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Jesus, With His Father

The Gospel of John chapters 13-17 are particularly close to my heart. I have wondered what it would have been like to be in that room, at that table, and to have heard what Jesus was telling the disciples and to have seen what Jesus did.

Because I have the luxury of moving back and forth in scripture, reading about what took place in the past and knowing what is coming next, it is easy to forget that the disciples lived only in the moment. Also that, theirs was an oral society, so it would be easy to forget some of what Jesus said and did during the three years they followed him around Galilee and the surrounding countryside.

From John 13:1-14:3, we see Jesus doing an unexpected thing, telling his disciples some hard to understand things. Picking up at John 14:4, Jesus says, “You know the way to where I am going.”

“Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way? ” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you know Me, you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”

“Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves. John 14:4-11 HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Jesus reminded Philip and the other disciples there of times when he had spoken of and to his Father. Below are three familiar incidents that would much later be remembered and written for us to read.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21 NIV

At that time 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 infants. Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure.”

“All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.” Matthew 11:25-27 NIV

“But what about you?” he 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

Question: What do you think the word, “way” means? For Thomas it meant: What road are we taking to get to where you haven’t told us yet?

  • Take some time to think about what it means that Jesus is the “way”.
  • Also, think about what it means that “Jesus is In the Father and the Father is in him”
Jesus, With His Father2023-05-27T11:22:45-06:00

Child Dedication – Hannah and Samuel

I really enjoy the child dedications that take place periodically during the Sunday morning worship service. Watching parents bring their infants and young children up on the stage to be dedicated to the Lord in front of the whole congregation is a joyful time for me. Especially as not only the parents and pastor are part of the dedication, so are we in the congregation as we are given the opportunity to commit to helping each family raise their children, ”…in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” (Ephesians 6:4), as nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders and friends.

It brings to mind the story in 1 Samuel 1:1-28 which took place about 1100 years before Jesus was born. It tells about a man called Elkanah, who had two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Hannah had no children. Peninnah had several sons and daughters.

Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there. When Elkanah sacrificed, he passed helpings from the sacrificial meal around to his wife Peninnah and all her children, but he always gave an especially generous helping to Hannah because he loved her so much, and because God had not given her children. But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.

Her husband Elkanah said, “Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?” 1 Samuel 1:3-8 MSG

So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow:

Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
By giving me a son,
I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you.
I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline. 1 Samuel 1:9-11

It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He approached her and said, “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!”

Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman brokenhearted. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.” Eli answered her, “Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.”  1 Samuel 1:12-17

Up before dawn, they worshiped God and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah, his wife, and God began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked. Before the year was out, Hannah had conceived and given birth to a son. She named him Samuel, explaining, “I asked God for him.”  1 Samuel 1:19-20

When Elkanah next took his family on their annual trip to Shiloh to worship God, offering sacrifices and keeping his vow, Hannah didn’t go. She told her husband, “After the child is weaned, I’ll bring him myself and present him before God—and that’s where he’ll stay, for good.” Elkanah said to his wife, “Do what you think is best. Stay home until you have weaned him. Yes! Let God complete what he has begun!”

So she did. She stayed home and nursed her son until she had weaned him. Then she took him up to Shiloh, bringing also the makings of a generous sacrificial meal—a prize bull, flour, and wine. The child was so young to be sent off!

They first butchered the bull, then brought the child to Eli. Hannah said, “Excuse me, sir. Would you believe that I’m the very woman who was standing before you at this very spot, praying to God? I prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for. And now I have dedicated him to God. He’s dedicated to God for life.” Then and there, they worshiped.  1 Samuel 1:21-28

There is more to this story. Hannah never forgot Samuel. Before the next year’s trip to Shiloh, she worked on a new larger tunic that she could take to him. I can imagine her praying for him the whole time as she did it. See, 1 Samuel 2:18-21

Over the years I have been given the opportunity to pray for specific children in different families, bohth here and out of state. How about talking to the Sunday school and youth group leaders and offering to do that for families who would welcome prayer for their children?

Child Dedication – Hannah and Samuel2023-05-13T10:24:22-06:00

Paul’s Recommendations for Widows

The verses I’m writing about this week are 1 Corinthians 7:39-40, which state part of Paul’s advice regarding marriage. I usually check different Bible versions to find one that might express the scripture clearly in a slightly unfamiliar way. This might give distinctive perspectives for a woman whose husband dies. These four versions do that for me.

