A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak

Thankfully God gave me two ears and only one mouth! Given that ratio I should be listening twice as much as speaking. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, God positioned my mouth visibly in front!

Charles Wesley wrote a great hymn called, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” Honestly, at times I have trouble managing one tongue, let alone a thousand! Only what goes in through the ears comes out through the mouth!

Democracy attempts to give equal voice to poor and rich, unknown or famous, young as well as old. Though I reside in a democratic nation I actually attempt to live from Kingdom of God principles. A kingdom is not democratic!

Tongue talk!

Lately my King Jesus has been pinpointing some of my speaking problems. Sometimes the issue is a shortage of words; other times it is the type of words resonating from my lips that create the difficulty.

Advice to a King

This morning I read a mother’s advice to her kingly son. Listening to your mother is always important! When such advice is in the bible, it deserves even greater attention!

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31:8-9

Many segments of our society are “voiceless”, and easily ignored, even in a democracy.

Silenced by fear and intimidation,
bullied into the shadows,
multitudes know
the censorship of accusation,
manipulation and control.

The cost of speaking up can be extremely high! Who will speak for the unborn, the elderly, the intellectually disabled, the ones without home or identity? The challenge reaches beyond a king’s son to each of us.

The Problem

The bible speaks on numerous occasions admonishing the importance of listening. In many instances silence is the wiser, more excellent, way! Here is a sampling:

  • Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
    keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalms 141:3

  • “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives,
    but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

  • “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
    Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” James 1:19

  • “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,
    and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27

Silence!

There is just reason for such encouragement! I will spare you the details of my personal tongue wagging when silence would have been appropriate. Understanding combined with grace contribute of listening well.

Silence arises either from the womb of wisdom or the tomb of shame? The first releases life; the second is a dark prison.

“There is a time for everything
…a time to be silent
and a time to speak,”
Ecclesiastes 3:1,7

A Time to Speak

When is the right time to speak? And how? Solomon offers sound advice:

“…the wise heart will know
the proper time and procedure.
For there is a proper time
and procedure for every matter.”
Ecclesiastes 8:5-6

Jesus said,

“A good man brings good things
out of the good stored up in his heart,
and an evil man brings evil things
out of the evil stored up in his heart.
For the mouth speaks
what the heart is full of.”
Luke 6:45

Speak up!

My tongue may be situated close to my brain, but it is inseparably connected to my heart! If I’m having trouble with my tongue, the heart, not diction, is the real issue.

  • “When she speaks, her words are wise,
    and she gives instructions with kindness.” Proverbs 31:26

  • “Like apples of gold in settings of silver
    is a ruling rightly given.” Proverbs 25:11

  • “Let your conversation be always full of grace,
    seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6

  • “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply 
    and how good is a timely word!
    Proverbs 15:23

The Power of Words

Words hold incredible power

to forgive and restore,
build and encourage,
impart wisdom and share knowledge,
inspire and motivate,
teach and train.

At times, wordless voids create deafening silence. A silence leaving others feeling unloved, unwanted, insignificant, used, or shunned. The right words validate, show respect, affirm and cherish. They sooth wounds and minister healing. Well spoken words bring understanding, lift burdens, and ease pain. They release permission to dream, aspire, and hope. Words powerfully protect the weak and ensure justice prevails.

“If anyone sins
because they do not speak up
when they hear a public charge
to testify regarding something
they have seen or learned about,
they will be held responsible.”
Leviticus 5:1

Responsibility!

Silence is not always an option! Failure to use our voice has eternal consequences!

Responsibility

The most important message we have is the Gospel of Jesus Christ; “it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes”. Many have misquoted Francis of Assisi as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

Actually, he was advocating for words and actions to accurately reflect each other. Look what Francis of Assisi modelled:

(He) clearly spent a great deal of time using his words when he preached,
“sometimes preaching in up to five villages a day, often outdoors.
In the country, Francis often spoke from a bale of straw
or a granary doorway. In town, he would climb on a box
or up steps in a public building. He preached to . . .
any who gathered to hear the strange
but fiery little preacher from Assisi.”

Paul asks his Roman readers a relevant question,

But how can they call on him
to save them unless they believe in him?
And how can they believe in him
if they have never heard about him?
And how can they hear about him
unless someone tells them?

Romans 10:14

Ears to hear!

We have both voice and influence. Daily there is opportunity to share our personal stories of faith with others. These simple heartfelt words may be the channel God uses to bring someone into faith in Jesus Christ.

No Greater Joy

A young woman excitedly shared how she through faltering prayer, lead a friend into personal relationship with Jesus. Her own conversion to faith is fresh; her bible knowledge limited. One thing she knows — Jesus is worth it all!

Tears of joy and gratitude streamed down her face as she spoke. This experience of witnessing someone come to Christ has trumped her Christian experience. Well it should!

Yet mixed with tears of joy were also tears of sadness as she exclaimed, “Why didn’t someone tell me? Why did I have to wait until I was over thirty years old to hear about Jesus? How different my life would have been if someone would have shared Jesus with me sooner!”

There is no greater joy!  With equal enthusiasm heaven and earth should celebrate when a sinner comes home!

“In the same way, I tell you,
there is rejoicing in the presence
of the angels of God
over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15:7

Ducks in a row!

We don’t need all our spiritual “ducks in a row” with impeccable theology or living in holy perfection to be effective voices for the Kingdom of God. God looks for the willing!

Voices willing to speak
when hearts are tender;
voices willing to challenge
when injustice rises.

Today I’m praying for the right words combined with boldness to speak them! The results are up to God! I can hardly wait to see what He will do!

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Advent – Mary, Mother of Jesus

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a perfect example of God’s way of choosing those the world would call ordinary to reveal His extraordinary. Man places emphasis on outer appearance; God focuses on heart.

“But God hath chosen the foolish things
of the world to confound the wise;
and God hath chosen the weak things
of the world to confound
the things which are mighty;”
1 Corinthians 1:27

What did God see in Mary? What set her apart from all others?

Favoured Mother

An angel appeared to Mary saying,

“Greetings, you who are highly favoured!
The Lord is with you.”
Luke 1:28

Favoured here means to bestow grace upon or endue with special honour. It is the same verb used in Ephesians 1:6 where it is translated, freely given, poured upon, blessed with, bestowed, or made accepted. It is a reminder that all merit or grace comes from The Lord — for Mary and for us.

Pregnant

The angel continued,

“…Do not be afraid, Mary;
you have found favour with God.

You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you are to call him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called
the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give him
the throne of his father David,

and he will reign over
Jacob’s descendants forever;
his kingdom will never end.”
Luke 1:30-33

Questions rose like unstoppable waves in Mary’s mind. A virgin conceive? The angel gently calms her fear; this conception, unlike any other, will be through the Holy Spirit.

Mary received by faith what many professing Christians continue to doubt — the virgin birth of the Messiah. How could this be possible?

