Category Archives: Devotional Thoughts

Devotional thoughts about a relationship with God.

My Father’s Eyes

I am a visual freak, so to speak. I am not an artist, photographer or designer, but I love looking at color and light and how they play off one another, especially outside in nature. I can look out my window at the same scene in our yard anytime during the day, and I will see something different and uniquely beautiful depending on the angle of the sun light. The same leaves on a tree can appear golden at one point in the morning, while shimmery silver at another time, even the shadows create beauty.

I am on a journey of losing my eyesight through macular degeneration. This has caused me to focus more on what I see around me, and what I see spiritually.

My Eyesight Affects My Life
I strive for clarity in my physical eyesight as well as in the eyes of my heart. I need clear vision in my spiritual life, to find my way with God and man. The eyes through which I see other people, my relationships, events, trials/difficulties, achievements, etc., in my life will make a significant difference in my faith and how I live out that faith in my life.

When I am hurt by another person, do I see them as someone to avoid, and complain about; or, do I see them through God’s eyes of forgiveness and patient endurance?

When my children behave in ways that embarrass me, do I see them with eyes of condemnation, shame and despair; or, do I see them through God’s eyes of grace and persevering love?

When I am passed over for some position, promotion or honor, do I look at those who made the decision with bitterness and anger; or do I see it as God working out what is best for me, and do I look for His will and His timing?

When I struggle with physical illness or limitations, such as my weakening eyesight, do I look at God with accusing eyes, and charge Him with not loving me; or do I look to Him with faith and seek to surrender my will?

In 1979, Amy Grant released a song entitled, “My Father’s Eyes.” In the song, Amy Grant sings of how she wants to see people and life through the eyes of God so much so that when she dies, she will be recognized in eternity by the fact that she has “her Father’s eyes.”

Eyes of the Father: Compassion
Jesus reveals to us the eyes of the Father. In Mark 1:40-45 Jesus meets a leper on the road. Jesus looked at the leper through eyes of compassion and healed him. The scripture says; “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, v.31.

Leprosy was not pleasant to look at, smell or touch, but it moved Jesus to compassion and action.

Sin is like leprosy, it rots our heart. It distorts our character and disposition. It is not pleasant to be around a person ruled by a sin, such as anger, bitterness, addictions, pride, and so on. The question for me is: How do I look at someone who is struggling with sin? Do I have compassion and reach out or do I draw back?

Take it a step further, how do I look at someone who is different from me, or from societies “nice” norms? Someone who is homeless or very poor? How do I view someone who is uneducated; someone who dresses on a weird style; or someone who has a disability?  Do I avoid them or reach out to them?

Eyes of the Father: Grace
In John 8:1-11 Jesus meets an adulterous woman. She was, so to speak, thrown at Jesus’ feet. The men who brought her to Jesus expected Him to look on her with condemnation.

According to the Law, she was to be stoned, but Jesus looked at her through the Father’s eyes of mercy. In mercy He released her. He moved the men from condemnation to grace. Each man dropped his stone and turned away.

When someone has sinned, most especially when someone has personally sinned against me, am I willing to drop my stones; the stone of judgement; the stone of accusation; the stone of blame; the stone of condemnation or revenge?

Eyes of the Father: Love
In Mark 10:17-27, a young ruler talks to Jesus about eternal life. This young man seems to have it all: wealth, status, power and a relationship with God. Yet, when Jesus asked him to give up the one thing that he loved more than God, he couldn’t do it. He struggled and walked away sad.

Even though Jesus knew this man would reject Him, the scripture states, “Jesus looked at him and loved him,” verse 21.

God looks at us in love even when we struggle to do what is right. When we fail, there is love. When we turn away from God, He watches for our return with eyes of love, Luke 15:11-32.

God does not overlook sin, but rather He chooses to look at us through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

What do I choose to see? Do I look at people who are struggling with eyes of love or frustration? Do I look at those who fail me with eyes of love or accusation? Do I look at people who turn away from God with mercy and perseverance, or do I write them off as lost causes?

