Who is in YOUR boat.....Word Filled Wednesday

Paul experienced quite a STORM in Acts 27. This storm was so violent, it shipwrecked Paul and the entire crew, landing them on the island of Malta. The coolest thing God showed me though, is that He USED Paul's storm and being shipwrecked on Malta for His glory....leading the people of Malta to become followers of Christ.

God will use our storms (when we allow Him) and turn them into "Malta-s", opportunities to WITNESS and share God's love with others.



Jesus also experienced storms....and His disciples.  In fact, they often experienced the storms WITH Jesus.

From Luke 8
Jesus had told the disciples that they were going over to the other side of the lake. They all climbed into the boat and began to cross to the lake. During the sail over, Jesus fell asleep. During this time, a huge storm comes up. "The boat was being swamped, and they were in GREAT DANGER." OK, these guys were fishermen- they were used to life on the sea. They had undoubtedly seen many storms. But this one SCARED them!

They woke up Jesus screaming, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!"

They are hysterical. They thought it was "all over."

Now, I had always "read" this as the disciples were waking up Jesus to have him DO SOMETHING. But, perhaps, they are waking Jesus up because they think they are going to have to jump ship....that this storm is "IT"....this is the end for all of them.... Are they waking Him up, thinking "How can you sleep through THIS? We are all going to die!"

Listen to what happens next. (Verses 24-25)

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. "Where is your faith?" He asked His disciples. In fear and amazement, they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him."

If the disciples had known that Jesus was GOD, would they have been scared? If they knew that I AM was in the boat with them, would they have feared? God Almighty...Creator of the universe...Who set the stars in place....Who created the sea.....Who keeps the winds in storehouses.... was with them in the boat! If they realized WHO Jesus was, would they have panicked? Peter had not yet confessed that Jesus was the Christ. And, although they knew Jesus was something NEW....a prophet, a teacher, something very special.....did they know that GOD Himself was in the boat with them????

If they did, would they have been afraid?

And, it made me think of myself. If I truly believed that the great I AM, the God of the universe, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Almighty were in MY boat, would I be afraid when the storms of life come up?

When temptations come, when trials come....do I see WHO IS IN MY BOAT WITH ME?

Do I relax in faith? Do I trust? Do I rest in knowing that in my time of need, the Lord Himself is there, in MY BOAT, as my strength, my Savior, my sufficiency?


Lord, help me to see You for Who You are. You are the Creator of the UNIVERSE! You have created all the stars, the seas, the creatures... You made ME. Give me eyes to SEE You for who You are. You are the great I AM! When the storms of life come up, help me to trust completely in You, knowing that You can calm them with just a word. You are in MY BOAT WITH ME. Help me to get a revelation of that. I love You, Lord! Praise You, Jesus! Thank You for Your glorious Word! In Christ, the Calmer of the Storms, the One, True, Living God's Name we pray. Amen!

Thirsty


“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
-Psalm 63:1

Have you ever been thirsty, really thirsty? So thirsty that your tongue was sticking to the roof of your mouth? So parched and dry that your throat was sore?
I believe we are thirsty in today’s world. We are thirsting for God and His Word. We are longing for Him, as Psalm 63 cries. God has placed this desire in our hearts and our souls to know Him, to search for Him, to worship Him. There is a deep yearning inside of us to grow closer to our Creator. You may be feeling this desire, this longing, this thirst right now, but you are not sure why you feel it. You only know that something is missing. You have a longing, a need that has not yet been met. You begin to search for the cause of your thirst.
Unfortunately, in today’s “me-centered,” impatient society, we try to fill that thirst, that longing with a “quick fix”- a chocolate brownie, a shopping spree, a margarita, TV, our endless activities, or a gossip session with a friend on the phone. We think these worldly pursuits will fill us up, make us feel better, and quench the thirst we are experiencing. These invitations look so appealing. The world claims we will experience fulfillment and satisfaction.
And, we want instant gratification! We don’t want to wait for God to fill us. We want to control our lives, to take care of ourselves, to pamper ourselves. We look to the world’s methods of making us feel better. We don’t like the uncomfortable feeling of thirst. We don’t want our spirits to feel pain, discomfort, longing or loneliness. So, we become deceived into looking for the “water” of the world to quench our thirst.

But, Jesus offers us such a better way! While talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, (John 4) Jesus talks about “living water.” He points out the “world’s” water- the water of the well, and says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.
Isn’t that true with our “water”? Food, possessions, praise from man, turning to exercise or watching TV never satisfies us. We continually want more and more. Our desire becomes insatiable, sometimes consuming us. The more we have, the more we want!
Jesus tells the woman at the well, “But, whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) Doesn’t that water sound so much more refreshing? Not only will our initial thirst be quenched, but we will have a SPRING bubbling, flowing within us! Not a glass of water, a drop of water, but a source of water. You will never, never be thirsty again! Jesus says in John 7:37-38, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” Remember, your soul is thirsting for the Lord! When you fill it with Him, you will be satisfied. Come, drink of this water and be refreshed.

Father God, thank you for loving us so much! Thank you for creating this longing in our souls to know You. Please help us Father to seek you earnestly and to look to you to fill our heart’s longings. Father, please help us to ignore the invitations of the world. Help us to instead drink in Your living water. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

How are your flowers looking?


Water...it is so important for LIFE. 

I was looking at my flowers on the deck and they look "wilty", scraggly, NOT healthy and vibrant! Usually, my deck pots are overflowing abundantly with luscious, beautiful flowers.  But, this has been a summer of hurry and busy, and the flowers have suffered.  I usually tend my flowers, but have assigned the task to the kids this summer.  Pondering, I realize that there are object lesson for my faith life as well.

