Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Have you heard?

A big truck rumbles by, the vibrations shake the house, and you wonder if it was a small earthquake. Sometimes you feel just a thump, or a short rumble, but you know instantly, because you felt a jolt in your abdomen, that it was a real earthquake, however small or far away.

The week before I moved away from southern California (five miles from the San Andreas Fault), I felt at least 10 small earthquakes. That swarm had my friends very worried!

Do you hear God speaking to you? Are you afraid to feel that rumble deep in your soul, or is it a novelty? What does His voice sound like? Have you ever noticed that God, when He speaks, isn't long-winded or wordy (unlike some preachers and writers). He might place a picture in the mind, or a word or two, and then it's over. The interpretation is open-ended. So even in His messages, God gives freedom, movement, and choice to us; and the creativity to make something interesting and memorable out of very little.

God’s voice can be experienced in many ways. Sometimes it's a slow but steady confirmation as a thought comes together. Perhaps it’s while participating in a Bible study or talking with a friend who needs help. At other times, when reading scriptures, a passage “speaks” in a new way. You hear God’s voice in the lyrics of a song, or the counsel of a godly friend. When you realize that God is speaking to or through your spirit, you get shivers or goose bumps. Other times (more rarely), it's an internal phrase from deep inside. That’s the earth tremor, something that cannot be managed or controlled.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard God speak audibly, but then, perhaps I’ve not tuned adequately to His broadcast frequency. It’s a noisy life, with media, people, multiple deadlines and responsibilities, and images flashing in front of us. What if God is continuously speaking to us, but we can’t hear Him through the cacophony of modern life?

Once, when I was experiencing high stress and deep anxiety, I "heard" song lyrics in my mind, over and over. They were from "I'll Take Care of You." I asked God if he was singing to me, and felt him sort of chuckle, "It took you long enough to get it!" He was telling me, in a love song, that he would treat me tenderly and love me always, and to rely on him to take care of me.

How did He make Himself known to Abraham, Noah, Enoch, Job, or Rahab? They didn’t have written scriptures to study. They, plus millions of people not recorded in the Bible, knew His voice one way or another, and obeyed. When He spoke to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, they begged to be free of Him. When He wrote the Law on stone, they promised to keep the Law, but broke it. He revealed His will through prophets and messengers, but rebels persecuted them.
So God came to us as one of us. He veiled His majesty, concealed His glory, and limited His power. But the flashes of divinity when He raised the dead, healed on Sabbath, and loved unconditionally, were too much for them, so they killed Him.

When He rose from the tomb, He spoke again, giving assurance to Mary Magdalene, Peter, and his friends on the road and on the beach. He said that when He was gone, the Comforter would come alongside and be present with us and in us.

He spoke audibly to Paul on the Damascus road, but we don’t know how Paul heard Him after that. He spoke in dreams to Peter and in visions to John.

The book of Hebrews begins in this way: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Hebrews 1:1-3 NIV.

The same book goes on to say that the old covenant, written by God and broken by the Israelites, has been made obsolete by the new covenant, which is written on our hearts and minds. “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12 NIV.

So instead of speaking to us indirectly, to our forefathers through the prophets, we have a better, superior way of hearing the Lord: we have been given direct access to His Presence by Jesus Christ, whose body is the torn curtain (Hebrews 10:20) into the Most Holy Place, God’s bosom. We now have the privilege of receiving instruction, guidance, comfort, love, joy, peace, and every other good gift — straight from God Himself. He writes it on our hearts and minds, speaking to us in the ways and words we can understand. His words to me may not be the same words and instructions He gives to you.

But can YOU have that privilege, or is it reserved for the people who have striven for spiritual perfection all their lives (and of course failed, because there are none without sin)? God wants to speak with you and me today, in these last days before Jesus’ return, in the same way that He did with the faithful men and women recounted in Hebrews chapter 11. The Lord will not only speak to us, He will be bountifully generous! He says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Joel 2:28-29 NIV.

