There were some men…

There were some men… fisherman by trade. Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew were casting their nets when Jesus called out to them. He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately, the brothers left their nets and  followed. There were two more men in a boat with their father. When Jesus called, James and John immediately followed. There was a man named Matthew sitting in a tax office. Jesus said to Him, “Follow Me,” and he arose and did so. One day, Jesus went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. He appointed the twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out…

There were some men and their names were Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter, James and John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thadaeus, Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot. These were Christ’s apostles… and where He went, they went. These men saw the wonders of Jesus. A sea was stilled, demons were cast out, the sick healed, and sight, speech and life restored. As Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching and preaching, these men went, too. They sat under His teaching, hearing firsthand the Beatitudes and parables that we study so closely today. And when Jesus was moved with compassion for the multitudes, He sent the men out to serve. And when they returned to Him, He cared for them, and said, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

There were some men, the disciples who were with Jesus, and they witnessed everything. They saw when His own family rejected Him, and when the religious leaders of the day questioned His every word and action. One of the men, Simon called Peter, knew just how special Jesus really was. Because God the Father revealed to him that Jesus was in fact the Christ, the Son of the living God. It was three of the disciples who witnessed the glory of Christ on top of a high mountain… His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light. All twelve of the disciples were told beforehand that Jesus would suffer, and be crucified. But did they understand what He meant when He said He would rise on the third day? They traveled to Jerusalem with Jesus. They witnessed a triumphant entry into the city as there was a great multitude crying out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!” Afterward, they witnessed His righteous anger as He overturned the tables of those who bought and sold inside the temple. See, God’s house is a house of prayer, but the people conducted unfair business trade instead. Not long after, conflict arose. The religious leaders didn’t agree with what Jesus was doing and with what He was saying, and they wanted to stop Him. They became jealous, and so they devised a plot. It was one of His own followers that agreed to betray Jesus for a price.

There were some men, His closest companions, and they celebrated an intimate meal with Him. It was their last supper, but did they know it? Could they fully understand what would happen just hours later? Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And He said, “Drink… for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus told them of what was to come. He told these men that they would all stumble because of Him. Peter boldly proclaimed, “I will never be made to stumble… Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples. They came to the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus told some to sit, but He took Peter and John and James with Him. He said, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful… stay here and watch with Me.” Jesus went a little farther and fell on His face asking for God the Father to let this cup pass from Him, but nevertheless, not His will, but as God willed. That’s when He found His followers asleep. He singled out Peter, “Could you not watch with Me one hour?” Two times more Jesus went a little further to pray, telling them to “Watch and pray.” But they could not. They slept until the last moment when Jesus’ betrayer was at hand.

There were some men who witnessed the arrest of Jesus. They saw a multitude arrive with clubs and swords, and one of their own kissed Jesus on His cheek to give Him away. Peter pulled out his sword to fight, but Jesus said not to. And so, they laid hands on Jesus, and all the apostles forsook Him. They fled. Although Peter ran away, he did continue to follow Jesus for a while. But at a distance. And when people accused him of being a one of Jesus’ followers, he vehemently denied it… three times. Just as Jesus predicted. When he remembered what Jesus said, he went out and wept bitterly.

Jesus had six trials within a matter of hours. While it was dark, He went from the father-in-law of the high priest, to the high priest, and then as soon as it was day, to the Sanhedrin. He was mocked and beaten before He even made it to Pilate. The Jews accused Jesus falsely, but Pilate found no fault in Him. Pilate sent Him to Herod, but Jesus answered Herod nothing, and was sent back to Pilate. Pilate again said that Jesus had done nothing worthy of death. It was Passover, and Pilate’s custom was to release one prisoner. He left it up to the people… he could release Jesus, or he could release a murderer named Barabbas. And so Barabbas was freed, and as for Jesus, they cried out, “Crucify Him!” And that’s just what happened.

There were some men, followers of Jesus, who fled when He was arrested. But we know that two followed for at least a little while. Peter and another disciple followed Jesus to the first trial. But eventually Peter denied Christ, and then went out and wept. I don’t know when the other disciple left, or if he left at all. I wondered about where all followers were during the crucifixion. Did they rally to Jesus’ side, or did they stay away behind closed doors for fear of being next? I find references to women watching from a distance, and His “acquaintances.” Could these acquaintances be His followers? I wouldn’t think so, because the disciples knew Him. Why after being referred to as disciples and apostles would they later be called merely acquaintances? But who am I to know for certain. We do know that John, one of the first called followers, was there when Jesus died… along with certain women. But what about those certain men?