I need the Living Water in my life on a daily, regular, overflowing basis or I will become wilty, scraggly, or even DIE, depending on how dry I have become.  I need Jesus so that I truly live and live abundantly and beautifully.

I can't depend on others for my spiritual water.  I can't depend on  Facebook posts.  I can't depend on YouTube videos or Sunday morning sermons.  I can't depend on the latest book.  I need to spend quiet alone time with the Lord and the Word and depend on Jesus as my Living Water.  Only He can fill me completely.  While those other things are beneficial, they should never be my SOURCE of refreshment. Only personal, intimate time with Jesus will refresh, nourish, and keep me beautiful and fruitful.

I also need a steady watering, not haphazardly drinking some here and there.  My neighbors' flowers are gorgeous because they have been steadily and consistently watered. I need a continual input of the Living Water.  I can't take sips here and there, but I need to drink deeply and constantly of Jesus.  I need Him to refresh and fill and make me beautiful.  He can only do this when I spend time with Him- not hurried, take-a-minute-here, once in awhile time- but quality, abundant, QUIET time...sitting at His feet, soaking Him in. Like my flowers, it is then that I will be healthy and bloom abundantly!

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."  John 7:38

Lord, water me.  Fill every fiber of my being with YOU.  I know only You are life-giving water.


Rollercoasters, Australia, and Les Mis

Wow, was last week a rollercoaster of emotions!  From the passing of Jenny Groothius, the storms and flooding to Andrew leaving, not hearing from him for two days, then finally getting to SEE him thanks to Facetime, I was EXHAUSTED!

God was amazing through it all.  I have to share what a sweet, wonderful Lord we have.  Andrew left on Friday, July 4th.  We were able to talk to him as he made his way to LA and waited for his connection to Sydney.  He flew out at 11 PM.  We expected him to text or call when he arrived, using open WiFi.  The flight was 15 hours, so we knew it wouldn't be until sometime Saturday afternoon. When we didn't hear from him right away, we figured he had to get through customs and get to his transportation pick up point, but he would let us know soon that he arrived safely.  I thought we would hear from him by dinner time.

Brian and I had tickets to Les Mis Saturday night, and I thought it would be a good distraction.  Our son Aaron is Gravoche and we have several tickets to see him. When we hadn't heard from Andrew by intermission, I was beginning to worry.  My imagination began cooking up all sorts of sorted possibilities and by the time the show was over, I could not wait to get home and check email for news.  Andrew has an app to use for free international texting and calling, but he has to have Internet to use it.  The app tells you the last time he has been online, and he wasn't online since LA.  We tried calling him, the YWAM base, and the transportation company, but because it was Sunday there, we could not reach anyone!  We sent the base, his contact person, and the transportation company several emails asking them to reach us. Shortly after 1:30 A.M., Brian made me go to bed because there was nothing more we could do.  Brian reminded me that Andrew is in God's hands and he was safe. So.....we went to bed, sure we would hear something in the morning.

Well, up at 7 AM and still NOTHING.  I had rushed to my computer, sure that there was an email waiting to be opened that confirmed Andrew had arrived. When there was no news, we tried making contact again, but by then it was the middle of the night in Newcastle, and we just had to WAIT.

When we went to church, I desperately was praying. Here is Tracy, the "great woman of faith", being forced to WALK the TALK.  I am the one forever encouraging others to trust God and His plan, knowing that He is sovereign over everything. In knew in my HEAD that Andrew is in God's protection, that God called him to be there, that God was in control.....but the sick feeling in the pit in my stomach gave me away. I had been gripped with fear.

 During worship, praising God, singing the words, "I have been set free...it is for freedom that I have been set free...." I released the worry... the questioning... ANDREW... to the Lord.  God loves Andrew even more than I do.  And, IF the worst of all my imaginary circumstances actually came to pass, then God was weaving them into His plan and purpose for something greater.  I heard in my head the same words I had spoken to Brian on our Grand Canyon road trip.  We had been stranded in the Colorado Rockies during a blizzard.  The hotel where we were was full, the roads were closed and we had nowhere to go.  As Brian worried that night going to bed, we prayed, and I reassured him that God wasn't going to bring us all the way out west on this awesome trip to leave us stranded in Colorado. In the morning, a room had opened up.  In church, while singing,  I heard those same words, "God is not going to bring Andrew all the way to Australia and leave him stranded somewhere."

I immediately felt peace!

And, this is where God's  TENDERNESS completely blows me away.

Take 2 on Les Mis.

The night before I had NOT enjoyed the show one bit....I was worried about Andrew.  I just wanted to be home.

Sunday's matinee was completely different.  I felt peace about Andrew.  Grandma and Grandpa were there to see the show.  We had AMAZING tickets center and just a few rows back.  But, as we were being seated, we realized we were one seat short.  I had somehow only ordered 6 instead of 7! The usher graciously told us Abby could sit on my lap or I thought I could watch down in the green room.  But, to our amazement, the lady behind us told us she had an EXTRA SEAT!  Someone in her party could not make it at the last minute and the seat directly behind us was available!  Isn't God so awesome????

The show was amazing!  Every song perfect...Aaron did his BEST performance yet.

Then, at intermission, I received a message that Andrew had gotten to YWAM base safely and he would contact us soon.  We went in to enjoy the rest of the show. During the story, Jean Valjean 
sings an amazing song, "Bring Him Home."  This song will bring tears to your eyes, but as Valjean prayed that God would bring this young son home safely, I bawled my eyes out.  This was my prayer and Jared Rogers had me completely weeping as he sung the exact words I was feeling.

