Is God your strength? Sing for Joy!

Calla Lilies
Sing for joy to God our strength;
Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob.
Raise a song, strike the timbrel,
The sweet sounding lyre with the harp.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
At the full moon, on our feast day. Psalm 81:1-3
Father, the God of our ancestors, the God of the Israelites, I praise You. I lift my voice towards heaven, and sing You a new melody. I clap my hands and lift my hands. You alone created the marvelous light. You hung the moon and the stars in the heavens to light our darkness. We set aside a feast day to celebrate what You have done for us.
Indeed, when we waited upon You, You said:
You called in trouble and I rescued you;
I answered you in the hiding place of thunder Psalm 81:7
You led the Israelites by the hand into the Promised Land, and You lead Your children, Your followers today into the promises You have for us.
Thank You for Your steadfast faithfulness, lovingkindness and Your own dear Son, Jesus, the Messiah.
Sing for joy to God our strength!
Share the joy … tell the readers how God is leading you.

I would have despaired unless …

Flowers-IsraelSeeds sprouted and pushed up through the stony Israeli soil to wait upon the sun for nourishment. In the light of the sun, they blossomed to bless passers-by who shared their beauty with others through photos.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD  In the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage, Yes, wait for the LORD. Psalm 27: 13-14

What keeps us from despair? Faith that we will see the goodness of the Lord.

What are we to do? Wait for the Lord. It’s an active waiting. It’s being strong and making your heart take courage.

My prayer for you

Father, thank You for the lessons You have placed before us in nature. Teach us their truths and show us how to apply those truths to our Christian walk. Empower us to push through the stony times towards the light of Your own dear Son, Jesus. Show us how to actively wait upon You, and empower us to reflect your light through the beauty You are creating in our lives. Thank You, Father, for Your faithfulness.

May the Lord richly bless you and keep you in His goodness as you actively wait upon Him.

Real … Are you known as a Jesus follower?

Real: Becoming a 24/7 Follower of Jesus  -     By: Jamie Snyder<br /><br />

Jamie Snyder challenges the reader with this question: “If Sunday didn’t exist, would anyone know you were a follower of Jesus?”

The early church turned the world upside down. Communities knew who the Christians were, and the church grew rapidly.

Snyder describes the characteristics of a 24/7 Christian as possessing:

  • Unbridled generosity
  • Daring courage
  • Rebellious joy
  • Risky faith
  • Relentless hope
  • Scandalous grace
  • Mad love

If we were to examine our Christian walk, could we see these qualities?

“When a student sought to follow a rabbi, he was hoping to take on the rabbi’s yoke–the system of beliefs and interpretations the rabbi had either developed or carried on from previous generations.”

Snyder explains that “when a rabbi preached his own yoke, it was said that he taught with authority.”

If a student wanted to follow the rabbi, the rabbi asked him many questions, and if the student passed the test, the rabbi said, “Come, follow me.”

As a disciple, the student left family, friends, community, everything, in total surrender to the rabbi.

Jesus simply says, “Come, follow me.”

Have you left everything to follow Jesus?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my honest review.

My prayer for you:

Father, thank You for Jamie Snyder and his passion for You. Bless him as he points people to You. Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon the church, so that we will turn the world upside down like the early church did for You.  We want to be known as 24/7 Jesus followers, so that we will point people to Jesus.

Roman Colosseum, a memorial to death pointing to Jesus

Colloseum

Built on the site of Nero’s palace in 80 AD, the Roman Colosseum entertained 55,000 spectators at a time with deadly gladiator and wild animal fights. Over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games. Some sources say that Christians were persecuted outside the Colosseum. Early entertainment focused on death.

others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill- treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. Hebrews 11:35-40

Keith and I recently climbed the Colosseum’s stone and marble stairs, walked the levels, and imagined the slaves, gladiators, prisoners of war, and wild animals as they awaited their battles and eventual death.

Scaffolding stood against the outer wall. My reaction, “I would just let it fall down.”

We dodged the tourists mindlessly snapping photos, circled the amphitheater, and stopped directly across from the emperor’s box. The emperor’s thumb up saved a life; a thumb down took a life.

A cross stood in front of the emperor’s seat.

Colosseum Cross

An estimated 4.4 million people visit the Colosseum each year, and there that cross stands as a memorial to those who died inside and outside that great arena.

When Joseph’s father died, and his brothers were afraid that Joseph would harm them because they had sold him into slavery, Joseph told his brothers:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. Genesis 50:21

What men meant for evil, God meant for good … for a memorial to the death of His own dear Son, Jesus, on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead, so that all who believe on Jesus will be saved from their sins.

My prayer for you:

Righteous Father, awaken us to the memorials You have placed in our paths. May we be living memorials to Your righteous and true nature as we walk the path that You have given us. Thank You for the memorials that You have placed along the way.