“For no word from God will ever fail.
Luke 1:37

Servant Mother

This verse literally translated says, “With the word God gives, He gives the power to fulfill it”. Mary believed! Her faith rested in the Almighty God who gave His Word.

“I am the Lord’s servant,”
Mary answered.
“May your word to me be fulfilled...”
Luke 1:38 

Don’t be deceived! Mary’s declaration wasn’t new! Long before this day, Mary had already chosen The One she would serve. Choices predetermined in the calm will not waiver in the storm. Decisions made in the day will go unquestioned during the night. In human weakness, God proves strong!

Newborn baby

Mary quickly hurried off to see Elizabeth & Zechariah. Elizabeth carried in her once barren womb the child destined to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the baby leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Luke 1:41

Elizabeth prophesied blessing upon Mary and The Holy Child hidden within. What extravagant worship flowed from the hearts of these two amazing mothers — one whose days appeared almost over, another whose life was barely beginning!

Humble Worship

Mary`s first words acknowledge her need of a personal Saviour,

“…My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.”
Luke 1:47,48

Power, position, and privilege reveal true character. We find in this young woman, probably still a teenager, a steadfast, humble heart of worship.

Woman in worship

Embedded in her prayer is a dozen quotations from Old Testament Scriptures. Although she undoubtedly had no formal education and was illiterate, Mary had listened closely to the reading of God’s Word hiding it in her heart.

This treasuring of God’s Word continued. Whether coming from the mouths of worshipping shepherds or from the aged prophets, Simeon & Anna,

“…Mary treasured up all these things
and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:19

God’s words at times were piercing; at other times, like honey to the soul. Mary received them all with equal grace, humility, and surrender — treasuring, valuing, cherishing each as precious. Every utterance pregnant with promise!

A Mother’s Surrender

It is one thing to surrender ourselves; it is another to surrender our children. Mary, together with her husband Joseph, dedicated Jesus to the Lord. Women weren’t required to attend the yearly Passover; yet together Joseph and Mary went.

It was Mary who spoke up after Jesus had gone missing,

“After three days they found him
in the temple courts,
sitting among the teachers
listening to them and
asking them questions.”
Luke 2:46

Jesus felt “at home” in God’s house. Even though she didn’t understand, Mary again “treasured all these things in her heart.” Content, perhaps, to know her Son possessed a listening heart!

A mother, surrendered and listening to God, willingly yields her children to His design.

Years pass quickly! Like his father Joseph, Jesus became a carpenter. But for three days the carpenter’s shop was quiet; the apron unmoved upon the bench. A recent baptism! A cluster of followers forming!

Carpenter shop

Something was shifting; her mother heart knew it.

“They have no wine,” were her only words to Jesus.

“Woman why do you involve me?
Jesus replied.
My hour has not yet come.”
John 2:4

Refusing offence, her words to others echo her knowing heart, “Do whatever he tells you.” Surrender precedes miracle!

No time for demanding or needing,
manipulation or co-dependency,
self-pity or control.

“Do whatever he tells you.”

Steadfast Mother

Without understanding all God was doing, Mary gave her Son again, and again, and yet again to His Sovereign will

as an infant and then a child,
at the wedding in Cana,
and when people called Him
crazy or demon-possessed,
even at the cross,
and the tomb.

Jesus, death and resurrection

From conception on, Mary believed.  She followed Jesus both with a mother’s love and a disciple’s commitment. In steadfast devotion, she accompanied His last fatal journey to Golgotha.

To the tomb she plodded with heart numbed by grief. Here, on resurrection morning, sorrow turned to joy! Mary and a handful of women were among the first to voice this powerful message,

“He is not here:
for he is risen, as he said.”
Matthew 28:6

Was she one of the unnamed with “The Eleven and those … assembled together” when Jesus entered revealing nail-scarred hands and feet?  Later after Jesus’ ascension, we see her among those continually praying in the upper room. Waiting and seeking the promised Holy Spirit.

Years of prayerful abiding, sustained and prepared her.

And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another advocate
to help you and be with you forever
 the Spirit of truth.
The world cannot accept him,
because it neither sees
him nor knows him. But you know him,
for he lives with you
and will be in you.”

John 14:16-17

Mother of Promise

Mary was one woman, a “humble servant”, who treasured God’s promise — not for a moment but for a life time.

What about us? Whether man or woman! We too can become people of promise as we

surrender in humble submission,
cherish God’s word as precious,
believe beyond understanding,
position ourselves in prayer,
and steadfastly follow
The Master.

In weakness, we find strength. God is adequate in our insufficiency. Upon common circumstance, He breathes His extraordinary, crowning our little with favour.

The Bible

Until, in Him we too become children of promise!

 “So in Christ Jesus you are
all children of God through faith,

for all of you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile,
neither slave nor free,
nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

If you belong to Christ,
then you are Abraham’s seed,
and heirs according to the promise.”
Galatians 3:26-29

Mary became an unexpected heir of promise, not once but twice. First in her womb, as a virgin; then in her heart, as a disciple. What generations had long hoped for, Mary received — Christ, the Saviour!

Now by faith in Jesus Christ, there is equal access. The promise of eternal salvation is offered freely to each of us. Who today will believe? Will you? Will I?

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Advent – Joseph a Man of Dreams

We all have dreamed dreams. Some have been realized; others await fulfillment. Do you have a dream? Is there something you are anticipating?

I love children’s dreams about virtually unlimited possibilities of doing and becoming. As youth, dreams form around making the team, being chosen for a lead role, getting a driver’s license or reaching autonomy. Years pass and new dreams encompassing marriage, owning a home and starting a family take greater shape. Later in life, minds fill with dreams of retirement and less toil.

Man was created with an innate ability to dream!

Dream

It is evidence of being formed in the image of God — the One who envisioned and spoke all things into being. Dreams enable us to reach beyond today’s reality, pushing present boundaries toward what could or might be.

Shattered Dreams

I remember well the excitement and anticipation with which each of our sons approached marriage. Filled with far-reaching plans and joyful hope, the future held promise.

I’m sure Joseph was much the same. How long his betrothal to Mary lasted, we aren’t sure. In the custom of the time, he would begin to prepare a house for his future wife and family as soon as he was engaged.

“This is how the birth of Jesus
the Messiah came about:
His mother Mary was pledged
to be married to Joseph,
but before they came together,
she was found to be pregnant
through the Holy Spirit.”
Matthew 1:18

I cannot imagine the upheaval of emotions that filled Joseph when he discovered Mary’s pregnancy: anger, betrayal, disbelief, fear, anxiety, confusion, disquiet. He watched helplessly as his greatest dream shattered irreparably before him.

Honour

Where did he go so wrong? Wasn’t he faithful to God? Hadn’t he tried to follow the Lord? How could this happen? Why?

The weight of disappointment and hurt must have been unbearable! Despite his personal pain, Joseph chose to act with the same integrity and honour that previously marked his life.

