A Line in the Sand, a Fork in the Road

I’ll say it again. One can not meditate on the Book of John and walk away indifferent about Jesus.  A couple of metaphors/idioms came to mind this morning after reading John 8:

This Book of John is a fork in the road.

or

The Book of John is where the rubber meets the road.

Both, really.

Tough decisions must be made. Sides are chosen. Allegiances are determined. This is the moment of truth.

The Book of John invites us into this comfort-zone challenging, heart humbling space.

In John 8 we see Jesus stoop down and begin writing in the sand. Whatever he wrote caused the Pharisees to pause. The rubber met the road and they had to choose a fork.

In John 8 we also read how His path is the Light of life and it’s only through knowing Jesus that one knows the Father too. We can not by-pass Jesus. There is no detour around Him. There is no option B. The rubber meets the road and a fork must be chosen.

We continue reading how true disciples continue in His word. True disciples choose the Jesus fork over and over and over again.  It’s by making this ongoing rubber meets the road choice where mustard seed faith becomes sight and this Truth sets us free.  (John 8: 30-32)

 

“Your laws are my treasure;
they are my heart’s delight.
I am determined to keep your decrees
to the very end.” Psalm 119: 111-112

Gratitude Grace & Grinders

Most every morning when I pour coffee beans into my coffee grinder to prepare coffee I think about how long I’ve had this same grinder. I purchased it about the same time my husband and I got married over 14 years ago. Why does the longevity of a coffee grinder come to mind almost every morning?

The more I thought about it, the more I think I know why. My devotional this morning referenced Psalm 34:8  “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!”

It’s been nearly 17 years since this prodigal daughter decided to “taste, see and take refuge”.  And, all these years later, I can’t even imagine what my life might look like today had I not made this pivotal intentional choice to seek Him again, to run back to the shelter of His wings.

17 years ago, I showed back up at my father’s doorstep. The only possessions I had left were a few clothes, a cardboard box full of kitchen pots and pans and my two dogs…loyal companions to a weak and worn out traveler. I didn’t have money for a coffee pot back then.  Instead, I got by with a hand-me-down microwave and some instant coffee.  Every morning, I would prepare my coffee, grab my Bible, and head outside to a huge rock on my father’s property.  I’d sit on that rock, sip my coffee…tasting, seeing and taking refuge.  

A coffee grinder?  Strange how such a trivial act of grinding coffee can fill (to the brim) this Daughter of the High King with gratitude. A coffee grinder?  It reminds me, most every morning, of God’s mercy and God’s goodness.

This old song from Shawn McDonald came to mind again this morning. Thought I would share it, if you’ve never heard it.

Soul Anchor

On the drive into work yesterday morning, I was thinking more about redemption. It’s one of those topics that, the more I ponder, the more I marvel and stand in awe over the layers and layers of beauty.

If we take the “Savior” out of Jesus, if we take away His recycling and rescuing nature, then we take away the Hope.

If we fail to trust in His ability to make ALL things new, then we take away the Hope.

If we doubt that He is good and loving or fail to believe that His whole mission WAS and IS to right the wrongs, then we take away the Hope.

If we fail to place our faith in this power, this power that death “could not hold”, then we take away the Hope. (Acts 2:24)

THEN as I was thinking about all of this a song I had never heard before came on the radio. It was like a hug from My Redeemer, from the Hope of the World Himself. (Matthew 12:21)

“As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

I don’t want to live in fear
I want to trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go”

Trust Your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy

As I look in the rearview mirror, there are breadcrumbs of grace scattered along the path, on both the trails filled tragedy and the trails filled with triumph. I look at this evidence and there is no doubt in my soul that, Jesus, the Bread of Life, is the giver, the sustainer, the nourisher, and the Savior of my life.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  Hebrews 6:19

The Place

“Sometimes God will strip you of everything you think you need, to bring you to the place where you discover afresh, He is what you need!” Christine Caine

I read that quote this morning and my heart went there again, to “the place where you discover afresh”.

To the place where you discover you’ve been running in the wrong direction.
To the place where you acknowledge everything you’ve been hanging onto has only left you empty.
To the place where you finally understand that pain can’t be swept under a rug or locked away in the darkness forever.
To the place where fear churns fiercely inside you, panic is all-consuming and your heart cries out for One who is stronger than the raging sea and mightier than the place.

******

I’ve been reading through the Book of John again this month. This morning I reread the passages in John 6 when the disciples were trapped out on a boat and they saw Jesus walking towards them on the water.

“When evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. Darkness had already set in, but Jesus had not yet come to them. Then a high wind arose, and the sea began to churn. After they had rowed about three or four miles,they saw Jesus walking on the sea. He was coming near the boat, and they were afraid.” But He said to them, “It is I.Don’t be afraid!” Then they were willing to take Him on board, and at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading.” John 6: 16-21

Darkness had already set in, but Jesus had not yet come to them.  This is the sentence that wraps itself around my heart each time I read this account.  This morning when I read it, I thought about Christine’s quote again.

“Sometimes God will strip you of everything you think you need, to bring you to the place where you discover afresh, He is what you need!”

