Archive for April, 2020

Unfamiliar Manna

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

I sat there on the bench, side-by-side with my piano teacher. “I don’t know how to play this passage,” I exclaimed, fully exasperated. “I need you to play it for me so I can hear it.”

In learning a song, hearing the music has always been helpful to me. My ear grasps the rhythms, harmonies, and techniques. Once absorbed through the ear and processed in the mind, the learned information is somehow transcribed down through my hands, and my fingers emulate all the components as best as they can.

That day, my teacher didn’t play the music as I had asked. Instead she asked questions: What’s the time signature? What’s your key? How many beats are in a sixteenth note? What fingering do you need to use to move fluidly to the next measure? I was initially taken aback—shocked she wasn’t demonstrating the piece as I had assumed, but answered her questions, one-by-one.

Then, to my horror, she said, “Play it slowly.” What? My mind raced. Play something I already don’t know how to play? Is she crazy? This is why I asked for help in the first place! My ashen face brought a repeat instruction: “Play it slowly.” I began the painstaking process of fumbling through the notes with my unprepared fingers. As I commenced, my teacher said, “No, it’s one-e-and-a, two-e-and-a.” I forged ahead. “Try 3-5-4-2, then bring 1 underneath to the 4th position, and continue 1-2-3-4-5 in your fingering.” “Good, now do it faster. Again. Again…”

Then, it happened. Something clicked. Through her instruction and guidance, the melody came together, my fingers moved in graceful dexterity, and a beautiful harmony emulated from the instrument. The unfamiliar passage of music had now become familiar.

So he humbled you by making you hungry and then feeding you with unfamiliar manna. He did this to teach you that humankind cannot live by bread alone, but also by everything that comes from the LORD’s mouth (Deuteronomy 8:3, NET).

I needed help from my piano teacher that day, and I had a preconceived notion for how I would receive assistance to get on my merry way toward mastering another concerto. However, my relief didn’t come in the form I’d fabricated in my mind. My piano teacher had a different methodology, a far different solution—a way in which I was unfamiliar and very uncomfortable with.

When we’re in need of God to move in a situation, we often have the perfect way God should intervene constructed in our mind’s eye. We know the how, when, and where—all the minute details God should follow to bring us to victory. However, God doesn’t follow our plans or our ideals. In fact, He’ll use His own solutions that seem unfamiliar to us.

When Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years, they didn’t have any food. After crying to the Lord, God opened the heavens and manna fell. Scripture tells us it was unfamiliar to them, so much that they asked, “What is it?” (Exodus 16:15). This manna didn’t align up to their cuisine, delivery, or presentation. They had their own solution for sustenance, but God had His. Consuming manna was the only way their lives would be saved. They had to abide in the direction God provided and not their own.

God will use unconventional and unfamiliar ways to reach us and perform miracles. We must trust that He is going to perform a good work in us. It will be challenging; it will make us uncomfortable. But, we’ll survive in the end because God’s ways are perfect and they always work.

The next time God puts something unfamiliar in your pathway, don’t run from it; don’t avoid it. Embrace the unfamiliar even if you have to ask God, “What is it?” The journey through the unfamiliar might be uncomfortable and a little rough, but the Lord will show you how unfamiliar manna is perfect and necessary to bring you to a glorious finale.

The Real Results of My Ruins

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

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But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear (Philippians 1:12–14, KJV).

Mind the Gap

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

In 1969, the London Underground coined the phrase “mind the gap.” This phrase, when uttered, was to remind (and warn) public transit system passengers to pay attention to the space between the cement platform and the train itself. Too many Tube-riders were distracted by other stimuli, failed to pay attention, and fell down onto the railway tracks. Countless lives were lost due to lack of awareness.

The London Underground understood an essential fact—we must pay attention to the space between where we are standing and where we want to (or should) go. The pathway in front of us is not always paved. It’s not always a sturdy platform. It’s incredibly dangerous, and potentially life-threatening, when we don’t pay attention to what’s missing. We must mind the gap.

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Corinthians 7:1, KJV).

This simple warning to “mind the gap” is an awareness we should have in every part of our lives. The most important gap we must be conscious of is the gap between ourselves and the Lord of glory. God is infinite. His greatness, power, authority, righteousness, goodness, mercy, etc. far surpasses our own. To say there is a gap between us and God, is the understatement of the century.

Scripture admonishes us to be perfect as our God in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Because there is a gap in our state of perfection compared to the Lords, Scripture instructs us to perfect our holiness—to get better, to mature, to labor in our spiritual growth to close that gap.

Life is crazy. We’re running from point A to point B, trying to make it to work on time, ensuring the kids have their homework done, and remembering to turn off the coffeemaker. Our eyes are glued to our phones, glancing up occasionally at the world around us. Basically, we don’t have the time, nor the capacity, to mind the gaps in life—least of all the gigantic gorge in our spiritual one. But, we must mind the gap.

