There’s So Much More!

What do we really know about God? All we can know is what He reveals: first, through creation, the Bible, and Jesus’ life and teaching. But there’s more: He seems to keep revealing Himself as we keep wanting to know Him better.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:9

“If You are pleased with me, teach me Your ways so I may know You and continue to find favor with You.” – Moses to God in Exodus 33:13

It’s a great adventure to experience God’s ongoing revelation of who He is. For example, He shows us His

  • . . . pleasure when He knows we are turning our hearts toward Him.
  • . . . joy when we discover something in His creation we never saw before.
  • . . . love when He answers a prayer way beyond what we even dared to ask.
  • . . . guidance when He brings wisdom from an unexpected source.
  • . . . grace when we try to overcome a sinful habit and fail yet again.

None of this revelation is predictable, manageable, or even made clear in Scripture, but it seems God is constantly showing us more about who He is and how He wants to relate to us. Because He never changes, we can be sure that what we have yet to learn will be consistent with what we already know. We can count on Him always to be loving, merciful, holy, just, faithful, and gracious.

We will never know all there is to know about God and what we do know is filtered through a dimly-lit mirror, but sometimes He shows us a little more. Mysterious? Yes. But also exciting. And the best part: He’s not hiding. If we want to know Him, He will never disappoint. Every time He shows us more of Himself, our response will be  amazement and thanks!

“The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.” – Thomas Merton

The Peacock

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“Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever?” – C. S. Lewis

Last week I met a woman who told me about her daughter Kristy who was diagnosed with cancer at age 31. When the severity of the situation was known and she realized she had only a few months to live, Kristy sat in the backyard of her Georgia home asking God to walk with her through this frightening journey.

As she sat there, a peacock strutted out, opened wide his astounding tail feathers, and just stood there. Kristy immediately knew this peacock was a gift from her heavenly Father who wanted her to know how much He loved her. But it wasn’t until later that she discovered what it really meant.

You see, early Christian tombs were often decorated with symbols showing the deceased’s commitment to Christ. The cross did not come to be the accepted symbol of Christianity until the third century. So, at the Catacombs in Rome, the most common symbols were the fish (ichthus) and the peacock. Why a peacock? In the ancient world the peacock represented eternal life.

God had, indeed, given Kristy a great message. I imagine when she arrived in Heaven a few months later, she said something like “Oh, now I understand.” And it wouldn’t have been just about peacocks – it would have been about her whole life:  the pain, the joys, the brevity, and the promise of eternal life that the peacock represented in her backyard that day.

Sometimes when we need it most, God pulls back the curtain and gives us a peek into His heart and His eternal plan. When He does, we love Him even more!

“I love the Lord because He heard my plea for mercy and listened to me.” – Psalm 116:1-2b (NET)

 

Why Not Tell Him?

"Come close to God and He will come close to you." - James 4:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.” – Psalm 18:2a

Who is the first person you call or text when you face a crisis? I hope we all have someone we can turn to when we need a listening ear or a helping hand.

I recently read about John the Baptist who was unfairly imprisoned because his theology clashed with King Herod’s lifestyle. Then, at a party when Herod had had too much alcohol and was enamored with his stepdaughter’s dancing, he suddenly ordered John’s execution. John’s disciples were notified of the beheading, so they sadly came and buried his body.

What to do now? Their leader was gone and they had taken care of handling the immediate crisis. They could have gone home in despair, but instead, Matthew tells us “Then they went and told Jesus.” (Mt. 14:12).

Why Jesus? Maybe because they knew . . .

  • He would want to know.
  • He would comfort them.
  • He would have a plan for what to do next.

I can’t think of a better way to handle any crisis, big or small, that might come into our lives. Jesus wants us to express our anxiety, grief, or loss to Him – in detail. He doesn’t start yawning halfway through our stories. More than than that, He will meet us at the point of our deepest need, the need we may not even know we have. Then He will guide us into the next right steps.

Now is a really good time to talk to Him.

“If we draw near to Him, then He will make His presence tangible in our lives.” – Henry Blackaby

 

Some of His Best Work

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“I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”Psalm 146:2b

My husband and I are in Colorado at this writing, having arrived a few days ago from our home in Michigan. It is an amazing retreat for us to come here surrounded by several Fourteeners, (14,000+ foot mountain peaks), adjacent to the Arkansas River (known here as the “Mighty Ark”), and under a canopy of sky that is sunny and blue most days.

So why was I so bummed out yesterday? I kind of got on a downward spiral of “If only”s.

• If only it were warmer.
• If only the storm hadn’t rained on the outdoor concert we had planned to attend.
• If only my email account hadn’t jammed.
• If only . . .

