Not Alone

I don’t know how I missed it.  Maybe it was never included in the children’s version of this story.

It’s a well-known Biblical account. Three men refused to worship the evil king’s golden idol so the king threw them into a blazing furnace.  The furnace was so hot that it killed the soldiers who got close enough to throw the men in.

Here’s a detail of the story that I missed until I started reading the entire Chronological Bible each year. The king looked into the furnace and saw 4 men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed.

4 men – not 3.

“Look!  I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”  Daniel 3: 25.  The king called the 4th person an angel.  I believe it was Jesus, sent by God to protect Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  They walked through the blazing fire together.

The fire didn’t stop when the three men were thrown in.

The king didn’t change his mind at the last minute.

An army of angels didn’t swoop down from heaven to save the day.

God had a hundred ways he could have saved these 3 men.  He chose to send a personal rescuer into the fire with them.  Jesus walked with them – just like he walks with us when we are in the middle of the fires in our lives.

Our fires can look like failure….

grief……

disease……

disappointment….

betrayal…..

the list goes on.

My biggest personal fire was when my son, David Glasser, who was a Phoenix Police Officer, was killed in the line of duty on May 18, 2016.  All of my expectations of what the rest of my life looked like were destroyed on that day.  The flames of that fire are still burning up pieces of my life, leaving mountains of painful ash behind.

But Jesus was there.   And he is here as I continue to walk on this very tough road piled high with grief and loss.

I have discovered that, as I remain faithful in the fire, God is using this time to grow my trust, grow my perseverance and grow my faith.

My loss and pain will not go away this side of heaven but God has given me peace and a purpose.  I’m thankful for the opportunities he gives me to share what I am learning about God’s faithfulness as he walks with me daily,

in the middle of the fire.

Thank you, Abba Father. 

Really Living

A valley of bones.

Millions of bones.

When God breathed into them – “they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.” Ezekiel 37:10.

Wow!!

Growing up in church, I always thought this vision of Ezekiel should be preached around Halloween because a valley full of dry bones suddenly connecting and standing up is weird as well as a little scary.

How time changes things! Now I love this visual because it’s exactly what happened when I turned over my whole heart to God.  His breath went deep into my soul and – for the first time – I was truly alive.  I have an eternal purpose.  I have been re-created into one of the soldiers in his army – wearing his armor and working hard next to my spiritual brothers and sisters to share the Good News and push back evil.  Each day, I read and study God’s word – getting to know him better and listening as he speaks truth into my life.

Are you looking for purpose? Are you looking for guidance? Are you looking for hope?

God gives me hope.  Not the ‘I wish’ kind of hope.  This hope is cemented into my heart by the promises of God.  I know who is in control and I know he is working everything out for my good.  I know where I’m going when I leave this earth.  I know who wins in the end.

God’s redeeming love has turned my dry bones into something good and useful.  His breath moves in my heart and soul – bringing new life each day.

There are no dry bones here.

What’s the condition of your bones?  Would you like to experience a new breath of God’s spirit in your soul?

Turn to him and ask, he’s waiting for you.

Showers of Blessing

The old hymns bring back great memories for me.

I was raised in a conservative Christian family who were members of a conservative Christian church in the Midwest.  I don’t remember knowing anyone in my little home town who didn’t go to church regularly.

My father was a talented musician who owned and operated a car body repair shop for most of his life.  He had a beautiful, deep baritone voice.  My mother had a nice alto voice and harmonized well.  My youngest brother had a great tenor voice.  Unfortunately, I also sing alto so my family quartet was missing a soprano but there were many good sopranos in our church congregation.  So listening to my family sing the old hymns in church every Sunday morning was a treat – definitely my favorite part of the service.

Those great old hymns reverberated off the walls as my church family sang them with energy and confidence.  And my family contributed a beautiful part of it.

Awesome memories!

My little town also had ‘Hymn Sings’ at the town ballpark during the summer.  We would fill up the bleachers with people from all different churches while the organizers set up microphones and amplifiers on a stage over the pitcher’s mound.  They hauled in an organ (no drums or guitars here) and handed out song sheets.  People would yell out favorites and we would fill the summer sky with praises to God for 2 hours or more.

I would sing harmony with my mom – no music, we sang these same songs in church so often that we had the harmony part memorized.  I realized many years ago that I don’t know the melody of some of the old hymns – just the harmony.  But I know the words by memory and I also have the second and third verses of many of them etched in my brain.

As I now read Ezekiel 34, these great memories come rolling through my head as God says through Ezekiel, “I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.” vs 26.

One of the many blessings God has given me is a long family legacy of faith and trust in God which creates beautiful memories like these.

Thank you for your blessings, Abba Father.

How Great!

We are not consumed by our sadness…

or our problems… or the chaos in our world.  Because God is always loving and caring for us.

