Sunday, December 14, 2014

Joy...Jesus at the center

We have often heard the acronym for JOY being: "J" for having Jesus first in your life; "O" is for placing others second; and "Y" is for placing yourself last. However, I recently heard a new praise and worship song, Jesus At The Center,” performed here by Darlene Zschech, which shifts our focus to...
        Jesus at the center of our lives,
                 Jesus at the center of our marriages,
                         Jesus at the center of our families,
                                  Jesus at the center of our homes,
                                           Jesus at the center of our work,
                                                   Jesus at the center of our relationships with others,
                                                           Jesus at the center of our churches.

It’s all about Jesus.
That is what brings me joy...Jesus at the center of my life...from the inside-out, from the innermost part of me where the Spirit of Christ dwells, not dependent on my circumstances. 

“When the Spirit of Christ controls our lives He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” Galatians 5:22-23—Living Bible

I was reminded of a quote included in the book Sherrie Eldridge and I co-authored, Under His Wings, from the book, The Art of Intimacy, by Thomas Patrick Malone, M.D. & Patrick Thomas Malone, M.D.:

"Intimacy is derived from the Latin word, ‘intima,’ meaning ‘inner’ or ‘innermost.’”  

                 Innermost—the center of it all.

I experience joy
as I pray God’s Word...

“May the Spirit of Christ Who dwells in the innermost part of me, take authority over my soul (the seat of my emotions) and my body (my fleshly desires and appetites)”

          ...taken from these Scriptures...

I Thessalonians 5:23-24—May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

I Corinthians 6:17—But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

I Corinthians 3:16—Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you. 

I experience joy when every part of me--body, soul, and spirit--is surrendered to the wise, loving, and liberating authority of the Spirit of Christ who dwells in the innermost part of me--joy is the fruit of His authority.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.—James 1:2 ESV

Greek-American Bible scholar, Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, explains that the Greek word for “count” in this verse should be translated, “’think forward, consider, regard.’ As you live in the present, consider the future, think forward to the future.”

That was the phrase that got me, “think forward to the future” … learning to look at our situation from God’s perspective, just like Jesus…

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God—Hebrews 12:2 NASB

I was greatly encouraged by this story about missionary Andrew Murray, who, in 1895, was suffering with terrible back pain from a previous injury. One morning while eating breakfast in his room, his hostess told him of a woman downstairs who was in great trouble and wanted to know if he had any advice for her. Andrew Murray handed her a paper he had been writing on and said, “Give her this advice I’m writing down for myself. It may be that she’ll find it helpful.” This is what was written:

In time of trouble, say, “First, God brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place; in that I will rest.” Next, “He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.” Then say, “He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to bestow.” And last, say, “In His good time He can bring me out again. How and when, He knows.” Therefore, say, “I am here (1) by God’s appointment, (2) in His keeping, (3) under His training, and (4) for His time.”

Was this encouraging to you? Please feel free to leave your comments in the box below, I’d love to hear from you.

Linking up with Holley Gerth and Heather Faria as an encourager.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Jesus whispers peace...

Webster “Web” Carroll was a missionary from our church to Uganda. I was always fascinated by his stories from the mission field. When he was retiring, he came back to our church to share this final message... 

He asked us to open our Bibles to John 21:1-6…

Later Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. Several of the disciples were there--Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples. Simon Peter said, "I'm going fishing." "We'll come, too," they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night. At dawn the disciples saw Jesus standing on the beach, but they couldn't see who he was. He called out, "Friends, have you caught any fish?" "No," they replied. Then he said, "Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you'll get plenty of fish!" So they did, and they couldn't draw in the net because there were so many fish in it.

Web began to share
his observations of this familiar scripture. He said, 'I' is not the most profound company or secure future. It is dangerous for the ego to become the foundation for your tomorrows. If 'I' is undependable, 'we' is that much more undependable. That 'night'—physical night is bad enough, but spiritual night is worse. He explained these words from the Ugandan language, 'ushinde' (ends with an 'e') which means 'defeat.' He said the word 'ushindi' (ends with an 'i') means 'victory.'

