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Wow, Just Wow…

"Who among the gods is like you, Lord?  Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?" Exodus 15:11

“Wow, God, just wow. Amen”

A few weeks ago, I was travelling across country by plane.  My headphones were plugged in, my video played loud enough so I wouldn’t hear anyone around me.  My snacks were laid out and my drink delivered.  I was set up in my little bubble.   We were heading west, chasing the falling sun.  

About halfway on my journey my eyes took a break from my Ipad screen to look out the window.  I expected to see a muted landscape below flying by without much interest.  Instead, I was treated to the glory of God.  We found ourselves skimming the tops of a blanket of cotton.  Fluffy white clouds just below our plane for as far as your eyes could see.  Because we were so close it made our airspeed more obvious.  As my eyes adjusted to this phenomenon, I could almost feel the weight press me back into my seat like on a roller coaster.  And we floated.  Yes, that’s what it felt like.  Floating through the heavens. Some unseen force was blowing us across the sky skimming the cotton fields.  And the majesty of God was present in all His glory!

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

As I sat there watching the clouds fly beneath us, I couldn’t help but smile and thank God for such beauty.  It felt as though if I could just reach through the window I would touch the Father.  I can’t explain why exactly it felt different than other times I’ve seen clouds from a plane.  But it seemed as though God were putting on a show for us.  There was no beautiful sunset.  No purple and rose sky.  Just white clouds slightly below and blue sky above.  And all I could say to God was, “wow….”

At that moment I realized the huge difference between believers and those who refuse to acknowledge that everything in our lives has been created.  They could look out the window and think, “hey that’s really pretty.” But I looked out the window and said, “wow, what a cool thing You have done!”  

I mean imagine walking up to the painting masterpiece by Piero della Francesca, “The Resurrection,” called the most beautiful painting in the world by famed author Aldous Huxley, and saying, “Hey that’s kinda pretty.  It must’ve happened by accident.  Some cosmic dust or something.  Like maybe there was a canvas and some paint fell from a window and people accidentally stepped on it and ‘voila’ a painting is made.”  There’d be no credit to the master painter.  No recognition of his ability or desire to create something beautiful for the world to see.

But there is always a creator.  And God is the ultimate Creator.  Our recognition of that fact brings an awe inspiring sunset into clearer view.  It allows us to see the Grand Canyon from a new perspective.  That brief encounter I had on the plane that late afternoon with God’s glory and creation almost brought me to tears.  Of joy.  Knowing He loves making beautiful things whether we are present to see them or not.  

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A Bigger Kingdom

"Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him.  Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness."  1 Chronicles 16:29

“Holy LORD I am so grateful there is You.  You who are above all, above all kings and leaders.  Above my need to be ruler of my own kingdom.  Your Kingdom is full of the glory of your majesty and nothing, absolutely nothing is better than that!  Amen”

I kept hearing today about the glory of God’s kingdom, His presence being above all with nothing greater than Him.  Through songs, scripture and even the sermon from church.  “No one, no one, no one, no one but You LORD is higher or greater” is the song verse that happens to be playing right now as I write this. 

How often do we forget this?  We have our tiny kingdoms that we work so hard to protect and maybe even rule over.  Our schedules, our bills, our children, our stuff, our opinions – all things so much lowlier than what God’s kingdom has to offer us.  And we too frequently forget to look above our kingdom walls toward His holy skies and fall on our knees in reverence.

"For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him." Colossians 1:16

I just got through reading this verse in my current study about God the Son.  Yet another poke at me to remember who made it all and who is fully in charge.  And even more shocking to some – who it is all for.  

Look around, none of this is for your kingdom or mine.  It’s all for His glory.  Which, because God loves us so much, His kingdom is also ours – for those who believe and obey His commandments.  He wants so much more for us.  Not just our little kingdoms.  Yes, He wants us to take care of all He has gifted us but for the greater kingdom.  That means each time we have the opportunity to teach our kids about Him, we do.  Each time we should show love and forgiveness to our spouse, we do.  Each time we see the chance to use our financial gifts to glorify Him, we do.  Each time we can show hospitality in His name, we do.