You may be wondering why I’m going on about this right now. Well, it’s because tonight I was cut to the heart in thinking about these men. At a special service at our church, I was broken over my condemnation of them. I judged them for not being present at the empty tomb, and for being behind closed doors in hiding. And these are the very men that Jesus called to Him that He Himself wanted. I have been judging His people… harshly. Tonight when I thought about these men, the original followers of Christ, I got an idea of what they must have gone through. See… oh, how they loved their Jesus. They left everything behind to follow Him when He said to. They walked with Him, and talked with Him, and ate with Him, and prayed with Him, and sang with Him. Jesus even washed their feet. He was their best friend, and they had to witness His arrest and His death. These men were mourning the loss of a loved one. They were heartbroken. I’m sure they didn’t know what to do with themselves, because although Jesus said He would rise after three days, I don’t think they understood.

Yes, there were some men. And after Jesus’ death, they stumbled and fell away. They hid out for a little while, and were disbelieving when Jesus did rise from the tomb. But you know, Jesus knew it would happen. Before He died, Jesus told Peter, “But when you return to Me, strengthen your brethren.” And oh, how He cared for Peter. When the women found that empty tomb, they were instructed, “But go and tell His disciples – and Peter – that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” And Peter. Don’t you know Peter was reassured when he heard that. Because he messed up royally. Not only did he run, but he denied even knowing Jesus. But Peter was called by Jesus. And the mistakes he made did not render him useless. On the contrary, he was stronger for them. After Jesus arose from the grave, He appeared to Peter and asked three times, “Do you love Me?” Three times Peter said yes. And then Jesus said, “Follow Me.” And that’s what Peter did.

There were some men… and it wasn’t that they were really seeking Jesus. No, they were in the middle of their busy lives. But Jesus came to them. And something about Jesus drew them. And so, when He called out, “Follow Me,” they did so without hesitation. Jesus still calls out to us today… will we do the same?

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die. John 12:32, 33

Human Doings

Human Being: noun, a member of any of the races of Homo sapiens; person; man, woman, or child.

Being: noun, the state or fact of existing; existence

Doing: noun, performance of an act

Be: verb, to exist or live

Do: verb, 1. to perform (an act, duty, role, etc.) 2. to execute (a piece or amount of work) 3. to accomplish; finish; complete. 4. to put forth; exert: Do your best. 5. to be the cause of (good, harm, credit, etc.); bring about; effect.

Everyone knows these words, I’m sure, and understands their meaning. So why the grammar lesson here? Why should I take the time to type out definitions of words that everyone is familiar with? Well, quite simply, I was blown away after reading two separate blogs – two separate sources – and both referenced the same Scripture. I respect both writers, and I was immediately captured by their subject matter. Because although each style is totally different, and both blogs were about different circumstances, both writers essentially said the same thing to me. Their questions? “What do you love to do?” “If finances were not an issue, what would your dream be?” “If you fulfilled God’s command to love the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind, what would you look like at that moment?” Basically, what did God create you… to be.

Please don’t take offense, as I am definitely talking about myself here, but I think we completely miss what God wants for us most of the time. Because we’re human (noun, subject to or indicative of the weaknesses, imperfections, and fragility
associated with humans). We’re human, and so we’re subject to imperfection. One of our imperfections? I think we get caught up in the doing more so than the being. What does God’s word say… For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). This morning, I paused at “being,” and pondered just what does that mean for us. And it struck me that God in fact created human beings. We’re not called human doings. But I believe, most of us spend our lives existing as human doings… not as human beings, which is what God created us to be.