I reveled in the peace of a ruined priory on Lindisfarne Island off England’s north coast, thinking that people had worshiped in this place from at least 600 AD. I thought of how ancient people took their idols with them when they traveled, because their gods were rooted to places. But 6,000 miles from home, worshiping and thanking God on bare stone, with grass and open sky, I “heard” God inside me, saying "Present yourself as a living sacrifice." I knew it was Him, like the real earthquake, not the rumbling truck. I noticed I was sitting on a stone block where the high altar of the church had been. God was having a gentle laugh on me: present yourself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) at the altar, the place of sacrifice in this early-Christian outpost to the pagans.

Maybe it was not particularly profound as revelations to others might go, but it reminded me that God is everywhere, before I get there and after I leave, but especially, He is IN me at all times; God has a gentle sense of humor; and He reminds me of that perfect day in an ancient, beautiful place. A friend commented that the most direct revelations he’s had were along this line — God’s personal relationship with him — how God views, accepts, loves, and is present with him.

In this season of remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, may we recall some of the gifts He gave us that day: direct and free access to the throne of God, and the immeasurable gift of His indwelling Presence, teaching us what no human can express for another: God’s will for our individual lives.

Don’t worry that by following your heart, you’re being foolish or selfish. That “desperately wicked” heart of Jeremiah 17:9 is the heart of one who rebels against God. You, however, are a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and the Lord has created in you a new heart (Psalm 51). That is the very heart on which the Lord writes His will and His desires for you.

Are you listening? Are you paying attention to that rumble, that jolt, that song out of nowhere, that loving whisper in your heart? Are you ready for the gift that says that the God of all the universe has turned His entire attention to YOU, and made you feel very special, very loved, very cherished? Turn down the noise, and turn up the silence.

March 2010 word cloud

Friday, March 26, 2010

God's favorite things

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens..."

What does God enjoy doing for fun and pleasure? Does He sit on the pew and enjoy the pipe organ concert, or enjoy the breeze when people wave their arms in worship? Does He admire the woodwork or majestic stained glass in the church? Is He excited about the large-denomination bills in the offering plate?

Now that it’s spring, perhaps one of God’s pastimes is coaxing baby animals to open their eyes and take first steps, or perhaps teasing gorgeous flowers from their buds. The wisteria has become a riot of heavy flower spikes, whose scent competes with jasmine and citrus blossoms for an intoxication of the senses. The bees and hummingbirds are hovering in the blooming trees, and the finches and mockingbirds are building nests in the thickets of roses and bougainvillea.

Spring is a time of transformation. Seeds miraculously swell and send tiny green buds through the soil. Eggs hatch, and baby birds open beaks larger than their bodies. Worms, caterpillars, and insects are metamorphosed into completely different creatures than one might expect. Mammals are born heartbreakingly cute.

What is not to enjoy about spring? And yet, it’s not God’s creative genius and artistry that gives Him the most pleasure.

Why did you have children? To prop up your feet, do your chores, bring you meals and gifts of money, sing to you? Well, if those were your reasons, you already know how that expectation turned out! You had children because you had love to give, and experience and heritage to pass on. You loved your child before you saw it draw its first breath. You loved that little stinker (or angel) more as time went on, for every reason and no reason. And if a parent can love that way, how much more does our Father in heaven love?

God’s favorite thing is you. He loves to think of you. And plan for you. And do for you. (By “you,” I mean each of us individually, not collectively. So insert your own “me” pronoun as you read on. Take ownership of God’s love for you!)

God’s favorite activity, what gives Him the greatest joy, is loving you and celebrating you. (Luke 15:4-10, The Message.)

4-7"Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, 'Celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep!' Count on it—there's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

8-10"Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she'll call her friends and neighbors: 'Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!' Count on it—that's the kind of party God's angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God."

He lived and died for you. He rose for you. He has prepared a life plan for you, complete with joy and grief, partings and reunions, family and strangers, ease and rough going. When you leave Him in the dust, He watches anxiously for you and breaks into a run to meet you at the first hint of your turning. His entire ambition is to bring you back to His immediate presence, where He, Emmanuel, will personally wipe away all your tears and glorify you. He wants to revel in you, ruffle your hair, put His arms around you, and kick up heels and dance for joy. The thought of you—and me—is what makes God’s heart beat faster. He’s that personal, that intimate!

