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Archive for the ‘Dreams’ Category

 

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We’ve all heard the story of Joseph (or seen the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat). You’ll remember he’s the one who endured years of slavery and prison before his dreams (of bowing wheat sheaves and stars paying homage) came true.

We also know about Moses, an adopted prince in Pharaoh’s household who ended up in the wilderness herding sheep.  Forty years later God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.

And we’re familiar with Paul who spent years traveling from place to place and, yes, suffering all kinds of trials—beatings, imprisonment, dangers, shipwrecks—all for the privilege of serving God, introducing people to Jesus and establishing churches.

These Biblical stories and others teach us to never give up, because we never know when God will show up to turn a prisoner into a prime minister, a shepherd into a great leader, or a Pharisee tentmaker into a world evangelist.

Then there’s Jeremiah. His is a different kind of story altogether. He was called by God to warn the inhabitants of Judah that destruction would come if they did not return to God and follow his ways. It was not a one-time message. Over a period of forty years Jeremiah spoke many times of coming doom.

 

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Almost no one listened. (A brief revival took place under King Josiah, but when he died, the people returned to their complacency and evil ways.)

We love the stories of Joseph, Moses, Paul, and others, whose perseverance was rewarded with success. But what about Jeremiah?

He, too, persevered through trials–poverty and deprivation, imprisonment and ill-treatment, rejection and ridicule. For what? According to the evidence (minimal results for his efforts), Jeremiah was a wretched failure. Yet he had obeyed God faithfully, endured patiently, and preached courageously.

Perhaps visible evidence is not the best way to quantify success.

Instead, the true measure of success involves our characters, not our acquisitions (Joshua 1:8).

 

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The true measure of success may include the tenacity to get up every day and face the same tasks as yesterday, to persistently make choices that further God’s objectives for each of us, and to remain steadfast even when discouraged (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Last, a true measure of success is how our choices honor God (1 Kings 2:3). Jeremiah may not have turned thousands back to Yahweh, but that was not due to his lack of effort or disobedience to God. Jeremiah doggedly preached to the people of Judah—month after month, year after year.

So the true measure of success includes: 1) pursuing godly character, 2) persevering toward God-given purpose, and 3) making choices that honor him.

 

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Today, such successful people might look like:

  • The parent who has put his career on hold to invest time in his young children.
  • the business owner who drives a twelve-year old car so he can give generously to ministries.
  • The college student slowly working her way through school, anxious to return to her inner city neighborhood and teach school

For those of us looking for that kind of success, Jeremiah is our hero.

He lived out these precepts :

  • Do our prayerful best and leave the results with God.
  • Press on–day by day, month by month, year by year if necessary. Allow such perseverance to build our trust in God and strengthen our character.
  • Persist until God tells us to stop. (How do we know we’ve reached that moment? Peace, not uncertainty, will fill our spirits.)

We may not understand what God is doing, but we know him. And he is holy love and perfect wisdom.*

 

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*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, p. 129.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.christianquotes.info; http://www.pilgrimsrock.com.)

 

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(Reblogged from 12-30-13)

 

A new year requires a new calendar. Don’t you just love the crisp, uncurled pages–the empty spaces for each day, filled with nothing but optimistic possibilities?

Perhaps you’re starting the new year with a fresh journal. Again, the pristine pages are filled with nothing but hope and expectation.

We might also desire to start the new year with:

New eyes—to see the glory of God around us.
New ears—to hear his still, small voice.
New resolve—to follow God’s direction.
New courage—to speak his truth boldly.
New faith—to live with confident trust in our Heavenly Father.

These abilities cannot be bought at Barnes & Nobles, like a calendar or journal. They are procured through prayer and discipline.

A good place to begin? David’s prayer in Psalm 51: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10, 12).

Allow me to personalize it a bit.

Create in me a pure heart, O God (just as you created a perfect universe from chaos).

And renew a steadfast spirit within me (that my greatest desire might be to please you).

Restore to me the joy of your salvation (just as we experience in the euphoria of Christmas Eve)!

Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (throughout 2016).

The typical new year’s resolution is made, broken, and forgotten. Rarely does someone make a once-a-year promise and keep it faithfully for the next 364 days.

