Created Images

Sculpture
Although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claim to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Romans 1:21-23

Paul’s warning was for those who knew God, but were not glorifying or giving Him thanks. He didn’t hold the primary position in their hearts and thereby became ungrateful and self-centered – believing they had a sense of entitlement before the Lord – for Him to work according to their whim.
 

When we stop seeking to glorify the Lord and give Him the thanks He deserves, we too begin to believe we deserve certain things from the Lord. Am I grateful for all that God has given me? For my family, my health, my home? Or lack thereof? The enemy traps us in greed and jealousy that causes us to murmur and complain against the very One Who owns and holds it all. 
Paul warns against those who think they’re clever, but in their hearts are foolish and arrogant. “Although they claim to be wise, they became fools.” The mind alone cannot factor in everything – it is good for science and learning, but not in understanding spiritual matters. The heart grows darkened and foolish when the mind is left to its own understanding of God. 
The mind goes into imagining and thinking it knows everything, but it doesn’t, especially in spiritual matters. Unless we seek God’s revelations in scripture through the power of the Spirit, our cleverness and intellect will lead us to pride and misunderstandings. 
Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what You were placed to do.” Matthew 11:25-16
Pride is what blinds us to truth and the power it holds! God reveals truth to those who are humble and say, “I don’t know anything, Lord, and need You to reveal it to me through the Spirit. Fill me so I can receive.” 
When we open our hearts to God and surrender ourselves, the mind will follow. But, if we continue to seek our own understanding of spiritual things apart from the Spirit, we become foolish. 

The warning continues as Paul says the truth will be exchanged for a lie, leading to the worship of created things rather than the Creator. They exchange the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Romans 1:23
When we seek to understand spiritual things apart from the Spirit, we create an image of God that looks an awful like . . . ourselves. BUT, NO!!! God is Spirit!! How can we make an image of of this invisible, incorruptible God? It can’t be done! Especially not in the form of ourselves – corruptible men and women! When we imagine God is like us, we degrade Him! He’s not like us! He’s Spirit, which means we need the Spirit to know Him. 
Have we made our human causes, God’s causes apart from the truth of scripture and the Spirit? Have we tried to box Him into our cultural mantras as we cry out, “God is with us!” NO! You are worshipping at the altar of a god created in your own image. 
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Psalm 55:8
BUT, If anyone has seen me, he has seen the Father! So, why are you asking me to show Him to you? John 14:9 God showed us Himself in Jesus – the spirit of sacrifice. However, He cannot be fully understood apart from the Spirit, whom He also sent. 
The disciples made the same mistake we make today, dreaming up plans for what they believed Jesus should and would be, according to their own worldview. As a group, they came from all walks of life and political leanings. If we tried to equate them to today’s culture, their ragtag group would hold an IRS officer, a republican, democrat and an anarchist! Can you image the firelight discussions!?! They each crafted Jesus into their own image. . . until Peter made a startling confession: 
“But what about you,” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. Matthew 16:15-17 
In what way am I trying to understand Jesus with my own intellect, apart from the Spirit? Have I made my causes His causes and thereby created an image of my own god for others to see and follow? Yikes! Lord, may it not be so!
For it is time for judgement to begin with God’s household; And if it begins with us, what will be the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
And, 
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?
1 Peter 4:17-18
In Israel right now, they are celebrating Shabbat Shuvah, which in Hebrew refers to returning. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. 
Malachi 3:7
All the more, as we see the day approaching of our coming Savior, let us return our hearts to Him, so that He can return to us. Judgement begins with God’s household. It is hard for the righteous to be saved – those who have worked for their salvation according to their own understanding and strength; or have created God in their own image, thinking they are serving Him, but have really become self serving in their own foolishness. It’s time, my beloved to return to the Lord in repentance and humility, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” 
Let us say as Peter did, “Jesus, You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. . . You are not a created being that can be manipulated according to my own agenda. Your kingdom come in my heart and my kingdom go. . . help me to know You for who You are, not just who I’ve created You to be. Shape me into Your image” Amen. 
May this be our heart’s song:
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Spring in the Soul

