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I remember as a child, whenever we were sitting somewhere and waiting, I often didn’t have anything to do. Unlike my own kids who can play with a smart devise while we wait, or often will have entertainment provided in the form of a toy or gadget, I rarely had such a thing. I remember I would play with my parents’ hands, whoever it was that was near. My mom’s hands were always very soft and tender. Sometimes I would play with the ends of her fingernails or her thin fingers, but I can clearly remember how silky and soft they were. They were always very clean and pristine. My dad’s hands were quite the opposite. His hands were thick and calloused from the hard manual labor of construction. His nails were always trimmed very short, the skin thick and dry. His hands were strong. It’s not that they were dirty, but they felt rough and edgy. My mom and dad’s hands were reflected the work they did, but also of who they were. Mom was the nurturer and caregiver. Her hands were hard-working, but in the most tender ways possible. My dad was the main provider, his hands did the hard and difficult work. He was the disciplinary, but was always the first to be a rock of steadiness and encouragement as well.

Our hands reflect who we are and what we do. Perhaps one of my most favorite accounts about hands comes from the story of this famous art piece known as “The Praying Hands.”

Two Durer brothers, of eighteen children, shared the same dream to pursue their talent and love of art. Being from a poor and large family, neither of them could afford to pay for university. They decided to flip a coin, the winner would attend art school while the other worked in the mines to pay. When the winner had completed his schooling, then the other brother would support the latter to attend as well.

Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to attend school. Albert worked in the mines in hard manual labor to support his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht showed great talent in various art forms and was beginning to make great money for various commissioned works.

When Albrecht returned home as his schooling was complete, the family celebrated with a great feast. Towards the end of the great celebration, Albrecht raised a toast to his brother Albert, who worked so hard in the mines to make it possible for him to gain his success. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

All eyes turned to Albert who sat weeping and shaking his head as he quietly said, “no…no…no…No brother, I cannot go on to school. It’s too late for me. Look at my hands. Four years in the mines have destroyed them. Each of my fingers have been crushed, they are thick with calluses, I can’t even lift this glass in your toast because of arthritis. It’s to late for me to learn the fine motor skills that it takes to create fine details in art.”

Albrecht went on to create many great works of art during his lifetime. His most famous work is the one seen here, known as “The Praying Hands.” This sketch he created to honor the sacrifice that Albert gave to him. This drawing of rough strong hands show not only sacrifice, but love, honor, and faithfulness.

Strong hands are not always rough hands, and likewise, soft hands are not always a sign of weakness.

Today I was reading about David in 1 Samuel 23. Most people are familiar with David of the Bible. His most famous account, both in art and literary interpretation, is the story of when he defeated the giant, Goliath. He was a young, attractive and fearless fellow. He was anointed to become the next king of Israel. People quickly adored and followed him, even King Saul’s own children, Jonathan and Michal. It didn’t take long for Saul to become jealous of David and set his face towards killing him. Everywhere David went, people helped him. He narrowly escaped death by spear many times. He learned to run to save his life.

His favorite place to hide from Saul was in the barren desert region of Judea. This was home to David. He knew the best places to hide. No doubt, he knew this place so well from his time as a shepherd. This dry and arid place was merely a place to pass through. The wilderness attracted those on the fringes—outcasts, shepherds, fugitives, hermits, and even fearful rulers. These were the people who became David’s most trusted men. (1 Samuel 22:2)

The desert served as a refiner’s fire for David. Early on, when it would be easy for him to become arrogant and puffed up, David learned to depend instead, fully on the care of God. He was pressed on every side. The enemies that lived in the land threatened him, and his own people of Israel had turned their back to him in order to serve King Saul. David met great success all around him, and yet he no doubt felt the frailness of his own life as Saul continually pursued him.

The “dry and weary land” served as a backdrop for David’s own weariness. And the lack of water around him illustrated an even deeper thirst he felt: “My soul thirsts for You” (Psalm 63:1).

At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life.

He yearned for God. source

The biggest difference in David and Saul’s characters is seen at those most pressing moments. Saul easily gives in to the moment. He allows his desperation to control the outcome. David was driven by the understanding that God is greater and able to determine his reactions based on that. David defeats Goliath because God is greater and stronger. He doesn’t take Saul’s life because God is the giver of life. He bravely faces battle because he knows the battle belongs to the Lord.

