Lemonade or Lemons? - Depends on What You Actually Need...

It’s been almost 3 years since I started this whole author-blog-writer-thing and I’m astounded at the words God has put on my heart to share with you all. Looking through some of my first posts I can see the threads God began weaving in my life through this ministry in so many of the posts. I thought it might be a fun thing to update some of the more popular ones and give my new subscribers an opportunity to read the roots of how this blog started.

Today I’m starting with my very very very first blog ever written. It’s so cool to see how what I learned is still so true for me today (read the original post too if you like!)

2016- It was opening day for Term 2 at Camp Barnabas and I’d been the medical director for this camp for special needs for a hot-second. Intake at the WellHouse for the nurses was in full force and I had just been called over by one of my nurses asking if camp had lemon juice. A camper apparently needed some so therefore the medical center needed some available. We needed... no let me rephrase, a very <thorough> camper mom was telling us that we medically required lemon juice. It was literally a medical necessity. Ummm, okay, that's a new one I thought to myself (#helicoptermom much?).... lemon juice....

Let me give you a bit of background, Camp Barnabas is a Christian camp for children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. As you can imagine the types and kind of campers we serve can run the gamut of medical needs. From MACE procedures, a bazillion medications, G-tubes, bowel programs, and ventilators- I see all sorts of medical equipment and we serve a huge array of medical 'stuff'. So at first, the request for lemon juice was not <totally> weird... sure... absolutely we have lemon juice. I'd check with our cook and see but it'd be no biggie to steal some from the kitchen; and worst case scenario, we'd grab the lemonade available and use that. But then this particular request got strange... mom was informing us that her child couldn't use just any kind of lemon juice, she needed freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Not lemonade, not fake lemon juice... As in, out of a real lemon, freshly squeezed lemon juice. Unsweetened, undiluted- straight up out of the lemon.

Pause.

Gross.

The little-squirters in the back of my mouth (total medical term there...) were working overdrive just thinking about the tart-factor of that swig. I'd definitely had some bizarre requests, especially dietary... but this one was rapidly accelerating (not unlike my saliva volume) up to the top of my "Most unusual medical needs" list. My medical incredulity alarm went off and internally I was thinking this lady is cray-cray.  Never in my medical career (which is not a particularly short or sheltered one I might add) could I think of a time or an instance that I could even fathom the absolute medical necessity of straight-up lemon juice for anything. Let alone making this poor camper suffer through drinking such a nasty thing! I mean, seriously... who does that? I was just about ready to very politely but firmly tell above mother that this was a summer camp, in the middle of nowhere, and the chances of us having fresh lemons was less than nill, when she told us that the reason for the fresh lemon juice had everything to do with the undiluted acid content in the juice, and nothing to do with the taste.

Okay, now I'm a bit more intrigued. Maybe she's not totally 'that mom'...

So long story, short, according to this kiddo's doctor, the fresh lemon juice was a necessity to help break down the medications properly, and for her stomach to digest more easily all her food. Which, as noted before, was fine... I now got it- but still didn't actually fix our immediate issue. I was on board with the why, now to address the how. Because, again, think summer camp in the middle of Nowheresville, Missouri; freshly squeezed lemon juice was not exactly readily accessible. Okay mom, okay... I'll just have to check.

We had lemonade but we really needed lemons. Not fake lemon juice, good old off the tree lemons to squeeze good old lemon juice out of. We need real deal, tart, unsweeted, undiluted, acidic, make-your-salivary-glands-go-crazy lemons.

Has life ever given you lemonade but you really just needed a lemon?

It occurred to me throughout that week, with every med pass that nurse made to her camper, that there must be times when God gives us lemons and He expects and needs us to just deal with the juice. The tart, unsweetened, undiluted lemon juice. He doesn't want us to make lemonade out of it. He doesn't want us to sweeten it up. He doesn't want us to dilute it. He wants us to swig it down and let it do it's work. His work. The acidic, often uncomfortable, make-your-spirit-squirm Spirit work that needs to be done within us.

The properties of acid, especially in this case, work to wear away and break down chemical structures in order to either completely do away with a substance or make it more malleable to change.

Anyone picking up where I'm going with this yet?

