Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

California, 1991 – I stood under the tall palm tree…amazed!  It was the first palm tree I had ever seen in person. The huge, leafy branches hung out over the sand, blowing and dancing in the breeze. It was a beautiful, calming sight.  My mind turned to a picture of the people putting down palm leaves for Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. How bitter-sweet it must have been for him to see the people honoring him as King, but for all the wrong reasons!  They thought he was going to be the One who delivered from the oppression of the Romans; when, really, he wanted to deliver them from the oppression of their sin.

Often our prayers are for deliverance from earthly problems, conflicts and difficulties. We need to remember to praise Him in our prayers, not only for His deliverance from everyday problems, but also His deliverance from sin. Honoring Jesus as King means praising Him for delivering us from sin and death.  As we look ahead today to Easter Sunday, we realize the real reason to praise Him. His death on the cross delivers us from sin, and makes it possible for us to have life!

            As you praise Him today on Palm Sunday, remember to praise Him for His greatness in overcoming sin for us, delivering us from the Kingdom of Darkness and transferring us into the Kingdom of Light!

Advertisements

God Listens

Image

God Listens

Jeremiah 33:3a – “Call unto me and and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things…”

After having brain tumor surgery, I was in the ICU at the hospital for weeks.  There, I had a nurse named Liz. Her family was originally from the Bahamas, so she had the remnants of an islander accent. I was never as happy as when I heard that accent on the other side of the curtain.  She was the best nurse I’ve ever had! And it wasn’t because she was the sweetest, kindest nurse I have had.  In fact, she was mostly matter of fact, firm, and business-like.  But….She listened.  She didn’t ignore me when I rocked back and forth in my hospital bed because the pain in my head was overwhelming.  She matter-of-factly told me that I needed to calm down and stop crying because it would only make my head hurt worse.  But… she got me the pain medication that I needed.  She had to tell me the hard things and show me the not so pleasant things.  But….She listened.  She answered my questions, even though they were most likely quite obvious to her.  She didn’t get annoyed when I asked her the same questions for the fifteenth time.

Liz is a good reminder to me of how God listens to us.  When we pray for something for the fifteenth time, when we cry out to him because the pain of our heart seems too overwhelming, when we just need someone to hear us, He is there.  He answers us with what He knows is best for us, which may not be what we requested.  But His love for us gives what we need, and comforts our hearts through difficult times.  God gives us the encouragement we need in Jeremiah 33:3 when He says, “Call unto me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things….”  God listens to us, answers us, and gives us what we need.  Take comfort in knowing that God listens.

Catch the Wave

Catch the Wave

“He has done great things for us, which make us glad.”Psalm 126:3

The waves were huge, leftover from hurricane that came through a few days ago. The huge waves were the best ones to surf!  Waves after a storm are fantastic compared to everyday, normal waves. We often look at our life as a dreaded wave towering over us.  Instead, we should be waiting for it, surfboard in hand, eager to ride the wave through life’s journey.

When we are looking at the difficulties of life, we lose sight of the goodness of God.  All we can see are the problems.  We must try to look beyond the problems, to God, who is in control of every situation in life, and has proven Himself to be faithful in past situations.

As we deal with the issues of life, we need to begin to look for the ways God is good to us.  As we are in the midst of busy, hectic times, we need to actively remember the ways God has been good to us.  I Chronicles 16:12 says, “Remember His marvelous works that He has done….”  What better way to take our eyes off the difficulties of life and focus them on the faithfulness of God. We also need to pass on to others the faithfulness that God showed us.  Psalm 126:3 is a praise to God for bringing the nation of Israel out of captivity.  It is called a Psalm of Ascents because as they are ascending the mountain to the temple, they are singing this song for the entire world to hear.

Ride the wave of your journey through life, recounting the goodness of God and your focus will change from fear of the issues on the journey, to faith in the goodness of God to care for those issues.