But we all know there are times that the head and the heart don’t match up. The head knows the truth, but the heart believes the lie. The head knows God will provide, but the heart worries. The head knows God can heal, but the heart grows weak with illness. No matter the reality we know, the heart makes us weary in doubt and fear. The heart becomes dehydrated before our mind even thinks about thirst. From the inside out, we begin to die a little to our faith, especially the longer we endure in the unforgiving sun.

I love to read these stories of David. they are full of excitement and encouragement. Normally, when I have read over 1 Samuel in the past, I quickly read through 1 Samuel 23 trying to get to the part where David chooses to not kill Saul. The anticipation of David hiding in the very cave that Saul is in. I giggle a little to myself picturing Saul towards the mouth of the cave. The Bible gives the detail that he was “relieving himself,” which we will just leave at that. Little known to him, he has David trapped in this cave. He’s so preoccupied with reading the Readers Digest I guess, that he doesn’t even feel David sneak up and cut a part of his cloak off. Here is David’s chance to kill Saul, but instead he protects him from his own men.

David didn’t always know what to do. He wasn’t always the mighty warrior that he is most often memorialized as. He was indeed human. Like us all, in a dry land, he needed to be filled with living water.

Jonathan was one of Saul’s sons. He was in line to be the next king, however because Saul did not obey God (see 1 Samuel 15), he was rejected as king and God choose David to be the next king. Jonathan was not like his father, however. He trusted God to mightily fight for him in battle. Jonathan and David become extremely close. Jonathan is drawn to David’s faith in God, his courage in battle, and they form a unique friendship. Jonathan is not intimated by David’s greatness. They even promise to each other that they will protect and serve each other. Jonathan personally saves David many times, and  his own father even tries to kill him because of his friendship to David. Jonathan knew that David would be the next king, and he didn’t allow his pride to destroy their friendship.

It’s during this time in the desert, as David is fleeing from Saul, that Jonathan, for one final time, will risk going to David. Jonathan plays in important role in the character of David, a self-love of a true friend. Although David is the star in the story that is unfolding, in the background we catch a glimpse of Jonathan’s friendship to David.

One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 1 Samuel 23:15-16

Saul was in hot pursuit of David. He had nearly caught him just prior to this, change David up a mountain. David escaped only because Saul was called out to protect his own country from the Philistines. Jonathan, perhaps stirred by the Spirit, feels to urgency to go to David to encourage him in his faith. The imagery in verse 16 is just simply awesome. (sorry I don’t have a better adjective for that.) “Encourage him to stay strong in his faith” is literally “strengthened his hand in God.” Before, when I had read this passage, I would have skimmed over that and thought nothing more, but this time it was as if Jonathan was speaking that encouragement to me. It was almost as if the Spirit took me by my hands, holding them out and said, “strengthen your hands.”

About a year ago, we were studying the book of Hebrews in a ladies Bible study. Hebrews is a book full of super encouraging verses, that I affectionately call “Life Verses”. Words to live by; words to encourage one’s faith. We were sharing favorite verses as a group, and my friend that leads the study pointed out this verse:

Hebrews 1212

 

This was a verse that never jumped out at me, but I immediately tucked it away in my heart to meditate and remember.

Some time had passed, I had been studying the book of Judges to teach the kids at church. I was reading about Gideon. He was an unlikely hero. Those are always my favorites. He was a man, who in his time, was part of a people who were forced to live in a harsh environment. He was preparing food, hiding in a wine-press, when he receives the call of God. He was addressed as “Mighty Warrior.” Someone who has to hide from fear is not usually looked upon as mighty. Gideon prepares an army for battle and is told he has too many men. After some narrowing down, he then is about to lead his tiny army of 300 men against thousands. The sun sets as his men make final preparations, and Gideon is told to sneak down into the enemy’s camp. If he is afraid or discouraged to go down to hear what the enemy is saying and so that “your hands will be strengthened.

There is was a again. There is no doubt that this is a call to arms. It’s a call to prepare the battle line with a strong-arm, but I think for Christians it’s more than just to feel “mighty”. For Jonathan he came to David to encourage him to believe in God. He wasn’t saying, “you are strong and mighty and are able to kill my dad.” It was a message to trust in God’s protection.