Which brings me back to the questions I read this morning… What do I love to do? What are my dreams? What do I look like when I am, in fact, completely wrapped up in Him? And these are questions for us all today. Because God created each one of us to be something… a being… for Him. Unfortunately, us humans are quick to act. We want to get busy… we want to do… because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Do you know what struck me about the definitions for “do” and “doing”? The word performance. Especially, “to perform and act, duty or role… and to execute an amount of work.” That’s it in a nutshell. So often we get caught up in the doing… we perform or act in a certain way that we feel is expected of us. By who? People! We perform for people, not for God! So often, the work we do is not God’s work… it is to be seen by men. And you know, Paul captured the essence of this in Galatians 1, “Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Speaking for myself here, I set out to be a servant for Christ, and yet, the work gets skewed. Because my human nature kicks in, and it becomes more about the people. They’re the ones who stand right in front of me, and so, I begin to “perform or execute,” for them!

So what does God want from us? See, He had a plan for each one of us from the very beginning. And by beginning, I’m talking about when the world began. Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” God knows our substance. He formed us in our mothers’ wombs. He knew when He breathed us into being, just what He had in store for us. And then there’s Jesus the Christ. He is in fact the author and finisher of our faith. It was He who said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Get ready for another grammar lesson… I just had to look up “make.” Do you know, I found two parts to the definition (Blue Letter Bible). I found 1) to make and 2) to do. And what I see just blows my mind (again).

1. to make: a) to produce, construct, form, fashion, etc. b) to be the authors of, the cause. c) to make ready, to prepare. d) to produce, bear, shoot forth.

2. to do: a) to act rightly, do well. b) to carry out, to execute, and e) to perform: to a promise.

Do you see it? Let Him first make us. Let Him fashion us and to be the author of our lives. Let Him make us ready and prepare us. Because once we do this… and by do, I mean simply soak up Jesus and let Him make us… then our doing will naturally follow. As we truly follow Jesus, we will naturally become what He wants us to be. And then it will happen… the transformation. Because we follow Jesus, and because we let Him make us, we will act rightly and do well. There will be no performance or play acting on our part… no seeking to please men, because what we do will be real. It will be natural because it will be who we are. We will become “human doings,” because we first became “human beings.”

Last grammar lesson here… I just have to go back to one of the definitions. Do: verb, to accomplish; finish; complete. We try so hard in our limited capacity to do works for God. We strive to please Him. But we really don’t have to strive. Because ultimately, the work has been done… one time on a cross at Calvary so long ago. Jesus did it. He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. Bear with me as I share the meaning of “it is finished”:

1) to bring to a close, to finish, to end, and 2) to perform, execute, complete, fulfill.

Jesus did what we could not. He fulfilled His purpose when He died on that cross. And so, in honor of Him, and the work He accomplished on the cross, may we pause this week and give thanks. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to do a thing. As He said, “It is finished.”

A Passionate Fool

Being a child of God can be an emotional rollercoaster. Because the deeper you go with God, the more ups and downs you can have. I can only speak for myself here, but I would venture to say there are others who feel the same. Because when you go up a mountain with God, you eventually have to come down. With me, the decline began on Friday afternoon. It was then that I felt like God disciplined me. As Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” Since I had been taken down a notch, I wasn’t feeling so great by the time Saturday evening rolled around. And because my confidence level was at a low, I felt vulnerable. Thus, my over-analysis of the things I said that evening. I began to fret, and wondered what people thought of the words that came out of my mouth. That’s where I found myself Sunday morning… feeling uncertain, feeling misunderstood, and feeling foolish.

I’m pretty outspoken. It’s because when I care about something, I just can’t shut my mouth. So I guess that would mean I’m passionate. Not about everything, mind you, but I’m definitely passionate about a few things. I am passionate about food… I always have been. If I’m eating a good meal, there will be sound effects. And I’m passionate about music. I love to hear it… especially classic country. Man, can I belt out Johnny Cash and John Conlee. I’m passionate about my family… when they hurt, I hurt and I cry when they cry. But most importantly, I’m passionate about God. I love His word. Sometimes, I think about it off and on throughout the whole day. Truly. There are times when I think, “I don’t know how to be normal, anymore.” There are times I feel that I no longer know how to carry on with a “normal” conversation. Because now, I view everything in light of God. But it’s not always been like this. Mostly, my line of thinking has completely altered over the course of the last couple of years. God is transforming me, and the change is coming about because of His word… the very thing I’m most passionate about.