A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 7:39-40 NIV

A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord. But in my opinion it would be better for her to stay single, and I think I am giving you counsel from God’s Spirit when I say this.
1 Corinthians 7:39-40 NLT

A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgment she is more blessed if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.1 Corinthians 7:39-40 NRSV

A wife must stay with her husband as long as he lives. If he dies, she is free to marry anyone she chooses. She will, of course, want to marry a believer and have the blessing of the Master. By now you know that I think she’ll be better off staying single. The Master, in my opinion, thinks so, too. 1 Corinthians 7:39-40 MSG

Paul covers a lot of subjects in 1 Corinthians 7, and these two verses are no exception. What is common to all four versions is the statement that the woman, after the death of her husband, “is free to marry anyone”, provided that the man is a believer who belongs to and loves the Lord. However, Paul presents another option which he strongly recommends as coming from his understanding of the Spirit of God. She is also free to choose to remain single.

An example of a single woman who may have been a widow, and a group of women who may have included some widows is found in Acts 16:12-15

From there we [Paul and Silas] reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.

On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

It appears that Lydia was a woman of independent means, possibly having inherited the business and was highly esteemed in the community. Paul and Silas respected her, too.

Acts 16:16-39 tells the story, familiar to most of us, of Paul and Silas being imprisoned in Philippi.

When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town. Acts 16:40 NLT

There are other stories of faithful women mentioned in the Bible. Take some time this week to read about: Anna, an elderly widow prophetess, Luke 2:36-38, and Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas) Acts 9:36-42. It doesn’t say if she is a widow or not, but she is described as, ”a believer who was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor”.

Paul’s Recommendations for Widows2023-04-29T23:58:30-06:00

Praying Psalm 139 for Me and You

During the fall of 2011 through spring of 2012, I had the privilege of being on a pastoral search team. As the resumes came in, we prayed for each as a group as well as by ourselves at home. As I read each resume, and when I got to watch the person preach online, I asked the Lord how to pray for them from what he knew of them. He brought to mind Psalm 139, which has been a life psalm for me, because it reminds me of all that God knows about me, inside and out.

Then He would give me an idea of how I can pray for others in ways that reminds me of how he knows them in all the ways I cannot.

Because I am showing the method that was brought to my mind to use, I won’t present the whole psalm. There are, I think, six sections to the psalm:

  1. Introduction to God’s knowing me, vs 1-4;
  2. Impossibility of escaping his care vs 5-12;
  3. His creation of me, vs 13-16;
  4. His thoughts toward me, vs17-18:
  5. My hatred of wickedness, vs 19-22: and
  6. A request, vs 23-24.

So I will give the lead verse 7or each.

In order to facilitate the method, I wrote the whole Psalm 139 NIV, out like this: `

You have searched _____, Lord, and you know ____.
You know when ______ sits and when ____ rise[s];
you perceive ______ thoughts from afar.
You discern ______ going out and _____ lying down;
you are familiar with all ____ ways.
Before a word is on _____ tongue
You, Lord, know it completely.
You hem ____ in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon ____.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for ____,
to lofty for ____ to attain. Psalm 139:1-4 NIV

Where can ___ go from your Spirit?
Where can ____ flee from your presence? v 7

For you created ____ inmost being;
you knit ____ together in _____ mother’s womb. v 13

How precious to ____ are your thoughts, God!
vast the sum of them. v 17

If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from ____, you who are blood thirsty! v 19

Search ____, God, and know ___ heart;
Test ____and know ___ anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in ___,
and lead ___ in the way everlasting. vs 23-24

Then I typed it out, changing the verbs from 1st person to 3rd person as needed (i.e., in verse 1 from rise to rises). I made multiple copies for my use as I prayed for the candidates. I also use it to pray for my family and friends, church staff, elders and missionaries. I write each person’s name in the first space on the first verse and sometimes elsewhere in the psalm, and use the appropriate pronouns in the other spaces.

I find now that I often start praying for people using this method, even if I don’t write their names on the form. I am reminded each time of all God knows about them – that I can’t possibly – and it frees me to commit them to his knowledge, care and love for them.  

I’ve also found that praying other psalms (even hymns that are written in first person), can be changed to the name of someone else.  Try it with Psalm 23. One of my favorite hymns for this is “Be Thou My (___) Vision”.  It’s a joy to sing it as a prayer for someone.

Praying Psalm 139 for Me and You2023-04-22T14:42:40-06:00

Singleness or Marriage, God Given Options

They shot back in rebuttal, “If that’s so, why did Moses give instructions for divorce papers and divorce procedures?”

Jesus said, “Moses provided for divorce as a concession to your hard heartedness, but it is not part of God’s original plan. I’m holding you to the original plan, and holding you liable for adultery if you divorce your faithful wife and then marry someone else. I make an exception in cases where the spouse has committed adultery.”