Earlier this year I was reading through the book of Isaiah, and once again I came across this theme of weak hands. In Isaiah 35, their hands were weak. They had been in that desert time.  A time when the people have been drained of life and hope. There hearts were a wasteland with no strength. In that moment of weakness, like a fresh rain, joy and life returns. Isaiah tells them to BE STRONG. FEAR NOT. God is coming to save them. Isaiah 35

Isaiah 35

Jonathan speaks truth to David. He has come for the purpose of encouraging David. It’s easy to think that people in great positions don’t need encouragement. We see them out there in the spotlight. They seem to have success in all they do, and it’s easy to think they are doing great. But that’s not the case. We need encouragement from others to press on. We need to know that what we are doing is important. We need to hear that even though life is extremely hard, God is there helping us. Working on us. We aren’t dying of thirst in the desert, but instead we are being refined. I’ve learned in my own refining moments this truth. Either the moment will refine me, or I will be refined in the moment. Whatever I am struggling with, I am not left alone to fight my way through. I can be strong; I can have strong hands, not because I am strong, but I serve a God who is stronger and HE is able to do it through me. and despite me.

This desert experience has part of the refining and preparations that David needed to become the greatest King of Israel. It was a time that taught him the importance to thirst. Not for things that only leave us lacking, but to thirst for that which really satisfies- the Living Water.

Psalm 63

A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
9 But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin.
They will go down into the depths of the earth.
10 They will die by the sword
and become the food of jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God.
All who swear to tell the truth will praise him,
while liars will be silenced.

click here for other verses about strengthening hands

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Last night, as I was finishing up our nightly Bible reading, Sweet T. asked me {for probably the hundredth time} when she could become a Christian. For about a year now I have been avoiding this question. Not because I don’t want her to become a Christian, or because I am not comfortable with leading her. Neither of those two scenarios are the case. This is my prayer, for all my kids, that they would receive salvation through Jesus and love Him with all their heart. Also, on a weekly basis, I share with kids at our church about what becoming a Christian means.

I take my philosophy about child evangelism {i.e. leading a child to pray to God asking for salvation from their sin} from a statement that Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew:

Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Matthew 19:14

During Jesus’ life and ministry, people wanted to see and touch him. They would come from far places. Some came to be healed; while others simply wanted to see them for himself. On this occasion, small kids were being brought to him so that he could place his hands on them and pray for them. His disciples and closest friends must have become annoyed at this. Jesus was a great person, he probably had little time, especially for kids to be blessed over. And so we find this rebuke to the disciples.

Let the little children come to me

Jesus made it very clear that he loved all people. Young and old. Sick and well. Dead, alive, rich, poor, religious, demon-possessed, ugly, attractive, women, men, Jewish, pagan, Gentile, popular, alone, afraid, brave, the wise and the foolish. He loved his enemies and even the ones that planned his death and hated who he was.

His love was the kind that broke all social barriers of his time. His love was more than just as acceptance of all people from all walks of life. It was a love that pierced through the barriers that separated people from the larger social world. When Jesus gave the command for his disciples to let the children come, it was to say “they are important”. This was during a time when a male wasn’t respected as an adult until the age of 30. Children mattered to Jesus.

I like to focus on the word “let” specifically when discussing child evangelism. Jesus makes it clear, we are not to hinder children from wanting this intimate relationship. Discouraging children from becoming a Christian is wrong. It is very clear that we are to allow for them to ask questions and learn what it is to develop faith in their own lives.

However, on the flip side of that, children should not be forced to believe. I think equally important is the word “come”.  We are never to push a child to become a Christian. This is a careful thing to balance. Kids want what they see other kids do or have. If one child is baptized in their church, other children will often want to do it too without understanding what it means. Salvation is so much more than this.

“Let” encourages us to provide opportunities to discuss what it means to be a Christian. Provide opportunities to talk about the need and what sin is. Explain how Jesus provided salvation, by dying on the cross and rising again. Also share what salvation does not mean.

“Come” reminds us to not push children when they aren’t ready. I, personally, do not think a call to commitment is appropriate to children services. Help your child develop their own spiritual understandings. This can only occur when you make an effort to talk to them about your own faith. Don’t shy away from questions that you don’t know the answer to. Children are far more understanding than we give them credit. Being honest that you don’t have an answer to their question is perfectly acceptable. Showing your child how you seek out answers is a natural part of their own spiritual development and discipline.

Do not hinder them

I have already discussed this briefly above. Children want to know about God. They believe in Jesus and what God can do far more easily than we can. I find myself often correcting our youngest daughter. To her, if something is not working all you need to do is pray. God will fix it. On the one hand- yes I agree, I don’t think God helps me open a jar of jelly or other daily tasks. I have to be careful, though, because I also know that God does work intimately in our lives even today. Provide opportunities for teachable moments. Encourage the faith of your child. Prepare their hearts to accept the seed of faith. Pray over them. Read the Bible with them. Teach them about love and taking care of those around you.  Practice your own faith, show them what it means to be a Christian in how you do life everyday. Even practice admitting when you mess up (GULP!) It is hard to admit, but it shows your children the need for a Savior.