“Because Joseph her husband
was faithful to the law,
and yet did not want to expose her
to public disgrace,
he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”
Matthew 1:19

Joseph prepared himself to protect Mary regardless of any backlash! Undoubtedly, others questioned his sanity in making such a choice. Nonetheless, Joseph’s faithfulness and integrity blazed forth in spite of his own doubt and confusion.

His dream died a brutal death! Time to cut the loses! Walk away!

A Dream

What do you do when dreams shatter like broken glass on a concrete floor? Walking away may seem easy, even logical. The dark disintegration of man’s expectation is the perfect atmosphere for God’s revelation, igniting hope from hopelessness.

Expect

“But after he had considered this,
an angel of the Lord appeared
to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary
home as your wife,
because what is conceived in her
is from the Holy Spirit.
She will give birth to a son,
and you are to give him the name Jesus,
because he will save
his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1: 20,21

Things are not always as they appear. Mary is pregnant but not because of unfaithfulness.

If Joseph was confused before, this dream may have intensified rather than answered the questions dominating his thoughts. Could this be possible? Was God really going to entrust him, a carpenter, and Mary, an unknown maiden, with the raising of the Messiah?

Every parent feels the overwhelming sense of responsibility that surrounds the birth of a child. How much more these parents and this birth?

A Man of Action

Joseph’s preset pattern of obedience to God set him in motion. Secure in his identity, he didn’t break his stride when faced with circumstances that would topple most men. On the basis of only a dream, he took immediate action.

“When Joseph woke up,
he did what the angel of the Lord
had commanded him and
took Mary home as his wife.”
Matthew 1:24

Trust

Walking humbly in obedience to God mattered more that anything else including human reasoning or influential voices of others. God’s word carried far more weight than the words of even his most loyal support community. At what point did Joseph exchange his

doubt for courage,
fear for faith,
anxiety for peace,
anger for hope,
or betrayal for trust?

In the midst of shattered dreams, obedience demands strength and resolve. He drew deep from the well named “Trust in God”. The steadiness of a man’s steps prove the soundness of his faith! Joseph was far more than a carpenter. God spoke to his identity: “son of David“, a man with a heart after God!

The steadiness of a man's steps prove the soundness of his faith! Click To Tweet

Faith Journey

There was nothing normal about this marriage. Perhaps there never would be! At some point Joseph had to make peace with his reality. There was no jubilant wedding night or honeymoon — two becoming one flesh.

A trip to Bethlehem, an untimely birth, strangers coming with well wishes and surprising announcements, prophetic utterances in the temple, more strangers with gifts and homage …. each confirming the identity of the Holy Child.

Peace

The dream of having a “normal” life died a thousand deaths! The desire for a secure home for Mary and Jesus probably remained foremost in Joseph’s heart — to provide for and protect his household.

Just when things seemed to begin to take shape, another dream!

“…an angel of the Lord
appeared to Joseph in a dream.
Get up,” he said, “take the child
and his mother and escape to Egypt.
Stay there until I tell you,
for Herod is going to search
for the child to kill him.”
Matthew 2:13

Get up! Escape! Sounds more like a nightmare than a dream! Would Joseph ever experience the luxury of “normal”? Maybe! But not today!

The same outright obedience that had marked Joseph’s life to this point continued. His steadfast faithfulness to both God and his family were enough to stir him from deep sleep. Packing their few belongings, they moved on. Before the awakening of dawn, there came a fresh realization that perhaps the worst was not yet behind them. They became refugees on the run!

Unshakable!

I am amazed as I consider Joseph, this incredible man of God. What an example of unshakable faith in God’s sovereign will.

“So he got up, took the child
and his mother during the night
and left for Egypt,
where he stayed until the death of Herod.”
Matthew 2:14

Faith

Wherever God led, however long the exile, regardless of questions, Joseph led his family with faith.

What kind of man walks with consistency at such great personal sacrifice? God knew Joseph could be trusted along every rocky road of this journey. God’s only Son was safe in the hands of this loving, passionate servant.

Is faith blind, or does it see without light? Is the breaking of a dream the end, or the beginning of something beyond understanding?

Dream Fulfilled!

Twice more Joseph would be directed through dreams:

“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord
appeared in a dream
to Joseph in Egypt and said,
“Get up, take the child and his mother
and go to the land of Israel,
for those who were trying to take
the child’s life are dead.”
Matthew 2:20

and

“…Having been warned in a dream,
he withdrew to the district of Galilee,
and he went and
lived in a town called Nazareth.”
Matthew 2:22

Can you imagine the relief? At home with the threat over! Safe at last!

When one says “yes” to God, there is no way of knowing where “yes” will lead. “Yes” is unconditional agreement to God’s choice, God’s ways, His thoughts, His desires. The path of “yes” is often paved with sacrifice.

Hope

I have learned much from looking at the life of this not-so-secondary character in the Advent story. Each of us, at some point, will face the reality of broken dreams, failed promises, and unrealized hope. Then, what?

Joseph presents a powerful example of

faithfulness,
honour and integrity
selfless commitment
sacrificial obedience
passionate service
and unshakable faith.

May God see in us, what He saw in Joseph, a true son of David — one “who will do everything” He desires.

“… God testified concerning him:
‘I have found David son of Jesse,
a man after my own heart;
he will do everything I want him to do.’ ”
Acts 13:22

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Choices: Contentment or Craving, Need or Desire

What do you crave? Chocolate perhaps tops my craving chart; ice cream might head my husband’s crave list. Cravings are attached to desire rather than need. Learning the secret of contentment requires wisdom to know the difference.

God often gets my attention through simple everyday activities. Recently, I was reminded of just such an incident that occurred several years ago.

In the Barn

A mature cow delivered a healthy black calf on a fine spring day. In inexplicable rage she immediately attempted to kill it! I’m not exaggerating! Her whole intention was the destruction of her newborn baby. After rescuing the little one, we put them into the calving barn to give opportunity to “mother up”. However, every brain cell she possessed seemed to collide with that notion!

Several times a day for the next three days, the only way her baby was able to nurse was to confine this stubborn cow in a squeeze chute to prevent her from either kicking or bunting her beautiful baby to death.

During one such feeding episode, fatigued and frustrated I yelled in exasperation, “What is wrong with you? You have a perfectly good baby and you don’t want it? Wise up!”

Instantly I sensed the Lord’s reprimand upon my heart, “MaryAnn, how many times have I given you my perfect gift?  You have rejected and refused it, craving something else.”

Ouch! God’s word hit the target! I knelt in the fresh straw, acknowledging my own foolish stubbornness, as I sought God’s forgiveness through repentance.

Almost simultaneously, the cow in front of me seemed to have an equally profound change of heart. She began to nuzzle her baby, mooing softly and gently to her little one.

Tears ran unrestrained down my cheeks as I realized God was willing to use this not-so-spiritual barn and animals to speak truth regarding my misaligned heart attitude.

Craving Other Food

It had been a couple of years since the Israelites had escaped Egypt. Any positive inclination they may have had was fading fast.