God uses His own lemon juice in our lives daily. Yet too often we shy away from the bitterness of the taste and miss the spiritual acid He's using to do His work in us. We avoid taking it, like little children squirming to avoid their brussel sprouts. We spit it out. We try to sweeten it up- "making lemonade out of lemons."

I think there is something to be said for the amazing lemonade that God allows by His grace in our lives. Those sweet times with family, the seasons of tremendous fruit spiritually, the happy days of our lives that we yearn for and reminisce about for years. These are good times. These are those deep, refreshing drinks of iced cold lemonade. They are wonderful and needed.

There are also needs for just plain old generic lemon juice. After all, juice out of a bottle is still juice. It still is acidic, and for many things it can serve the same purpose as the real deal. But it will always be diluted, it will always be pasteurized and ever-so-slightly chemically altered. Self-help books, spiritual books, blogs (uh huh, even this one... but keep reading!), counseling, meditation, etc. You get the idea. These are not bad things. they can be immensely beneficial to us... but dear ones, don't be deceived or lazy. The real work of our souls is GodStuff. It is His spiritual acid, His lemon juice in our lives that refine and make us more into His servants. Bottled stuff will never perfectly match the composition of the real stuff.

For the word of the Lord is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

Hebrew 4:12 ESV

Sound a bit acidic? Hard to squirm away from that... though we may try! God's Word is the real deal. It will always be undiluted, sometimes hard to swallow, and refining to our souls. Always. So don't avoid it.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4 (emphasis mine)

Trials, tribulations, testing.... all lemons. God allows and sometimes even causes such things- for the good and perfection of His people. We must see the bigger picture, so let those lemons do their thing. Let that juice work it's way around and in and throughout. It's uncomfortable, it tastes bad and can be seemingly so very hard to digest.  But it's cleansing, detoxing and refining to us. He will cleanse, detox, and refine. So let Him.

So the question remains- I imagine we all have a few lemons in our life right now. Take a moment to refect on what they are. Does God want you to let His Spirit do some much needed acid-work? Or perhaps He needs you to make some lemonade? What or where are the lemons in your life right now? Are you struggling to sweeten the situation? Post below and share your lemon juice experiences- I ‘d love to hear about them!

Praying God's Names- Jehovah Tsidkenu

Jehovah TsidkenuThe Lord Our Righteousness

The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. But you, oh Lord, have kept your covenant with us. Sacrifices offered cannot change the heart or make us acceptable to you, only you can do that.

You saw our failure and sent judgment. You are Jehovah Tsidkenu and in you there is hope. In your name are righteousness and the promise of grace.

In your grace we receive a new heart. We can be right with you. We can be more than good. We can be made straight. We can be what you say is right and good. We can live according to your standard.

You write your law in our heart, our innermost being. You forgive our wickedness and forget our sin. You remove our heart of stone and turn us to you. You give us a new heart and your Spirit to live within us. You enable us to walk with you, to follow your statutes and obey your laws.

You, Our Righteousness, gather us to you. You attend to us. You give us wise and able spiritual leaders. You take away all fear. You give us Jesus, who is the Righteous Branch, our Messiah. He is wisdom and justice. He will reign on the throne of David as King forever.

Though Jesus was made sin for us, by believing in Him we are made righteous in your sight. We are given a heart not made of stone. We have a new master. We are cleansed by believing in Him. By receiving Jesus, we are made right with you.

The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked but you are our Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord Our Righteousness.

By Karen Guthrie January 7, 2009

Going Number Two

I'm excited to feature another writer today. My sister Alicia Costello has graciously written a wonderful blog for us to enjoy. Please check out her brand-new website too! ~B

My son is 4 years old and 2 months, and this kid is not. potty. trained.

Trust me, it’s not for lack of trying. He took to going number one in the potty fairly well. He goes to the potty every single time to go number one. It’s just, um, number two. He won’t go. No matter how long he is sat on the potty, he won’t do it. The second he gets that Pull-Up back on, he goes. We’ve tried everything. And it’s not only that he won’t go in the potty, but his face is one of no remorse. He’s resolved. He does not care about what we’ve asked him to do. Heck, after changing 4 Pull-Ups today before 2pm, he’s walking around my house literally butt naked because I just don’t have the mental capacity today to change another Pull-Up.

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I’m sure any mom who has potty trained can sympathize. Unless your children are robots, and in that case where do I buy robot children??!!