This is a shocking concept because we tend to think that "God so loved the world" (the world as in, everybody in a vast blob). But God loved this entire creation of individuals, from when time began for our ancestors, now, and into future eternity.

We’ve been taught to think of others before self, and rightly so. When we put others first in our esteem, and have that sense of communion and unity in Christ, we are obeying the commandment of God to love the Lord with all our hearts and minds and souls, and to love others—as ourselves.

So to review: we are to love the Lord with all we are and have, and to love others the same way, and to love ourselves as we love God and others.

About twelve hundred years before Christ’s birth, the Lord brought about the redemption of his chosen people—culminating in the Passover celebration at the first full moon after the spring equinox. Passed over for death, their resurrection to newness of life meant that they walked out of their Egyptian tomb and religion of death, under a full moon, balmy breezes carrying spring flower perfumes, led by a pillar of cloud and fire.

When the Passover Lamb was slain on that Friday 1200 years later, the Temple veil was torn from top to bottom. So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into ‘the Holy Place.’ Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The ‘curtain’ into God’s presence is his body. So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Hebrews 10:19-25, The Message.

As we learn to see others with God’s loving eyes, we will recognize in ourselves what God has always seen, from eternity past—that the one person He died for was you. He didn’t die for a planet of rock and water or a vast blob of people. He died for me, an extremely flawed person that He created in His own image to just love. And He died for many billions of individuals who were just as undeserving as I am.

Make it personal. Jesus did! Say to one friend, one family member, one co-worker, that you love them. Say it on Easter weekend and the days following. And when they respond with surprise and wonder, just think what Jesus is doing: rejoicing with the angels—over you. Not a planet of anonymous, faceless people. You. His greatest joy and most valuable treasure is you. You cannot be replaced. He doesn’t want to spend eternity without you, so He’s committed every resource to make sure your salvation is assured.

That is good news. That is the gospel. Go tell one person. It’s not a sermon series with a baptismal goal at the end. It’s just love. But it will make you an evangelist, a messenger of good news. And it will bear fruit!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Vernal Equinox

Listen, Heavens, I have something to tell you. Attention, Earth, I’ve got a mouth full of words. My teaching, let it fall like a gentle rain, my words arrive like morning dew, Like a sprinkling rain on new grass, like spring showers on the garden. For it’s GOD’s Name I’m preaching—respond to the greatness of our God! Deuteronomy 32:1-3 MSG

Today is the first day of spring—on the calendar. Sometime yesterday or today, the Sun stood over our equator, and day and night are about equal in length all over the world. If you live in a southern clime, it’s been spring for weeks already, when your African daisies, iris, desert poppies, and ranunculas were at optimum bloom. If you live in northern areas, as my grandparents did, today is a day of rejoicing that the snow and ice will soon recede.

Astronomers built monuments to mark this date: the Sphinx, Stonehenge, and innumerable temples. They held fertility rites, and rejoiced that their crops would soon be producing fresh food. Jews mark Passover at the first full moon after the equinox, and Christians celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after Passover. It’s no accident that sunrise ceremonies, rabbits, eggs, and the fertility goddess, Ishtar/Ashtoreth [>“Easter”], are connected to the Christian celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. But don’t let avoiding the pagan rituals stop you thanking and celebrating Jesus for His sacrifice and resurrection!

God put our earth on a schedule marked by the relational movements of sun, moon, planets, and stars. He set feasts, celebrations, and rest days by the astronomical calendar. Where we stand in relation to sunlight influences our food crops, our health, even our skin color. In the 21st century, we are privileged to have not only the Book of Nature to teach us of God’s love and care for us, but the Bible of His redemptive works and character, and the cumulative research and wisdom of His servants, ministers, and teachers. Rejoice in the newness of the season, and remember the Creator all the time.