“Now the people complained
about their hardships
in the hearing of the LORD…”
Numbers 11:1

I have an extremely low tolerance for grumbling — unless, of course, if it is me doing the complaining. Don’t get me wrong! I’m quite “Christian” about it! It starts as mild discontent, a touch of cynicism, a pinch of fussing, a bit of criticism here and a little grievance there. If left unchecked, however, the petty picking multiplies rapidly and exponentially.

It is almost humorous to listen to these grumblers,

If only we had meat to eat!
We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost —
also the cucumbers, melons,
leeks, onions and garlic.”
Numbers 11:4,5

No cost? The true cost of slavery was completely evaporating from their foolish minds; the depth of suffering they endured in Egypt was becoming nothing more than fading memory. How quickly they were forgetting how they “groaned in their slavery and cried out“.  (Exodus 2:23, 3:7,8)

Craving Multiplied

The craving of a few spread like deadly gangrene infecting the entire camp.

“Moses heard the people of every family
wailing at the entrance to their tents.
The LORD became exceedingly angry
and Moses was troubled.”
Numbers 11:10

Unchecked internal grumbling will soon push its way to the surface, rising like a volcanic explosion spewing toxic debris everywhere and on everyone!

Notice the difference between the Lord’s and Moses’ perspective — The One angry, the other troubled. God was the One who heard their groaning, responded to their cries, and provided supernatural rescue.  Today, these complainers lacked nothing!

He was, and still is, the LORD who Provides! Daily God covered them with a cloud of protection, shielding them from the desert heat. He, Himself, was their night light, a pillar of fire, warding off imposing darkness. That’s not all!

They all ate the same spiritual food
and drank the same spiritual drink;
for they drank from the spiritual rock
that accompanied them,
and that rock was Christ.”
1 Corinthians 10:3,4

What more could they need? Nothing!

What more did they want? Everything!

Craving Satisfied

Moses heard their words; God saw their heart. They weren’t just asking for food; they were demanding better!

I am compelled to ask some seriously searching questions: Where do I want better? When has God so generously given me everything I truly need, yet I demand more! Do I ever come into agreement with the Israelites, “If only (I) had ________!”

For them it was fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. What do I crave?

A better job,
or better house,
better ministry,
or better spouse,
better family, bank account,
or opportunity?

Craving is attractive to the eyes, creating a desire for or greed after. Sometimes God reluctantly allows us to taste the fruit of our cravings. The Lord gave them what they craved.

“But while the meat was still between their teeth
and before it could be consumed,
the anger of the LORD burned
against the people,
and he struck them with a severe plague.
Therefore the place was named
Kibroth Hattaavah,
because there they buried the people
who had craved other food.”
Numbers 11:33,34

The Cost of Craving

God promises to give us the desires of our heart. Unfortunately, this includes both good and evil! It would be wise to examine carefully our desires so that out of the good desires of our heart we will reap only blessing.

“Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.”
Psalm 37:4

Kibroth Hattaavah means “graves of craving”.

Just in case you are thinking, God’s love, generosity, and grace are greater this side of the cross, let us consider carefully the present day price tag on humanities insatiable appetite for more and better.

Heart disease, the number one killer world wide, is often the result of improper eating habits — a quest for more than what is needed. Many deaths are indirectly attributed to stress; stress we willing assume in pursuit of “bigger and better”. The killer of HIV/AIDS would be non-existent to a people content within the marriage union. Millions more die through wars, conflict and terrorism — the craving for power, wealth or land. This year alone, 40,000,000 lives have been terminated via abortion, the choice available to a culture craving something other than life!

Graves of craving abound!

I know what it is to be in need,
and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content
in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry,
whether living in plenty or in want.”
Philippians 4:12

Paul “learned the secret of being content.” Contentment combines satisfaction, gratitude and happiness  in one life-giving package. It is the quality of sufficiency and adequacy even in the slenderest of times. It is the feeling of being strong enough or possessing enough to need no further aid or support. (Thayers)

Substituting cravings for contentment brings health and wholeness into our lives spiritually, physically, emotionally and relationally. Ceasing grumbling isn’t enough! Walking step-by-step in contentment is necessary and so much better! Perhaps even the best of all!

Contentment is one indeed of God’s great gifts available to us now.

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Further Reading:

Second is Better Than First! When Second is Best!

 

Thanksgiving – Family, Friendships and Faith

Several nations, on virtually every continent, designate a specific time each year for thanksgiving. Some mark with appreciation harvest, freedom from slavery, life itself or a new homeland. Thanksgiving for me, however, is built around three primary relationships: family, friendships, and faith.

Canadians join in Thanksgiving festivities a month before our American counterparts, but the traditions are strikingly familiar. I am thankful for this national time to reflect and be thankful.

It is surprisingly easy to become content, even apathetic, in our blessings.

While out with my grandchildren recently, they all stopped to say “thank you” when someone offered them a treat. I was glad they remembered their manners without being prompted and surprised by the response they received, “You are the first children to say thank you all day!”

Something to Learn

Appreciation doesn’t come naturally to our selfish nature. It must be taught and learned!

Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you
who belong to Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Paul commands his readers to “be thankful” not just when we feel like it, but “in all circumstances”. We are not always thankful for our circumstances, but it is possible to be thankful in our circumstances. Yet I have witnessed faith grow so deeply secure in many whose peace and joy were tangibly evident in all circumstances. In their lives. expressions of continual thanks seem to flow freely even for all circumstances.

No matter how heavy, or how overwhelming life becomes, God is bigger! It is helpful to train our focus not on present situations, but rather on the One who

knows far more than we know,
loves beyond measure,
and cares above all others.

I applaud parents who instill in their children the value of gratitude. Our Heavenly Father also smiles upon those whose hearts overflow with appreciation.

Family

With a broad grin, my husband often says in reference to our five sons, “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any one of them, but wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for one more!” It is his way of declaring the blessing he recognizes within the gift of family.

When we were married, we both considered two children to be the ideal number. God had a better plan! Presently, our family is 23 strong!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts
than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

The joy of family is hardly measurable. The loss of a family member through death, or absence through separation, is the most painful experience we will each endure. Holidays are difficult for those feeling the weight of such a burden. Searching for thankfulness takes concentrated effort in the midst of such brokenness and pain.

Yet even then, as we focus on eternal reality, fragments of gratitude radiate through grief bringing strength to sullen days.

Friends

Second only to family, friends fill my thankful list. My husband and I made what seemed like a radical move out of our comfortable home and familiar community about a decade ago. We cannot image what life would be like without the many friendships that have been nurtured since that time.

Rather than leaving friends behind, our circle of friendships has widened, then widened again with overwhelming surplus. God has enriched our lives surrounding us with many loyal and true friends.

“Every good gift and
every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation
or shadow due to change.”
James 1:17

Genuine friendship is a gift from God! No amount of material wealth can replace the good and perfect gift of friendship.

The ability to simply “do life” together with others is something truly to be grateful for. Laughing and crying! Supporting and encouraging! Sharing and caring! Loving and lasting! Friendships fill our lives with colour and vibrancy.