As we were walking into the lobby, my phone began vibrating, and as I looked at the front, I saw Andrew's smile.  He was calling from Australia!  The auditorium was clear and I was able to talk to my sweet boy. He had not had Internet access until then since he had arrived on a Sunday. We were able to laugh and cry and it felt GLORIOUS!  How good God is!

  

Four Days....


OK, so it has been a LONG time since I have written any NEW posts.  I occasionally get on to tinker and repost some old things, but  since beginning homeschooling, I just haven't had the time to write like I used to. With Andrew leaving in four days for Australia, I am needing to just exhale and put "pen" to paper about how I am feeling. So here I am.

When I think about him going, it is surreal...like I am watching from the outside.  Just how far is Australia from Iowa exactly? 8,990 miles.

Is he prepared?  Will he be ready?  Will he find his way through LAX OK?

I have been looking forward to him going, excited, thrilled for him and what God is going to do in him and through him....so why am I having a hard time breathing right now?  Why is there such a lump in my stomach moving all the way up through my throat and stinging my eyes?

Lord, I trust You and what You are going to do in Andrew's life.  I know You have good plans for him.  I know he is under Your protection.

But, the reality is beginning to sink in.

Of not being able to talk to Andrew any time I want.

Of real possibilities of real danger.

Of him being gone. For 6 months. Gone. 8,990 miles gone.

Lord, I know you will be teaching all of us many life lessons through this experience.  And, you are showing me what it really means to truly follow You.  Anywhere.  Everywhere.



Chasing the Moon

As I walked in the still, quiet air, I was delighted by God’s glory. It was one of those rare mornings that the moon and the sun were sharing the sky. The sky was beautiful, with blue/gray and pink hues. There were clouds sweeping around the sun, making a breathtaking sunrise.

But, the moon was incredible! It was a huge, perfect golden circle in the sky. As I walked, I tried to keep that moon in sight. I knew it wouldn't last much longer, the later it became and the more the sun rose.

As I turned the corner and went on my usual path, and as the moon made its journey, it was now behind me. It began hiding behind houses and trees, and it became harder to find. As I continued to walk, I kept looking behind me, stretching my neck, trying to catch those last glimpses of the beautiful moon. When, I finally turned my head, and looked straight in front of me,there it was! The moon had been there all along, as I kept looking behind me searching for it.

I instantly thought of Paul’s words, “Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. " (Philippians 3:13-14)

 I thought how often in life we keep looking behind us, chasing the moon! We may have had a success in life that we keep remembering and trying to imitate. Or, we may have had a failure that we keep thinking about, and wishing we could change it. “If only…”

But, Paul tells us to forget what is behind us! Forget about the mistakes and failures of the past. And, although we rejoice in our successes of our past, instead of being stuck in those, look forward! He says he is “straining” toward what is ahead. That means that it may not be easy to go forward, to keep our eyes ahead. But, we are to “press on” toward the prize- our supreme and heavenly prize in Christ Jesus. Don’t be foolish like I was- trying to find the moon behind me when it was in front of me all along. Jesus is right in front of our eyes. Keep your eyes on Him- straight ahead, pressing forward!

Father, we praise You and glorify Your holy name. We thank You for Your creation- the sun and moon and beautiful mornings when we get to see them both in the sky. God, help us to forget what is behind- the failures that we keep reliving, the regrets of yesterday, the mistakes we have made. Your Word says “there is no condemnation in Christ, and that Your compassion is new each morning.” Help us to let go of those things, God. Also, help us to see that Today is a new day. We rejoice in the successes You have brought to us in the past, but we also want to focus on the new challenges of Today. Help us to strain toward what is ahead. Help us God to “press on” everyday. Thank You for Your love, Lord. Thank You for Your Word. Thank You for life experiences that help us see Your Word in our lives. I pray we all will have eyes open to You, Lord, so that we can see how You are working in our lives everyday. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.



Those shoes!




2Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” NIV

We had been talking about being “kingdom minded” at Bible Study. How meaningless things of the world really are when your focus is on the Kingdom of God. My friend, Kim, had been telling us that she was trying to look at life in comparison to eternity. She asked, “Does it really matter that much that my son’s room isn’t picked up perfectly? Do I need to get upset over it? Is this really going to matter in the Kingdom?"

In light of eternity, does this matter?

Well, the next morning, as I was picking up my husband’s shoes, AGAIN, to replace them on the shoe rack, I was starting to grumble and complain. Then, God reminded me of the previous night’s conversation about keeping our focus on the Kingdom of God, and not daily trials and irritations. I thought, “Does this really matter that I have to pick up my husband’s shoes...again? In light of eternity,  is it really important?”

And, God said, “Yes!” But, the messy shoes weren't important to God in the way I expected. In fact, the lesson God taught me was the opposite of what my flesh wanted to hear.

God spoke scripture to me right away. “Do everything (EVERY THING- even picking up someone else’s messes) without arguing or complaining so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” Philippians 2:14-16).

Messy shoes ARE important to God, at least regarding to me, because He is watching my reaction to them.

God also reminded me of the scripture, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion (or with a complaining heart) for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2Corinthians 9:6-7.

I have decided in my heart to give grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love and to give them generously and cheerfully. It is my heart’s desire to please God. I want Him to say, “Well done My good and faithful servant.” I want to live my life for Him (with Him and through Him). So, although messy shoes don’t or won’t matter much in the Kingdom of God, my response to them will!