Guest Contributor, Cindy Rooy

 

GOD ANSWERS HIS KNEE-MAIL

By Cindy Rooy

            Two images have never left my memory. The first is seeing my father on his knees beside his bed, head bowed, and praying with emotion in the middle of the night. The second is observing a man – over 90 years old – gladly kneel, but with difficulty, to pray at a community gathering. The time of day and one’s age are no longer an excuse. Are we too proud, lazy, or indifferent to kneel before the Lord?

            I felt God’s nudging to make prayer an active part of my morning. That meant pulling away from my memory foam bed and pillow, and literally getting on my knees. I was willing to demonstrate a submissive spirit, but after four surgeries, any pressure on what used to be my right kneecap brought tears. Not liking the idea of getting up earlier, and wanting confirmation from God that He wanted me to do this, I asked Him to be my alarm clock. Not only did He give me divine wake-up calls precisely at the requested time, He wouldn’t let me fall back to sleep. After a week of kneeling in early-morning prayer, God took away all of my knee pain.

            When we submit to Him, God rewards us. And He answers our knee-mail. Kneeling represents submission and humbling oneself, and that puts our thoughts and attitudes in the right perspective as we come before God with our praise, confession, gratitude, and requests.

            How often do we humble ourselves before the Lord? Do we consciously note that He is holy and we are not? The Lord told Isaiah, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit” (Isaiah 66:2). Peter and James quote Solomon’s proverb, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” They add that we are to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand (1Peter 5:5-6), and submit ourselves to God (James 4:6-7).  

            The Bible gives a detailed account that a leper, synagogue ruler, Canaanite woman, and father of a demon-possessed son had knelt before Jesus with their request. A punishable decree did not stop Daniel from getting down on his knees 3 times a day to pray. Paul informed his readers that he knelt before the Father in his prayers. It didn’t matter where, for Paul, along with the disciples and their families, prayed while kneeling on a beach. Even Jesus knelt in prayer to His Father in heaven. There is a spiritual correlation between humility, submissiveness, and kneeling in prayer. David advises us to, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Psalm 95:6).

            Jesus humbled Himself to be obedient to death on a cross, and God exalted Him so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:8-11). We can do that now, and put into practice what we learn from the Bible. Let’s humble ourselves in submission to God, kneel in prayer, and notice a difference in our attitude, prayers, and God’s response.

Earth Day – A Celebration of God

Earth Day – A Celebration of God

And God saw everything that He made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:31a

As I admired God’s handiwork this morning, I was amazed at the detail with which He created earth.  The dew on the flowers and grass was minute, and above them was the towering pillar of an oak tree in all its majesty.

The shimmering grass looked like a blanket of crystals, and the flowers shown brilliantly with the magnification of the dew on their petals.  This beauty was created by God for our enjoyment.  As the celebration of Earth Day takes place today, I wonder if we take time to stop our busy lives, go outside, and slowly look around at all that God has for us in our very own backyard.  I wonder if we celebrate the Earth because of our God who created all of its splendor and majesty.

As you go throughout your day, make a special effort to notice the amazing craft of the God of the Universe as you see His artwork displayed all around you.

All pictures © Joanna Shumaker

Life is Fragile

 

Life is Fragile

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  James 4:14 

Karen, age 38, heart attack; Tom, age 41, died in a car accident; Laura, age 40, struggling to walk again as a result of a car accident; Arnie, age 32, died while fighting the Los Angeles forest fires, Dawn and Rhonda, age 40 and 45, suffering the effects of multiple sclerosis – all these people came in contact with death or disease in recent months or years.  All were my friends or family members.  The specter of death and disease loomed its ugly head, again, in my life.  It is sobering, and I struggled to move beyond the sadness and heartache that death and disease bring. 