Jesus’ disciples objected, “If those are the terms of marriage, we haven’t got a chance. Why get married?”

But Jesus said, “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone. Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked — or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you’re capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.” Matthew 19:7-12 MSG

I can only imagine what it must have been like before there were chapter and verse divisions in scripture, as well as the bold print titles of subject shifts in each chapter. In Matthew 19 the shift from divorce, to little children, to the rich young ruler, to reward for those who give up everything to follow Jesus, is a bit too condensed.

I often wish I could have seen how Jesus related to people and heard his voice as he responded to questions. Also I would have wanted more in-depth examples of, in this case, the value of both marriage and singleness.

In my extended family there are examples of marriage and both the singleness of choice and the singleness of widowhood.

My maternal grandmother, born in 1884, got married when she was 30. She was widowed at age 53 and continued single until she died a few weeks short of age 99. She was active in her Methodist church and was partly responsible for raising my sister and me.

My maternal aunt Carol, my mother’s sister, was a “maiden lady” who lived with our grandmother. She worked in several positions for 35 years at Mountain Bell Telephone Company. She also taught children at their Methodist church. At the deaths of our parents she was the legal guardian of my sister and me, even though I lived with family in a different state. Both our grandmother and aunt Carol had a great influence on our lives.

Regardless of whether we get married or continue as a single person, there are foundational scriptural directions for how we are to live our lives as people who call on the name of Jesus as Savior and Lord:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 NIV

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, “Follow me.”

Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, “Master, what’s going to happen to him?” Jesus said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You — follow me.” John 21:20-23 NIV

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 NIV

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NIV

Together with me, ponder and practice these directions for walking in the way of Jesus with his heart.

Singleness or Marriage, God Given Options2023-04-15T08:25:41-06:00

Those Who Have Gone Before

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

April 2nd, which was on Palm Sunday this year, has deep significance for me. This year it is the 15th “anniversary” of my husband Phil’s home going to be with Jesus. In 2008, Easter Sunday was March 23, the earliest that it will be again until 2160.

The weeks leading up to Easter had been eventful for us. Phil turned 71 on February 26. Our 43rd wedding anniversary was March 12, which we celebrated with a weekend trip to our favorite inn in Estes Park.

Back then, Palm Sunday, March 16th was the start of Holy Week, and we helped set up “Expressions of Easter” in the Worship Center. During that week, the community was invited to walk through an experience of the road to the cross leading up to Good Friday.

On Saturday, we were part of the large crew who cleared the worship center to prepare for Easter Morning. A treasured memory for me from that time is watching Phil and a teenage friend of ours walking together with an arm over each other’s shoulder as they enjoyed a good talk – age and youth delighting in their friendship.

Easter Sunday has been a celebration of Christ’s resurrection and the promise of life in Him now and when He comes again. After Phil had welcomed people in the Fellowship area, he joined me with the team in the sound booth for both Easter services. We had dinner later at the home of some dear friends.

On Tuesday, April 1, 2008, Phil woke up so weak he could barely crawl. An ambulance took him to the closest hospital, which was Porter, and he died at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 2nd. He was diagnosed as having pneumonia with septicemia that had ravaged his whole body. – no warning, no previous indications.

As one who has experienced a lot of death in my own family and, as a long time part of the sound tech team, I have had the privilege of helping with many memorial services. Some of these were for people I didn’t know, and many were people who were friends. The memorials consisted of people of all ages. I still have most of the bulletins from those services, and occasionally look through them to remember the people and their stories.

Hebrews 11 and 12 tell about “heroes” of the faith who believed God’s promises and looked forward to what they didn’t get to experience in their lifetime. They are called “a great cloud of witnesses”. Paul also expresses his hope in 2 Timothy 1:8-12

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

Take time in the coming days and weeks to savor the memory of Easter and Christ’s promise to us of resurrection when he returns. In the process of looking forward to that day, grow in living daily with the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit .

Those Who Have Gone Before2023-04-09T12:12:26-06:00

Perseverance in Spite of Discouragement

This message for all the people of Judah came to Jeremiah from the Lord during the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign over Judah. This was the year when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon began his reign. Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people in Judah and Jerusalem, “For the past twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, until now—the Lord has been giving me his messages. I have faithfully passed them on to you, but you have not listened. Jeremiah 25:1-3 NLT

During the fourth year that Jehoiakim son of Josiah was king in Judah, the Lord gave this message to Jeremiah: “Get a scroll, and write down all my messages against Israel, Judah, and the other nations. Begin with the first message back in the days of Josiah, and write down every message, right up to the present time. Perhaps the people of Judah will repent when they hear again all the terrible things I have planned for them. Then I will be able to forgive their sins and wrongdoings.”