Do You Have the Father’s Eyes?
As a disciple of Jesus, I would like to think I have my Father’s eyes, but after reviewing these passages I have had to examine my vision more deeply. So, today when I pray for my physical eyesight, I will more urgently pray for my spiritual eyesight, to have my Father’s eyes.
What about you dear Reader? Maybe, it is time for an eye exam?

Bible Bytes: Being Brazen with God or the Approachable God

David is very bold with God. He asks God some very poignant and seemingly brazen questions. We all understand the frustration of waiting for someone, or the discouragement we feel when someone fails to follow through on a responsibility or a commitment in a relationship. In our frustration or even disappointment we might ask: “Where were you? What happened? Why didn’t you follow through on what you were supposed to do? Don’t you care? How often do you need to be reminded?”

But, and this is a big but, in Psalm 13, David is asking God these questions. Here is what David asks God:

  • “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
    How long will You hide Your face from me?
    How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
    having sorrow in my heart all the day?
    How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)

Why the tough questions?
We do not know the exact situation David was in that brought about these questions.  David does not disclose that in the psalm, and scholars have not pinpointed a specific event. Anyone familiar with the life of David knows that he had many situations in his life that could have given rise to these questions.

Questions Reveal Heart
As we read these questions, we get a sense of the underlying desperation and sheer need of David. On one hand he is asking God some heavy duty “why questions,” but on the other hand he is pleading with God for help. Anyone who has felt fear, desperation, or despair in their life from some emotional, spiritual or physical pain has probably asked questions like these. Who has not felt tired of waiting for God to work, wondering why He isn’t, and then feeling forgotten? I know I have.

Take heart if you are asking such questions, they may reveal your faith in God. In many instances these questions signify faith, not a lack of it. Such questions may arise from dependence on a trusted Father, not anger at abandonment.

In our agony we can ask some piercing questions of ourselves and of God. Most often these questions are a way of pouring out our heart to God as we seek to find Him in our troubles. The very thing we consider bold or even brazen about asking such questions of God may actually be our faith trying to become more sure.

The main point here is that David had a relationship with God in which he felt he could ask such questions of the all-powerful God who creates and sustains all things; the One who has life and death in His hands. David did not distrust God’s love, but intimately poured out his soul to God.

In his wrestling, David did find God. In verses 5 and 6, David’s heart of faith is more readily seen.

“But I have trusted in Your loving-kindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6

Ask and You Shall Receive
So, what questions do you need to ask God? What is weighing on your heart? What feelings are you wrestling with? What battle do you need deliverance from? In reverence and trust, ask Him; pour out your heart. You may not get every question answered the way you expect, but you will be drawn closer to God.

 

Bible Bytes: God: Awake, Alert and Oriented

God Awakens to Help Us

“O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me… Arise, O Lord in your anger; if yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.” Psalm 7:1 and 6

Things happen in our life and our relationships that cause us pain, anxiety and inner turmoil. Sometimes these events are of our own doing because of choices we have made; or ways we have sinned. Sometimes we are caught in the fall out of another person’s choices, fears, problems or sin. Whatever the cause, we feel the oppression of the event. At times, I have wondered where God is.

In Psalm 7 we read about David speaking to God about such an event in his life and he seems to be wondering where God is; better yet, David is crying out to “wake” God up to see his trouble.

It seems an accusation or charge was leveled against David by Cush the Benjamite. An interesting side note in these few verses is that David had a heart to accept blame and accountability for his actions should he be shown to be at fault. In the midst of the pain of what he thought were false charges, he had a humble heart. We see his heart in verse 3:

” O Lord my God, if I have done this , if there is wrong in my hands; if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it…” .

God: A Proven Refuge
But the greater truth here is that David went to God with all of this before taking any action himself. David trusted that he could go to God in his time of need because God had proven true to David before in his relationship. Every time David reached out to God, he found God answering him in some way.

David is so sure that God will help him that he frantically calls to God to wake up and see what is happening to him. He seems to think God has not come to his aid yet, because God is not aware of his situation. He asks God to “awake for me.”

Awake for Me
Awake comes from a primitive root word that means “open your eyes.” David cries out to God to look at what is happening to me here – open your eyes- SEE this and help me.

