Here

They looked like little grave markers dotting the floor of the woods.

While I was visiting up north in early March, we went walking at a local park and found ourselves on the wildflower trail.  Only there weren’t any wildflowers at that time of year.  There were still a few piles of snow around, and the marks of winter were still very evident. 

But nestled among the dead leaves and fallen branches were these little metal markers with flower names in Latin indicating where those flowers would be when Spring finally came, when the season changed and the warmth of the sun found its way to the park again.  They looked kind of sad.  Hard to believe what they were telling me to imagine.

It was like they were saying, “Here!  Right here! This is where something beautiful is going to happen!”

I wonder if there are markers in my own life, too.   Markers placed by God in the middle of situations where Spring seems very far away.  I wonder if He’s trying to get me to notice that He’s saying, “Here!  Right here!  This is where something beautiful is going to happen!”.  And it may not look like it, but something is happening – I just can’t see it yet.

I checked with my sister yesterday.  She had been back to the park the day before.  And sure enough,  next to the markers, bold little plants are pushing their way through the dirt and the leaves.  Something beautiful is happening there.

And I believe it’s happening here as well.

I will work a work in your days which you would not believe though it were told you.   Habakkuk 1:5

Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.  Isaiah 42:9

Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.  Joshua 21:25

For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.  Isaiah 61:11

But

Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.

But God raised Him from the dead.

Acts 13:29-30 

But God raised Him from the dead.  And that, my friends, changes everything.

I know that my Redeemer lives.  Job 19:25

He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  Matthew 28:6

When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.  Luke 24:23

Access

 

It seems a little odd  – maybe even a little morbid – to describe a “favorite” moment from the movie “The Passion of the Christ”.  It’s not exactly the type of film where you sit around with your friends, laughing and saying, “Oh, I love  the part when…” and launch into a description of a memorable scene. 

But I have one.   It’s a very brief scene, almost at the end.  If you have your eyes closed (like I’ve been known to do during the excrutiatingly difficult crucifixion shots), you could miss it.

It’s when the temple veil  is torn in two.

I try to watch “The Passion of the Christ” every Good Friday.  It’s lengthy and epic and harsh in its reality.  But as it gets to that scene at the end when Christ’s sacrifice is complete and the earth is shaking and the sky is black and the big, heavy curtain in the temple tears apart, I lose it. 

That veil had separated the common man from God and His place of residence – the Holy of Holies. Up until that time, only the high priest had access.  At the moment Christ died, the veil was ripped in two by the hand of God and fell open, giving us access for the very first time to the throne of grace.  I love that moment in the movie because it so graphically gives us a picture of what Christ’s death did for us. 

Because of Good Friday, we have access to God.  Because of Good Friday, we can boldy approach the throne.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil. Hebrews 6:19

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

…in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.  Ephesians 3:12

(*re-post from Good Friday, 2010)

Goodbye

For the most part, I don’t like goodbyes.

I had to say goodbye last night to an old friend who is moving away.  Sad.  And don’t even get me started on how awful the goodbyes are at Newark Liberty Airport when I’m leaving my family to come back to Florida after a visit home.  Sad.  Tears are usually involved.

There are casual goodbyes at work on Friday afternoons, and more emotional goodbyes at airports and in driveways when loved ones are leaving.   I don’t like the emotional ones because they usually mean the end to a special time, whether it be years of living close to a friend, or a few days with a wonderful family.

But I found out that a “goodbye” is actually a blessing.  Up until the late 14th Century, people didn’t say goodbye.  They said, “God be with you”.  That’s where the word “goodbye” came from.   And if you read through the letters in the Bible, you’ll see that the writers almost always ended them with a similar blessing.  They may have been ending a letter, but they left the reader with a promise of God’s presence and provision, His grace and His peace.

God knows that it’s hard for us to not know what comes next, what comes after a goodbye.  He knows that we’d like to know what will happen to us and to our friends and families and our circumstances after the car drives away and the plane takes off.  And we can’t know.  But we can say with expectation and assurance, “God be with you”.

And what better way than that to end a special time?

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  Romans 16:23

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.   2 Corinthians 13:14

The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Grace be with you.  Amen.                          2 Timothy 4:22

Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus.  Amen.  1 Peter 5:14

Desire

Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, and my will be lost in Thine.

from the hymn, “Draw Me Nearer” by Fanny Crosby, 1875

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise.  Psalm 57:7

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…                Hebrews 6:19

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.            Ephesians 5:17

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  Romans 12:2

 

Plot

“My life has a great cast of characters.  I just can’t figure out the plot”.

