Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Journey, part 21: the surrender of resources

Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, "Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place." But He said to them, "You give them something to eat!" And they said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people." (Luke 9:12-13 NASB)

The apostles had returned from their Journey of Obedience and been debriefed. Jesus and the twelve were back together and the crowds were huge. It seemed that the Journey of Obedience was over, but it soon became apparent that the apostles' training was just getting started. 

It had been a long day. Jesus had been teaching and healing for hours and there was an enormous crowd. The apostles were hungry and tired and ready to be through with this long day. If they were tired and hungry, surely the crowd was, too. They knew that Jesus wasn't leaving as long as there was a crowd, which meant they weren't either. "Let's send the crowd to get supper and lodging for the night and start back in the morning," they suggested hopefully. Jesus just smiled. "You give them something to eat!" He said. They just stood there for a long moment. More than 5,000 people were milling about and they were going to feed them all? Right. 

"Well, Jesus," someone in the twelve said, "We can do one of two things. We have five loaves and two fish. We can do something with that, or we can try to go into town and buy something to feed them." That doesn't sound like a bold statement of faith, does it? Maybe not, but it is likely bolder than you think. 

What Jesus told them to do was feed the people. The disciples assessed the situation, surveyed their resources, and came up with a brilliant solution. The twelve offered their resources to Jesus, and let Him decide. It was a kind of "Thy will be done" submission. These twelve men had seen Jesus turn water into fine wine. They knew He could do something with five loaves and two fishes. They also knew they could not. 

This is a critical juncture in their faith. Perhaps for the first time, they looked at the little bit in their hand (the loaves and fishes), and thought, "I wonder what Jesus could do with this."  Their wondering became an invitation for the miraculous and Jesus did not disappoint. 

This juncture of faith was a vital point in the journey of obedience for the twelve, and it is vital for us, as well. When we realize that Our Lord can do something miraculous with whatever He has given us, we begin to see that the possibilities are endless. There is no telling what God will do with the tiny bit in our hand when we offer it to Him with a "Thy will be done" invitation. 

Has God called you to a task that seems impossible?  Offer whatever resources He has given you to Him and invite Him to do whatever He desires with them. You may be surprised by what He will do, but you certainly will not be disappointed. 

Thanks to all who prayed for us yesterday. It was an amazing day filled with dreams come true. We would love for you to visit the park and enjoy our blessings with us! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Night with Friends: Kerry and Brenda Lynch

Awesome evening at the Toyota Blue Springs Water Garden and Education Park with local musicians jamming. Great fun! We've all joined in, and I wonder if heaven might not be a lot like this. 

I've included a little sample of our fun. Kerry and Brenda Lynch singing "In the Garden". 


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Color of Lies

I am not accusing anyone of telling whoppers. Just so you know. Sometimes, though, the things people tell are so fantastical that they are not at all believable, at least to me. If you want me to believe something remarkable, show me a double-blind, controlled study. Better yet, show me two or three that all have the same conclusion. With that said, the question of veracity has come up twice today.

In the first instance, I checked my standing in the 14-day step challenge on my health insurance website. I'm part of a five person team and our cumulative step total for the four days is now at 191,412 steps.  We were ranked #198 earlier, but we've moved up to #171. I do not really like being in the 171st place.  Just so you know. 

I have had an extremely busy day and have been moving almost constantly. Yes, I ate "lunch" while I was walking. (I do not recommend that, so please do as I say and not as I do.). My personal ranking is even worse than our team rank. I managed to travel 15,714 steps today.  Since I started my day at 4:10 am, you would think I could have traveled a little further. If I knew the secret step trick I would have. With all my moving, my personal rank has moved up from 1,875th to 918th. I do not like either one of those numbers, unless those numbers have dollar signs associated. That would be fine. Rankings for steps, though, is not good. 

