Archive for December, 2006

The Sabbath – Stop and Heal

Resting on HammockAs I mentioned, I’m in the middle of reading the book “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell. If you’re not familiar with this book, I encourage you to check it out.

The last few days, I’ve been reading about Rob’s journey to healing of his soul. He points out how so many people go about their day with rage boiling just below the surface because we’ve never dealt with certain things in our past – never been healed in our soul.

I resonate with this because I’ve been there. I went through life not even knowing that I needed healing. The good news is that God loves us too much to let us just exist without growing. Things happened in my life to cause me to seek counsel and dredge up some ugliness in my past and stare it right in the face – and I was healed.

Anyway, the thing Rob mentions as one of the reasons we never are able to be healed in our souls is that we don’t just stop and listen. We’re too busy. We keep moving from one adrenaline rush to the next, never stopping long enough to learn or grow.

My long time readers will recognize this theme because God has been telling me for some time that I need to do just that. One word that keeps coming up over and over (as if someone is still trying to tell me something) is: Sabbath.

Arggghhh! Not again….

Okay, God. I’m listening.

Let me give you a short excerpt from Rob Bell’s Book (pages 117 & 118 from “Velvet Elvis”):

There are so many layers to the healing of the soul. One practice that has brought incredible healing is the taking of a Sabbath. Now when we read the word Sabbath, most of us think that the real issue behind the Sabbath isn’t which day of the week it is but how we live all the time.

I decided to start taking one day a week to cease from work. And what I discovered is that I couldn’t even do it at first.

I would go into depression.

By the afternoon I would be so . . . low.

I realized that my life was all about keeping the adrenaline buzz going and that I was only really happy when I was going all the time. When I stopped to spend a day to remember that I am loved just because I exist, I found out how much of my efforts were about earning something I already have.

Sabbath is taking a day a week to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts.

Sabbath is a day when my work is done, even if it isn’t.

Sabbath is a day when my job is to enjoy. Period.

Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and those I love most.

Sabbath is a day when I remember that when God made the world, he saw that it was good.

Sabbath is a day when I produce nothing.

Sabbath is a day when I remind myself that I am not a machine.

Sabbath is a day when at the end I say, “I didn’t do anything today,” and I don’t add, “And I feel so guilty.”

Sabbath is a day when my phone is turned off, I don’t check my email, and you can’t get ahold of me.

Jesus wants to heal our souls, wants to give us the shalom of God. And so we have to stop. We have to slow down. We have to sit still and stare out the window and let the engine come to an idle. We have to listen to what our inner voice is saying.

I firmly believe that excess “busy-ness” is how satan keeps many of us apart from God and other Christians. If we do not stop once a week to regroup, meditate, pray, rest, connect, idle, ponder, examine (or whatever word you need to put here) how can we heal?

Our physical bodies heal best when we’re sleeping. Doesn’t it make sense that our souls need healing, too?

As you consider your New Year’s resolutions, I encourage you to factor in more stopping and listening – more healing and resting. How will you fit in one of the ten commandments about honoring the Sabbath into your schedule this year?

Shalom,
e

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Shalom – the presence of the goodness of God

Shalom - the presence of the goodness of GodI began reading the book “Velvet Elvis” by author Rob Bell several weeks back. Slowly at first, but my interest and anticipation has increased. I wasn’t sure at first how i felt about it, but it’s really starting to get to me.

Now, a few friends have picked it up and we’re discussing it. It’s one of those books that makes you think – and I like that – I need that.

Anyway, a few days ago, there on page 106 and 107 something jumped out of the book at me.

If you have been reading my blog for any time, you’ll notice that I end all my posts with “peace.” I was (am) quite deliberate with this. I end many of my personal emails that way and I actually tell friends this after a phone or personal conversation. I don’t mean to attempt to be “cül” or edgy with my speak – nor is it a throw back to the 60s. I fully intend for this to be a blessing – a prayer of peace for those who take the time to read or to listen.

Well, there in Mr. Bell’s book is the following passage. He’s talking about the woman who touched the hem (or the tassels) of Jesus’ garment:

He says to her, “Go in peace.”

The word Jesus would have used for peace is the Hebrew word shalom. Shalom is an important word in the Bible, and it is not completely accurate to translate it simply as “peace”.

For many of us, we understand peace to be the absense of conflict. We talk about peace in the home or in the world or giving peace a chance. But the Hebraic understanding of shalom is far more than just the absense of conflict or strife.

Shalom is the presence of the goodness of God. It’s the presence of whole-ness, completeness.

So when Jesus tells the woman to go in peace, he is placing the blessing of God on all of her. Not just her physical body. He is blessing her with God’s presence on her entire being. And this is because for Jesus, salvation is holistic in nature. For Jesus, being saved or reconciled to God involves far more than just the saving of your physical body or your soul – it involves all of you.

God’s desire is for us to live in harmony with him – body, soul, spirit, mind, emotions – every inch of our being.