Jesus asks, "Do you have any fish?"  Sooner or later somebody has to speak and say, "No, Sir, we don't." Sooner or later we face Jesus Christ, whether we recognize Him or not. "What do you have to show for the last 8 hours you've spent in the water?"  He covers us with His compassion. Just like He did that early morning—to talk to the fish that were there in the water that night. The difference between spiritual victory and spiritual defeat is the Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Web further explained this with another Ugandan word, 'basi'... it means, 'peace, it will be alright, it will be okay.' It is used by mothers nursing their babies, it means 'peace, healing' as they hold their babies, they pat them saying, “basi, basi”..."that's alright, that's alright." Then he closed with John 3:16 and he said, "Just give Jesus a chance, He will give 'basi.'"

I have experienced this ‘basi’…peace…the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ as my El Shaddai. The thought expressed in the name Shaddai describes power, but it is the power, not of violence, but of all-bountifulness. Shaddai primarily means “breasted,” being formed directly from the Hebrew word, “shad,” that is “the breast.” Shaddai means “the pourer” or “the shedder-forth,” that is of blessings, temporal and spiritual. Having been a nursing mother of my two children, I readily identify with this name…my baby is crying—restless. Nothing can quiet it. Yes; the breast can. My baby is pining, starving. Its life is going out. It cannot take nourishment: it will die. No; the breast can give it fresh life, and nourish it…calming, peaceful, nourished…satisfied…He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him…He Himself is our Peace…

Take a few moments to listen to George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows as they harmonize while softly singing the beautiful old hymn, Jesus Whispers Peace

There is a name to me so dear,
Like sweetest music to my ear,
For when my heart is troubled, filled with fear,
Jesus whispers peace
When grief seems more than I can bear
My soul weighed down with heavy care
And I am sorely tempted to despair
Jesus whispers peace
O that the world might hear Him speak
The word of comfort that men seek
To all the lowly and to the meek
Jesus whispers peace.

Was this encouraging to you? Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below, I'd love to hear from you!

Linking up with Holley Gerth and Heather Faria as an encourager.

Monday, December 1, 2014

the miraculous in the midst of the mundane...

As our Israeli tour bus drove toward Bethlehem, I began to wonder, what would it have been like for Joseph and Mary as they approached Bethlehem 20 centuries ago? Was the five-mile stretch of road from Jerusalem as bustling as it is today? What did they see? What did they hear?

As we approach the town, we notice all the terraced olive groves, which march up the dry hills like steps leading to a temple. And then, suddenly, there it is: Bethlehem, the ancient "House of Bread"--clinging to a ridge as if clinging to history itself. O, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!

Naturally, no one can be sure exactly where Jesus' birth occurred in Bethlehem, but you just know that, wherever the exact spot, it couldn't have been far away. That thought alone pierces through all the touristy glitz and fairly takes your breath away in anticipation.

Standing in the city of Bethlehem, looking out on the Shepherd's Fields I can just imagine the heavens opening up and the angels descending and shouting, Glory to God in the highest, unto to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord. When the shepherds in the field were surprised by the appearances of the angel and the heavenly host, their initial terror quickly turned to joy. Just as the angel had said, they found the baby, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. For these simple men with open hearts, it was a process of surprise, shock, fear, disbelief, hope, trust, confirmation, and finally indescribable joy! Joy at seeing the Christ child. Joy at having been singled out for the unique honor of being present at the very moment in history when God came near. Joy at having witnessed the one birth that gives meaning to all other births.

When Mary heard those first cries of divine life wrapped in human flesh, any thought of disappointment must surely have turned into immeasurable peace and joy!  Even His name, Emmanuel, "El" means "God," the rest of the word means"with us," the "with us God." He created us to be with us. He gave each of us a longing for Him by creating every single human being with a "with" need. While the world carried on unconcerned, the infant Emmanuel cooed and kicked and toddled His way to His feet. God, the Immortal Invisible, walked among His people, Israel, as they sojourned through the wilderness. But not until now did His invisible feet sink into the sand, shod with skin, making visible prints. And God was with us. Emmanuel.

