That Voice

Ever notice how children know their mom’s voice – even at a noisy playground. Little heads spin when mom calls. Our voices are unique. Sure we can train them to sound a certain way, but the one we grew up with is uniquely ours.

God creates us with so many one of a kind qualities. There may be similarities, but even identical twins have traits that are theirs alone. Even more amazing is that He knows each of us so intimately. Knowing the number of hairs on our head and the wounds and scars of our souls.

Truly astounding though is this: Jesus wants us to know Him intimately as well. “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and I am known by My own.” (John 10:14 BLB)

Here’s the question of the day – how well do you know Christ? Getting to know that voice so well that others can’t lead us astray is pretty important in the times we’re living in.

If I wanted to get to know you really well, how would that happen? Go out once in a while to dinner? Nope. Meet up once a year for a whole week? Nope. Spending time regularly with you would be the only way. It’s the same with God. To know the One who created you: spend time in His Bible, time in prayer, time with others who follow Jesus, and listen always for His leading. Day in and day out these will make us experts in knowing His voice. “Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together.” (Revelation 3:20 CEV)

The Savior is calling to you now. But someday, Jesus is going to make a final call to all who follow Him. Before then there will be  imitators trying to lead us astray. When the Day comes and He calls, putting an end to all deception, we need to recognize that voice.

“He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3b NLT) By name. He will call you out to gladly follow Him. I’m thinking when we hear that Voice say our name, we won’ be able to mistake it. For He’s been speaking it since before He began knitting us together in our mother’s womb. That voice – He called you by name before your first breath and He’ll call you by name when you breathe your first eternity breath.

 

Don’t Swerve

Ever had a toenail removed? Me either – til last night. An injury turned into a problem and, though I tried to ignore it for a couple of weeks, the pain caused an urgent care visit.

In our crazy times, it’s hard to keep our footing. Some people choose words for the year. Words such as courage or wonder. The words are meant to help us focus and improve. I’ve done it off and on – some years forgetting my word by summer, others feeling like I failed. But this year a local pastor said he felt the word for 2021 should be: Jesus. Not a word, but a person.

I think he’s on to something. I feel like I spent nine months of 2020 focused on many wrong things. Things that didn’t make a difference, didn’t help or encourage, things that sucked life instead of breathing life. “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end.” (Hebrews 12:2a GNT)

I’m watching my steps closely now, not wanting to stub my toe, protecting it until it heals. Graceful may not be an accurate description of how I usually do day-to-day. I bump into things, trip over things, enjoying the moments and not always noticing the obstacles.

“Keep walking on straight paths, so that the lame foot may not be disabled, but instead be healed.” (Hebrews 12:13 GNT) Lame used here is not physical, but spiritual. A spiritual lameness that results when our focus is on anything other than Christ. Distraction caused my toe injury, the same can cause us to stumble in our spiritual life.

And though God is always right there to help us through when we find ourselves stumbling, I think the next verse points us to one more reason as to why it’s important to look where our souls are plodding along to: “Try to be at peace with everyone, and try to live a holy life, because no one will see the Lord without it.” (Hebrews 12:14 GNT)

See the Lord – in us. Others are watching. Longing for the right path – one that leads them to Jesus. Show them the way, don’t swerve:

“Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.” (Proverbs 4:25-27 ESV)

 

Why

I miss wonder. I’m sure I was once in awe at a dragonfly, a popsicle, a walk in the garden.

Kids ask a lot of questions. Why is your hair crazy gwammy? How are your tacos cooking gwammy? Did Jesus make the legos too? Maybe we need to ask more questions and make less presumptions. But I’m not talking about dialogue in the world. The world’s answers aren’t reliable, they’re self-motivated responses.

Ask the Father. Why God? Why is life hard? How do I take another painful step? Where do I go now? Then we have to listen…for the answers. “My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to My words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.” (Proverbs 4:20-22 NLT)

This past week I was a bit downcast, well more than a bit. I asked, as I padded across the kitchen floor, ‘God, how do we overcome this evil?’ Clear was the response: ‘How have I told you to overcome?’ And then the verse written in my memory: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NIV)

But it doesn’t seem like good can prevail. ‘Will it God?’ Again His Word buried in my soul: “I am still confident of this, I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD. Be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:13-14 NIV)

Why should we, the children of God, ever be downcast? Victory over evil, over our messes, over death is already accomplished. How should we go about our days – days of turmoil and days of joy? They will mix and mingle with one another and add up to a lifetime. Lived well, they will look like a person: Jesus.

So, let’s ask why of only One. And listen carefully for His reply. His deposit in us, the wonderful Holy Spirit, will whisper the answers we need. Maybe not the answers we want. Always the answers we need.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God…Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs His love, at night His song is with me– a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:6, 8-9 NIV)

Let’s See

When I began homeschooling I discovered there are different learning styles. One of those is the visual learner.

I’m a visual – if I can see it, I can learn it, I can do it. Since then I’ve also learned that I prefer knowing what’s going to happen next, all the details of the day or the trip, no unknowns. But that’s not life in this world.

