Tuesday, January 3, 2017

APPOINTMENTS WITH GOD


I discovered a slightly different translation of Amos 3:3 a few weeks ago and it has revolutionized my thinking about my times with the Lord.

The NAS (New American Standard) translation says: 
"Do two [people] walk together unless they have made an appointment?"

Wow.  I'd never thought of my quiet times with God as being meetings, or appointments.
 
Previously decided upon.
Pre-arranged.
What a concept!

Since my discovery of that translation of the verse, I've made a deliberate decision to see those times we spend together as appointments, and my perception of them has changed in ways that have blessed me.

1.  It's given my quiet time focus.  Appointments are deliberate.  They're arranged for an agreed upon time, in a specific location, with at least some idea of an agenda.  There is a reason for the meeting.  And in the meeting people interact deliberately.  They don't just sit together playing on their iPhones.  They don't take each other's presence for granted.

2.  It's also made me a little embarrassed.  I have taken His presence for granted in the past.  Though I don't bring my phone (well, not usually), my mind and heart are not always fully present.  Sometimes I'm not even thinking about the fact that GOD IS THERE.

I know.  How could I?  It's horrifying when you think about it.  I mean. . .the God OF THE UNIVERSE is IN THE ROOM!

Seeing these times as deliberate meetings has made me sit up a little straighter and even scoot the pillows away from the spot beside me on the couch so there's room for Him to sit.  (I'm embarrassed about that too, but there you have it.  It's because I'm beginning to really believe that HE IS THERE.)

3.  It's improved my manners. In the past I've often just shown up in His presence whenever I felt like it.  I've plopped down on the couch, expecting He will be there waiting for me. 

And, of course, He is.  Since God does not live in a time zone, He doesn't have a schedule to keep.  And because He's not limited by space, when I come into the room for a meeting He's already there.

Waiting patiently.
Without hurry, since He has no watch to look at.
Without judgment.  He knows I'm scatterbrained and rude and impetuous. 
He loves me anyway.

He waits while I jump up in the middle of our conversation to pour myself a cup of coffee, or to answer my phone.  (Yes, it's not so far away I can't hear it ring.)  Or because I've remembered something I need to add to my "To Do" list.

And when I'm finished talking (Oh, the shame!), I sometimes get up and leave without even saying good-bye.  Or I might glance over my shoulder as I rush out the door and say, "Are you coming?"

Lately when I do that I've noticed He's not moving.
Sometimes He beckons to me.

"Come back, my precious daughter.
The meeting's not over.
I have something else to say.
Will you sit down and listen for a minute?"

That minute is always enlightening.

4.  So I'm learning to listen.  Not always.  It's a hard habit to break, that jumping and running when I'm through talking.  But we're working on it, and this new perception I have of our times together is helping. It's making my walk with the Lord more deliberate, and I'm being blessed by that.

I checked on Bible Hub and found that translators differ in their interpretation of Amos 3:3.  As is often the case with verses of Scripture, each translation reveals a different, and equally stunning truth.  God's Word is like a multi-faceted jewel.  Click here to discover how many different slants God puts on His Truth in Amos 3:3.


And have a deliberately God-blessed day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Moment Outside Space and Time


"He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world."  
Ephesians 1:14

When Dennis had his stroke, in the first ten minutes before the ambulance came, I had the strangest experience.  It seemed as if time were suspended, as if Dennis and I were alone together in the universe, with no awareness of any other place outside that spot on the bedroom floor where he had fallen, no awareness that anything existed outside our own present experience.  

I had no thoughts of the past or the future.  I was not yet grieving or even afraid.  I was suspended in shock, and obviously anxious, but not for what might be coming, only for what was happening right then.  My mind and heart were rooted in that present moment, in that present place.  

I believe in those few moments Dennis and I were existing, together, not in time, but in eternity.  We were existing in the state in which we had been chosen by God, before "time" and "space" were created--before "the foundation of the world."

The amazing Truth is that our identity, our calling, our reason for being is rooted in eternity.  That's when God chose us, when He determined that we would be born, that we would die, at a particular time, and in a specific place in history. 

In the same way, our destiny is rooted in eternity.  Jesus said, 

"Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."  (John 14:1-3)

Jesus' statement is full of references to both place and time, but He is referring to a "place" and "time" that will be outside the realm of both.  He has prepared a place in eternity for us.  In that "place" we will exist in an eternal "moment" that will be full of a kind of bliss we can't even imagine down here.  