But God is in these trials of life.  He has allowed these events to happen, and He is still on His throne. He pulls us to Himself in times of grief and allows us to feel His presence.  He gives us many Scriptures to encourage us in times when we feel overwhelmed with heartache and sorrow.  Psalm 46:1 says, “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.”  This is one verse that helps us sense the strength of God as a refuge to run into for safety from the barrage of disheartening arrows.  Go to Him and find refuge for your soul.   Proverbs 18:10 is another verse that gives us the sense of safety.  It says, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower.  The righteous run into it and are safe.”  Just to call on the Lord’s name and feel the peace and safety He gives is such a relief.  Build your strength by calling on Him. 

Life is fragile, but may you find refuge, strength, and peace as you navigate the heartaches and sorrows of life. Be encouraged by the verse in Revelation 21:4 that tells us of a future time in heaven: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain…. for the former things are passed away.” Are you in need of God’s refuge and relief?   If you are, go to Him and His Word.  He is waiting there with open arms.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

“When Life Gives You Lemons…”

 “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

             “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”  This common phrase is used often to speak of making the best of a situation – overcoming a bad situation and turning it into a good one.  It is to spur you on, make you get back into the fight, and stay the course. 

            What do you do when you don’t feel like making “lemonade” anymore? What do you do when the very idea of making “lemonade,” exhausts you?  We all have moments (or even days) like this.  The burden of life has worn us down, and we are just too tired to keep fighting.

            The “pick-me-up” we need is found in the encouragement God gives us in His Word.  It is our lifeline to joy in the midst of discouragement. In His Word we find phrases like, “and the God of all peace …”, “God who is rich in mercy …”,  “Faithful is He who has called you …” These are the phrases we must go to when life has discouraged us.  Reading His Word can bolster our failing hearts, and push us ahead on our journey.

            Listed below are some passages to read this week to encourage your heart on the journey!

“God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever …” – Read Psalm 73

“Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations.” – Read Psalm 119

“And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension…” – Read Philippians 4

Philippians 4 is a particularly helpful passage when we are wading through the times of discouragement.  I call it the “whatever” passage, because “whatever” you are going through, you can choose to focus on truth, purity, righteousness, good reports, virtuous and praiseworthy things. 

            Meditate on these passages when you walk through the “lemon” times of life.  You may not make “lemonade,” but if you go to God’s Word in times of discouragement, it will help you continue the journey and find joy in these times.

Catch the Wave

 

 

“He has done great things for us, which make us glad.” Psalm 126:3

            The waves were huge, leftover from hurricane that came through a few days ago. The huge waves were the best ones to surf!  Waves after a storm are fantastic to surf compared to everyday, normal waves. We often look at our life as a dreaded wave towering over us.  Instead, we should be waiting for it, surfboard in hand, eager to ride the wave through life’s journey. 

            When we are looking at the difficulties of life, we lose sight of the goodness of God.  All we can see are the problems.  We must try to look beyond the problems, to God, who is in control of every situation in life, and has proven Himself to be faithful in past situations. 

            As we deal with the issues of life, we need to begin to look for the ways God is good to us, and actively remember those ways.    I Chronicles 16:12 says, “Remember His marvelous works that He has done….”  What better way to take our eyes off the difficulties of life than to focus them on the faithfulness of God. We also need to pass on to others the faithfulness that God showed us.  Psalm 126:3 is a praise to God for bringing the nation of Israel out of captivity.  It is called a Psalm of Ascents because as they are ascending the mountain to the temple, they are singing this song for the entire world to hear.

            Ride the wave of your journey through life, recounting the goodness of God and your focus will change from fear of the trials on the journey, to faith in the goodness God has shown you on the journey.

image from www.liology.wordpress.com

Guest Contributor, Linda Casto Lloyd

 

The Promise Kept

By Linda Casto Lloyd

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise Him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He had been conceived.  When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Lawof the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord.”)  Luke 2:21-23 NIV

I love it when I have a “light bulb moment,” when my eyes and mind are finally opened and I can see the Scriptures a little more clearly.  I had one of those moments when I was reading in Luke 2.  I think there are certain passages that I’ve read so often, either on my own or at church that I let my mind be lulled into a stupor of sorts.  The “Christmas chapter” of Luke 2 is such a place.  When I read this passage this year, it was so meaningful to me.  I used to look at this passage and think I knew it all, but this time I read it with a new understanding.