My Prayer for Today:
Father, I love You and praise You. I pray that I will “do everything without arguing or complaining.” I pray that I will become more like you- full of love and rich in mercy. Help me to give grace to others freely, in the way that You have so generously given to me. I love You Lord, and I thank You for Your goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Who is Jesus? I AM Part 7

I am the Resurrection.

Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus, were distraught.
They were without hope.
Hope did not come.
They were confused. They did not understand why Jesus had not come.
"He healed the blind man. Couldn't He have saved His friend?"
Their brother Lazarus, who was loved by Jesus, had fallen ill. The sisters sent for Jesus.
They had seen Jesus heal lepers.
He opened the eyes of the blind.
He healed the lame and told them to walk.
He had stopped a woman's bleeding who had suffered 12 years.
These had been strangers.
Surely, Jesus would come to heal a friend.
But, He did not come.
Lazarus died.
It was over.
Hope did not come.
But, Jesus did come. When Jesus heard about Lazarus, He PURPOSELY stayed away for two days. When Jesus knew that Lazarus had died, He tells His disciples that it is now time to go to him. Jesus knows the miracle He will perform.
He chooses His friend to work this last, amazing miracle.
He chooses His friend, to draw many new believers to Him.
"When Jesus arrived, He found out that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles to Jerusalem. Many Jews had come to Mary and Martha to comfort them because their brother was dead. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Him." John 11:17-20
Listen to the pain in Martha's voice.
"Lord, I know that if You would have been here, my brother would not have died!"

Jesus said to her, " I am the Resurrection and the Life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even if he dies. And those who live and believe in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Martha affirms that she DOES believe.
AND....
Hope DOES come.
Jesus calls Lazarus from the grave.
He who had been dead four days.
Death that had such a stench that Martha balks when Jesus tells her to command the stone to be rolled away.
A man who had been dead walks free from the grave.
Alive.
Jesus promises us that we, too, will have life instead of death.
We, who were dead in our sin....
have LIFE in the Son.
Jesus can RAISE any dead thing. Nothing is without HOPE.
Is there something dead in your life?
A dream?
A relationship?
Hope?
Jesus can RESURRECT it.
He can bring life back to anything you are sure is dead.
Martha was sure that her brother was lost to the tomb. That she would not see him until the Last Day when all would be resurrected. She didn't think she would talk to him, eat with him, hold him, see him....
But, HOPE, did come.
And, Lazarus walked free from the grave.
Jesus can do the same for you.
Trust Him.
Trust His words.
I am the Resurrection.
Because of Lazarus, and this miracle, many people come to Jerusalem and are there to experience Holy Week. They want to see Lazarus with their own eyes. What they see is even more amazing. Because of Lazarus, many people come to believe in Jesus.
Jesus can take the dead thing in your life, raise it, and use it to bring many more to Him.
Lord, help me to trust You. Help me to proclaim, believing in full assurance of faith, that You are the Resurrection and the Life. Thank You, Jesus that You bring hope to what I see as hopeless. Praise You, Jesus!

This is part 7 in a series of who Jesus is.... The earlier parts are posted below. Please scroll down. This series

Who Is Jesus? I AM Part 6


I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in You, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourself to be My disciples. John 15:5-8

I am the VINE.

Have you ever thought about this verse? Have you wondered what Jesus meant when He said He was a vine? I love that God’s Word gives us examples from our daily lives that help teach spiritual Truth. When we ponder and visualize the verses, asking God for a spirit of wisdom and understanding, the scriptures come alive, truly teaching us!

What happens when a branch is separated from its vine...its source of life?

When the kids were little, we took our Christmas tree out to the curb, and they wondered why we didn’t just plant the beautiful tree in the back yard. I explained that although the tree still looked green and pretty, it was dead. It had been cut away from “the vine”- or it’s roots- where it gets its nutrients. I explained that the tree wouldn’t grow anymore, no matter how rich the soil was. It was only good to be “picked up, thrown into the fire and burned,” or in our case, picked up by the recycling truck and mulched.

The tree needs to remain in the vine to have life.

We need to remain in our Vine (Jesus) to have life. If we are abiding in an intimate relationship with Him, we will bear much fruit. To be fruitful, flowering, vibrant, ALIVE, we must be connected to the Source of Life….Jesus. We must be drawing on Him to sustain us, to nourish us, to make us flourish.

When we don’t, we will wither.

I can’t rely on myself. I can’t do things in “Tracy strength.” I must depend on Him. I must abide in Him.

When I don’t, I wither.

I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers for my birthday once that were gorgeous. But, they weren’t connected to the vine. They were cut away. And, still they remained vibrant, lovely, pleasing…..

Not one week.

Not two weeks.

Not three weeks.

SIX weeks they remained gorgeous.

But, eventually, they withered. Eventually they died. I had to throw them away.

Our relationship with Jesus is the same way. When I don’t remain in Him, when I don’t seek after Him with all my heart, when I am depending on myself instead of Him, when my RELATIONSHIP with Him is not healthy, I will wither.

Like the flowers, I may stay beautiful for a while. I may be “OK” for a week….or six weeks….or a year. But, eventually, I will wither. Jesus said in verse 4, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” I can’t bear fruit on my own. I must stay connected to Him.

He is my source.

Isn't it amazing that Jesus comforts His disciples right before He goes to the cross, telling them to remain in Him....to allow His Word to remain in them. They are in an olive grove, with vines and branches all around. Jesus points to the branches and the vines and tells them, that HE is the VINE and THEY are the BRANCHES. He then tells when they remain in Him, they will bear much fruit.

Lord, help me to always turn to You as my Source. I want to remain, abide, flow in You and I know then that Your Life flows into me, allowing me to bear fruit. I know when I am disconnected from You I wither. Fill my heart with desire for You, O God!