He's promised us that. In that "place" and at that "time,"  

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4)

In those few moments as I sat beside Dennis on the floor, holding him, waiting through what seemed like an eternity before the ambulance came, it was as if the veil were removed.  

All the barriers were down--all the barriers that we construct over a lifetime to protect us from the harshness of the broken world we are all born into--the barriers that separate us from each other--the barriers that separate us from our Creator and from heaven.

They were all gone.  

In that moment, Dennis and I existed, together, in the "place" and at the "time" when we had been chosen by God.  It was a moment of eternity, and, though it was an unbelievably anxious time, there was a sense of awe about it.  

Dennis stayed in that moment.  
I will be there one day as well.  

Joy will come to stay in that morning moment.  

A great hope!




Wednesday, December 14, 2016

On A Dark, Winter's Night

So, I'm going to break this writer's block stage I've been going through for over a year now--this dark winter's night of the soul.  I'll do it by posting, with determined consternation, my devotional thoughts--here, where God and everybody can see them.  At least I'll try this.  We'll see if it breaks the dam.

Today I've been reading Romans 8 in The Message.  This passage speaks to a problem I often have with boredom and listlessness, both precursors to despondency and depression, helplessness and stagnation.  (ie: writer's block)  The solution to this problem is both obvious and easy.  Why do I keep forgetting?

Romans 8 says,

Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life.  Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them--living and breathing God!

Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.  Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God.  Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God.  That person ignores who God is and what he is doing.  And God isn't pleased at being ignored.

But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him.  Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about.  But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells--even though you still experience all the limitations of sin--you yourself experience life on God's terms.

The emphasis in the above is mine.  It's all about "where you put your eyes."  

Stagnant: Looking inward.  

Fresh and alive: Looking outward and upward.  

Looking at Jesus.  
Seeing Him in the beautiful world around me. 
Seeing Him in the beautiful people around me.
Seeing Him in his Word.  

That's all it takes to break the despondency cycle.  
Deep breath.  Refreshed.
Thank you, Jesus.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Peace
















Peace is the sense that everything is as it should be.

It's the deep conviction that a wise plan is unfolding,
            step by step, moment by moment,
                        in time and in tune with the heartbeat
                                       of the Creator.

It's found in the eye of the storm,
            where stillness enfolds us in loving arms
                        even as we watch the world spin wildly 
                                       out of control around us. 

It's the peace Jesus had when he stood in Pilate's courtyard;
            the peace the martyrs had facing lions in the coliseum;
                        the peace today's believers have facing the swords
                                       of crazed assassins. 

It's a peace available to all of us who acknowledge our helplessness,
            who collapse under the weight of our own sinfulness
                        and choose to embrace God's offer
                                       of forgiveness.
                                   
It's the peace that comes with an unshakable faith in the reality that,
            because of God's loving provision of salvation through Jesus,
                        eternal joy will come for us 
                                      "in the morning."

Don't worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7  (J.B. Phillips translation)



Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Bible: The Most Misunderstood Book on the Planet


Well, yes.  That's a hard title to defend. 

I have no evidence that the Bible is the most misunderstood book on the planet.  Many other books, particularly religious ones like the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita, are probably misunderstood as well. 

Religious books are prone to be misunderstood for two reasons. 

First, they are complex.  Like jigsaw puzzles, you can put together pieces of them in small sections, but the sections don't make sense until the whole puzzle is completed.  

But the second reason religious books are misunderstood is, I believe, more common.  These books are usually misunderstood because most people don't bother to read them.  And that's surprising to me, especially when you consider that at least one of those books is so amazing.

The Bible is amazing! 

It's been the world's best selling book every year since the invention of the printing press, and for good reason.  This book has had a bigger impact on cultures all over the world than any other one book.  That's a statement that's easy to defend.

If the Bible is the world's best seller, you'd think it would also be the best-read book on the planet.  And it just might be.  As of 2014, the whole Bible has been translated into 531 languages, with parts of it translated into 2883 languages.

But because the Bible has had such a pervasive cultural influence, especially on the development of our Western worldview, the actual words of the book have become lost in the milieu, and most people in the developed world who subconsciously embrace that worldview are biblically illiterate. 

I think it would be easy to defend the statement that after 20 centuries, the average citizen of any nation whose development has been significantly impacted by the Bible now has only a vague idea of what the book actually says.

