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Inside the Box

Numbers 7:89 – “And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with him, then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims: and he spake unto him.”

Last night, we were in Bible study at church. Our teen group is not yet meeting. We are on break in between semesters. Our preacher has been giving a study into the Tabernacle and the items found inside. Last night, he was looking at the Ark of the Covenant. 

I’ve been thinking about it last night and this morning. 

Let me give you what I have been thinking about so far. There were items inside the Ark – the staff of Aaron that budded, the Golden Bowl of Manna and the Ten Commandment Tablets. Each of these items had a specific reason why they were preserved inside the Ark. They were for rememberance and as symbols to represent the Savior to come. These reasons are very important. Yet, as the saying goes, they were out of sight and easily out of mind. You see, in my mind, there were times that the children of Israel forgot where God really is – everywhere. 

It is easy to put God in a box. We keep Him tucked away in case of an emergency or crisis or something like that. We don’t appreciate the fact that He will sit right beside you, if you ask Him to. We neglect to remember that He isn’t just in the church house. Rather, He is in our every moment. Just like the children of Israel had all these reminders hidden away in an Ark, we have all these reminders in our very line of sight and especially in our Bible. God has preserved and kept His Word all these thousands of years for a reason – to remind us. Just like He preserved and kept those reminders in the Ark, He keeps His Word, the Bible. 

Now, the children of Israel couldn’t just open up the Ark and look inside to get those reminders. We can. We can open our Bible any time we want and expose ourself to God any time we choose. But do we choose to?

Moses met God at the Mercy Seat. You see, He was there all along. He was out there and among them. They just neglected that memory. Moses had real experiences with God. He spoke with Him. He listened to Him. All of this via the Mercy Seat. 

And you know what? He is still on the Mercy Seat. It has just been relocated to Heaven. When Jesus fulfilled the Law, He went to the right hand of the Father. Just like Moses talked with God at the Mercy Seat, we can talk with Jesus Christ who is on the Mercy Seat in Heaven. 

You know, the great thing about the Bible is that it all works together. The Old Testament helps explain the New Testament. We can look at promises and prophecies made in the Old Testament and see them fulfilled in the New Testament. Yet no matter where you start, all of it points to Jesus Christ. He is the reason for it all. He is the main event. He is the Savior of the world. Without Him, it’s all just a bunch of stories. But I don’t know how you can even begin looking into the Word of God and not see Jesus Christ. I see Him in the Garden, in the Flood, in the Exodus, in the Law, in the Judges, in the Psalms, in the prophecies and so on and so on. He is everywhere you care to look. And all the promises, all the prophecies, they all point to one thing – the salvation and return of Jesus Christ.  

It really is beautiful. I would encourage you today to step into the Word and go on the adventure of a lifetime – no, of an eternity. 

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Remembering the Reason

Isaiah 9:6- “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Today is what is known as Cyber Monday. We have already had Black Friday and Shop Local Saturday. The holiday season is in full swing. 

My Christmas tree is up. The lights have been strung on pretty much anything that will stand still long enough to receive them. The presents that I have purchased have been wrapped. The snow village is up. The calendar is quickly filling with party dates. Christmas cookies are on my mind. 

And then there is the other stuff like school soccer season is in full swing. Competition cheer is getting ready to gear up. My birthday is coming up and so is my son’s. Midterms will be here in 3 weeks for the kids – that means the studying will viciously commence. 

But in all this hustle and bustle and crazy, busy schedules…oh Lord help me not to forget why we celebrate. Help me not to forget why. 

Under my television, the focal point of just about any house (besides the kitchen), is the nativity scene. I put it there on purpose. I want a constant reminder of what this season is really all about – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

It is way too easy to get caught up in the lights and the gifts and the decorations and the parties and the food. I need that constant reminder that this is the time of year that we celebrate and remember all that Jesus has done for us. He is the Wonderful. He is the Counselor. He is the Mighty God. He is the Everlasting Father. He is the Prince of Peace. He was our sacrifice. He bore our sin. And He did it all out of love. That is what Christmas is all about.

So as you go through your day today, listening to Christmas music, thinking about gifts and admiring all the lights and decorations, don’t forget why it is all out there – Jesus. Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

Thanksgiving week

1 Chronicles 16:8,9 – “Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works.”

It is the week of Thanksgiving. I agree with the statement that we should be thankful more often than once a year. I try very hard to live a life of thankfulness. As you can see here, I wear a bracelet to remind me to be grateful and thankful.

What does it mean to give thanks? 

I think that being thankful can take many forms. 

Prayer – Reaching out to God in prayer just to tell Him how appreciative you are for Him being active in your life.                    Songs – Singing praises to God with a heart in a position of humbleness and gratitude.                                                         Conversation – Have you ever taken the opportunity to turn the spotlight off yourself and turn it on God? Giving Him the glory for an achievement in your life is a great way to show thankfulness. All too often, we are so focused on ourself that we take away the opportunity to praise Him and give Him glory.                                                                                                                                      Giving –  I think that when we take the time to give to someone else out of the abundance that we have, we are, in a way, giving thanks. When we give with the heart of humbleness and the desire to help someone else along, we are telling God thank you for supplying my needs and giving me the opportunity to help someone else.