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  Isaiah 55:10-11
All around Spring is emerging from the ground, as roots of new life begin to form and grow into beautiful buds. The hope of warm weather and sweet summer days ahead begin to swell in our hearts, as we shed our winter slumber and burdensome coats. 
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The Lord gives us a beautiful picture of Spring in our souls in Isaiah 55 – He has sent forth rain and snow from heaven to water the ground of our hearts in preparation for growth. But, we must look closely at where the source of feeding comes. God’s Word waters our souls, and will in return bring forth seed and ultimately feed ourselves and others.
The more I allow the Word to fall on my soul, the more I’ll grow – perhaps not immediately, but as God says, His Word will not return empty, it will accomplish what He desires. There have been winter seasons in my soul, when the Word fell like snow, quietly remaining, pristine, but not penetrating. But, with the beauty of seasons, the snow eventually melted and watered the ground of my soul. How often has God brought a Word to mind in due season – right when I needed it?!? 
Years ago, the Lord convicted me as I was teaching a group of college students – “What are you doing? Why are you trying to teach something you haven’t fed on yourself?” If the Bible is the text book by which we will ultimately be judged, then why was I spending all my time relying on other’s Cliffs Notes for substance? I was feeding from sources that were meant to merely confirm or encourage God’s Word – not replace the Word itself. The Lord has affirmed the truth of His Word over and over again in my soul. The more I have allowed the Word to water my heart, the more victory and peace I have received. 
Hebrews 6:7-8 affirms this concept of feeding – Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed received the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. 
What are you allowing to rain on the ground of your soul? And what is that reaping in your life? The Lord desires nothing but beauty for His children – the Spring of new life and growth. Come, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-9
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:6-8
Beautiful Things by Gungor   My favorite song as we enter Spring, “The Lord makes beautiful things in us!”

Fear of the Lord

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Speaking of the ‘Fear of the Lord’ has often left me confused or lost, contemplating, ’I understand fearing God in the Old Testament, when the dividing wall of separation was firm, but what about now that the veil has been torn and we’ve been given the grace of Jesus? Is He to no longer be feared? And if He is, what does that look like?’ As I began to search for answers, the Lord brought the following illustration to mind from my own life.

Soon after I had earned my driver’s permit in high school, my dad had a heart attack at work and was taken to the emergency room. Not knowing the circumstances, my younger brother and I arrived home from school to an empty house. My mom called to inform us of dad’s situation and told us to wait for our older sister to pick us up later that evening.

As the dinner hour approached, our hunger grew, which meant we began to plot. For some reason, still unknown to myself, my dad’s car was parked in the garage. My brother and I both knew where the hide-a-key was and I knew how to drive, I mean after all, I did have a driver’s permit! What would it hurt to run out and get some food for ourselves before our older sister came home? As you can surmise, we were brilliant children!

Our plot birthed a plan, and before logic was considered I was driving toward Taco Bell, with an award winning grip (10 and 2) on the wheel. Pulling up the driveway in triumph, we thought we had pulled off the world’s greatest food heist. Well, that is until my older sister came out the back door with her ear to the phone, “Oh, never mind mom, I found them. . . driving dad’s car UP THE DRIVEWAY!” Never had a triumphal meal smelled so nauseating. Dragging myself from the car, my sister thrust the phone in my hand, “Dad wants to talk to you.” DAD?! Oh, no, not dad!!! He just had a heart attack! This may kill him!

“Hello. . .,” I managed to whisper into the phone.
“I can’t believe you took the car out like this!!! . . . “ I could hardly blame him for his anger. It was born out of his fear for my safety, lack of sense, and disregard of the law.

Not long later, stomach growling, I found myself slumped in a waiting room chair at the hospital, dreading the inevitable – facing my dad. I wasn’t afraid of his anger as much as I was dreading his disappointment. Heart racing, the moment of truth came as I was led down a long corridor to my dad’s sick bed.

Hugging the doorway, I let everyone enter before me. But unforgotten, from the bed, an arm extended, searching for me, “Shannon. . . “ Gulp. Here it comes, the moment of truth. Inching my way toward my father, I clearly saw his broken body monitored by machines, tubes and wires. The guilt nearly consumed me, as the tears began to flow. Making eye contact in that moment, my heart melted into a puddle of mush as the eyes reflecting back to me didn’t hold condemnation or anger, but love. The searching arm found me, pulling me into an embrace – an embrace I knew I didn’t earn, or even deserve, “I love you, Shannon.”

