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A God Who Grieves

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth and He was grieved at heart.

So the Lord said, “I will destroy, blot out and wipe away mankind from the face of the ground; not only man, but the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air, for it grieves and makes Me regretful that I have made them.

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Noah was a just and righteous man, blameless in his (evil) generation; Noah walked in habitual fellowship with God. (Genesis 6;5-9b Amplified)

There is no record of how long it was between Genesis 1:31 when God saw everything he made and it was very good and Genesis 6;5, but a lot of changes went on in the lives of Adam’s “family line”. (Genesis 5;1-32) People lived a long time and “had many sons and daughters”.

Genesis 6-9 gives the account of Noah, his family, the ark, the flood and its aftermath. It is beyond imagining that God would not grieve at the death of so many people and so much of what he had created and declared good. His desire was for a relationship with mankind and a shared joy in all of his creation. Over and over God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness had been rejected. ( Psalm 78) is a recap of the Exodus for the next generation with the intent that they would not be like their stubborn and rebellious ancestors who had grieved the Lord God in the wilderness.

What the Lord really desires is expressed in (Ezekiel 33;10-11) Son of man say to the Israelites,’ This is what YOU are saying: “Our offenses and sins are weighing us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?’ “Say to them, As surely as I live, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways ! Why will you die, people of Israel?”

Right now I’m tired. I’ve looked at so many scriptures trying to decide on one to both admonish and encourage us in our walk with our Lord Jesus. I believe (1 John) is the one I am to read, ponder and share with you. It gently, but firmly reminds me to be honest with God and be aware of what can distract me from loving and living in Jesus. Join me in reading this love letter from John. And let us pray for each other as we read.

A God Who Grieves2022-03-29T07:50:07-06:00

Dealing With Anger Intelligently

Abel was a herdsman and Cain was a farmer. Time passed. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering did not get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk. God spoke to Cain: “Why this tantrum? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.” Cain had words with his brother. They were out in the field; Cain came at his brother and killed him. God said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain said, “How should I know? Am I his babysitter?” God said, “What have you done! The voice of your brother’s blood is calling me from the ground. From now on you’ll get nothing but curses from this ground; you’ll be driven from this ground that has opened its arms to receive the blood of your murdered brother. (Genesis 2b-11 MSG)

This is a heartbreaking story about the results of the first biblical family’s broken relationship with God and the resultant broken relationships with each other. There are so many “firsts” in this story: Adam and Eve became the first to wait for the birth of a child. Eve was the first to experience the pain of childbirth and the wonder of a new life in the baby, Cain. Adam and Eve became the first parents of one child, then of two when Abel was born. And Cain and Abel became the first siblings.

What we don’t get to know is the daily interactions of this first family. Given all that went on in Genesis 3, what might have Adam and Eve’s attitude been toward each other, toward God and toward their children? Might there have been bickering? Perhaps favoritism shown, or competition between the boys that led to hidden anger in Cain? What kind of relationship to God was mirrored in the parents? There’s no way to know.

Both young men brought an offering to God. Cain brought some produce from his farm, and Abel brought choice cuts of meat from the first-born of his herd. Resentment and anger hardened Cain’s heart toward Abel and, in spite of God’s warning, he commits the first murder by killing Abel. Although he carries the consequences of his actions, God puts a mark on him to protect him from being killed.

As I read these first four chapters in Genesis and continue on through scriptural history and world history, I grieve. As I see what is happening in our world right now, I grieve. I don’t think I am alone, I think many of us grieve together.
During this time of Lent, in preparation for the events of Easter, I need to look deeply into myself and ask our Lord God if I’m harboring any resentment, anger or bitterness toward him or anyone. Join me in reading Psalm 51, Psalm 139 and John 3:16-21 during this time. Offer yourself and each other in prayer to God.

Dealing With Anger Intelligently2022-03-21T07:43:10-06:00

Naked and Unashamed

Then God said,”Let us make man in our own 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)

But for Adam, no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep and while he was sleeping, he took one of his ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:20b-25)

Although verse 25 speaks particularly about their physical appearance, I believe it also refers to their relationship with the Lord God and with each other. There is no need to hide their thoughts or be careful of their words because there was nothing that had to be kept secret -– complete transparency.

I wish I didn’t have to drop down half of an inch in my bible from verse 25 to chapter 3, because it would be so grand to believe that Genesis 1 and 2 lasted, but the events in chapter 3 happened and the fallout continues.