At our church this weekend, we had our Family Dedication, often known as Baby dedication. Part of what we gave the parents was the picture below with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 written. It is a command to impress the Word of God into the lives of your children in everything you do. Developing the opportunity for your children to believe and follow God comes from what they see at home. Talk about what you have read in your quiet time. Display the word of God in your home. I love how Proverbs 6:20-23 echoes Deuteronomy.

20 My son, keep your father’s command
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them always on your heart;
fasten them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
23 For this command is a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction
are the way to life,

For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these

Jesus would often teach about the kingdom of heaven. (32 times in the book of Matthew, this phrase is mentioned) Usually he would use a simple, daily picture to compare what heaven was like. Here, Jesus tell us why children are so important. They are an example. Could Jesus be referring to their simple faith? Or maybe their innocence? Perhaps it’s a childlike meekness and frailty that he is referring, or even a combination of all the above.

As I mentioned above, Sweet T had been asking Alan and I for about a year, “when can I become a Christian?” Each time she asked, I didn’t just avoid the question. We would talk about what it means. Sometimes I would ask why she wanted to. Other times I would explain what it didn’t mean. And, if I was being honest, a few times I changed the subject. I figured if I could distract her, then she wasn’t serious about it.

So what was my hesitancy? Why am I so careful when it comes to child evangelism?

I think it stems back to the fact that kids believe easily. Almost every child that I have encountered wants to be a Christian. They want to go to heaven. They believe Jesus died on the cross. They know he came back to life again. They repeat prayers. They get baptized. We have all the right words, but I strongly believe that none if this is important until a person, no matter the age, understand what SIN is. We can teach our kids what sin is, how it separates us from God, but without understanding SIN, children (or adults) can never be saved from it. This can only be done by the work of the Holy Spirit.

And this is what I pray for my kids. That the Holy Spirit will move in their hearts. This is what I saw in Sweet T. last night. A true brokeness over her SIN. She came to the end of herself and found she needed more- a Savior.
It’s not the prayer in words that we say, or the time we go to church that saves us. No matter how we are baptized, what church we go to, or the kind of music in church we listen to. The Bible translation we read, or the type of Lord’s Supper we take doesn’t save us. Our salvation begins at brokeness over sin. Not just knowing in your head that you break God’s law, but understanding in your heart and wanting to fill that need with the saving power of faith in Jesus.

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Bookmark I spent this weekend with some of the fabulous ladies in our church at a Ladies retreat. We studied 1 Timothy 6: 11-21, then the next day broke out into smaller groups to look more in-depth at each section of verses.  When I was given this passage (1 Timothy 6:15-16) to share as a breakout session, my first reaction was, “oh, okay. I can simply read the passage, we’ll all agree in an “Amen,” and that will be that.” (ha ha)

Then after reading it more, I was filled with more of a “how in the world am I going to explain this” overwhelmed feeling.

It was a roller coaster.

I was thrilled, enthralled, nervous, inadequate, excited, and overcome all at the same time. The deep meanings and vastness of this description of God had me at a loss for what I would do or say to try to teach others about what this means. We call on the names of God all the time, but why these. I recently had written a blog post about the unapproachable light. Maybe I could do this. However, I knew I would have only 10 minutes, and I could quite easily spend 10 minutes just talking about that.

again I was overwhelmed.

A good place to begin when you are studying scriptures is to break it down into smaller pieces. This passage was assigned to me as “description of God as Ruler,” so that seemed like a logical place to begin.

Ruler.

I pulled out my handy Greek resources, my husband (who happens to teach Greek in the college he is employed with.) He looked it up and said, the word is “dunastes” (transliterated)  and it is actually only used three times in the New Testament. (Luke 1:52 alluding to 1 Samuel 2:8, Acts 8:27 speaking of the court official, and here in Timothy.) Upon further digging we found that the word is not really used anywhere in the Bible to describe God. With almost every single reference it was used to talk about a leader, usually not the king, but as part of the ruling court. (Genesis 49:24, 50:4, Judges 5:9, 1 Samuel 2:8, Daniel 2:10, Isaiah 5:22, Habakkuk 3:14 to name a few) Occasionally it was even used in a negative way, like in Psalm 71:12 the word is used for the oppressor. So, nothing magical about the use of the word “dunastes”. It was a bit of a let down.