Long ago, Elisha, a prophet of God lived during a time of war. He warned the people where the enemy would attack next. This enraged the enemy. They discovered who was foiling their plans and went secretly at night to surround him. Upon waking, his servant went outside only to discover a great army all around. Fearful they would die, he ran to Elisha who told him: fear not, our army is greater still. The servant only saw himself and Elisha. “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.’ The the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2Kings 6:17b NIV)

Centuries later when Jesus was just eight days old, a man named Simeon had been waiting his whole life to ‘see’. As Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple, Simeon came to them. The Lord had promised Simeon he would see God’s salvation before he died.

Taking the Christ child in his arms he praised God: “I have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and He is the glory of Your people Israel!” (Luke 2:30-32 NLT)

Two thousand years later, you and me, we’re also waiting to see. We may not have our eyes opened like Elisha and his servant, we may not have a promise from God like Simeon, but He has given us what we need to see with our hearts.

Before Elisha could see the spiritual realm, before Simeon could see his Savior in the flesh, they had to have hearts surrendered to God. A deep faith that trusted no matter how things ‘looked’ with earth eyes, their hearts knew God was faithful to His promises.

I’m reminded that though I may question how all the days ahead will work out, I can trust the Holy Spirit to show me the way. As God’s children we have His promises – and we shall some day to see Him face to face. Til then He lights the way. “You light a lamp for me. The LORD, my God, lights up my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28 NLT)

 

You Know

Just a couple days and 2020 will be done. Do you know what 2021 holds?

If we’ve learned anything in the 365 days since we looked forward to a new year, it’s this: there’s much we do not know. Don’t know if there will be prosperity or great need, robust health or debilitating disease, a loved one close by or far from reach, things the same or turned upside down, peaceful lives or chaotic unrest.

There is One who knows. God is never surprised, caught off guard. “But even if we don’t feel at ease, God is greater than our feelings, and He knows everything.” (1John 3:20 CEV)

And the Bible tells us there is much we can know. Know in a way that the world longs for. The ‘knows’ listed throughout Scripture satisfy us with heart rest. We know that the faithfulness of Jesus never waivers, know that we are never alone as the Holy Spirit is with us always – know that whatever unknown shakes us up, the Father sees us through.

“In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words.” (Romans 8:26 CEV) Closer than our skin is our Creator – even to the point of putting into words for us what we desperately seek.

So as we step into a “new” year, it’s not what we know, but Who we know. And Who we are known by.

We can’t see the future, can’t predict it, can’t outsmart it. “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1Corinthians 13:12 NIV) “Then” – when there are no more new years, just forever new horizons, new wonders.

Then we will have the illusive peace we seek and there shall be no more fretting through a crazy year. You know the Way, the Truth, and the Life – and He knows you.

 

It’s Time

Time perspective depends on age. At this point in my life, time is a precious commodity and seems to hurry by, days into weeks into months. Speedy little hands and feet see it as ‘what’s next’ – Gwammy, is it time to go to the park? Time for snack? Time to read?

Now it’s time for Christmas. Advent calendars have only a few days left, green and red construction paper chains have only a few loops left. Wiser, older 3 year old brother/cousin anticipates the presents while the 1 and 2 year olds just think the crafts and goodies, in abundance lately, are plenty fun.

Anticipation. Two thousand years ago the world waited but had no idea anything of importance was at the ready. Today we live much the same way. Perspective this side of Christmas: we know Jesus came, and we wait for the Savior’s return. But do we realize the importance of what will soon take place when we least expect it?In that day the Lord will reach out His hand a second time to bring back the remnant of His people” (Isaiah 11:11a NLT)

Isn’t that the message of Christmas? Wrapped perfectly and given completely is Messiah. His birth the fulfillment of all God’s promises, His return the fulfillment of the perfect gift of Hope.

If Christmas ended with the knowledge He came, then, yes, that would be amazing – but it doesn’t end with His coming. Christmas is the beginning, it is the message to look forward. For Christ’s return is the forever that we all long for and the final fulfilment of God’s awesome plan.

“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together…The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all… Nothing will hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the LORD.” (Isaiah 11:6a, c, 9 NLT)

It’s time – time for us to know God’s Word well so that it is with us in heart and mind no matter where we are. Time to constantly rely on the Holy Spirit to see us through each moment of each day. Time to make sure those all around us cannot mistake that we are children of God.

Children already holding the Gift that is ours – but looking to the coming of the One who holds us. Merry Christmas always…

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NIV)

Still Doing Stupid

Right now, in the midst of trying to capture the wonder, it’s more like caught in the weary.

Ever been in that place where things were going along just fine – then suddenly without warning everything is a tangled mess. How easily we wound one another. Even unintentionally. Because that selfish nature is always there, the constant battle.

Attacks come from without – a world of people bent on having things their way, spiritual warfare bound and determined to destroy God’s children, and then there’s…us. “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.” (Romans 7:21 NLT)

Odd verse and start for this Christmas season. But I have a feeling I’m not alone in this. Though life has always been a struggle throughout the centuries, I think the constant stress and unrelenting pressure of now is a bit intense. Add to it even something that seems good like a trip, or family event, or holiday – well things can go awry.