What the average citizen "knows" about the Bible is now founded on second-hand opinions and rumors built up over the years since the time when first-hand knowledge of the Bible was considered an essential part of a responsible citizen's education.

I think this is a shame.  I love the Bible.  I love the actual, authentically translated words of it.  I love the amazing stories in it, both historical and mythical. 

I've just come, this morning, from an exhilarating read in I Kings, part of the chronicles of the history of the nation of Israel, and I've been struck by how applicable the theology of that history is to our current political situation.

The stories make no statements about the particulars of the presidential race in the United States.  They do not offer any solutions to our political problems today.  (I believe those solutions are found in other sections of the jigsaw puzzle!)  But this historical account of things that happened in the politics of Israel 2500 years ago sheds light on government in general. 

It's not a pretty picture.  The politics of Israel as recorded in the Bible seems to illustrate the apparent universal inability of human beings to rule themselves successfully.  But if you're tired of all the rhetoric about American politics--if you'd like to step back from it all and get a bigger picture of the whole situation from the perspective of human history as a whole, I highly recommend a careful study of the past as recorded in the book of I Kings. 

I read chapters 17 through 20 this morning and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Looking at the Invisible

"So we fix our [spiritual] eyes not on what is seen [with our physical eyes], but on what is unseen [invisible to the human eye], since what is seen [with the naked eye] is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."   2 Corinthians 4:18

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."   Hebrews 11:1

Nothing puts us so intimately in touch with unseen realities as the death of a loved one.  Dennis' death nearly six months ago has gently skewed my perspective toward heaven.  That's one of the many good things God has brought out of this great grief He has allowed into my life.

When our physical lives go on uninterrupted, day after day, it's easy to lose sight of what is ultimately real.  We become so focused on the present moment in our own small corner of the universe that we forget how small a sphere that blip on the radar screen really is.  It seems like the whole universe to us, but it's not.  And coming to terms with this reality is the only way to peace and joy while we're making our way through this temporary, alien world.  It's the only way to experience the life we were created to enjoy.

While Dennis was dying, my friend Sharon was facing her own mortality.  She has battled cancer and won, for the time being.  But she now lives with the side effects of her treatments and the realization that the cancer might come back.  Her perspective on ultimate reality has been an inspiration to me.

She says, If I look at my life and everything that happens with my lens focused too closely, it is easy to despair.  But when I step back, refocus, and look at it in the context of Scripture, of who I am in Christ and His promise that I will share in His inheritance and be with Him eternally, these other things become so small and temporal in comparison. 

What I mean to say is that the outcome is the same--my physical body will one day give out.  Whether that happens a year from now or 40 years from now, I am still going to a glorious eternal life!  Makes me wonder why we fight so hard to stay here (like the Israelites kept looking back to Egypt, rather than go on joyfully to the promised land).

My friend no longer lives for her life down here.  She realizes there is a better one ahead, and that reality shines out through her broken body with a clear, eternal light.

In February I wrote about our pilgrimage through the Valley of Baca.  My friend is on that pilgrimage and she has turned the Valley of Baca into a place of springs.  She is going from strength to strength, and strengthening other pilgrims on the way, because she is looking at the invisible.

If I had to choose one daily devotional to subscribe to it would be the one provided by Open Doors, the ministry organization that cares for persecuted Christians around the world.  Every day's message is a refreshing spring to my spirit, and a challenge to remember to look, every day, at the invisible.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Conversation Piece


This evening I found an old article written by Dave and Linda Olson called, "Hearing God."  

The byline said, "We may imagine that He only speaks about deep, intense matters, or commands.  However, God's preferred way is conversation."

What a sweet thought.  My heart was lonely.  I reached out and said, "I'd love to have a conversation with you, God."

He said, "We did have a conversation today.  It was when you were reading your Bible this morning."

This morning I'd been reading the story of Nehemiah, thinking how much he is a model for how we believers should be living and working faithfully in the secular society of our Western world.  Thinking about how badly our spiritual walls need to be rebuilt, and how difficult it is. 

Then I thought, "But the walls were rebuilt, against impossible odds and overwhelming opposition."

That was a great thought, and I thought it was my thought. 

I'd been reading with my mind on the words in front of me, not even thinking Someone else might be in the room, talking to me. 

It had been a conversation and I'd missed it.