Friend, the Kingdom doors are so wide, welcoming and beautiful!  Drop to your knees and give thanks to God He is so much bigger than this small world we have built. And turn yourself into the only offering He has ever wanted – you. 

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Slow to Speak

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 
But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.  Mark 14:61

I sat in that meeting surrounded by men.  I was the only woman on the coaching staff and that alone put me at a disadvantage.  But I never have had an issue with being “the only one.”  I frequently have found myself in the position of being the youngest, the woman, the questioning, the sober, the only one to say “no.”  So that evening was no exception.  What was uncomfortable was the man in front of the room threatening me.  He also threatened to have the softball program thrown out of the community center if I remained a coach.  

Something inside my head told me to do something I rarely do – keep silent.  I typically will speak up and defend myself but it was almost as though tape were placed over my mouth.  Partially out of a sense of shock and fear that this man might physically attack me and partially because of that voice I remained quiet as he ranted and raved.

When the ranter was out of steam, the president of the league stood up and with his large physical presence made it clear the man was done and needed to leave.  A vote was taken and I stayed part of the coaching staff.  When the meeting came to an end I was shocked again when the other men, many who had rarely given me the time of day, approached me and congratulated me on standing strong and being so “tough.”  As I walked to my car that night my legs turned to jelly and I collapsed in my car in tears.  The ranter’s words were painful but the words of congratulations also overwhelmed me.  I had finally done something they could all respect.  And it was all because I listened to that small voice to keep quiet.

Even though I experienced success that evening with my silence it can drive me bonkers reading how Jesus took the abuse from the Pharisees.  Of course, unlike Him, I couldn’t rain hellfire down on my accuser and work a miracle.  But Jesus knew exactly when to speak and when to stay silent.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry... James 1:19

And that’s my topic this week on being resolute in Christ – when to act or speak and when to rest or be silent.  Because frequently doing the exact opposite of what the world expects is exactly what we need to do to serve God righteously.

But how do we know?  It can be difficult to discern between our wants, needs and fears and the Word of God. I have found over the last few years, however, that God does make things clear when it is important.  Plus, knowing the character of God and Jesus and what is expected of us is tantamount in making good decisions.  God never speaks to our fleshly desires, encouraging us to indulge.  He is prudent, loving, kind, careful with resources, seeks justice and forgiveness, and above all He is holy.

Study the three main traits of Christ (justice, goodness, holiness) for thirty days, begin to practice them in your daily life, and see what God does…you won’t be disappointed.

Joyce Meyer, God’s Character

I’ve found it fascinating that people who want clear answers from God aren’t willing to actually know the character of the “person” from whom they are seeking answers.  Yet, I won’t go to a friend who clearly has difficulty with their finances and ask them for financial advice!  And I won’t seek fashion advice from someone that looks like they’ve just rolled out of bed every day.  

So much of obeying God’s and His Holy Spirit nudgings must start with knowing the road signs to even look for.  And then when we have accomplished that we must start paying attention and actually acting on those directives.

I love reading Sparkling Gems from the Greek each morning.  It’s a yearly devotional that takes scripture and studies it in the original Greek meaning.  Recently, the author wrote of how he was to attend a gathering of fellow pastors whom he hadn’t seen in awhile. He and his wife travelled to the city where the event was to take place.  As they were about to the leave the hotel a clear word came to him to not attend.  He first told his wife he felt the need to stay in the hotel.  But he went anyways not wanting to miss out on the fun.  Each step along the way he was told over and over to not go.  While at the event the message became almost overwhelming.  He left his wife to keep visiting and he returned to his hotel.  Upon entering his room, he realized they had been burgled.  All their passports, computers, important papers, jewelry and more were gone.  And he realized his fleshly desires overtook that warning voice.

How often have we stood in the midst of a situation that calls us to be an outsider, a dissenter, the weird one, the one to step out of line and answer the call of His voice?   And how often have we brushed it aside thinking we know better?  When we don’t know the character of God that will happen frequently.  But when we do know the character of God there’s no excuse.  We repent and tell God to give us another chance to serve Him rightly.

