Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesdays with Jesus #196

#196 "I Got Nothin'?"
April 26, 2011
"I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too- your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful- I can't take it all in!" (Psalm 139: 5-6 The Message)
One of the phrases my family uses when we're on the phone and there's either no news to report or we've exhausted conversation is, "I got nothin'."  That's some pretty bad grammar for a family with some writers in it, I know. As I look out my kitchen window, thinking about what I want to say to you today, I think about the fog enveloping my yard. I think about how it's supposed to rain all day....again. My wind chimes are humming a gentle song, and the baby birds in the bathroom air vent are singing for their breakfast. I sit, fingers poised over the keys of my laptop and I say to myself, "I got nothin'."
Some days are just like that, aren't they? We wake up to the same thing we woke up to yesterday. There are dirty dishes in the sink. Who was in my house last night while I was sleeping? There's laundry in baskets that were just emptied, washed, folded and put away the day before. The beds have to be made again. There are jobs to go to and diapers to change. Whatever it is for you, it seems we just did all of this - and we did - yesterday. We've got nothing profound to say, no heroic feats to accomplish and no dragons to slay. We know that there are people out there feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, finding cures for diseases and changing the world. But we've got nothin'.
What I do have is a huge load of laundry that I just folded and put away from two grown sons. How many clothes can men wear in the span of three days time? I'm just asking.
Today I asked the Lord to give me a fresh pair of eyes to see Him. It's easy to get lost in the mundane, the drudgery and the predictability of life and think that God isn't in any of it. Our worlds don't seem all that important, at least not in comparison to other peoples. As I shuffled along from room to room and task to task, I asked Him to show Himself to me on this not so significant Tuesday morning. Here's a little of what I saw.
I saw puzzles. My father-in-law loved to do puzzles; the big kind with a zillion pieces that he would then glue and frame and give away to his family. We have quite a few of them hanging on the basement walls and I thought about Dad, who passed away just last November. I made my entrance into the Schultz family some 20 years ago in a not so normal way. I won't go into the details, but let's just say, I was not an expected addition to the family. As I looked at his puzzles today I smiled as I remembered that over the years I really believe that Chuck's father loved me. Chuck always said that Dad was happier to see and talk to me than to him. Considering the way it all started, Dad grew to love me like I was his own daughter. When I looked at those puzzles, I saw a miracle working God.
I came upstairs and checked Facebook and Twitter. I saw something pretty amazing. There has been a blog that is about one family's journey with a very, very sick little girl. This girl went home to be with Jesus on Good Friday. She was only about 11 years old. On the blog this morning was an invitation to her family's "Celebration of Life". Here's what it said,
"No Black-Spring Colors and Casual Please".
When I read those words, I saw the God of comfort and hope. He is the only One who could cause a family with wounds so fresh and deep to respond this way. May He show up mightily at their Celebration of Life!
I heard a prompting in my spirit as I thought about a family so dear to me. They are sitting bedside as the husband and father of the family is going through the last days or perhaps hours of his life. I was able to stop what I was doing right there and pray. I prayed for strength, comfort and peace for my friends. I thanked God that when Ed closes his eyes for the last time, he will immediately look into the eyes of my Savior. I saw God when He reminded me by His Spirit to pray.
If we ask God to show us, and we keep our eyes and ears open, we will see Him all around and about us. No day is a drudge. No moment is a bore. There are burning bushes all over the landscapes of our lives. Everywhere our feet trod is holy ground.
Sometimes He will heal the sick, give sight to the blind and raise the dead, but more often than not He is right there whispering, "Here I am. Can you see Me? Can you hear Me?" Because He is alive, He gives life to everything around us if we would just have ears to hear and eyes to see. We won't have to look very far or hard to see Him.
It won't be long until they all ask me what's for dinner. Do you think that once, they could tell ME?
As I continue tidying around the house, I see pictures of my grandchildren. I see God in their smiles and I can close my eyes and hear their laughter. I have the most precious, beautiful grandchildren in the world. I never thought that I could fall in love again at my age, but when these babies were born, I was wrecked for life.
I see Chuck and me in a white porcelain frame. It's our wedding picture. I see a big, huge, mighty God. Because He lives and because of His blessings, we have beaten so many of the odds that statistics say should have done us in years ago.  My man has a favorite thing to say to me. He always says, "You're stuck with me." What I pray that he knows is that there is no one else on God's green earth that I would rather be stuck with until death do us part. He loves me as close to the love of God as any human man could. I see God when I see that Chuck respected me and loved me enough to commit to me until God calls one of us home.
I see God in the pictures of my children hanging on the wall and scattered on shelves. There is a story with each picture. I'm reminded of skinned knees and kissing booboos. I'm reminded of childhood fears that turned into teenage angst and all the moments in between. I've seen them grow and mature and suffer and rejoice. Some have suffered more than they should have at such a young age. But they thrive and forge ahead and are all walking their own journeys with God in one way or another. It's hard, but I try my hardest to let them have their own story with God, just as I did. It will be so much richer and life-changing, if I just watch. Sometimes I've watched with a broken heart only a mother could have. But I see God in each one of them. I cheer with their victories and cry with their failures and pain. I see God when I look at those pictures of the precious ones who call me "Mom".
I see God when I turn on the tap and clean, fresh water flows. It's not that way everywhere in the world. We are so blessed.
I see God in a refrigerator full of food. I'm reminded of those who are holding bowls to get one serving of porridge today.
Seriously, we need pop and juice and fruit roll-ups again???
Those clothes that I washed and folded and put away? I see the God who has provided for our every need.
I see God when I can look myself in the eye in the mirror, and not feel ashamed or dirty or discarded. It wasn't always that way. I can see a beautiful, loved, chosen, redeemed, transformed daughter of the Living God.
I see God when just the right Scripture comes to mind as I'm trying to make a decision or fretting over something. He brings just the right word at just the right time.
I see God when I'm about to give up and throw the towel over my hopes and dreams for the calling I believe God has placed on my life. He always brings someone with a word or a note of encouragement.
I see God in the spring buds on the trees outside my window. I even see Him in those daffodil "duds" with no heads on them. He reminds me through the changing of the season that He is faithful.
I hear God in the voices of talented, anointed Christian artists who lead me each day in the sweet sounds of praise and worship over Pandora radio.
God is all around us. We could not look on Him in the fullness of His great glory and radiance, but I assure you that through eyes of faith, you can see Him. Nothing is drudgery or mundane or boring. He is present in it all and longs to show Himself to you. Ask Him today for eyes afresh to see Him. You may think that you've got nothin'. Dear one, He will show you that you've got everything.
Living the Word along with you,  

