In The Face Of Impossibility

“Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.'”  Luke 18:27

Certainly reading the scripture invokes the thoughts of the impossible becoming possible.  Story after story, from Noah to Jonah, from Adam to Moses, from Esther to Sarah, from David to the blind man.  But no story captivates the trust, the belief in the impossible more than Mary, the mother of Jesus.  It is a riveting moment of wonder, curiosity and faith.  Mary had no clue how the impossible would become possible. Why might that be?  Because all things impossible by man is beyond possible by God.  Mary simply had to trust that despite what appeared unlikely, through He who promised would become a reality.

“‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’  The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most high will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth you relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.’ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’  Then the angel left her.”  Luke 1:34-38

I find myself asking as did Mary . . . “How will this be?”  I doubt and question the nature of things, events and circumstances in my own life where and when it appears impossible.  But I know you are seated on the throne today and I know that you have made promises.  Promises to keep me and sustain me, to give me strength when I am no longer able to keep my step, to give me wisdom when I don’t know the answers, to provide when all is gone, to love when love is unrecognized, to embrace me when a heart is long unheld.

Lord Jesus, remind me of these promises.  It is your will I seek and your sustaining grace that I consume.  Remind me often that despite my flaws, I am free, so very free and whole!

While Waiting

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”  Titus 2:11-14

I remember reading somewhere that most of our time in life is spent waiting on something — second only to our time spent sleeping.  We wait in lines — long lines, for rides, for tickets, for a deal, for gas, for admission . . . even for a free chicken sandwich.  And yet, we are satisfied with doing so.  Why is that?  I think it must be because there is purpose, a mission, the understanding that there will be something for me when it’s my turn.

Would I still wait if it took days, or months . . . or even years until my ticket was called?  I’d certainly have to weigh the value against the worth of my wait.  Some things are worth waiting for regardless of the time it takes.

A guy by the name of Simeon spent his life waiting for a promise to be fulfilled.  Luke tells us about him and his waiting in the second chapter of his book.  Promised by the Holy Spirit he would see the coming Christ before his death, he spent his life waiting . . . anticipating great things!

So moved, Simeon went and waited in the courtyard of the temple — and one day, without fanfare, the Christ child appeared in the arms of his mother, Mary by the side of Joseph.  And as Simeon took the child in his arms, he knew God’s promise had been given to all people.

Luke tells us that Simeon was a righteous and devout man and keenly aware of the Holy Spirit in his life.  While waiting, Simeon summed it up for all of us . . . submit, listen, trust and obey!

Lord Jesus, I eagerly await your return, but until that time give me patience as I wait upon other things I’ve placed at the foot of your cross.  While I wait, may I submit every moment to you, listen to your tender voice, trust in the promises of your Spirit and live in obedience.  For I know the value of which I wait is worth every minute!

“Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

In The Subtleties of Life

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

Last night I was reminded, again, of God’s promise to me in hearing my prayers.   So much can happen throughout the day, month or year without a lick of time spent in reflection.  I am just as guilty of this as the next guy, but this time God made it rather clear.  I can only imagine what you’re thinking . . . “Clear is what I pray for!”  Hearing a clear word from God is strongly coveted in the hearts of most people — whether He write on the wall, put an answer in lights, pen words with the clouds or frankly just speak outloud, a little bit of clear communication would be a nice touch sometimes.  But all too often, God speaks in the subtleties of life.

Prayer is passion.  Passion for the joy in fellowship with my Creator, my God, my Abba.  But remaining faithful in prayer can stretch beyond my emotional will.  It reaches past what “feels” like reality and enters into a sanctuary of hope that is only experienced in the warmth embrace given at the foot of the cross.  It’s a very special place.  And when, just when, my faithfulness in prayer is exercised, God shows up every time.

God shows up from the pages of His word, from the stranger on the street or in the grocery store, from my wife or sibling and especially from His little children.  There’s nothing sweeter than to hear the voice of God through the mouth of your own child.  Last night it rung in my ears the sounds of joy unspeakable and full of His glory!  My faithful prayers answered in the subtlety of life!

I’m so glad I was listening!!!

Nearsighted and Blind

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”  II Peter 1:3

I am reminded of a book I sent my wife years ago when we were long-distance dating called, “I’m Here, You’re There, No Fair!”  It was a cute little book that expressed in my heart the reality of our being apart, yet voicing my opinion on how much I thought that stunk!  Over the years, my relationship with my Lord and Savior has had some of those same themes — you may be able to relate.  You know, God seems so distant, silent, unresponsive that we often shout, “I’m right here!” — assuming He is right there, somewhere!  We wait and wait for an answer, a sign, a signal of some kind as proof of His presence.

