that is happening?

To me, the answer is simply because everything that's wrong with the world illustrates how desperately the world needs a hero.

Doesn't it? What person among us sees these things happening and doesn't yearn for somebody to come rescue everybody and set everything right?

The thing is, the world has a Hero... but many do not know it yet.

How can Jesus be the hero? many will ask. Look at what's happening. What hero would let such things happen?

The answer, for me, is to realize that we're still in the dark part of the story.

When most do not recognize the Hero for who He is.

When the final victory is yet to come.

When most cannot fathom how victory could ever come.

When many do not even know a Hero exists... or believe one could exist. How could there be a hero when this is happening?

This is how stories play out, isn't it?  Nothing's ever easy. The hero isn't a hero because everything's great. He's a hero because of the very darkness that engulfs the world of the story.

History is indeed a story, and Jesus is the hero of the story. History is His-story. 

He's the Ultimate Superhero, actually.  

Does that seem a stretch? It's not.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
We think it's awesome when a superhero can control the forces of nature. We are impressed when the hero uses superpowers or magical forces to hold things in place... maybe to keep a building from falling so someone can be saved... or maybe to freeze an entire situation so something good can be done. We love to read stories where magic can be used to create something out of nothing. 

Why do so many of us love these kinds of stories? 

Because our world needs a hero. 

Because we have inside of us a love for what makes our Savior so amazing.

We are attracted to power, because our Savior holds the ultimate power of the universe and we were made to love Him. But I think a lot of people don't realize the raw power summarized in that passage.

Read that verse again.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

For by Him all things were created,
both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—

All things have been created through Him and for Him.

He is before all things, and

in Him all things hold together.
The entire universe was created by Him.

This display of power isn't just a past event.  His power is what's holding it all together. Keeping galaxies and electrons in orbit.

Superman's power? Nothing compared to His.

Pick an X-men or an Avenger... or put them all together. Absolutely nothing.

His power is so staggering that every superhero story ever created is but a human's poor attempt (if they only knew it) to come up with something that reflects a tiny bit of Him.

Take Magnito as an example.  The moviemakers created this scene where he used his power to hold a thousand missiles in place in the air, then turn them where he wanted them to go. If you haven't seen the movie, just trust me. It was really impressive. (Or watch the scene on YouTube if you want.)

Now watch this, and realize how much Jesus' power is holding in place. 

His power is more than just staggering. It's mind-boggling. Beyond our ability to fully comprehend.

We can understand Magnito's power because it is limited. Even though it isn't real.

Jesus' power is real, but we have a hard time understanding it because it is limitless.

And just like the heroes of our stories, He temporarily laid that power aside and surrendered everything He was... to save the world.

The important thing to remember as we watch this messed up world, is this:

His story isn't over yet. 
The finale is still to come. 

This is where the hope lies. This is why we can still celebrate the fact that He came, even as cities and nations and alliances and economies fall apart. His coming - His birth, death, and resurrection - were the middle of this story we're living in. And it's always darkest towards the end of the story, isn't it?

All this darkness? All this destruction and pain and suffering? All this emptiness and hopelessness?

This is why the world needs a Savior... 

One whose story isn't over yet. 

Five years ago, when I was finally able to comprehend who He actually is, I fell so in love...

With Jesus...

Like I never had been before. He totally awes me.

I asked God to give me a Christmas song that expressed this, and I'd like to share it again. A simple recording is here if you want to hear how it goes, but it's the power in the words - straight out of Scripture - that I want you to hear.

He is the hero of your story, too. If you let Him be your hero.

All He Was
© 2011 Kathleen Peters (since US copyright law doesn't recognize God's right to it)

Once outside of time began a story    (John 1:1)
It’s been told a thousand times and ways, or more
A virgin birthed and angels sang    (Is. 7:14Luke 1:342:13-14)
The wise men saw and shepherds came  (Matt. 2Luke 2:15-16)
But the hero who lay within her arms 
Had already made a sacrifice of love:     

He was the Maker of the universe    (Col. 1:16John 1:3)
The Master of the stars     (Ps. 136:7-9)
The voice of endless power     (Gen. 1:3)
And everlasting love     (Jer. 31:3)
Before foundations of the world were laid      (Rev. 13:8)
Beyond the veil of time     (Ps. 90:2)
He knew the world would need a Savior’s touch      (Is. 9:2)
So He surrendered all He was.      (Phil 2:7-8)