I was raised by various relatives, on both sides of my family, who had been brought up under the weight of shame. Not anything specifically bad, but the shame of not measuring up to expectations. Some of it came from parents, some from siblings, and some, sad to say, from their churches. Duty and rules were the measurements of value and approval. I may have missed it, but I don’t remember actually hearing “I love you” from any of those who were directly involved with me.

About 40 years ago, two things happened that helped me get over the “shame” of seeking help to deal with my own fallout from my raising. First, I received some God-inspired wise words from my 13 year old daughter, “Mom, we want to become what you want us to, but it will come from the inside of us or not at all. And you get certain expressions on your face and tones in your voice and we shut you out!” The second was the movie, “ET”, in which I saw myself as that little, abandoned creature who tried so hard to belong. I cried through the whole movie. The next day I scheduled a counseling appointment with one of our pastors. After I told my story, crying most of the way through, the pastor said to me, “Carolyn, what I’m hearing is that to get any kind of love at all, you’ve had to perform more than adequately, and when you got close to succeeding, they changed the bar.” And then he said what I had said to others, but never heard for myself—“You need to remember, Carolyn, that God loves you because he does, no performance required.” That was the start of my healing.”

How about you? Does some part of my story relate in any way with yours? Do you need to hear for yourself that God loves you, no performance required? There is help for you individually and in support groups. Read and soak in 1 John 4:7-21.

Naked and Unashamed2022-03-14T08:25:17-06:00

Learning To Be Content

…I have learned how to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need. I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose – I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.] (Philippians 4:11b-13 The Amplified Bible)

Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)

Paul’s words, “I have learned to be content” had locked themselves in my mind 40 years ago. As I’ve pondered his words and read lists of the different circumstances that he lived through before he wrote the letter to the Philippians, I am in awe that he could say that. Especially, since in Acts 9:15 Jesus tells Ananias that, “I will show him, Saul (Paul) how much he must suffer for my name.” So Paul not only experienced suffering as it came; he was shown beforehand what to expect.

While “I have learned” appears as a past tense and gives the impression that he has mastered , “contentment/sufficiency in Christ”, what I see is that for him it is: I have, I am, and I will be continuing to learn to be content as I am strengthened in Christ.

So, how about me? How can I learn to be content in the needs, desires, and circumstances of my life? I find encouragement in Apostle Paul’s message, “Not that I’ve already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12). Jesus’ call on my life is simply to follow him!

For a long time, one of my favorite scriptures has been Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself also in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”. Over the years I have come to realize that if I am delighting in the Lord, the Lord IS the desire of my heart! Then I begin to learn and live into the desires of his heart.

Each morning, along with the Lord’s prayer, I sing a little prayer that came from Richard of Chichester in the thirteenth century. “Day by day, day by day, O, dear Lord three things I pray: To see thee more clearly; Love thee more dearly; Follow thee more nearly, Day by day,

What about you? What can you do to learn to be content in Christ’s sufficiency in your daily life? Take some time and read Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Write down what you see as encouragement from Paul’s life to yours in learning how to be content.

Learning To Be Content2022-03-08T21:32:24-07:00

Where’s Your Safe Place?

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV)

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. (Psalm 139:1-4 NIV)

I’ve mentioned before my frustration at how compressed scripture is. Years pass in a verse or two or maybe part of a chapter. The dailiness of our lives and the emotions that fill them as we grow from infancy to adult to old age just don’t happen that briefly.

When I read the stories of people in scripture, I often try to enter into their experiences and feelings. A phrase here and there catches my attention and I relate to something with them. This week I entered into Hagar’s experiences in Genesis 16: 6b-9 and 13. Hagar is a slave who is mistreated by her mistress Sarai until she runs away. The angel of the Lord lets her know that the Lord knows her misery. She is to go back and submit to her mistress. In verse 13, Hagar gives the lord the name that means, “You are the God who sees me.” In Genesis 21, Hagar and her son are gotten rid of by Sarah’s orders. God hears both Hagar and her son crying and opens her eyes to see his provision.

As a child I was passed around amongst several family members. I was useful because I could work hard. The last couple that took me, verbally abused me. It was there that I learned to conceal my feelings.

Looking back, I see now how God kept me from running away and protected me. His provisions enabled me to stick it out until I could legally move away. It takes a long time to see some things as “gifts” for a lifetime.

