The flower before the leaf …

alive
The flower before the leaf …

Fragile into the spring they push forth,
tiny sprigs of life with the palest of color,
topped with hearty tops of fluffy capkins,
while others droop and fall, tipped in crimson.

Before the leaf ever unfolds to soak up rays,
the miniature clustering flowers bloom,
waving and releasing pollen to begin the seed,
which someday will grow the mighty tree. srm

 

There is a point to all beginnings. There is a point from which all things stately and of significance originate from. Of course, substance and structure have accumulated in what is visible before us, but if the fragile beginning does not occur, there is nothing worthy to note.

All life has a seminal beginning but all life must begin again, over and over again to stay alive. Thus there is more than just a nourishing, coming from the sustenance of any given day or season. There must be a tapping into the reserves of the gathering of life growth over time and season. From this deeper rooting, life must draw from the past seasonal trails and blessings to begin again in each new season. All life must begin again, offering from a fragile beginning, new life to be truly alive.

All life must draw from all that has come before as all life must draw from outside itself as well. All life must access and utilize the sustaining nutrients while pulling life through its core thus enabling new life to come to the life that is.

All plant life including every tree; draws life, possesses life, exhibits life and offers life continuance through the seeds that will fall to the ground for life to continue. Our life begins as a gift of life from a Living God. Our living … draws life from the grace in the life sustained and nourished by God’s loving care and attention. As we seek the ways, truth and life in our Savior; we tap into new life. New beginnings are like the flower before the leaf which as it blooms promises life to come. God comes through His Word and Spirit with life now and forever. God also is faithful in leaving a legacy from our living as a seed for the trees that will grow up in faith from our lives. May we bloom, grow, leaf and prosper in the grace of our Loving Father.

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3, KJ21)

Suggested Reading … Psalm 1

 

 

Beware of the adulterous heart …

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God”
(James 4:4, NIV).

     What begins as a look, progresses in fits and starts as desire lurches increasingly towards opportunity. The imagined occurrence becomes a yearning and the yearning is given life, as it obsesses and gathers focus and energy. At some given moment, what was envisioned becomes available and will be greedily taken as a possession.  The after effects are seldom blissful, as the consequences begin to weigh on the evaporating and elusive vision of what was imagined. Often times what was; is lost in severed relationships and what was hoped for; becomes unwanted as reality reveals it as false illusions and empty promises. Such is the course of adultery.

Adultery is not just the sexual abandonment of a partner in a relationship. It can also be the abandonment of any covenant  committed role, love or affection in any relationship for a replacement in another relationship. It doesn’t matter if the adultery occurs in marital, a familial or even spiritual relationship. Much is lost midst the false illusions and empty promises … while very little is ever found. Jesus cautions us to never allow the tiniest of looks or footholds through lusting (Matthew 5:27-30) because lusting leads to adultery and adultery to dire consequences in all relationships. It is in the heart that all unfaithfulness starts and it is fueled by our own lustful desires. It is in the heart that all premeditated actions are birthed by our own selfish focus.

Looking back over our own experiences, we often see the heartbreak of adultery in our own lives or in the lives of others. Over and over in history we see people abandon their relationship with the Living God as they lured into adultery with other gods. They become adulterous partners to evil and false gods, forsaking what was true and real for what is often empty and full of despair. Adultery always leaves a distance in what was and what is. It always leaves a void in what was promised and what is delivered. In spiritual matters, a mighty distance or a gulf is left when we abandon or forsake the Living God for the countless false gods of money, position, power, pleasure and the many others that promise much and deliver little. The gulf is our sin and it becomes mighty gulf because there is little we can do to remedy the situation.

There is a mighty gulf between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of human beings. Yet over and over we see redemption and restoration coming from in the grace from a Mighty God. Over and over, we see God reaching in grace across the vast span of this gulf to redeem and restore the people with His mighty love. He does over and over again. In a greater way we see our Lord Jesus Christ by His grace reaching across every mighty gulf of separation from sin, to redeem and restore all people for all time. God reaches across any and every gulf we have created, when we have forgotten or abandoned His ways, truth and blessing to bring us again and again back into a grace secured relationship by His steadfast and mighty love. Only a mighty love could span the mighty gulf that all sin including adultery will leave in its wake. Thanks be … to our Mighty God, for crossing the mighty gulf of all sin to save, redeem and restore us.

“There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.” (Deuteronomy 4:28-31, NIV)

Suggested Reading … James 4

This “Thank God Day”

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength”

(Corrie Ten Boom).