Great is God’s faithfulness!

One of my special joys in reading through the Bible every year is when I read words that were used in the old famous hymns.  I was raised in a musical, conservative Christian home so these hymns bring back precious memories.

God tells me as I read Lamentations 3 that he will always be faithful to me.  And, as the sun rises each morning, I am reminded of his promises. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every  morning; great is your faithfulness.”  vs 22-23.

He is never late (even though it can sometimes seem that way to me).  He is never tired.  He is never distracted.

Whenever doubts about God enter my mind, all I have to do is look back and it’s easy to see God’s faithfulness to me day after day, year after year.  Even when I wandered, God never left me.  He never stopped loving me and caring for me.

Just like he cares for me today.

And I know I can count on him to love me and care for me all of the rest of the days I walk on this earth…and on into heaven.

Great is your faithfulness, oh God, my Father!

What Makes Him Happy?

Being ‘good enough’ is not my goal.  Getting my act together is not my goal.  Checking all the boxes – keeping busy with ‘God’ stuff – is not my goal.

The historical account of Jesus’ baptism tells me what pleases God, what makes him happy.

I do.

If you have put your faith in Jesus, you do.

When I trusted in Jesus and was redeemed by his sacrifice on the cross, I was adopted by God and became one of his precious daughters.  ‘Joint heirs with Jesus’ – as an old hymn describes it.  What Jesus did for me makes me ‘good enough’.

While reading about Jesus’ baptism, I realize a very important fact. Jesus hadn’t started his ministry yet.  He hadn’t DONE anything huge for God.  “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17.

Let’s take a moment to let that soak in, my brothers and sisters.  Jesus was God’s son and God was pleased with him – before his ministry began.  Before Jesus did any miracles.  Before he did any teaching. During this spectacular moment when all three parts of our Triune God met on earth, the only thing our Father God wanted to say was how much he loved his son, Jesus.

Accepting salvation through Jesus makes you and I children of God and, as with his son, Jesus, God is pleased with us. It’s not what anything we do, it’s all about who we are.

Feel his smile shining down on you.

Feel his unconditional love.

Feel his forgiveness for any guilt that is weighing heavy on your shoulders.

Feel his peace flow over you in a supernatural way.

Feel his strength flow through you as he walks right beside you each day.

Let his joy fill your heart today.

Don’t DO anything.  Just feel the pleasure he has as he looks at you.  He sees himself in you.  We are all created in his image, yet each one of us reflects different aspects of him – making us all uniquely his.

I am important to God.  He has made me special.

You are very important to him.  He has made you special.

And he is pleased.

Thank you, Abba Father.

What’s Your Story?

I have a story.

You have a story.

How did we get here? Tell me about the mountains you climbed and I’ll tell you about the valleys I’ve struggled through.

God tells us in Psalm 107 that we all need to tell our stories.  “Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story.” Psalm 107: 2.

Each of us has a unique tale to share.

Some of us have wandered, looking for a place to belong. We were hungry for love, starving for a purpose. When we cried out to God, he drew us closer to himself – to the place he made just for us. God gave us a purpose to get up every morning.

Let us tell our story, giving thanks to God for he is good.

Others of us lived in darkness, bound by chains of rebellion, stumbling through life with no help in sight. But we cried out to the LORD and he brought us out of the utter darkness, breaking all of our chains.

Let us tell our story, giving thanks to God for he is good.

Some of us made very foolish decisions and were suffering through the consequences of those to the point of thinking that death might be an option.  But, instead, we turned to God for help and he healed us, rescuing us from the living death we found ourselves in.

Let us tell our story, giving thanks to God for he is good.

Others of us have experienced violent storms in our lives as huge waves of pain and grief washed over us. When our courage and strength were gone, we finally cried out to the LORD and he “stilled the storm with a whisper”, calmed the waves and guiding us home to him.

Let us tell our story, giving thanks to God for he is good.

My story is that I have known Jesus as my Savior my entire life but I decided to wander in my young adulthood – trying out all the ‘fun’ things the world had to offer. It seemed great at first but gradually my life because very empty and filled with darkness. So I called out to God who made it very clear to me that he had never left me. When I turned back to him, I found him waiting for me with open arms.

God has been gradually drawing me closer to him as I travel this Journey towards the Truth each day. I have left the emptiness and darkness behind, finding meaning and light as I put God first in my life. 

I will continue to tell my story for the rest of my life, giving thanks to God for he is good.

What Am I Supposed to do?

When the path right in front of me looks like its straight up hill.

When the issue confronting me is big

and confusing

and scary

and heart-breaking.

When I am threatened on all sides by more problems, more sadness, more darkness.