It was Saturday night when I used the word “passionate.” But a little while later, I began to feel foolish. I was embarrassed because not everyone talks like that. I felt like an oddball. I wasn’t sure if people felt the same as I did. And so, it was Sunday morning that I said out loud, “I feel like a fool!” My husband overheard me, and wanted to know why. I told him about using the word “passionate,” and that I just wasn’t sure if people understood me. But you know… God understood. And I think He wanted me to know that He heard me. Because He used my pastor to speak directly to me about this foolish word on Sunday morning. One of the first things I heard was that it’s Passion Week. The pastor went on to say that we should be passionate about what Jesus did. Not just once, but three times (if I counted properly), the pastor used the word I said the night before… passionate. It was like God gave me a little pat on the back. He heard me…

And so, a little confidence was restored. I felt a little better for being passionate about God’s word. And then came yesterday. I was absolutely crushed when I came across 1 Timothy 2:11-12, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” What? It had just been established that I am passionate and outspoken about God’s word. I got a “pat on the back.” But then I saw, “be in silence.” I was confused… what did this mean? What was God trying to say to me? I felt so sad. Like I said, an emotional rollercoaster… up and down I go. But wait, I’m coming to the best part.

Because it’s Passion Week (Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday), I’ve been reading a couple of books about Christ and the crucifixion. And it’s through today’s reading that I was reminded of something so important… something I was completely impassioned by just over a month ago… but I forgot. And what I remembered is absolutely the best news for me. As a matter of fact, what I was reminded of this morning is the best news for any outspoken woman who is passionate about God and His word.

Yes, it’s true, Jesus died. They arrested Him, hung Him on a cross, and then buried Him in a tomb. But where were His disciples? As Jesus was arrested, one young follower took off so fast, he left his linen cloth behind and fled naked! One of His closest companions denied even knowing Him. And later, the disciples gathered behind closed doors and mourned and wept. But there were some women. It was the women who went to that tomb early Easter morning so many years ago. It was the women who were given the charge, “go and tell His disciples.” It was the women that Jesus first appeared to. And it was Mary Magdalene who Jesus first spoke to. Jesus Himself said, “Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

This is the Gospel… this is the good news. God sent His only begotten Son to die a torturous death as the perfect sacrifice for the sin of all mankind. Why? Because He loves us. They tried to kill Him, but death could not hold Him. God raised Him up from the dead, and the tomb was empty. After Jesus arose, He appeared to many people during the forty days He walked the earth. But, He first appeared to a woman. He first entrusted a woman with the good news. He said, “Go and tell…” And I’m thankful for that today.

I’m not sure why it happened the way it did. And I certainly don’t want to throw off on the disciples. Because although they fell away for a brief time, they rallied and were faithful till the end. I’m simply recounting just what I read in God’s word. And over 2000 years later, His word speaks deeply to this woman. See, He tells me He has great purpose for me. He’s created me to be just the way I am… passionate and outspoken about His word. And He gave me His good news… He gave it to all of us. He wants us all to be passionate and outspoken about His word. And you know, if we’re going to feel foolish anyway, we may as well be fools for Him! Because in the end, all that’s really going to matter is what we did with what He gave us. And He gave us His Son. He gave us His good news. So then… will we keep it all to ourselves? Or will we do what Jesus said to do? Will we go? Will we tell?

What we do here matters. It’ll soon be Easter. The tomb was, and is, empty. Let’s go and tell…

But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me… She has done what she could… Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the whole world, what this woman did will also be spoken of as a memorial to her.” (taken from Mark 14:6-9)

Daddy’s Hands

1979 (or thereabouts)

The stage was set. My father was in the kitchen with all his friends. My brother and I had a new joke, and I wanted to tell it in front of everyone. I was confident of walking way with loads of laughs… confident of being successful. And so, I walked into the room and approached the easiest target. I asked, “Do you have a quarter?” I could hardly contain myself, ready as I was to deliver the punch line. My father’s friend said, “Oh, sure, sure..” and reached deep into his pocket for a quarter. But, I didn’t get to finish the joke. Daddy jumped in. He spoke sternly, and told me to never ask anyone for money. He sent me to my room, and I was humiliated. I had to walk out of that kitchen, crushed and unable to look into the eyes of anyone I passed.

As I lay in my bed, I could hear my brother pleading my case. “But Daddy, it’s a joke… she was going to say she didn’t need the quarter, that she had a nickel for a pickle.” Not too funny, huh… but to a small child, it was a knee-slapper. I laid there, crying and embarrassed, and so hurt that my Daddy yelled at me. And the worst part about it… everyone saw. Daddy came to me afterward. He hugged and kissed me, and said he was sorry. He didn’t know it was a joke. So our relationship was restored. However, the damage to my ego lingered. I didn’t want to see anyone for shame.

