Shaken – with a Purpose

He changes:

  • RIVERS into a WILDERNESS
  • SPRINGS OF WATER into a THIRSTY GROUND
  • A FRUITFUL LAND into a SALT WASTE
    Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it.

True wickedness is settling for and embracing the temporal instead of the eternal. Let me rephrase that.
True wickedness is settling for and embracing earthy, earthly, temporary things when the God who IS, and is a Rewarder, offers us the eternal, offers us Himself.

True wickedness is not – sexual perversion, divorce, abuse, pornography, violence, war, murder, rape, drug abuse, prostitution, molestation, theft, adultery, greed, gossip, envy,….
These things are wrong. They are evil. They are immoral. Not because society or culture says so. Rather, they result from wickedness. They come from the evil, shallow hearts of men and women who do not give thanks (Romans 1:21) because they do not truly believe that He IS – that He is eternal, creator, holy, magnificent, loving, kind – and a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Those evils result from true wickedness – embracing the temporal instead of the eternal.

So, the outer man, the earthly, temporal man, decays (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). The afflictions of this life are intended to show us the vanity of life under the sun (see Ecclesiates) – the temporal – so we will embrace life in the Son – the eternal. Everything we hold on to, everything we settle for, everything we embrace that is temporal eventually will be shaken so that nothing remains except that which is truly worth holding on to the – the eternal. The goal being that we can with gratitude offer an acceptable – whole-hearted, totally yielded, totally trusting, totally resting in Him and His faithfulness – service to God (Hebrews 12:26).

So we go through life and our rivers become a wilderness. Our springs dry up and become thirsty ground. Our fruitful land becomes a waste land. The soap bubbles in which we take such great delight pop into nothingness. Life under the sun just doesn’t seem to hold any meaning, any joy, any true fulfillment.

Quit holding on to things that don’t last, and fall into the Father’s arms, and be held. He truly loves you. Seek Him, and He will be found by you – He will reward your seeking. You long for meaning, for purpose, for peace, for comfort, for joy, for wealth? Don’t settle for the emptiness of soap bubbles, for the whispiness of cotton candy, for life under the sun. Embrace life by giving thanks to the Father and focusing on the Eternal. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.

Then,
He changes:

  • WILDERNESS into a POOL OF WATER
  • DRY LAND into SPRINGS OF WATER
  • And there He makes the hungry to dwell

Is your life being shaken? Are you feeling like you’re in a wilderness? How can I pray for you today?

Oh, the bliss of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled. Click To Tweet

click to retweet, and send me a direct message on my Facebook page with your email or Kindle email address, or sign up for e-mail on my blog, and I’ll send you a digital copy of Jean Ellzey’s book – In Him There Is No Darkness. Jean was born blind and crippled. She was my aunt. Her autobiography is inspiring as she tells of the loneliness of a child who cannot see, who cannot run and play with others, and how she chose God as her best friend, for life.

 

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One for the Worm, One for the Crow

Congratulations! It’s a…

We found some baby oak trees in our yard. Apparently the squirrels and birds have been moving the acorns around because these little trees are nowhere near the young oak trees we already have growing. We left three where they are and put tomato cages around them so we don’t accidentally mow them down. We transplanted some to pots. The dirt fell away from most of them as we removed them from the ground. A couple of them still had the acorns attached. Most didn’t. It was nowhere to be found.

“Some Greeks” sought out Jesus while they were in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. They were there to worship. Who were they? Were they descendants of Jews who had immigrated to Greece? Were they Greeks in the more common sense in which the word is used among Jews at this time – as a generic term for Gentiles, non-Jews? And were they then proselytes, Gentiles who had accepted the Jewish religion? We don’t know. Nor do we know for certain why they were seeking Jesus, or if Jesus met with them. From the passage, it would appear He did not.

Instead, He responded with words about His pending death. He knew that it was soon, and that through it, He, as the “Son of Man,” would be glorified. But He also knew the nature of His death – that He would be “lifted up” – raised up above the ground and hung on a cross. It was not a pretty picture, and certainly didn’t sound glorious or glorifying. His words describe Himself and what He was doing, but also set forth principles that apply to each of us.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Jesus knew that His death was going to result in life. Life always comes out of death. As trees die in a forest, they become the compost that fertilize the next generation. A seed has to die to become a fruit-bearing plant. In an earlier post I told of a poem my dad shared with me when I asked him why he put four seeds in each hole when he planted his corn.

One for the worm
One for the crow
One to rot
One to grow

So, if a seed has to die in order to bear fruit, it obviously is not either of the ones consumed by the worm or crow. Although we associate rotting with death, that seed obviously doesn’t grow either. So, the one that grows must be the one to which Jesus referred. A seed must die to being a seed in order to grow. So our baby trees that had no acorn attached, the tree was all that was left of that acorn.