Faith

Faith may be listed last, but it is actually first!

Give thanks to the Lord,
for he is good;

his love endures forever.”
1 Chronicles 16:34

Thankfulness begins with God! To finish well, we must start here, with an attitude of gratitude towards God. Void of thanksgiving, our faith inevitably slides into the realm of delusion and confusion.

“Yes, they knew God,
but they wouldn’t worship him as God
or even give him thanks.
And they began to think up
foolish ideas of what God was like.
As a result,
their minds became dark and confused.”
Romans 1:21

It is surprisingly easy to know God and yet neglect to appreciate Him — not just for what He does, but for Who He is.

Is the darkness and confusion woven in any culture visible evidence of hearts hardened against the worship and thanksgiving of God? Perhaps!

Remember

Even in writing today, I am reminded of so much more to be thankful for. Is it possible to cultivate a continuous level of thankfulness crowning every day with gratitude?

Here are a few practical ways to create a lifestyle of thanksgiving:

  • Use a journal! One of my daughter-in-laws has a thankfulness journal. Each day begins by writing something she is thankful for.

  • Several of my friends recharge their appreciation by doing a 100 Day Challenge. Each day for 100 days they share with others something they are thankful for.
  • Express it! Tell the people in your lives what you appreciate about them. Weave it into your family and friendship times until it is naturally spoken and expressed. Say “thank you” often and regularly.
  • Pray! Has prayer become a list of “I wants”? Expand you time with God to include more!

“Devote yourselves to prayer,
being watchful and thankful.”
Colossians 4:2

  • Look for “silver linings!” Even the most difficult situations have some kind of positive aspect. Is it the compassion others show in times of pain, the generosity that surfaces at points of need, or humility that flourishes in seasons of struggle? Be thankful!
  • Focus on others! When life’s challenges press hard, focus on helping someone else in need. Changing perspective by improving the life of someone else, will often stir thanksgiving within ourselves.
  • Notice the little things! Looking with child like simplicity often helps us see the beauty and wonder around us with new appreciation. Choosing to look at even the smallest of blessings can generate multiple reasons for thankfulness.

Just Do It!

Enough reading! It is time to do it! Starting a pattern of gratefulness will reap abundant blessing today while creating a pattern of thankfulness that will flow to subsequent generations.  Now is the best time to begin a new chapter of appreciation right where we are.

Start a fresh movement of thankfulness! Be the person others can emulate in their journey toward thanksgiving!

The Ultimate Goal is Love! Lord, Teach Me to Love!

I have been painfully inconsistent at setting strategically defined goals for my life. Except perhaps for one! When the love of Christ reached down to a broken, battered and hopeless young woman over 40 years ago, her one prayer and goal was, “Lord, teach me to love.”

I am that woman! My ultimate goal is to love — to love well, to love here, to love now.

But how?

The Goal is Love

Paul left his young disciple Timothy to bring firm correction to a church that was going off track. Several in the congregation had become “shipwrecked”, rejecting their faith. (I Tim 1:19) It doesn’t seem fair for this mature father of the faith to post such a young man in this difficult position.

Love made beautiful through scars!

From the beginning, Paul sets a solid foundation for Timothy:

“The goal is love,
which comes from a pure heart
and a good conscience
and a sincere faith.”
I Timothy 1:5

Imagine the scene! People scampering over each other for leadership status, anxious to be “teachers of the law”. Debaters of every imaginable controversy pushing their way to notoriety. The church was growing in spite of vocal minorities proclaiming twisted spiritual concepts. Exuberant hopefuls  were forcing themselves to the front of the line.

I certainly wouldn’t be volunteering for Timothy’s church placement. Sounds like the perfect setting for any young minister to become disillusioned and burned out.

Didn’t he deserve something better? After all, wasn’t he called of God? Wasn’t he ordained into ministry by the most elite group of apostles? Surely being commissioned by Paul himself bore enough weight to guarantee success!

The Heart

I’m going to be painfully transparent. Just last week in a one-on-one counselling session, a hurting woman sat opposite me. Our meeting was difficult; break through for her was slow, painfully slow. I felt the distinct reprimand of God, “MaryAnn do you have a heart of love? Love here!”

I realized in the busyness of appointment after appointment, I wasn’t stirred with compassion and tenderness toward this brave woman. In a moment, I both repented and humbly asked again, “Lord, teach me to love.”

Love is where good grows

In an instant my heart changed and so did the direction of our meeting. The woman left finding the hope in Christ, she was so desperately seeking.

The heart of love became a channel of God’s intervention.

Why am I so slow to love? Why is this a lesson  so often repeated? What causes my heart to so easily turn toward other missions and focuses?

“The goal is love which comes
from a pure heart…”

Oh! There it is! Instead of pure, my heart becomes infected by personal agenda, selfish desire, arrogant pride … The list is much longer! The pollutants invasive!

With David I pray,

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.”
Psalm 51:10

A Good Conscience

Paul sets a godly example for Timothy,

“So I strive always
to keep my conscience clear
before God and man.”
Acts 24:16

A clear conscience doesn’t come naturally, not to Paul and certainly not to us. It takes effort! Only out of this fertile ground of a good conscience will love grow strong and free.

Love is personal and vulnerable!

Peter, too, experienced the tenacity required to maintain a good conscience,

“Keep a clear conscience before God
so that when people throw mud at you,
none of it will stick.
They’ll end up realizing
that they’re the ones who need a bath. 
It’s better to suffer for doing good,
if that’s what God wants,
than to be punished for doing bad. 
That’s what Christ did definitively:
suffered because of others’ sins,
the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones.
He went through it all –
was put to death and then made alive –
to bring us to God.”
I Peter 3:16-18 MSG

This mud flinging world, when allowed, will pollute not just one’s heart, but one’s conscience as well. “None of it” has to stick! What people say or do cannot restrict our ability to live godly in a godless world.

Love enables such a response to adversity — adversity that Timothy was plunged into!

Christ was Timothy’s example! He is also ours!

Sincere Faith

“The goal of this command is love,
which comes from
a sincere faith.”

Undoubtedly, human love reaches far and accomplishes much. However, it only extends in earthly portion.

But there is love that surpasses human comprehension, flowing unhindered, unpolluted from the heart of God who by His very nature is love. Only God’s version spans beyond human capacity to the contentious, the wicked, the loathsome and the broken.

Timothy would need such love. So do we!

Only through a sincere faith, can and will this ultimate command of love be anywhere near possible.

Faith may move mountains,
but love conquers all!

I have witnessed this undefeatable combination of faith and love multiple times — each encounter awe inspiring.

Put faith and love together and nothing is impossible! As a matter of fact, that is exactly what Jesus said to the man, whose daughter was dying. He approached Jesus with desperately simple and faltering faith.

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus.
Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Mark 9:23

Let’s face it! Love is impossible for us! Only faith makes reaching the command possible. Our dependence is not in our own ability, but rather in Christ’s transforming nature at work in us and through us.