This is a series I first posted April, 2008. I am re-posting it in honor of Easter. For the first 5 parts, please scroll down...

Who Is Jesus....I AM Part 5


I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when He sees the wolf coming, He abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. John 10:11-13

Jesus says He will lay down His life for us. He shows us the OPPOSITE of who He is by showing us "the hired hand." Jesus will never abandon us. He will stay and fight....fight to the death.

Jesus cares for you. He is willing to give up everything for you. He will never leave. He will never forsake us. Psalm 139 says, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I go to flee from Your Presence? If I go to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast." We can never escape God's LOVE!

I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15

Jesus echoes Isaiah ("Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are Mine."). He reassures us that He KNOWS us. Psalm 139 says, "O LORD, you have searched me and You know me...You perceive my thoughts from afar...You are familiar with all of my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O LORD...." He knows us completely... And, then Jesus again repeats that He lays down His life for us.


I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. John 10:16

Oh, how this is THRILLING to me! Jesus is saying that His flock is not just the Jewish people, but that He is including the Gentiles as well! We are all of ONE flock. What a great illustration for us today. We are ONE church, no matter what denomination we are. God is "not willing that one should perish," but everyone be saved.

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life- only to take it up again. No one takes if from me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I have received from My Father. John 10:17-18

When we think of the Passion of the Christ.....that Jesus was persecuted and sentenced to death....we reflect on His words: " I lay down My life." It is not the Jewish leaders who crucified Jesus. It is not the Roman Governor, Pilate who crucified Jesus. It is not the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus.

It was me.
It was you.
Jesus WILLINGLY lay down His OWN life for HIS SHEEP. We are His sheep. Jesus died for us...so that we may live.

First posted for an Easter series April 2008. This is part of a series....if you would like to read the first 4 parts, please scroll down or click here and follow links at the end of the post.

Who is Jesus? I AM Part 4

I am the GATE
I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice.....
I am the GATE for the sheep; all who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life; and have it to the full.
John 10:1-10
When we think of a gate, we might think of a white picket fence, or even a security gate with a guard that lets in people who have been "cleared." When Jesus talked to people in Bible times, they understood these passages because they were familiar with shepherds and gates. I researched a little and found:

"The gate that Jesus is referring to belongs to the kind of sheep pen that shepherds would use during summer months. The shepherds would stay out in the fields with their sheep for weeks at a time. They would do their best to find good pasture land, and then they would gather some stones to build a make-shift corral that would have one single opening.
Then at night the shepherd would herd his sheep through that opening into the pen. He would then lie down across the opening. The shepherd himself became the gate to the sheep pen.
He was literally the sheep’s protection. He was their security from thieves and robbers who wanted to kill, steal, or destroy the flock." -Bible notes



Wow! What I see is that the shepherd was the PROTECTION for the sheep. He lied across the opening with HIS OWN BODY. If anyone wanted to enter the sheep pen, he had to go through the shepherd first!
I love the illustration that Jesus paints for us here. He is the gate and the only way to get into His Kingdom is through him. Jesus says He is "THE" gate...not "A" gate....
There is only one way into the Kingdom of God...through Jesus.
The shepherd calls each sheep by name and leads them in and out the sheep pen.


"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine." Isaiah 43:1
Father God, thank You that You give me eternal life. Thank You that You call me by name. Thank You that I can hear Your voice because I am Yours. Thank You that You protect me. Thank You that I have abundant life here and now. Jesus, You are precious. And, it is in Your Name we pray. Amen.

This is a series I am re-posting on "Who is Jesus" during the Lenten season. Please scroll down for the first 3 parts or click here, here, and here.

Who Is Jesus? I AM Part 3


I AM the Way....

One night at Bible Study, our group of women were answering the question from our study, "Briefly describe when you first accepted Christ. How sure were you of what you believed at that moment?" Christine brought up the discussion on this topic. She shared that she never had a "moment." She always knew God and loved God, but didn't have a time she could answer the question. A wise woman at our study encouraged Christine to take that "moment." As she explained, we can grow up knowing about God, even professing love, but we want to commit our lives to Him. We want to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We want to make that profession of ourselves to Him.

I shared that I grew up in the Church. I was baptized and confirmed (this is an act in the Lutheran faith that 8th grade students make after going through 2-3 years of religious training- it is "confirming your infant baptism and proclaiming faith in Jesus"). I said my prayers. I knew about God. I loved God. But, it wasn't until I was about 30 that I made Jesus Christ the Lord of my life. It was through a Bible Study that talked about having a relationship with Jesus and freedom from strongholds that introduced me to Jesus Christ- my PERSONAL Savior, Redeemer, Lord.

For me, this was my "moment." And, how sure was I of what I believed? I knew that I knew that I knew that I knew Jesus Christ died for me, set me free from the bondage of sin and death, gave me a new life, a new hope, an inheritance yet to come in Heaven and abundant LIFE here on earth.
I knew that my life was FOREVER changed.

We encouraged Christine to have a "chat" with God on her 20 minute car ride home. Through the course of the conversation, I had likened our "moment" to a wedding- when we make a commitment to Jesus, giving our lives to Him. This was Christine's email the next morning:

For those of you who were not at the study last night, we talked about knowing when we first had a relationship with Jesus. I had a hard time figuring it out, because I never really had "a day" when I knew like others have had.

Those of you there last night, thank you so much for your encouragement.

I HAD THAT CHAT WITH GOD! Praise Jesus!

