Lessons from the Master Crafter

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”        Ecclesiastes 3:11

God is the perfect crafter.  We see that when we look around us.  Nature attests to His awesome creative talent, with azure blue skies, majestic mountains, stunning sunsets, colorful birds, brilliant fall leaves, and the beautiful and fragrant flowers.  Wouldn’t you love to see His artist’s palette with all those wonderful colors?

God is also busy crafting the lives of those who love Him.  He is adding light here and shadow there, a splash of joy, broad strokes of wonder, and accents of peace amid dark shades of sorrow and heartache.  All in perfect balance and harmony.  All to create a masterpiece with your life and mine.

Let me offer a memory-lesson from God that might help.  Years ago (when I had more time and better eyesight) I was an avid cross-stitcher.  One day, as I was working on an intricate design-a mixture of dark and light colors and metallics-I needed to finish off a row of stitching, so I flipped the fabric over, and saw the reverse side of my work.  It was a mess of knots and tangles and threads crossing from side to side, looking nothing like the picture that was forming on top.

That is when the Holy Spirit revealed a precious truth to me, which I have kept tucked in my heart since: My life is like that cross-stitch picture.  While I only see the bottom of the fabric, with all my imperfections, sorrows, hurts and questions, God is working on the top, and He sees the beautiful picture He is creating from the master design He has planned.  Where I see tangles and knots, and wonder why there are so many dark colors – God sees light contrasting against dark and how brilliantly the gold and silver threads of His majesty and glory stand out against the dark places in my life. And isn’t that the purpose of my life-to make much of God, to glorify Him and show His beauty to the dark world?

From the Old Testament account of Job’s life comes this lament, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, they come to an end without hope” (Job 7:6).  His words brought to mind a poem my Mother shared with me many years ago:

THE WEAVER

My life is but a weaving, between my God and me,
I do not choose the colors, He worketh steadily.

Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper, and I the underside.
Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the canvas, and explain the reasons why
The dark threads are as needful in the skillful weaver’s hand
As threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.

Anonymous

If I could take Job by the hand, I would tell him, as I tell myself and you, that when God is the Weaver, there is always hope.   That season we see as darkness and struggle and pain, in the hands of the Master Weaver, could prove to be the richest season in our lives.  God is working the pattern of your life and of mine according to His will – “His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). Will we trust the design of our lives to the hands of the Perfect Crafter?

 

Master Creator, You have spoken a word to my heart: “Child, if you only knew – the pattern I am using as I craft your life is the image of My Perfect Son. Trust Me beloved.”

How Does He Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote this beautiful poem to her beloved Robert Browning.  Their romance captured the heart of the literary world.  People love a good love story.

How is it then, that the greatest love story often goes unnoticed and uncelebrated? The Biblical writers penned hundreds of beautiful “sonnets” about the love of God.

David, writer of many of the Psalms declared, “I trust in Your unfailing love” 13:5); “show the wonder of Your great love” (17:7); “Your love is ever before me” (26:2); “He is my loving God” (144:2).  The prophet Zephaniah wrote, “[The Lord] will quiet you with His love” (3:17).   The Apostle John said that God has “lavished His great love on us.” (1 John 3:1)  But the words of Paul in His letter to the Ephesians is one of my favorite verses about God’s love, and perhaps was Elizabeth’s inspiration for her own declaration of love.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power,

together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep

is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge

– that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

God’s love is truly immeasurable, and Paul is not trying to put parameters around His love, but rather to express the immenseness of it.  He is trying to define the indefinable in a way that his readers, as well as you and I, can grasp.  He is describing the love of God with dimensions that will hopefully help us better understand its vastness.

How high is the love of God?  Psalm 103:11 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him.”  Man may have climbed to great heights through space exploration, but we have yet to pierce the highest heavens.  God’s love exceeds heights man can never reach.

How long is the love of God? Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

God loved us before time began, and He will continue to love us throughout all eternity.  His love for you and me will never end.

How deep is the love of God? Psalm 86:13 says, “For great is Your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.”  Our greatest enemy is death, an enemy we ourselves have no hope of defeating.  But “Jesus Christ, being in very nature God…made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…humbled Himself…to death” (Philippians 2:6-8, sel.)  Jesus Christ stepped from the glory of heaven, and humbled Himself all the way to the depths of the grave for you and me.