Just as the London Underground has automated the phrase “mind the gap,” and inundates its riders day-in and day-out to please, watch their step, God is doing the same to us today. He’s sending the message to us through His Word and spiritual leaders to mind our spiritual gap. He’s asking us to reflect in prayer over our spiritual status. He has promised to be the lamp unto our feet and light unto our path. His desire is to help us make it to the next leg of the journey—to take one step closer to Him and close that ever-present gap between us and Him.

If we don’t mind the gap, we’ll risk our spiritual lives. If we don’t drive onward to perfection in holiness, we may not make Heaven our home. We can’t be too busy to see the ever-widening gap between us and our Savior. He’s given us the ability to notice and close that gap. We must mind the gap today.

Let’s all listen to this simple reminder: mind the gap. There isn’t any gap too large that God can’t shore up in seconds. That’s the easy part. The hard part is noticing the gap and desiring to close or step over it and get to the One who loves us more than Himself. See where you are today and then where God wants you to be. Mind the gap, and take a step.

When Jesus is Your Anchor

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

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And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:36–41, KJV).

The Quiet Game

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Confined to a small space with one’s small children is never at the top of anyone’s list. It sure wasn’t desirable for either of my parents—three girls; sixteen-hour road trip. You do the math.

During those long hours in the car, my parents had a favorite game for us girls to play: the quiet game. Ever heard of it? Whoever invented this game should be awarded the highest honor, face put on a stamp, and revered by every parent (and aunt) throughout all time.

The goal of the game—to remain as silent as possible for as long as possible. The winner? A cherry-flavored Lifesaver.

With such high stakes, my sisters and I were all in it to win it, much to the ardent delight of my parents. On a good day, we could stay silent upwards of an hour, but normally, the game would score my parents somewhere around twenty minutes of sanity.

The game was a good thing for all involved. My parents would be able to relax for a bit, focus on the road, regain their composures, or have an uninterrupted, adult conversation. My sisters and I learned patience, fortitude, and a concept that transcended both the physical and spiritual realms: a reward for waiting in silence.

It is good that one waits quietly for the salvation of the LORD (Lamentations 3:26, AMP).

Scripture tells us plainly that it’s a good thing to wait quietly. For those of you who were hoping “quietly” means something else entirely in the Hebrew, I’m sorry to disappoint you. It means what it says—silence. But, waiting in silence doesn’t just mean to sit in silence. It means to rest or be at ease. It also means to rest or bow down and meditate thereon.

It’s interesting to me that this verse is tucked away inside the lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah. This speaks volumes of how we’re to conduct ourselves amid the trials and tribulations of life. However, it also sets a standard for how we should pursue a relationship with God. Quietness is important and more essential when coupled with waiting.

In our spiritual walk with God, finding moments of quiet are vital. We find these times of silence in prayer when we seek to listen for the voice of God. We find these moments when we pull our chairs up to the table of God and dine on His heavenly Word. We find these instances when our ears are tuned into hearing the spiritual leadership in our lives.

When we wait on the Lord in silence, He preserves our outward and inward man. He keeps us hidden from the enemy and opens our souls to His Spirit that will lead us to our ultimate reward. And, there it is—the true reward for waiting quietly on the Lord. Heaven. Salvation. Him.

Today, I encourage you, dear reader, to surrender to the quiet. Engage in God’s quiet game every day of your life. It’s not an easy feat, and sometimes the silence can seem like it lasts forever. But, the winner of the game earns more than a cherry Lifesaver. You secure an intimate relationship with our Savior, experience the earnest of His presence here on earth, and are promised a home with Him in Heaven.

Play the quiet game with me today and see what God says in the silence.

The Comeback

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

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Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words (Luke 24:7–8, KJV).

Remember to Give Glory

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

At that time Berodach-baladan a son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a gift to Hezekiah, for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick. Hezekiah listened to and welcomed them and [foolishly] showed them all his treasure house—the silver and gold and spices and precious oil and his armory and everything that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his house (palace) nor in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them (II Kings 20:12–13, AMP).

Hezekiah was a good king of Israel. He was faithful to and trusted God. And, when he discovered God was preparing to end his earthly life, he sought God with prayers and tears. Because of his actions, God extended His mercy, performed a miracle, and added fifteen more years to Hezekiah’s life.

This is truly amazing to me each time I read it. While I don’t necessarily condone Hezekiah’s plea for a life-extension, I’m in awe that the Lord would make a way to add time to our fleeting lives. This was something only God could do. What a miracle! What a blessing! What praise should have been brought forth to magnify God who is the Way-Maker, the Lifter of our heads, and the Hearer of our prayers.