All the way home in my car. I cried almost the whole way, I was so moved by simply saying out loud to God that I want to commit my life to Him. I had no idea I would feel that way. Tracy, your analogy to a wedding day says it all.

I was almost nervous starting out, like having cold feet or something. But by the end I knew I was entering the best relationship of my life. As I started praying and talking to God, the words just flowed. I just knew He was there, in my car, in my heart, surrounding me. And you know what else? It was as if I could feel you all praying for me.

I am so blessed for all of you, really, really, really! You all were so non-judgmental last night and I am so blessed to have you all in my life. Thank you for your encouragement! How awesome of a gift is that??!! I couldn't ask for better people to take this journey with.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

In Christ's presence,
Christine

Isn't God AMAZING, AWESOME, INCREDIBLE??? And, the most wonderful thing is Christine's signature: In Christ's presence. She is EXPERIENCING His presence so much so that she felt compelled to put it as her signature! Praise God!

Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." A relationship with Christ Jesus is the only WAY to have a relationship with God. Through His Blood, by His sacrifice, and in the power of His Name, we come into the presence of the Living God. There is no other way. Jesus is the Truth. There is no other Truth. Jesus is LIFE. There are no words to explain the LIFE you experience when you make Jesus the Lord of your life. Even the words in "Amazing Grace"are inadequate, but the best I can do- I was lost, but now found, blind, but now I see.

There is nothing you can do to earn your way to the Father. Jesus has done it for you already.

Have you had your "moment?" It is never too late. Have a moment right now. It is simple. It is easy. Jesus is waiting for you with arms open wide. Simply talk to Him. Tell Him that you love Him. Tell Him that you desire a relationship with Him. Tell Him that you know you need Him- that you are desperate for Him. Tell Him that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Tell Him that want a relationship with Him. He loves you.

He wants a relationship with you even more. He wants a moment with you.

(This is series of "I AM" posts republished from 2008.)

Who Is Jesus? I AM Part 2


I AM the Light of the World-
Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." -John 8:12

Have you ever walked in darkness? Stumbled around in the pitch black? It is hard to walk in darkness. When the power goes out and there is no light, you find yourself groping around in what was once familiar places, sometimes to stub your toe on chair you have sat in a million times. What is even worse is when you find yourself in an UNFAMILIAR place in the dark. It can be very scary. It is easy to lose your footing, easy to lose your way. Have you ever been driving when it has gotten so dark that even your headlights aren't enough light to navigate with confidence through unfamiliar territory?

Jesus says that we don't have to stumble, we don't have to fall. We don't have to fear the darkness. We don't have to lose our footing or our confidence. He is the LIGHT. He will shine in our darkness. He is like a lighthouse pointing the way, the direction for us to go.

Have you ever been in such a terrible situation, going through such difficult circumstances that it feels like darkness is surrounding you, engulfing you? Do you feel hopeless in your darkness? Jesus wants to shine through that darkness. Psalm 139 says, "even the darkness will not be dark to you (God); the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." No darkness can hold God in- even the darkness becomes like day. God's light shines in the darkness. God will make the darkest night, the most hopeless of circumstances shine like day.

I love that Jesus teaches us that He is the Light of the world right after the passage of the sinful woman. It means even more in this context. This woman had been walking in darkness, bond by sin, hopeless....But, Jesus frees her, forgives her, redeems her, takes away her shame, and shines Light into her darkness, empowering HER to walk in the Light, free from the darkness.


There is freedom and power in Christ.


In John 8, Jesus is in the temple teaching. There are people all around- the crowd is huge. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. These men had caught her in the very ACT of adultery. They had pulled her out of bed, naked. Can you imagine? She is caught in the very act of sin. There is no excuse, there is no rationalizing. There is no glimmer of innocence. She is laid bare, naked, guilty. These men drag her to the temple, maybe still naked, or barely clothed, where she is faced with this huge crowd.
Imagine that you are her. Look around. You see people you know all around you- your friends, your family, your neighbors. You see the merchants you barter with every week. You see the women you draw water from the well with everyday. You STAND before the seated crowd, humiliated. You see the eyes all around you, judging you, condemning you. You are guilty. You are caught. There are no excuses, no explanations. How can there be? You are guilty. The law demands your death.

The Pharisees say, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” These men do not care about the woman, but are trying to trick Jesus.

But, what does Jesus say? Does He condemn her to death? Does He call for the punishment she(and we) deserve? What does Jesus do? Is He going to stone her? (Does He condemn US?)

In verse 6, it says, “Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.” Can you imagine how angry the Pharisees are getting by now? What is Jesus doing? Why is He writing on the ground? They keep questioning Him, they keep demanding Him to answer. Jesus finally straightens up as says, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And, then, he stoops down and writes again on the ground.

The Bible says, “At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first.” I think of this, and I realize, the older I get, the more I see my need for a Savior. The older ones see their sin, they realize they are NOT without sin and they leave first. Soon, the younger ones follow until only Jesus and the woman are left.

Look very closely at this passage.
Who is the ONLY one without sin?
It is Jesus.
Who is the ONLY who could cast the first stone?
It is Jesus.
Only Jesus, perfect and without sin would have the right to condemn her. But, what does the Bible say in John 3:17? Jesus came into the world, not to condemn it, but to save it through Him. Jesus has the right to condemn her, but watch what He does.

First, He straightens up, I think , so He can look into her face, into her eyes. Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame.” I believe He wanted to take away her shame. He wanted to look full in her face, making her face radiant. And, Beloved, He wants us to look into His face, radiant, never covered with shame.

