Hearing…

Understanding.

Being aware.

Soft-hearted.

Eyes Open.

Do these things describe me?  Do they describe you?

If not, do we want these things to describe us?

Isaiah tells the people of Judah that they don’t hear and understand.  They don’t see the truth and they aren’t aware of what’s happening around them.  Their hearts are hard and their ears are closed.

Because – Isaiah tells them and us as we read this today – if they saw and heard and understood the truth, they would turn back to God and be healed.

Please help us hear and understand the truth, Abba Father.

Growing Good Grapes

He planted a vineyard on a fertile hillside because he knew a hillside was the best place to plant good grapes.

He cleared the stones and planted only the choicest of vines.

He built a watchtower so he could watch over the vineyard and care for it.

He prepared a winepress in anticipation of making a fine wine with the good grapes.

He is our Father God.  And we are the grapes.

He has placed me right where he wants me in this world and he has a purpose for me here.  You have been placed here for a purpose, too.

He has prepared this place for us.  He has prepared you and I for this place and he watches over us with love and care.

He has planted us in a fertile place where we have the opportunity to grow – if we want to.

God tells us in Isaiah 5 that he did this same thing for the nation of Israel.  He prepared a place and planted them.  But when he looked for good grapes to make the wine, he couldn’t find any.

There was only bad fruit.  Because they didn’t choose God.  They didn’t choose to grow in the fertile ground he had prepared for them.

The same is true for us.

God desires to make a fine wine out of the good grapes that he will grow in our lives if we let him.

What kind of grapes are we growing?

Thank you for your love and care for us, Abba Father.

Stumbling…

Making a wrong choice.

Turning in the wrong direction.

Saying something that’s not right or should not be said.

I do it.

You do it.

We stumble.  It happens.

The big question that makes a significant difference in my life is – how often do I stumble?

Is making a bad choice a rare thing in my life?  Or does it happen pretty regularly?

Do I learn from my mistakes so I don’t do it again?

Or do I keep doing the same thing over and over?

There’s a big difference between an occasional stumble and being a regular ‘stumbler’.  And that difference will be pretty obvious in the amount of negative consequences we have to deal with in our lives.

God points out this truth to us very directly in Hosea 14 – “The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”

Rebellion.

Doing what we want.

Not obeying God.

Putting ourselves on the throne of our lives.

Rebellion is a mindset that will cause us to stumble – regularly.

So, in reality, I choose how much I’m going to stumble when I choose my level of obedience to God.

Please help us obey so we can avoid being a regular ‘stumbler’, Abba Father.

Jehoshaphat’s Prayer, 2017

LORD, the God of our ancestors, you are the only God in heaven.  You are King over everything.

Power and might are in your hands – no one and nothing is as powerful as you.

Our God, you have always been on our side.  We know whatever problems and trials come our way, we just need to turn to you.  When we stand in your presence – crying out to you –  you hear us and save us.

We come to you now because we have more problems and new sorrows.  So we cry out to you, our God, to take care of them.  We cannot face these issues on our own.

We have no power.

We don’t know what to do.

We fix our eyes are on you, LORD.

We trust you, Abba Father.

 

 

Get Off the Teeter-Totter

I’m feeling good…

walking closely with God.

Hearing him.

Seeing him move.

Got a new Christian song rolling around in my head all day.

It’s all good.

And then something happens.

Big or little – it doesn’t have to be a major thing.

And life is suddenly a struggle again.  The things rolling through my head are not the most positive things.  I start wondering – where is God?  What is he doing?  It’s like a dimmer switch has turned down the light in my life and everything becomes darker…colder…..sad.

I know this happens to you too.  This is how it is here on our broken planet.

As we read Elijah’s story in 1 Kings, we find that it’s been like this for thousands of years.

First, Elijah is up on Mount Carmel, trusting God who shows up in such a powerful display of omnipotence that all of the Baal followers fall on their faces to worship the One True God.  Wow!

And then we read that Elijah went away to crawl into a cave to hide because he didn’t trust God to save him from his enemies.

Up!

Down.

Up!

Down.

It’s not easy to have a long-term, consistent relationship with God.

Life gets complicated.  Emotions start rolling.  Stuff happens.  And we find ourselves going up!

Then down.

OK, going up again!

Then down.

I have found a key that helps me avoid some of this ‘I’m not having fun’ time on the teeter-totter.  And that key is to follow God’s direction to me to trust and obey him – all the time.

Trust and obey – it works on the mountaintops when everything is great!

And it works in the valleys when I want to crawl in a cave.

It doesn’t take all the emotion out of the ride up and down but it helps limit the bad choices I could be making if I was reacting to all of these fluctuating feelings.  When I remember how faithful God has always been in the past, I can stand firm knowing that he will also be faithful today and in the future.

It’s not easy, but it works.

Thank you for your faithfulness, Abba Father.

 

Doing My Own Thing

Deciding for myself what is best for me.