Perhaps we’d be wise to see each new day as a fresh opportunity for beginning anew. To repent of yesterday’s failures and forget them. To strain toward what is ahead—with enthusiasm, expectation, and hope (Philippians 3:13).

And gradually those new abilities we aspire after will begin to flourish.

God says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:18-19a)!

* * * * * * * * * *

Thank you, Father, for your mercy to forgive the past, and your grace to provide for the future. Thank you that each morning is a fresh start, and each new day holds hidden opportunities. With great anticipation I turn the page!

 

(photo credit:  www.news.health.com.)

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 cartoon-little-green-men-5535229

 

I was talking to a few aliens the other day–little green guys from outer space–trying to explain some earth-phenomena, since life in their galaxy is so different from ours.

First, a bit of background to explain what prompted the conversation.

Elena, our two-year old granddaughter, and I were exploring the church grounds across the street from her house.  She loves looking for treasures: sticks, stones, acorns, leaves, etc.

 

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On this particular day I noticed the oak trees sporting chubby little buds. Another pair of trees were bursting with bud-clusters, ready to explode into bright pink finery.

Elena and I inspected the juvenile growth. I tried to explain what would soon happen. But with no remembrance of last spring, her understanding was no doubt very limited. I might as well be explaining this to an alien, I thought.

That’s when my imagination kicked in.

What if inhabitants from another galaxy did come to visit Earth? And what if they had never seen buds or seeds before?  Imagine trying to educate them on the process of germination…

“Now, inside this seed is the beginning of life. If we plant it in soil, making sure to choose a sunny spot, and we shower it with water when the weather doesn’t supply rain, it will grow into a plant, bush, or tree.”

They look at me with doubt in their big, round eyes.

“I know it seems impossible. The seed is just a small, lifeless speck.  But I can tell you, having seen it happen repeatedly, that’s what seeds do.”

So the little green guys and I plant the seed in a sunny spot and shower it with water.

A few moments later, one of them wants to dig it up to see the first signs of life.

“Oh, no,” I explain. “It takes time for the water to seep into the seed and for the miracle of germination to take place. But believe me. If we come back in a week or ten days, there will be a little green shoot coming up out of the soil in that very spot.”

 

Oak sapling

 

They like the idea of green, but shake their little round heads in disbelief.

I have to admit.  The progression of tiny seeds to plants, much less tall trees, does sound ludicrous.

And yet that’s exactly what God does.

Sometimes our lives resemble brown, lifeless seeds. There is no sign of hope that circumstances might change for the better.

Sometimes we think it’s too late for a reversal of destiny. It seems our best, productive years are behind us.

Not so fast.

Consider George*, our friend who has retired.  Twice. During his first career, George worked his way up in law enforcement to chief of police; his second career, associate pastor. Ten years or so later, he and his wife moved north to be near family.  When the boxes were unpacked and the pictures hung on the walls, George sat down and thought, Now what? I’m not ready to park on the porch and drink iced tea. What can I do, Lord?

No immediate answer.

 

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One day George went golfing with his brother-in-law. They were paired with two more men at the course, to make a foursome. One just happened to be a high-ranking officer on the police force. As George and Tom* became acquainted, Tom expressed how they needed a chaplain on the force to minister to the officers. Stress was high, their jobs becoming more and more difficult as the years passed.

George’s heart started beating faster. A chaplain to police? Could this be the answer to his prayer? It would almost be like a merger of his first two careers into one challenging and fulfilling third career.

Yes, it was. For the next five or six years, George served as chaplain of police in his new community, impacting hundreds of lives in the name of Jesus.

We’ve all known people whose circumstances looked as promising as brown, lifeless seeds. Yet God caused miraculous change, and the lives of those folks burgeoned into glorious fruitfulness.

We can learn like those little aliens of my imagination. We can feed our hope by feasting on the miraculous springtime evidence around us. We can wait with confident expectation for the fulfillment of God’s plan.

And if hope seems all but gone, we can cling to the Source of hope.

 

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(“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”–Romans 15:13.)

 

*Names have been changed.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.dreamstime.com; http://www.brilliantbotany.com; http://www.imagkid.com; http://www.allposters.fr.; http://www.slideteam.net.)