Look around you: Winter is over; the winter rains are over, gone! Spring flowers are in blossom all over. The whole world's a choir—and singing! Spring warblers are filling the forest with sweet arpeggios. Lilacs are exuberantly purple and perfumed, and cherry trees fragrant with blossoms. Song of Songs 2:10 MSG

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patrick's source of power

© 2005 Christy K Robinson

There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 1 Corinthians 8:6 NIV
Are you wearing your green clothes today? Do you exhibit your shamrocks and leprechauns? Does the title “Saint” put you in mind of more myth than historical fact? When he was a slave, where did he find the strength to escape bondage? And when he was free, where did he find the strength to go back to where he'd been a slave?
In my travels through Ireland, I heard legends about Patrick, many of which sounded like pure superstition. I learned how earthily human Patrick was, and yet, what a powerful apostle of Jesus Christ.
A pagan idol from pre-Christian days
in Northern Ireland at the
St. Patrick Centre.
© Christy K Robinson, 2001.
Patrick wasn’t even Irish. He was born in southern England or Wales to a wealthy Christian family. Patricius, son of Calpornius, was born around 410 AD, and at age 15, he was abducted by Irish slavers. He existed in misery and terror for several years as a shepherd in the far north of Ireland, “praying a hundred times a day and as many at night,” he said, for deliverance. In a dream, an angel told him to escape. After a 185-mile journey, he took ship (or was abducted by more raiding sailors), and came ashore in continental Europe or Wales, where he and the sailors nearly starved. When Patrick prayed for food, God sent a herd of pigs into their path, which they slaughtered and devoured. The pagans were impressed by Patrick’s intimacy and favor with so powerful a God, and they converted to Christianity.
After religious education and ordination in Europe, he returned to Ireland as a missionary and founded an evangelistic movement that lasted for centuries. Many miracles were attributed to him, and some might be true! Patrick realized as a young man, though, where his true power rested: not in a talisman or legend, tradition or affiliation, nationality or culture. His source of power was Christ Jesus.
From an elegant and eloquent prayer Patrick composed, these words still inspire and convict us today: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. I arise today through a mighty strength.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wandering in the desert

For in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water. Isaiah 35:6-7 KJV

Having grown up in the beautiful Arizona desert, and living as an adult in an arid climate, I am quite conscious of where to find the air conditioning vents in a building, and how to arrange my garden to be water-wise. Many of my annual flowers and garden vegetables are planted in hanging pots or in large containers with wheels, so they can be moved to sun or shade according to season, allowing the plants to become perennials or to prolong their seasons.

Fresh water is precious to all life, and in many regions of the world, is scarce. Since time immemorial, battles have been fought over water and its potential to sustain life, refresh the thirsty, irrigate crops, carry boats and ships, cleanse, and provide recreation and refreshment. Some cultures worshiped gods of wells, rivers and lakes. Even carrying or storing water and generating energy by its movement is a major part of life—and strife—in the 21st century. Civilizations are displaced by drought and by wars over arable land.

The joyful song in Isaiah 35 follows a story of the destruction of the wicked, and the barrenness and desolation of the Judean desert abandoned to wild animals. After their conquest and kidnapping by foreigners, the Lord brings his children home from captivity—ironically, their exile was in Babylon, which we know today as a featureless wasteland.

Finding a stream in the desert is finding a miracle. Flowing water only happens after a thunderstorm, or when snows melt at high elevation. Springs of water reaching the surface are even more rare. Usually the water evaporates a short distance from the source, or permeates the sand and soil to join an underground stream or aquifer.

I return to this scripture, Isaiah 35, several times a month because its contrast between barrenness and fulfillment speaks to my heart. I’ve experienced the desert in both seasons. I’ve been the desert in drought. I’m the dry, thirsty sand, waiting for rain to not only soak in, but fill me up so I can burst into bloom and be a source of even more love.

Every day and night since I was a child, I’ve prayed for the one desire of my life: to be loved by one man, and to love in return. The desire of my heart is to be loved unconditionally. But that hasn’t been given to me yet. The love of friends and family, which I enjoy in abundance, is not the same thing. God gave me a promise years ago that I’d be delighted in, sought after, considered beautiful, and that I’d be married. I believe he means in this life; but as the years pass, some of my friends say that maybe God means that he will be my husband. That is not comforting at all. I need arms to hold me, and lips to kiss me, and a chest on which to rest my head. I need to be comfort and encouragement, a delight to his heart and a jewel to be proud of.