I moved on to look through my cross-reference.

It led me to find that Paul (the author of Timothy), had used a similar chain of descriptions of God earlier in the book of Timothy.

Now to the King eternal,

immortal,

invisible,

the only God,

be honor and glory for ever and ever.

Amen.

1 Timothy 1:17

I quickly went back to the Hubby and asked if this “King Eternal” was the same as “Ruler” found later.

No. It wasn’t. Of course not.

It still interested me that Paul did this twice in the same letter. In chapter one, Paul was describing the grace that he had received in Christ. He described himself as the chief of sinners. I share more about this here. As he was writing, it’s like he gets overwhelmed and built up with excitement. Lost in thoughts of the greatness of his salvation and he bursts out  in a crescendo of praise listing God’s identity. Only God could save his soul.

Now, let’s go back to chapter 6. The end of the chapter Paul is giving Timothy some closing charges. These last instructions are more or less to encourage him to press on. In verse 13, Paul charges Timothy to live a clean life until the return of Christ. (The early church thought that it was near- but the point is that we are to keep on in our faith for the rest of our lives.) As he is giving him this charge, until the return of Christ, Paul breaks out again in a crescendo of praise.

Here is the significance; keep in mind that Paul is asking Timothy {and all of us, really} to keep pressing on, waiting for the return of Christ. Oh and by the way, this is God, not people. You are waiting on His time. In case you forget he is:

the blessed and only Ruler

King of kings

Lord of lords

who is alone immortal

lives in unapproachable light

whom no one has seen or ever will

In other words, he is the ultimate supreme power and we can not fully conceive the greatness of His existence. You are to press on and wait in a manner that shows you are waiting because he is coming back. He is the boss, applesauce. (I say this to my kids all the time. Well, that I’m the boss.) 

This is a hard concept for westerners because we (meaning me) like to be the boss. Oh sure, we have a President and Senators, but if we don’t like how they “rule” you better believe they are out of there. At the same time, God is not like any Ruler that has ever existed. He is not corrupt, makes no errors, is the same, true, etc. But maybe we can get an understanding about God as Ruler- at least just a glimpse.

I grew up 20 miles outside of Washington DC. As a teen, my friends and I would often go downtown on the Metro and see all the sights. There are so many museums and things to see. As a teen, if you wanted to go up the Washington Monument you had to wait in this huge line that wrapped around the base of it three or four times. They changed the format to tickets, which was ingenious. Now (well, not right now, because it’s closed for repairs) you go to a website, find a day and time that still has tickets (you don’t have to pay) and there is no line.

The White House was the same way. As a teen I had never been to the White House because all my friends said that it was a waste of time to wait in that huge line. All you got to see were rooms they used for entertaining but not the interesting parts of the White House. As an adult, my parents had met someone who worked in the White House and was willing to give us a private tour. These tours are only by those who work there, we had to have a background check, and we could only go if the President was not in the West Wing. It was neat to see the Oval office, even if from the door. To see the room where he would meet with the Cabinet; to learn that he doesn’t sit at the head of the table but in the middle. So much fascinating information.

As we were touring around, our Guide would tell us all kinds of details about the White House. At one time in history you could drive right up to the house. It was the people’s house. Now, of course, security is very tight. He shared about some of the secure passage ways and how heavy the security was. “Have you ever heard someone tell you that the moment you have your hands on the fencing that surrounds the White House that there is a sniper with a gun on you,” Our guide asked. Yes. We had all heard that. “Well, it’s true.”

So although we don’t fully understand the concept of a Ruler and King, we can maybe grasp at the idea of someone who is completely separate and in charge. The 1st century mind, that this letter was written for had a completely different understanding. They were under Imperial rule. The man in charge, Caesar had always been and would always be calling the shots of the kingdom. If they had a great ruler, everything was smooth. If the ruler was a opressor, like in the Psalm passage, they just had to deal with his harsh ruling. The word is about someone in authority.

blessed and only Ruler: This doesn’t have the sense of blessing that we normally think of. The intent is to describe, showing that He is different, sacred, endowed with favor.  Ruler, as we already mentioned, is not a title or name of God here as much as it is to point to his authority. In waiting for the return of Christ, we are waiting on God to do it in His time. We are put under His authority to wait, to serve Him, and to obey. Each description builds on this truth. It makes me think back to the reference that Jesus made. You are either under the authority of God or Satan.