The Command

As we look again, we see love is far more than a goal we hopefully achieve in some limited fashion. Love is a command!

The goal of this command is love …”

A love that is unending and strong!

That may sound a little forceful given the situation Timothy was being thrust into. Nonetheless, it is a command to love.

“Timothy, my son,
I am giving you this command
in keeping with the prophecies
once made about you,
so that by recalling them
you may fight the battle well.”
I Timothy 1:18

The specific words spoken over Timothy are withheld from our hearing. However, each one of us, as children of God, saved by His grace, have God’s affirming and confirming word through the bible. We may not have heard it from human lips, but God’s truth continually “speaks” into and over us.

As we remember God’s unfathomable grace toward us, we gain the capacity to more than endure — we fight! We fight the battle well!

Fighting for the sake of love may seem a contradiction, but it isn’t! Whatever we do of any value must be done in the context of love! It can feel like warfare as we defend and protect this goal, both inwardly and outwardly.

 

The goal of this command is love!

Love is always worth fighting for!

If God were speaking right now, I think He would personally say to each of us, ” ‘My son, my daughter, I am giving you this command … fight the battle well’ for love.”

“Lord, teach me love,” is my only fitting response.

Second is Better Than First! When Second is Best!

No one intentionally aims to rank in second position. In fact, the desire to excel begins surprising young. For most people, expectations to consistently rank in top place is unrealistic. Is there ever a time when second is actually an advantage? Can second be best after all?

I have a lot of experience at second place! I was second oldest among my siblings. Scholastically I worked hard to achieve good grades, sometimes even coming in second best. At track meets the majority of ribbons earned were red, the reward for second. I even entered a writing competition in grade school. You guessed it — second place!

“Whatever is worth doing is worth doing right,” was my father’s motto for excellence. He was right! It is always a good practise to aim at doing our best.

Whatever your hand finds to do,
do it with all your might…”
Ecclesiastes 9:10

Trying for first! Achieving second!

Work willingly at whatever you do,
as though you were working for the Lord
rather than for people.”
Colossians 3:23

Often our best efforts don’t get us to the finish line the fastest, merit the achievement we hoped, or gain academic excellence. Then what?

The Issue of Pride

Jacob’s firstborn, and the one who should have received the birthright, was Reuben. But God rejected him for committing adultery with his father’s concubine. Simeon and Levi in vengeful anger annihilated an entire village. They too were checked off the list of eligible candidates for first place.

Jacob preferred Joseph’s son Ephraim for the honour of top choice. But God saw things differently!

“Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
but he chose the tribe of Judah…”
Psalm 78: 67-68

Why was Ephraim rejected as “first choice”?

You go first! I'll go second!

His name means “double fruitfulness“! What is more, the tribe of Ephraim was acclaimed for their skilled and mighty warriors. (1 Chron 12:30) Sounds like a top qualifier to me!

As we follow history, we see Ephraim’s descendants become overly proud of their abilities. On several occasions, they were more than a little upset about being excluded from battle or shunned from being chosen first. Pride, rebellion and disobedience enjoy cohabitation. The tribe of Ephraim accepted this ugly triad which ultimately led them away from God.

“Ephraim is joined to idols! Leave him alone!”
Hosea 4:17

Why Judah?

But why did God choose Judah? Judah was Jacob’s fourth son from his first wife Leah  — the wife he did not love. Jacob had two wives, two concubines, 12 sons and a daughter. To describe family life as dysfunctional would be a gross understatement!

First or second? Depends on the direction you're going!

In comparison to his older brothers, Judah would never be considered “righteous”. He had his own set of deviant behaviours! So why Judah?

Maybe, his mother started it!

“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved,
he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.
 
Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.
She named him Reuben, for she said,
“It is because the Lord has seen my misery.
Surely my husband will love me now.”
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son
she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved,
he gave me this one too.”
So she named him Simeon.
Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son
she said, “Now at last my husband
will become attached to me,
because I have borne him three sons.”
So he was named Levi.
Genesis 29:31-34

Break Through

Second place is one thing; second place to a younger sister is unbearable. Especially when you share the same husband! Leah did everything she could to earn her husband’s favour. Nothing worked! She somehow reconciled herself to ever-present rejection, dwelling in the land of unloved.

It's my turn to be first!

Only those who have experienced such an agonizing existence, can appreciate her brave strength to praise God in the midst of her unending storm of pain.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son
she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.”
So she named him Judah.”
Genesis 29:35

Sacrificial praise extended in the midst of unbearable grief! Leah gave birth to more than a son. She brought forth undaunted worship, courageously choosing to turn her gaze away from people to God, Adonai, her Lord.

Judah’s birth was a turning point for Leah.

Another Second

Follow the family tree down a few generations and we come to David.

When the Israelites demanded a king, God agreed and sent Samuel to anoint Saul as the first king to rule over his people. (1 Sam 10) Saul, however, proved himself unfaithful being far more concerned with what people were thinking about him than how he stood before God.

“… Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”
1 Samuel 15:23

Who is king now?

David’s father, Jesse, didn’t consider his young son even a remote possibility when Samuel came to anoint the future king. But God saw in David the perfect candidate to lead his people.

“So Samuel took the horn of oil
and anointed him in the presence of his brothers,
and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD
came powerfully upon David...”
1 Samuel 16:13

Undeniably, David as second king exceeding the first!

First and Second

The disciples felt an urgency to replace Judas Iscariot. They prayed, cast lots, and confidently chose Matthias. (Acts 1:24-26) God’s choice wasn’t on their list of applicants — Saul of Tarsus! The persecutor of the church, murderer of men, women and children? Saul? Yep, Saul! After Judas the traitor, Saul didn’t appear to be any step up, but he was. The second ultimately became the greatest Apostle of all, planting many churches and writing a large chunk of the New Testament.

Resting in place!

There is One “second” who is even greater. His name is Jesus. Jesus? Second? How could the Lord of all possibly be second?

 “So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”;
the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
The spiritual did not come first,
but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
The first man was of the dust of the earth;
the second man is of heaven.”
1 Corinthians 15:45-47

The first Adam sinned in the garden gaining for all mankind death while losing most everything else. Through his death and resurrection, the second Adam, Jesus, restored all the first forfeited.

“But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
1 Corinthians 15:57

There you have it!

After reading this, I know beyond a doubt that sometimes second so far exceeds the first, it is unbelievable to conceive it was ever second. In fact, Jesus was always God’s first plan, His only plan, His best plan.

Can second be best after all? Absolutely!

 

 

Timeless or a Capsule of Time? Time in Perspective

Any one else struggle with time? That fleeting thing that whizzes by at breakneck speed past days, months and years. Only by gazing at the Timeless One will we fully appreciate the capsule of time we are given and reign time into its proper perspective.

We micro-manage time with intensity.  With day planners in pocket phones that never leave our sides, we organize time for work, family and recreation. We divide our time into minutes, hours, days, months and years. Sensing the fleeting nature of time, we pack every moment with busyness.