What do we learn from the unlikely circumstances of Jesus' birth, but that our God is a God of surprises. How He delights in bringing us unexpected joy! How many times have we seen God most clearly in the middle of a crisis? How many times have we discovered the miraculous in the midst of the mundane?

Take a few moments to enjoy this beautiful rendition of O Little Town of Bethlehem by Kari Jobe...

Was this encouraging to you? Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below, I'd love to hear from you!

Linking up with Holley Gerth and Heather Faria as an encourager.

Monday, November 24, 2014

ASK--Ask, Seek, Knock--a WOW! moment on the Mount

Standing here on the hill where Jesus proclaimed the Sermon on the Mount and where He fed the multitudes with five loaves and two fish, God's Word comes alive.

I remember one early morning about 2 a.m. when I couldn't sleep. I opened my Bible to the Scripture Matthew 7:7 and suddenly, like a light from Heaven, the word ASK jumped off the page: Ask, and it will be given to you; Seek and you will find; Knock and the door will be opened to you.

The first letter of each of the three action verbs, Ask, Seek, and Knock spell the word, "ASK"

WOW! How amazing, how mysterious, that at 2 a.m. my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would highlight the first letter of those three words in sequence.

He who spoke the world into existence, spoke these words in that sequence (as translated into the English language) and He revealed it to my delight in the middle of the night...because I was seeking Him.

Seek Him. Seek the One who called you. Seek to know Him. Seek a heart to love Him. 

Seek--the heart of the three words, Ask, SEEK, Knock.

Walking on the ground where Jesus walked, sitting on the mount by the Sea of Galilee where He taught His disciples, where He walked on the water, where He calmed the sea, brings me into a closer personal relationship with my Savior and my Lord, Jesus Christ.

I take away such Truth from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I realize the Sermon on the Mount is my call for getting to the core of life's meaning...f
or moving beyond the external to the internal...for discovering the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart...a matter of attitude, or as Jesus taught, our be-attitudes

Take a few moments to reflect on this rendition of I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked.

Was this encouraging to you? Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below. I'd love to hear from you!

Linking up with Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart as an encourager.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

when You speak to me...

entrance to Capernaum, Jesus' home away from Nazareth
site of synagogue the centurion helped to build in Capernaum
site of the home in Capernaum where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law
column taken from synagogue with inscription

From the moment our Israeli tour bus stopped in Capernaum, attuning my senses to the sights, the sounds, even the smells, of this unique place where Jesus memories of Scriptures which mentioned Capernaum began to come alive...
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:5-17)

Capernaum was Jesus' home away from Nazareth, and the heart of Jesus' Galilean ministry. He spent some two years there, teaching and performing miracles. Situated on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum was the home of the two sets of fishing brothers whom Jesus called to be apostles—Peter and Andrew, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

One of the most impressive of Jesus' miracles performed in Capernaum was the healing—at a distance—of the Roman Centurion's servant. This man deserves to have you do this, the Jewish elders said to Jesus, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue. (Luke 7:4-5)

Imagine my excitement, then, at being able to visit what is the site of the very synagogue which the centurion had helped to build, where Jesus spoke and the centurion's servant was healed.

Virtually adjacent to the synagogue was another much-visited site in Capernaum--the home where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law of her fever.

As we were leaving the synagogue area, we saw a row of columns taken from the synagogue. On one of the columns is an Aramaic inscription dedicated to "Alpheus the son of Zebedah, the son of John," who had contributed to the building of the second synagogue from the second or perhaps fourth century. Our tour guide told us that it is altogether possible that there is profound significance in the names "John" and "Zebedah." Given the location of Capernaum and the fact that family names were passed down for generations, these men may have been descendants of the apostle John, the son of Zebedee.

Each step walking
where Jesus walked in Capernaum reinforces my faith, built upon the foundation of the apostles, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:20)

Take a few moments
to reflect on When You Speak To Me by Twila Paris...

When You speak to me, when I take the time to listen, I am more than what I think I feel, when You speak to me, when I sit and still the motion, there is nothing left but what is real...there is an answer to every question, the answer is You...

Was this encouraging to you? Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below. I'd love to hear from you!

Linking up with
Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart as an encourager.


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