How wide is the love of God?  John records the death of Jesus: “Carrying His own cross, He went to the place of the Skull.  Here they crucified Him” (John 19:17-18) Jesus willingly stretched His arms out to their full span, allowed His hands to be cruelly nailed to the cross and gave His life to save you and me.

Do you know that God loves you? Will you accept and believe in His love?  Unlike man’s love, God’s love is not an emotion.  It is His very essence.  You cannot be good enough to make God love you more.  You cannot be so bad that God will love you less.  God loves you because love is who God is.  God’s love is beyond our understanding, but is right within our grasp.  It is as near as the Cross.

God of Love, I cannot comprehend the greatness of your love, but I receive it and believe it.

Thank You for loving me.          Amen.         

Just Give Me the Truth

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses; seat.  So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.  But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. Everything they do is done for men to see.”    Matthew 23:2-3, 5

I don’t like “fake.”  I have such distaste for pretense or anything contrived.  I especially dislike having someone play on my emotions or feign friendliness trying to get something from me. I know I am not alone in this.  Nobody likes to be lied to or deceived.

Jesus encountered many false people during His time here on earth.  He loved every person, because every man, woman and child is made by and in the image of God. Yet He saw through people as if they were transparent.  Matthew 9:4 says, “Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?’”

The woman at the well in Samaria was trying to hide her true self from Him because she was living a sinful life.  Jesus gently exposed her deception.  When she acknowledged what they both knew, He offered her Living Water and she drank deeply.  Her life was changed by truth, as were the lives of her neighbors who came to know Jesus through her. Truth had set her free.  (John 4:1-42)

Jesus also dealt with many fake, yet very religious people.    Matthew 23 records some of Jesus’ harshest criticism spoken to the religious leaders of His day.  Seven times in this chapter, Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” (Matthew 23: 13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29)  He even called them “snakes” and “vipers”.  These were the religious folks!

What’s the difference between the Samaritan woman at the well and those religious leaders? She was living a lie and she knew it.  The Pharisees were living a lie, only they didn’t know it.  Jesus did.  It is impossible to deceive God.

In my prayer journal recently I wrote, “I don’t like fake in anyone – and I especially despise it in myself.  God, I don’t want to be the kind of person that is fake, manipulative, deceptive or pretentious.  I want to be genuine, real, and sincere.  I want truth God.”  Then the Jack Nicholson line from the movie: “A Few Good Men” popped into my head: “You can’t handle the truth!”

Do I really want to know the truth about myself?  Can I handle the raw, “natural” me?  Would I be shocked by my self-righteousness and judgmental nature?  Would my heart break at the lack of compassion and kindness in me?  Would I cringe to hear gossip and unkind words come from the same lips that teach the Word of God?  When I see my lack of faith, my tendency to anxiety, fear and doubt, would my tears flow?  Can I survive even a glimpse of my selfishness, sinful desires, impatience, laziness, and ingratitude?

Paul felt the same angst as he described his own struggle with sin in Romans 7.  Listen to verses 18 & 21: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I find this law at work: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”  In verse 24 his self-condemnation hits a crescendo, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Paul asks the same question I ask of myself.  Is there any hope for me?

The answer rings with God’s truth – “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!  There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 7:25, 8:1) Paul goes on to say, “God [sent} His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.”  What wonderful news!  Rather than condemn me, He took all my sins with Him to the cross.  I know that I am a sinner, and I live a lie when I try to pretend that I am “good”.  Jesus shows me who I really am.  He bought my pardon on the cross.  He cleansed me, purified my heart, transformed my character and brought purpose to my life.   Ephesians 5: 8 says “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”  I am not who I once was.  Jesus Christ has written a new truth for me.