In a literal sense, “awake” means to rouse up from slumber, to open your eyes as you do in the morning to see around you. Figuratively it means to stir oneself up; to incite to action. A truth here is that in any difficulty that I am in, God will awake for me.

God and Me
I am so encouraged by this choice of words that David uses. It reveals characteristics of David’s heart and faith that I need to imitate:  his ever awareness of God’s nearness to him; his belief in God’s willingness to come to his aid; and how “personal” David is in communicating with God. On one hand David acknowledges God as the One who is all powerful and can deliver him and save him; on the other hand David calls out to, so to speak, “wake up his Father.”

No matter what my difficulty, God will awake and rise up to help me. He will provide a way out, or a way to stand up under the pressure. As we read through Psalm 7, we see within the context that we have to  take refuge in God (verses 1, 10); call upon Him to help; have a heart to repent of our fault/sin ( verses 3, 4,5,12), and praise God for His righteous response (verse 17).

Call out to our Father today to awaken on your behalf concerning trials and troubles in your life.

************************
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Psalm 46:1a

Bible Bytes: Prayer Talk Reveals Faith

As I read through the Psalms I am continuously amazed at how lovingly and personally God interacts with us. Today while reading in Psalm 4, which was written by David, I see David’s trust in God which has been wrought within him through his belief in truths about God he has learned in scripture and in his interactions with God.

David trusts God so much that he is comfortable with God. His trust and ease show in his prayers to God. In verse 1, David is so bold as to demand God answer him. He says, “Answer me when I call,” sort of like a trusting, needy child saying, “Pay attention to me, give me what I need.”

In Psalm 3:7, David says to God, “Arise (get up!) and save me.” In Psalm 5:1-2, David demands, in a respectful way, “Give ear to the sound of my words,” and “Give attention to the sound of my cry.”

David’s manner of speaking to God is based on his knowledge of God, the truths he knows about God’s character through the scriptures and through his experience with God. David bases his pleas to God on the knowledge of God’s righteousness; His faithfulness; His protectiveness; His good will and life giving support.

I long for such a close relationship with God. Like David, I need to look for truths about God’s character in the scriptures; and be alert to God’s faithful working and speaking into my life.

Two questions for us: What are you learning about God from reading the scriptures; and, how do you see these truths in your relationship with God?

 

 

Chew and Know 2: Blessings of Rumination

Did you know that a cow can spend up to eight hours a day chewing cud! Cows swallow large amounts of food at one time. They then spend more time bringing that food back up and chewing it. This process allows enzymes to be produced that breakdown the food and cause it to be more effectively processed through the body.

Cows that spend time chewing the cud are proven to have a better quality of life. They are more content and healthier, producing a better milk and having a higher production of muscle.

Do you see any spiritual parallels here between cows ruminating on cud and believers meditating on the Word of God?

A Definition Reviewed and Extended
In the previous article, it was noted that the word for meditation in the original language has its roots in the concept of “muttering” or even “growling.” The word actually has shades and gradations of meaning that create a rich definition.

The word means: mutter, moan, growl, utter, muse, ponder, think, meditate; and, to speak with oneself, murmuring in a low voice as one often does when musing or comparing.

Another insight into this concept of meditation is found in 1Timothy 4:15. Paul is encouraging Timothy to attend to the public reading of the Word, to teaching and preaching, and to use the gifts God has given him. He is specifically telling Timothy to be absorbed in these tasks with the Word of God.

There are two words of interest in this passage. The first is the Greek word “melatao” which means to meditate on as in preparing for oratory; to attend carefully to; to ponder, meditate, to devise and plan and to practice.

The second word of interest is “eimi” which is a form of the word “to be:” meaning to live in; to be immersed in; to be absorbed in or with. It carries the same connotation of Col. 3:16 which encourages us to let the Word of God live in us, richly.

Here are how various versions translate this passage:

  • Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.” 1 Timothy 4:15  NKJV
  • Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.” 1 Timothy 4:15 NASB
  • Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” 1 Timothy 4:15 ESV

It is very clear that reading, teaching and preaching the Word involves a deep intake of the Word of God. 1 Timothy 4:15 describes the concept of meditation as well as its’ most essential product or benefit which is progress in our growth in Christ.

