I absolutely love Super Nintendo. I love my Mario All-Stars, (the original) Mario Kart, Super Mario World, Inspector Gadget(tiny Gadgets come out of his hat!), and Top Gear. Heck, I even loved Mario Paint, although I never owned that one. My friend,however, did own it, along with several other games that I thought were just too cool. Her dad worked for IBM and then Sprint, and let me tell you, she was ahead of the game on everything – it was the early Nineties, after all. She and I remained friend for several years, even after both of us moved to different states. We would take turns in the summer spending one week at my house, then one week at hers. Some of my best memories (of the gaming variety) were watching her and her brother play Metroid and Mario for hours on end in their basement. I recall when Mario Kart came out, and I got a cartridge (yup, cartridge) of my own. I was so excited, but it was Just. So. Hard. I could not get past any of the circuit races, even the slow ones. What was I doing wrong? This was supposed to be awesome! But it wasn’t.
That year, as summertime came around, I was not as enthusiastic for my visit to Atlanta. My friend knew that I had received the game, and we had been exchanging phone calls about how great it would be to play it together. Now I would have to admit, or worse, demonstrate, that I …well, sucked. I just wasn’t any good at it.
Sometimes we feel like this in our Christian walk. Once we begin to walk in the Grace of our Lord, we are excited. This is gonna be awesome! But then, it isn’t. We fall to old behavior patterns, have outbursts of anger, jealous fits toward strangers (or friends), say bad words in traffic, don’t forgive family, and harbor bad feelings for others (hello politics). It doesn’t mean that we aren’t trying, wanting to get it right… but it is Just. So. Hard. Thank God for our God! He already knows us, inside and out, and Jesus addressed this exact issue in Matthew.
Matt. 11:28-30 (MSG)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
What a promise! My favorite is the wording, “unforcedrhythms of grace”. I don’t know about you, but so often I find the grace that I extend others to be very forced. Definitely not something that sounds and feels rhythmic. Hmm. BUT, the promise he gives is this: the more we walk with him, work with him, and watch how he does it, the more unforced and rhythmic it becomes. This is not to be confused with easy… after all the metaphor still includes us “yoked” and “working”, but alongsideChrist, and certainly not towing the line of our Faith.
Once I got to my friend’s house, we decided that the first night we would stay up all hours playing SNES. But instead of being disappointed that I wasn’t up to snuff, she just offered to let me watch what she was doing. She talked about what choices she made and why, and let me see the controller as she played. By the end of that week, I had beat her brother at the Flower Cup (which is like silver). It became what I imagined it to be; I was playing more fluid and purposefully. I did not lose control at every turn. And then, the joy of it all returned.
This morning my daughter was working on one of her activity books, and from across the room she announces, “now we just need to tape it to the door”. My response was one of confusion, followed by declaration of how we can’t go taping things to our doors, we are in a rental, might remove paint, etc. I sensed some minor (understatement) disappointment, so I said, “well, let me see”. She appeared beside me with a bunny face that she had colored and cut out of the pages, and sure enough, right between his little ears was a square that said, “tape here”. Then I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why they wanted the front taped to the door, and how you would still get to see the bunny that was colored in if it was flipped over and taped. My next statement was this: “Let me see the book, I need a little context.”
It struck me later that this is very similar to our behavior sometimes when we hear a prompting from the Holy Spirit. Often it doesn’t make sense, we don’t understand why, and it seems like an inconvenient request.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.
This is Jesus talking, explaining about his departure and the Holy Spirit the disciples will receive. This verse comes just before he says, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don't let your heart be troubled or fearful.” (Jn 14:27) Why? Because the disciples were in the habit of getting their context and explanation from Jesus. If he’s gone, who will explain it all to them? They didn’t want to mess it up, and they were unsettled about the weight of figuring it out all on their own, not to mention trying to lead others in explanation. What a comfort he left them with… and us! They will not be alone, and they have someone who will call to mind all that he said and taught. Not just that but will also give context so as to bring the full glory to God.
They walked with Jesus, so those are the conversations and experiences that the Spirit called to mind. We walk with Jesus too, yet it is important that we read our bible to know what he said and is still saying to us today. Sometimes the context doesn’t come until later, but in perfect timing completing something we were told (or read) at an earlier time.
After He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. Then they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
At first His disciples did not understand these things, but after Jesus was glorified they remembered what had been done to Him, and they realized that these very things had also been written about Him.
It is a cycle, bringing us back to God’s word, bringing him glory, and encouraging our faith. So today, read his Word, trust his Spirit, and look and pray for context for your actions. It will bring encouragement to believers and Glory to our Lord!
And about that bunny? Turns out it was a doorknocker to be taped to the front of the door on a page following the one she cut it out of… glad I didn’t just tape it to my front door.