God will frequently call us in our everyday lives to do something that may help us or help others.  That cashier you want to be rude to because she is talking to another co-worker about her personal life? Ya, God might be telling you to say something incredibly kind to her or just keep silent.  That neighbor who yells at you because he doesn’t like where you put your trashcan?  God might be telling you to keep your mouth shut.  That trip you are about to take? He may be saying, “cancel it.” You won’t know if it’s your own worries or desires unless you know Him and His ways.

“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.
“‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.  Zachariah 7: 11-13

God calls us to action and He calls us to inaction.  He calls us to speak and calls us to stay silent.  But if we worry too much about the world and what they will think if we obey those words, then we are sure to be judged.  We must stand resolutely when we hear that voice and through knowing His mind we will be assured He has our backs.

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Grip The Promised Path

And a highway will be there;
    it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
    wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
    nor any ravenous beast;
    they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Isaiah 35:8-10

For many years my favorite vacation was to travel to San Francisco and hitch rides on the cable cars.  I can still remember the smell they make when the cable operator would grip the underground cable and off we’d go!  We would hop on and off at various famous stops and drink in the beautiful vistas of the bay.  But did you know that unlike its counterparts, the trolleys, cable cars don’t have motors? 

The San Francisco cable car system is made up of miles and miles of undergound cables which all intersect at the large cable car powerhouse.  There you will find giant wheels operating the cables.  Each cable car has a grip which clamps down on the moving cable.  It’s the cable itself which moves each car.  When a cable car needs to stop it releases the cable and applies its wheel brakes.  Without the constantly moving cable, the cars are motionless.  

I’m fascinated with how so many everyday activities in our lives reflect our relationship with God and His Holy promises.  Without Him operating without ceasing, keeping our lives safely along His chosen path for us, we can so easily find ourselves stuck, a cable car without power.  

A good friend of mine and I were out walking one day and we were discussing how easy it is to lose our grip of God’s promises.  We get so distracted by the fears, anxieties and paths the world puts on us.  The things we “should do” because the world expects it from us.  But lately I’ve decided I need to be like the cable car operator – pulling back on that long lever and gripping the life-giving cable of God.  And gripping it tightly.  

As so many people know San Francisco is also famous for it’s steep hills.  And the cable car operators find many challenges in navigating those hills.  They need to know exactly when to grip at the right amount in order to make it up the hill or else they must release the cable and slide backwards to try it again.  And on the downward slope they need to apply the right pressure on the cable while using their wheel brakes.  Each operator must become an expert, not only about the cable car operation, but the individual pitfalls of each hill.

And like those operators, as Christians, we need to be as well versed on the character and promises of God.  He promises to lay out a clear path for us.  We need to place our full effort and attention on Him and that path.  His path doesn’t remove us from the dangers of the hills and valleys, rather He helps us to weave our way up and around and down them. 

I have given them Your word; 
and the world has hated them 
because they are not of the world, 
just as I am not of the world. 
I do not pray that You should take 
them out of the world, but that 
You should keep them from the 
evil one. 
They are not of the world, 
just as I am not of the world.
John 17:14-16

When we wrestle with God, at best, or at our worst completely ignore Him, we will find ourselves stuck at the bottom of our great hills.  Or, plunging recklessly toward the bottom.  The “highway is there” for us.  It is the way of His righteousness.  

A cable car operator who cannot successfully operate his car, and therefore protect his or her passengers, no longer has the privilege of that esteemed and famous job.  And when we refuse to pay attention to the promised path which God provides for us and grip a hold of it, we miss out on the joy and gladness.  The covenant of a promised path requires us to study His Word and hold fast to it.  

Cable car cable grip

In reading up about cable cars also discovered that all the miles of cable have a “sacrificial lubricant” that allows the grip to not wear down the cable itself.  The lubricant wears away similar to a pencil eraser wearing down, rather than the paper it’s being used on.  It’s that burning lubricant that gives the San Francisco cable cars it’s unique and memorable smell.  

Jesus is our “sacrificial lubricant.”  He ripped the curtain away and opened up our direct communication with God.  He sent the Holy Spirit to walk with us at every moment.  His teachings, when gripped, help us to live on the promised path set out for us.