My husband once said, “I never understood before I had kids why it seemed like every preacher’s story was about their kids. Now I get it. Everything they do preaches to you.”

And God’s never one to waste an opportunity so of course he’s been talking to me through it.

My child has one job: to poop in the potty. We have had many, many talks about this. I have told him he can’t go to big-boy classes at school or church until he poops in the potty. He understands poop goes in the potty. I feel like God has told me, you have one job. You are to go and preach my gospel. Use the tools I’ve given you.

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And like God, I’ve given my child tools. Pull-ups. Access to the potty. And God’s given us tools, although they’re different. He’s given some an extra measure of encouragement, or some a teaching gift, or some a hospitality gift. God’s given me everything I need to do the job he’s asked me to do. And with my kid, I’ve given him everything he needs to do what I asked him to do successfully. And he still won’t do it. In fact, he takes my tools I’ve given him and just poops all over them, which is the opposite of why he has them. And I don’t know if you’re honest enough with yourself to point to a time in your life where you, even you, have taken the tools God has given us to do the exact opposite of what he wants us to do with them. I know I’ve done that more times than I care to remember.

As a mom, the second my kid actually poops in that potty, I will be so relieved and elated, I won’t even care about the years he spent being disobedient. I will just be so happy he’s being obedient now. I’ll just let that preach itself.

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But for now, I’m stuck changing Pull-Up after Pull-up. I get frustrated until I literally take the Pull-Ups away. He couldn’t even go in his pants if he tried. He has no pants. Even the act of taking the Pull-Up away preaches to me on some deeper level. Like, it reminds me of the parable of the talent where Jesus says about the unfruitful servant “even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Matt 25:29)

But, thankfully, unlike me, God is so, so patient. Even if it takes us years, God continues to give us unmerited second chance after unmerited second or third or forth or seventy-ninth chance.

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The Bible says very explicitly that God’s mercies are new every morning. So, consider today a great place to start. Apologize to him, and begin using those tools God gave you to do to accomplish the goals he’s set up just for you. Don’t be afraid of how many days you’ve spent being disobedient, just worry about your obedience today.

Take these next few sentences as your challenge:

I’ve given you the goal. I’ve given you the tools. I can’t move you on to the next season until you start being obedient in this season. I’m ready to go if you are. I’ll be beside you on this journey. I see the way. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Your job is just to trust me and obey. And if you follow me, we’ll go on an adventure together.

In a World of a Thousand Yeses, What are You Saying No to?

If I were to take a quick look at your schedule what would I see? Basketball games, employee meetings, church, PTA meetings, bills due, doctors appointments? Our lives are nothing if not a culmination of a thousand scheduled moments- each one individually agreed to and committed on. Each entry chosen to be a part of our life, however big or small. Let’s face it, we’re all over-extended. We are too committed. We have such a hard time saying no.

To often there is just too much. Too much to choose from, too much to entertain, too much to be a part of, too much to do... and simply not enough time to do it. We over-exert, over-emphasize, over-do, and over-commit.

In this frantic world we race here and there, agonizing over trying to fit it all in. We over promise and usually under-deliver... simply because we just. cannot. stop. doing. stuff.

A quick look at our calendar shows a soul woefully busy but a life, I would imagine, woefully empty of meaning.

Too often we strive to fill our lives with purpose. We want to spend time on important things, we ache to fill our days with that which is weighty and worthwhile. But all too often, in order to fit it all in, we drop the very things that actually hold eternal ties.

Question: When things get busy and you find yourself exhausted- too tired to do anything else... too worn out to commit to one more thing... what ‘goes’? Looking at that calendar, what is crossed out? What do you see as the most expendable? What is lowest on the level of importance?

What we do and spend time on is perhaps the fastest and most honest way of assessing where our hearts desires lie. Does that devotional get left behind? What about that Tuesday night prayer team? Do you cut out Sunday school because it’s just too hard to get there on time? How about spending time discipling or being discipled?

What goes first when the chopping block of exhaustion comes out?

I challenge you today to take a look at your schedule and determine what you are devoted to. Ask God to take any blinders off regarding how you spend your time and energy. When you’re over-extended, look at what is sacrificed on the Alter of Constraint. What activities lie on top of it? These are what you are telling yourself, your spouse, your children, your friends, your world.... are the least important- the most worthless. Let the Lord look over with you the priorities in your days and readjust (as He enlightens) areas that need a refocus and rededication. Let your yeses be eternal- of weighty consequence. Let your no’s merely temporal- a passing of the wind.