My father decided that the guilt I carried was heavier than any punishment he could mete out. But, yes, I did have consequences for my actions as I had to wait an extra year to get my driver’s license. I reaped what I sowed. . .
When we search scripture there seems to be a process in understanding the proper fear of the Lord . First, we see it endures forever – it didn’t fade with the onset of Jesus’ grace: ‘The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever Psalm 19:9a. The ‘fear of the Lord’ has different meanings for those who belong to the Lord by faith vs. those who haven’t surrendered their lives. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior – become truly born again (taking His righteousness on ourselves), our fear changes from one of condemnation and judgement, to one of reverence and awe. It will be a frightening day for those whose names are not written in the book of life; they will be judged according the to law, which kills. ‘Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.’ Revelation 20:15

I too would have faced the law if my father hadn’t extended grace. I had clearly broken the law, which required just punishment. But instead of living in fear of the law, I feared hurting my father, a man whom I loved and respected. In the same way, I hold a greater fear of hurting the Lord with my unrighteous acts, than I fear the law. I’m a law breaker, and we both know that, but as I allow HIS righteousness to cover me, I never want to hurt Him purposefully. Which brings us to the next truth.

Beloved, we need to know the Lord’s Word by studying it! ‘Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD’ Psalm 34:11. Understanding the Word is something that is taught, but not merely as a college textbook, but as a living document. Who will teach us? Where do we learn? ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ Hebrews 4:12. The mind and soul in and of themselves can’t understand the Word, it must be read and studied through the power of the Spirit – that is where true life flows. The Spirit speaks to us through the Word to divide between what is of ourselves and what comes from our own soulish desires. He is the true teacher! He convicts and refines us. We can’t make ourselves righteous anymore than we can understand God’s truth apart from the Spirit. Both are works of the Lord.

‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction’ Proverbs 1:7. Those who have yielded themselves to the Lord’s instructions, will not continue in willful sin (Hebrews 10:26-27). Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” John 14:15. The mark of a believer will be a heart to keep the Lord’s Word – we will fear hurting Him by our disobedience. We’ll do what we can to make ourselves right before Him – through repentance and seeking to live in His truth. A pharisee will fear man more than God by his outward appearance and self righteous acts, whereas the man of God will fear the Lord in his heart above all. ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’ Matthew 10:28

The early church in Acts 9:31 shows us a glimpse of these truths, ‘Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouragement by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.’

Imagine if the church today, sought as a body, to live the precepts of scripture out of love and obedience with a Spirit led heart to please our Lord. He is our good, good, Father who has given us everything. It begins with me: Do I fear Him?

The Breath of God

There are several accounts in scripture of God’s breath bringing life. The word for ‘breath’, ‘wind’ and ‘spirit’ are the same in the Old Testament, ruach and pneuma in the New.

It began in the garden, when God created Adam:

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Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27

God’s breath is what sets you apart from all of creation – you are a reflection of His image, whether male or female. It’s what gives you an eternal soul, the ability to reason, the desire for order, love, and freewill to choose. Animals don’t carry the same characteristics. They are God’s creation, but they don’t carry God’s image in their DNA, bestowed through this divine breath. Don’t ever let someone tell you, you came from animals – it’s impossible! You have been given life and set apart by the very breath of the living God!

If we fast forward to Pentecost where we see God’s breath again, falling on a room full of disciples as tongues of fire.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4

We see man being filled with God’s glory once again in the form of the Holy Spirit. That which had been lost in the garden during the fall was restored. We have the ability once again to be filled with God’s presence!

But we aren’t left with just the Spirit alone, as we see God’s breath again.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 1 Timothy 3:16-17

This breath gives us the Word of life! “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

The Bible is the only book ever written that is living – it’s alive and always active. You could study it for the entirety of your life without mining all its treasure. But the precious jewels you do find will be yours into all of eternity. How deep you choose to dig and mine is for you to decide.

It’s the only book that can be used as a holy and spiritual weapon effectively. Why else do you think the enemy seeks so diligently to keep it out of the hands of God’s beloved? Why does he seek to stop up our ears and blind our eyes to its treasures? Perhaps it could be because it’s the weapon God has given us to knock him down.

The Bible is also a precise surgical scalpel, ‘dividing soul and spirit’ (Heb 4:12). It divides and reveals that which comes from our own soul and the power of His Spirit. We can do many good things in our own strength and soul power, but the things that will be eternal come from the power of His Spirit. The Bible helps us to distinguish the two.

And there is another breath of God to come:
“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” I Thess 2:8

This one gets me the most excited. Picture it with me, Jesus returning triumphantly from heaven on His white horse and overthrowing satan with a mere breath and ultimately destroying him by the glory of His splendor. God’s breath, the very breath that lives in us, has the power to overthrow the wiles of the enemy.