The truth is I am in Christ and His righteousness is mine. (Philippians 3:9)

The truth is I am God’s child. (1 John 3:1)

The truth is I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The truth is I am made holy by His blood. (1 Corinthians 1:2)

The truth is I have been set free. (Romans 6:18)

The truth is I am forgiven. (1 John 2:12)

The truth is I have the power of the Holy Spirit within me (Ephesians 1:19-20)

It is important for me to see both sides of myself.  I need to be aware of how “wretched” I am on my own, and I need to know the truth of who I am in Christ.  His truth keeps me humble and close by His side. I can hold my head up confident in my new identity.  I don’t have to live a lie any more, trying to appear good.  I only need to walk every day as the child of God that I am.

I pray that my life will always be filled with holiness, godliness, kindness, compassion, and faith in God.  I want to honor and glorify my Savior Jesus Christ as I write and teach. My heart’s highest desire is to stir in others a passion for God and for His Word. But like Paul, I am still encased in human flesh and prone to stumble.  I rejoice that I am in Christ. I no longer fear His wrath, nor need to hide my sin.   When I fall, my Father lifts me up and reminds me of the Truth of who I am, and most importantly whose I am.

“Lord Jesus, in love, You that took my sins to the cross and set me free.  In love, You gave me a new identity, a new future and a new hope.  When I look at myself through Your eyes, I see the beloved child I am.  Thank you.”      Amen.

Between Death and Life

“It was preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.  The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how His body was laid in it.  Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.”                          Luke 23:54-56

It was the darkest day in their lives.  It was the day after Jesus had been crucified on the cross.   They’d heard the as the nails were driven into His hands and feet.  They saw the soldiers pierce His side and watched as the blood and water drained from His battered body.    They had seen Him give up His Spirit.  Their Jesus was dead.

What must this day have been like for these women?  Were they numb with grief?  Or was it the kind of sorrow that aches deep in the bones?   Don’t you imagine they felt fearful and confused? This day must have left them empty inside.

As we look back from this side of the Cross, we know these grieving women were entering a time of waiting.  We want to tell them, “Just hold on! Don’t grieve. Everything is going to change tomorrow.”  As Paul Harvey says, we know “the rest of the story.” We know death could not keep its grip on Jesus. We know they will soon find the tomb empty.   But they didn’t.  They thought it was all over.  Jesus’ death was final.  The man they believe was going to change the world was dead.

They didn’t know they were only waiting.

No long ago, I felt “dead” – both emotionally and spiritually.  I thought my life and my dreams were gone. I became buried in a dark grave of depression, fear and anxiety.  Feeling of hopelessness and sadness threatened to suffocate the very breath from me. I felt God was done with me.  Earlier I had not answered God’s call to ministry.  I had let it die.  I believed my dead dreams could never be resurrected.  Like the women at the tomb, I was grieving what I thought was lost.  But like them, I too was entering a time of waiting.

But in recent months, God has begun stirring something wonderful and alive in my spirit. His call on my life was not dead.  Just like the women leaving the tomb, I didn’t know there was more to come.  I was only in a time of waiting for God to fulfill His plan.  It wasn’t death – it was the day between grief and resurrection.

Don’t mistake the waiting season in your life as the death of your dreams. Hold on. God promises that an abundant new life is coming through the resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Holy Father – You are the Master at bring life from death.  By Your resurrection power, Jesus was brought back to life – and by that same power you will give life to my hopes and dreams.

Amen.

Alive in Christ – or on Life Support?

 

Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.  Ephesians 2:4

Read: Ephesians 2:1-10

This passage is a great contrast in life and death, spiritually speaking. Paul says that before we come to Christ we are dead in our transgressions and sins.  He describes the spiritually dead person as one who follows the ways of the world and of Satan, gratifying the craving of our sinful nature, to the point that God declares us objects of wrath

I love how Paul emphasizes that this is who we were, how we used to live, at one time.  He is driving home the past because in v. 4, he delivers the contrast:  “But, because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”

The heart of the Gospel runs like the blood of Jesus through this verse:

God made us alive with Christ by grace.”

Paul cites two reasons in this verse to explain why God did such a marvelous thing; because of His great love for us, and because He is rich in mercy.  Paul identifies God’s love, grace and kindness as His gift to us. He expresses it beautifully in verse 7 – “the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

So, if indeed we have been made alive in Christ, what does that look like?