Now here is where the fantastical part comes into the equation. The supposed person in first place supposedly has 362,646 steps over the four days. This supposed person supposedly has nearly twice as many steps as the five people on my team combined. I have figured it out. This is not really a person. It's a roadrunner. Beep beep!!

I am not saying that these numbers are untrue, but I would like a demonstration of how it is possible. Also, it is not really fair for chubby women of a certain age to have to compete with roadrunners. Beep beep!!

The second veracity issue is worse. Suffice it to say, someone I know and love was discussing a little road trip by public transportation. The question was about getting on the transport vehicle at a place other than the station. You can't do it, but the transport does stop at the exact place where this much loved person wanted to get on. There was no question of not buying a ticket, but it was hard to figure out how to avoid going a long way out of the way in order to shorten the trip. The sensible solution was to get on at the non-stop. This very dear person had what they thought was a terrific idea. "I'll just say, 'What do you mean I can't get on here? I've been on here since Memphis!'" That, of course, would not be true. My response was, "Well, I don't think a lie would be the best way to go." (Since I know this person really well, I can get away with saying that.) Much to my surprise, they replied, "Seems like a white lie." As I am pretty sure they know (because I have said it many times), lies only come in one color (They are the black color of sin, because that's what a lie is). A lie is still a lie, no matter why you tell it. 

I recognize that I tend to be so blunt that you might wish for a little softening, but really, do you want a lie? I think not, no matter how well-intentioned. I am not saying I have never told a lie, but I'm pretty much committed to truth, and I make a conscious effort to tell the truth every time. Even if I don't like it, even if I whine and grovel afterward, please, just tell me the truth. 

Did substituting a roadrunner (beep beep!!) for a real person really make any difference? No. Did it hurt me? No. The problem with the roadrunner substitute is that I am skeptical of all the other results now, and will be less inclined to believe anything else that comes from my insurance company. 

Would getting on at the non-stop hurt the transport company? No, because the ticket was a full-trip ticket. The company actually gets a full fare from a half-trip rider. The problem with that "white lie" is that I will be less inclined to believe what this much loved person tells me the next time. Be it big or small, there will be just a little doubt. Are they just telling me what they think I want to hear? I hope not, but how will I know?

Another problem with the "white lie" is personal integrity. If you will tell a lie on purpose once, you will do it twice. Before you know it, you have a lifestyle of deceit and what started as a "little" compromise has become a serious character flaw. Who wants that? No one. 

Lies have been getting us in trouble since the Garden of Eden. In fact, the only One in the Garden who didn't lie was God Himself. That's because He IS truth. If we are going to at least strive to do right, (let alone try to follow in the footsteps of Jesus) we will have to embrace truth, and embracing truth begins with rejecting lies. Leviticus makes it very clear. 

'You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. (Leviticus 19:11 NASB)

What's hard to understand about "you shall not"? Nothing at all, that's what, so let's choose truth. Every single time. 

The Journey, Part 19: the Welcome

Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:10-11 NASB)

The twelve had recently returned from the Journey of Obedience and given a full report of their work to Jesus, who listened to every detail. They likely savored the work of God as they talked, but Jesus soon called them back to the present need. His time was limited and He needed to be about the business of redeeming mankind. "Let's go to Bethsaida," He said, and they headed out. 

Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Philip had all lived in Bethsaida in their younger years, so it was home for them. They may have looked forward to seeing friends and family again, but there wasn't much time for reunions. The crowds of people who followed Jesus soon realized where Jesus was headed and followed Him there. When they arrived, Jesus did the most beautiful thing imaginable. He greeted the crowd and welcomed them. 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

The Son of God was pursued by the crowd. The disciples may well have been tired from their trip, and Jesus was likely tired from having to minister without the assistance of the twelve, but fatigue did not stop Jesus. He looked at the crowd and was glad to see them, even though the crowd meant more teaching, more sick people, more need, more healing. 