Blessings of Muttering/Meditating
Intimacy with God:
Meditation brings blessings. The focal point of meditating on God’s Word is to know Him. In Psalm 46: 10 the Spirit commands that we be still and know that God is God. Such understanding comes through meditating on truths about God and on His great deeds. The greatest blessing of meditation is understanding God in a deeper way; knowing Him more personally.

Counsel and Instruction: Another blessing of meditation is found in Ps. 16:7:
“I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.”

Pondering and mulling over the Word of God, even in the watches of the night, counsels our heart and instructs our mind. As we meditate we see God and His heart for us more clearly and we are comforted by what we see.

Also, we receive direction and indeed instruction in how to apply the principles of God.

Fruitful and Thriving: Meditating on the Word of God makes us grow. It causes us to become fruitful and effective in our walk with God.

In Psalm 1:2-3 reveals that meditation enlivens and nurtures our spirit making us fruitful and effective in every season of our life.

  • “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.”

Righteous Living:  Meditating on and muttering God’s word helps us be on guard against sin and resist temptation. In Psalm 119:11 we learn that valuing the Word of God so much so that we take time to meditate on it helps us to live righteously: “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

Joy and Satisfaction: Meditating on God’s Word brings contentment and fullness to our spirit. It produces an inner joy within us. Read and believe the truths associated with the practice of meditating on God’s Word.

Psalm 63: 5-6, “My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night.”

Psalm 104:34, “My meditation of Him will be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord.”

Start Chewing
This article is meant to encourage you to begin meditating on the Word of God, on God and His deeds. Taste and see that this practice is good. I would be encouraged to hear of a blessing or insight you receive from your meditations.

Chew and Know

Riddle me this: What do cows and meditation have in common?
Cows belong to a group of animals called ruminants. They have 4 stomachs, one of which is the rumen. It is like a big fermentation vat. It sort of predigests the food. The cow then brings back up the food and chews on it until it can be completely digested and returned to the system to provide energy and nutrition to the cow. Yes, it sounds disgusting!

Meditation on the word of God has similarities to the rumination process of a cow except we are ruminating, meditating on the word of God so that we can digest it to feed our souls. (“Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Mt.4:4)

Plumb and Mutter
Meditation is a process God has provided for us so that we can plumb the depths of the Word of God and grasp truths about Him. Meditation is a way in which we can come to know God more deeply.

The word meditate is very rich in meaning. In the Hebrew language it comes from a word meaning:
– mutter, moan, growl, utter, muse, ponder, meditate;
– to speak with oneself, murmuring in a low voice as one often does when musing or comparing;
– to read syllable by syllable.

Perhaps this is what the psalmist meant when he said:
“My mouth speaks wisdom; my heart’s meditation brings (speaks) understanding.” Psalm 49:3

A Picture of Meditation
The picture of meditation is not necessarily that of someone sitting cross legged on the floor staring vacuously into space. It is possibly more the picture of the professor walking the floor, mulling over his theorems and muttering to himself, pondering meanings and connections, and coming up with deeper understandings.

Meditation involves active thinking upon something, turning it over and over in your mind and even muttering it. Muttering would involve thinking about it and repeating it over and over as in grasping for meaning, perhaps saying it with different emphasis, finding connections between the words within the passage and between other passages. It is not merely the muttering or repetition associated with memorizing.

Sighing and Groaning Are Acceptable
Sometimes meditation will involve sighing in joy, as well as at the beauty of truth, or groaning upon conviction.

In fact, meditation may be born from our groaning under sadness or stress. Psalm 77 is excellent for showing us about meditation. In verses 2-3 we see that sadness and distress motivated meditation. In these verses we also see the connection with groaning and meditation.
“When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.” Ps. 77:2-3

The Word, His Deeds, His Character and Promises
The scriptures encourage us to meditate on the Word of God, on the acts of God as revealed in His Word and in our lives, on God’s character and nature, and on His promises.