A person who is alive in Christ is dead to sin, meaning sin does not reign over those who are alive in Christ.  We will all struggle with temptations and sin, as long as we walk this earth, but for the one who is alive in Christ, sin is the exception, rather than the rule. (Romans 6:11-12; 8:9-10)  A person who is alive in Christ is controlled by the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit).

When we are controlled by the Spirit of Christ, we see another very important sign of spiritual life – fruit. A person who is alive in Christ lives a fruitful life.  A plant that is alive will produce “fruit” of some type – grapes, beans, flowers, peaches – because that is exactly what it was created for.  The person who is alive in Christ also produces fruit –  “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) – characteristics which marked our Savior when He was here on earth. Fruit doesn’t produce itself, but it is the work of the plant that creates the fruit. In John 15:5, Jesus said that in order to be fruitful, we must “remain in Him.”  To remain in Christ is to consciously and obediently accept the authority of His Word, and to stay in constant contact with Him through prayer.

A person who is alive in Christ will be actively serving and working for the Kingdom of God. Paul declared in  Ephesians 2:10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” How do we discover those “good works”? They are the gifts of the Spirit:

Romans 12:6-8 – prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, showing mercy

1 Corinthians 12: 8-10 – wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, discernment, speaking in and interpreting tongues

1 Peter 4:11 – speaking, serving

Ephesians 4:11 – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers

Remember there are many other gifts God uses to bless the church: music, cooking, artistic and creative talents, organization, even the gift of patience with little children.

Finally, a person who is alive in Christ will be filled with love, which is the hallmark of those who belong to the Lord.

The New Testament writers declared love to be supreme in the life of a Christian. Paul said love is “the most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31) and said of the foundations of the Kingdom of God-“faith, hope and love, the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Peter declares: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)  And John the Revelator gave a beautiful epistle on love in 1 John where he says: “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light” (2:10); “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (3:18); “Let us love one another, for love comes from God.” (4:7) and “Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (4:21)

And of all Jesus’ words recorded in the four gospels, I can only find one time that He prefaced His words as a direct command. John 15:24 – “This is my command” – “Love one another as I have loved you.” He said our love for one another would be the distinguishing mark that declares to the world “we belong to Jesus”. John 15:25 – “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Can we be saved and still not be “alive in Christ”?

Revelation 3:1-2I know your deeds, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.

We can claim the Name of Jesus Christ, come to church every Sunday, give money, sing in the choir, attend Bible Studies, even teach Sunday School – and proclaim ourselves alive in Christ,

But unless there is growth and maturity,

unless there is fruit production,

unless there is love

– we are Christians on life support.

 

When My Spirit Grows Faint Within Me

“When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who know my way.”  Psalm 142:3

Have you ever gotten weary?  Weary is more than just tired.

Weary goes down into the bones and drains your energy and hope.  Weary affects body, mind and spirit. You know what I mean.  When the stack of bills gets higher but the job prospects are shrinking, when you take your child to one more specialist, only to hear him say, “I don’t know how to help her.”  Maybe you are in a difficult marriage, have an elderly parent you are trying to care for, or are dealing with an adult child who can’t find his way in life.    Perhaps your work is pulling you down or you are struggling with a particular sin you cannot break free of.  You are weary.

David, the author of Psalm 142, understood weary.  At the time of this writing, David is hiding in a cave from the current King of Israel, Saul, a jealous and unstable ruler.  Though he is an innocent man, he has been running for his life for many long months.  He feels all alone – listen to verse 4-“Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me.  I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.” He describes his situation as “desperate,” (v. 6) he sees himself like a prisoner (v. 7).  He is tired, he is lonely, and he is weary.

But he is also wise, because he knows where to go for strength.

He turns to the Lord.  In this Psalm he says; “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord,” “I pour out my complaint before him,”” (v. 1, 2) Because David is confident of God’s mercy (v. 1), he confesses his weakness and finds the strength he desperately needs in the face of his troubles.  He remembers who God is and encourages himself as he declares that God is his refuge (v. 5), God will rescue him (v. 6), and set him free (v. 7).

The amazing thing about this Psalm is that David knows his destiny is not to run and hide forever.  His destiny is the Throne of Israel; for God, through the prophet Samuel, has already anointed him. He cries out to God, and trusts Him to fulfill what He had already promised.  God knew “the way” he was taking , and He knew the way to bring him to the palace.