The word translated as "welcoming" is apodechomai and is a little surprising at first glance. It literally means "to accept" or "to receive" or "to receive heartily". Jesus was not just being polite. He accepted the crowd, receiving them just as they were. Jesus did not require them to change their ways, clean up their acts, or offer sacrifices first. They came to Jesus with all their need and all their sin, and Jesus was glad to see them. He was not just glad to see them, though. He received them heartily. 

How could the One who never sinned heartily accept and welcome a crowd of people who were full of sin and need?  He could accept them because He loved them. He is full of grace and mercy and willingly gave of Himself to those who did not deserve it.  They were people who were as flawed as we ourselves and yet He loved them, and He loves us, as well. 

Although we are flawed, full of need, full of sin, our Lord still loves us, still accepts us, and still welcomes us just as we are. Do you have a longing for a deeper relationship with our Lord? Are you holding back because you feel unworthy or fear He will reject you? There is no need for delay. Just as He welcomed the crowds, our Lord will welcome you. He will greet you with apodechomai, heartily receiving you with whatever you bring to Him. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Meager Gift

The morning trek to the barn is a time for talking with the Lord. Topics range from the breathtaking beauty of the night sky to prayers for loved ones. Sometimes, like today,  the time is spent composing little poems and songs (poems set to music). This was one of those days, and the words have lingered in my mind all day. I won't overwhelm you with the whole thing, but here's the part that spoke to me. 

Like the stars above you are eternal, 
Who was and is and ever more will be.
We long to tell you that we love you, 
But words are such a meager gift to bring and so we bow before your throne of grace and glory 

we bring our hearts 
we bring our lives 
we bring our will 

Words are such a meager gift to bring, and yet I am chocked full of words. It has reminded me once again that all the words in the world mean nothing if they are not accompanied by an humble, seeking, submitting heart that is set on pleasing our Lord.  That's the gift I want to bring before the throne. What about you? 

The Journey, part 20: The One in Charge

When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:10-11 NASB)

After the disciples returned and gave their report to Jesus, He planned what might have been a little retreat. Jesus took His disciples with Him to Bethsaida (home at one time or another of Philip, Andrew, and Peter, James, and John). Scripture tells us He "withdrew by Himself" with the twelve. 

Of all the places they could have gone, why did He choose Bethsaida? Perhaps it was because five of the twelve had lived there previously and had either acquaintances or family there. Maybe they could count on hospitable accommodations in Bethsaida. 

What occurs to me, though, is that "a prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." (Mark 6:4 KJV) Perhaps Jesus was using a trip home to remind the disciples Who was in charge and who was not. Some of those very prominent apostles sometimes had a little difficulty with what position they occupied. (Remember that the mother of James and John wanted seats on either side of Jesus in His kingdom for her boys.) Perhaps Jesus knew that those five would be warmly welcomed but not exalted and lauded in Bethsaida. There's nothing like a trip home to bring you down a notch or two in the sweetest way imaginable, is there? 

At the same time, the crowds followed Jesus. They were not looking for any of the apostles. They wanted Jesus. The seeking crowd knew that, if they wanted the best, they needed to go to The One who was clearly in charge. After the Journey of Obedience, during which the apostles had been doing the preaching and healing, it must have been a little bit of a let down to go to their hometown and take a back seat to Jesus. 

It may have been a let down, but it was an important reminder that the power and authority with which they had been equipped for their journey had come only from Jesus. The changed hearts and lives, the healed bodies were accomplished only by the power that Jesus had given to them. Not one bit of the results of their efforts had come solely because of them, and this trip to Bethsaida made that abundantly clear. 

Sometimes we, too, need a little reminder that the fruit of our labors in the vineyard of God come as a result of our Lord alone, don't we?  The enemy of our soul has been whispering temptations toward pride since the Garden of Eden. "You can be like God," he whispers. No. We can't. There is a God, and we are not it. Only Jehovah is The Triune God and only He can create something beautiful from nothing, change despair to hope, bondage to freedom, death to life. Only God alone. Our role in this exciting life of faith is a gift of participation that is completely unmerited, and we do well to remember it. 