For no good reason, I ended the day feeling dissatisfied.

Then this morning, I opened my day with this prayer, as I usually do, “Good morning, heavenly Father. I worship You as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.”

It was as if He said in return, “Do you mean that? Creator? Have you looked around lately? You are sitting here among some of My best work saying ‘if only’. Really?”

Busted! Immediately something came into my mind I could say “thank You” for and I did that. Then another and another and another until a deep sense of satisfaction came over me. From frowns to smiles in about two minutes! God’s way is much better than my way.

And there’s nothing like seeing, really seeing, His creation to remind us of how great our God is. I bet there is some of His best work around you, too. Take a look!

“It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy.” (Anonymous source)

 

Stormy Weather

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“In the end I chose to let Him love me and then chose to trust that love.”  – Peter *

Sometimes life is stormy. And when the storm comes, we usually struggle for awhile, then we pray, asking God to stop the wind and relieve our pain.

Instead, maybe the scenario should be more like this:

Think of yourself in a big wooden boat with Jesus – just the two of you. He looks at the sky and tells you a storm is coming, it’s time to go down into the hold. You remember that He did that when He was with the disciples, so you follow Him gladly.

Once there, a ferocious storm breaks out. You are afraid and are being thrown from one side of the boat to the other. Panicking, you ask Him to calm the storm like He did before. He doesn’t seem to respond. But He reaches out, pulls you gently toward Him and holds you so you are no longer being tossed about.

Then He speaks quietly, “The storm will pass, but I am not going to stop it from running its course. Instead, we’re going to stay here together. With Me you will be safe. And when it’s all over, you will trust Me more. The kind of trust I want you to have can grow only in the storm.”

Can we trust Him to take us through the storm? To hold us close when it’s darkest? To love us enough to do the right thing for us at the right time? We can. We learn that in the storm.

“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.” – Psalm 33:20-21

 *From The Fisherman by Larry Huntsperger

Keeping it Simple

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“The most important thing in life is knowing the most important things in life.” ― David F. Jakielo

One of Thoreau’s most-quoted sayings is “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” That message goes right to the core of what following Jesus is all about. For us, the simple life means serving God and God alone.

As we think about putting this into practice, most of us need to live more simply in several areas:

Speech: Sometimes our words tumble over one another in their hurry to get out of our mouths. For me, at least, I know I should speak less and listen more.

Clothes: My closet overfloweth. How about yours? Think how much simpler life would be if we spent less time thinking about, buying, cleaning, and storing clothes!

Possessions: Most of us own things we don’t use. Let’s pack up a carload and take it to our local charitable resale shop. It’s a great way to streamline our lives and to share with those who will treasure what we don’t need.

Activity: Maybe we need to clean up our calendars. What can we stop doing that no longer is helpful to us? Where can we create spaces in our week that provide room for making life less hectic and more meaningful?

Why simplify? One reason stands out: Making room for God to be the one and only intention in our lives. We cannot do that when we are surrounded by physical, emotional, or relational clutter. Maybe it would be a good idea this week to ask God to show us where we need to begin to live more simply – like Jesus did.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” – 1 Timothy 6:16

Just Call My Name

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“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually.” – Psalm 105:4

My husband and I recently returned from a two-week trip that required adhering to a pretty demanding schedule. As a result, I found it hard to maintain a regular quiet time with God and, halfway through the trip, I began to miss Him.

One day, when we were in a large cathedral, Warren and I sought out a side chapel where we were able to spend some individual time in prayer. After I calmed my hurry and began to focus on God, I expressed my loneliness for Him. Then I simply sat in His presence. After a few minutes, this thought came to my mind:

“I will never leave you. I am always with you wherever you are on My earth. So, even when we don’t have specific time together, you don’t ever need to miss Me. Instead, just call My name. If you say ‘Jesus’, you will become aware of My presence. I am right there – all the time.”

Starting at that very hour, I began to practice saying softly or just thinking “Jesus” throughout the remaining days of our trip. Every time I did, I felt Him with me and knowledge of His presence brought, as it always does, peace, contentment, and satisfaction.

Jesus really wants to be found by us. So much so, that He makes it easy. “Just call My name.

“A close, intimate relationship to Christ should always  be your soul’s only purpose.” – Gene Edwards

 

Photo: Taken at the ancient city of Ephesus (in Turkey)

“Go to” Prayers

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“How blessed all those in whom You live, whose lives become roads You travel . . . God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!”–  from Psalm 84:5-7 (MSG)

We fall far short of God’s command to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We want to love Him more, but don’t know how. The truth is only God can grow that kind of love in our hearts. We just have to invite Him in.