Acts 2:42-47 ESV And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Spiritual HissyFits

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. You’d think for such a short book that I would have run out of material, but God had other plans.  We've got 2 lessons left to go- stay with me! There's SO MUCH good stuff in Jonah! I hope you're learning as much as I am! Click here for lessons one, two, three, and four! YAY! Ninevah's been saved! As we read last time, they all (from top to bottom) repented and mourned. They changed their ways and God relented from His promised destruction. What an awesome thing! What a glorious testament to God's power! What bragging rights Jonah just earned for listening and obeying! I'd be strutting around with bells on proclaiming what a marvelous thing just occurred!

Pretty sure Jonah was too... (4:1-3) "But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry {wait... what?!?!} He prayed to the Lord, "Isn't this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

If I didn't know better, I'd say Jonah just threw himself a spiritual hissy-fit. (For being a bit of a fraidy-cat, the man clearly had no worries confronting the God of the universe....yikes!) It is fascinating to me how, at the pinnacle of his success, Jonah is wallowing in his own selfishness; he was actually MAD about God forgiving them! And this from a man who not 2-seconds earlier in the story was himself running away from God. I'm guessing he didn't see the parallels in his own life...

As much as I'd love to point fingers at our wayward prophet's hypocrisy here, three more would be pointing back at me. I'm not going to belabor the obvious point. Rather let's do some self-evaluation-

The question here is this, what "Nivevites' in your life are causing you to stumble and throw a spiritual hissy-fit? Who has done you wrong, or what enemy do you have that has found God... and how do you feel about it? Anyone come to mind? How are you taking the news of their repentance- with skepticism, with joy, with anger (like Jonah), with thanksgiving?

I admit there's been a few over the years that I had a hard time accepting into God's family. It's just the truth. But as we'll read about in the next installment, the problem of dealing with our new family-members lies directly with us... in our hearts, between us and God. Meditate on the following for a bit and search your thoughts (and more pointedly, your behavior!) on them...

Romans 12:9-21 (ESV)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Start working on that now dear ones- search your heart and get it right with God. Instead of Jonah, use the Ninevites as your example. Hear the word of the Lord and repent, confess, and make it right with Yahweh. I'm right there with you!

Thy Will be Done

Submission is a hard word. At least it is for me. It implies a letting go, an intentional lessening of oneself to the will of someone else. More of them, less of me. Often it means that my choice, my opinions, my plans take a back seat (or more often, are just flat out left on the side of the road!) I no longer have any input or 'voice'... yes, submission is hard. It leaves me out of the picture. It puts authority and decision-making into someone else's hands. Some people are fine with arrangements like this... I'm (more often than not) NOT okay with such loss of control. And yet God calls us to exactly that. Letting go, letting Him, putting mySelf down at His feet. The perceived loss can be overwhelming and super uncomfortable at times. I don't particularly like it. I imagine few do. Yet He still calls for lessening of us so that He may be glorified more.

I recently sent book proposals off to several agencies. It is no play-on-words that the industry calls these manuscript "submissions"- after all, I'm putting my own words, thoughts, and ideas out there to be accepted, rejected, encouraged, or torn apart by somebody who I've never met, who doesn't know me, who has all the 'power' to make a decision on my behalf. It's a scary place to be in. I'm fully submitting very special pieces to the mercy of someone else.

Not unlike what God asks of us. To put ourselves out there, humbling our pride and ego, plans, desires, and futures to His authority and direction instead of our own. Indeed as scary thing! But, unlike the unknown of the publishing world, my God's response to my weakness is promised in scripture as one of grace, love, mercy, having only my good in mind. The chance of rejection is zero. The chance of humiliation in Him is non-existent. The chance of ridicule or loss is none. He knows me, and I know Him. There is no unknown in this arrangement!

In His arms I am safe and that takes so much of my fear away! Yes, there is still discomfort, after all it goes against our nature to let someone else call the shots. But what a someOne! We can take such hope in knowing that God only calls us to lessen ourselves so that He can do it better. His plans are better, wiser, more excellent, exceedingly beyond what we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). His elevation in our lives can only be for the best, and because of this, perhaps 'submission' isn't quite as scary as it once was.