He said that He revealed the face of God    (John 14:9)
That’s why the crowds responded to His power and love    (Matt. 4:25)
The sick were healed and blind could see   (Matt. 4:23Matt. 15:31)
The lame made whole, possessed set free (Matt. 21:14Mark 1:32)
Yet they took Him and nailed Him to a cross   (Matt. 27:22-31)
But He prevailed over death and conquered all!    (2 Tim. 1:10)

'Cause He's the Maker of the universe    (Col. 1:16John 1:3)
The Master of the stars     (Ps. 136:7-9)
The voice of endless power     (Gen. 1:3)
And everlasting love     (Jer. 31:3)
Since the foundations of the world were laid 
Beyond the bounds of time
He rules as everlasting Lord of all      (Phil. 2:9-10)
Yet He surrendered all He was…  (Luke 4:17-21)

         To bring good news to the afflicted     (Is. 61:1)
         And peace for the broken    (Is. 61:1)
         There’s freedom for captives     (Is. 61:1)
         The favor of God    (Is. 61:2)
         There’s joy now for mourning      (Is. 61:3)
         And strength for the weary      (Is. 61:340:31)
         He’s made us the righteousness of God   (2 Cor. 5:21)

He's still the Maker of the universe    (Col. 1:16John 1:3)
The Master of the stars     (Ps. 136:7-9)
The voice of endless power     (Gen. 1:3)
And everlasting love     (Jer. 31:3)
When the foundations of the world were laid     (Rev. 13:8)
The Father looked through time     (Is. 9:2-7)
He saw that you would need a Savior’s love...     (Rom. 7:24-25Gal. 2:20)
         So Jesus came to be the Perfect One      (2 Cor. 5:21)
         What He did for you will always be enough…  (Rom. 8:1-4)
         Because He gave you all He was.     (1 Cor. 1:30)

And here's another song for you, from Hillsongs:

Friday, October 19, 2018

In the wilderness...

John and Lisa Bevere and Matt (didn't catch his last name) shared this message on Facebook yesterday. It's both encouraging and challenging. It also gives five ways to know if your dream or promise is really from God.

Regardless of whether you feel like you're in the wilderness or whether you feel like you're in the Promised Land, I still encourage you to watch this short video:

Monday, March 26, 2018

At His table...

I'm one of the tens of thousands struggling to learn how to eat healthily in this nutrient-deprived, toxin-laden world we live in. If you are too, then you already know exactly what I mean. If you're not, then suffice it to say that the list of people I know who are struggling with health issues brought on by the combination of nutritional deficiencies and stress is now longer than the list of people I know who aren't. I myself have discovered that I have to take a calcium/magnesium supplement if I want to be able to sleep well at night, and I have to take iodine if I want to to keep a particular set of PMS symptoms away. I need herbs to keep colds and the flu away, and I need both iodine and fish oil supplements and to avoid sulfates in soaps to keep my skin from getting unbearably dry. I try to avoid soybean oil (which is in TONS of things) because more than just a tiny amount upsets my stomach, MSG and aspartame sometimes give me headaches, I've become convinced that high-fructose corn syrup is one of the worse things you can ingest (and it's in even more things than soybean oil)... and basically, it is rather challenging in today's world to stay healthy.

And even if you do “figure it out,” there's the whole challenge of actually sticking with it.

Well, the other night, I woke up at 3am and my mind got going. That means I wasn't able to go back to sleep. (It didn't help that I haven't been drinking enough water, which also affects my ability to sleep well.) So, in order to quiet my mind down, I did what I've started doing recently... I began meditating on the Psalms that I have memorized, line by line. I started with Psalm 23 which I've had memorized since I was a child.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures.
He leads my beside quiet waters...
...and my mind was off thinking about various other issues that going on with much-loved ones. Eventually I realized I'd gotten distracted, and I dragged my mind back to Psalm 23.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Lord, I prayed, thank You that You do this for Your own sake, because if it depended upon us being worthy, You wouldn't do it. And off my mind went on various tracks for a few minutes before I dragged it back to the Psalm.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.
Your rod and Your staff comfort me...
...and this time my mind drifted off to health issues of loved ones again... meditating on the state of the world that is filled with toxins that constantly attack our bodies, while our foods no longer have the nutrients our bodies need to fight those toxic enemies. I found myself asking God if it's even possible for my generation (not to mention my kids' generation) to live to an old age without succumbing to some deficiency-caused disease.

But then I remembered my Psalm, and I dragged my mind back around to center again.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. My cup overflows.
And suddenly, at 3am in the morning, lying there in the dark, the Holy Spirit showed what was on that table! Nutrients! Everything my body needs to stay healthy.

