He Prayed for Me

And he prayed for you.

One of my favorite things about the Chronological Bible is we are reading about Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion in the week leading up to Thanksgiving.

It’s so appropriate!

The holiday reminds me to be thankful and God’s Word reminds me the most important thing to be thankful for – Christ’s sacrifice for me.

For God so loved the world…

Life everlasting with my Abba Father.

I love reading the prayer of Jesus in John 17.  He prayed for us!  “for those who will believe in me’ through the message of his disciples.

We know the Truth because the disciples faithfully shared with others the Truth they had seen and heard.   And we pay it forward by sharing what we have seen and heard about the Truth with others…

in gratitude for what Christ did for us.

May we be found faithful witnesses to your love and grace, Abba Father.

How Close Am I?

How much distance is there between God and me?

How far?

Mark tells us that Jesus was asked which of the commandments was most most important and Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The man who asked replied, “You’re right!  I get it  now!  Loving God is more important than following all the religious rules, traditions and ceremonies.” (my version).

Jesus replied, ” You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

It’s like he said – “Good job, buddy!  You’re figuring this out!”  I’m sure Jesus had a smile on his face when he said this because Jesus was surrounded by people who weren’t getting it but this man was starting to understand the truth.

I pray that Jesus would say this to me if he was sitting next to me this morning. “You’re figuring it out, Judy!”  That’s what this journey towards the truth is all about.

Am I getting closer to God as I study his Word?  Am I letting God transform me as I put his Truth into practice in my life?

How about you?

Thank for this this journey towards the Truth – towards you, Abba Father.

Really Alive

We are all breathing.

Our hearts are pumping so we are all living.

But are we really alive?  There is so much more to life that just making it through the day.  There’s so much more that going to work everyday to pay the bills.  There’s so much more to life than buying that next new thing or going to that next new place.

Is my heart and mind and soul really alive?

One of my favorite names for Jesus is in John 8 when he calls himself the Light of the World. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Really living is when we have this light of life.

We experience a whole new dimension here on earth when we choose to live in the light of life.  

God is moving.  He is making things happen.  He is loving us and caring for us.  He is moving mountains for us.  When we live in the light, we can see some of what he is doing right before our eyes.

We are really alive.

When we are in tune with God we can understand his strength and we can feel his love.  We can sense his presence right beside us – lighting up our world.

This is what it means to be really alive.

Jesus made his free gift of grace available to everyone – we just need to choose to walk in the light.  If you haven’t made that choice – today is a great day to accept salvation through Jesus.

He is waiting.

Thank you for making it possible for all of us to be really alive, Abba Father.

There Is No Other Way

No other path.

No where else to go.

This journey of faith is not easy.  The hills are very steep and the roads wind around blind corners where it’s impossible to see what’s up ahead.  And the valleys go down….

down…

into darkness……

But it’s never complete darkness.  No matter what is happening, God is always next to me, shining his light on the way I should go.

Sometimes I can’t see the light because I’m distracted – I’m looking away – at something else – like my fears, my worries or my grief.

But I just have to focus on him and God is there –

always.

He is faithful.

There are times when my eyes and thoughts wander, but they always come back to my Heavenly Father.  Because there is no other Truth.

There is no other perfect love.

There is no other direction to go in this world that will take me where I want to eventually go – home with my Father.

So I have to smile when Peter says essentially these same words.  Peter was watching as Jesus offended some of the people who were following by telling them the truth.  It wasn’t what they wanted to hear,

so they left.

Jesus turned to Peter and asked him if he wanted to leave, too.  And Peter answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of Eternal Life.”

I’m with you on that, Peter.

There is no one else to follow.  There is no other place I want to go.

There is no turning back.

So I move forward – trusting, growing and loving God.

Thank you for the truth, Abba Father.

The Wind Blows Against Me

There are days,

and seasons,

and years,

when the wind blows against me.

And it blows against you.

These are times of questions and struggle.  It’s hard to move forward when the winds of tough circumstances and tragic change and roller-coaster emotions blow forcefully against me.

So I can relate when I read the story in Matthew of the disciples straining at the oars of their boat as the wind blew against them and the waters of the Sea of Galilee grew stormy.

I know how it feels to be trying to push forward through rough waters…

against growing waves….

trying to at least maintain the progress I’ve made so far….

knowing forward movement is going to be extremely difficult.

Do you know that feeling, too?

Then I am reminded as I read God’s word, that I need to look up –

above the waves.

Because when the disciples looked up, they saw Jesus.  The Creator of the wind and waves walked out to them – giving them courage in the middle of the storm.

Jesus challenged Peter to show his faith by stepping out of the boat.  Do you notice that Jesus didn’t calm the storm?  It’s all still whipping around Peter when Jesus asks him to step out in faith.

What a big difference from my frequent prayers to calm the storms!  Calming them is often not his plan.  Instead, he comes to me in the midst of the wind and rain to challenge my faith – asking me to grow my trust and step out of the boat right into the storm where I need to count on him even more for guidance and protection.

Its hard not to focus on the waves,

and on the wind as it blows against me.

What are you focused on today?

Please help us lift our eyes and focus on you, Abba Father.

Living in Darkness

This is a good description of a big portion of our culture today, isn’t it?

The light of truth is not shining in their minds – their thoughts are confused and fluctuate with the latest popular trends.

The light of love is not shining in their hearts – they have turned inward and cynical, victims of their own limited perspectives.