      How do we start any given day? If a troublesome scenario lurks on the horizon, we may awaken with anxiousness and let the day be swallowed up in worry. If physical pain is the first thing we struggle with, we may drift into discouragement. If familial conflict and tension linger from unresolved issues, we may peer forward with trepidation, desiring mostly to escape the day and its trouble. If financial concerns are swirling around us while threatening to drown us in torrents of uncertainty, we may want to give up before we even start the day. If we have caused pain in others or damaged others with caustic and careless words, we may just want to avoid the staggering journey in asking forgiveness. We may have been injured or hurt by others, we have a raging battle deep within us as strain to forgive.

      We may look at the coming day as full of promise with great excitement and joy. The day before us may be  a special day and we might anticipate something memorable and truly special coming with the day. This day could be extraordinary. Every day comes new and fresh, even though we may sense the day becoming like other days. We may attempt to categorize and compartmentalized this day before the day has yet unfolded even as we do not really know what the day will be. The only thing we actually know about this day is that God has given us this day.

      No matter what the day will be, this day can be a “Thank God Day.” This day is given in grace to us from our God who is good. His grace and goodness do not change. Everything about the day may change but He does not.
Every day can be a “Thank God Day.” On the days when everything is going good, He is blessing us. On the days when everything is falling apart, He is with us. Every day God is good to us because He is a good God and His steadfast love is on us, regardless of whether we consider something to be a blessing or a burden.

      Giving thanks,  expresses our trust that we are in God’s hands and if He is allowed to work, He will do more than we can imagine or even ask of Him. Let this day be His, from your awakening to His purposes and desires for the day until you fall asleep in His loving arms realizing all He has done. Make this day, a “Thank God Day.”

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

(Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV)

Suggested Reading … Ephesians 3

The One who meets us at the well.

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National Gallery of Art, (Public Domain -NGA)

      He comes alone when all other companions are off dealing with the common needs of their day. Does He not have things to do? Why would He interrupt His day with my concerns? Yet there He is in the midst of our daily chores and needs. He comes and sits alongside us in the ordinary moment when we are a bit overwhelmed and lost in the drudgery of the tasks and concerns demanding our intention. There is a weariness to his look from all He has given to others but somehow everything about His presence and being, completely focuses on us.

      He looks into our very heart. Why does He concern Himself with us? Our thoughts began to race, “There must be more important people, than people like me.” Still here He is, the Holy One with the most un-holy in each of us. At that moment, in the ordinary and common, He gently asks for glass of water from each of us. Yet, a drink of water from us is not His desire. The truth is; His request has nothing about life-sustaining liquid but with slowing us down enough to pause and consider the “Water” which will give us “Life” at this very moment and flow freely with freshness and vitality without ever ceasing in the ordinary and the common in every day.

     We do stop with our tasks. Our concerns began to fade and dispel into the compassion radiating out of His overflowing love. He draws us into His love, tenderly speaking into our day with deep concern. He fascinates us, while quieting our anxieties. He disturbs us as He delves deeper than anyone has ever gone with His intimate knowledge of every one of our secrets. Still, even here, He offers His insights, not judgments. The “Living Water” begins to flow into our life …

     Our time with Him continues and He shines a light deeper still into our feeble attempts to say thanks. He gently assures us by pointing out that worship is not about a place, heritage or even sacrifice. True worship comes from adoration and thankfulness participating with the Spirit in praise for God among us. God is indeed with us … He is “The One” sitting with us, right now, at the well of our need. He is alive midst our daily living. At this moment, we realize, we have again found our “Messiah.” Be ever so thankful, find joy as our Savior meets us at the well in every one of our days. Take a good long drink again from the “Living Water” that He gives by His presence as He listens and offers His love and concern to every one of us.

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life’”

(John 4:13-14, NIV).

Suggested Reading … John 4

 

The man who forsook the heart of God.

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National Gallery of Art (NGA Image, Public Domain)

“The fear of the LORD is a life giving fountain, it offers escape for the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27, NLT).

     The wisest king in the Bible missed the point.  Solomon was able to write chapters of wise thoughts.  Solomon was able to reflect philosophically on the many perspectives of life and he was able to reduce the complexities of relationships, priorities and values into wise reflections and directives of how to live a joyful and blessed life as a person who feared God.  Solomon was able to offer strong rebukes and warnings about falling into the traps and snares of sin. Yet, Solomon who was the wisest and richest King of Israel, missed the point of many of his own writings.

Solomon missed the point of life even though he was very wise about life. Solomon knew more about life than almost anyone. Solomon wrote more about life than anyone in the Old Testament other than the major Prophets, Moses and his father David. Solomon built more buildings, palaces and temples than any other king of Israel. Solomon had more money and gold than the other kings of Israel. Solomon owned more chariots and horses than the other kings of Israel but Solomon fails to let his heart be satisfied with his God.