So Jeremiah sent for Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated all the prophecies that the Lord had given him, Baruch wrote them on a scroll. Jeremiah 36:1-4

I researched scrolls and found that at the time mentioned above they would have been papyrus sections that were about 10 inches high and glued together into a length of up to 30 feet. They were rolled lengthwise around 2 pieces of wood. Writing would be in columns from top to bottom from right to left, and would be read as the papyrus was rolled off of the left stick and rolled up on the right. I can only imagine the amount of time and effort it took to complete the whole process.

It had to be very discouraging for Jeremiah when all that God had given him to warn the people about came true in the first invasion when Nebuchadnezzar took many, including Ezekiel, Daniel and others, to exile in Babylon. Although there were those who had listened and believed what God had said, the majority had not. And still those left in Jerusalem didn’t listen to God’s message through Jeremiah. All that changed, were the people in charge.

The following message came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah. This was also the eighteenth year of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem was then under siege from the Babylonian army, and Jeremiah was imprisoned in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace. King Zedekiah had put him there, asking why he kept giving this prophecy: “This is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will take it. King Zedekiah will be captured by the Babylonians and taken to meet the king of Babylon face to face. He will take Zedekiah to Babylon, and I will deal with him there,’ says the Lord. ‘If you fight against the Babylonians, you will never succeed.’” Jeremiah 32:1-5

When I think of all that is available in the Bible and how easily I can move from Genesis to Revelation to see and hear from God his desires for me in both love and discipline, I wonder why I am so slow to live into what he calls me to be and do. These weeks of study in Jeremiah have given me a new perspective on Hebrews 11:1, “ Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

As we move toward Good Friday, take time to ponder and be encouraged by the faithfulness and perseverance of Jeremiah and how his life points us to our savior, Jesus Christ.

Perseverance in Spite of Discouragement2023-04-01T22:45:33-06:00

The Potter and God’s Process

God told Jeremiah, “Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.”

So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot.

Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?” God’s Decree! “Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, people of Israel.

At any moment I may decide to pull up a people or a country by the roots and get rid of them. But if they repent of their wicked lives, I will think twice and start over with them. At another time I might decide to plant a people or country, but if they don’t cooperate and won’t listen to me, I will think again and give up on the plans I had for them.”

“So, tell the people of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem my Message: ‘Danger! I’m shaping doom against you, laying plans against you. Turn back from your doomed way of life. Straighten out your lives.’”

“But they’ll just say, ‘Why should we? What’s the point? We’ll live just the way we’ve always lived, doom or no doom.’” Jeremiah 18:1-12 MSG

I wondered why God would tell Jeremiah to go watch the potter at his craft before he gave his warning message through Jeremiah to the people of Israel about the consequences of their continued rebellion against him. I don’t know much about making pottery (though I have some lovely pieces hand made by some friends), so I looked for information. I found a lot of tutorials on Youtube that won my appreciation of the time consuming process of preparing clay, the precision involved in centering clay on the wheel and the craft of shaping it with the careful pressure and movement of the potter’s hands.

However, for the purposes of this devotional, the best information I found was in these two books: Run With the Horses, Eugene Peterson’s book on Jeremiah (referring to Jeremiah 12:5), and A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer by W. Phillip Keller. Each of them has chapters on the potter’s house, the potter, and the importance of pottery, and the value of the metaphor as it points to how God desires to shape and mold us into the image of Christ.

Eugene Peterson points out how revolutionary the invention of pottery was to the ancient way of life. For centuries nomadic people had to constantly move around in search of food and water for their families and herds, because they had minimal ways of carrying food and water with them. When pottery became available, it was possible to safely store grain and carry water. It also contributed to people being able to stay in one place near a source of water, and grow and store their own food.

In his chapter on “In Earth, as it is in Heaven”, W. Phillip Keller describes his visit to a primitive potter’s little house in Pakistan. He and a missionary friend were shown the complete process: from reaching down into a pit for a suitable handful of clay, kneading it into pliability, placing it precisely on a heavy round stone and shaping it as a beautiful goblet.

Keller was deeply impacted throughout the experience about how, in each part of the process, God brought to his mind scriptures from the Psalms, the Lord’s prayer, and Jeremiah, that searched his own heart and soul. Particularly telling was when the potter’s hands began to feel resistance in the clay from minute bits of sand which ultimately destroyed the original design and necessitated making something different from the same clay.

A question for each of us: how resistant am I to God’s molding and shaping process in my life? Join me as we each ponder this question and ask God what he desires to do in our lives. Also, I recommend both of the books as additional encouragement in the process.