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”
Psalm 77:11-12

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.” Psalm 143:5

“On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.” Psalm 145:5

“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalm 119:148

Meditation and You
In my experience meditation on the Word of God and on God is a way I commune with God. Such meditation always causes me to praise and thank God. It opens my mind to understand who God is and who I am in relation to God. It helps to humble me. It increases my ability to trust God for my life.

The problem is I can be so busy and task oriented that I neglect this wonderful way to commune with God. I want to encourage us to take time to meditate on God and His Word. Don’t be satisfied with just reading it, but “chew” on it. As you read the Word set aside certain passages to meditate on. Make a collection of such verses, categorize them by concept or focus and regularly dip into your treasure chest and think, ponder and mutter on them, and grow.

Note: This article is one in a short series on Meditation. To read the following articles subscribe to the blog. To subscribe to the blog on your mobile device: go to the Menu section and click on About; scroll down to the notice to “Follow My Blog,” and enter your email address, then click subscribe.

A Heart for God – Psalm 138

This blog entry is from Bible Bytes a new page on words2encourage.

Psalm 138 is a very short psalm of only 8 verses, yet packed with wisdom. This psalm pours out from David’s relationship with God, and reveals characteristics of a heart for God. Some of these are noted here.

Wholehearted thanks to God (v.1) – “I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise…”.

Humility before God (v.2) – “…I will bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your loving=kindness and Your truth…”.

David acknowledges and values God as God. This acknowledgement of God as God is scattered throughout this psalm, (v.5b – “…great is the glory of the Lord…: v. 6 –“…for though the Lord is high He regards the lowly…”).

Acknowledging “God as God” is important to God. We learn this in Romans 1:20-21, God states that the downfall of men is to worship themselves therefore not acknowledging God as God and giving Him the thanks due Him.

Trust the goodness of God (v. 7) –– “… though I walk in the midst of trouble You preserve my life…” and v. 8 “… the Lord will fulfill His purpose for me…”.

David trusts that God intends good toward Him. David looks back on how God has answered his prayers before and how God delivered him in the past. He has learned to trust the truth of God’s steadfast love. David views himself as a work of God and God will not forsake that work (v.8).

As I read this I reflect on my relationship with God. I ask myself: Do I daily acknowledge God as God? If so, what difference does that make in how I live? Do I give God the thanks and praise due Him? Or am I just relieved when a prayer is answered? Do I have truths about God from His word and from His past interactions with me that I cling to in times of difficulty?

I encourage you to read Psalm 138 and let the truths therein
bless your relationship with God.

God’s Facebook Page

If God had a Facebook page imagine His Time Line and His photos!
I read an article in Reader’s Digest recently that talked about how people are obsessed with documenting their life through technology and on social media.

Entries on Facebook alone are an indication of this obsession. We see pictures, even videos, of major life events, as well as minutia in our life even down to pictures of food we are eating.

Remembering and Relationship
Recording memories about our life and the people in our life is a good thing. Remembering has the ability to enhance our knowledge and appreciation of one another.  Looking back on a picture, or reading a journal entry can evoke a memory of a loving action, an encouraging word or a joy shared.

I remember many fun shopping trips with my mother. We would stop for a hot dog, or eat a sundae at the Woolworth’s lunch counter. At the time, it was just a lot of fun, but as I remember these times I see my mother’s generosity, her desire to be close to her children and to encourage them. So in that remembrance I come to know more about her character and heart.

Remembering people and events is a dimension of our relationship with them. Remembering can revive our feelings for people, but also can deepen our knowledge and understanding of them.

Think on some of your favorite memories. As you bring that person and event to mind ask yourself what do I now know about this person that I did not see before?

God Calls Us to Remember
God cherishes the act of remembering because He knows it will deepen our relationship with Him. There are places in scripture where God specifically commands His people to remember Him, His deeds, and His covenant.

Deuteronomy 7:18-But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand  and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear.

Exodus 13:3- Moses said to the people, “Remember this day, the day you left Egypt. You were slaves in that land. The Lord with his great power brought you out of it.

1 Chronicles 16:12, 15 – “Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth. . . Remember His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.”