As we go about our day, let's be sure to thank God for the success we see and ask Him to show us all the ways He is at work in our lives. When we fix our eyes on God, we will not be able to look toward ourselves. All we will we see is our Lord, and that is the most beautiful sight of all. 

Today is a much anticipated day here in Blue Springs. Our new park opens today with a ribbon cutting at 10am and Friday Night Jam with live music in the park at 5:30, then Stories Under the Stars at 7:30. I'd appreciate prayers for pretty weather, good attendance at all events, safety for those who come, and that God would be honored in all we do. Thanks! 

The Journey, part 18: The Listening Jesus

When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. (Luke 9:10 NASB)

The apostles had just returned from their amazing ministry journey. They had preached the Kingdom of God and healed the sick. Their efforts had clearly been effective, because the reports of the events had made it all the way to Herod's palace. 

Undoubtedly, they were full of enthusiasm when they returned to Jesus, eager to tell Him everything, and He took the time to listen to it all. He had three short years to accomplish His mission, and yet He took time out from His own schedule of preaching and healing to listen to his apostles-in-training tell about the work they had done. 

Had we been a part of the creation of the universe, had we hung the stars in the sky, we might have just smiled at their enthusiasm and continued on our way. Not Jesus. He allowed the twelve to give Him an accounting of all they had done in His name. It was only after the accounting of their journey that they moved on to the next task. 

He was training them, and not only to preach and heal the sick. Our Good Shepherd was training them to shepherd those who would come after them, and He led by example. The effectiveness of His leadership can be seen in Peter's words, written years later. 

"Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, ... shepherd the flock of God among you ... with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory ...and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another... "(1 Peter 5:1-5 NASB)

How about that? Jesus was training these men to be humble, enthusiastic shepherds. There would be some struggles along the way, but, in the end, that is exactly what they became. Oh, what a difference we could make in our world if we learned from Jesus and treated others the way He treats us! If we were as patient, as gentle, as humble as the Son of God was with these twelve men, we could impact the world for Christ in a mighty way. 

Today, let us look at the kindness God has shown toward us and compare it to the way we respond to those He has entrusted to us. Do we treat others the way Christ treats us? If not, let us ask our Lord to fill us with His grace, His patience, and His kindness. May we "clothe ourselves with humility" and be the kind of example others want to follow. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Writing

Whew! I've been writing like a mad woman lately!  The first chore of the morning is feeding the horses and, while they are eating, the morning devotional is composed, typed, and posted.  After morning chores, the work of the new book begins.  Well, new BOOKS.  It turns out I'm writing two books.  The first book is The Waiting:  When the answer to your prayer is delayed and your hope is gone.  I'm excited about this book.  I've taken some of the devotionals from Luke 8 (The Jairus series), added some extra devotionals, pulled out some nice quotes, and am steadily making a book.  It's 123 pages so far.  The second book is The Journey.  It will include the morning devotionals from Luke 9 as well as some personal commentary about my own faith walk.  It's harder writing.

My first book took nearly ten years in the preparing.  I've learned a lot since then.  The Advent book took 90+ days.  Well, maybe less than that.  It was insanely fast.  This time, I'm treasuring the effort, allowing God to direct the pace, and finding more peace in the work than I ever thought possible.

What I had forgotten is how much work is required besides writing.  I've spent the entire afternoon doing footnotes, but have thanked God steadily for how easy He made it.  All the footnotes are done and compliant with Chicago Manual of Style, which is a miracle in itself!  The formatting has begun and, after I have proofread the entire text about a jillion times, it will be converted to a PDF and sent to a printer.

I've also spent a little time this afternoon deciding about page size, internal paper weight, paper color, bindings, cover, and quantity of books to print.  There are quotes to compare and cover designs to choose.  The amazing thing about all these tasks is that God planted a great love for books in this little girl more than a half-century ago.  There has been tremendous joy in handling a beautifully made book and, believe it or not, years before I ever considered publishing, I spent hours reading (for fun) about fonts, type styles, and the selection of paper. God spent decades preparing me for the tasks He has given me today.