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesdays with Jesus #195

"It's All A Set Up"
"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Galatians 4: 4-5)

Because Holy Week and Easter often fall in April, one of the daily devotionals that I study each morning has dedicated this month to the last few hours of the earthly life of Christ. Taking thirty days to go over the events of a few hours time has lent itself to going slowly and deliciously in-depth in regard to the details. I'm one of those line by line, precept by precept bible studiers anyway. The more I can squeeze out of a word or single phrase of Scripture, the more excited I get.

Studying the final hours that Jesus spent on planet Earth as the Son of Man has led me to draw one conclusion. God is in the business of setting things up. Being all powerful, He could accomplish His purposes with just a word going forth from His lips. Really, He doesn't have to get up from His throne, and He doesn't even need to speak. All He has to do is think it, will it, and it will be done exactly as He wants it to be. More than now and again that's not how He works. If you don't just look at the familiar verses that we focus on every year at this time, but look deeper into the environment in which those events took place, you'll see something so remarkable, and I'm praying that "something" will bring you new hope today.

Before the foundation of the world, God knew what would take place in the Garden of Eden. He knew that the man and woman He created would be deceived by the serpent and that sin would spoil the perfection which was His original intent for mankind. He also knew that He would have to do something to bring fallen man back into right fellowship with Him. He had to do something because of His love. From that moment on, His plan of redemption could realistically have taken place at any time, but He skipped generation after generation of His people, waiting for the perfect conditions, to send His son, made of a woman to redeem mankind. When the fulness of the time was come, He would send Jesus.    

There would be a particular virgin girl named Mary. There would be a kind-hearted, righteous Joseph. There would be a designated time for a census. There would be a loving home for the boy to grow up in. When His time for ministry came, there would be men in position to become His close band of followers. The political and religious climate of the day would have to be perfect. Roman law would mix with Jewish religious law and form a unique set of circumstances that would be just what was needed to bring Jesus to a death sentence of crucifixion. Caiaphas would have to be high priest. Pilate would be governor of Judea throughout the entire length of Jesus' ministry. Herod Antipas would be tetrarch of Galilee, and both he and Pilate would find themselves in the city of Jerusalem during that particular Passover feast. I wish that I could do a more in depth study with you right here so that you could see some of the most minute details that had to be in place for God's plan to come to fruition in just the right way and at just the right time. The right stew of political, social and religious environs all mixed together, and the fulness of the time was come. God had set up the details perfectly and then, not one moment too soon or too late, He told His Son, "Now is Your time."

