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Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

That’s what we can expect when we choose to live God’s way: supreme blessedness.  Jesus made that clear in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  You’ll remember he began with eight statements of blessing called beatitudes.

One example:

 

 

In other words, profound joy comes to those who humbly depend on God, as they avail themselves of his heavenly kingdom-benefits.

Of course, there are many other attitudes and actions he rewards, in addition to those eight Jesus named.

Below are listed several means to blessedness that have come to my attention over the years. Perhaps you’ve experienced them too:

 

Blessed are the risk-takers, for they shall sail on winds of faith.

 

 

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for” (Grace Murray Hopper).

 

Think of Abraham.

 

“By faith Abraham…obeyed and went,

even though he did not know where he was going.”

–Hebrews 11:8

 

We too have to be willing to travel blind toward undisclosed destinations. Otherwise we’ll never experience the thrill of God’s power taking us to ports we’ve never dreamed of.

The way ahead is always hidden, sometimes causing uncertainty.  But!  We know the One who’s leading. Uncertainty does not have to cancel out confidence.

 

Blessed are those who seek God’s desires, for they shall know delight and fulfillment.

Somehow we think the pursuit of our own desires will bring satisfaction.  But haven’t we seen enough of the rich and powerful crash and burn in despair?  “Everything [is] meaningless; a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

How much better off we are to pray along with the psalmist:

 

 

It is in the practice of obedience we learn its precious worth.

 

Blessed are the encouragers for they shall be encouraged.

Such an interesting phenomenon: make the effort to lift someone else’s spirit, and you find your own spirit uplifted.  Actually, wise King Solomon recorded this be-attitude long ago:

 

 

Guaranteed double pleasure.  How’s that for supreme blessing?

 

Blessed are the sifters of thoughts, for they enjoy golden contemplations.

If we’re not careful, our minds can easily gravitate toward dross thoughts–the negative, unwholesome, and ugly.  It takes effort to seek out the gold: the honorable, lovely, and commendable. But true contentment awaits those who do.

 

 

Blessed are the focused for they shall not spread themselves too thin.

Our bodies were made for a rhythm of rest—7 to 8 hours out of every 24. Short-changing sleep actually lowers our productivity and endangers our health (1).

That’s why:

 

 

We just can’t do it all, much as we’d like to. Priorities and parameters must be set. That means, saying no to some good things may be the best choice.  We must give others permission to do the same also.

 

Blessed are those who pay attention to the ordinary, for they discover the extraordinary.

For example:

  • Icicle sentries in winter, clinging to the seat of a deck chair

 

 

  • Wildflowers in springtime, cupping tiny pink and yellow stars

 

 

  • Sunbeams on a summer morning, filtering into the glen

 

 

  • God’s artistry (and penchant for color!) splashed on autumn leaves

 

 

Each eye-catching display is a precious love-gift from our Heavenly Father. And around us are countless more, waiting to be discovered, savored, and praised.

 

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

his greatness no one can fathom.”

–Psalm 145:3

 

And there you have six more beatitudes–examples of God’s supreme blessedness lavished upon us–when we choose to live by his wise and loving ways.

 

 

What be-attitude would you add?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Note:

1) https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/tired-at-work#1 and https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170209/skimp-on-sleep-and-you-just-may-wind-up-sick#1

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.libreshot.com; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com.)

 

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 “By myself!” “By myself!” “By myself!” Numerous times each day our granddaughter asserts herself, announcing with much gusto that whatever the task, she can handle it.

But Elena just turned two. Although her confidence is high, skills are limited. When it’s time to go upstairs, “by myself” means down on all fours, one limb at a time. One hand up, and then the other. One foot up and then the other. It is a slow and laborious process.

In addition, the grown-up in her wake must be very sly about offering support. No hand on the back, or even hovering where Elena can see it. She’ll cast aside such safety precautions and announce firmly once again, “By myself!”

Child Washing Hands

Hand washing is another activity she prefers to do independently. But her attempts to pump out a dollop of liquid soap often end unsuccessfully. The soap usually lands in or around the sink—not in her hand.