The Potter and God’s Process2023-03-25T08:58:34-06:00

A Case for Lament

Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.  Jeremiah 9:1 NIV

This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them.
Let them come quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears and water streams from our eyelids.

The sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
‘How ruined we are! How great is our shame!
We must leave our land because our houses are in ruins.’ ”

Now, you women, hear the word of the Lord; open your ears to the words of his mouth.
Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament.
Death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses;
it has removed the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares.  Jeremiah 9:17-21 NIV

The kind of lament described above, isn’t familiar to most of us in this country. Until I researched it, I didn’t know that people (usually women, in certain cultures), were trained to be lamenter/wailers. They were to be available to grieve with people who had experienced loss of something or someone.

For many of us, it is hard to freely express our grief openly. I have been grateful for this church community and the help I’ve received during a number of deaths in my family. I am also grateful for books I have been given and for support groups that are available, to enable people to share in each other’s griefs and struggles. I could have used help with more than one loss, particularly when I was a child.

I’ve mentioned before that because of a physical illness that our parents had (which meant that we had to be isolated from them periodically), my sister and I were moved around among different family members a number of times from our infancy on. Sometimes these moves included my younger sister and me, but sometimes, we were split up to live with different sides of the family. I am fourteen months older than my sister, and it was easier for some of the relatives to have us one at a time rather than together.

Our father died when I was four and my sister was three. When our mother got well, we were moved to live with her, her sister and their mother in New Mexico.

When I was 10, our mother got sick again. In the spring of 1953, because it was easier to isolate one of us while our grandmother was nursing Mom, my sister remained in New Mexico, and I was sent to live with our father’s sister and her husband in Denver,.

I turned 11 in August of 1953 and Mom died in November. We had been getting progress reports via daily postcards up until the phone rang at 9:30 one night, I remember saying, “Mom’s gone!”. I couldn’t cry for weeks. My aunt wasn’t very concerned, but my uncle was, and he resorted to a ruse to help me.

My aunt in New Mexico had sent a card with a $5.00 bill in it. There had been 2 of them in Mom’s purse. My sister and I each got one. I saved mine for weeks. My uncle rushed in one morning and asked if he could borrow it as he needed to pay the paper boy. I gave it to him, but said that it was the last thing I had from Mom. I started to cry, and cried for a long time that day. After that, every time I started to cry, my aunt would ask, “What are you blubbering about?” or threaten me with, ”I’ll give you something to cry about!” I learned to stuff my grief around everybody.

I still am more apt to cry for joy than for my own grief. I am learning that Jesus shares my sorrow and that he is safe to cry with.

Do any of you reading this relate? Ponder Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I recommend Darrell W. Johnson’s book, The Beatitudes: Living in Sync with the Reign of God.

A Case for Lament2023-03-18T23:53:59-06:00

God Forsaken – God Remembered

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord,

I remember [earnestly] the lovingkindness and devotion of your youth, Your time of betrothal [like that of a bride during the early years in Egypt and again at Sinai], When you followed Me in the wilderness, Through a land not sown. Israel was holy [something set apart from ordinary purposes, consecrated] to the Lord, The first fruits of His harvest [in which no outsider was allowed to share]….’”
Jeremiah 2:1-3 AMP

,,,, This is what the Lord says:

“What fault did your ancestors find in me, that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.
They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt
and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and ravines,
a land of drought and utter darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’
I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce.
But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable.
The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’
Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.” Jeremiah 2:4-8 NIV

Looking at a chart of the kings of Judah and Israel, only 7 in Judah did what was right in God’s eyes. Three, one of which was Solomon, started well when they were young, but did evil as they grew older.

The United Kingdom was split after Solomon’s reign into Judah in the south and Israel in the north. Thirteen of the kings in Judah did evil, and all 19 in Israel did evil. Along with the priests and prophets who deceived the people with pleasing words (living under such leadership for so many years), it is not surprising that the majority of the people refused to listen, much less desire to change, as a result of God’s warnings to them through Jeremiah.

I can barely imagine how it grieved God to see his people continually slide into evil, rejecting his continuing effort to draw them close to himself in covenant fellowship and love.

In Ezekiel 33:11 NIV, God says,

”Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back (change your way of thinking), turn back [in repentance] from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?”

And Jesus as he wept over the city:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37 NIV

Let’s take time as we study Jeremiah to learn from his interaction with God and what God told him to say about how to draw close to God in our own lives. Psalm 1 is a good reminder of how to focus on remaining in God’s love and care.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. Psalm 1:1-6

God Forsaken – God Remembered2023-03-04T11:24:04-07:00
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