David is a wonderful example for us.  He took his needs and his feelings to God. He didn’t put on a brave face before God, but was open with his pain and loneliness. He recalled God’s character and His promise to be David’s refuge and helper.  Did you notice that as David focused his mind on God, his lament turned to praise?  Now David is speaking of his rescue as if it has already happened, and he is planning the testimony he will share on the other side of this difficult time.

Are you weary today? Has the path of your life taken you into the wilderness?  Turn to the Lord, and cry out to Him for strength and hope.  Remember his character and His promises.  Remember that, in Christ, you are a child of the King, and your destiny is eternal life with your Father.  Yes, God knows the way you are taking now, and He knows the way to get you where you belong.

He knows the way home.

Holy Father, when the struggles of this life make me weary, You know my way – because You are right beside me, leading me home.  Amen.

Fill Me Up Lord!

“Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You.  I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods, with singing lips my mouth will praise You.”   Psalm 63:3-5

I had a conversation recently with my chiropractor, about trying to get off the couch and get moving.  I argued with him, “But I have no energy!”  He told me that when we only use a small amount of energy every day, our body gets accustomed to that and eventually doesn’t demand any more of us.  That is how a “couch potato” is created.  But if we push past that bar we have set, our body will begin to respond to the demand for additional energy and will build a greater energy reserve.  We have to be determined to break the low-energy barrier.

I said, “You know, there is a spiritual application here.” I rolled that thought around in my mind, and this is what God showed me:  If we allow ourselves to become satisfied with just a little bit of God, we will never want more of Him.  But if we push past that bar we have set, our hearts will begin to respond to Him more and more, and we will find that we can never get enough of Him.  We will be filled with His love, and His Spirit will give us new life.

How do we push past that low-level desire?  God has shown us the way in Jeremiah 29:13 – “You will seek me and find me when You seek me with all your heart.”  The terminology that is used to “seek” God speaks of an intense desire to know Him, and a passionate and determined pursuit of Him.  The wonderful truth is that God promises to reveal Himself to us when we do.  In fact, the original Hebrew says that He will cause us to encounter Him – if we seek Him with all our hearts.  As He reveals more of Himself to us, our love for Him deepens, and our search for the heart of God intensifies more and more.

Jesus tells us “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Listen to His promise: “For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)  We often claim this verse for the needs and pursuits of our lives, but I believe this promise has a greater purpose: If we pursue God with this kind of faith and determination, what we ask-more of Him-will be given to us.  You can be assured that if you seek Him, you will find Him.  You have His word on it.

Are you “satisfied” with your relationship with God, or do you long for more?  Turn off the T.V., push yourself up from the couch, and begin to pursue Him.  Get involved in a local church, with faithful attendance.  Join a Sunday school class or Bible study group.  Find a Christian mentor you can learn from.  Establish a daily habit of reading your Bible and praying.   When you make knowing God a priority in your life, He will show you truths you never dreamed of.  Jeremiah 33:3 says “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”  This is God’s invitation to know Him, and His promise to reveal things you never even thought to ask about.  This is your invitation to go deeper with God.  Will you seek Him?

 You have said to my heart, “Seek my face!” Your face Lord, I will seek. (Psalm 27:8)

Boldness and Awe

“Then Moses said, ‘Now show me Your glory.’” Exodus 33:18

 The way in which we see God influences our relationship with Him.  To some He is a combination of Grandpa and Santa Claus, out of touch with reality, but still sweet and giving.  To others He is “Big Brother” with a huge club, watching us for any opportunity to smack us for messing up.  A God who is benevolent, but powerless is no help to us in our time of need.  A God who is powerful and unfeeling breeds fear that drives us away from Him.  We would have no God if He were either of the two scenarios. It is vastly important to see God as He really is, as He has revealed Himself in His Word.

The truth is, God is both benevolent and powerful, which is why we can approach Him with our needs and know that He is both able and willing to help us.