Suppressed emotions eventually come out. Mine started to boil over when I was about 39. I felt the need to be in control of how my family and I appeared as Christians to the outside world. My attitude, words, and actions were damaging the relationships with people I loved most.

One morning, after my family were off to work and school, I had a temper tantrum that precipitated from pulling a stuff-filled cabinet drawer out too far causing the contents to dump all over the kitchen floor! I screamed. I remember suddenly feeling a sensation of being held gently, but too firm to struggle loose. I knew it was Jesus holding me. No words, no condemnation, just held. I felt safe! I have had other occasional episodes of temper tantrums, but they are still kept safe in Jesus, so they won’t cause damage elsewhere.

The above scriptures are life-giving to me, because God knows me so completely that I don’t have to hide from him. Jesus has experienced it all so I know I can safely bring my emotions directly to God’s throne and receive loving mercy and enabling grace.

What about you? Do you have a safe place where you can express your emotions
without causing damage to others? Go to Jesus. Talk to him. Listen to him. Trust him.
Perhaps write a prayer or a psalm to let God know your feelings.

Where’s Your Safe Place?2022-02-25T08:53:03-07:00

Deliver Us

“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive have also forgiven us our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6: 9-15 NIV)

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you to be strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no weekend war that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. (Ephesians 6:10-12 MSG)

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an ‘indispensable’ weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. (Ephesians 6:13-18 MSG)

Over many years of studying and pondering The Lord’s Prayer and Ephesians 6:10-18, I’ve realized something that can happen when we become accustomed to a particular way of viewing them: The Lord’s Prayer is so familiar and is said on such a variety of occasions that it is easy to lose sight of how much it covers in our relationship with God, his otherness, and his knowledge and care for us and our needs.

Ephesians 6:10-18 is many times called the “Armor of God”. It is easy to assume that it is something we can put on from the outside in order to stand strong in the Lord. Armor was part of the culture during the time Paul wrote that description, but progressively I have come to see each “piece” as a description of Jesus, himself, and to believe that it is nurtured from within us, where the Holy Spirit of truth, whom the Father sent to live in us (John14:15-17), and The Father and Jesus (John 14:23-27) makes their home with us.

In John 17:14-15, Jesus is praying for his disciples and he says, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they aren’t of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”

Ephesians 6:10-12 reminds us that we are on a battlefield and that the weapons we need are the ones God gives us in Jesus. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation (the word “salvation” means “deliverance”). Most especially they are the Word, both the written word and the Living Word, Jesus.

Set aside some time each day this week to think about how God delivers you from the evil one by supplying the “weapons” he has given you to strengthen you in him from the inside (heart, mind, and soul) to the outside in your relationships and actions in the world.

Deliver Us2022-02-14T13:38:33-07:00

As We Forgive Our Debtors

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:9a-10,12)

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You won’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. (Matthew 6:14-15 MSG)

When I go to Our Father in heaven to ask him to forgive my debts, some of them are specific to my relationship with him. These may include not obeying a direct command to do something or not do something.

Sometimes it is my debt to my family, friends, or neighbor for something I did or said that caused them pain. I need to go and ask their forgiveness before coming to Our Father to ask him to forgive me (Matthew 5:23-24).

Forgiving is hard when someone has done something to wound me, my family, or someone else I love. Especially when there is no desire on their part to acknowledge what they did. All too often the pain becomes resentment and bitterness which ultimately affects more than just that relationship.

My aunt (my father’s sister) who raised me after my parents died, had a lifetime of bitter resentment against her father which caused issues within the family and had consequences with her physical health. In my adulthood, the last conversation I had with her, she mentioned that the next day would be the 21st anniversary of her father’s death and how she still couldn’t think of him without bitterness. I said, “Aunt, you are too grand of a woman to continue letting this poison you! It’s time to let it go!” We ended our conversation at about 7:30 p.m. At 4:00 a.m. the phone rang and my husband answered. He told him she was having a heart spell and the ambulance was at the door to take her to the hospital. He said we’d come as soon as we could. At 6:00 a.m. the hospital called to say she had died.

My husband said that when he hung up the phone with her that he had never heard her sound so good. The hope that hugs my heart is, maybe between the time we talked and when she died, she released it all and herself into our Father’s hands.