 

 

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Mixed-Messages

 

 

Perhaps you can help me answer a question.

I’m wondering why, in spite of the fact all of us Christians are using the same manual, the Bible, we don’t always agree on a course of action?

For example, some Bible teachers will advise us to persevere in pursuit of Christian character or the fulfillment of a dream that seems God-inspired. A favorite scripture to support their premise is Philippians 3:13-14.

“One thing I do:

Forgetting what is behind

and straining toward what is ahead,

I press on toward the goal to win the prize

for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

So we dig deep into our resolve, rise early in the morning to spend time in God’s Word, work hard with self-discipline and determination, pray fervently, and more.

BUT. Others will say, God never intended us to toil from early morning till late at night. They will say, “Learn to rest in God (Psalm 91:1). There is no need for nonstop activity. ‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still’” (Exodus 14:14).

So which is it? Press on or be still?

Here are a few more contradictions that have come to my attention:

  • Waiting in faith (Psalm 27:14), as opposed to stepping out in faith–like Abraham, when he left Haran and had no idea where he was going (Genesis 12:1-4).
  • Dreaming big, because all things are possible with God, and he can do far more than we could ask or think (Luke 1:37; Ephesians 3:20). On the other hand, God’s ways aren’t always our ways, so we need to be prepared.  Events may not unfold as we planned (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • Trusting in God’s provision (1 Timothy 6:17b), or providing for ourselves as he expects (1 Thessalonians 4:11,12; 2 Thessalonians 3:10).
  • Trusting in God’s loving care to protect us (Psalm 91:9-11), or expecting trials and suffering (Philippians 1:29).
  • Remembering what God has done, including the transformation from old ways to new (Deuteronomy 6:12; Psalm 77:11-12), or forgetting the past and focusing on the goal ahead (Philippians 3:13-14).

How do we handle such mixed messages? Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Aim for balance.

Each set of contradictions above need not represent either/or choices. For example, we can be still and at peace in our spirits while pressing on to accomplish what God has impressed upon us to do. We can wait patiently for a prayer to be answered and step out in faith to follow God’s leading for that answer. We can dream big even as we pray, “My life is in your hands, Lord. Do with me as you will.”

Balance makes for blessing. — St. Augustine

  1. Realize that God has purpose in the contradictions.

For example, if every decision was clearly a black and white matter, there would be no need for his personal guidance. But his greatest desire is to be in relationship with us. So perhaps he allows a bit of ambiguity in our lives so we’ll choose to stay close to him.

  1. Embrace the adventure of contradiction!

We never know when God is going to step in and make something happen–something unusual and exciting! As we work to provide for our own needs, God may very well supply a miracle–far above and beyond our expectations. Even during a trying time, God will deliver showers of blessing, beginning with supernatural strength and peace that defies explanation.

No doubt there are other contradictions in scripture that you have noticed.   Perhaps you’ve given some thought as to their purpose, and how to deal with them.

So please. Share your insights below, and let’s learn from each other!

 

(Photo credit:  www.brandesign.co.za.)

 

 

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freedoms

“Jesus hasn’t brought us into the family of God just to make our dreams come true.

Our dreams are always too small.

We are here to fulfill God’s dream:

That we will bring Him glory through a remarkably abundant life.

That’s how we find our greatest personal fulfillment, now and for eternity.”

–Bruce Wilkinson

(Secrets of the Vine, Multnomah, 2001)

 

No wonder some folks have been dissatisfied. They thought the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10 meant an abundance of enjoyment – free from problems and pain, and a life of plenty – free from want.

God just wasn’t big enough, not big-hearted enough, to make it happen – or so they thought.

Turns out their dreams of personal satisfaction or success are not too big for God to fulfill. They’re too small. He has grander plans for each one of us.

In fact, God has one over-arching vision statement that applies to all his children. Paul explained it like this:

“We who had already fixed our hope on the Messiah might live for his praise and glory” (Ephesians 1:12, ISV).

God wants us to live for the praise and glory of himself. That’s God’s bottom line.

Now someone is going to say, “That sounds rather self-serving to me!”