Why, in our present situations and circumstances, do we think we're exempt from the process? God is a God of order and plans and purposes. Jeremiah 29: 11 says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." Where there's an end, there was first a beginning. To get from the start to the finish, there must be a process in between. Details must be worked out perfectly to achieve that expected end, and that's the part where God sets it all up just the way He chooses.  He pays close attention to the details. It is then, and only then, that He says to you, "Now is YOUR time."

We would be patient if it weren't for all the waiting.

It is right in the middle of the waiting dear one, where God is paying perfect attention to each and every detail that needs to be in place for your own expected end. At a wedding in Cana, Jesus told His mother, "My time has not yet come." (John 2: 4) Later, when His disciples urged Him to go to Judea for the Feast of Tabernacles, the Jews were there, waiting to take His life. Jesus told His friends, "The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right." (John 7: 1-6) That's you and me, isn't it? We think that any time is right. We want it to happen and we want it now. "Any time now, Lord! Any time would be right!" Jesus shows us otherwise. He could have gone to Judea and let them take Him at that very moment and the whole thing would have been over. But He trusted His Father enough to know that the perfect plan would be carried out in the perfect way and at the perfect time. Can we trust Him that much?

When God knows that the time is right, it will happen. Even more so, if He has promised it to you in His Word. I read somewhere that the time preceding the event is like a glass of water slowly filling up as the time rolls on until when the glass is full it has reached the time for the designated event to occur.

Matthew Henry said, "Cast not away your confidence because God defers his performances. That which does not come in your time, will be hastened in his time, which is always the more convenient season. God will work when he pleases, how he pleases, and by what means he pleases. He is not bound to keep our time, but he will perform his word, honour our faith, and reward them that diligently seek him."
Your Heavenly Father knows what you're going through today. He has a plan to bring you to your expected end. A plan that is good and perfect because He has taken the time to pay attention to the details. Don't fight the process. Embrace it. Let not one moment of it be wasted. Let it draw you nearer to Him in trust and expectancy. When the fulness of your time has come, you will see that you wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Jesus knew that. Learn from Him for He is gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your weary soul.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesdays with Jesus #194

#194 "Is Jesus Amazed By You?"
April 12, 2011
"When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him.." (Luke 7: 9)
In preparation for a study I may be doing this fall, I've been going through the Gospels, following Christ chronologically from His birth to His resurrection. I wrote this study and have taught it before, but I decided I wanted to go for it again with fresh eyes. One of the things that I incorporated into the study was the number of times that the word "amazed" was used when describing the reactions of those who were eyewitnesses to the earthly life of Christ. Presently, as I'm reading, I'm using the magnifying glass to find and circle each time the word "amazed" is used in this context.
The other day I was part of the crowd that followed Jesus to Capernaum. Mark called Capernaum "Jesus' home" in Mark 2:1, and Matthew called it "His own city" in Matthew 9:1. It is believed that Peter, Andrew, Matthew, and maybe John and James made their home there as well.  Located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, it was the location of a military installation under the command of a centurion. (Holman Bible Dictionary) I wonder if it was the very same centurion who we ran into that day as we followed Jesus.
Taking our walk in the Gospel of Luke (7: 1-10) we met a certain centurion who sent intermediaries to Jesus in Capernaum. He was a career soldier, in charge of one hundred other military men. It would seem that he had a servant who was very dear and precious to him, and that servant was sick and about to die. I believe that this servant was a Jew. The centurion sent some Jewish elders to find Jesus. They were more than willing to go on the errand because they liked this centurion. This was an oddity in those days. Jews and Gentiles just didn't mix. However, we're told that this particular military man loved the nation of Israel and built their synagogue. This is exactly why the Jewish elders were willing to go. They felt that the centurion deserved Jesus' help because of the good works he had done. The centurion, on the other hand, didn't think that he deserved a thing. He knew that nothing he had ever done would warrant a positive response from this man they called Jesus. The buzz on the street was that this Jesus was the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Certainly He wouldn't care about a Roman centurion...a Gentile. But in spite of his feelings of not being worthy, he believed that Jesus was able to grant his request and heal his servant with just a word. Not because the centurion himself deserved it. Not because the servant deserved it. He believed that Jesus could. Plain and simple, Jesus was able.
Right here is where I came to a dead stop in my study. Look at these words.
"When Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel."" (v. 9)
For the first time, the Word didn't say that someone was amazed at Jesus. This time, Jesus was the one who was amazed.
If you do a search through the Scriptures, you can find out what God esteems, what He hates, and what He loves. But what could possibly amaze the One Who is Amazing Himself? Your faith, precious one.  Or your lack thereof.
As far as I can tell, there are only two instances in New Testament scripture where it is written that Jesus was amazed. Here and in Mark 6: 6. Jesus was in his hometown (Capernaum again?) and many were not accepting who He was or believing His words because they knew what family of origin He came from. The Bible says that they took offense at Him.
Mark 6:6 says, "And he was amazed at their lack of faith."
Faith amazes Christ. He was amazed at the great faith of the centurion. He was amazed at the lack of faith evident in his relatives and those of his hometown.
If the situation you're in today was written about in the Scriptures, would the heading be, "The Faith of _________?" Or would your story be labeled under "A Prophet Without Honor?" You believe in God, but do you BELIEVE God? Do you believe that He is Who He says that He is? Do you believe that He is able to do what He sets forth in His Word? No matter how hard? No matter how impossible it seems? No matter where you came from? No matter what you've done? Be honest.
Many of us can't bring ourselves to believe that the promises of God are for us. We may believe God is able to do anything, but we just don't believe He'll do it for us. The centurion demonstrates that the promises of God ARE for us, and the fulfillment of those promises aren't based on our worth, our pedigree, or our good deeds. The folk in Jesus' hometown demonstrate for us that one thing can block miracles, and that one thing is lack of faith.
Not a day goes by that I am not utterly, fantastically amazed at Jesus. I want Him to be amazed at me. When He and the Father look down over the banister of Heaven and see my life, I want Jesus to nudge His Father and mine with His elbow and say, "Wow! That's our girl! She's amazing!" What about you?
Living the Word along with you,  
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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tuesdays with Jesus #193