Solomon in the very height of reign begins an endless, futile and insatiable quest for more riches, palaces and wives.  Solomon’s coveting, greed, pride and inability to find satisfaction in the accumulation and possession of more and more, led him to seek more and more.  In the end, Solomon’s more wives and possessions would leave him distant from having purpose in life and all of his more brings judgement upon him, from the God who had previously blessed him richly. All of Solomon’s  vast accumulations of more became pointless and vanity.  All of Solomon’s wives, palaces and riches were of little value because he had lost his heart for God.

Solomon has been since been labeled as  “The Wisest Fool” and “The Brilliant Failure.” While Solomon wrote brilliantly and profoundly about the folly of sin and the destruction, it would bring;  he misses the point of applying it to his own life. Even though Solomon writes “the love of pleasure will bring poverty,” he fails to see how poor he has become in his love for all pleasures of life.  He fails to realize he has turned away from the “pursuit of righteousness and loyalty” which would bring “life, righteousness and honor” (Proverbs 13:25) and finds his life void of righteousness even though it’s full of extravagant luxuries.  Solomon fails to see how much of the blessing of God, he has lost in the loving of his countless wives.  Actually all of Solomon’s wives, accomplishments, palaces, massive amounts of gold, horses and chariots could not satisfy him because his heart was far from his God.  All of the things of life, had taken him away from his God.  Finally, even though Solomon sees the fear of God as leading to life (Proverbs 19:23), he sets aside the life that the fear of God would bring.  Solomon’s life ends quite sadly because midst all that he had around him, he had lost the only thing that mattered.  Solomon had forsook the wise pathways of God’s ways that he knew and had written about because his heart was consumed by other things.  In the end, he had no room in his heart for God. All his things had taken the place of God in his life.  In the end, Solomon had lost what mattered most … midst the staggering abundance, shimmering riches and his many beautiful wives and their gods.  It was a sad end for such brilliant man of promise and blessing. Solomon’s life leaves a legacy as profound as any of his Proverbs. We need to be acutely aware of anything that would take our hearts away from our relationship with the Living God. The Apostle John at the end of his life, leaves us this simple truth, “Dear Children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts” (1 John 5:21, NLT).

Suggested Reading … Proverbs 14

The Psalm 130 Prayer

Dear Lord … I am in the bleakest of moments and my very soul is in anguish. I am crying out to you, Almighty God. Oh Lord, you are my Lord. From the deepness of my heart, I cry out for you. Listen again to your aching child and cover me with your mercy.

If you would ever remember my sins, I would be hopeless to even stand in this place, to ever come before You. Yet, I know of your infinite love and forgiveness and I honor You above all else, for You alone are God.

I wait for you, oh Lord. I sense You, as I wait for You. I know of You, for I know You. All my hopes rest upon Your promises. I wait in Your care. I eagerly wait as I yearn for You. I know You will come to me. Yes, I eagerly wait. I wait knowing you always come to as surely as the sun will come to the morning.

All who know of You, O Lord; hope in You. We know of your love, O Lord. It is steadfast upon us and we cannot lose your attention. We trust in You. With you, O Lord there is endless grace to redeem us and You alone, redeem the world from all sin. Thank you, O Lord, Thank you. Amen

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
Psalm 130 English Standard Version

Hope carries us until the promise comes …

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“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given unto us” (Romans 5:5-8, KJ21).

     In the spring, the simplest of plant life are the first to exhibit expectant life as their cell structure begins to change color and grow. The mosses and the lichens began to tinge with the slightest changes in hues from dormancy to nourishment to growth. What has been, releases its hold unto what will become. Life lying dormant under the bitter and cold comes forth as the promise of life anew.

    Our living through the bitter and the cold, dormant under the force of the brutal endures as it patiently waits for the promise of living again. This is where faith gathers strength through hope for the future. What comes against faith is endured because as what faith have nourished and sustained in the past is remembered. What is remembered is the experience of the capacity of faith and hope begins to overtake the past.

    As a new season beckons to come to us, hope which has carried us, holding out the promise of something new begins to show its promise is true. The color of life goes from the lifeless to the subtle hues of life. In the simplest of ways with the tinges of color, hope shows us the promise of faith is true because life has come again.

    All of life is a gift in grace of our Heavenly Father and when hope blossoms in the spring after the harshness of pain and difficulty, we can smile with the assurance that our Precious Savior is bringing life anew as all promises will be fulfilled. Our hope rests not in false promises but in the glory of God and He is always steadfast and faithful in His love. Our hope in God is something we can always find joy in.

“Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2, KJ21).

Suggested Reading … Romans 5

 

Not a thing you do but a place you go.