March 22, 2013

The stage was set. I wrote a blog that I thought was really great. I mean to tell you, Friday’s blog moved me. And so, I felt on top of the world. Friday, I left my house fully confident. I felt successful and purposeful and ready to take on the world. But things changed quickly. I went to my son’s school for an Easter egg hunt. I was there for about two hours, and by the end of the day I just had a really bad vibe. I felt like someone didn’t like me. And it bothered me. Because I’m one of those people that just has to have everyone’s approval. Yes, I’m a people-pleaser.

I left the school feeling somewhat down, and then moved on to the next chore. I had to pick up a document, but the person wasn’t very nice. In fact, he was downright rude. I sunk a little lower. At the Post Office, the person at the counter was on the phone the whole time. She took care of me, but did so while handling a personal matter. I sunk a little lower. My next chore was to drop off some of my paintings at a local shop (to be sold consignment). I had to tell the owner how much I wanted. By this time, my confidence was shaken, and I felt like crying before I even reached the door. I was embarrassed to ask for anything, because why would anyone want to pay the amount I wanted.

So what happened? The confidence I felt at 12:00 was gone by 4:00. And as the evening progressed, I had a sinking feeling that God wanted me to see something. I was pretty sure that I was being chastened because the feelings I experienced were very similar to feelings I had just over a month ago. In February, there was no doubt about it… God disciplined me. But this time, I wasn’t quite sure what I had done wrong. But the feeling persisted. And as the weekend marched on, I became more and more withdrawn. For some reason, I felt humiliated, and crushed… and unable to look into the eyes of anyone I passed.

Today 

God is my Father. His word says so… but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15. In my Bible, I have written out “Daddy” below the word “Abba.” Because that word for father is personal and intimate. If we have Jesus, we have been adopted into the family and are in fact children of God. And so, as His child, I have that privilege… I can call Him, Daddy.

And just as my Daddy corrected me so long ago, my heavenly Daddy does the same today. See, what we do reflects on our parents. I don’t think it matters what our age is. Long ago, my Daddy was mortified that I asked someone for money. He was embarrassed. Not only that, he wanted me to learn from my mistake (or what he thought was a mistake). My Daddy corrected me because of my actions, for sure, but also because he loves me. That’s what daddies do. And today is no different. My heavenly Daddy was not pleased with my behavior last week. He knew my heart. He knew I was proud. And so… He chastened me… because He loves me.

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens…” Hebrews 12:5,6

We’re all individuals, and we’re all at a different place in our relationship with God. Some may know immediately when they do wrong and God corrects them. Not so with me… I find that God’s discipline is subtle. Chastening is not as easy for me to identify as when I was a little girl. See, my Daddy often used his hands when I did wrong. There was no room for misunderstanding. But God’s hands are not down here to literally spank me, so, His methods are different. For me, a spiritual spanking may take some time to figure out. This past weekend, I readily identified how I felt… lack of confidence, insecurity, shame, embarrassment… but I didn’t immediately know the reason why. And so I had to think about what precipitated those feelings. Then it became clear. My heavenly Daddy gave me a spanking, so to speak, because I was acting in an unbecoming way. My actions reflected on Him, and I needed to be corrected.

I want to close with the words of an older song called, “Daddy’s Hands,” by Holly Dunn. I first heard it at my cousin’s wedding as she danced with her Daddy. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I witnessed father and daughter moving across the floor. My uncle held her tight with his work-worn hands. I think of my own Daddy’s hands, callused from years of house painting… weathered from years in the garden. And now, I think of my other Daddy’s hands… those hands that came down in human form. I think of the hands that are scarred by nails… the ones that bled for me. I’m all grown up, but I’m still Daddy’s girl. And those are the hands that hold me tight. Daddy’s hands discipline me. But I know…there’s always love in Daddy’s hands.

“Daddy’s Hands” by Holly Dunn

I remember Daddy´s hands, working ’til they bled.
Sacrificed unselfishly, just to keep us all fed.
If I could do things over, I´d live my life again.
And never take for granted the love in Daddy´s hands.