However, despite those feelings or sense of silence, I know that God is near.  How?  Well, he tells us this in II Peter.  That through His promises we are able to PARTICIPATE in the divine nature!!  Participate with HIM!!  Wow!  What’s not fair about that?  That’s an incredible, unbelievable — words cannot describe — gift from Him through His many promises!

Certainly we must trust and have faith!  It is why Peter continues to write . . .

“For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” [vs. 5-7]

This feels like a whole lot of work doesn’t it?  Yes, it does!  It’s a celebration of participation with the God of the universe, living inside me and overflowing from my heart, my mouth, my ears, my hands and my feet!  It’s the power in me that gives me the ability to be effective in what I do and productive in the knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ [v.8].  But, cast it away, place it the category of life labeled “Unimportant” and you are nearsighted and blind, forgetting who you are in Christ [v.9].  Nearsighted and blind?  This suggests I can see only what is right in front of me and unable to see at all.  On the flip side, it suggests too, that we must remember and see that He HAS cleansed us from our past sins!!!

The reward is huge!  Following Him, remembering what He has done and living in the Light of His promises, instead of the shadows of shame or regret, is exactly how He wants us to live every single day of our life.  This is truly the richest blessing of life one can every obtain!

“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.  For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  II Peter 1:10-11

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(personal emphasis added)

The Treasure

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13

Finding God’s treasure is better than any pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.  My wife has told me stories of her as a child with her dad driving to find the end of the rainbow.  What a fun pursuit . . . an adventure for treasure indeed!  But with any treasure hunt, it is never about what the treasure get’s out of being found. It’s always about the hunter, the seeker and the reward they get from the bounty to be found.  It’s about the thrill of the hunt and the unmistakeable joy that comes in celebrating a great win.

But with God, the journey is different.  Unlike the joy obtained in finding loads of gold and silver, the celebration looks remarkably different.  It’s because God longs for me to pursue Him — to find Him, and it’s a treasure I will find … guaranteed, when I pursue Him with all of my heart.  God the Treasure, finds joy in my pursuit of Him.  God the Treasure celebrates when I find Him.  His embrace is rich in salvation forever!

And as I seek Him and find Him, I see more of the beauty He beholds.  I see the works of His hands, the richness of His wisdom and knowledge.  And in the words of Solomon, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (Proverbs 24:4)

My God, as I seek and find you, may I know and understand the immeasurable level of joy you find in my pursuit of you and you alone!

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”  Proverbs 2:1-6

Pain Of Cain

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”  Romans 6:16

Sin carries such a heavy burden on the soul it causes our bodies to sag and slump.  It saturates our very being with guilt and shame so as to reflect the disobedience in our hearts.  I’m reminded of the child that has disobeyed their parents, but confesses nothing of the such.  He goes about his day thinking and feeling the pride before his fall.  Not until he stands before his judge (his father and mother) does he begin to feel the weight of the sin of disobedience.  And once he does, his head drops, shoulders slump, eyes turn away, a frown appears and a strong desire to be somewhere other than here manifests itself.

Cain experienced this with his brother, Abel.  In case you’ve forgotten the glorious details of this amazing story (Genesis 4), allow me to shed the highlights.  I would encourage you to read it, read it again and then read it slowly!

In response to God’s receipt of the brother’s offerings, Cain became angry.  Cains body reflected his anger and his heart stirred in his countenance.  God asks Cain why his face is so downcast.  And then, the most profound words perhaps in the entire Old Testament are spoken by God directly to Cain.  He said, “If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  WOW!!!!  Perhaps the first . . . . okay, the second lesson on sin!  It didn’t work the first time, so now God is spelling it out to Cain.  Sin doesn’t own you!!

But Cain, in his sin and shame, responds much like many of us respond to our own sin.  Filled with shame and guilt, we listen to the lies about who we are, what we are like, what others must think and rarely recover from the self-inflicted wounds to our own heart.  Cain felt so ashamed of the most horrid of crimes he committed, killing his brother, that he condemned himself to become an outcast from God’s own sight and a target to any who find him.

God’s response?  The most amazing grace ever found in Scripture!  While Cain felt certain his punishment would lead to death, God’s plan . . . God’s way was and is much different!  God said to Cain, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.”  WHAT?  God raised His glory from the ashes of ruin in Cain!  Through the pain of Cain came the salvation of the world!!!

How might you ask?  Well, Cain was used to build a city. Then, through the descendents of Adam’s third son, Seth (because Cain killed Abel) came Noah!  WOW!

Salvation of the world through the pain of Cain!  Who knew?

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  Genesis 4:7

Faith Is Rest, Not Toil

Faith is rest, not toil. It is the giving up all the former weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon; and the calm reception of the truth so long rejected, that God is not waiting for any such inducements, but loves and pardons of His own goodwill, and is showing that goodwill to any sinner who will come to Him on such a footing, casting away his own performances or goodnesses, and relying implicitly upon the free love of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.”

— Horatius Bonar