Acting on Acts … Ride on a Cloud!

Flag and a cross

Our reading through the bible with Good Morning Girls kicks off the fall season in the book of Acts today. Acts is the story of the church, when it began and struggles the early Christians faced.  In reading this book, what can I read that would be a call to action?  What was the first verse that really spoke to me?  Was I influenced because we just had a three week sermon series on Resurrection? Possibly, in chapter 1:9 I read “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on,  t he was lifted up, and  u a cloud took him out of their sight.”  This was after Jesus resurrection from the tomb, after he spent 40 more days on earth in his resurrected body.  So what can I glean from this?

As I continue my hunt for old testament pictures of Jesus, did I expect to find it here in the first chapter of the book of Acts?  No, but I did!  God brought Jesus up on a cloud.  So what does that picture say to me? It brings me back to the Old Testament. In Isaiah 14:14
‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ –  Is this a fulfillment of prophecy? More research on it to be done, but it  was Lucifer saying he would make himself “like”… but only Jesus ascended above the heights of the clouds to be with the Father, from earth on a cloud that would take him even higher than the clouds!
I also thought about the pillar of cloud and what it represented in the scriptures.  That pillar of cloud showed the people that God was with them, it showed them he was leading them and they could trust him and follow.  So I look at God’s lifting Jesus up on the cloud, Jesus is God and he had been present on earth living among the people. I see Jesus pictured in that pillar of cloud in that way.  Jesus leads people to God ~ I love this Old Testament picture even more now that I consider it through the first chapter of Acts!

So what else did that cloud do for the people of Israel? It brought them to a place of worship (Ex 33:10) and it caused nations to talk about God (Nu 14:14).  Christians all over the world worship Jesus for who he is and for what he has done for them.

Just before crossing the red sea the pillar of cloud separated the people of God and the people against God (Exodus 14:19-20).  Jesus separates God’s children from children of the world.  In the first chapter of John we are told this…   The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  The right to become children of God, available to all people, given to those who receive him and believe in his name. Jesus is the separation, in John 14:6 Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  The right to become children of God, available to all people, given to those who receive him and believe in his name. 

… JESUS now lifted back to the Father on a cloud… the same things that were done by the pillar of cloud for the Jewish people through out their journey home, I see now in this picture of Jesus going up on the cloud to be with God.

Look forward, look at what Paul wrote in his letter to the  Thessalonians “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”1 Thes. 4:17
For the Christian that hope of eternity is the hope that keeps us in peace through anything the devil throws at us! Hope, peace, joy… in Jesus!

I then thought about Elijah on the cloud, and the song by Robin Mark “These are the days of Elijah”, a song I love, but now has new meaning for me because of The story behind These are the Days of Elijah; after reading this, watch our Marines singing Days of Elijah!

These are Elijah Days, God is here, he is in control, we can bring new life to the hurting. We have the message of salvation, we have the love of Jesus, we can share the message and share his love.  On this Labor Day, be thankful for those who serve and labor for us, celebrate that as you consider ways to serve others.

Living Sacrifice

relaxing with a cup of cocoa

I have just completed reading the book of Matthew, fresh in my mind is the Lord’s last days.  The sacrifice he made for me, the sacrifice he made for you.  Now I begin the book of Leviticus… not knowing what to expect… how will it speak to me, a book of laws that the Jewish people would not be able to full fill completely? Chapters one and two showed me Jesus! Pure, loving and perfect.

God was very specific in how sacrifice was to be made, whether it be a blood sacrifice or a grain offering.  It was to be pure and perfect.. Jesus was that!  It of course then would be held as important to the one offering it… Jesus again! In these chapters of Leviticus, the offerings made would be a sweet aroma to the LORD.

Jesus’ sacrifice was an atonement for our sins, it was to restore a right relationship between God and us.  In all of our shortcomings, Jesus pain, suffering and crucifixion  was an act of love for us, a gift of grace.  So, I think about this all, and focus on that gift…

With all the things going on in our day to day lives, we can get distracted from his grace.   Sacrifice ~ made for me ~ love ~ grace.  The Old Testament can seem old, just as it is called.  But it is filled with pictures from what is new!  As a new Christian, one of the first verses on my own I committed to memory was Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ESV

I am reading through the bible with Good Morning Girls. (http://womenlivingwell.org/2015/04/introduction-to-leviticus-resources-chapters-1-5/) We are being guided to look at Leviticus as a book of Worship… I looked at that verse I memorized so many years ago and wanted to see it in a fresh new light… so on to more modern translations I turn.  I love that we can see the word in so many different versions!  Here, The Message puts it so clearly,

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

This also goes along with what our message was about on Sunday in King Solomon’s life.  Things around us can pull us away slowly, gradually. The key words I took from that was “start well ~ finish well”.   When we Focus on Grace,  keep our attention on God, he brings out our best!  Our best attitudes, our best character, it gives us gratitude for what he has done for us and given us.  It helps us to look at all things around us, things going on in our lives that may seem like interruptions, and see them as opportunities! It will help us to finish well!  I hope to live my everyday, ordinary life for Him, as a living sacrifice.  As I do that, I have peace and joy because of his mercies and grace.