This quote by Ashleigh Brilliant is on the front of a greeting card I have sitting on my desk.   And underneath the humor of it, there is a whole lot of truth. 

How often have you wondered about the “plot” of your life story?  How many times have you looked around and wondered what in the world God is unfolding?

I do read other things much more uplifting besides quirky quotes on greeting cards.  Recently I found myself reaching for a book I’ve already read a few times, but it’s the kind of book that’s worth another look.  It’s “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller.  Here’s what he has to say in the section titled, “Living in Our Father’s Story” :

To live in our Father’s story, remember these 3 things:

  1. Don’t demand that the story go your way. In other words, surrender completely.
  2. Look for the Storyteller.  Look for His hand, and then pray in light of what you are seeing. In other words, develop an eye for Jesus.
  3. Stay in the story.  Don’t shut down when it goes the wrong way.

When the story isn’t going your way, ask yourself, “WHAT IS GOD DOING?”.  Be on the lookout for strange gifts.  God loves to surprise us with babies in swaddling clothes lying in mangers.

I love that!  When we’re in the middle of our stories, we can’t always understand the plot.  We feel like we’ve arrived at a movie halfway through.  Things aren’t making sense.  The characters  and the settings aren’t what we imagined they would be.  It’s confusing.

And that is exactly when we have to trust the Storyteller.

I feel a surprise coming on.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…  Ephesians 3:20
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6
 
A Praying Life, by Paul E. Miller, NavPress 2009

x26

You’ve got to figure that if something is repeated 26 times, it’s important.

“For His mercy endures forever” – x26

I started reading Psalm 136 the other day, and while I know I’ve read it before, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about why that phrase is repeated so often.  In every verse.  All 26 of them.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  For His mercy endures forever!

Oh give thanks to the God of gods!  For His mercy endures forever!

Oh give thanks to the Lord of lords!   For His mercy endures forever!

To Him alone who does great wonders, For His mercy endures forever;

To Him who by wisdom made the heavens, For His mercy endures forever;

To Him who made great lights, For His mercy endures forever

The sun to rule by day , For His mercy endures forever;

The moon and stars to rule by night, For His mercy endures forever…

And so on.

In all 26 verses of the Psalm – after every statement about His power and creation and provision and victories and rescues from enemies – we are reminded that His mercy endures forever.

And I wonder  – how different would my attitude and my outlook and my faith be if I repeated that phrase in response to anything that crosses my path today?  In the joys and the laughter, and the disappointments and the struggles.  If I breathed that phrase in and out as often as the Psalmist did, would it make a difference in my life?

I think it would.  I know it would.  No matter what happens today, His mercy endures forever.

And that’s worth repeating. 

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  Lamentations 3:22

And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever.”        2 Chronicles 20:21

And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.  Luke 1:50

Sift

The term “sifting” in baking conjures up images of taking soft white flour, carefully spooning it into a waiting sieve and gently tapping it until the tiny, little lumps are sorted out and all that’s left is a fluffy, powdery hill all ready to be made into something delightful.  The full experience would even include getting  a bit of the flour smudged across a cheek – just to prove you were really making it yourself.

The term “sifting” in Biblical imagery isn’t quite so Betty Crocker.  It’s downright brutal.

In the absence of modern machinery, sifting wheat involved something called “threshing”.  The wheat was spread onto a stone or concrete floor and beat with a flail.  Then it would be thrown in the air so the chaff would be blown away.  The heavier, more valuable grains would fall back down to the ground.  Ouch.

And that’s why, in Luke 22:31, when Jesus told Simon Peter that Satan had asked if he could “sift him like wheat”, it’s a pretty powerful picture of the lengths Satan will go to in order to attempt to prove just how invaluable he thinks we are. Satan expects that trials and testing will reveal our weakness and our lack of faith.  He expects that beating us up and throwing us around will make our shallow, fickle faith blow away in the wind.  And it could, but it doesn’t have to.

Jesus didn’t blink an eye at Satan’s request.  He went on to say, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail”.   Jesus is actually praying for us during the sifting process.  He is cheering us on, waiting to see if the result of the threshing reveals something that might not have been apparent before – a stronger, more valuable faith.

Life sifting is hard.  There’s no gentle tapping.  It can feel like being thrown down on the floor and beat with a flail.  But there is a purpose behind it.  It’s to prove our faith, and prove the One who is praying for it not to fail. 

And I’d love to see the look on Satan’s face when that happens.

Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.   1 Peter 5:8-9 (NLT)

Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save everyone who comes to God through Him. He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf.  Hebrews 7:25 (NLT)

(This is a repost – originally posted on 5/26/10.  Spending time this week with visiting family!)