James 4:6-7 (ESV) But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God.

Not my will, but Yours be done...

Between God and Jonah- When Rowing to Shore is a Very Bad Idea

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. You’d think for such a short book that I would have run out of material, but God had other plans. To see part 1 of this series, click here. Still in chapter 1, I hope you've had a chance to read through this very short chapter. If not, here's a quick link. Read it aloud to yourself. See what strikes you as you read it. I'll be right here...

Okay, so Jonah... or rather, as I did with the first #Jonahpost, I want to talk about the sailors again. Oh man, those poor sailors! I think they must have been rather perturbed to find themselves the innocent bystanders in the middle of this cosmic, supernatural show-down between God and Jonah. Except they weren't bystanders at all were they? They were smack-dab in the middle of a very real storm, with very wet rain, very huge waves, very blustery winds, on, as the NIV says, a "tempestuous" sea. Their lives were in danger in a very real way. And all because this crackpot Jonah decided to run away from God on their boat.

This mariner would be less than amused.

Yet how often do we find ourselves in the middle of a massive storm of someone else's making that suddenly becomes very much our business. The waves meant for them- blast us. The winds meant to blow them away- encircle us. The rain meant for them- saturates us. And before we know it, someone else's storm has become one that consumes our own lives.

Let's see how our mariners are doing.

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

The verse here that gets me every.single.time. is 13- despite having very clear instructions on how to obediently and swiftly exit stage left the sailors "INSTEAD... did their best to row back to land" (emphasis mine.) Whoa! Wait a minute. I'm confused. At what point did these poor saps think it was a good idea to get between God and Jonah? They had instructions. They knew what to do. And yet they took it upon themselves to save him. Suddenly the sailors decide that they have some weird responsibility to save Jonah from the wrath of God... and they actually try to fix his situation.

I would love to point fingers here, though I think that 4 others would be pointing back at me.

Haven't we all, even in the middle of someone else's storm, tried to row them to dry land? As dangerous a place as it is, we have chosen to insert ourselves into (what we consider) a solution to somebody else's issue with God. We boldly and recklessly stand between them and God Almighty thinking we have a better solution, a better way to shore, a better idea of how to fix the problem.

Arrogant much? And extremely costly- both in time and lesson.

It's time to throw our Jonah's overboard dear ones. As hard as it sounds, we have to remove ourselves from the supernatural battle (i.e. spiritual lesson) going on. Jonah's storm of disobedience does not give us permission to become his salvation (more on that in the next newsletter!)

Notice that the storm stopped ONLY once the sailors obeyed instructions- which involved throwing him into the sea. The storm affecting them so mightily came with Jonah and immediately left with him as well. I can only imagine the same effect can be had when we listen to God and obey His instructions to us about the Jonah's in our lives.

You may be asked to throw him overboard, you may be asked to row him to shore. But take care to listen and obey. So often these storms not of our doing involve our very intentional 'sacrificing of him to the seas' in order to be walking in our own obedience.

Search your lives dear ones and see if you're trying to row a Jonah to shore. It's a hard oar to hold, a dangerous position to be in. Inserting yourself between God and a Jonah is a very precarious position to be in.  Ask God for the courage and wisdom to throw him overboard if that's what's necessary.

Moonshine from the Sunshine

Our pastor recently told us that his daughter asked him an interesting question the other night. They were walking outside after dark and the little girl asked her father, "Daddy, why does the moon exist?" Hmmm, interesting question... At first glance, the moon doesn't really do much does it? Yes, it does factor in to the tides rising and falling, but surely God could've purposed something else to do that. Take that 'job' away from it, and we just have a big, old rock that goes around and around the planet for no obvious reason.

Except to shed light over the darkness.

Without the moon think of how dark a night gets. The stars, however many and however large they might be, give no visual help to us. Yet there must be something special to it right? After all, this seemingly insignificant part of God's space-package, was designed on the fourth day of creation (see Genesis 1:14-19). The moon is named, was given purpose, on that day. "...to rule over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness." And suddenly, this piece of spacerock had a pretty important job... to overcome the darkness. Yet despite this tall order, God made the moon completely incapable of giving light. Think about that. The moon itself cannot GIVE light...

The moon can only REFLECT light- it has to get the actual light from someplace else.