In Luke 2, it says that on the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise Him, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He had been conceived.  When the time of their purification, according to the Law of Moses, had been completed, Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. This sounded familiar to me, so I really didn’t have any intention of investigating further.  However, a cross reference caught my eye that led me to Exodus 13. This was a reference to the law that every firstborn man or animal should be dedicated to God. The important part of the passage is the reason they should be dedicated to God.  It said, “This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every (animal) womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.” (Exodus 13:14-15) Then the light bulb went on!  Every time a firstborn was dedicated, it was to be a visual reminder of how God kept his promise to deliver the children of Israel from slavery. Did you catch that? Jesus, the firstborn of Mary and Joseph, was dedicated in a ceremony that was a reminder to all those around Him of a promise kept to Israel more than a thousand years before He was born!

Deliverance past and present met in that one holy moment.

Isn’t it beautiful and amazing how Scripture fits together?  God the Father was continually pointing forward to His Son from Genesis through Malachi.  Right from the beginning it has been about Jesus.  Even the dedication of an Israelite first born child pointed to the coming of Jesus.

            What does this mean to us?  It means that we can be confident in Jesus’ promise to us of Heaven.  It means when we read of death being swallowed up in victory and losing its sting, we know that our deliverance is as good as the Promise kept to Israel!

            Merry Christmas everyone! Enjoy this time of celebrating God’s fulfilled Promise to us!

Guest Contributor – Carol King

j0441734

Walk by the Spirit

Gal. 5:16  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

Walk – paripateo: to makes one’s way, progress, to make due use of opportunities; Hebrew for to live, to regulate one’s life, to conduct one’s self or pass one’s life.

 So what does it mean to “Walk by the Spirit?”  This appears to be one of those questions people struggle with, to figure out exactly what it means.  However, I wonder if it is truly all that difficult to understand.  Consider that walking in the Spirit might be as simple as to make one’s way or conduct one’s life by the power of the Holy Spirit, to live out our faith influenced by and with a desire to be conformed to the Holy Spirit.

 Or look at it another way: we talk about knowing someone by the company he or she keeps, recognizing that we carry the image or reflection of those we allow closest into our lives. One can assume that we agree with and value the same things that our friends do.  I think of Psalm 1 where the psalmist says, “Don’t walk, Don’t stand, Don’t sit, with those who scorn.  (Hmmm, that might even include some professing believers.)  The idea is that the more intimate you are with people, the more you will be influenced by them.

 So, walking by the Spirit would seem to imply that we need to surround ourselves, fill our minds with the things of the Spirit.  To me, that would mean I should fill my mind with the truths of the Spirit, the Word of God.  I should create quiet spaces where I can give myself to meditation on the Person of God and His Word, asking God to make it clear what Scripture means and how I can allow it to permeate my life.  I should have conversations with God, talking with Him about everything that matters to Him and to me.

 I think about what a “best friendship” looks like, what a love relationship looks like, and I think I can learn from these relationships a little about what it looks like to walk in the Spirit, developing such an intimate relationship with the Spirit that it becomes clear to me which desires please Him.  I would then have a corresponding power to recognize and resist the desires of the flesh, and exercise the desires which would honor and please Him.

 This walk requires attention: the evil one would put many barriers in our paths, may lies to distract us, and even good things to get in the way of the best. 

Oh, Most High and Lovely Lord, may I reflect on you and your love all this day.  May the words of my mouth and the actions of my body bring glory to you.  May my life reflect that I would be good company to keep because I reflect your image.

« Older entries