Moses who lived a good 120 years, much longer than I anticipate life to be, said,

Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12

Life goes fast! Too Fast!

Life goes fast, too fast!

“I don’t have time!” are words that echo often throughout our culture. We postpone the things that should be done for what must be done!

Capsule of Time

If we experience even the years of Moses’ life and measure them against eternity, it would be like the tiniest capsule floating almost invisibly in an endless ocean.

Time is the most precious of all commodities. If I lose all my wealth and financial resources, there is opportunity to regain some portion. When health fails, The Healer stands close; heaven’s reality holds neither sickness nor death. If I lose even the closest ones I love, the hope of being reunited in eternity sustains me.

Timeless eternity!

Time is the only commodity never to be regained! This moment replaced by the next — both instantly gone!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
yet no one can fathom what God has done
from beginning to end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

We stir with an awareness of more! For surely we were created not for fleeting moments but everlasting days.

The Perspective of Time

Every part of creation is affected by time — everything! One glance in the mirror at my deep wrinkles and laugh lines and the crown of thinning grey shouts, “Time is passing, girl!” Youthful subtle skin thins, bones ache, eyesight dims, memory comes and goes.

Time management!

Hide it? Ignore it? Excuse it? Nonetheless, time wears through the most resilient, defying restraint. All of creation succumbs to its influence.

Because our minds cannot fathom anything apart from what we know, it is impossible to perceive Someone,  the self-existing God, beyond time.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years,
and a thousand years are like a day.”
2 Peter 3:8

Time is an earthly concept defined by multiple terms of measurement: decades, centuries, millennium. Time-words define our time, not God’s, because He is both within yet beyond all expanse of time.

The Timelessness of God

God has no beginning and no end. He has no past and no future living in the ever present now. In fact, He inhabits beginning and end simultaneously. Now that exceeds comprehension!

The only One expanding beyond all scope of time is God; He alone is absolute everlasting!

Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Psalms 90:2

Counting the moments of time!

Because mankind was created in His image, we too were made for timelessness.

“To be made for eternity
and forced to dwell in time
is for mankind a tragedy of huge proportions.
All within us cries for life and permanence,
and everything around us
reminds us of mortality and change.”
A.W. Tozer

We live in this tension of time! Its deep significance, yet fleeting nature. Time has intrinsic value, uncontainable essence.

Making the Most of Our Time

So how do we best value time? The obvious is to not waste it. Yet, we all have “time-wasting” pursuits. Television, computers, Facebook top the list of many. Less obvious perhaps are procrastination, fear, daydreaming and indecisiveness.

Time is to be treasured!

People and relationships are the most significant endeavours that should occupy our time. Because most of our days are spent in the workplace, create opportunities for deep and caring relationships with colleagues. Family will NOT always be there, as we sometimes perceive; seize moments to love and invest in close and distant relatives. Friendships take time to develop levels of trust and commitment that speaks mutually of love and value.

Live wisely among those who are not believers,
and make the most of every opportunity.”
Colossians 4:5

People are the only “things” we actually can take to heaven!

What about time for the greatest relationship of all — the one between us and the Lord? Is there time for prayer, reading and silent meditation of scripture, study of God’s character and nature, or serving Him by serving others?

Between Time and Timeless

A young man told me once that he actually liked funerals. Astonished, I asked why! Early on he recognized that funerals brought him face-to-face with the shortness of his own life. A wise young man, I think!

“It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.”
Ecclesiastes 7:2

It is neither in the beginning of life nor in the fullness of busy days that we come to realize that faith in Jesus Christ is not optional. Christ is the only solution to the fleeting nature of life on earth. In Christ “God’s eternity and man’s mortality” collide.

Time is fleeting!

Christ acquired the great victory for man’s dilemma with time!

O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
For sin is the sting that results in death,
and the law gives sin its power.

But thank God! He gives us victory
over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:55-57

We must all remember and view with brevity the limited time we have before we the leap from numbered days to limitless eternity. Today God extends His irresistible invitation. Death should never be “normal”. It pushes against all we are created and destined for. Thanks to Christ and the cross death never has the final word!

“For he says, “In the time of my favour I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour,
now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 6:2

Today is the day to secure your place in eternity!

**********

Further Reading:

Finding The Solution for Pressings Problems and Difficulties

 

Expecting without Expectation

I am the blessed mother of five incredible sons. That is five pregnancies, five marked times when expectations ran high and five deliveries into reality. Knowing and unknowingly, each time I was expecting with expectation! You would think this in itself would be enough to free me from further bowing to expectations, but it hasn’t.

I carry many spoken and unspoken, known and unknown expectations. They can be the source of conflict in relationships or problems in the workplace. They rest unseen like a burr under the saddle; all is fine until pressure is applied!

Expect

To expect is to look forward to something with eagerness or to anticipate the occurrence or the coming of something or someone. Expecting can be positive!

Not only did we anticipate the births of our own children, my husband and I looked ahead to when they would be married. We with eagerness awaited the arrival of each grandchild.  Over the years, our family of two has expanded to twenty-three!

The joy of expectancy!

When my husband and I were married, we fully expected some day to have a family. We had no expectation of how large that family would become, or how blessed our lives would be through them.

Expecting can also be negative!

“He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.”
Psalms 103:10

The guilt of sin and failure, accompanied by conviction is not unfamiliar territory for me! I know when justice should be administered, yet mercy and grace are portioned out. I fully expect to receive the penalty that already has been applied.

The cross was the greatest act of justice ever conceived. Christ bore the full weight of the penalty of sin in His death.  What I deserved, Christ took! Though I expect punishment, grace is offered. It is a grace without strings attached.

Expectation

Expectation, on the other hand, is quite different. It is the eagerness of something “self-determined” happening in the future coupled with

assumption and even presumption,
conjecture or prediction.

It is a strong belief that something should happen in a specific way! Today is the day of unparalleled, unrealistic expectations. Media continually flashes images of “super people” in front of us. You know what I mean: the new car, perfect home, six figure income, kids who always behave, the ladder of success easily climbed, never weary, always on the up-and-up…

The weight of unrealistic expectations, like heavy stones, breaks emotional bones, fractures families, and incubates discouragement.

“The hopes of the godly result in happiness,
but the expectations of the wicked come to nothing.”
Proverbs 10:28

Expectations carry a selfish slant filled with desires of self-fulfillment even when we think they don’t!

God’s Plans

Because God is inerrantly good, everything He is and does is good. What He has for us is good!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Hope and desire are the fuel of living passionately! When rightly placed they release God intention to the world around us. It is God who gives us the ability to dream, and the courage to dream again when dreams seem lost.

“Surely there is a future,
And your hope will not be cut off.”
Proverbs 23:18

Expect without Expectation

Here is where I make the leap! In knowing the goodness and love of God, I form presumptions of what I think the future should be. Rather than placing my trust in Him, with childlike simplicity, I begin to weave my own ending into the story line of not only my life, but of those around me.

My prime victims are those closest to me. It is  most unloving, however, to expect the best for them, while tightly gripping the confining strings of expectation around their lives.