When God prepares a table, it's going to have all the nutrients my body needs! How could He possibly do any less?

And this Psalm says He does it even in the presences of all these enemy toxins that surround us!

I laid there in awe, for in 30+ years of knowing that Psalm, this has never occurred to me.

But like I said, it's hard to eat right. Sooner or later, I fall off the wagon, and I struggle to eat right again... or to make whatever new adjustments I need to add. But I continued the Psalm.
Surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life...
… and the Holy Spirit stopped me. “What is My goodness?” He asked. I knew the answer:
...the goodness of God leads you to repentance. (Rom. 2:4)
And repentance, of course, is the willingness and ability to change your path away from wrong choices and toward good choices. To change directions.

And mercy is Him forgiving and covering our mistakes.

So as I'm working through this life of learning to find and eat the nutrients my body needs and avoiding the toxins, His goodness and mercy are both following me, covering me when I fall off the wagon and enabling me to change course yet again. Wow!

And then I fell asleep. :-)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Going over his head...

This morning, I found myself reading in Daniel due to various life-questions I've been dealing with lately. I found myself struck by something simple but profound.

In reading the first two chapters of Daniel, I noticed two defining characteristics of this young man.

1. He had a servant's humble heart.
2. He seems to have known, in that know-that-you-know sort of way, that Nebuchadnezzar, conqueror of the known the world, was in turned being ruled by somebody higher up - God.

Daniel knew that God was greater and more powerful than Nebuchadnezzar. And Daniel was very much a servant, with a servant's heart...

But he was first the servant of God, and second the servant of Nebuchadnezzar. 

So look at how this played out in his life...

The king has a dream. It troubles him and he wants to know the meaning. But then he ups and decides that he wants the wise men to tell him what the dream was before they interpret it. That way he will know that they truly have the power to interpret it as well. It's his test.

Obviously, Daniel and his friends weren't part of this initial group called, and there is no explanation for why. But the wise men who heard this decree appear to have been freaking out. Their lives were about to end in a very unpleasant way and their families destroyed as well, all because this "all-powerful" king of the known world decided to issue an impossible request. This was not fair!

When Daniel got word of the king's ruling, though, he didn't freak out. It says he "replied with discretion and discernment" as he found out why the king had issued the edict. He even went straight to the king to ask for time. I don't think everyone had access to the king like that, so that reaffirms Daniel's position with Nebuchadnezzar.

But then he goes to his friends to ask them to pray with him, and his request shows what he was really doing.

He was, quite simply, going over Nebuchadnezzar's head. 

He was going to the Master that he owed his first allegiance to.

Say your immediate boss issued an impossible command that was going to result in the loss of your job. But if we go back farther in your story, the only reason why the immediate boss was your boss at all, was because a higher up boss had asked you to work under him for that season of your life.

Furthermore, you had a personal relationship with the higher up boss -- a relationship that you cultivated regularly.

That's exactly what Daniel knew his situation to be. God was his Master, and God had temporarily placed him under Nebuchadnezzar's rule.

So when Nebuchadnezzar issued his order to destroy all the wise men, Daniel went over his head, to God. He and his friends requested compassion from the God of heaven concerning the king's mystery. (His humility shows here again, in the nature of his request.)

And God granted it. Daniel's thanksgiving to God again demonstrates the conviction that gave him confidence in going over the king's head. Daniel 2:20-23:
Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men
And knowledge to men of understanding.
It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells with Him.
To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,
For You have given me wisdom and power;
Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You,
For You have made known to us the king's matter.
There it is. He knew God was the one in control and with the power, so that's who he went to.

It seems so simple... yet do we have the wisdom to do so in our lives? Do we have the trust and conviction to go to God without fear, knowing that He is the One who is really in control? Do we have the humility to go to Him without demanding the resolution that we want... willing to accept that whatever path is laid before us on the other side of our prayer is controlled ultimately by Him? 

Holy Spirit, please teach us that faith, trust, and humility in our own lives!

Friday, February 09, 2018

Heart Like Heaven....

I've been captured by this worship for days now, so I'm going to share it.

This song is just.... amazing. Heavenly. Ethereal. A song that takes you... beyond... when you worship and sing those words, "Holy is Your Name" from the depths of Your being to a God that you know is above and beyond anything we can comprehend. A God that is so far beyond what we are, that we would not even be permitted to worship Him if it weren't for the fact that He has made a way for us to offer our "heart-broke sound" in worship to Him. To "throw our weakness into His greatness."

Listen to it a few times... long enough to learn the words and sing along with it... and find the glory of connecting with a holy God in worship.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion