The Shadow of Death

Be Comforted in Him

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil for You are with me;

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

For you and me, death does not always mean physical death.

More commonly it means the internal death that comes with sin. That rotten, cruddy feeling that comes when you know you’ve stepped off the path; not just wandered, but step after step, gotten deeper into the shadows, left the right path long ago, and don’t know if He’ll ever stretch out His hand to you again.

george hodan allfreedownload.com

george hodan allfreedownload.com

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:8-10

We are tempted often, because we’re human. Jesus is the only one who never succumbed to temptation. As soon as he was baptized, he was swooped up by the Holy Spirit into the desert to fast for 40 days. In this vulnerable state, the devil came upon him and tempted his faithfulness (Matthew 4:1-10).

The enemy waits for us to be our most vulnerable, too. Yet when we are faced with temptation, we always have a choice.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

The Scripture above is often misquoted as God never gives us anything we cannot handle. That is incorrect. He commonly allows circumstances we cannot handle so we must depend on Him for provision or comfort, healing or rescue, comfort or unexpected joy. This is how He shows Himself.

It is the temptation He suppresses with His rod, knowing through free will we can choose to step closer to Him or away from Him. The thing is, choosing is an option any time, because His arms are always open; His love, grace and mercy are always available. Today. Now. Always.

david wagner allfreedownload.com

david wagner allfreedownload.com


Then there is the death Jesus talks about.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:35

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. Luke 17:33

This surrender, this unabashed giving away of ourselves to sanctification means we let go of control. It means we give up our right to be right. It means when we are unsure, we pray. It means we stop trying to attain perfection and allow the wisdom, love and grace of God to be perfected in us through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus willingly traveled into the valley of the shadow of death for us.

When he experienced a moment of fear, he prayed,

Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Mark 14:36 NLT

When we give ourselves over to His staff of guidance, His will, grace and love become ours. We receive a new path, a new image, a new focus. Donald Miller, in his book Blue Like Jazz*, explains it this way:

That is the thing about giving yourself to God. Some people get really emotional about it, and some people don’t feel much of anything except the peace they have after making an important decision. I felt a lot of peace…

There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.)

I know a little of why there is blood in my body, pumping life into my limbs and thought into my brain. I am wanted by God… He is wanting to preserve me, to guide me through the darkness of the shadow of death, up into the highlands of His presence and afterlife. I understand that I am temporary, in the shell of a thing on this dirt of an earth…He understood…that mankind could not save itself; rather it must be rescued…and he was shouting, “Follow me and trust God!” I see it now.

Do you see it, too?

 

*©Donald Miller 2003, Blue Like Jazz, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN

The Lightest Burden

He restores my soul.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

Psalm 23:3

© Susan Irene Fox

© Susan Irene Fox

In His sermon by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus told His followers to not be obsessed about food or clothing. He pointed out the birds and the flowers to illustrate how God feeds and arrays them. He reminded us that we are more important to God than those fragile and beautiful creations. We are created in His image, and we are new creations in Christ.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

He was our example of seeking God’s will in all things. “I can do nothing on my own, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” John 5:30, 6:38

He told us to take each day one at a time, ask for and receive His daily bread, for there are struggles enough for one day without putting future problems on our hearts.

In addition, Jesus gave us a New Covenant. While He told us not to forget the Old Covenant commands God handed to Moses, this New Covenant relieves us of additional requirements written by men, and places these first ten laws upon our hearts.

We must attend to more than the outward appearance of loving God. We must erase all desire to covet. We must seek to find joy in what we have so there is never a desire for other people or things. We must authentically love others as ourselves. We must seek to honor God in all areas of our lives.

Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee freedigitalphotos.com

Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee freedigitalphotos.com

Yet, we continue to forever pile up laws, requirements and burdens for ourselves that tempt and prod our boundaries. They cause doubt in the burden Jesus gave us. These self-imposed burdens chain us to our own limitations when Christ already set us free.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

When we exchange our burdens for Christ’s, we are refreshed with His grace, His breath of life. We love because He loves us. We extend mercy because He grants tender mercies every day. We are patient because His is infinitely patient. We trust because He is faithful. We do so not under our own power, but because we abide in the Holy Spirit’s power. By this, we don’t become children of God; we show we are children of God.