Just like anything else, all of these acts of thankfulness can be corrupted by our heart-itude. If our heart is focused on ourself, if our motive is promoting self, then each act is torn to pieces in front of the throne of Christ. Our acts of thankfulness becomes acts of pride and selfishness, neither of which is honoring or glorifying to God. 

So, as you enter this week of busyness – planning, traveling, buying, cooking, cleaning, preparing and all the other craziness that I know goes on at my house – check your heart. Make sure that you determine in your spirit that you will choose to plan, travel, buy, cook, clean and prepare with thankfulness in your heart because all of these actions require prayer, singing (to keep from going crazy), talking with others and giving of yourself and what you have out of your abundance. Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks. Make sure THAT is your primary priority.

2 Kings 5 – Day 3

2 Kings 5:15,16 – “And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant. But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused.”

Here we begin this final day with Naaman coming back to Elisha to offer him gifts for telling him how to be healed. Naaman acknowledged God as his Healer, but he wanted to give Elisha some of his treasures as a thank you. Elisha, however, refused. 

The problem is found after verse 16. Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, had overheard this generous offer and was none too happy when Elisha refused. So after Naaman had left, Gehazi ran after him and made up a story about travelers needing money and clothing (vs. 21,22). Naaman was all too happy to assist Elisha with his “problem” (vs. 23). But when Gehazi came back to where Elisha lived, he hid the treasures and then denied that he had left (vs. 24,25). Elisha knew what he had done and bestowed upon Gehazi the very thing that Naaman had come to have taken away – leprosy (vs. 26,27).

What’s the lesson here – 

1) When we are following after God, we should not expect a reward. When God tells us to do something, we should not expect recognition, compensation for our work or any other form of reward. When we do, it shows a problem in our heart-attude. Yep, just made that word up. It means the attitude of our heart, the reason that we do something. Elisha did not help this wealthy and recognized man because he thought he would get some kind of reward. No, Elisha helped Naaman because God told him to. And when offered a compensation for his efforts, Elisha politely declined. God should receive the glory. Additional money and fine clothes would only draw attention to Elisha and people would ask how he came into this wealth. He would have to answer honestly and then Elisha would be put on a pedestal. Elisha knew that was not what God wanted. Pride, as we learned earlier, has the potential to destroy anyone who sips from that cup. When God tells you to do something, just do it without expecting anything. 

2) Greed will come back to bite you in the rear. Gehazi thought he could pull the wool over Elisha’s eyes. I guess he forgot who Elisha was in contact with – the Almighty God. But Gehazi couldn’t stand the thought of all those nice clothes and all that money heading back to where it came from without him getting just a sliver of it. So to get a portion, he lied. Dishonesty is one thing that really lights my fire. If there is one thing that I have taught my children over and over again is that telling me the truth the first time will get you in a lot less trouble than me finding out you lied to me. I am honest with others. I expect the same from other people. Unfortunately, many people don’t feel the same way and our world is full of people who refuse the truth. Our world is also filled with greedy people. There are people just like Gehazi out in the world that will say and do anything just to get something without having to lift a finger for it. They sacrifice intergrity and honesty just to gain an easy buck. Not the kind of person I want in my life.

So on this last day of 2 Kings 5, remember this – following God doesn’t mean you need recognition from others AND integrity and honesty are way more important than wealth. Both of these are challenging lessons. We all like to be recognized and a little extra in our wallet is a good feeling. But once again, how did we get it? God will recognize our deeds one day. That’s the only One whose acknowledgement really matters. And trusting that God gives us what we need when we need it helps to keep the greed away. 

Happy Friday.

Life in grace


2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

How do you like my tablecloth? It is probably one of my favorite fall tablecloths that I have. (The other one is the one with the foxes. So cute!)

I have heard grace defined so many times that I struggle to remember each one I have heard. The most popular definition is “unmerited favor of God”. But I have also heard it described as “God giving you what you do not deserve”. 

The term “grace” is also used to describe a person’s actions and behaviors. The word “grace” has been used in conversation in the place of prayer – “Would someone like to say grace?” Grace is also used as a name. 

But what should grace be in our life? And how in the world does it relate to this Bible verse? How is grace a way to live?

We do not deserve what God has given us in our life. We have blessings in abundance even on the hardest of days. We have the opportunity to spend eternity with Jesus despite our constant and devious desires to do things that are wrong. We do things out of duty rather than out of love. We moan and groan when things don’t go just as we had planned. We do not deserve what God has given us in our life.