When we read the Bible, we have the benefit of seeing the big picture: we see the story from beginning to end. Take the account John gives us about Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding – we know there wasn’t wine, then there was. But as we receive encouragement from seeing over and over again how God comes through, it is important that we take note that in our own lives we are limited to only our current perspective. Now take a minute to think about the wedding story again, but from the angle of the servants carrying the water. Jesus’s mother said to the servants “do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5), and they did. They had no idea he was going to perform a miracle- he did not discuss or plot out his end game. They knew the wine was gone, and here this man is telling them to go with giant jugs to collect water. And they did. I wonder what they were thinking on their walk to go get the water? Were they chatting to each other on the way back? Reality is that they couldn’t just run into the kitchen and get some from the tap, so they undoubtedly had some time to “walk” in their obedience. When they had gathered the water jars (which by the way were thought to be used for washing the dishes or the guest’s hands… think about that!), about 20-30 gallons each, the bible is pretty clear about the fact that it was still just water in there. In other words, Jesus didn’t do a big whammy-kazzamy style performance to assure the servants that a change was taking place, he told them to draw some out and take it to the headwaiter. And they did. The mention of the water becoming wine is made at this point, when the headwaiter tasted it. The servants never taste-tested the water, they never saw it change, they were never told that it would change, they just obeyed. Is this the type of obedience that you walk with, following instruction with out full understanding, but knowledge and belief in the end result? I’m sure that the solution did not look like what the servants thought, or would prefer. Do you “suggest” solutions to God, or do you bring your concern to him and walk in obedience? The interesting (and very encouraging) point to mention is what typeof concern this was. The first miracle recorded that Jesus performs was to save a family’s reputation. Let that sink in. How often are we stingy with our problems, unwilling or embarrassed to bring them to our Lord? Peter tells us to literally throw them to our savior… he cares!
1 Peter 5:6-7
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time,
casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you.
Trust that God will take care of it, and let him! Whether you see something happening or not. Whether there’s lots of walkinginvolved or not. Whether it looks like a solution or not. Remember that our perspective is that of the servant’s, but make no mistake, he is working it out.
Key point, HE’S working it out, not YOU. Your job is obedience.
““If you have two coats, give one away,” he said. “Do the same with your food.” Tax men also came to be baptized and said, “Teacher, what should we do?” He told them, “No more extortion—collect only what is required by law.” Soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He told them, “No shakedowns, no blackmail—and be content with your rations.””
Luke 3:11-14 MSG
John was the forerunner of Jesus, and his hearers clearly knew his message wasn’t just about intellectual assent but also practical action.
Just like these people, I heard the prophetic message and the immediately asked “what do I need to do?”, so also I should always hear God’s word and be sure to follow through with practical steps. Lord what do you want me to do? What do you want me to do now? What do you want me to do and how?
Father, help me constantly find that balance between believing in the natural outworking of my faith to action as opposed to performance Christianity which says I have to do in order to be accepted and loved. Show me today what to do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
2 Cor 6:1-2
Working together with him, we also appeal to you, “Don’t receive the grace of God in vain.” For he says:
At an acceptable time I listened to you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.
See, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation!
Have you ever gotten a gift that you just didn’t feel like you could accept? Perhaps the giver was someone who you knew would hold the “good gift” over your head and remind you or expect something from you in the future. Sometimes you get a gift valued much higher than your offering to them. Or worse, they gave you something nice, and you didn’t get them anything… couldn’t afford to, completely forgot about them, or frankly don’t like them and thought they felt the same about you. Think of God’s gift of salvation… some of those same thoughts might apply, and sometimes they leave us insecure or unwilling to fully accept our new standing with him.
The Bible talks a lot about God’s grace, and the action of receiving it. It is stressed that we are a “new creation”, that the “old has passed away” - we are now “children of God”, and on our way to receive his “full inheritance” as such.
When Luke 18:17 (or Matt. 18:3) talks about the kingdom of God, Jesus tells us about becoming “like a child” …
“I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
So, what does that mean? Well, today, for me, it means this: If I am to put on my “robe of righteousness” and accept/claim my inheritance that Jesus died to pay for, I am going to have to take off my “filthy rags” and decide they are no longer mine. Literally, Hester Prynne style, throw down my Scarlet Letter (or letters, the devil loves to shame us), and no matter how much I feel like the Robe is undeserved sometimes, never pick up my old garment and put them on again. You see, we can’t wear both. Think of how stupid we look, trying to pin our old letters on top of Christ’s robe, as we go out as ambassadors for him.
My current problem? I can’t seem to let go of those letters. And there are lots of people (and some family) that really don’t appreciate me dropping them and keep trying to hand them back to me. But my epiphany this morning, came in the form of a movie line that really represented what the above verses were talking about. Now it’s been a minute since I’ve seen it, so I am slightly paraphrasing, but still.
How come you never told me you lost Ben? - Stepmom
You know why. - Ben’s Mother
Well, Ben didn’t say anything. – Stepmom
He doesn’t remember getting lost, he just remembers that I found him. – Ben’s Mother
Today, find you freedom from those letters. You have been found, and that’s what really matters.
Yum… Tis the season for cooking, baking, and candy-making! It is fun to try a new recipe, or taste something that longs to become your new holiday favorite. However, if you have ever tried cooking something new, or cooking anything at all really, a crucial step is to tasteit before you serveit. Sometimes you got a bit more tomato paste in your sauce, and maybe need more herbs. Perhaps you had some bitter basil, and now need some more sugar to balance out. There is always the opportunity to correct before serving, because after all, it is about the serving and those who are eating your creation.