Truth is, when God created us, he put a craving for himself within us. To know him and be known by him, to experience him is a God-given pleasure that nothing else can satisfy. That’s the gateway to the abundant life–the God-enhanced life.

“OK,” someone else may say. “But spending all day praising God and giving him credit for everything isn’t my idea of abundant living. Where’s the satisfaction, the adventure, the fun in that?”

I’d ask, “Have you tried it?”

Gratitude would be a good place to begin. Gratitude for what God has already done satiates the soul. We start to realize how much we already have.

Gratitude becomes an adventure. How many things can I identify today for which I’m grateful?

Gratitude becomes fun because it fills the heart with joy, which naturally leads to praising him and giving him the credit for everything positive.

His blessings do provide an abundant life:

  • Eternity in heaven (John 14:2-3)
  • Access to God at any time, through prayer (Hebrews 14:6)
  • His loving care through life’s ups and downs (1 Peter 5:7)
  • Wisdom to determine right action from wrong (James 1:5)
  • Joy that is independent of circumstances and defies logic (Psalm 16:11)
  • Freedom from worry and fear (John 14:27)

Of course, that’s only the beginning of a long list.  Each one is a wondrous and precious gift. Our Heavenly Father most certainly deserves continual praise for all he has done.

In addition to gratitude, each of us–no matter who we are, where we live, or what we do–can display the excellencies of our God – his loving kindness, grace, mercy, wisdom and more – to those around us.  Each of us can be obedient to his Word, helpful and generous to others.

And all the while we are giving God the glory–the credit–for who we are becoming and for what we’re able to do. We’re expressing gratitude for all his benefits and praise for all his attributes, which he pours into our lives.

This is how we fulfill God’s dream and, as a natural, God-engineered consequence, we also find great personal fulfillment.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Heavenly Father, I do not want my attention side-tracked by small dreams. I want to fulfill your grand dream for me: that I might bring you glory through an abundant life of enthusiastic worship and service. You are majestic, holy, all-powerful, completely trustworthy, good and loving to your people. You are more than worthy of every word of praise and every kind deed accomplished in your name—period. But you grant us deep, satisfying, personal fulfillment as we bring you glory. We stand in awe of your magnificence and grace!

 

(Photo credit: http://www.fromhispresence.com.)

 

 

 

 

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If I asked you, “What’s the most popular flower?”, you’d probably get the answer right. It’s the rose. En masse on the bush, they provide a striking sight—dozens of large blooms framed by dark green leaves.

 

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But most of us can’t pass by a rose-bush without leaning in close to view the soft petals, and breathe in the singular scent. To study a blossom up close enhances our appreciation.

 

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We notice the varying colors, the delicate curl of each petal, the intricate, spiraling pattern. Our sense of wonder increases the more we gaze.

Might the same be true as we study the beauty of our God? That’s what David wanted to do:

 

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(“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

 

But how can we gaze upon an invisible God? By contemplating all his glorious attributes. One commentator described the beauty of the Lord as the harmony of his perfections. I like that.

Just as the petals of a rose create a harmony of color, pattern, symmetry, and form, so the traits of our holy God manifest a harmony of perfect grace, holiness, triunity, and power.

And though we may be acquainted with a number of God’s attributes, appreciation of their beauty expands with a close-up view—through the lenses of scripture and personal experience.  For example:

God’s beautiful grace becomes visible in the story of the prodigal son, as we witness the father actually running to welcome his wayward son home.  He throws his arms around the filthy youth, even kissing him (Luke 15:11-20).

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God’s glorious holiness (purity, righteousness, and separateness from everything else in the universe) is highlighted in Revelation 4:1-11 as John strains for words to describe the Lord of heaven…

… ”Seated on the Throne, suffused in gem hues of amber and flame with a nimbus of emerald…Lightning flash and thunder crash pulsed from the Throne. Seven fire-blazing torches fronted the Throne (these are the Sevenfold Spirit of God)” — vs. 3-5, The Message.  

God’s harmonious triunity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is celebrated in Ephesians 1. Paul reminds us that:

  • God the Father bestows all spiritual blessings upon us (v.3).
  • God the Son provided redemption and forgiveness of our sin (v.7).
  • God the Spirit guarantees our inheritance in heaven and gives us assurance (vs. 13b-14).