So – with a bit more understanding, I don’t just wish you the absense of conflict, I’m wishing you the full presence of the goodness of God. In the coming new year, may you find what the woman in Luke 8 found when she touched Jesus’ garment.

Shalom,
e

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Gift for baby Jesus

nativity.jpgMy pastor told the following story yesterday in our Christmas Eve service. It really touched me and got me and my girls thinking about what Christmas is really all about. I had to share it with you. 

In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on Biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They relate the following story in their own words:

It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger.

Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word. Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city.

Following instructions, the children tore the paper into strips and carefully, laid the strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left ussia, were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States.

The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously.

For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately-until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, “And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift.

So I asked Jesus, “If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?” And Jesus told me, “If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.” So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him—for always.”

As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him-FOR ALWAYS.

Misha knew his parents did not love him because they gave him nothing, not even a name.

Misha knew that he loved Jesus… and he knew that meant he had to give Jesus something.

With no money, no possessions, no talents and no future… Misha gave all he had, He gave himself… to keep the baby warm.

Love does that!

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Happy Birthday, Jesus!

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Encouragement to live by – Hebrews 13

Encouragement to live by - Hebrews 13There is so much encouragement to live by found in this chapter:

Verse 1: continue to love one another – this is what brings others to Christ.

Verse 2: show hospitality to strangers – back in the day, inns were expensive and this is a way the gospel was spread – and just ask Abraham and about entertaining Angels?! I know it still happens today. Hospitality, not just for the sake of hospitality, but with the purpose of sharing Christ.

Verse 3: have empathy for prisoners and those who are ill-treated – know anybody like this? We are to suffer with them (2 Timothy 1:16, I Corinthians 12:26)

Verse 4: let marriage be held in honor, and let the marriage bed be undefiled – ’nuff said.

Verse 5: your character – free from the love of money and content with what you have – all you need is everything Christ has. If you’ve ever been to that place where He’s all you have, you’ll find it’s more than enough. the more we have, the harder it is to depend upon Him.

Verse 6: If the King of the Universe is on our side, what can mere mortals do to us?

Verse 7: imitate the faith of those who lead you – made me think here. I have only a few men of faith I can honestly say I’d like to imitate. what about you?

Verse 8: Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever – one of the most frustrating things at work is the flip-flop style of management. one day we do it this way, the next another, without so much as an explanation. I’m glad my God is stable, a firm rock, upon which I can always find security.

Skipping down to:

Verse 15: let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God – we are no longer required to offer blood sacrifices, but we are asked to give a sacrifice of praise, offering ourselves, laying down our lives daily, setting aside our desires to follow him. And, out of gratitude for our forgiveness. In so doing, we’re proclaiming the glory due His name. Do the people at our workplaces see us laying down our life, setting aside our desires and praising God? Lord, help me in this area.

Verse 17: Obey your spiritual leaders. Biggie here for my life. It’s so much easier to grumble and complain about the leadership in a church (or of a nation). We are to honor and obey our leadership. If we feel they are wrong, we are to pray they will change or that God would change our hearts – because HE has placed them in leadership. By complaining and gossiping and stirring up strife, we are telling God that he doesn’t know what He’s doing. Father, forgive me.

This is a rich chapter full of truth for the way we ought to live. I’m glad to have had a chance to go through the book of Hebrews again!

peace,
e

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Hall of Faith – Hebrews 11

Hall of Faith - Hebrews 11

This chapter should be called the Hall of Faith. Chapter 11 is like a parenthesis between chapter 10 & 12, giving many specific examples of those who believe with a faith that causes Christians to hold on and not lose hope in the face of persecution and trials:

  • Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain

  • Enoch was taken to heaven without death because of his faith

  • Noah prepared an ark for the salvation of his household by faith

  • Abraham packed up and left on the word of the Lord without knowing where he was going

  • Sarah by faith received the ability to conceive beyond the proper time of life

  • Abraham was by faith prepared to sacrifice Isaac, his only son

Well, you have read all the rest.  I was encouraged by reading all these in one spot like this, knowing God recognizes these people for their faith.  It’s not enough just to tell their story in other places in the Bible, but they are again recognized here as an encouragement to us.  What is faith?

11:1 – What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. 2 God gave his approval to people in days of old because of their faith. 3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

Rewards? Not that we should seek the rewards, but God says it:

6 – And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (NAS).

Our reward may not be what we expect, but our faith will be rewarded in even better ways:

39-40 – And these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God ha provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

May this be a day of faith for you!  Instead of praying for guidence or wisdom, try praying for more trust – more faith. peace,

e

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Of those who believe! – Hebrews 10

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Praise God! In today’s chapter, we’re reminded that we no longer have to depend on man and animals to pay for our sins. That didn’t really work anyway: 

1b- The sacrifices under the old system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship.