Luke 22:19b -20 – “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Prepared for Memories
God prepared memorials for Israel to remember Him in order to remain close to Him. Among these God established memorials are: the Ark of the Covenant with the manna, the rod and the stone tables of the law; the Passover meal, and the 12 stones from the Jordan River. Each memorial brings to mind God’s love, power and faithfulness. Each one documents God’s relationship with His people. I believe these are some of the posts we would see on God’s Facebook page.

In the New Testament era we have the testimonies of the miracles and events of the life of Jesus as documented in the Gospels, as well as the remembrance of the Lord’s Supper. The bread and wine are visual reminders of His death, burial and resurrection, documenting God’s love for us.

Remember and Act
Remembering is not just recall. Zakar is the Hebrew transliteration of the word “remember.” It does not merely mean to recall a fact, detail or an event to mind. It calls upon us to use mind, hands, feet, mouth etc., to engage in whatever action a memory requires.

The true concept of “remembering” involves the action that comes from the remembrance. For example, zakar is used in Genesis 30:22 in reference to God and Rachel: “God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” The specific action of God in remembering was to listen to Rachel’s prayer and open her womb.

In Psalm 77, the psalmist remembers the wondrous deeds of God and this remembrance encourages his faith. He writes of feeling forgotten and unloved by God (verses 7-8). Things are not going well and he is wondering if God is angry with him (verse9). I can relate to those feelings.

The psalmist reaches out for help by remembering about God. “Then I thought…I will remember the deeds, miracles and works” of the Lord (v.11). This remembering strengthens the psalmist’s faith and leads to the action of praising God.
“Your ways are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” Psalm 77:13-14

I have tried “remembering the wondrous deeds of God” when I am feeling discouraged and despaired. I have learned that I cannot remember the great deeds of God from His Word, or that He has done in my life, without it restoring my faith.

God and You
Think through some of the wondrous deeds of God that you read about in the scriptures, what do they inspire in you?

If you were on God’s Facebook page, what are some of the photos or videos of God and you that He would have posted? Think about the wondrous things God has done in your life. What actions of faith do His deeds move you to?

A Word in Season

Looking back on my childhood, I remember Easter as being a favorite holiday. The snow had melted, flowers were popping out of the ground and we were shedding our heavy winter clothing. My mother always made us new “Easter” outfits. I remember one year my mother just finished making me a new outfit, a beautiful lavender and white suit. We headed out to the stores to purchase a hat and shoes to match. My sister had a pink outfit designed and made by my mother. I couldn’t wait till Easter Sunday church service to wear my new outfit.

There were many preparations involving food. Every year we made coconut eggs dipped in chocolate, my favorite. I could often be found dipping my finger into the coconut mix.

Wait a minute! There is something wrong here. Isn’t this the time of year that we focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus? Let’s stop and think a little deeper.

Distracted by Many Things
When I was younger, many things distracted me at “Easter” time. The church my family was affiliated with had many preparations in the weeks before Easter. We met regularly as a group to remember the sufferings of Jesus in His betrayal, trials and crucifixion. There was much talk of His glorious resurrection.

One would think that my heart and mind would have been spiritually focused to praise God as I remembered the sacrifice of Jesus and His resurrection. However, I have to say, while I did give that thought, I was very distracted by other preparations.

My mother was an excellent seamstress, and every year, out of a very generous heart, she would make beautiful Easter outfits for my sister and me. I can remember many of the suits, dresses, even springtime coats. The materials were beautiful pastel colors expertly sewn. I remember one year a beautiful dress with a matching cape. There were, of course, hats with ribbons and flowers, and also shoes to match. I couldn’t wait to go to the Easter church service to wear my new outfit.

In addition to an outfit, we always received an Easter basket full of delicious treats. One year the whole basket was made of chocolate!

This is a sad commentary on my spiritual state. It wasn’t until years later that I began to value the sacrifice of Jesus not only at the time of Easter but daily.

Look Inside
While I grew up around the story of Jesus and had inclinations to spiritual matters of the heart, I was often distracted by things of the world and my “self.” As I began to read the Bible I began to see what my state really was before God.