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy´s hands, were hard as steel when I´d done wrong.
Daddy´s hands, weren´t always gentle
But I´ve come to understand.
There was always love…
In Daddy´s hands.

Color me beautiful…

Consider your doors. Does it matter what color they are? My husband and I just had a discussion this morning about what color ours shall be. But does it really matter? Does God care what color we use? Because it’s just a door, right? A door keeps the elements and unwanted intruders out of our houses, or it can allow a friend entrance. The door has locks and a doorknob… perhaps a window. It serves a purpose. Who cares what color the door is, right? After my husband and I discussed color, I remembered something my great friend said. She said she likes nice things, and that she likes to have a nice house. She wondered if that was so wrong. And you know, I think I have a good answer for her.

It was several weeks ago when I got out of my house early one morning. I was able to enjoy a glorious sunrise, the sky filled with pinks and yellows and reds. And as I drove through town, the yellow daffodils caught me by surprise. It seemed too early for bright flowers, so I was pleased to see them. As I drove further along, I admired the beautiful houses with nicely manicured lawns… and I noticed all the doors. So many different colors. I began to oooh and aaah in my mind as I saw red and pink and purple doors. What at first was an unwanted chore, having to drive into town first thing, became a wonderful experience as I was captivated by color the whole time. I was happy to see all those bright entryways, so pretty and inviting. So now… consider your doors. Does the color matter?

We can go a step further. Consider the lilies. Jesus said, “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you…” Luke 12:27, 28. Yes, the earth testifies of God’s greatness through color. And as earth awakens from her deep, winter slumber, she yawns and comes to life… with glorious color. Weeping willows begin to show lime green and maple trees bud red. Robins appear with orange in their breasts, and crocuses peek forth clothed in purple. And soon, the whole earth will be arrayed in color as new life springs forth.

Let’s go a little further. Consider God’s dwelling place. The LORD resided in the tabernacle as He dwelt among His chosen people, the Israelites. They may have wandered in the desert for 40 years, but God was with them. And so He gave them instructions for the construction of His tabernacle. The design was elaborate, thus God filled one named Bezaleel with His Spirit for the task. “He filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.” Exodus 35:31-33. God enabled His people with skill to do all manner of work, including tapestry. He enabled the weavers to design artistic works using blue and purple and scarlet and fine linen. Yes, the tabernacle was God’s dwelling place, and it was to be colored beautiful.

Let’s go another step. Consider God’s throne. The apostle John describes the throne in Revelation 4. The One who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance, and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Before the throne there was a sea like glass, like crystal. I had to look up Jasper and sardius, because I’m not familiar with those stones. I found that they are opaque… jasper being red or yellow or brown or green and sardius is red. And I can’t quite picture the rainbow around God’s throne, but because John says it’s “like an emerald,” I have to imagine the colors are like gems, catching and reflecting light… like the crystal sea before His throne. Yes, God is surrounded by color as He sits on His throne, and the elders surrounding Him cry out, “For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” God created the glorious color that surrounds Him.

Let’s go one more step. Consider our bodies. The apostle Paul refers to our bodies as tents, for he knew that our bodies are but temporary lodgings. But you know what else? Though merely a temporary shell, our bodies house something wonderful. Just as the tabernacle of so long ago was a dwelling place for God, that’s exactly what our bodies are today. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16. The LORD who clothes the earth in all manner of hues, the God who is surrounded by color, the One who created color… He lives inside us. So, how do we look? Does the light of God radiate from us? Are our cheeks flushed with excitement and our eyes bright? As God’s temples here on this earth, are we reflecting Him? How’s our color looking?

I reread some of last Friday’s blog (The Valley of Slaughter). A few things stood out to me. I said that because of my past sins, I had been enshrouded by darkness. I said that my sin, which was hidden away, colored my whole life. But you know… that’s not so anymore. Because things are changing… I am changing. God is removing that shroud of darkness that once enveloped me, and He’s drawing me into His marvelous light. And I am ready, so ready, for God to color me beautiful. As He clothes the grass with lilies, “how much more will He clothe me.” And so here I am, Lord. Color me. Make me something beautiful… for Your glory. May my eyes no longer be hooded with shame. May they no longer seek to look away, but rather, may they sparkle and shine with the light of Your light, catching the eye of those who pass by. May the corners of my mouth that were once turned down into a frown of condemnation, be lifted up into a welcoming smile. May my hands that once hung down listless now be stretched out. Do not let my adornment be merely outward, but rather, let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in Your sight. (1 Peter 3:3,4). Please Lord, color me beautiful.