And once the soap is in her palm, Elena reaches for the faucet. Forget the actual washing. If we try to help, she pulls her hands away. “By myself!” Even when she acquiesces, her scrubbing efforts leave much to be desired. Squeezing is her version.

And rinsing is another issue. “By myself” often results in enthusiastic splattering of water on dry dishes, counter, and backsplash.

spoons

Mealtimes offer more opportunities for autonomy. “By myself” means she will hold her spoon or fork as she chooses, not as the grown-ups have shown her numerous times. Elena has yet to figure out that holding a utensil at the very end of the handle is not very efficient.  (The child in the photo is not our Elena, but is demonstrating the same technique.)

Because of her unwieldy grip, Elena ends up turning the spoon upside down as it approaches her mouth. Needless to say, most of the food ends up on her chin, in her bib pocket, on her clothes, on the tray, or back in the dish.

We shake our heads and roll our eyes. Toddlers!

Then it dawns on me. Sometimes I’m not much more mature than a toddler in God’s family. I’ve been known to proclaim “by myself,” too:

  • “Yes, Lord, I need you to take care of the important matters, but I can handle the small stuff by myself. ”
  • “I’ll make this decision by myself, Lord, because—to be honest–I’m not sure I’ll like your choice.”
  • “I can decide by myself what will make me happy, Lord.”

Yep, I can be as foolish as a toddler, even though great wisdom is available to me.

way of wisdom the_t_nv

Wisdom such as:

“Start with God.

The first step in learning

is bowing down to God.

Only fools thumb their noses

at such wisdom and learning”

(Proverbs 1:7, MSG).

Ouch. But Solomon is right.  God made me; he knows the best course for me. Over and over again he has proven himself worthy of my trust — guiding my way, providing for my needs, empowering me to accomplish his plans.

If I can’t trust the One who died for me, who can I trust?

Any time I’m tempted to approach a situation or decision by myself, I need to remember:

“God always gives the best

to those who leave the choice to him”

–Selwyn Hughes

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Oh, Father, forgive me for the times I have foolishly asserted my independence. Help me to relinquish control to you. I’ve lived long enough to know from experience that living life by myself does not result in satisfaction. Help me become a person who turns to you first, and asks, “What do YOU want me to do, Lord?” because you are the all-wise One of the universe.  And I know the benefits of following you will far outweigh any costs.

(Photo credits:  www.motherhood.modernmom.com; http://www.childcare.oxfordcounty.ca; http://www.cleftstories.com; http://www.covedevotions2010.blogspot.com.)

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Whether I heard it or read it, I don’t remember. But the words caught me by surprise, and I jotted them down:

“What was uppermost in Jesus’ mind as Good Friday approached?

“Joy.”

Do you find that surprising, too?

Yet at least three times on the eve of his crucifixion Jesus spoke about joy (John 15:11; 16:22, 24; 17:13)–a most unusual topic and completely unnatural.  Who thinks about joy when they know that catastrophe is about to strike?

Jesus, that’s who.

Within the next twenty-four hours he would face excruciating pain, total abandonment by his Father, and the most horrific death ever devised.

But his concern was for his disciples, not himself.  Jesus wanted them to remember the important principles of love, obedience, and joy–an empowering joy that no one could take away from them.

Perhaps you remember the scene. Jesus and his disciples had just finished their last Passover supper together. After the meal, he taught his final lesson.

The first mention of joy came near the end of his teaching about the vine and the branches:

“I have told you this

so that my joy may be in you

and that your joy may be complete”

(John 15:11).

The word, “this,” refers to the ways Jesus had just mentioned that will contribute to joy:

1.  Live close to him and produce much good in and through your life (vs.4-8).

2.  Live in obedience to Jesus and experience the warmth, peace, and care of His love (vs. 9-10).

 Note that Jesus wanted his joy to be in the hearts of his disciples. What characterized his joy, compared to that of others?

  1. Strong awareness of the Father’s love for him, and his own love for the Father (vs. 9-10).
  1. Absolute surrender and self-sacrifice of himself to his Father, and the joy of doing what his father had sent him to do. Even during his great travail in the Garden of Gethsemane, his one desire was to do his Father’s will (Luke 22:42).