Yet, He has given us the opportunity each and every day to put away the old things that may have gone on yesterday. Each day is a clean slate, a new opportunity. Each day should be seen as a challenge to truly put away all those old ways and truly become new. 

And grace plays a part in all of this. Grace is remembering what God has done for you and living your life in newness so that you might, in some small way, say thank you. You can’t earn grace. You can’t buy grace. You can’t construct grace. Grace is one of those beautiful gifts that you have to accept by faith. It just is. 

So this weekend, as you notice the chill in the air and see the newness of color in the leaves or just appreciate a slight decline in the temperature, remember grace. Remember the beautiful, free gift that it is and the fullness it has to offer you in your life. Live life in grace. 

Praise the Lord

Isaiah 9:6 -“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

I was listening to one of my favorite artist yesterday, Crowder. His music is very raw and really hits home to me. He has a song called, “Praise the Lord.” When you first hear the lyrics, they sound almost disrespectful, but if you keep listening, you hear the real message. Here is the gist of it.

How do you see Jesus? Do you see Him as a magic 8-ball that you occasionally ask a question to? Do you use Jesus as a gun, shooting down thoughts and feelings that are different from your own? Do you swing Him like a hammer, forcing your ideas and beliefs upon someone else? Do you keep Him under the steeple or in the Book? Or do you use Him as a prescription – only when something is wrong?

That is not Who Jesus is. That is not His purpose or His plan for you. Praise the Lord.

Sometimes we think that His love is more of a river rather than an ocean. Narrow and wide, deep and shallow, we fear that it will run away. But His love is more of an ocean that is vast and deep and constant. Others might think of His love as a song, wrapped up with a neat beginning and ending. But His love is more like a symphony that is filled with all kinds of notes and instruments that is woven together to create the most beautiful melody.

We try to make God’s love so difficult, so challenging. But Jesus is way more than we can ever imagine if we just let Him love us and be Who He is supposed to be in our life.

When we consider Jesus and who He should be in our life, we need to remember that He is endless – He always has been. I don’t think we can ever truly grasp it. It is a mystery that will one day be revealed when we are with Him. But the decision to be with Him needs to be a joyful choice, not a fearful leap. 

I think that too often we try to put Jesus in our neat little box or use Him as a weapon to drive fear and coercion into people. That’s not Who He is. Jesus isn’t a genie in a lamp or a lightening bolt throwing being or a fair weather friend. No, Jesus is so much more than that – Praise the Lord.

Jesus is The Leader. Jesus is Wonderful. Jesus is The caring Counselor. Jesus is The Mighty God. Jesus is My Everlasting Father. Jesus is The Prince of Peace. Praise the Lord.

Sleeping through the storm

Luke 8:22-25 – “Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.”

We just went through a hurricane. Not my idea of a good time, I’ll tell you. As we laid in the closet under the stairs while the front and back of the eye of the storm went over our house, my kids slept. The electricity had gone out which caused the fan to go off which woke me up to the raging wind. It howled and screamed and thrashed against the front of our house. I’m laying in the closet praying, “Please God, keep the roof on my house and my friends and family safe” while my children are sleeping. Sleeping! I was glad though. I was in a state enough without having to deal with them freaking out.

While I was out and about yesterday working, I heard the same thing from many of my clients – they slept through the hurricane! What?! How can that be? They went to bed Sunday night and knew nothing had happened until they woke up Monday morning. 

My grandma always said, “The Good Lord’s gonna gitcha when He wants ya whether you’re hidin’ or not.” Faith. Faith that He is in control and we have nothing to fear. I experienced a great deal of fear last week, especially Friday. Friday was tough for me. I believe the majority of it was the uncertainty. We had no idea where the hurricane would hit and how bad it would be. The Holy Spirit had to keep whispering to me – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) He had to say it multiple times because I was having a hard time getting my heart and mind to listen. Faith.  Faith that He is in control.

Now, I’m not certain that all of my clients have that sort of faith in their lives. I’m working on that. But I do know that God used their…faith, or lack of hearing, to remind me that I have nothing to fear, even in a hurricane. It is about letting go and letting God. And that, my friend, is tough. I like to be in control of things going on in my life. I like to know when, where and how things are going to go before I step into it. But faith reminds me that sometimes I won’t know all the details. Faith reminds me that sometimes I need to sleep during the storm. I can’t control it. I can’t affect the outcome of it. I can only prepare and pray. 

Prepare and pray. Maybe that should be my new motto. Isn’t that all God really wants us to do? Second Timothy says He gave us a “sound mind” – the ability to know when to prepare and how to prepare. We know that “power” is from God alone. And we know that “love” should cover everything we do. And when we have that power, love and sound mind, we can sleep through the storm. Isn’t that why Jesus slept in the boat during the storm? He had all those things in abundance. 

So the next time you find yourself in a storm, whether figuratively or literally, have faith. Prepare and pray. Allow God to take the fear the devil attempts to plant in your heart and turn it into power, love and a sound mind. And sleep through the storm.