King and Lord: King of kings and Lord of lords is one of those very familiar titles. I always think of Handel’s Messiah. Surprisingly, the title King of kings is used very few times in the Bible. It is used here, in Timothy, to describe God and then twice in Revelation to describe Jesus. (Revelation 17:14, 19:16) Lord of lords is used to describe God only 5 times. (Deuteronomy 10:17, Psalm 136:3, Timothy and the two Revelation references) Even more interesting is that when they are used together, they only are referring to Jesus. Here is a great post with more interesting study on King of kings.

It begins and ends with God. There is no authority that is greater than His, no power that is stronger or greater. When it comes to the plans of God, nothing can stop them. He is the one calling the shots. He is ultimately sovereign. The Ancient of Days seated on the throne unshaken by any who oppose Him. {see Daniel 7} God doesn’t worry, fretting in heaven. He holds it all in his rule. Our rebellious hearts don’t like this. Going all the way back to the garden; you have Adam and Eve wanting to be equal with God. God is good all the time- even when life is terrible. He is still enthroned, reigning. I don’t think it is possible to completely grasp this idea, because we are so limited in our mind to time and space. It doesn’t change the truth. God is the King, the Lord, the Boss, the Big Man. Right now there are other powers and rulers, mere men. We live and serve the King, and we are to be living in a way that shows it.

And along those lines, I would also like to point out that his rule is unlike any on earth. God is not an aging King whose kingdom is being threatened by the rising power of Satan. Again, it is unlike any kingdom that we have known. Our minds think of powers that rise and fall, replaced by someone stronger. God the Father is the King of kings. His kingdom is eternal. Nothing will cast it away.

Who alone is immortal: As Timothy and Paul, and even us today, wait for the return of Christ, we will most likely meet death first. Jesus was the only one who looked face to face with death and came out the victor. God is immortal. He isn’t an old father who is slowly dying in heaven waiting for Jesus to take his place on the throne of heaven. (sounds kind of like the movie Thor) God is immortal. He is nothing like us.

Being mortals we follow the scientific laws, but He is the author of those laws. He is not bound to time, space, and biology. Think of all the miracles he performed. When Jesus fed the 5,000 he created more food out of what he had. When the man born blind was healed, Jesus created new eyes for him to see like he did in the beginning creations. When Jesus walked on water, he defied the very laws of nature that he created. He calls things that are not as though they were. You can’t do it, but He can. You are limited, but he is limitless. You are mortal, but he is immortal.

unapproachable light: Going back to my earlier account of the White House, we the people cannot approach our chosen leader. If we were to try, without given the clearance more than likely, we would be eating dirt with many service men on top if not shot. But the Ruler is not unapproachable in this way. This is going to sound weak, but for lack of a better way to say it, He is too great. In the book of Revelation it says that there will be no sun because Jesus will be the source of light. Paul met the light on the Damascus road and was not only blinded (with scaly scabs) but he WHOLE life was changed. God is unapproachable but not for his protection. He is unapproachable because we are limited. He is so separate and holy from what we can ever know. That is what makes Him unapproachable.

who no one has seen or ever will see: Are you getting it? You don’t know how great God really is! I don’t know either. The little bit I do know is overwhelming. It’s vast, amazing, deep, mind-boggling, life changing.

Jesus is coming back, according to God’s time. Be busy, being steadfast to the Ruler. It might seem in this life that he isn’t in charge. Life is hard! It feels as if the world has overcome and won over. That’s not the case. God is the mighty ruler, unchanging, and He is yours.

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“You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail….”

The background story for this song (Jesus walking on water) is found in three of the 4 gospels. (Matthew 14:22ff, Mark 6:45ff, and John 6:16ff)

It is immediately following the feeding of the 5,000 (from 5 loaves of bread and two fish). I think it is significant to look a little closer than that at the background. Before Jesus feeds the thousands of people he hears of some tragic news. John, the baptizer, had been killed. How closely Jesus knew John is not clear. We know that Jesus and John were cousins (Luke 1); we also know that Jesus was baptized by John (Mt 3:13ff, Mk 1:9ff, Lk 3:21ff); and that John knew of Jesus’ growing ministry and following. Even after John was arrested, he had sent messengers to ask Jesus if He was the One, the promised Messiah (Matt. 11:1ff). Jesus then explains to the crowd the greatness of John, his significance, and calling. For sure, Jesus knew of John and loved him for being obedient to his calling. When the tragic news comes to Jesus that he was beheaded, like any person who has found out about the loss of a loved one, he withdraws from the crowd. Jesus gets in a boat to try to escape.