Reacting – and sometimes over-reacting – to the situations around me.

Spending my money on me and what I want.

Determining my next step without consulting anyone.  And then quickly going down that path without stopping to evaluate whether it’s the right one for me.

Spending all my time on what I want to do or what I think is best for me.

Any of these describe your life?

I definitely find myself in these situations sometimes.

Do you know how God responds to us when we act like this?

“You have abandoned me; therefore I now abandon you.” 2 Chronicles 12:6.

I want to go my own way?  He let’s me.

Don’t get me wrong – he still loves me.

He hears.

He cares.

It breaks his heart when I wander away and abandon him in any part of my life.

God lets me have this freedom of choice because he wants my whole heart.  He wants me to choose him over myself.

If I don’t choose to line my life up with his truth, he lets me.  And then I pay the consequences for those bad choices.  Sometimes very long-term consequences.

We share this broken world together so I know you’ve been there.  You might be there right now.

Saying whatever you want to say when you’re angry – how well did that work?

Spending all of your time working.  Too busy to spend any time with God.  Where did that get you?

Spending all your money on ‘stuff’ and  finding yourself deeply in debt.  Yeah – the consequences of not being obedient with our money are nasty.  Stressful.  Depressing.   And can last a very long time.

And God lets us.

Because he wants us to learn to choose him over everything else.

Everything else.

How are we doing?  Where do we need to improve?  Or maybe we need to start.

There is no better time than now.

Thank you for never really abandoning us, Abba Father.

Chasing the Wind

Is that what I’m doing?

Is that what you’re doing?

What is the meaning of life?

The Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that everything is meaningless.  He tells us that we cannot comprehend the meaning of life using human wisdom.

He tried.

And he found –

the emptiness of pleasure,

the emptiness of achievement,

the emptiness of labor – unless the person enjoys what they do,

the emptiness of worship that is not true and obedient,

the emptiness of being too busy to value relationships in our lives. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”,

the emptiness of wealth – accumulating stuff,

the emptiness of disobedience – doing whatever we want,

and the emptiness of strength not guided by wisdom.

The Teacher tells us that we will discover our life’s meaning by knowing God and obeying him while we find the correct balance of all of these things.

There is a time for everything.

So we aren’t chasing the wind.

Please let us know you and obey you, Abba Father.

Call It What It Is

We get in trouble every time we make excuses for our behavior.

Everytime we try to rationalize away our sin.

Sometimes we do or say something wrong and then we try to make it ok by blaming someone else or telling ourselves everyone does the same thing so it’s not so bad.

“They started it.”

“I’m not as bad as ……………” (fill in the blank).

Isaiah speaks to this sin of rationalization in his 5th chapter:June 23 2016 call it what it is

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,

who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”

Rationalizing does not help us be better people.  The first step of turning away from sin is to see it for what it is.

Recognize the truth.

Be able to identify the truth and admit when we have not done the right thing.

No excuses.

No blame pointed at others.

When we are able to consistently call light ‘light’ and darkness ‘darkness’, we are letting the truth of God transform us.

This is the road of faith that God has called each of us to walk here on earth.  And God never leaves us on this road alone.  He walks beside us – guiding us and loving us.

Thank you, Abba Father.

It’s Time to Flourish

Such a great word – flourish!

It means to develop in a healthy way as a result of a particularly favorable environment.

This is a great goal for us – to flourish.

So what’s our next step?

How about finding a particularly favorable environment to put ourselves in?  A healthy environment where we are supported and surrounded by people who also want to flourish.

I don’t know of any place better to find an environment like this than participating in a Bible-based, healthy church family.

“Who is wise?” God asks us in Hosea 14.  “Let them realize these things.  Who is discerning?  Let them understand.  The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”June 19 2016 its time to flourish

Are we walking or stumbling?

In the same passage, God promises to help us flourish.  He promises to help us blossom.

The Creator of the Universe always keeps his promises.

It’s clear which particularly favorable environment we need to be participating in so we can flourish.

That’s our next step.

Thank you, Abba Father.

On the Inside

It’s whats on the inside that counts.

We can make ourselves look good and nice and religious on the outside.

But that doesn’t count unless we are letting God mold us and change us on the inside.

When we submit our hearts and minds to God, he will transform them.  Eventually, his redeeming power working in our lives will start to show on the outside.  What people see will be different.

Because we’re becoming more like Him on the inside.

This is why, in Joel 2, the Prophet Joel told the lukewarm people of Judah to ‘rend your heart and not your garments.’June 13 2016 on the inside

They needed to genuinely give their hearts back to God – not just make a big show of tearing their clothes and weeping loudly in the temple.

God called them to rend their hearts – break open their hearts – and let him back in.

Then the transformation can happen.

God asks us to do the same today.  He wants us to open up our hearts to him and let his light shine in our lives.  To mold us.  To change us.

And we can choose to do this.

Today.

What are you going to choose?

We love you, Abba Father.