But, this isn’t what Hezekiah did. This isn’t what Hezekiah realized.

When Berodach-baladan heard Hezekiah had been sick, he sent a letter and a gift to him. Upon receipt, Hezekiah communicated he was no longer sick and invited him to his home. Here, God had orchestrated the perfect window of opportunity for Hezekiah to witness to Berodach-baladan about the magnificent ability of His God—how He was a Healer and worthy of all honor, glory, and praise.

Sadly, Hezekiah misses this crucial opportunity. He quickly forgets His God and what He has done. He fails to realize how the power of his witness and praise will change another individual. He overlooks the necessity of offering praise to the Lord for pouring out a blessing he didn’t deserve.

Instead, Hezekiah shows Berodach-baladan all the treasures in his house. He was boastful and self-consumed. He never once communicated that God had any part in his restoration or the accumulation of wealth. Scripture later tells us the root of Hezekiah’s shortcoming: pride.

But Hezekiah did nothing [for the Lord] in return for the benefit bestowed on him, because his heart had become proud; therefore God’s wrath came on him and on Judah and Jerusalem (II Chronicles 32:25, AMP)

It’s easy to look at Hezekiah and think, “What was that guy thinking?!?” But, we all do it. How many of us are in a situation when we tell God, “If you would just do X for me, I promise I’ll tell everyone. I promise I’ll be a better witness for You. I promise I’ll change the way I live.” However, when the healing comes, or the financial blessing appears, we quickly forget God and return to our normal way of life. And, sadly, sometimes we forget to give God praise for what He’s done. Even worse, we don’t testify to others of His wonder-working power.

God, thank you for the gentle reminder today that You have poured out a multitude of blessings on every one of us. We aren’t worthy, but You made us worthy. We don’t deserve it, but You give it anyway. Help us to remember to be grateful to You—to give honor, where honor is due; to give praise, where praise is due. Thank you, Jesus for who You are, what You’ve done, and what You will continually do for us. All glory belongs to You, not to us.

The Blood of Jesus Still Works

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

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Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:10–14, KJV).

Just a Vapor

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

When we were children, my mother was absolutely ingenious when it came to filling our summer days with activities. Taking full advantage of the extra space outdoors, sun, and blissful weather, she structured many activities under the open air of our back porch.

One of my favorite activities from those youthful years was water-painting. Never heard of it? It’s exactly like it sounds. My mother would pull out empty butter tubs, ten-cent paintbrushes, and give us leave to create the ultimate masterpiece, using the deck floor as our canvas.

Such a simple activity would enthrall us for hours. We could create endless water paintings on the deck floor as the water seeped into the grain of the wood. In a matter of minutes, the painting would disappear, the hot sun evaporating all the moisture from the planks. We’d begin again and again, painting picture after picture, with my mother oohing and aahing over each one.

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away (James 4:14, KJV).

Reflecting over this found memory, I realize there’s a lot I can learn from this experience. While I could focus on the forgotten simplicity of the activity, my spirit is stirred over the temporal essence of it all.

We were created by God and placed on this earth somewhat in the same way my mother lovingly situated my sisters and me on the back porch those summers long ago. We were given the ability by our Savior to work and create our own individual masterpieces—and live our lives—all under the watchful eye of our Lord.

We toil and paint under the noon-day sun, proud of our own accomplishments. And, God oohs and aahs over our efforts, knowing He’s given us every ability to do what we’ve done. But, when the sun remains in the day and begins to evaporate our painting, we frantically seek to hold onto what was never meant to exist long-term.

God did not create any of us with the promise of living for multiple decades nor with the assurance of material wealth and abundant possessions. Our life (and everything surrounding it) is like a vapor. It’s meant to be temporary—a mist that comes and will eventually go. It’s not permanent, nor guaranteed, and will eventually pass away from this life.

It’s easy for a child to understand this truth: a water-painting isn’t permanent; it’s temporary. The sun will evaporate the moisture, making room for something or someone new. As adults, we have difficulty accepting and embracing this truth. We feel that if we’ve put in the work to create something, it should last. If we’re a good person and trust God, we should live a little longer on earth. But, we’re vapors—all of us—and none of us are promised tomorrow.

This life on earth was never meant to be a permanent homestead for anyone. Earth is not the eternal back porch we should long to rest upon. God reminds us in His Word to seek the eternal things, not the temporal ones; to keep our eyes heaven-ward, and not upon the earth absorbing the water droplets of our lives.

God, help us to know that this world isn’t our home. Painting on this earthen canvas is seasonal; we’re ultimately looking forward to the time when we can spend eternity with You. Yes, we’re a vapor, but a vapor that’s been created to be drawn upwards and onwards to a home beyond the sky.