God’s breath gave us life, it gives us His power upon salvation, offers us a living guide book and weapon, and ultimately the power to overcome our adversary. Ah, saint, rest in the power of God’s breath today.

“Lord, it’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only!” Great are You Lord, by All sons and Daughters

 

Unveiled Faces

Moon in phases

 

“Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, that he did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with God. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.” Exodus 34:29-30

Being in the presence of God caused Mose’s face to shine with a light that was not of this world. It was evidence of his time basking in the Lord’s light and glory. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).

Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so are we to shine light into this dark world. The moon only shines when it sees the face of the sun, but goes dark when it’s eclipsed by the earth. How often does my light go out when I allow the world to come between myself and Jesus? I allow flickering screens, jealousies, riches, and selfish gains to eclipse the Son. To the degree I allow the world to eclipse my heart and draw me from the Son, is the degree to which I will shine: full moon, half, crescent. Moses glowed as a result of his time with God, not just his knowledge of who God is. He took the steps of faith to climb the mountain and spend time there, dwelling in God’s presence, seeking His face and glory.

We are to be a reflection of the light of the Son, but how can we do that unless we’ve been transformed by Him first? The light we reflect is to be one of testimony to a dying world, just as John the Baptist “came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.“ Are we seeking to be a light by our own efforts and works, or by the transformation of time dwelt with Jesus? John had been transformed by his time in the wilderness, feeding off the Word of God. The light always testifies to Jesus and the truth of His Word, not man’s ability or bright ideas.

“Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass [that] everyone who sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of meeting which [was] outside the camp.”

“Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent.” Exodus 33:7-10

The tent of meeting was open to all, but only a few dared to approach. The majority stood in the doors of their homes, worshipping from afar, safe from the refining fire of the Lord. Only those willing to lay themselves bare before a holy God dared to join to Moses in God’s transformation and reflective light.

Lord, draw me from the safety of my tent into Your refining presence outside the camp, just as You drew Moses and John to be a testimony to the light, let me become a reflection of Your glory to this dark world.

Easter: A teachable moment

IMG_6862As young parents, my husband and I were torn about how to celebrate Easter with our girls. We knew intrinsically that dying eggs and Easter bunnies had nothing to do with Jesus brutal death and resurrection, but we also held sweet family memories of our own childhood Easter celebrations, mostly surrounding dying eggs and early morning egg hunts. So, what was to be done?

I was determined to find a way to bring the two together, committing my angst before the Lord, when *snap*, it came to me! The Lord showed me how to make Easter one of our most memorable teaching moments. Even as our girls age, they look forward to Easter with glee. This post will be dedicated to sharing how we celebrate Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

Friday evening, we set aside for dying eggs. We start with a dozen, representing the twelve disciples. We have a thirteenth egg, whom represents Jesus. We begin in Genesis, talking about how we were sinless in the Garden of Eden, much like a brand new egg, pure white and soft inside. When we chose to eat of the apple, we became hardened by sin, much like a hard boiled egg. This is when we boil our dozen eggs.

However, our sin nature doesn’t stop there. What was the first thing Adam and Eve noticed when they became aware of their sin? That’s right! They covered their nakedness. Much like we do: we cover ourselves with all kinds of colors and activities. This is when we begin the egg dying process, discussing the many ways we cover ourselves. Let the Spirit guide you through this part. Brainstorm verses that talk about the ways we cover ourselves and or how we are impacted by our sinful nature. What is our sin nature? What does it lead to?

We generally attend a Good Friday service at our church, where scripture is read about Jesus brutal death and placement in the tomb. We are left feeling somber, realizing just what He suffered on our behalf. When we return home, we take our thirteenth egg, who represents Jesus, still uncooked and white. Jesus who was without sin, was pure, not hardened by sin, and pure white. We re-read about Jesus death and placement in the tomb. But, just as importantly, we read about Judas’ betrayal in Luke 22:1-53 and compare it to Peter’s denial of Jesus, Luke 22:54-62. What was the difference in their response to their betrayal? We take one of the twelve disciples out of the carton – Judas was no longer with Jesus, leaving eleven (Matt 27:1-10)

We read about the burial of Jesus in Luke 23:50-56. Taking our pure white egg, we wrap it in a white paper towel, placing it gently in our mock tomb. IMG_6863

Shut in by a large bolder, until after the Passover, when the spices for His burial would be prepared.