So it is with our faith.
2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Can't you see for yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you--unless you actually fail the test?
We are called to test ourselves, examine our faith, and to “work out our own salvation, with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). It is important to note two things here before moving to the point:
1.We are not called to work out someone else’s by causing them to fear (or “shaking some sense into them”).
2.This is with the assumption that we are accepting the terms (God’s Word is true, Salvation comes through Jesus, etc.) …NOTthe same as arguing the terms of the transaction of our Salvation
If our call is to love God, and love people as he did, shouldn’t we make sure we know what we are serving up? Can you imagine if you put everything into the pot, never stirred, never tasted, never time checked, and then blamed the failure of taste on the recipe, or even on those who were eating your dish? Sounds absurd, right? Well, examine yourself. Take a taste of what is in that pot, and make sure it lines up with what you are trying to serve. Don’t be scared to even lift the lid because you may have questions. In fact, the whole point is that you will. And we are told to take those to our Father, and through reading his Word, and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, taste it, test it, and get direction of where to go from there.
Advice for this holiday season? Look up, to know what you should serve up. Cheesy but true, but just make sure you have tasted it first. 😊
Isaiah 43:19 (CEB) Look! I'm doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don't you recognize it? I'm making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.
God is moving, making a new thing, something recognizably different. If that is the promise, then why do we expect things to look the same? Should we not be joyfully expectant of something so new it touches all the senses as different? Think about that “new car smell”. Completely foreign from your previous vehicle, and yet in the excitement of a new experience is borderline uncomfortable? The fit is good, the feel is right, but yet it just doesn’t seem like its yours? So is the grace of our Lord. He is good and faithful, and his kindness is undeserved. But his promise is true, his grace is ours!
Sometimes when we have something new happening, we have to leave something behind. Sometimes it is something so good and comfortable that we just want to make it work in the new situation. Or maybe we feel a responsibility to the old, and there is a sense of needing to see something to completion, or obligation to something’s usefulness. Ever thought about nasty-lasties? You are running out of a condiment and you purchase a new one, may be the same product, or may be something different that you are excited about. Do you throw the old away without finishing it? Or do you try to make use of what you still have, before opening the new? Sometimes if the new item is different, we open it in our anticipation to try it, but still hold on to the old because “there’s something left”. If God tells you to leave it, do you listen? Are you putting aside the new thing God is doing out of an obligation to the past?
Today, know that God is doing a new thing… he gives us grace and mercy for all that is past. The requirement is that we walk by faith, even when it isn’t as comfortable as before, or if we have to leave something behind. The gain is so much more!
“Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands.” - Psalm 119:5-6
There's a tendency today to help people "improve" by changing the metric. There was a movement in the sport of golf a few years ago, in which the holes were being dramatically enlarged to make it easier for beginners - in fact it was over 4x the normal size: big enough to fit a basketball into! In mountain biking, we are in the midst of the "eBike revolution!" where bikes aren't just powered by your self effort, they receive an "assist" from a built-in electric motor so that hill that always left you wheezin', is simply now breezin'. From "challenge-to-rise-to" to "piece of cake"...
Think those examples through for a second - are you really becoming a better golfer or biker by changing the target or getting a little "assist"? The arguments sound good: "It will attract new people", "There are people who won't feel so overwhelmed", "Why should it be so hard, anyway?" etc. And those same rationalizations can be at work in your spiritual life which is definitely NOT A GAME.
Today, remember to reject the lie that you can change God's decrees, His Word, His expectations for you and somehow improve your life. That's not how reality works, just like people golfing on a course with bucket sized holes or mountain bikers riding mopeds. His expectations are for your benefit and blessing. Don't try to take the easy way out and in the process look foolish and ultimately miss out on authentic full life.
“The LORD has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, ‘Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the LORD of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe.’” - Isaiah 8.11-14
Well what can one possibly add to this? There is so much talk about conspiracy theories - seems everybody has one about something or somebody. From thousands of years ago, God’s Word speaks across the ages to say “I’VE GOT THIS. RELAX.”
Today, dont be afraid. The One for you is undeniable stronger than any who may come against you. Don’t think like everybody else does. Think like someone who knows Jesus.
Have you heard the term “functional” Christian? No? Well, how about “functional” alcoholic? That is one more familiar, and chances are you have known one. The point is when someone is using something to function, it is functional, but not foundational. The difference is this: one is a coping mechanism, one is woven into the fabric of its core. So, a functional Christian is someone who, at their core, is using their faith as a coping mechanism.
Deuteronomy 8:3 says “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
Sound familiar? It is the same passage that Jesus is recorded as quoting to the devil when he was being tempted. What does that mean? We may have had a time when we felt brought to God through our circumstance, but that is not where we stay. After Jesus was tempted, he immediately went out for his disciples, and officially began his ministry preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17)
Now go – move beyond functional, get it in your core and make it foundational. Trust God, read his Word, and let it change you.
what is "spark"?
Its a small thing - like the flash on a spark plug that hopefully ignites something bigger to propel you forward.