Jesus says to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She answers, “No one, sir.” And then, Jesus says, “Then neither do I condemn you.” Jesus is saying to you, “Neither do I condemn you.” Look into His face. There is the face of your Savior. He is perfect, He is sinless. He is God, but His desire is to save you, not condemn you. Jesus forgives.

I am sure this woman felt so grateful that her sin was forgiven, and she probably was so surprised to even be alive. But, I wonder if she also worried about what she would do next . She had just been publicly humiliated. Talk about airing your dirty laundry. Her circumstances seemed very hopeless. But, she stays right there in front of Jesus. She knows that He has something she needs. As they are together, I imagine Jesus looking right into her face.

Notice what He says next to her. Jesus tells her, “Go and sin no more. Leave your life of sin.” Many of us read these words as a harsh warning. “You better not do this again! You better not mess up. You better be good or tomorrow you are going to end up on the rock pile.”

But, that is not the joy of redemption! Jesus is saying, “Go- you are free. You are not in bondage to sin. YOU ARE NOT IN BONDAGE TO YOUR PAST. You do not have to be a slave, with a chain around your neck.” He is empowering her to walk as a new creation- fully righteous- fully clean- a daughter, a bride of the King.

How do I know that that is what Jesus means? Look at the very next thing that Jesus teaches us in John 8:12. His very NEXT WORDS ARE: “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk again in darkness, but will have the light of life.”Whew! Don’t you know how much that meant to the people hearing that? They had just seen what happened. They saw with their own eyes what Jesus had just done for this sinful woman. He had saved her and now He extends it to all- telling all of us that we will never walk again in darkness! Do you see the connection to what Jesus had just done, and now what He promises to all? Salvation is so much more than going to heaven when we die- although THAT IN AND OF ITSELF IS GLORIOUS AND WORTH ACCEPTING OUR SAVIOR- but, it is also about living in His saving grace and freedom here on earth! Jesus wants to release us from bondage, depression, fear, doubt, mediocrity…

Jesus, thank you for being our Light. I praise you. I worship you. I follow you.
(First posted 4/08)

Who Is Jesus?....I AM Part 1

Who was Jesus?
Who is Jesus?


Jesus said several times,
"I Am...."


Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." -John 6:35

Jesus said this right after the miracle of feeding 5,000 people. I love that! They had been hungry and He had fed them with earthly food, then He gives them the Real Food- Himself! They had experienced hunger and were fed with bread, but He tells them that He is the Bread of Life. He tells US that He is this bread....


Are you hungry?

Jesus can fill you.

Are you lonely?
Do you need love?
Do you need energy?
Do you need hope?
Do you need faith?
Come, eat of the Bread of Life and be filled.
Be satisfied.

Jesus said that when we fill up on Him, have a relationship with Him, we will not go hungry. He says when we believe in Him we will never be thirsty again.

Jesus met with a woman and said something very similar. While talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, (John 4) Jesus talks about “living water.” He points out the “world’s” water- the water of the well, and says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.”
Isn't that true with our “water”? Food, possessions, praise from man, material possessions, or watching TV never satisfies us. We continually want more and more. Our desire becomes insatiable, sometimes consuming us. The more we have, the more we want! Jesus tells the woman at the well, “ But, whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
Doesn’t that water sound so much more refreshing? Not only will our initial thirst be quenched, but we will have a SPRING bubbling, flowing within us! Not a glass of water, a drop of water, but a source of water. You will never, never be thirsty again! Jesus says in John 7:37-38, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

Lord, thank You for being my daily bread. When I pray the Lord's prayer and pray, "Give us today our daily bread," I am praying for my needs of the day, but I am also praying for You, Jesus! I want You, Jesus to be my "daily bread"! I want to be filled, satisfied with You. Lord, You say when I fill up on You, I will never go hungry. Thank You! Jesus, You said Your bread was to the do the will of the Father. Lord, I want that to be my bread, also! I want to do Your will! Lord, fill my desires, my needs, my hopes, my fears, fill everything I am with You! Thank You that you are my Bread from Heaven- my everything! I love You, Lord! I love You, Jesus!

First posted April 2008

Rolling the Dice

I love Proverbs! There is so much wisdom to be gleamed from this book of the Bible. And, although it is NOT a book of "promises", these are wise sayings that are generally true in life.

Chapter 16 has a theme of how the Lord is over our lives.....how He is in CONTROL. We are told to commit our plans to God in order for them to succeed. We are to watch our motives. And, we are told in verse 9 that we can make plans, but God determines our steps, reminding me of Romans 8:28: "God works ALL things together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose."

It is a comfort to me knowing that God even controls how the "dice" in my life fall. He is working out every life circumstance and weaving them together into a beautiful tapestry that makes "life."


Who is Jesus to ME?

As we draw near to Easter, I want my thoughts to focus on Jesus. I will be republishing a series I have done before during the Lenten season- "Who Is Jesus?" Please stop by frequently to join me in thinking about just who Jesus is and what He means to me....

Jesus asked His disciples, "And who do YOU say I am?" It is an important question for all of us to answer....

Once during a bible study, the leader asked us to keep a “journal” of who Jesus is to us, personally, writing down whatever came to us during the length of the study. It was a great "task". I think sometimes I forget to sit and ponder just how much Jesus means to me.


I encourage you to take on this assignment, writing everything you KNOW about Jesus and everything Jesus is to you (for example, He may be “tender” to you…). This is the beginning of my list, and if I were to write everything, you would be here for hours reading it!