No one wants to talk about sin today. It is considered an unsophisticated, antiquated topic associated with fire and brimstone preachers in gospel meeting tents.

The truth is when I began to see my sin, the depth and breadth of my sinful nature, then I began to understand and appreciate the sacrifice, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  To this day, when I see my sin, this principle holds the same for me.

Look to Jesus
At this time of year, when people are in some way thinking of Jesus, make a decision to avoid distractions of the holiday and family plans. Take some time to meditate on Jesus and His sacrifice and what it means to you. If you dare, I encourage you to pray and ask God to show you your sin and your sinful nature.

But don’t stop at your sin, because without looking to God our sin is depressing. Look upon the cross at the sacrificial Lamb, at His death and resurrection. Meditate on some of the passages below. These truths will focus your heart on Jesus, and remind you of the true blessings we have received from His death and resurrection.

Be Still and Know

“God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that
in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Corinthians 5:21

“He himself bore our sins” in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by His wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

“Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose us to be His very own through what Christ would do for us; He decided then to make us holy in His eyes, without a single fault—
we who stand before Him covered with His love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us.
And He did this because He wanted to!” Ephesians 1:4-5 (TLB)

“… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith…”  Romans 3:23-25a

“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!”  Rom. 5:10

************************************

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9

Treasures Within

I grew up in a region of our country where anthracite coal beds formed, because of this there were many different types of rocks around the area.

As a young girl one of my favorite places to go was the community pool and playground because rising up around this area were step-like hills with trees and wildflowers on them. I would love to climb and play on these hills. It was here that I found many “rock treasures.” Among these were: sparkling rocks glittery on the outside; some with quartz crystals attached; some thin and clear like with layers like mica; some striated orange and gray. Of course I found the expected, shale and slate. I always felt like I was finding treasure.

The most amazing find was a small, ordinary looking rock that when cracked open it had beautiful crystal structures inside it. I later found out those rocks are called geodes.

Empty Spaces Transformed
According to an article I read, geodes are rocks that have an empty space inside them.  As it rains or as various water sources flow through pores on the rock to the inside, over time, crystals from the various minerals in the water form and transform the rock into a beautiful and valuable gem.
Purple GeodeDifferent elements can affect the color of the crystal. For example trace elements of manganese can cause a pink crystal, while iron can cause purple. Heat is another factor of change. Heat can cause the purple crystal to turn to yellow or citrine. Geodes are a beautiful works of God.

Treasures Within
Geodes remind me of how God transforms us. In a sense we are God’s true geodes who reflect His glory and His image. God takes my empty soul,my rocky hard heart, my fleshly self and transforms me into His radiance. Consider these truths about what God is doing in us.

Transforming
2 Cor. 3:18 tells us that God is transforming us from our fleshly self into His image, into the image of His character and glory. The word transform (metamorphoó) means to change into another form. So God is working in us to change our inner fleshly nature into the essence of His character that we would have the same excellence that shines in Christ.

 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who
is the Spirit.”  2 Cor. 3:18 (ESV)

Conforming
In Romans 8:29 we read the truth that God is conforming us to the image of His Son.
The word conform (symmorphos) implies a changing to make similar to or the same as. We are being changed from the inside, much like the geode, to be like Jesus. We are being fashioned into the likeness of Jesus character.

 “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”Romans 8:29

Filling
We are self oriented. We are fleshly and prone to follow our fleshly nature. God changes, transforms and conforms us to His image. God fills us with His Spirit, with His nature with His fullness.  This is astounding but it is true. This truth is reflected in several places in scripture.

In Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians he points to this truth in verse 19.
“… so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:17-19

In Ephesians 4:13, Paul points to the truth that the whole church, the body of Christ, is being brought to be the fullness of Jesus. So even in the church with all our different strengths, weaknesses, agreements and disagreements, the goal of God our Father is to bring the church into the fullness of Jesus.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4: 11-13

Christ in You
These truths deserve more intense study, deep consideration and prayer as to what they mean to us. They express God’s true intention towards us. In closing, consider this:

“. . . the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:26-27