Jesus’ joy coexisted with the profound sorrow of his impending suffering, because he was already well-acquainted with the satisfaction and fulfillment of obedience.

  1. The understanding that joy deferred to the future is anticipatory joy in the present. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

And finally, Jesus told his disciples that he desired complete joy for them. What does complete joy look like? It is:

  • Not so much an emotion as it is a conviction (Keith Krell, “Moment by Moment,” http://www.bible.org).
  • Inner contentment, resulting from continually cultivating an intimate relationship with Jesus.
  • Constant, not dependent on circumstances.
  • Enduring, day after day. Indestructible.
  • Perfect—the perfect, joy-filled fulfillment of the destiny for which God created you, even when a portion of that destiny is suffering.

I’m thinking of the martyrs–Stephen, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, William Tyndale, John Wycliffe and countless others who demonstrated complete joy even as they died in anguish.

Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John and Bishop of Smyrna for many years, refused to revile Jesus. For that he was burned at the stake.

But before the flames rose up, Polycarp prayed:

“O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy blessed and beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have been given knowledge of thyself…I bless thee for granting me this day and hour, that I may be numbered amongst the martyrs, to share the cup of thine Anointed and to rise again unto life everlasting…”

Such devotion, courage, and supernatural strength are impossible to fathom apart from the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

Can you hear the grace in Polycarp’s voice as he blessed God for the privilege of dying a martyr?

That is complete joy, only experienced by those who trust in Jesus implicitly.

Complete joy that Jesus purchased for us at Calvary.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We marvel, Heavenly Father, in the extreme paradox that is the cross. Out of the evil unleashed upon your Son comes your holy, righteous goodness–upon us. Out of the horror of the crucifixion that Jesus endured comes inexpressible and glorious joy, to those who put their faith in him–not a temporary feeling of elation, but deep, abiding, abundant joy. 

All praise to you, our loving, gracious God!       

(Acts 3:13-16, 1 Peter 1:8, John 6:47, John 10:10)

 

(Photo credit:  www.rejesus.co.uk.)

 

 

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(As most of you know, Steve will soon be retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. Mid-June we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons and their families. If our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks. But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 11-29-12.)

 

Breathe in this truth, long and deep:

God delights in you.

“That’s impossible,” you may say. “I can be downright self-centered, lazy, and prideful. Some days I can’t seem to do anything right. How could God possibly be pleased with me?” (I am quite familiar with this train of thought myself!)

Listen carefully.

 

cc_psalm147_11

 

(“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).”

Fear, in this case, does not refer to terror. Fear refers to these attitudes:

  • reverence
  • trust
  • respect
  • awe
  • appreciation

The second half of the verse above makes clear that God rejoices in those who turn to him with faith.

If you fear God, as described here, and wholeheartedly hope in him, then the following statements are true of you:

He smiles upon you as you express appreciation for his blessings.

His eyes glisten with love as you pray for guidance and strength.

He revels in the time you spend immersed in his Word.

His heart fills with joy as you exult in creation.

He beams with pleasure when you help a stranger.

He rejoices when your heart is filled with peace and joy.

Yes, there are going to be moments when we stumble back into selfishness and pride. We’re not perfect—at least I’m not. But hallelujah! God does not leave it up to us to work through the perfecting-process alone.

Consider this good news the writer of Hebrews shared:

“May the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Wow. God not only makes clear what pleases him, he works in our hearts and minds to mold us into those kind of people.

Meanwhile, I think he takes great pleasure in progress, just like human parents do.

 

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You know how it is. Mom and Dad practically shiver with excitement when their tyke takes his first step and speaks his first word.

But did they expect their little one to learn these skills on his own? Hardly. With loving attention they held the little guy upright so he could practice taking steps. They repeated words countless times until their toddler could form them on his own.

Now relate this situation to our Heavenly Father. Isn’t it probable he experiences the same joy as we rely upon him to take faltering steps toward spiritual maturity?