Whatever season you are in, God is on the throne!  He is able, he is faithful.  Focus on His Grace and live in gratitude. Pace your live before him!

  

Rich History of the Past

If you have not figured this out yet, I do keep telling myself I want to be more consistent with posting, but it hasn’t worked.  Winter in the northeast has not been kind during this past month and they are telling us we can expect another storm this weekend.  So be it, if it does come, it will be good to stay in and do some reading!

The reading plan I have been going through with Good Morning Girls has had us in Exodus.  I am a bit behind because I keep going back to what I thought I finished.  There is such rich history, and I have been in God’s instructions to Moses after leaving Egypt.
The Tabernacle, I used this picture on Sunday. It was my turn for Communion meditation. I used this song by Kutless to set the focus… 
The hight priest was only allowed to enter the holy of holies one day a year. He was the only one allowed that one day, and it gave him a time of exclusive fellowship.  He entered into a place filled with all of the glory of God, bringing a blood offering for the sins of the people. The thing is, what he did had to be done over and over, every year. The offering of blood covered over the sins of the Israelites, but was never enough!
The Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant; inside the Ark were items representing sins of the people. Things to remind them of their need for forgiveness, their ugliness, their rebellion against God.  God didn’t stop there though, his instructions continued that the ark be covered with pure refined gold, lovely and perfect.  This covering was called the mercy seat or the atonement covering.  So,while the interior represented the sinfulness of man, the covering represented a place of forgiveness, mercy and redemption.  The ugly sin inside the Ark is not what the priest saw when he entered, he saw the pure and lovely, beautiful gold.

Jesus blood covers us with mercy and grace.  When we come into the presence of God, he sees not the ugly inside of our hearts or the rebellious attitudes we hold on to. He sees us pure, and clean, and lovely, covered with the blood of Jesus.  The Ark of the covenant, a beautiful picture in history showing what would be to come, showing Jesus the Messiah, the one who would free the people of their sins once and for all.  Jesus frees, the law condemns.  There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!

What a plan God had for us! You can read in Exodus 26 the detail God laid out for the tabernacle, even detail in the curtains alone separating the ark from the priest. This was all done so that on that one day he could rip the veil in two, eliminating the separation, giving us direct access to him… not on one day a year, not one day a week, not only when we meet around his table, but every day and any time we choose. What a joy to be able to call God my Father… to be able to call out Abba, Father (Daddy, Daddy!).

In the Old Testament here is so much to treasure! I love seeing reflections of the New in the Old, this is rich! We are richly blessed indeed!

Thank you Lord for providing this path for us to choose. Thank you for setting up everything so precisely. Thank you for your grace and mercy over me. Thank you for not seeing the ugly in me but for seeing me pure and refined through Jesus. As we are entering the season that we celebrate the victory he has over satan, we remember the suffering and pain Lord Jesus that you experienced because of how much love for me you have. May I live a life worthy!

Additional reading :

  • Exodus 24 – 27
  • Hebrews 9-10

If you enjoy meditating on music, this version of Take Me in is a long version, but worth it! 

Pondering the Psalms

Bing you good news

It is the time of year we are all busy in our preparations for Christmas.  Shopping to be done, decorating to be finished, cookies to be baked… yes busy, busy, busy!

Oh, but in our reading through the bible we are in Psalms this month.  I am seeing David, a servant of God.  Imperfect, like all of us and so many before him.  But, he gives his praise and worship to God.  God is the creator of the universe, he is seated high in the heavens.  David talks of humility and being righteousness, the fact that we are crowned with glory and honor.  He talks of the pride of the wicked but finishes off Psalm 10 with this reminder…”The Lord is king forever and ever

Pondering the Psalms…at Christmas.  Most would choose to read about the prophesies or the life of Christ.  We celebrate the birth this month, the birth of the King of Kings, the Lord who is king forever and ever.  No matter what we see happening in this world we live in, Jesus came here in complete and utter humility.  A baby is completely dependent for life.  Dependent on the love and nurturing for nourishment, protection, provision. Jesus showed us what humility is.

We are to be humble before God.  Let us not get lost in all the glitter and glitz of the season.  Let us not forget that the reason we celebrate is because God loved us so much he sent his son to suffer and die in our place so we might have a relationship with God the Father.  What a savior we celebrate!  Grace ~ the gift sent from above into a stable so many years ago, born that we might have life!

Blogging through the bible…For Such A Time As This

Esther 1 Esther 3 Esther 4
I love the book of Esther…having completed an in depth study with Beth Moore less than a year ago, I was entering this study looking at the first 10 days rather light heartily. Certainly, I would remember what I learned last year.  Instead, the Lord showed me that every time is fresh and new, like looking out the window and seeing the snow that blanketed the ground overnight. Seeing a view like that is fresh and new, even if you are not looking forward to going out in it or driving in it, you still love and appreciate it’s beauty.


I see Esther, poor in spirit, humble and obedient. I see Mordecai, gently leading and guiding her, standing firm on what God has taught him. I see the pride of the King and Haman…now we go on to the rest of the story… focusing on what is good and how we can apply this story of the orphaned little girl whom God used in a mighty way. We all have our story, we all can be used by God, we all have the power to influence people. May God bless you all on this journey!