It is a principle that goes back to the first Garden. When Adam and his wife felt the shame of their sin, exposed before God and one another in the vulnerability of their nakedness – physically and spiritually – God lovingly covered them. The death of that first sacrifice, to clothe them in animal skin, set the precedent of life out of death. It goes back to Noah and the animals and humans who were saved on the ark and came forth to start the world anew. It goes back to Abraham when God had promised him descendants through Isaac and then told him to sacrifice Isaac on an altar. Abraham had learned by that time that God’s promise was immutable and irrevocable, and that if God truly meant for him to go through with this, that God would raise Isaac from the dead. Because he demonstrated his willingness to trust God even in this, God provided a ram as the sacrifice, Abraham received Isaac “from death,” and Isaac received the promise that had been given to his father and became the ancestor of many nations.

And these words of Jesus spoke to the future. They are a promise to all who come to Jesus at the cross. His death becomes our death. His cross becomes our cross. His resurrection becomes ours. His life becomes ours. If we take up our cross daily, we will live. If we lose our life, we will keep it to life eternal. If we “die” to self we will bear much fruit. If we serve Him and follow Him, we will abide with Him and be honored by His Father.

Have you been through, or are you going through, a time of struggle? Do you feel like there’s nothing left to hold onto?

Jesus knew people, like the Greeks in John 12, were seeking Him because He had done some really impressive things – like raising Lazarus from the dead. He also knew that in a few days, He would die on a cross. It would not be so cool or impressive at the time. However, it would be the beginning of life for all who would be willing to let go of this world and its struggles, die to self, and live through Him.

A seed must die to being a seed in order to become a fruit-bearing plant. http://bit.ly/2pqC0eI Click To Tweet
click to retweet, and send me a direct message on my Facebook page with your email or Kindle email address, or sign up for e-mail on my blog, and I’ll send you a digital copy of Jean Ellzey’s book – In Him There Is No Darkness. Jean was born blind and crippled. She was my aunt. Her autobiography is inspiring as she tells of the loneliness of a child who cannot see, who cannot run and play with others, and how she chose God as her best friend, for life.

The Christmas Mystery

How can rational, 21st century man embrace a religion founded some 2,000 years ago? I’m sorry, but how can he not? How can he not realize that although man is building and discovering and accomplishing amazing things, man has not changed. He is still brutal, manipulative, self-centered, and downright ugly at heart – capable of amazing anger, bitterness, cruelty, harshness and vitriol. Yes, much harm has been done in the name of Christ and the so-called “Christian religion.” But this is not the Christ or the Christianity of the Bible.

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“The Christmas Mystery” evokes images of a fictional story taking place at Christmas time involving searching for something, or solving some crime, or reasoning out someone’s strange behavior. There are myriad of possibilities, many of which have been explored in books and movies and TV programs. But this mystery was proclaimed centuries, even millennia ago. It was revealed on that first Christmas night when a young man and woman, deeply in love with one another, found refuge in a barn and laid their newborn baby in a bed of hay in a trough used for feeding cattle – a manger.

What was so mysterious about this event? We’ve told the story countless times in countless ways. We have sung songs about it. We have made into the biggest event on our annual calendar.

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote out a prayer. He prayed that God would grant, according to the riches of His glory, two things:

  1. You to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man
  2. Christ to indwell your heart through faith

There is a wealth of truth in those two phrases, but for now, let’s focus on the indwell part. The word used there means to be at home. Literally, it could be translated “to house down.” That’s kind of an odd way of saying it, but it means to settle in, to be not just in a place of dwelling, but to be comfortably at home.

The results of this prayer would be that you would comprehend the full dimensions of the love of Christ and know it in a way that would surpass all knowledge, and that you would “be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

Paul described himself as a steward of “the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from the ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the gory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:25-27)

The Christmas story is not just a baby in a manger, it is God indwelling His people. It is the gospel story of this child, God with us – Emmanuel – God among us – the creator wrapping Himself in the creation, confining Himself to this tiny little wrapper, growing as a child, becoming a man, living a sinless life, making knowing and fully depending on the heavenly Father His top priority – taking on the death of the cross – the One who did not deserve death dying for those of us who do, then conquering death through the resurrection.  So that He can abide eternally, not just in heaven, but in the each heart that follows Him by faith.

Colossians 1:21-27 – “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach – if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard… Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Not just God with us, but Christ in us. That is the mystery of Christmas. God became man and dwelt among us. In doing so, he only began enacting a series of events that would result in the creator of the universe coming to make His home in your heart. In the process, He would make you holy and blameless and beyond reproach. He would make you a house so beautiful that God Himself would be comfortable dwelling there.

 

My God and I

Jean Ellzey was born in October 1924. She was born blind. It was later discovered she also had a debilitating bone disease, severe curvature of the spine, and dwarfism. The doctors didn’t expect her to survive even a year. She passed away in 1993 at the age of 69.