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Sunday morning, when our girls rise, we have them get dressed and come to the kitchen to gather their spices. We have them roll play Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the Mother of James approaching the tomb with their spices to anoint Jesus body, reading Mark 16:1-8.

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This is what they see when they approach our mock tomb.

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We then read about Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene in Luke 24:1-12, which leaves us with Peter wondering what happened. The last scripture we read is Matthew 28:1-10, where Jesus tells the women, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” At this point, we send them out on their egg hunt, to find the eleven disciples. “Go and gather them in the upper room! Jesus has risen! Just like He said! Go tell them!”

As they find dyed eggs, they gather them in our ‘upper room’.

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As our girls have aged, we’ve added more to the story – including Jesus appearing to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) appearing to the disciples, and ascension (Luke 24:36-53). This can all be adapted to meet your child’s attention span and age.

 

Two Trees

AppleTree_v01The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground–trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9

For years, it never dawned on me that there were two trees of significance in the Garden of Eden, but I’ve discovered their equal importance.

After Adam and Eve fell for the serpent’s deception and ate of the tree of knowledge, the Lord said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Gen 3:22). After he drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen 3:24).

Knowledge can be a very powerful asset, but left to itself, it leads to death. The tree of knowledge has always been pleasing to the eye and easy to eat. It’s brimming branches hang low, so we can fill ourselves to the degree we desire, with either good or evil. But Jesus came to set us free from ourselves and the original deception: you can rule your own destiny…you have no need to be under God’s authority…God doesn’t really love you since He is denying you. . .be the master of your own ship.

(Jesus) Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness–by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NKJV

Jesus, being God Himself, willingly submitted Himself to His Father in heaven. “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38)

I can know everything there is to know about Jesus without there being a surrendering of my will to His Lordship in my life, which He demonstrated toward His own Father. I can study the Bible for years and say I believe and yet, I can still be spiritually dead in my soul. As James warns, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder” (James 2:19). Demons know and believe in Jesus, but that accounts for nothing.

Jesus also warns, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’
Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt 7:22-23).

I can know everything there is to know about the President of the United States. I can watch all his speeches, read his books, study his moves, campaign for him, work in his office, share stories about him with others, but does that mean he knows me personally? If I were to try and approach him in public, what would happen? His secret servant agents would likely whisk me away to a small cell.

On the other hand, what if our families knew each other and we exchanged Christmas cards and spent holidays together? Would I not be able to approach him freely? So it is with Jesus. You may work for Him, attend His churches, read His Words, heal and cast out demons in His name, but does He know you? Have you fully surrendered your will to His? Have you allowed your kingdom to go, so His can come in your heart?

As Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) Paul willingly approached the tree of life, being struck down by the flaming sword of death to self. He identified himself in the death of Jesus, as he said, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. . . I’ve given Him full access to myself. My life is His.”

The tree of knowledge deceives people into believing they are saved without the need of being struck down by the flaming sword of life. The enemy wants nothing more than to keep us from approaching the tree of life. The lie remains the same, “You can have Jesus without the need to surrender yourself.” However, Jesus makes our need clear in Matthew 16:21-25:

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” The temptation to master His own ship. . ‘you don’t have to lay Yourself down’. . .

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

I grew up in church, I could tell you the Bible stories and sought to be good and veer from evil. But, I was no different than the Israelites, “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” Isaiah 29:13 The Lord convicted me that I had never fully surrendered myself to Him , I had knowledge, but no life.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Rev 2:7

I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to eat of the Tree of Life in heaven. Until then, I wear a tree necklace to remind myself to not merely seek knowledge, but life. When I study the Bible, I pray the Lord would reveal to me the LIFE that is to be found. If I’m merely looking for knowledge, then I fear I’ll miss the spiritual life Jesus longs to impart to me.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb 4:12)

What about you? Have you approached the Tree of Life, identifying yourself in Jesus death and resurrection? Have you yielded your will to Him? If not, what is preventing you?