Strings tightly attached!

Then there is the paralyzing opposite! Because of unfulfilled, self-directed expectations, I find a reluctance within me to expect again, a hesitancy to hope, and a fear of dreaming for the impossible.

Expecting without expectation requires living with

arms flung purposefully open,
a heart tenderized and welcoming to all,
a mind flexible to God encounters and initiatives,
and a no-holds-barred
“Yes” to God!

To fully expect, requires trust!

Trust

What allows me to release expectation is, undoubtedly, a confident trust in God who is completely trustworthy.

“For God alone, O my soul,
wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”
Psalm 62:5

It is right and good to expect God to be all He said He would be. I can expect with absolute assurance that He will fulfill all He has promised. It is on this foundation that faith rests.

“Faith is the confidence that
what we hope for will actually happen;
it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”
Hebrews 11:1

Living expecting in His goodness, without expectations of predictable outcomes, is perhaps like walking a tight-rope blindfolded. Unknowing how far I have come or how far is left to go, without solid ground beneath my feet or structure to hold to, I hesitantly move forward.

God gives the assurance to let go of all expectations, while simultaneously whispering an invitation to hope. He opens the window releasing failure, disappointment and loss while allowing the breath of His Presence to enter with freshness.

When His word touches my heart, do I receive it, holding it gently, and examining it purposefully, before surrendering it wilfully at His feet? In this is the image of expecting without expectation. It is

receiving without clinging,
appreciating with owning,
possessing without controlling,
loving without manipulating,

“We Had Hoped”

“Our lives should be lived with expectancy.
Not necessarily with expectation,
because expectation tends to dictate terms…
Expectancy is the belief that God will do something.
Expectation insists He do it in just this way…”

– Mark Buchanan

(“Your God is Too Safe” – Pg 149)

Blind and deaf with expectation!

Two perplexed disciples walked the road to Emmaus when a “Stranger” joined their conversation:

“..we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…”
Luke 24:21

Their expectation of Christ didn’t include betrayal, crucifixion, or the inexplicable empty tomb! The Source of all hope walked beside them. They neither recognized nor heard – blind and deaf by expectation! Until He broke the bread…

How oft I miss seeing The One beside me, because of expectation for a different way.

**********

 

 

 

 

 

Hungry for More of God? Feeding our Spiritual Hunger

Hunger is the signal telling us we are running out of essential fuel! In the natural, it starts when our stomach is empty but quickly messages the brain to activation. I may be able to ignore my stomach, but it is much more difficult to ignore my thoughts. Do I as acutely sense spiritual hunger? How do I respond when I’m hungry?

Hunger is the feeling of weakness or discomfort caused by lack of food. It triggers the desire to eat or crave food. Am I hungry for more of God? Do I choose to satisfy my spiritual desire through Him or other sources.

Hungry for more!

At times after finishing a pleasant meal and feeling fully satisfied, if I catch a glimpse of some sweet delicacy impulsively I want more. How about you?

This is actually normal! God made us to always be on the lookout for more; He has designed us to never be empty.

The Hungry are Fed

Heidi Baker, missionary to Mozambique, often affirms “The hungry are always fed.” The hungry, in desperation, push to the front of the line. They will not be refused!

“The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the LORD will praise him –
may your hearts live forever.”
Psalm 22:26

Feast instead of famine!

God has allowed us to recognize natural hunger through the discomfort of painful hunger pangs. If we ignore our bodies long enough hunger actually subsides. The same is true spiritually. He has also built within us an awareness of spiritual longing and hunger.

Hunger ignored has a price tag; vital organs can be irreparably damaged. We cannot safely ignore spiritual hunger either.

Hungry?

The Spirit within us is constantly inviting us to enter the Lord’s Presence and feast in His abundant provision. There are no shortcuts to resting, waiting, worshiping, or meditating on the bible.  Junk food goes beyond chips, coke or a bit of chocolate. Time can never be regained! How we spend our minutes forms life patterns shaping our identity.

The unceasing demands of our physical bodies and fleeting attractions can be the greatest hindrance to wholesome feeding of the Spirit.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit,
and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit,
and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.
They are in conflict with each other…”
Galatians 5:16-17

Feed the Spirit what is good!

We will either reach for what is good and truly satisfies, or what temporarily tastes and feels good. Daily we choose!

Jesus The Example

Let’s contemplate this verse?

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…”
Matthew 4:1

There can be unrealistic expectation that faith will be a pleasant journey of “always full”. Not so! The Spirit purposefully led Jesus to a wilderness of prolonged hunger. In the place of hunger, what Adam lost in the fall Jesus began to reclaim.

After forty days of hunger the Tempter comes! His timing is usually the same for us as well. When hungry, angry, lonely and tired, halt! This is a place of vulnerability.

When hungry, angry, lonely or tired, it is time to HALT! Click To Tweet

Jesus, the Living Word, stood His ground against every assault of the evil one.

“Man shall not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Matthew 4:4

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Bread will never satisfy our deepest hunger! Neither will lust, money, power or position! Our relentless deepest hunger is satisfied in God alone.

“The key to Christian living
is a thirst and hunger for God.”
John Piper

When we go to God for every need to be met, we too will experience supernatural provision. One of the names for God is Jehovah Jireh. It means “the LORD will provide”, or “the LORD our Provider.” Provider is who He is!

In the Lord alone is provision for all we need! Our hunger is meant to draw us to The One who provides.

In Christ Alone

In the Beatitudes, Jesus states,

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.”
Matthew 5:6

Jesus gives us a life-giving promise.  Not only is He the Lord our Provider, he is the Lord our Righteousness! Ultimate filling is complete in Him.

Our personal wilderness journeys are ultimately meant to accentuate our hunger. The hot dusty road heightens and stresses our hunger and thirst for more of Him. It is a good thing!

Without hunger pangs, we would not survive. Are you hungry?

I hear it all around me! I see it among the young and the old! People of every nationality, demographic and generation, crying, “More, Jesus! More of You!” The hunger is increasing, and it is good.

"Open wide your mouth and I will fill it."

People are turning their hearts and eyes from temporary satisfaction to ultimate fulfillment. It is beautiful! Prayer rooms are filling up!

“I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”
Psalm 81:10

God journeys with us in the wilderness, bringing us through to the other side. He invites us to “open wide our mouths”. Don’t expect a crumb from our generous God! Open wide your mouth! May faith arise in each of us for more. God is anxious to satisfy our hunger; “I will fill it!”

There is no need to look elsewhere. “I will fill it!

The Sound of Hunger

The birds outside my window rouse me at three in the morning. Long before the sun breaks the darkness of night, pangs of hunger stir little nests with cries for more. One hungry little chick has an ability to awaken an entire nest. The feathered chatter shifts from nest to nest until the whole community is alive with the sound of awakening.

Let us take a lesson from these little feathered ones, we can never be too greedy for more of God; “open wide (your) mouth”.

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More Reading:

Rivers of Living Water From Within – The Holy Spirit