Enter the sun- another pretty important design-feature from day four; and this particular orb is able to actually self-create light.The moon is entirely dependent on the self-generating power-station of the sun. It's light remains steadfast, on at all times, because the sun remains 'on'. In every part of the world, every nook and cranny of the earth, somewhere the moon is shining brightly. It may be a crescent, it may be waxing, it may be full... but the light is always on.

Dear ones, we are the moon. God has called and designed up for the same purpose of shedding light over the darkness- to fight the blackness and shadows that surround us. And just like the real moon, we cannot within ourselves, generate Light to do this. We have nothing to give, nothing of a spark; we must rely fully on God (the Sun) to get our light. We can only REFLECT.

Oh! But what a Sun we have to take light from! Steadfast, unchanging, unwavering, unabating. Just as our physical sun shines without fail, thereby ensuring the physical moon will never waver, so also does our Father in heaven provide Light for us to spiritually draw from to combat the darkness of this present world.

And dark it can be! The moon reflects the whole of the sun's rays all the time, it is always reflecting fully down on us. So why the darker nights? Why the crescent moons? Why the nights without a moon?

Logistically it is because the world is blocking the sun. Our earth has come between the giver of light and the reflector of light.... and as the reflection in the sky grows smaller, the darkness grows deeper.

The sun has not changed in brightness, the moon has not lost it's ability to reflect...no, dear ones, our Earth came between them. Do you see the incredible parallels here?

How often does your world come between you and God? How brightly (or not) is your reflection of the Sun? Better yet, with the solar eclipse still fresh in our minds, how often do you (as the moon) actually block the Sun? Is your behavior not only not reflecting Him but actually eclipsing His light? It is a sobering thought is it not?

John 8:12 (ESV) Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

2 Corinthians 4:5-6 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5: 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Writing this devotion for you today has been an incredible encouragement to me to look up at the moon more. I am grateful that I will never look up at it in the same way. Perhaps our moon has another job too, perhaps God put it there as a constant reminder and inspiration to us to fulfill our calling in Him... just as the moon does. What an awesome thought that the Creator took the time to hang an orb in the sky to quicken our minds and purpose every.single.night to His Light in our lives.

Move the 'world' out of your way today beloved. Set your course to maintain course with the Sun. Reflect the Light!

(from my Holy Beautiful Tuesday post)

Would You Wait if an Earthquake Set You Free?

Reposted with gracious permission from my LIT sister, Heather Bock.  

Two large earthquakes within two weeks recently shook Mexico–8.1 magnitude in Southern Mexico and Guatemala, and 7.1 in Central Mexico near Mexico City. Amazingly, the 7.1 earthquake took place on the anniversary of another huge 8.0 earthquake that seriously damaged Mexico City 32 years ago. While I have been praying for those affected, many of them in deep poverty as it is, I started thinking about another earthquake in a story I just read to my children from the book of Acts. It’s a story of God’s guidance.

Paul and Silas considered journeying to Asia to preach the Word, but they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” at that time (Acts 16:6). They were next trying to press on to Bithynia, but “the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them” (Acts 16:7), so they headed down to Troas. There, God gave them a vision that encouraged them to sail into Macedonia.

When God makes His directions clear, most of the time I find it easy to obey Him. He is to be trusted, so I don’t usually have a problem praying, Anything, God. It’s the discerning of His specific will that’s hard. In fact, I am waiting for His clear leading right now. I keep thinking that if He would just give me a vision or something else vivid, I would follow what He has to say. While I wait for His specific will, I do my best with His strength to obey His general will for my life: loving Him and loving others. I know that much. When it comes to specifics, though, at the moment I am standing in confusion, not sure which way to go. Paul and Silas were not in this position because God had made Himself very clear.

Acts records that these two men stayed many days in Macedonia, preaching the gospel to those who would listen. During this time, a slave-girl followed them day after day, crying out, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17). I have no idea why it took them so long to do something about this, but Paul suddenly had enough. Turning, he commanded a spirit of divination to come out of her, to which the spirit responded by promptly exiting.

The girl’s masters weren’t too happy about losing their reliable source of income, so they contrived to have Paul and Silas beaten and sent to prison. It was probably a gift at that point that God had been very clear that the two were to travel to Macedonia. They didn’t have to doubt: maybe we heard Him wrong? Maybe we were supposed to go to Bithynia instead? They had simply followed God’s leading; they preached the gospel and cast out demons in the place of His choosing. If they were to go through hardship because of it, God had a reason for it. They knew they could trust HIM.