“Look in the scroll of the LORD and read: None of these will be missing, not one will lack her mate. For it is his mouth that has given the order, and his Spirit will gather them together.” Isaiah 34:16 NIV Even the wild animals have their place in the order of creation, and they have their mates and raise their young.

A dear friend suggested that all the loves in this life are a raindrop compared to the ocean of eternity (another water metaphor), and if love didn’t come to me in this lifetime, it would happen in God’s kingdom. But I can’t be satisfied with a hope that someday, in heaven, true love will come to me. Some believe there will be no marriage in heaven. But my 50 years of life are all the eternity I know. It’s my whole life until now. All I’ve known is to love but not be loved in return. My heart physically aches when I think about loving because it’s squeezing itself dry, and there’s nothing coming in.

I can’t bear the thought of living another 35 years to die unloved and unfulfilled in that way, then wake to eternity as a genderless spirit full of agapĂ© love for everyone. I can barely cope with the thought of weeks or months of comfortless existence. If scriptures are not to be taken personally, here and now, then why give us promises and hope at all? Why give the gift of loving, but not also the gift of receiving love? Why create the need for emotional and sexual love but not the ability to express it in a way acceptable to God? But for many years I have single-mindedly asked for love, and my heart is still empty. It’s been starved.

One argument put forth by Christians is that this is a sinful world, not intended by the Creator to be anything other than blissful, but that sin and its consequences have destroyed and mutated the plan of abundant living. But if we stop right there and are satisfied with that answer, then we negate Christ’s victory on the cross, and that he took our infirmities and punishment upon himself so that we could have his peace, his power, his health, his strength. We surrender the dunamis (dynamite) power that he has given us to do miracles in his name. And we give in to the notion that we, the redeemed, are martyred and persecuted and we have to live a dreary existence, hiding in caves until Jesus comes. No! We are crowned with victory and have been given the title deed to the kingdom of God.

We know from many scriptures that God will supply all our needs because he loves us; that he won’t provide a scorpion when we ask for breakfast, or a stone when we ask for a sandwich; that we can call him Daddy (“Abba”) and cast every care on him; and that we have full access to our inheritance and God’s presence because of Jesus’ sacrifice.

He not only gives us what we need, but what we “wish,” (John 15:7-8), and the “desires of our heart” (Psalm 37:4-6). It’s not the good works we do or the bad things we refrain from that determine God’s providence: it’s his love for us and his desire to make us whole and restored. I don’t believe that every prayer request has to be about enlarging the kingdom of God. He wants us to know from whom all blessings flow, and he delights to give us gifts.

It’s been said that nothing attracts love like being loving. But expressing love to some people will send them running because they were willing to settle for mere affection with no obligation. Others, even Christians, substitute instant-attraction physical intimacy for real love which takes time to grow, and call it “being in a relationship.” And they wonder why they get burned or why God doesn’t seem to bless them.

So I stand out in the desert, looking for that towering thundercloud to bring cool, sweet, blessed rain. Turn me, Lord, from a pit of dry sand into a wetlands of abundance. Instead of greedily soaking up any drop of rain that falls, send so much rain that I will be the bubbling spring of life-giving water.

“For true love is inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have. And if you go to draw at the true fountainhead, the more water you draw, the more abundant is its flow.” ~Antoine De Saint-Exupery, 1900-1944, French writer.

Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow. Isaiah 35:6,7 NIV

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Heaven on earth

Friends asked on a private forum, “What is heaven-on-earth to you?” Here are some of the answers:
...When my son laughs with complete and utter abandon—for any reason. ...The herbs and vegetables we've grown from seeds on our front porch. ...Being with people who love and care about me.
...Sweet pineapple and cottage cheese in the same bowl.

...Heaven is being in the arms of someone who loves me for me.