I’ve heard it said that our eyes are the windows (or doors) to our soul. But really… not just our eyes. Our mouths and our hands and our entire attitude stem from what lies deep inside us. And you know, He’s in there! And so, in essence, our very bodies can be doorways to Jesus. And our doors can be inviting, or they can turn someone away. Now I ask again, consider your doors. Does it matter what color they are?

My friend wants to have a nice house, a beautiful house. She wondered, is that so wrong? No, I don’t think so. May God color us all beautiful.

Here

Here is a condensed testimony of what’s happened, and what I believe is happening, through God’s amazing plan.

First, the truth… No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. John 6:44.

February 1997. I became a child of God, and yet I stumbled about for years without going deeper than the surface. I went through the motions (if I went through them at all). September 2004. I came to Pinehurst, NC, and I joined a church. I heard God’s word, and my faith began to grow. However, I moved away for a year. August 2008. I moved back to Pinehurst and joined the same church. I had one full year of pure Bible study and prayer before getting busy. My faith was established and I was full of belief and expectation. Spring 2010, I received a promise through God’s word. I was certain He gave me the following words and knew that He would send me back to my hometown… a place that I had elevated to my very own promised land.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. Jeremiah 29:13,14.

Summer 2010, I did just that. I began to seek Him with all my heart. By the Fall, my search for God was in sincerity. And then it happened, He sent me home. I was settled in my hometown by Spring of 2011. After a while, I climbed a mountain with God, but tumbled down so, very low. Which brings me to today. I am here, in my very own promised land on earth, and I’m still diligently seeking God. It is here, in my hometown, that I have found more of God than I ever could have imagined. My question? Why the wait? Because the truth is, God is the one who draws us. Why, if I became His child in 1997, did He wait so long to draw me to Him? Why has it taken sixteen years to get here? My search for God began in earnest close to three years ago. So why now… and why here?

January 2013. I received my answer. I have a new promise from God… and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. Exodus 34:10. This is why now, this is why here. I am among my own people, and some of them may need to know just how big a God we have. I myself need to know. And so, God, with His complex plan worked out all the minute details to bring me to today and my indwelling of my homeland. It’s here that He will do His biggest work in me. Here, among my people, God will transform me… and they shall see. They will know that He is the LORD, for I am the branch of His planting. Here.

And so the transformation has begun. First, confession. HUGE confession. And then, He said get a new spirit. And now, God says, get a new heart… “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart.” Ezekiel 18:31. And oh how I want that new heart. Because for years, my heart has been so hard. As a young girl, I was so tender and senstitive. Why, I would cry if someone looked at me funny! But over time, that heart of mine became calloused. It started when sin came knocking. Oh, no doubt, I became God’s child many years ago, but inside there were hidden things. Darkness that I didn’t lay down at the cross, but rather carried in my heart, tucked away and out of sight. And it’s been killing me, a slow death by way of a hardened heart. Because my heart became so calloused and cold through the years, it really served no purpose other than to pump blood through my deadened body. Essentially, I was of no use to God, because my heart was as hard as flint. But several years ago, things began to change… I began seeking Him with all my heart. And so He drew near to me… but only so near. Before drawing me further into His presence, He had to first clean me up.

And that’s what He did… He told me that He desired truth in the inward part. And it was in my hidden part, that He made me to know wisdom (Psalm 51:6). And after many years, I acknowledged my transgressions to Him. I confessed. Because He tells us to empty our hearts of detestable things and abominations. And then the miracle will happen. God will give us new hearts. But we have to do our part. We have to pour out our hearts before Him, emptying it of hidden things (Psalm 62:8). And then, He will remove the stoney heart out of our flesh, and He will give a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19).