#193 "With A Song In My Heart"
April 5, 2011
"By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me-a prayer to the God of my life." (Psalm 42: 8)
I'm sure you've experienced those times when you hear a song on the radio or someone around you is humming a tune and it gets stuck in your head. Sometimes it's the most annoying thing. Have you ever had "The Song That Never Ends" stuck in your head? See there...that's exactly what I'm talking about. If you're an American Idol watcher, how about "I Am Your Brother...Your Best Friend Forever?" Your welcome!
I've had something a little different happening to me for quite awhile. Out of nowhere, in quiet moments, a worship song will be playing in my head. It may be a song that I haven't heard in years. Or maybe I just heard it at church, or on Pandora, a day or two ago.  It happened to me last night. I woke up at about 1:30 am and a song that we sang in church almost two full days ago was instantly playing in my head when my eyes opened. The words of Psalm 42:8 make me wonder if the Holy Spirit Himself was singing a song right there in my spirit. "At night His song is with me."      
How often is the Holy Spirit singing a song to our spirits and we miss it? Amid all the noise and clutter of our lives, are we missing His song?
We live in a loud, noisy world. We listen to our music LOUD. Our TV's are always on at fever pitch. Traffic is loud. Honestly, people are just plain loud. Add to all of that the constant demands that are placed on us each day from our work, our homes and our relationships. It seems someone or something is always tugging at you, doesn't it? Couple all of that with the situations in your life that cause you concern, worry, doubt and anxiety. The noise in your head probably ranks right up there with the noises from the outside.
Do you think that under all of that, in your spirit, the Holy Spirit is singing His song and you just can't hear it? We need to intentionally take some quiet moments throughout the day and spend them with our Jesus and listen. Really listen.
If you're frazzled, He may be singing "Be Still and Know." If the situation seems impossible, He may be singing "Mighty to Save." If you're in need, He may be singing you some blessed assurance that "[His] Grace is Enough." If you need a reminder of how He helped you in the past, perhaps He's singing "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." Take some time to listen by day and hear His songs to you in the night. Relax in the Comforter's arms and let Him sing you a sweet lullaby.
Richard Rodgers wrote a song in 1929 called "With A Song In My Heart". I want you to read the words of the refrain.
With a song in my heart I behold your adorable face.
Just a song at the start but it soon is a hymn to your grace.
When the music swells I'm touching your hand.
It tells that you're standing near, and...
At the sound of your voice heaven opens his portals to me.
Can I help but rejoice that a song such as ours came to be?
But I always knew I would live life through
With a song in my heart for you.
In the middle of all of your noise and confusion, there is One Who is singing His song in your spirit. Let that bring you joy unspeakable this day, friend. He wants you to know that He is near. Heaven's portals are open to you. Rejoice that you can share His song. He lives with a song in His heart for you.
Living the Word along with you,  
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