When I am tempted to hang on to a grievance, there are several ways I provide a visual for releasing the person or situation into Our Father’s hands: Sometimes I draw a cross and a prayer to remind me of what Jesus has done for us all (Isaiah 53) and I have also pulled up a weed from my garden and pinned it on my kitchen bulletin board to watch it shrivel and die as a reminder to not let bitterness take root in my mind and heart.

What might you use as a creative visual to encourage forgiveness for someone in your life?

As We Forgive Our Debtors2022-02-05T11:11:42-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Friday

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:9-11 NIV)

Then Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to Heaven, thanked God, broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. (Mark 6:41 Phillips)

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying,”Take and eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26 NIV)

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:28-31 NIV)

In my Google search on Jesus praying as recorded in scripture, the estimate is between 25 and 36 times. And about half of those prayers were when he was touching and giving thanks for food, specifically bread. Bread was necessary for the nourishment of people, but it was also symbolic of God’s loving provision for daily physical needs as well as for mental and spiritual ones, which includes being thankful.

What might we be thankful for as we consider God’s provision of food for our bodies? It might be gratitude for the intricate internal system that makes it possible for what we eat to be broken down into nutrients that get moved by the bloodstream to our brain, heart, lungs and extremities. Thank the Lord God, that we are …fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14b).

We can be thankful for God’s provision for our mental and spiritual needs, too, through the scriptures that correct and encourage us.

Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—-his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

The picture hangs on the wall above my kitchen sink. It is a gentle reminder of
“Give us this day our daily bread.” As you look at it, think of the ways God provides for your various needs. Thank God for each one.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Friday2022-02-04T11:25:54-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Thursday

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9b-13 NIV)

Think of yourself the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God, but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave – became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless life and then died a selfless, obedient death (and the worst kind of death at that) — crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth (even those long ago dead and buried) will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all to the glorious honor of God the Father.
(Philippians 2: 9-11 MSG)

Of all the collections of His teachings, I think the Lord’s prayer is the most significant because Jesus gives us the privilege of sharing his Father with him and he also includes us in praying for God’s kingdom coming to earth. The word “kingdom” implies a king and a king is a ruler. A ruler has the right and authority to tell the people in his kingdom what to do and how to do it. So what is this king like?

The first mention in the New Testament of Jesus as King is when the Magi come from the east looking for, “the one who has been born King of the Jews.” (Matthew 2:2 MSG). Philippians 2:9-11(MSG), the scripture mentioned above is key to my wonder and understanding of Jesus’s character as King. His coming to earth as a child is a reminder of his humility.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began to teach his disciples how different the kingdom of God will look from what was happening in their world at the time (Matthew 5). Jesus through the written word continues to do the same for us as we live in and carry him out into the world of our time. As you pray the first couple of lines of the Lord’s prayer and read the Philippians verses, ponder what Jesus, the King, was willing to become for you.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Thursday2022-01-24T08:28:39-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 3 | Tuesday

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name’”
Matthew 6:9a

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 little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you are pleased to do.”
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Matthew 11: 25-26

Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
John 17:1b-3

“All I have is yours and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” John: 17: 10-11

The Aramaic “street language” word that Jesus used to start this prayer is “Abba” which describes an intimate relationship with his father. Sometimes “abba” has been referred to as “daddy” because of the affectionate intimacy it implies. There are varying opinions as to whether or not ”Daddy” is a correct use of the word.

The word, “Father” can have a difficult association for some of us. Memories of a not-so-great relationship with our own father intrude when we are told to think of and pray to God as Father.

My father had to live apart from my sister and I because of a debilitating physical disease that required isolation and prevented the contact he so wanted with us. He died when I was four years old. Although I never really got to know him except from what other people told me about him, I have this one treasured memory of him that makes me love the word “Father.”

The word that grabs me is “Our”. Jesus shares his Father with us. Perhaps that is the meaning of the intimate, “Abba,”! Jesus isn’t clutching his Father to himself, but wants us to learn to know the love of his Father and he wants us to learn to love his Father with him. We are invited to be included in God’s family with Jesus.

What do you think about and how do you feel when you hear, “Our Father,”? Neither Jesus nor his Father condemn us for our struggles. We can come honestly and ask for help in changing our perspective and learning to receive their love. Go back through the above scriptures. Ask Jesus to help you see and relate to his Father as he does.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 3 | Tuesday2022-01-13T07:58:54-07:00
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