Things most precious to me:

Jesus knew He would be Savior BEFORE the beginning of time. Before creation, He knew “the plan”. He knew Adam would fall in the garden. He knew He would have to die for my sin, to BECOME sin for me- the Spotless Lamb- to take away my sin. He would take on my punishment. BEFORE He created me, He knew in order to spend eternity with me, He would willingly, joyfully choose to be my Savior, to take my lashes, to take my punishment, scorn, ridicule, and death on the cross. Knowing ALL of this, He still chose to create me. Wow, that blows me away! The love He has for me.

Jesus is the Creator of the universe- “through Him all things were made- without Him nothing was made.”

He is the Word made flesh. He is the Living Word. He is the Written Word. Genesis through Revelation tells the “story” of Jesus. The Word- the Word that leads me and guides me……

Emmanuel- “God With Us”- Jesus never leaves me, never abandons me, never is too busy for me. Jesus is with me in my trials and my joyful celebrations. Jesus is part of me- “I am in Him and He is me.”

Savior- Jesus is my Savior, saving me from my sins, saving me from myself, rescuing me over and over again……..

Healer- Jesus is my healer, healing me from ALL my diseases- body, soul, mind, and HEART. One of my favorite examples is the leper that says he believes Jesus can heal him if Jesus is willing. Jesus answers, “I am willing.” Those three words bring me such comfort- I am willing. I am willing.  I am willing. I am willing. Jesus, you healed ALL who came to you.

Author and perfector of my faith- my biggest “cheerleader.” Jesus, you want me to succeed, you want me to grow and mature. Jesus, you don’t condemn me, but challenge me, encourage me, guide me and perfect me……..

Bridegroom- waiting in eager expectation to return in glory for ME. As a bridegroom, you rejoice over me with singing (Isaiah 61), Jesus, you are “enthralled with my beauty.”

Jesus is my Intercessor- Jesus is praying for me every day!

Redeemer, You bought back my life....REDEEMED it! My life is "paid in full"!

Friend, a friend that sticks closer than a brother, my best friend……

Freedom! I no longer am in bondage to anything!!!!!!!!

Lover- Jesus, you love me with an everlasting love that never ends……

Way- Jesus, you are the only way to the Father………..

I love you, Jesus.


Who is Jesus to you?


This was first posted last 1/18/08

Dying



Jesus was sharing here that He was about to die and rise again. He begins the passage with "The hour has come for you to see the Son of Man glorified." He is reassuring them ( the disciples) and US that to LIVE, we must die. When Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected, He produced many seeds. I love that Jesus uses the example of the wheat. It falls to the ground and dies, but then it grows in the soil, producing many more seeds. He uses this example to illustrate what will happen to Him, but then, extends it to us.

We must die to live.

Die to our flesh.

Die to our own selfish desires.

Die to sin.

And......LIVE.

Jesus continue by saying, "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will be also. My father will honor the one who serves me."
Aren't those amazing promises?

When we DIE, we LIVE.

When we serve, we are honored by GOD!

Whoever hates his life here....whoever turns away from the pull of the world, lives a life set apart, whoever does not conform to the patterns of this world...
will keep it for eternal life.

Ash Wednesday

I love lent.

I was reading something online which said something like, "Ash Wednesday is the one holiday the secular world won't take over and make it about materialism. Hallmark won't be making Ash Wednesday cards."

Could you imagine? Why? Because Lent, with the beginning of it being Ash Wednesday, is about a season of realizing your sin and complete "human-ness." We are reminded that "from dust we came and to dust we will return." We remember that we are sinful creatures in need of a Savior. It is a season, 40 days, of repentance. We are preparing our hearts for our Christ as we focus on His death on the cross and most importantly, His Resurrection! Do you remember before Jesus began preaching there was a voice crying out in the wilderness (John the Baptist), "Repent! Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand!"

 Lent is our time to repent, to prepare our hearts for the Lamb of God.

"Have mercy on me O God, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inmost parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean, wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
CREATE IN ME A CLEAN HEART AND RENEW A STEADFAST SPIRIT WITHIN ME!
Cast me not away from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.
Save me from the blood guilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
Lord, you do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it,
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise."- Psalm 51

Lord, I do come before You in spirit of repentance, with a broken and contrite heart. Lord, I confess and repent (turn away from) the ugliness of my heart.

 I repent of a critical spirit that judges others. I expect others, especially my family to do things the way I would do them, and if it isn't done my way, it isn't "good enough."

 I repent of complaining. Forgive my heart that complains that "I am doing all the work around here"- all of the laundry, the cleaning.... I know what your Word says- to "do everything as you are doing it for the Lord." It says "do everything without arguing or complaining....so you may shine like stars in the universe."

 I confess my bad attitude and worshiping at the alter of self.

 I confess my bad choices. Instead of doing the things You have laid on my heart, I waste precious time. I haven't been a good steward of time and resources. How can I expect You to give me more when I haven't been faithful with what You have already generously given?

 I confess my unbelief. I say I believe You, but do my actions trust you completely? Am I obedient in all things? And, if I believed You completely, I would be...........

 Lord, forgive me for going my own way so often. Forgive me for pridefulness. I don't want to have an ounce of pride in my being, Lord! I don't want to depend on ME, but on you!

 Lord, I turn away from all of these things and turn towards you. Help me, Lord! Thank you for Jesus! I am in such desperate need of a Savior! Prepare my heart, Lord for Jesus' coming. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me! Father, I am on my knees, asking You to have mercy on me, to forgive me. Lord, may these 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter be filled with Your Presence. Thank You for Your forgiveness. I love You Lord. In the Precious Name of Jesus, the Name above all names, the Alpha and Omega, the Lamb of God, the Prince of Peace, Immanuel, the Healer of the lame, the One who sets the captives free, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the Resurrection, and the Lover of my soul, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.