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Thank you, Lord, for being a gracious God who actually delights in his children. Thank you for loving us in spite of our failings and for smiling upon our efforts, meager as they may be. Our hearts are filled with awe and gratitude to realize you, the ultimate, all-powerful King of the universe, not only care about each step of progress we make, you are right beside us, enabling. You are magnificent—I can never praise you enough!

 

(Photo credits:  www.crosscards.com; http://www.gettyimages.com.)

 

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Every time…

…I drive down a street canopied by interlaced trees, I think of the elms standing sentry over the town of my childhood.

Every time…

…I hear Trumpet Voluntary by Henry Purcell, I’m transported back to my wedding day.

Every time…

…I stroke soft velvet, I remember the turquoise velvet dress my mother wore—over fifty years ago.

Every time…

…I eat raspberries, my grandmother comes to mind. She made the best jam with fresh berries from her own bushes in the backyard.

Every time…

…I smell a wood fire, visions of family-reunion picnics float in my memory.

stock-footage-johnstown-new-york-a-large-extended-family-enjoys-a-big-summer-picnic-get-together-reunion

Our senses are powerful catalysts for memories and emotional response.  But out of the five, researchers say the most powerful is the sense of smell.

So when the ancients read this scripture verse, what images came to their minds?

“All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad” (Psalm 45:8).

myrrh

 

First, a bit of background might be helpful:

Psalm 45 was composed for a royal wedding. Verse eight, about the groom’s robes, might refer to a long-held custom in the Middle East of perfuming one’s clothing, especially for special occasions.

But the imagery of the psalm also speaks prophetically of another “wedding”–between Christ and his bride, the church.

Many of the descriptors for the Groom fit Jesus perfectly:

 “You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever…In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds” (vs. 2-4).

But if the psalm is a word-picture for the relationship of Christ to his church, what is the significance of verse 8? Why the description of his robes, fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia?

Perhaps the pleasing, aromatic scents represent all the pleasing virtues Jesus embodied: his love, wisdom, and grace.

Perhaps they are also an allusion to his burial.  In ancient times, spices were also used in the embalming process.

After the crucifixion, you’ll remember that Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, who brought seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes to wrap within the linen burial strips (John 19:38-40).

Why would the same spices be used at Jesus’ death and at the great Wedding Supper yet to come?

 

marriage_supper

 

Bible teacher, Ray Stedman, explains: The resplendent wedding described in Psalm 45 is made possible by a death—the death of the Groom himself.  Only out of his death could come this glorious celebration. And now, the fragrance of his beauty is everywhere!

Have you ever hugged someone and then carried away with you the scent of that person’s cologne?

The aroma of Christ should cling to us just like that.

“Everywhere we go people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16, The Message).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Lord Jesus, I delight in the sweet fragrance of all your glorious attributes.  May my words and actions diffuse your exquisite fragrance of life, love and grace to everyone around me.

 

(Photo and art credits: http://www.saveourelms.com; http://www.footage.shuttershock.com; http://www.dwellingintheowrd.wordpress.com; http://www.divinerevelations.info.)

 

 

 

 

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“I even wash aluminum foil so I can use it again–if it’s not too messy,” joked a friend.  “My son makes fun of me, but that’s what my mother did, and I just picked up the habit.  Seems so wasteful to throw away a perfectly good piece of foil, just because it has a bit of goop on it.”

We were discussing the frugal habits passed down to us from our parents. They were children during the Great Depression, and learned to conserve, reuse, and make do.  Now, eighty years later, the effects of that difficult time are still impacting many of us today.

Might the same effect occur in the spiritual realm?  Might our spiritual habits not only impact those around us, but even generations to come?

Legacy-Postcard

An anonymous psalmist alluded to our long-reaching influence:  “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.  His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed…his righteousness endures forever” (Psalm 112:1-3).

James Moffatt (1870-1944), theologian and professor, also spoke poetically of our ongoing influence:  “Death is never the last word in the life of a…man. When a man leaves this world, be he righteous or unrighteous, he leaves something in the world. He may leave something that will grow and spread like a cancer or a poison, or he may leave something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty that permeates the atmosphere with blessing.”