Those disciples we've been studying in the mornings were given power and authority as their only tools, yet had all they needed for the tasks given to them.  In the same way, God plants in us exactly what we need for the tasks He gives us.  I've been reminded of that truth all over again today, and it is thrilling, humbling, and very exciting. When the book is ready, I will be as glad as anyone, but the best part of all is the journey with our Lord while the work gets done.

The Journey, part 17: The Accounting

Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. (Luke 9:6 NASB)

When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. (Luke 9:10a NASB)

Jesus summoned His twelve closest followers, the ones He called apostles, and equipped them for a Journey of Obedience with two remarkable gifts. He gave them both power and authority over demons and disease. That, with the truth He had planted in them already, was all that was needed for the task He was assigning them. 

They were to go as two-person teams from village to village, proclaiming the Kingdom of God and performing healing. The power and authority He had given were all they were to take with them. They were not to take a bag, a change of clothes, money, or a walking stick. They were totally dependent upon the provision of God. 

These men had left everything to follow Jesus, but likely never expected to become preachers and miracle workers themselves. Nevertheless, that was exactly what Jesus had in mind. They saw themselves as followers but Jesus saw them as leaders who would take the gospel throughout the world. He was training them for a job so big they could have never imagined it. Their Journey of Obedience was just one step along the way.

The tally of their success is not given. There is no record in Scripture of the number of people to whom they preached, the type and number of decisions registered, or the people who were healed. The accounting is inadequate by our standards. We want numbers we can compare. Were there more decisions when Peter preached? More healings with Matthew's team? We want to compare results, don't we? We want to know who was best, who was most effective, but "they began going" and "preaching and healing everywhere" are all we are given.  

Those simple phrases tell us more than we might think at first glance.  What we find is that this Journey of Obedience was not a competition. It was not a question of who was most effective, because results were not dependent upon the apostles. They had nothing but the power and authority of Jesus with which to work.  Any results belonged to God alone. 

The gospel accounting tells us another important truth. There was no delay. As they left Jesus, the instructions to go freshly given, they went. No procrastination. No worry about the future. They simply went when He said go.  They preached and healed because He said to preach and heal, and they preached and healed "everywhere". They didn't look for the easy places alone. They went everywhere. Because it wasn't a competition for results, it did not matter who went to the "easy" places where hearts were receptive and who went to the "hard" and less receptive villages. What mattered was the going. 

Eventually, there was an accounting. The apostles returned from their Journey, and when they did, they gave a full accounting to Jesus. They told Him about everything they did, their successes, the seeming failures, and how God had seen them through. Can't you just imagine their reunion? Twelve men, most of them very young, were reunited to share the most exciting time of their lives with Jesus. What a happy time it must have been!

One day, we, too, will give an accounting of our own Journey of Obedience to Jesus. On that day, our obedience will be the vital part of our account. Did we do what He said? Did we obey when He directed? What a happy day it will be if we, like the apostles, can say, "Jesus said to go and that is exactly what I did." There is grace and mercy for our failures, for our sin, but the amazing joy for our obedience will make all our hard times worth it in the end. 

Have we obeyed? Oh, dear ones, may we live in such a way that all who see our lives will know that we have done that which Jesus gave us to do, and that we counted it worth it for the joy our obedience gave. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Lightening Strike

On Friday, I realized that the power was out in the barn.  John the Builder came to investigate and found that two wires had done something I didn't quite understand that had resulted in a loss of power.  Well, I understood what had happened.  What I didn't understand was how the two wires had accomplished their shenanigans in the first place. 