I wish I had the answer to the question we’re asking: how can the mess be erased, and the hurt caused be forgotten?

Maybe it can’t, maybe it won’t. But here’s another truth, God can use it all. Will use it all. “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13 NLT)

This is the learning ground, the hard stuff playing field where lots of bruises and breaks will happen. And all the admonitions from God about forgiveness are valid, just not easy.

It goes back to this: if you were the hurter and not the one hurt, what would you want them to know? For me it’s this: ‘I’m still a work in progress, I still do stupid, and with all my heart I did not intend to hurt your heart.’

So, as we make the trek toward the Savior – whom angels announced, who entered our world when daily greed and grief was all too real, who experienced these same things while in the flesh – perhaps the trek itself is a gift. A daily learning of how fallen we are and how desperately we need not only Jesus in the manger, but the Prince of Peace on the cross. The gift we’ll open will be a someday life of no more hurts. That’s very merry indeed.

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NLT)

 

Longing

We’re at that point: the place somewhere between the excitement of the approaching celebration and the fulfillment of all the plans and preparations.

The longing time. Longing, in some ways, to move on because it seems life is too hectic. But really longing for all this to be more meaningful. To be more than all the decorations and traditions. Feeling a little weary but hopeful.

“My soul faints with longing for Your salvation, but I have put my hope in Your word. (Psalm 119:81 NIV)

Little boys – ages 1, 2, and 3 – stare in awe at all the twinkly lights. I stare in awe at them. Like three wise men they circle around the tree. They stare big-eyed at the houses decked out with the stuff of Christmas. They giggle and run, feeling the excitement even if they don’t quite get it yet.

Oh Jesus, let that be us. Teach us anew to circle around the cross. To stare in wonder at Your Word. To live the excitement of Your Advent. “And the Word came in the flesh, and lived for a time in our midst, so that we saw His glory–the glory as of the Father’s only Son, sent from His presence. He was full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 WNT)

Fill us with Your grace and truth to make us wise. Help us learn true wisdom is found when resting in the presence of our Savior. Calm our earthly longings and point us toward the eternal promise: God with us. Emmanuel!

While angels may not appear in our dark nights, remind us they are still singing: Glory to God in the highest! And while chaos may try and suck us in, remind us that we have the peace and goodwill of God – which is for all who believe: Jesus, born to us.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…a Savior has been born to you; He is Messiah the Lord…Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:10b, 11b, 14 NIV)

Above All

This year Christmas feels like a welcome breath of air, a sweet sound of peace, a deep sense of comfort.

Perhaps things not being the same (normal) for months now is bringing about a desire for what is real and lasting. Although we long for what has been lost, we need what we can be sure of. That deep desire inside us is the same for everyone. It’s this place in us that only Jesus can fill – for only Jesus can give us forever.

“I want you to know all about Christ’s love, although it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is.” (Ephesians 3:19 CEV)

We are so wrapped up in what we can see, we forget about the one wrapped in swaddling clothes for us. We focus so much on now, that we forget that this isn’t all there is. We have been deceived into believing we need to get what we ‘deserve’ and we forget that, by the grace of God, we do not get what we deserve.

Time to spend the rest of this year wanting the Giver more than all other gifts. The Name above all names will right all wrongs, will heal all wounds, will make whole all brokenness, will give us a forever of no more fear or sorrow – ever. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 NIV)

Let’s do Christmas different this year. Sure, put up the tree, put some gifts under. But before all that, during all that, and after all that: let’s get to know this Savior better. Let’s pray more. Let’s sing His praises. Let’s rejoice in God always.

This Christmas let’s make sure to really share some cheer – the kind that makes our hearts joy-full because it’s eternal. Let’s celebrate the One who is above all things.

“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11 NIV)

Thankful?

We say it, but do we mean it?

It’s easy to let it roll off the tongue: ‘thanks’, ‘thanks much’, ‘thanks a lot’. And not just to each other. In prayer: ‘thanks, God, for ____ (fill in the blank)’, ‘thanks, Jesus, for what you’ve done for me’, ‘thanks, Father, for Your Word’. But whether with each other or God, how sincere are we?

Often we just move on waiting for the next thing to be thankful for. Perhaps a pause this week as America celebrates Thanksgiving – and a daily pause – to ponder what thankfulness really is and how to live it not just say it. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17 HCSB)

I love the simplicity of the Bible. Yes, it can be quite deep and complex. But then suddenly, it opens up and sums up the ‘need to know’: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT)

Life is hard. It doesn’t always turn out the way we thought it should. We don’t always want to walk the road we find ourselves on. I’m guessing the men and women who travelled the Atlantic and suffered the loss of life and livelihood to make a new life in America weren’t too thrilled at first either. But their response: find joy, keep praying, thank God no matter what. A good lesson for you and me.

We have something the whole world needs. It’s more precious than all the money on earth combined can buy. It never wears out, never goes away, gets more valuable with every moment. The more we share it, the more it’s worth.

It’s called salvation and we don’t have to sacrifice or spend money to get it. It’s a free gift, for the asking. And we can ask this too: Jesus, help us live with sincere hearts.

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:22a, 23-24 NIV) Live Thanksgiving.

 

 

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