Christians through the ages have given God that invitation by adopting a “go to” prayer to open their hearts to Him. For example, when I find my mind wrapped up in something distracting or disturbing, I mentally or quietly pray what is known as the Jesus Prayer: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  Others use the first sentence of The Lord’s Prayer, a short verse or phrase, or sometimes just Jesus’ name.

Over time, we will find ourselves saying our chosen words many times each day. These “go to” prayers become sincere invitations to God to walk with us along life’s path even if our minds are not fully engaged at the time.

It is a simple practice, but profound in its power to change us. How?

  • God is thrilled to hear from His children, so whenever we turn to Him, He responds.
  • We begin to realize that His response is always loving.
  • His love feels so good, we can’t help loving Him in return.

Being loved and loving. It’s ours when we turn toward Him – always.

“Give me only a love for You, and the gift of Your grace; then I am rich enough, and ask for nothing more.” – St. Ignatius of Loyola

A Very Short Prayer

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“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16b

Lazarus was sick. His sisters were worried, maybe even frantic. They sent word to the One they knew could help – a simple message, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

Why is this such a great prayer?

First, it relied on Jesus’ relationship with their brother. They didn’t doubt Jesus’ deep love for Lazarus.

Second, they didn’t tell Him how to answer. They seemed to know He would do the right thing. They grew anxious waiting, but when Jesus did respond, His action in raising Lazarus from the dead was beyond their wildest imaginations.

Do you have a friend or family member you want to pray for today? I do.

What if we simply picture that person in our minds and say something like this: “Lord, this one whom You love is sick” (or depressed, angry, lonely, in need, hurting).

Then let’s pause for a few minutes in God’s presence reflecting on the pain of the person we are praying for and consciously trusting God’s extravagant love for him/her.

Allow God to assure you that He will answer in a way that will meet this person’s deepest, perhaps unexpressed, needs.

A prayer like this is effective for these reasons:

  • Empathy:  We enter into the suffering of the people we pray for by holding them in our minds as we call to Jesus on their behalf.
  • Belief: We exercise open-ended faith by entrusting them to Jesus’ care without telling Him how we think He should answer.
  • Expectancy: We enjoy time in God’s presence and then walk in anticipation as we wait for Him to respond.

“Make me so obedient to Your Spirit that my life may become a living prayer, and a witness to Your unfailing presence.” – Martin Israel  

Peace Carriers

“Blessed are the peacemakers.” I used to think this was about dignitaries who negotiated ends to wars, counselors who sought conflict resolution between fighting parties, or mothers who settled arguments between their children.

But I am beginning to see peacemaking in an entirely different way. Maybe it means, in part, carrying such a deep quietness within ourselves, that an atmosphere of peace is with us wherever we go.

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You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

How can we carry peace in our demeanor, our conversations, and our relationships? Only one way: By being totally, completely connected to God. By living in a trust relationship with Him, letting Him carry our burdens and direct our steps. By talking to Him, listening for direction, then calmly doing the next right thing.

If we become peace carriers, we will find these things to be true over time:

  • We project a quiet confidence.
  • The room becomes calmer when we enter it.
  • People feel emotionally safe with us.
  • Our peace draws others to Christ, the Prince of Peace.

Peace carriers stand out in the stressful world around us. Many people we know live in a constant state of anxiety. Maybe we can show them, even if just a little bit, the unexplainable, but amazing, peace that comes from knowing and following God.

“Live and abide in My words so others will feel safe in My presence.” – Macrina Wiederkehr

God Started It

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“Keep your eyes on Jesus who both began and finished this race we are in.” – Hebrews 12:2a (MSG)

Nothing significant in our lives is started by us. Everything of value is initiated by God. He initiated salvation by sending Jesus. It is our role to respond by accepting the payment He made for us on the cross.

The Holy Spirit initiates our service by giving various spiritual gifts. Our job is to respond to His gifts and use them for building up the church.

See the pattern? He initiates, we respond. When we start projects or ministries or relationships on our own, we will fail. If we wait for God to start what He wants to grow, it will succeed. So how does that look in our daily lives?

  • We ask what His will is before we pray. Then we pray His will back to Him.
  • We ask Him before we put an event on our calendar. That way, our days will be ordered by Him.
  • We pray throughout the day for direction, so our individual steps, too, can be directed by Him.

Result: Success. We will never fail in a plan that God initiates. What He begins, He completes and we can share joy in accomplishing His will on our patch of the earth.

What to do next? Wait for it. . . He will show you!

“Each time, before you intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things!” – Andrew Murray