Today, John the Builder and the electrical crew arrived to swap out the fuse box.  The electrician took a careful look and soon realized how the wires had done what they had done. There was a lightening strike! Unbelievably, lightening had struck the fuse box, blown a lug right out of the box, and melted the wires.  It turns out that the wires in the fuse box were not the only wires that were melted.  The wire to the barn had met with a similar fate.  Not surprisingly, all the wire has to be replaced in order to restore power to the barn.   

We did have a storm a few nights ago, and there was some thunder and lightening, but it really surprised me to know that a lightening bolt had singled out my fuse box to strike. How unexpected is that? In the blink of an eye, POW! Out with the fuse box!  POW! Out with the 400 feet of wire to the barn!  POW! Out with the power to the barn!  In an instant, my early morning trip to the barn changed radically. 

Life can change like that, too, can't it?  When you least expect it, out of the clear blue, something unexpected can happen and disrupt everything, and not necessarily for the better.  The question is not whether something unexpected will happen.  It will. The question is how will we respond to those unexpected, difficult times when they come?  

Jesus Himself knew about hard times, and He assured us they would come to us all.  The good news, He said, is that He has even the hard times well in hand.  How do we respond to the unexpected difficulty?  There are lots of things we can do, but the only sensible response is to turn to Jesus, who has it all under control.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

The Journey, part 16: Far-Reaching Influence

And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.

Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening... (Luke 9:2,6, 7a NASB)

We have touched on this before, but perhaps a little closer look at this amazing truth would be helpful. When Jesus sent the disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal the sick, He did not send them to Tiberias or Jerusalem. They were not in the largest cities. They traveled from village to village, doing their work. They were not speaking to thousands of people at a time. They were likely speaking to individuals and, sometimes, to dozens. They stayed in one village until the work was done, then moved on to the next. 

It was not a flashy, media-extravaganza kind of crusade. This was an on-foot, word-of-mouth journey. It is remarkable, then, that the news of their journey traveled all the way to the court of Herod Antipas. Perhaps it indicates how well informed the Tetrarch was, but the spreading of the news more likely indicates the impact of their journey. As they went, the people whose lives were changed by the news of the Savior shared that news with friends and family. The people who were healed shared the news with all who would listen. It was a little like one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread, and the news spread far and wide, including to the highest levels of society and those with the greatest authority. 

While the disciples were faithfully proclaiming and healing in remote villages, quietly obeying their Master, news was spreading throughout the Roman government. That news went all the way to the Tetrarch, who was the ruling authority over Galilee, but the disciples in the villages had no way of knowing the impact of their obedience. The only fruit of their efforts they saw was that which was at hand, not that happening as the news spread throughout Galilee. 

One of the beautiful things about obedience to God is the way He multiples the results from the simplest of efforts and the smallest acts of faithfulness. Just as He multiplied the results of those twelve in the villages, He can multiply results from our obedience as well. While we serve obediently, quietly, in what seems to be the most insignificant way, our Lord can take that effort and multiply the result in ways we could never imagine. He can take it to the highest rulers in the land as well as the tiniest village, and we may never know it. 

We are not called to results but to obedience. If our calling is to obedience, and it is, we must ask ourselves how faithfully do we obey? How willing are we to do the work of God in the most unobtrusive ways while allowing God to deal with the results? When we keep the tally of success, there is a tendency to work for the tally rather than for the pleasure of God. As we approach the work God has given us, let us keep our focus on the One we serve and let Him deal with results. 

As Paul wrote, "have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." (1 Corinthians 3:6 KJV)

Our job is to serve, and to do it faithfully. The increase is God's job alone. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

No Tricks Required

Maggie the Wonder Dog knows lots of great tricks. In case you haven't heard, Maggie can dance like a ballerina, walk like a lady, and sneak like a spy, in addition to the usual doggie tricks. She can also herd cattle. Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy is in training with tricks. She's so excited about life in general that it's hard for her settle down and work, but she's learning.

Little nibble-sized treats work well as reward/motivators, especially for Mamie. Unfortunately, they have worked a little too well. If Mamie sees me reach into the treat jar, she immediately starts doing tricks. If I'm not fast enough with the treat, she will run through her entire repertoire and continuing twirling like a ballerina until she gets her nibble. 