3b – 4 – Those yearly sacrifices reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

11 – Under the old covenant, the priest stands before the altar day after day, offering sacrifices that can never take away sins.

So, because of what Christ did and the new covenant, we’re encouraged to:

19b – boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.

22 – go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

24 – Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds

25 – And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.

Now, verse 26 caused me to stop and ponder:

26 – Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received a full knowledge of the truth, there is no other sacrifice that will cover these sins.

We’re again reminded when people deliberately reject Christ’s offer of salvation, they reject God’s most precious gift. They have rejected the only sacrifice that could have saved them. The way this is worded, however, gave me a chill – “if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received a full knowledge of the truth.” But, like David, Paul, Peter, and several other men of God we’re given to read about, we will always struggle with sin. Some suggest that this is not talking about that, but for anyone who turns away from Christ to another religion, or, having understood Christ’s atoning work, deliberately turns away from it (Mark 3:28). Others insist that there are plenty of scriptures to indicate that if a person who once accepted salvation but changes his attitude, deliberately chooses a life of rebellion, despising God’s laws, then his sin is unforgivable because he will not repent of it (John 15:2, Hebrews 6:4-8).

 

Lastly, we’re encouraged to, by faith, rest in what Christ has done and trust Him for what he will do in the present and in the future.  Doing so will bring great reward (joy today and heavenly possesions in the future, of which the greatest is eternal life). 

35 Remember the great reward it brings you! 36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. 37 “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. 38 And a righteous person will live by faith. But I will have no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” 39 But we are not like those who turn their backs on God and seal their fate. We have faith that assures our salvation.

I like how the NIV says it better:

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

We are of those who believe and are saved!

Rest in Him today.  Let him take away the pressures and difficulties.  Just smile and look to Him and let everything else just go on about you.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.  We have so much to be thankful for in Christ.  Don’t get bogged down in your “busyness” or even doing good to be so busy not to draw near to Him today.  If you humble yourself and draw near to Him, He will draw near to you.  What better way to spend the day?

peace,

e

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Salvation to those who wait… – Hebrews 9

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The Shadow is Replaced – Hebrews 8

The Shadow is Replaced - Hebrews 8Today I was having a difficult time putting together my thoughts for a meaningful post, so I turned to the Internet. I found a rather interesting site with an interesting perspective on Hebrews 8. You’ve heard the story, but it’s an interesting thought:

The Shadow is Replaced 

Once upon a time there lived a vain emperor. His only worry in life was to dress in elegant clothes. He changed clothes almost every hour and loved to show them to his people. Word of the Emperor’s “refined” habits spread over his kingdom and beyond.

Two scoundrels who had heard of the Emperor’s vanity decided to take advantage of it. They introduced themselves at the gates of the palace with a scheme in mind. “We are two very good tailors and after many years of research we have invented an extraordinary method to weave a cloth so light and fine that it looks invisible. As a matter of fact, it is invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality.” Finally, the two men were allowed to meet the emperor, “Besides being invisible, your Highness, this cloth will be woven in colors and patterns created especially for you.”

The emperor gave the two men a bag of gold coins in exchange for their promise to begin working on the fabric immediately. The two men finally finished and presented the new clothes to the emperor who was encouraged to show them to his subjects. Of course he was naked, but everyone said, loudly enough for the others to hear: “Look at the Emperor’s new clothes. They’re beautiful!” “And the colors! I have never seen anything like it in my life.” They all tried to conceal their disappointment at not being able to see the clothes, and were unwilling to admit their own stupidity and incompetence. A child, however, who had no important job and could only see things as his eyes showed them to him, went up to the carriage. “The Emperor is naked,” he said.

Self Deception. The above story is an old fairy tale called “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” It was not written to illustrate the problem we find in the book of Hebrews. But it illustrates what the men and women to whom Hebrews was written thought they had done. They had left Judaism for Jesus and found trials, conflicts, and difficulties. They did not realize, as we do not usually realize, that when there is a battle, trouble is just around the corner. When they looked back, they thought they had left Judaism for nothing. They thought they were now “wearing spiritually invisible clothes.” They were wondering if they had made a mistake on leaving their old, “real clothes” behind.

So the Holy Spirit has explained that Jesus is better than the angels who in some way helped give the law to Moses (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2). The Holy Spirit has shown them that Jesus was more faithful than Moses who was the mediator of the Old Covenant – the Law. (Gal. 3:18-19; Heb. 3:1-6). Jesus is also better than earthly priests, since He a priest after the order of Melchizedek, and lives forever. The Holy Spirit has laid the foundation and is ready for the shocking, unbelievable conclusion.

Main Point. The reason the first seven chapters of Hebrews were written – the main point – is now given. 

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. (NASB) Heb. 8:1-2.

The main point is that Jesus is not just a man who lived and died, but He is our high priest and He sits at the right hand of God the Father in heaven.

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A L W A Y S – Hebrews 7

Always - Hebrews 7

 

25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

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