The disciples were brought to the place.  The disciples had been stripped of all they thought they needed.

What did they have instead?  Confusion and panic far from the safety of the shore, a ferocious, unpredictable sea, and a ghostly figure doing the unimaginable…walking towards them through the darkness.

**********

Darkness had already set in, but Jesus had not yet come to them.

I wrote about this sentence awhile back.  Sharing those thoughts  again today.

Sometimes Jesus allows the darkness to show up in our lives in order to soften our hearts, stretch our faith, and open our eyes to who we desperately need in the boat with us.

It was the absence of light, the chaotic seas, and losing sight of the shore when the disciples were reminded again of who and what they needed most in their lives. It was this vulnerable state combined with a Savior who spoke timely truth that calmed their fears and prompted the disciples to invite Jesus into their situation.

Today if you feel as if the darkness has already set in but Jesus has not yet come…consider this…maybe He’s not late. Maybe He’s right on time. Maybe He’s standing right there next to your rocking world just waiting for the invitation to climb in the boat.

The One Who Is Invisible


I’ve slowly been making my way through a new book. It’s meaty and I need to take time to chew and reflect. The book is called The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church That Has Abandoned It, by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel.

I love this statement I read the other night. “Weakness is at the source of all that is beautiful.”

Even though, as humans, we tend to avoid weakness or vulnerability, I wholeheartedly agree with the authors.  Beautiful springs from a place or a state of weakness. When I think back on the most pivotal and life changing seasons in my own journey, I can see how true this is. It was during the on my knees, I have nothing left seasons where beauty kicked open the door of my heart and found a way in.

At work, we have something called chapel time on Tuesday mornings. It’s a weekly time when our staff from our multi-site church will come together and pray, worship, reconnect and recharge. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my week.

Our pastor shared some reflections from 2 Corinthians 4: 7-18. I’ll share the whole section with you here…because it’s that good. 🙂

“Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair;  we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life may also be revealed in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak. We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and present us with you. Indeed, everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory.

 Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.  So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4: 7-18

Some of the takeaway points for us to think about had to do with being intentional about keeping our eyes on the unseen.

  • We are invited to live in the transcendent.
  • We are invited to rise above the momentary.
  • We are invited to rethink weakness and adversity.
  • We focus more on the person of God instead of the work of God.

I think the point that hit me the most yesterday was the third point. “We are invited to rethink weakness and adversity.”  Beauty is carried in ordinary or fragile clay jars so “this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us”  In weakness, the treasure, which is Christ, receives the glory due his name (Psalm 29:2).  It reminds me of the verse in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.”  

I’m not sure how all this fits together yet but in my quiet time this morning I found myself reading the following few verses in Hebrew 11. The devotional I’m reading referred to them and so I went back and read the passages.

“It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.  It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.  Hebrews 11: 24-27

I noticed that my Bible names Chapter 11 “Heroes of Faith.” When I flipped over and read these verses in a couple of different translations I notice that Eugene Peterson’s, The Message, referred to this section as “Faith in What We Don’t See”

I immediately thought about the talk in chapel yesterday… to be more intentional about keeping our eyes on the unseen.

I also thought again about rethinking weakness and it being the entry point to all that is beautiful. Moses “chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.” 

Wow.  I love how all of this ties together.  Moses chose the right treasure…even though, outwardly, it was the seemingly “weaker” path.  But, he kept his eyes on the “one who is invisible.”

 

So

The devotional I read this morning was named So.   It was about how Jesus had all the power in the world and, yet, how he exerts his power is different from how we expect someone to wield power.  “Right before he was betrayed and arrested, right before he was beaten and ridiculed, right before he had nails driven into his hands and feet, Jesus did something you wouldn’t expect from the most powerful being on earth.”  He served.

“Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God.  So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him.”  John 13:3-5

What prompted the “so” actions from Jesus that we see in the verses above?

He knew the Father and He knew the truth. He had a firm grip on both. He knew all the glory, honor and praise belonged to his Father. He knew where he had come from and he knew where he was returning to. He knew the whole story. So, in light of that knowledge and that truth, Jesus continues (even on the night before the cross and horrific pain) to do what he had been sent by the Father to do. Serve.

“just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”Matthew 20:28

After reading this, I opened my Bible to the Book of John. I’ve been reading through it again this month and was going to pick up where I left off yesterday at John 3:22 when my eyes caught sight of a word in verse 21 and I read that verse again instead.

“But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.” (v 21)

So

This is the consequence of knowing and living by the truth.

It directs us to the light.

And in that light, we are given a firm grip on where we came from and where we are going. And in that light, we know that all the power, honor, and glory belongs to Him alone. (Rev 4:11)

So, in light of that knowledge and truth we are invited to follow the example of the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Why? 

Because He’s the light that leads us to the Father. (John 14:6)

 

The Beautiful Land of “Perhaps”

“He displayed His glory and His disciples believed in Him.” John 2:11(b)

I think this is a profound statement to ponder.  It comes right after the famous account of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana.

The disciples chose to follow Jesus before they fully believed.

The displaying of glory came after their decision to follow.  The decision, the willingness…to drop their nets and do life with Him…came first.