Therefore, we find them praying and fervently singing hymns of praise in the prison when the great earthquake I previously mentioned occurred. This was no ordinary earthquake caused by a fault line. This earthquake miraculously broke every chain in the prison. This is where the story challenges me.

The prisoners didn’t leave.

Maybe God clearly told them to stay–the narrative doesn’t reveal that to us. What if He didn’t, though? If I had been there, I know I would have taken that miraculous earthquake as a sign to escape. When I am trying to discern God’s plan for me, I tend to see signs everywhere. I think, maybe God is trying to tell me something through this! I’ve done this many times, and many times I have been wrong. If I had followed all my own signs, I would be a missionary in France right now. However, God has made it clear since then that He has other plans for my life.

I’m not saying God never uses signs to reveal His guidance for us. I am saying that we’d better be very sure, bathing every step in prayer, seeking wise counsel, and keeping our eyes and ears open to the Spirit.

Somehow Paul and Silas caught the Spirit’s message, and they and the other prisoners waited in their open cells. The result: a jailer’s life and soul were saved, along with his entire family. The next day, Paul and Silas were officially released, and as the officials then recognized they had treated them wrongfully, they were able to leave with dignity.

I might have missed all of that.

Discovering God’s specific plan for my life is sometimes quite difficult. I have been in tears over it, begging Him for guidance. However, if I have learned anything from this story in Acts, it is that I must listen and watch carefully, not grasping at the first supposed sign I see. I think I can also learn that God will make it clear to me if I’m patient enough to wait.

I would love some encouragement in this. Will you comment below with times when God guided you in your life in a specific area?

 

A huge thank you to Heather for letting me repost this amazing word. Please support her and her ministry at Glimpses of Jesus.

Mirror Image

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Adam and Eve lately in my studying, and it has struck me over and over again- the imagery of imagery. Genesis 1:27 (ESV) say, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them." Images are interesting things because they are made to reflect or mimic something else. They are not, in them of themselves, anything but a copy of an original. They are a reflection... an image of something else.

There are references all over the place of images in the Bible. Some are beautiful, most are not. Scripture talks of the Israelites making images of a golden calves, of mice, of tumors, of other gods. In this idolatry, and many more like them, humanity was trying to replicate God.

Time and time again they failed.

Because what they didn't realize and embrace, is that WE are made in His image. Humanity was designed to reflect God's glory. All of creation was designed to show Him off, but WE are made specifically in God Almighty's image.

Colossians 1:15 tells us of another who is the image of God... Christ Jesus. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." Unlike humans, I believe this scripture tells less of the physical image of God and more about the nature and character of God. Furthermore, scripture does not stop there. Jesus (as a man) was the image of God and we are called and purposed to be remade in Christ's image, "and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator."

People worship graven images because they do not know the 'real thing'. We can point them to the Real Thing! We are made in God's image, we are called to reflect Jesus (the very image of God). Physically, mentally, emotionally, "in spirit and in truth" we are designed to reflect the image of God and His glory. Wow! What a weighty and marvelous thing.

Today I challenge you to look at your reflection- look hard. Do you see Jesus? Will other see Him? If not, clean up the image dear one! I pray that Jesus' light shines so brightly in you that others can't help but be drawn to your image... His image.

Mirrors reflect perfectly the image within them. A dirty mirror however will mare the image. If we are looking at Christ, and adequately reflecting His image back through us, we must make sure our mirrors are clear. Keep them clean, free of smudges, absent of scratches. Our daily fellowship with Jesus- being in the Word, prayer, worship all contribute to keeping our mirrors bright and shining. "...which is being renewed..." is not a static occurrence, we must continue to push forth, cleaning our mirrors along the way, as we are being transformed more and more into the image of Christ. God will shine out through the clear glass, straight through us and out to the world.

We need to be Christ's mirror image- aim for the perfect image dear ones! We won't attain it all the way on this side of heaven, but you certainly can strive for it. Reflect Him today dear ones, and everyday! Be that image that draws people to worship... not you, but the One within you. The image of the invisible God who is the only One worthy of our praise and adoration. Mirror Jesus!