My Aunt Jean had a great voice. She even taught piano and voice, and children’s choir, and sang in the adult choir at church. One of the songs I most remember her singing was “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” I know a lot of people associated her with that song because she sang it so beautifully. I guess I always kind of thought of it as her favorite song. A few weeks ago I was reading her autobiography (again), and noticed she said her favorite song was “My God and I.”

My God and I go in the field together,
We walk and talk, as good friends should and do.
We clasp our hands, our voices ring with laughter,
My God and I walk through the meadow’s hue.

Pretty cool, huh? She was blind, crippled, never walked without holding on to something or someone. Because she could not walk or see with her eyes as a child, she spent a lot of time alone as the other children around her ran and played. She longed for a friend. She chose God for her best friend. She stuck with that choice her entire life. She couldn’t go for walks, but I know from personal observation that she spent a lot of time talking with her best Friend.

The second verse says:

He tells me of the years that went before me,
When heavenly plans were made for me to be,
When all was but a dream of dim conception,
To come to life, earth’s verdant glory see.

That’s an interesting verse for someone born blind. She “saw” only what she could touch with her hands. She never saw the glorious, green (verdant) grass and trees that surrounded her growing up in northwest Louisiana. Verdant can also mean “young, youthful.” The true glory of earth when it was very young was that God walked with man in the garden. This is how it was meant to be. This was Aunt Jean’s choice – to spiritually walk with God day by day as faithfully as she could. As a result, she saw more of the glory for which we are created than most of us ever will.

My God and I will go for aye together,
We’ll walk and talk and jest as good friends do;
This earth will pass and with it common trifles,
But God and I will go unendingly.

“Go for aye.” I always wondered what that meant, and why in the song it was pronounced with a long “a” sound rather than a long “i” (as in all in favor say, “aye”). I finally looked it up. The long “a” pronunciation is from Middle English according to the dictionary and is a poetic way of saying “ever, or always.” My God and I will always go together. Makes sense.

I tend to kind of stumble over the next line, too. I can visualize the walk and talk part, but the idea of jesting with God always has felt a little strange. I mean, I’m pretty sure God has a sense of humor. He created man and gave us a sense of humor and an ability to laugh. I have had a few occasions in prayer where talking with God I saw the humor in a situation. Still, “jesting with God” is not an easy concept to grasp. Before she died, Aunt Jean dreamed about dying and going to heaven. My mom asked her what she did when she got to heaven. Aunt Jean said, “I was running around seeing people.” I have to say, that still makes me chuckle. I love it that God gave blind, crippled Aunt Jean a dream where she was “running around, seeing people.” Mom even asked her about who she saw, and Aunt Jean gave a very accurate description of their grandfather, Papa Sibley. God does have a sense of humor.

I should maybe choose Him as my best friend, too. How about you? This earth will pass, and with it all the huge things we worry about from pimples to cancer, from gnats to presidential politics. When it does, wouldn’t it be great to spend eternity with your Best Friend?

Retweet this and send me your email address, and I’ll send you a digital copy of Jean Ellzey’s autobiography – “In Him There Is No Darkness.”

This earth will pass & with it everything we fret over from pimples to cancer, but God & I will go unendingly. Click To Tweet

Two songs

My sin – oh wait. this is so cool. Just the thought of this makes me overflow with joy
My sin – not just part of it, not just one sin, but all of it!
Every sin I’ve ever done is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. It is well with my soul.

Or, as Philip Bliss put it:

My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.
It is well, It is well with my soul.

And then there’s this jewel by my dear friend Dennis Jernigan. It’s called “I Will Run to the Arms of My Father.” It’s been awhile since I sang this one, but I pulled it out during my quiet time, and as I sang and thought about how much my heavenly Father really loves me and delights in me, I thought of family and friends who need to hear this. Not just hear it with their ears, but hear it and receive it in their hearts! Oh, to know the love of the Father – God, who not only loves, but is Himself the true meaning of love – who directs that love toward you and me. He loves us with a love a love that will not let us go.

Again I’m brought to the prayer:

Lord, grant them to be strengthened with might by Your Spirit in their innermost being,
and grant Christ to indwell their hearts through faith,
so that:
they may be able to really grasp, really embrace in their heart of hearts,
the breadth and length and height and depth – the full dimensions of the love of Christ
and to truly know – experientially, personally, see it for themselves so that they truly know – the love of Christ, which is greater than all other knowledge!
and be filled with all the fullness of God.

May Christ truly be that at home in your heart today. May he feel totally, comfortably at home in you. And may you find yourself to be enabled with His ability, strengthened with His strength, empowered with His power, by His Spirit in your spirit. God loves you that much! He, the God of the universe, the creator of the universe, wants to confine Himself to that itty-bitty space – inside of you, so that You can know and experience a universe size love. And so, He sent His son to live as man, an innocent, holy life, and die on a cross – taking all of your sin and mine with Him there, and leaving it there – nailed to the cross, so we bear it no more.

God, the creator of the universe confines Himself in itty-bitty me so I can know a universe size love. Click To Tweet

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