Faith became sight while on the journey.

*********

Last night, I read this thought-provoking quote from 20th century theologian, Vance Havner, right before falling asleep. It came to mind again this morning after reading the verse about the disciples believing after God’s glory was displayed.

“I came as a child in simple trust. I did not understand all about the plan of salvation. I do not understand all about electricity, but I don’t intend to sit in the dark until I do.”  ~Vance Havner

*********

Last week I shared this thought on Twitter about the faith journey:

Be willing to give Him the benefit of the doubt. “Perhaps” is a life changing, faith growing posture. God shows us His glory here.

Dear Lord, give us the courage to commit to following you today.  We don’t want to miss any water to wine adventures you have waiting for us. Blow us away in the land of “perhaps”. Display Your glory there!

Still

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom should I be afraid? 
When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,

my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.
Though an army deploys against me,
my heart is not afraid;
though a war breaks out against me,
still I am confident. Psalm 27: 1-3

As I  read these verses, a song came to mind as soon as I read the word foes.  I could hear the melody playing as I read through the entire chapter. Mood music, I suppose.

“My foes are many, they rise against me
But I will hold my ground
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way, my help is on the way

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always”
~Kristian Stanfill “Always”

It’s interesting how words like army and war can stir up such a familiarness in my soul.  I’ve never served in the military. I’ve never, thankfully, been caught in the middle of an actual war.

And yet, my whole being can relate to the words David chooses in this psalm: foes, enemies, army, war. The battles we find ourselves in as the Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians are “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

I have been hunted down by an enemy. I have felt the terror of being pursued by a foe whose sole mission is to conquer and destroy. I have experienced the hopelessness of captivity and bondage. I have been lured and enticed away by persuasive arguments that contradict all the freedom and truth we find in Christ alone.

“For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments  and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5

I love the reminders in this psalm and in this song.  “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” This light will direct and guide us.

I read through chapter one in the Book of John this morning.  “Life was in Him and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” Yet the darkness did not overcome it...salvation always has the final say, no matter how bleak life gets. This hope, this light and this stronghold was bigger than David’s attackers. David had witnessed the Lord’s rescuing in his life and he knew he could trust him…still.

When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,
my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.   

David had no reason to fear and every reason to hold onto this light, this salvation and this stronghold.

And that’s what he does time and time again.  He holds on, he keeps trusting.

Still I am confident

Still… what a beautiful, hope-fused, faith-filled declaration from David. It makes me think of still waters and David’s words in Psalm 23.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” Psalm 23:2

I am still confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of Yahweh in the land of the living.
Wait for Yahweh.
    Be strong, and let your heart take courage.
Yes, wait for Yahweh. (vs 13-14)

Morsels for the Marathon

 “This is eternal life:
that they may know You, the only true God,
and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ.” John 17:3

I loved the reminder at church last night of the true definition of eternal life.  It’s not getting to heaven; it’s knowing Christ. Knowing Christ is the ultimate treasure.

I smiled when I heard this theme of God as our treasure being woven through the message. My #OneWord for the year seems to be popping up everywhere I look and everywhere I turn… and it’s only February!

Eternal Life: It’s not a destination. It’s a relationship that can start today...on this side of the pearly gates and streets of gold.  Truly knowing someone requires that we commit to being in relationship with them. We journey with them. We spend time with them. We value them.  We can not truly come to know and trust someone unless we make the choice to carve out intentional time to get to know them.

Last night, I picked up another beautiful breadcrumb.  That’s what I like to call “God-incidences”

I’ve said it before but it came to mind again this morning.  Jesus is the Bread of Life ( John 6:35). If this is true, we will see the breadcrumbs of His goodness scattered along our paths. Every single morsel is significant. Every single morsel provides nourishment. Every single morsel sustains us and gives us energy for the next step.  Oh, my friends, look for the breadcrumbs today! Come, taste, and see!

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8

“Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed,
for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

“All eyes look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.”  Psalm 145:15

even you

I have instructed you today—even you—
so that your confidence may be in the Lord.  Proverbs 22:19

It was this verse and the two little words sandwiched in the middle that captured my thoughts this morning.

even you

There is something about those two words that serve up an additional heaping of hope to my heart. Those two words are like scoops of ice cream on a slice of pie. The verse would have been fine without them but with them…double delight!

I have instructed you today—even you—

Sometimes we read verses or stories in scripture and we forget that the lessons, the love, the promises, the truth, the discipline, the forgiveness, the hope, the redemption talked about apply to even us too. 

The question we hear Moses and David ask the Lord comes to mind.

Who am I, Lord?

But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  Exodus 3:11

Then King David went in, sat in the Lord’s presence, and said, Who am I, Lord God, and what is my house that You have brought me this far?  2 Samuel 7:18

Who am I, Lord, that you would use me?
Who am I, Lord, that you would instruct me?

And then our hearts count all the reasons why we are unqualified, ill equipped, or unworthy.

But just as the Lord reminds Moses, He reminds us today too.

When I AM goes before you—even you—
When I AM sends you—even you—
When I AM instructs you —even you—
When I AM equips you—even you—