Hebrews 4:16 tells us to come before the Throne of Grace with “parresia” which means boldness, confidence, frankness, openness of speech; bringing everything about the matter to God.  Paul says that “In [Christ] and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.  This confidence stems from our trust in God – which literally means “to be persuaded or convinced,” terms that carry legal weight.  We can come before Him boldly because we are confident that He will receive us, we are convinced of His love for us, and we are persuaded that He can and will come to our aid.  We come before Him with boldness because He has opened the way for us through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

But in addition to boldness, we must also come before God with awe and reverence. Solomon, the great king of wisdom, said “God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:2)  While we are welcome into God’s presence as His dearly loved children, we must never forget Who we have come before.  We are approaching the Lord who is Holy (Isaiah 6:3); Righteous (Psalm 119:137); and Sovereign (Daniel 4:25).  Hebrews 12:28-29 reminds us that we are to “be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  Rather than seeing Him with terror, we should regard Him with holy reverence and thank Him for His love and mercy to us.

To see God only as harsh and uncaring is to turn Him into a mean-spirited ogre. To see God as Father, but not as holy is to make Him into a one-dimensional entity.  God is all loving, and He is all holy.  Not in perfect balance, but in perfect fullness.  Peter made a wonderful observation in 1 Peter 1:17 – “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.”   Peter recognizes the love relationship we have with our Heavenly Father, and reminds us that He is also the Sovereign and Holy God Almighty who judges in righteousness.  He is our Father, and He is our Lord-overflowing compassion and overwhelming holiness.

He is the one who holds our lives in the palm of His hand.

Oh what a glorious place to be – cradled in the hands of One who is so mighty and awesome, and who loves us with an everlasting and consuming love.

Lord – Jesus called You “Holy Father” – the perfect Name for the One who is both awesome in holiness and perfect in love.  May my heart always belong to You.  Amen

Pay Attention!

I was on my way to work this morning, just rolling with the traffic around me, and letting my mind wander a bit.  You know — going over the projects for the day, thinking about my child who needs some encouragement, what to make for supper, reminding myself to pay the utility bill, etc.  Suddenly, brakes lit up ahead of me as we spy the patrol car parked off the roadway. I notice that the whole pack of cars had been speeding, and I was right in there with them.  Thankfully the officer was after bigger fish than me, but I realized something in that moment.  I had been letting the rest of the cars set the speed for me – and in going along with the pack, I had broken the law.

The “road” of our life, like the physical highway can lull us into something of a daze.  It becomes so easy to go along with the crowd. But there is much danger when we do.  The crowd will almost always lead us away from God.

The Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah gives us some very wise advice.

“Set up road signs; put up guideposts.  Take note of the highway, the road you take.” (Jeremiah 31:21)  In short: Pay attention!  Notice everything around you, and everything in you, and the way you are going.   Far too often, the way we take is just where we drifted to.

Do you see the directive in this verse? The Hebrew for “set up” is to stand oneself before, to station, establish, to attend.   There is nothing casual here; this is a strong decisive word.  It is a deliberate and purposeful action.  The word “guideposts” is amazing as well-the root word means “column of smoke.”  Now if you know much about the Bible at all, you will remember that the Israelites were lead by God through the wilderness with a “pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night” (Exodus 13:21) God is still leading His people, He is still making Himself visible to us if only we will pay attention.

We are also directed to “take note of the highway, the road you take.”  The heart of this section is – well– the heart.  By looking at the terminology, Jeremiah is instructing us to set our hearts to follow the Lord along the right “road” – the road or highway being the conduct of our life.  This is an intentional decision to guard our hearts and minds and stay alert to both the leading of the Lord and any attempt by Satan and the world to draw us off course.  We will never follow God by accident. We will never stumble into a daily discipline of prayer and reading the Bible.  We will never just fall into obedience. We must determine to do so.

What is the benefit of all this determination and attentiveness?  “A highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk in that Way.” (Isaiah 35:8) Isaiah proclaims a “Way of Holiness” that will take us into God’s presence and light.  A highway that He has prepared for those who “walk in the Way.”

 The road we travel today will either lead us closer to God or farther away.  It’s your choice.  Will you pay attention to the direction you are traveling?

Almighty God, teach me to pay attention and to follow you with all my heart. Amen