I am amazed with God. I am amazed at How He works things out. See, I left home at nineteen but returned as a new creation. I came back as a child of God. And in all my years away, God could have drawn me to Him if He so purposed. He could have brought my dark sins to light while I was living elsewhere… but He waited for the right time. He drew me to Him several years ago, and that’s when my true search for God began. I sought Him with my whole heart, and now I’ve found Him. He’s restored me to the land He banished me from… my homeland. It is here among my own people that He will sanctify His great name. My people shall know that He is the LORD God, when He is hallowed in me before their eyes. Here, He has sprinkled me clean. Here, He has given me a new heart and put a new spirit within me. Here, in my own land, God has taken out my heart of stone, and here in my promised land, God has given me a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36.

God is doing a work in me. He’s waited for the right time so that I could become brand new right before my own people’s eyes. It is here, in my promised land, that I will experience the victory God has promised me, through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is here that I will await the next miracle… for it is an awesome thing the He will do with me. Hallelujah and Amen.

The Living Dead

Most everyone has heard John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Jesus came that we may have life… abundant life. So do we? Are we all living fully and abundantly? Or are we the living dead? I can only speak for myself here, but I have to say I fall into the latter category. I have been barely living. I have been existing. So many of my days consist of me longing for the evening to come. So often, I go through the motions of my day, doing just what I need to do to make it to nightfall. And then, I fall asleep on the couch, take myself to bed, and then wake up to do it all over again. This cannot be what Jesus meant when He said that He came so we may have life.

There’s another verse that comes to mind… “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). I’m sure this verse is about salvation through Jesus Christ, but when I ponder the first part of that verse, I wonder if it goes deeper than that. Because yes, God wants for all His creation to be saved and have eternal life in heaven. But, I think He also wants us to live here on this earth… fully and abundantly. For His purposes. But sin throws us off course. I feel my life is living proof of just that. I had two abortions when I was young. I cringe as I type that. But what’s done is done and I cannot go back and change it. But, I can change how I move forward in life. Because although I truly repented of that lifestyle years ago, I never brought my specific acts to God. I never really talked to Him about it till this past Fall. And I think that my holding on to those sins, even though I no longer agreed with what I did, has hindered me all these years. That old sin that I carried in the deep recesses of my heart slowly ate away at me. My life slowly ebbed away, until I was simply a shell of a woman. A woman who simply went through the motions in every sense of the word… in every aspect of my life. A woman who did her best to get through each day, so she could get to the evening… a woman who barely lived.

Do you know what God says in Ezekiel 18:32? He says, “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies… therefore turn and live!” Man, did this verse jump off the pages at me. Turn and live! Although God is talking to His chosen people of long ago, I’m sure He is also talking to His people of today. I’m sure He wants for us all to listen up, and “Turn and live!” But how do we do that? The preceding verse says, “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?” Cast away my sins… I’m in the process of doing that, you know. I began dealing with my past in the Fall, and it’s somehow carried over to now. Because I just made a huge confession on Friday. God’s word assures me that when we confess, and when we repent of our sins, we are forgiven! Because of the blood of Christ, my sins are covered. Can I truly receive His word? Can I trust Him in that, and really once and for all leave what’s past in the past? I pray I can.

I read Ezekiel 37 today. I was totally captivated by God’s word. I felt like each verse was written just for me. I couldn’t get enough of it. I just have to share what I read because God’s vision to Ezekiel still holds true… for all of us. Because you know what? With the exception of a few blessed souls who are really living life the way God intends, most of us are barely living at all. Most of us are going through the motions. Most of us are stagnating in a rut of routine. Most of us are completely hindered by our pasts, refusing to let go and just move forwad. So many of us are complacent… too many of us are comfortable in our bubbles of security. And for some of us, we are dead in our trespasses in every sense of the word. So listen and hear God’s word today…

The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. God said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord, God, You know.” And He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Because He says, “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.” So I prophesied as I was commanded, and there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling… the bones came together… bone to bone. God said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, say to the breath, ‘Thus says the LORD God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.'” And breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet. (Portions of Scripture taken from Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Do you want to live? I do. I do not want to go through the motions one more day. I want to live fully and abundantly. I want God to breathe new breath into me, and pour out His Spirit upon me. I want it bad. And He wants it for me. And so all I have to do is turn to Him, and I’ll live. I’ll receive His word… I’ll receive His Spirit… and I’ll receive His promises. Because the gift of God through Christ Jesus our Lord is eternal life… and I’ll grab it with both hands.

Hush, listen… what’s that I hear? Is that the rattling of bones?