And God’s magnificent power is on display throughout scripture and creation, even in our personal lives.  Our Heavenly Father is a God of infinite wisdom, unfailing guidance, strong empowerment, attentive care, competent help,  rich blessings, and more.

We can contemplate each of these attributes as we would the individual petals of a perfect rose.  We can remember occasions when he has demonstrated each trait in our lives.  And perhaps we’ll burst into song as Moses did:

 

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(“Who among the god is like you, O Lord?  Who is like you–majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” — Exodus 15:11).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

My heart fills with wonder and praise, O Lord, because you are a beautiful, holy God.  No one is your equal in power, wisdom, creativity, splendor, or love.  No one else is perfect in all he does.  And you, in all your holy glory are  My.  Heavenly.  Father.   Such statements are too glorious to comprehend!  

But oh, how grateful I am that they are true.

(Photo & art credits:  www.dorsetcereals.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.ameliarhodes.com; http://www.luke-15.org; http://www.praisejesustoday.com.)

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The place:  Spindletop, Texas.

The time:  1892

A group of five investors formed the Gladys City Oil Company.  Sulphur springs in the area gave them great hope that black gold lay beneath the surface, especially since gas seepages in the area would ignite if lit.

Soon the area was dotted with holes–holes that produced nothing.  Two investors pulled out.

A geologist was brought in.  More investors were convinced to take the risk.

Nine long, unproductive years went by, and  still no oil. That’s 3,285 days of discouragement, disappointment, and exhausting labor.  Yet those men would not give up.

Finally, on January 10, 1901, their long-held dreams were realized.  At the depth of 1,139 feet, the company struck oil.  And it wasn’t just a gurgling flow.  The discovery at Spindletop gave new meaning to the term, “gusher.”  The oil shot over one hundred feet into the air, spewing enough to fill 100,000 barrels a day.  It took nine days to get the well under control.  No oil field in the world, up to that time, had been so productive.

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I wonder what those men said to each other each morning, over those 3,000-plus days of working, learning, waiting, and wondering?  Surely their conversations included some positive uplift, or they would have quit.  Perhaps they made such comments as:

  • “If we don’t find oil, at least we can say we gave the effort everything we’ve got.  If we quit before all possibilities are tried?   That‘s failure.”
  • “All the signs indicate there is oil.  We cant quit!
  • “Today might be the day!”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Just as oil is sometimes discovered by accident, so God’s blessings fall into our laps as glorious surprises. Other times,  God chooses to postpone a blessing while we dig our way through learning, working, waiting, and wondering–like the oil men of Spindletop, Texas.

How do we press on when circumstances look bleak, when common sense tells us to quit?

1.  Pray!  The key to knowing when to persevere and when to change direction is to spend time with God.  Ask him to make clear what the next step is.  Most likely he will not reveal the whole plan at once.  He rarely works that way, because it eliminates the faith factor.  Our moment-by-moment trust in him is too crucial to the abundant living he desires for us.

2.  Believe!  Dozens of promises in scripture probably apply to your situation and mine.  We can recite those promises–not as demands (“God, you said this, so I’m expecting you to do it.”) but as faith-builders.  (“God, you said this, and I know with you all things are possible.”)

3.  Fight!  Fight against discouragement with plenty of encouragement.  God is very creative in the ways he brings hope to our spirits.  Often it’s through Bible reading and other Christian material.  We must keep reading!  Sometimes it’s in a sermon or a song.  We must keep listening!

A friend or even a stranger can speak uplifting words that resonate in our hearts.  Sometimes it’s as if God is speaking directly.  One sign for me, that someone is speaking for God?  Goosebumps!  I can almost feel his light touch on my arm and his voice saying, “Pay attention to this, Nancy.”

Our God is a well of unending supply.  Whatever we need in this life, including wisdom, direction, and perseverance toward a goal, he will provide.  In fact, he will do whatever it takes for his praying, believing, fighting children to discover the oil of gladness, instead of mourning (over failure), a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

That’s one way our loving, supportive Heavenly Father displays his splendor (Isaiah 61:3).

(Photo credit:  www.en.wikipedia.org.)

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