The Threshing Floor

2 Chr 3:1 — Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had
prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

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The threshing floor holds deep historic and symbolic truth in the life of the believer. In the Old Testament, King David is seen purchasing a threshing floor – a place of separation and sifting, to offer a burnt sacrifice to the Lord (1 Chr.  21:26). David then said, “This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel.” (1 Chr. 22:1)

The threshing floor was a place of separation – where the wheat kernel was beat, tossed  in the air for the wind to carry away the chaff. The remaining grain fell sifted to the floor, prepared for use. When David inquired about buying the threshing floor, the owner offered to give the land to David at no cost, but David refused, saying, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them (2 Sam 24:24). As David prophesied, the purchased threshing floor became the site of the Temple Mount, which remains today! David paid full price for the land so that he might offer his full self as a sacrifice to the Lord, and later build a temple where the Israelites could separate themselves in worship. The Bible tells us we are the temple of the Lord today, “. . . For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 2 Cor 6:16

BUT, being a temple of the Lord also opens us to the threshing floor of sanctification – the two are inseparable, one built upon the other. Once we accept the Lord’s atonement for our sins and welcome Him into our heart, the winnowing fork begins its necessary sifting. Our flesh, the chaff, must be separated from the holiness God is working in us, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:16).

In Luke 22:31-32, Jesus says, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

When we choose to become the temple of the Lord, we will face various sifting (1 Peter 4:12). The Lord allows us to be tossed, so the chaff in our lives will break free as we fall on Him refined wheat, prepared for use. What a beautiful picture! The temple must come with threshing – they dwell together, which means they will both be present in my life! May I say with a similar heart to David’s, “How could I seek a life in Christ that costs me nothing? No – after all, did Jesus not lay down His own life for me at the expense of Himself?”

To whom shall we go?!

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In John 6:52-71 we see an interesting account of Jesus teaching the disciples a really hard concept to accept. He was telling them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. . .”
“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ The scripture tells us that ‘many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. Jesus turned to His most intimate twelve and asked, ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’
I love Peter’s heart in this moment, knowing he didn’t understand Jesus teaching he looked beyond his own understanding to the man he knew and His character. He turned and said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know you are the Holy One of God.”
Of course, we can look back at these passages with foreknowledge, knowing Jesus is speaking about communion and the need to be identified in His flesh and blood on the cross, which was poured out for our salvation. But, at the time, this sounded like the words of a madman. Why would God want men to become cannibals? It didn’t make sense and went against what they knew of the law. This offense caused many disciples to walk away.
There are going to be times in our life when Jesus will turn to us with the same question, “I know you don’t understand this teaching. I know it seems crazy right now, but you won’t leave me too, will you?” We need to trust that hard teachings may not make sense today, but God will reveal the meaning in time. The question remains, will you walk away because you don’t understand, or will you remain in me, so that I can reveal these things to you in my time?
It was during the dark times of my daughters’ illnesses that I felt this piercing question from the Lord, “Shannon, I know this doesn’t make sense and I know it goes against what you think is right. Nevertheless, you won’t leave me too, will you?”
I chose to join in fellowship with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life and I believe and know you are the Holy One of God. I will choose to trust you!” When pressed by trials, we either walk away under the mounting pressure and confusion or we choose to press in, trusting God’s sovereignty and character.
“If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything by his leap in the dark. . . Trust completely in God, and when He brings you to a new opportunity of adventure, offering it to you, see that you take it. We act like pagans in a crisis—only one out of an entire crowd is daring enough to invest his faith in the character of God.” – My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers, May 30th, “Yes- But. . . !”

Royalty

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Ever wonder what one gifts to royalty? As we enter this time of Christmas, I’ve found myself wondering, what kind of gifts does Queen Elizabeth receive from her family year after year? What does one give a queen, who appears to have everything?

During my childhood, there was one Christmas that remains clear in my mind. Instead of a tree, that year we chose to put a baby doll surrounded by hay in a wooden rocking cradle passed through the generations. We wrapped lights around our manger and, as the weeks drew closer to Christmas, the presents surrounding our ‘Jesus’ grew.

This year, in an effort to give our girls a similar experience, we created our own manager with a borrowed baby doll and a basket of hay. I printed small pieces of paper kept next to the manager that read, ‘Jesus, I give you. . . ‘ Everyday, we bring prayerful gifts of the heart to our King. What more could our King, who owns everything desire? Isn’t it our fellowship, admiration, praise and love what He ultimately seeks?

So this year, instead of focusing on the presents growing under our Christmas tree, which are plenty, we will seek to focus on the gifts of our hearts, the things we can surrender to our King, Jesus.

What about you? What things are you holding onto that could be released to the only eternal King? What gift can you give Him this season? The manager is available to all. . .