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“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10, ESV)

      Amidst the compartments of time, work, priorities, intentions, passions, humor, interests and activities that fill up our days, can we find extra time to do another thing? Amidst our collections of mementos, odd little items of paper and poems with numerous souvenirs stacked up or boxed away, how many more things will we do that will yield more assortment of the things we did, now remembered. Are we what we do? Do our lives add up to what we have done or who we are in the things we do?

      Where along the journey of our days upon the earth, which will ultimately be recorded in the memories of others, do we find and refine the core of who we are? It is easy to do things we love that are of little substance and easy to get caught up in the swirl of activities running the spectrum between work and relationships. It also difficult to refrain from doing things we feel are obligations and commitments.
In this busyness of doing, we add more and more doing. Even in our faith, we can have a tendency to make this vital basis for our living, a thing we do. Faith, which we may claim as central to our living thus joins the countless other items on the shelves bending with the weight of all the things we do and call our living.

       God calls us to relationship. It is a redeemed relationship. He is not thing we do among all the other things we do. He is Father we go to for all peace, need, comfort and grace. A Living Son who walks alongside of us in all of our days with hope, redemption and restoration and a constant, consistent and empowering Counselor for every moment along the way. He dwells from a place of love as we go Him in prayer. He waits from a place of grace we carve out when we are still before Him and desire His will. He gives from a place of benevolence when we come to Him in need. He heals from a place of mighty strength as we trust and obey. He teaches from a place of truth when we go to Him for wisdom.

       Our faith is not a thing we do but a place we go to find, wait and dwell in our Heavenly Father’s love. Before Jesus Christ could ever do a single thing, He went and spent time in the presence of His Father in communing prayer and in the midst the vast demands of His ministry, He walked away to go to a place where His Father waited for Him. Before all things and in the midst of all things, our Living God and the relationship we have with Him, must be the place we go for all things.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place , where he prayed” (Mark 1:35, NIV).

Suggested Reading … Mark 1

 

Easter is more than a day!

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“What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole” (1 Peter 1:3-5, The Message).

     Long after the plastic eggs are cracked and put away for another year and the dyed and decorated eggs have passed their time and purpose … the Lord behind the celebration, longs for connection in a loving eternal relationship with us. Many Christian Believers celebrate the day of Christ’s Resurrection while somehow failing to realize Christ did not rise to become a symbol on a day to commemorate new life. The Risen Christ desires to bring new life to us by being the truth, the way and the life to us. He left His Spirit especially for that purpose … to teach, convict, direct and guide us as He empowers us into a new life.

Since our sins were nailed to the cross by Christ’s willingness to suffer and die for the sin of the world and every sin in each of us, He also took every one of those sins to the grave where they were permanently laid and left in the carved stone tomb. Our new life comes as the Risen Christ meets each one of us, knowing every facet and nuance of the weaknesses in our human heart and every foible in our personality. He comes to us to encourage and help us live the new life He brings through His endless and eternal grace.

He is the way, the truth and the life but many times we hold unto our way, our truth and our life; which is actually living in our old ways, believing our illusions of the truth and walking in the selfishness of our life. This is how the Risen Christ can be set aside or discarded like the colored eggs and decorations of the Easter season. The Risen Christ does not desire to be a decoration in our life but to be our life as we live out the days of our lives. The purpose of the Resurrection is not a story or a theme about a new life but to impart a new life to us. The victory found through the Resurrection is not in the knowing about a new life but in desiring the new life that our Lord and God can bring when the Risen Christ is allowed to be alive in us. His ways are the ways we follow, His truth is the truth we believe and His life is the life we desire.

The celebration of Easter is not about a day nor can it be contained in a day. The celebration of Easter radiates through the Risen Christ living in us. A Risen Christ who guides, leads and encourages as He meets and walks with us in every moment of our days until He greets us as we come into His presence forever in eternity. There is no condemnation in His love for us, nor is there anything on this earth or in the heavens that can separate us from His love (Romans 8). His Spirit may bring conviction but the conviction is simply to turn us in repentance from the futile life of sin and selfishness towards the new life He desires that we live.

It is sad to limit the blessing of a new life the Resurrection brings to us, to a celebration on a single day. A single day ends like the grass, naturally fading away as it comes to an end. The new life our Lord and Savior desires us to be part of, is an endless string of new days in the abiding presence of the Risen Christ. Celebrate each and every day in the life you have with the Risen Christ walking along side you, as your Lord and Savior. It is the only journey that will matter in this life and in eternity.

“Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.”
(1 Peter 1:18-21, The Message)

 

Suggested Reading … 1 Peter 1, From The Message

 

Read the Online Message Version @  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Peter+1&version=MSG