...Seeing the pure glee of children as you enter a house and they drop everything, scream your name, and run toward you with open arms and hug your leg so hard (before you can get your shoes off and drop your bags) that you almost fall over!

...Heaven is warm: a nice warm cup of cocoa, a cuddly blanket by a warm fire, a warm and cozy bed, a warm embrace.

...Heaven is my cat laying on my chest purring loudly, and my dog licking my toes with his warm tongue.

...The scent of citrus blossoms on a meandering breeze.

...Immersion in a pipe organ concert in an English cathedral.

...Licking a spoon of hot peach jam made from home-grown peaches.

...A Heath-covered Klondike ice cream bar.

...The middle of a great book.

...The moment you realize you're being used by God to help another.

...The Milky Way seen from the floor of the Grand Canyon.

...The scent of rain on creosote in the Arizona desert.

The last seven phrases are mine. We were having a rare bit of precipitation in California, and I was reminiscing about how much I love a spring storm in the Arizona desert, with its multicolor lightning, chiaroscuro clouds that dwarf the highest mountains, the sweet herbal scents, the germination of poppies and daisies so fast you can almost see it, and watching dry gullies fill with flash floods that recede to pools where frogs and fish miraculously appear from the reconstituted earth.

The Lord loves a desert storm, too!
Isaiah 35:1-7 NLT tells of His ideal party for those He loves and redeems. Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the LORD will display his glory, the splendor of our God. With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived.

Streams in the desert. For those who live in a land of plenteous water, this may not resonate within. But to people born and raised in a desert, water does beautiful and miraculous things. It springs from a rock. Turns to blood. Washes away impurity. It is a display of the glory and splendor of God. To the Israelites of the exodus and their Egyptian oppressors, to the Jews exiled to Assyria and Mesopotamia, to anyone who experiences a drought,

God has often used the medium of water, indispensable to human life, as a metaphor for Himself. He is the living water and the river of life.
In Isaiah 43:19-21 NIV, the Lord says, See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

If you’ve recently experienced violent storms and are facing deep and wide rivers in your life, remember that God provides a way through them (
Isaiah 43:2) because He loves you. You are precious and honored in His sight! Rivers are not barriers when He leads the way, but channels of blessing and life-giving nutrients. Jesus said that the water He gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).

With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”
Isaiah 35:3,4 NLT. God loves us and is coming to save us. That is heaven on earth. That is good news. That is the gospel.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Deeply, From the Heart

Love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22 NIV

My brother Brian is 27 months younger than I. Naturally, being the firstborn child, I “supervised” him during our childhood. When we played “school,” I was the teacher. When we rode bikes, I led. When he was naughty, I threatened to tell Mom. (Until he kept inventory of my misbehaviors—then we negotiated!)

We were not allowed to hit, pinch, slap, kick, or otherwise fight. During the inevitable spats, we kept quiet, because when Mom found out, that was trouble. Our verbal disagreements might last all of three minutes and then be forgotten, but if Mom got into it, we’d be sometimes spanked and always lectured for 30-60 minutes on why we should love each other. (Brian would maneuver a place where he could roll his eyes or make faces, while I, the dutiful if unrepentant daughter, had to maintain composure in hope of shortening the sermon.) Decades later, I remember the gist of the lectures: if all others forsake you, or if “anything happens” to your parents, your sibling is your best friend. You share more DNA with your sibling than with your parents.

After college and two years on my own, Brian and I shared a home for seven years. We learned to really like and love each other and enjoy our own company. We shared values, had the same taste in decorating, people, and food, and trusted each other with our deepest thoughts. Love has carried us through when other relationships have faltered or failed. (Hey, Mom was right!)

The brash, choleric fisherman-turned-shepherd, the apostle Peter, learned about loyal, abiding love from Jesus, who told His disciples that He had elevated their status to friends and brothers. Peter wrote: Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22 NIV

It’s a great blessing to love your siblings—and your brothers and sisters in the faith. It won’t just happen by proximity. You have to make it happen. But Abba Father is eager to reconcile and create bonds between His children. Ask Him now!


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