So, now, having read half of the book of Esther, new nuggets are coming out at me.  From chapter 1, I am reminded that my Lord, King Jesus, freely offers forgiveness and grace!  I have an inheritance with the Father that cannot be repealed as Queen Vashti’s was by her earthly King.  My inheritance is set; it cannot be given away to someone else. Through his eyes of  love God sees his children as perfect and complete, none better than another.  Reading this reinforces in my mind the desire to do my best, for him, in whatever I do.  He gave his best for me.

The King may have exchanged Vashti for Esther, but, God had a plan for Ester’s life and for his people.  He was preparing the way for that to come to pass. God’s fingerprints cover the book of Esther, even though his name may not be mentioned.  

Pride, what do we know about it from bible?  We have all heard the famous verse, “Pride comes before the fall”.  Well, think about those words, the fall of Adam and Eve came about from pride. Pride seems to be at the root of most sin.  We see in Esther great pride of Haman and also of the King Ahasuerus.  Haman’s pride was so great he ordered every Jew be killed and even after that was ordered he became filled with wrath against Mordecai for not bowing down and trembling before him.  Oh, my, Haman, if he only knew the gallows he was having built would be used for his own death and all the mighty honor he was having the king give would not be going to him, but to Mordecai.  

The drama continues in the book of Esther, like a play of drama, pride, passion, rising and falling.  The story encompasses it all!  The story, of the little orphan girl, the girl who’s course was set for the purpose of saving the lives of the people of her heritage in her kingdom.  We know the end of her story.  God wrote it perfectly.  

She allowed it to be carried out because of her pure heart and her respect for her adopted father, Mordecai.  Her obedience to his leading in her life put her in the proper place for such a time as this.  Our obedience and respect for our Father will put us in place for his story of our lives to be perfectly cast and acted out…we are now living in our for such a time as this. How we respond is up to us.    

 Have a listen to Mandisa’s song about Esther

 

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Dare to stand out

Recipe for Joy

Image

Summer has finally arrived.  Isn’t it funny how we complain about the cold and snow for so long throughout the winter, but, when the heat and humidity of summer hits us. we complain about that too.  I know that I am guilty of that; yet in the summer I can escape by finding the coolness of air conditioning.  Yet, even if I need a light sweater, I can enjoy the coolness.  When winter snow arrives, I have no choice but to go out in it, shovel, drive, trudge through slushy, sloppy parking lots.  For sure, there is no escaping it!  I would certainly choose the beauty of summer, the green grass, the colorful flowers and being able bask in the sunshine.  Yes, I love it!

If stress and tension are filling my life, I have choices in how to deal with those things too.  Jesus left us with these words…

These things I have spoken to you,

that my joy may be in you,

and that your joy may be full…John 15:11

As a Christian, I have him in me, his joy is in me ~ regardless of  my outward circumstances and what is going on in my life!   Prior to these words, Jesus also told us to abide in his love.   If I am going to stand by, or act in accordance with His love, I must embrace his love.  It is then when his joy will have a marked influence on my attitude and actions.  He, being in my heart, will rule not my circumstances.  Joy is within!  My choice is whether or not I will live in that joy or live in my stress.

If you feel like your being pulled in too many directions, maybe it is time to unclutter your mind and your heart.  soak in his love, soak his words to your life.  As you do that, consider your blessings, consider what he has done for you out of love.  Lift up the name of the Lord in worship and with deep gratitude for who he is and what he has done in your life.  The stresses and tension you were feeling can be flooded over with his love.  Take time to slow down this summer and besides basking in the sun, bask in the Son!

I hope you enjoy this song by Gwen Smith.  Take time to reflect on it and consider the words as you consider how you can bask in the son more this summer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVee2y01_8k

An Act of Love!

May 4 is Compassion Sunday.   Compassion International will be highlighted in churches throughout the world.  What a joy and an act of love it is to sponsor a child.  We have sponsored up to 5 at any one time, however we have sponsored more through the years.  What a privilege and blessing to be a part of the life of a child in need.

We watched a boy who we sponsored for about 12 years outgrow the program as he turned 18.  His name was Runner.  It was sad for us to lose him, but, we pray as we touched his childhood, we also will have an affect his adult life.

Jesus told us that as you have done to the least of these, you do it to me.  When you sponsor a child, you are doing it in the name of Jesus and you are bringing the joy of the Lord into his life.  There is a child somewhere in the world waiting for you to be there for him or her.

Focus on Grace, because of the grace of God, you have a hope for a future.  Because of your grace, a child with little can be given that same hope, as well as having their physical needs taken care of.  You can be the love of Jesus to that child.

If your church is taking part of Compassion Sunday, prepare your heart in advance through prayer.  If your church is not, take time to visit Compassion International’s website and see how, or more specifically who, you can help.  You can choose boy or girl, you can choose what part of the world you have a heart for, you can also look for children with critical needs or give a one time gift for a special need.  What ever you do, in word or deed, do it for Jesus.