The crowd, also hearing of this news I’m sure, decide to gather around Jesus. I can picture the news spreading from town to town. Not only did they hear about the tragic and selfish death of John, but they hear of how Jesus is escaping away to grieve. They come out in droves. As Jesus’ boat lands, he sees the crowd that has gathered to be near him. Perhaps they have come to show their support. Maybe they came to just see for themselves. Instead of getting away from them, Jesus is filled with compassion and love. He wants to use this opportunity to touch them, to offer comfort. He understands the significance of John’s life as well as his death, but he also knows the limited understanding of the people that follow him. He knows of their desperate attempts and needs. Not just the immediate needs that we often seem to get stuck on, like food, shelter, popularity.

Jesus gets out from the boat and begins to heal the sick that have come. He spends the whole day meeting the needs of the people, putting his own needs aside. His disciples come, as the sun begins to drop. The remind Jesus that it is almost dark and there is no fast food joints near by. The encourage him to dismiss the crowds; they’re probably famished. Jesus, in his infamous way, turns it on them.

“You feed them,” he says. I’m sure Jesus knows the limited food that the disciples have. The crowd later is counted. (5,000 men, plus women and children) Jesus knows they can’t do it, alone that is.

After everyone is seated, Jesus takes the 5 loaves and two fish, prays over it, and begins to break it apart. He miraculously feeds all the people there. Not only is everyone full, there are 12 baskets full of left overs, far more than what they started with.

It’s now dark, the end to a very long and emotional day. After the crowd is dismissed, Jesus tells his disciple to get back in the boat and go across the lake to the other side. He was going to stay behind.

I can’t imagine what must have been going through his head. Perhaps Jesus still needed more time to grieve the loss of John. Maybe John’s death was a reminder of what was to come for himself, death on the cross. Just maybe, Jesus was overwhelmed by the needs of the people for a Savior and yet was hurt that all they could focus on was what they could physically benefit. It’s not clear, but it does say that Jesus went up the mountain by himself and prayed through the night.

All three passages make it clear that Jesus is alone on the land while his disciples are making their way across the Sea of Galilee. In Mark 6:47 it says that the disciples are about half way across the lake. In John it says that they are 3 to 3 and a half miles from the shore (the lake is about 6 miles wide). As the disciples are going, there seems to be some storm that comes. They are struggling against the tide.  Jesus, still on land praying, sees them struggling, and decides to go to them and help.

It’s dark out on the water. The disciples, some who are trained fishermen, are struggling against the storm. Them, out on the water they see something. I’m sure the waves are rising and falling. Maybe they aren’t certain they see someone.

Wait, there it is again.

Whoa, there is a ghost coming. We are going to die, I’m sure they are thinking.

As Jesus gets closer, he calms their fears. They aren’t seeing a ghost. Jesus really is walking out to them on water. How can this be? Remember, Jesus is God. He created the world and the laws of physics that we are bound to, but he is not. How can he heal? how can he make something out of nothing? how can he walk on water? He created it. He can do what he wants and is not limited like we are.

Take courage! (literally, Cheer Up)

It is I. (I am)

Don’t be afraid. (Stop being afraid)

I love this. Why do we need to stop being afraid and cheer up? The I AM- Yahweh, God Almighty, the One, Maker, Lord- He is with us and on our side. I have blogged many times about the significance of I AM. I AM is God’s holy name. {Here, and here are a couple of them.} We come to God, most the time very unsure and scared, with our troubles. He meets us with the answer- HIMSELF.

Both John and Mark’s accounts end here with Jesus getting back in the boat. John says that immediately the arrive on the shore. I’ve always wanted to hyper speed.

Matthew paints a little more of the scene. Peter, being the outspoken try anything kind of guy, says to Jesus, “if it’s you, tell me to come on the water.” Did Peter doubt it was Jesus, or did he want Jesus permission. I don’t know. Peter knew that was an amazing sight. He knew he could never do it without Jesus.

“Come,” Jesus calls, giving Peter permission. The invitation is there. Step out of the comfort zone. Never mind the fact that the boat is somewhat an illusion of control. Peter is invited to step into total trust and reliance.