5 loaves of bread, 2 fish, 5 questions, the ministry walk

5 loaves

Send the multitude away …

You give them something to eat!

We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people. Luke 9:12-13

Jesus and His disciples had tried to withdraw from the crowds after learning of the beheading of John the Baptist, but the crowds followed.

Jesus had compassion on the crowd and turned His focus on the crowd of 5,000 men; the women and children were not numbered. All day, He spoke to them about the kingdom of God and healed all who needed healing.

Late in the day, the disciples urged Jesus to send the people away to get something to eat and find a place to sleep.

You give them something to eat!

We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people. Luke 9:13

Have them sit down in groups of about 50 each. Luke 9:14

Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people.

And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full. Luke 9:16-17

This is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospels. We see Jesus in all the Godhead and in all His humanity. In this miracle, we see the walk, emotion, the power, the seasons, and the impact of those in ministry.

5 questions

  1. Time for renewal. There is a time to minister and a time to be renewed. Jesus is our Sabbath, our rest, and we need time alone with Him. Do you know a person in ministry who takes time to be alone?
  2. Time for compassion. Although Jesus and His disciples wanted to be alone, the people looked like sheep with no Shepherd,and Jesus had compassion on them. He put aside His desires to be alone. Compassion, for Jesus, had priority. Jesus later withdrew to pray. Have you put aside your weariness, your grief, to minister?
  3. Time for teaching and healing. Everywhere Jesus went, He taught and He healed. Miracles and teaching. That’s the way Jesus taught His disciples to reach out to people. The church teaches. What if today’s church believed that it was empowered to couple miracles with teaching on the massive scale that Jesus, His disciples, and the early church did?
  4. Time for preparation. The disciples had seen miracles before; they had even performed miracles … healing sicknesses and casting out demons. God always prepares us for the next lesson. Jesus asked the disciples to feed the 5,000. Do you suppose that Jesus would have empowered them to multiply the five loaves and two fish if they had chosen to do what He told them to do?
  5. Time for blessing. Jesus looked up to heaven, He blessed the bread and fish, He broke it, and gave it to the disciples to distribute to the people. Jesus pointed the people to God. Jesus said that “I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.” John 8:28 What if today’s Christians looked toward heaven and did everything on God’s initiative?

My prayer for you:

Father in heaven, we look to You as our Provider, our Shepherd, and our Teacher. Drench our every thought with the knowledge of You. Pour out Your Spirit on us. Give us the wisdom that only You can provide. Nudge us to step out in Your power and possess the world for You. We give you the glory. In the name of our compassionate Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen

Returning to play … a marriage with glimpses of heaven

Child playing

 And he [Jesus] said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

Church activities, 50-hour-plus work weeks and the business of life gradually sucked energy out of our marriage. On date nights I’d microwave leftovers as Keith turned on his favorite “Who dun it?”  No creativity, no spontaneity.

Energy roared into our home when our toddler grandson came to visit. He darted for his drawer of lids and measuring cups to prepare tea or dinner for us.

This rocket-fueled toddler delighted in running from our family room, to the kitchen through the dining room, up the two steps of the entryway and jumping off the steps into the family room, squealing as he jumped.

One morning our rocket sat straight up on our bed with a blanket over his head waiting patiently. My adrenaline pumped.

Have you seen Gage?

Where can Gage be?

He’s not in the closet.

Gage!

He’s not under the bed.

What’s this lump?

  Gage!

We rolled the giggling lump, tickled him, and laughed until our stomachs hurt.

That moment changed our lives.

About 13 years later … Often, Keith stands saluting me as I drive into the garage. He’s also been known to hide around a corner and jump out to scare me as I get close.

Elvis fills Keith’s car with rock and roll. Our garage is tight with two cars and storage racks, so Keith stops in the driveway and lets me out. I walk into the garage keeping the beat in my head (I don’t want the neighbors to see me); once in the garage, I bee-bop my way into the house. Honks or flashing headlights applaud my gyrations.

One day as we left the grocery store, Keith stopped the cart, ordered me to jump onboard, and ran pushing the cart to the car. People turned their heads and smiled; some giggled. This became a ritual. Once, a Ford F-150 pulled up beside us, and the driver stuck out his calloused hand, pointed at us, “You kids quit that, you hear?”  Laughing, he drove away.

It takes a great deal of trust to abandon formality and the business of living. It takes trust to jump onboard a grocery cart and barrel through the parking lot.

Sheer delight in play … joy in the moment … love in the air … freedom!

Casting our cares on Jesus and jumping into His arms–that’s what He requires. What joy and freedom as He catches us.

A little child taught us to return to play, bringing a piece of heaven to our marriage.

How do you play?

My prayer for you:

Father, teach Your children how to become childlike in their trust and love for You. Bless them with childlike moments of freedom as they abandon their formality and skip through their days, hands in Yours, and singing Your praises.