Tonight, I was reaching for her usual dinner treat when she started twirling. I suddenly realized that she thinks she has to earn every single treat. Maggie, on the other hand, works readily on command, but she also understands the difference between a treat and a reward. She knows she doesn't have to earn everything. 

As I tried to calm Mamie down enough to get a treat to her little mouth, I thought how like us she is. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, and there is nothing we can do to earn any of the blessings God gives us. He gives to His children because He loves us, not because we have out-performed someone else, not because we know our "tricks" so well. He blesses us because He is good, not because we are. 

It may not be a hard concept for you, but sometimes I have a little trouble with this. There is so much "doing" to be done that the "being" in stillness seems like I'm wasting time. A few days ago, I proudly shared my list of accomplishments for the day with my friend who text'd my back. "I've just concentrated on being all day today." We were both blessed that day, but it may be that the one "being" had more peace in her day than the one with all the "doing".

Selah. Pause and consider. 

What if we turned our focus from doing to being? What if, in the midst of our doing, we concentrated more on the One we serve than the service we perform? All the "doing" in the world is not enough to earn a smidgen of God's grace nor His mercy, so let's focus on the One who loves us despite our flaws, blesses us regardless, and holds us in His hand with a promise that He will never let us go. No tricks required. 

The Journey, part 15: Desire for Entertainment.

Herod said, "I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?" And he kept trying to see Him. (Luke 9:9 NASB)

Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. (Luke 23:8 NASB)
For the last few days, our attention has been focused on Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great (king at the time of the birth of Jesus and responsible for the slaughter of all male infants under two years old). Herod Antipas, married to Herodias, wife of his half-brother Philip, imprisoned and executed John the Baptizer and was instrumental in the execution of Jesus. He was eventually exiled by Caligula to Gaul, where he remained until his death. 
Herod Antipas was well informed about Jesus. He knew about His ministry, His miracles, and His team of twelve who were preaching and healing in Jesus' name. Herod was interested, to say the least. "And he kept trying to see Jesus," Scripture tells us. Herod was Tetrarch and had considerable power as well as soldiers and servants at his command. If he wanted to meet Jesus, he could meet Him. If he wanted to hear Him preach, he could hear Him.  If he had wanted the freedom Jesus offered, Herod could have had it, yet it was not until the night of Jesus' arrest that Herod finally encountered Him face to face. 

Herod was delighted that Jesus had been brought before him. At last, he would see this preacher who had caused such a stir. Luke 23 makes it clear that Herod was not interested in who Jesus was, however. He was not particularly interested in what Jesus had to say. What Herod wanted was to see Jesus do a miracle. He wanted Jesus to perform and entertain him, not purify and transform him. As you can well imagine, Jesus refused Herod completely. 

When we realize that Herod viewed Jesus as nothing more than an evening's entertainment, we are shocked. Who would dare to ask the Son of God to do "magic tricks" or to entertain us? It seems unthinkable, but perhaps it is not so far-fetched. Do we not also want a certain level of entertainment in our worship services? Do we not also want music that we enjoy, sermons that "tickle our ears", congregations in which we are comfortable? Perhaps we, too, want a little Herodian-style entertainment, but our Lord is no more responsive to our desire for entertainment than He was to that of Herod. 

The focus of our relationship with Jesus should be Jesus, not us. The focus of our worship services should also be Jesus, and not ourselves. In times of worship, the only One whose pleasure matters is Almighty God, who wrapped Himself in flesh and dwelt among us. Does it please God, honor Him, exalt Him? Those are the questions that must be answered. 

As we prepare for worship services this week, let us relinquish our desire for entertainment and approach the time with the objective of pleasing and honoring God. Let us worship Him and not ourselves or our desires. Our Lord will not perform on command, but when our desire become purification and transformation, He will never let us down.