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Who has left “something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty” in your life?  I am surrounded by the examples of:

  • my grandparents’ perseverance
  • my father’s wisdom
  • my mother’s resiliency
  • a favorite teacher’s sense of humor
  • a choir director’s positive attitude

To name a few.

When I was a small child, our family’s pastor called each of us girls “Little Miss Sunshine.”  I found myself trying to live up to the name.  Now, decades later, I still feel the influence of his affirmation.

As a teenager I benefited greatly from the examples of various youth sponsors.  One married couple in particular took me under their wings and mentored me.  Their example of integrity, service, and caring, lived out in a loving home, remain with me to this day.

And so many more!  We really are composites of the countless influences we’ve absorbed.

Now, it’s our turn to pass on a worthwhile legacy.  We mustn’t give in to the notion that Generations X and Y will always find us irrelevant.  One day they’ll realize older persons have the benefit of experience, and experience gives rise to wisdom.  And whether we are present on that day or not, our example will be.

Most of what they absorb will not be the words we have spoken.  They will remember our actions.  Kids watch and learn–sometimes intentionally, but most of the time not.

learning-by-observing

We are the ones who need to be intentional, living out a legacy of character and faith, to be a perfume of blessing.  If we do, the fragrance of our Christian maturity will permeate the atmosphere for years to come.

We can also be encouragers.  Others will remember positive affirmations.  At least one Little Miss Sunshine can attest to that.

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Please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!

(Photo credits:  www.jeaninemurk.com ; http://www.telegraph.co.uk ; http://www.inspiredwednesdays.blogspot.)

 

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“Oh no, Elena, you don’t want that,” I say to our one-year old granddaughter.  Obligingly she holds up to me a minuscule scrap of paper she’s found on the floor.  Thanks to much practice with Cheerios, her thumb and forefinger can pick up the tiniest items.

Elena and I are on an excursion through the living room and dining room.  From her jaunty steps, I can tell she’s loving the freedom to explore.  And I’m glad to provide the watchful eye she needs.

No sooner do I slip the paper into my pocket than her little hands are grabbing for a cell phone on a side table.  You wouldn’t think her arms are long enough to reach that far.  Daddy says she has the wingspan of a pterodactyl.

“I’m sorry, Elena,” I tell her.  “We’ll have to put that up here on the shelf.  Mommy’s phone isn’t a toy.”

I think she’s heard that before.  The removal of the phone doesn’t upset her; she just moves on. Quickly Elena toddles toward the living room fireplace where unlit candles stand in a decorative formation.  Not for long.  She grabs the chunky, center candle, clutches it to her chest, and proceeds on her way around the table.

“Let’s leave the candle here,” I say, gently prying it out of her fingers.  “If you drop that on your toes, it will hurt.”

I’m surprised Elena doesn’t become upset.  For a moment I think she’ll march on to other discoveries and leave the other candles in the fireplace.  Instead, she wastes no time turning around and heading back.  Soon there are five candles up on the table.

And so it goes as I tag along behind a toddler who knows very little, fears practically nothing, and desperately wants to be free and independent.  We adults must be attentive, instructive, and protective.

You know what?  There are times I’m not much more than a toddler in God’s family.  I, too, know very little, lack a healthy fear of those things that could hurt me, and struggle against the desire to be free and make my own choices.

Good thing I have a Heavenly Father who is so attentive.

“He who watches over [me] will not slumber” (Psalm 121:3).

My Heavenly Father is instructive.

“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (Psalm 25:9).  Key word:  humble.  I have to be accepting of instruction and willing to apply it.

My God is also protective.

“He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 144:2).

*     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *     *

Oh, Father, forgive me for the times I act like a toddler and take off on my own.  Thank you for your constant, watchful presence, for those times you’ve grabbed things from my grasp because you knew they were not in my best interest. Thank you for instructing me through your word and through wise, godly people.  Slowly but surely you have equipped me with the knowledge of your ways–ways that are good and right.  Then you’ve patiently trained me to follow those ways.  May my heart be set on keeping your decrees to the very end (Psalm 119:112)!

(Photo credit:  www.jamesgoldworthy.com.)

 

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