But those of us who have accepted Jesus’ grace and love and salvation have seen the light that shines in the darkness.  The light of God’s mercy shines in our lives every day as he helps us love ourselves and love others with his love.

We will never understand it all – that’s where faith comes in.

We still mess up regularly – that’s where grace comes in.

But we know the light and that’s where joy comes in.

Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied these things about Jesus before he was born.  Zachariah had a conversation with the angel Gabriel who stands today and every day in the presence of God.   Zachariah received a very clear insight into what God was about to do – send his son to save the world.  Zachariah knew the plan.  And his prophesy ends with ‘the rising sun will come to us from heaven..to shine on those living in the darkness…to guide our feet into the path of peace.’

Please guide our feet into the path of peace, Abba Father.

They Didn’t Take It…..

he gave it.

The religious leaders created elaborate plots to take Jesus’ life.

But they didn’t succeed.  Because he willingly gave it.they-didnt-take-his-life

He went to the garden where he knew he would be arrested.  He offered no resistance and permitted no violence.  After ‘he gave up his spirit’, John tells us the earth shook, the curtain in the temple tore in half and bodies of holy people who had died were raised to life.

All of creation reacted when their creator gave up his life here on earth.

The religious leaders tried very hard to snuff out the Light of the World.

But they accomplished just the opposite.

They played right into God’s plans to redeem the world.

They helped make Jesus famous.  Before his crucifixion, he was known as a unusually knowledgeable carpenter who healed people.

After this death and resurrection, his identity as the Messiah spread throughout the world and we’re talking about him today… every day.

They didn’t take his life – he gave it.  For us.

For God so loved the world.

Thank you, Abba Father.

In Agony

There are times when words just can’t express…

the pain our heart is experiencing…

the confusion going on in our minds….

the emptiness we have in our spirit.

Jesus prayed in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (picture) the night he was betrayed.eeeeeDSC_0418

He experienced the anguish we feel.

He understands our pain.

As he prayed, God sent an angel to strengthen him.

I believe God still sends angels into our anguish today.  Sometimes its an actual touch from heaven.  And sometimes he sends other people to be ‘God with skin on’ for us.  To help us through the night.  To offer prayers and support.

In some situations, it’s all the above.

Because God knows and he cares.

He sent an angel to his son because Jesus’ friends were sleeping.  They weren’t aware of what was going on.  But that didn’t stop God from providing care for his son.

Nothing stops God from loving us and taking care of us.

Nothing.

Thank you, Abba Father.

 

 

I Will Have Many Trials

Heart-ache

Despair

Broken Relationships

Hatred

Emptiness

Jealousy

Confusion

Loneliness

And much more.

We all experience these trials,

in some variation,

at different times,

sometimes several at the same time…

making it hard to see the light.

Hard to see anything good.

Hard to make it through the day.

Jesus tells his disciples –  and us – in John 16 that we will have many trials.

Some of these trials are consequences for bad decisions we have made.

And some of them happen to us because we live in a broken world which is increasingly influenced by the Prince of Darkness.

Most of you know that the level of trials in my life took a big jump up this year.i-will-have-many-trials

Yes, I will have many trials.  I have a new, painful understanding of that reality.

And I have a choice to make in how I respond to these trials.

I can choose to get lost in self-pity and focus on what I have lost.  I can get stuck on the edge of the big hole in my life and let the rest of my life be about what I no longer have.

Or I can choose to let God grow my faith through these trials.  I can let him become even more real in my life – a strong anchor in the storm, my faithful shepherd who lovingly leads me beside still waters and restores my soul.

I am choosing to ‘take heart’ like Jesus tells us to do.  I am choosing to believe that Jesus has already claimed victory over evil and this is all part of his plan.

I have come to understand much more clearly now that this world of sadness and hatred and lack of respect is not my real home.

Heaven is.

And Jesus has prepared a place for me there.

If you are a believer, he has prepared a place for you as well.

Until then, we will have many trials.

Please help grow our faith, Abba Father.

What’s Inside?

How do I look?

What do I say?

Do I go to church regularly?

Am I in a small group Bible study?

Am I serving at church?

We often focus on the outside and the activities on our calendars.

What other people see.

But God focuses on the inside – our hearts, our minds and our souls.eidtted-blue-heart-in-eye

In Matthew 23, Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites because, on the outside they look clean and nice, but on the inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Wow!  Self- indulgence.  That’s the American dream, isn’t it?  To have what we want when we want it.  It’s obviously not God’s dream for us.

Jesus commands the Pharisees to clean up the inside and then the outside will also be clean.

Going to church is good – unless we’re just there to see and be seen.

Being a part of a small group Bible study is good unless it turns into a social club not centered on growing our relationship with God.  I’ve known about small groups that have turned into gossip cliques filled with negativity and judgement of others – especially the leadership of their church.  That is the total opposite of the purpose they should fill in our lives.

Serving at church is good as long as we balance it so we still have time to spend with God to grow our personal relationship with him.  God ‘busyness’ can easily distract us from what God really desires – our attention.

When we give God the chance to work in our lives, he always starts on the inside – redeeming our souls, changing our thoughts, opening and softening our hearts.  When we are in a close relationship with God, we don’t have to worry about the outside.  As God transforms what’s inside of us, it gradually begins to show on the outside.

How much transformation have you experienced this last month?  This last year?

Please open our hearts to you, Abba Father.