He steps out of the boat. Was he timid, like a child who partly hangs on to the edge? Did he swing his legs over and walk out? Maybe he even cautiously stepped out, reaching out to Jesus hands. As Peter saw the wind blow up, and perhaps the waves move under his feet, he was filled with fear. That moment of total trust was lost to fear. {I’ve done that many times.} He begins to sink. It’s lost, that moment.

SAVE ME!

Jesus reached out, and lifted him up, but not without a rebuke. “Why didn’t you believe?” {ouch} The disciples later also get rebuked about doubt when they worry about food to eat. (um, he just fed an entire town of people with nothing.)

They both climb into the boat. I’m sure if you were to look at the other disciples faces every one of them would be wide-eyed, jaws dropped. Those in the boat worshiped Him as the Son of God.

Life is a journey. There are times along this journey that I am victorious in my faith. Given a difficult situation, faced with fear, I choose to believe. Sometimes I was left with disappointment and confusion. Other times I felt victorious, knowing that my faith had helped me endure that difficult time. Then there were all the other times that I was like Peter. I stepped out with full intention of trusting God. I wanted to show that I had this huge faith. Then the waves rose up and I sank. I was left licking the wounds of doubt. I wasn’t as amazing as I thought. My faith had failed. I had failed.

Then, like Peter, Jesus did it anyway. When I was out-of-the-way, Jesus steps in and does what only he can do. Those times of faith were never about me and what I “can do” for God. I remind myself, it’s about HIM.

Isaiah says it this way,

When you pass through the waters,
 I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God, (Literally I AM)
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” (emphasis mine)

Isaiah 43:2-7

Jesus will do it, because his name is at stake. Believe, and it will be even more amazing.

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Today I’m thankful for rain.

This summer was one of the hottest and driest of Oklahoma history. It was so terrible that it seemed like everything could suddenly combust into flames. Even the yards in the neighborhood that were watered on a daily basis were dying.

You never realize how grateful you are for something until it is gone.

Its has rained here for the last two days, and I am so thankful.

Today I’m thankful for rain.

 5 I know that the LORD is great, 
   that our Lord is greater than all gods. 
6 The LORD does whatever pleases him, 
   in the heavens and on the earth, 
   in the seas and all their depths. 
7 He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; 
   he sends lightning with the rain 
   and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

Psalm 135: 5-6

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It was about this time last year that we first moved into this house. Today I am thankful for our home. Compared with the majority of the world, we live in a mansion, however this is more than a place for our family to dwell. For most of our married lives, Alan and I have spent in student housing. Although this isn’t the first “house” we’ve lived in, I look forward to growing old and making so many memories of our family together. I feel like we are finally grown-ups. Silly, I know.

 

Our house, taken in the first snowfall of 2011.

This house is so much more that what I could ever have asked for. I hope that in the coming days and years that is would be used to bless other people. May the walls speak of what God has done for us and through us. May all who pass between these doors leave with a sense of love and joy.

I am thankful that we have a place to be warm and dry. But more than that, I am thankful that we have a place to share with others.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:1

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Photo courtesy of Tasha York Photography

I always admire people who set out to do things and are able to complete it. It is with hesitancy that I begin this venture of blogging 30 days of thanks simply for the reason that it will probably end up being 5 out of 30 days that I actually blog. That’s not to say that I don’t have gratitude, or that I lack for many, but simply I. am. a. slacker-mom. I hope that you may in some way make your own list. You may join me in linking up with 30 days of thanks.

Now that I have that out of my system, I hope that you enjoy the ride of gratitude. There is nothing worse in this life that an ungrateful heart, and on the flip side, nothing more enjoyable than a feeling of content and thankfulness. I think this is a great way to reflect on the year that is quickly coming to a close and to look forward to what is coming that is unknown.

So to begin I must share that I am most thankful for my faith in Christ as Savior. I know that not all people believe as I do, but I cling to the confession that I know who I was before I became a Christian, and I know who I am now as a new creation. It’s a beautiful thing! If you were to remove Christ from my life, I would have nothing.

Along with that (since I am covering two days) I am most thankful for the Bible. Not only do I have this amazing new life that is found in Christ, but I have a living document. Every time I open it to read, I have the opportunity to have a fresh breath of life breathed into me, restoring and renewing my soul.

I chose the following picture as a representative of these two things. Those are the hands of my family, but without my faith in Christ or His Word, our family would look completely different. In fact, we probably wouldn’t even be a family, but that is for another day.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

2 Corinthians 9:15

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