What am I supposed to do?

please-strengthen-my-hands

When Nehemiah found himself in this type of situation, he turned to God and prayed “Now strengthen my hands.”(6:9)

Nehemiah had groups of powerful people plotting against him as he led the Jews in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  His enemies were trying to frighten the Jews so their hands would become too weak to continue to work on the wall.  But God answered Nehemiah’s prayers and the wall was eventually finished.

Is there something in your life that looks like its impossible to accomplish?  Impossible to fix?

Give it to God.  Ask him to strengthen your hands and then trust that he is answering.  He may use you like he did Nehemiah to actually orchestrate the answer.  Or  he may want your strong hands to be folded in prayer before him, admitting your dependence on him and remaining faithful while he works all things out for your good.

Either way,  God’s got this.

Please strengthen my hands, Abba Father.

Looking For It

Where can I find satisfaction?

Is contentment even a possibility for you?

God speaks to you and me in Haggai about the negative consequences that happen when we have our priorities wrong –

We work hard but have little to show for it…except for a lot of bills.

We eat but there is still a hunger in our souls.

We drink but we are still thirsty….for something.

We put on new clothes but then we need to buy more because the last thing we bought didn’t satisfy us.

“You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Haggai 1:6.

Can you relate to any of those?

I can.  I have experienced all of those at different times of my life when my eyes were focused on something other than God.

I love how God uses the image of a purse – or pockets for us today – full of holes.  Before I put God first in my finances, all the money we made disappeared so fast that it felt like all of my pockets had holes in them.  And was I satisfied?  No!

I learned that if my life is about money and stuff, I will never have enough.  And that is what God is telling you and I today in Haggai.  God was talking to the Israelites because they were busy building their own houses while ignoring the rebuilding of God’s house, the Temple.

What is keeping you and I too busy to put God first in our lives?

God is telling us to get our priorities straight and THEN we will find satisfaction.

Thank you for your truth, Abba Father

He is Already Responding

Do you ever feel like God is not listening to your prayers? It can feel like this when he doesn’t respond in the way we want him to. It can also feel like this when we just aren’t seeing him move.

God tells us today in the book of Daniel that he heard Daniel’s prayer and sent the angel Gabriel to earth to give a message to him while Daniel was still praying.

“As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.” Gabriel told Daniel. Daniel 9:23.

Wow!  As soon as Daniel began to pray, God was responding.  Right away.  Daniel hadn’t even finished praying before God was taking action on his request.

Love it!

God is telling you and me that this is still happening today when we pray.  Before I have finished praying, God is moving, responding, orchestrating things for my good – every day, all day.

Yes, the angel said Daniel was ‘highly esteemed’. Daniel prayed long and often to God. He had a close relationship with God that helped him pray in line with God’s will. We know that, when we pray for what God wants done, it always happens, the answer is always ‘yes’.

I know when I turn to God and pray, recognizing my dependence on him, he takes action. Sometimes I see him moving and other times I don’t. But I trust that he is and I often – in His perfect timing – see the results. Just this weekend I found out that a very important, longer-term prayer of mine has been answered.

I don’t need an angel to tell me that God is listening, I have his Word on it.

Thank you for always listening and responding, Abba Father

What!?

A human hand – unattached to a body – appeared and wrote a message on the wall.

What?!

Daniel tells us this actually happened in the middle of King Belshazzar’s huge banquet!  “Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace.” Daniel 5:5.

You may have heard someone say the phrase ‘I can read the writing on the wall’.  I tend to use this phrase when I’m making a prediction of how a situation is going to work out. I had no idea until the first time I read the entire Bible that this came from the book of Daniel.

After he got over the shock of seeing the hand, King Belshazzar realized he had no idea of what the message meant. But he knew that it obviously was very important. So he consulted with Daniel who was well-known for being able to interpret things when no one else could.  Daniel read the writing and told the king that God was bringing the king’s reign to an end because, ” ..you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.” Daniel 8:23.

That very night, the message on the wall was fulfilled and Belshazzar was killed.

One part of the message on the wall was ‘Tekel’ which means “you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.” Daniel 5: 27.

The bad news for all of us is – our scales don’t look any better.  Our rebellion.  Our need for control.  Our self-centeredness.  Our disbelief and lack of obedience. Our busyness which causes us to ignore God.

The writing on our wall would have the same message…..

except for the fact that God loved us so much that he gave us an ‘out’.

He sent his perfect son, Jesus, to save us from eternal separation from God.  The entire Bible is a love story about how God created us in his image and desires to have a close, personal relationship with us.

Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus offers a gift of grace to each one of us – that’s his part.  Our part is accepting his free gift. Jesus wants to move the scales in our favor.

When we put our trust in Jesus, we become precious children of God who are never ‘found wanting’. Jesus did it for you and I….

for all time,

for all who will believe and receive.

It is finished.

Thank you, Jesus.