We reflect His light and love to others, and glorify His name when we begin and end our day refreshed by His word. We acknowledge His comfort and forgiveness when we stumble. We move forward, taking heart in lessons learned. We become a window to the peace, acceptance and freedom available through His saving grace.

morning

Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another. John 13:35

The Devil’s Vacation

enemy

To All Advocates, Workers and Minions:

Effective immediately, due to your efficacious, tactical implementation of my astute and well-contrived strategies, I hereby announce a worldwide, month long vacation for all!

While I recognize that a few of you are still under probationary review for your imprudent and idiotic errors regarding your “clients,” the majority of your coworkers have fulminated, tantalized, flattered and maneuvered in such profoundly fruitful ways, I have decide to be magnanimous and include you all in this indulgent decision. To wit:

  • Underdeveloped countries’ enduring sex slave trade grows in spite of all-out efforts by God believers to stop it.
  • Wealthiest countries persevere to plunder the planet’s resources, burying their heads further in the sand about God’s ownership of everything.
  • Massive hunger and poverty persist because a) humans still refuse to divide the plentiful resources they already have, and b) those who possess the greater wealth also believe they possess the greater intelligence.
  • Corporate and political greed flourish under the self-deluded concept (and outright lie) of The More I Make, The More I Will Do For Others.
  • Churches and religion continue to lie to themselves and others about God. They deny those who Jesus welcomed, protect those who abuse, and worship dogma and tradition instead of the Creator. The strategy of divide and conquer has worked amazingly well.
  • Civil wars rage in still more countries with no sign of cease fire.
  • More humans than ever before refute our existence even though they see our work every day: corporate greed, mass murder, rape, senseless violence, bigotry and hatred.

At this point in time, our involvement could only serve to inadvertently dismantle a bomb that is about to detonate on its own.

Upon our return, I shall meet with all Advocates to unveil a structured and focused New Blueprint. The scope of this new guide will be on a wider scale than you have ever imagined, the execution of which will require regimented oversight and cunning surveillance of your former clients. This new strategy will allow for no loopholes or makeshift methods of trickery. Our Adversary is wily and our “defense” must be aggressive; our force must be of pinpoint accuracy.

I will not now reveal the specifics of the new strategy; nor will acceptability or feasibility be discussed with workers or minions. However, I will say that it will involve three separate tiers of direct attack.

  1. Heavy concentration on further division of Christ’s church
  2. Frontal assault to engage all people groups in despondency, fear and doubt
  3. Unceasing public and private denunciation that our existence is a figment of undeveloped and irresponsible imaginations

Though I anticipate you will relax and enjoy this time off, as your High Commander I also expect you to return with heightened awareness and commitment, and in operation readiness. In full contemplation of our eventual goal, I cannot emphasize enough your full engagement and responsibility in this pursuit.

For those of you on probation, reviews will be conducted quickly, rigorously and without regard for family connection. You will be “earmarked” for “special duty” should you failed to pass muster.

I will see all Advocates exactly one month from today, Head Office, 7:00am, GMT.

In the meantime, relish this time to yourselves. It may be the last.

Most Assuredly Your

High Commander,

S

 

(This post was inspired by paulg at Just Me Being Curious)

Today’s post can also be seen at Idiot Writing at http://wp.me/p3ILHg-18U

The Greatest Gift

Trove

Heart

Words fail to attest to the force of Your strength

pictures can’t illustrate Your mercy or grace,

the extent of Your faith, the height or the length.

 

When sorrows dishearten, my heart You enlace

with comfort; You offer my mind words to cope

as I walk willingly into Your embrace.

 

Each auspicious morning is filled with breath’s hope,

sweet inhale of birds’ songs helps faith to increase

as mustard seed planted, its growth knows no scope.

 

Like spring melts winter snows, heart’s doubts now surcease;

there is nothing to keep, nothing left to prove

when surrender is willing; your gift is peace

 

Faith, hope and love the Spirit’s delivered trove;

These all treasured gifts, but the greatest is love.

Rest and Peace

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside still waters.

Psalm 23:2

Did you know that sheep will not drink from running water? They will only drink from quiet, still water. We are God’s sheep. He knows we will only hear His voice when we are still and quiet.

I’ve come to believe this based on observation and experience.

Why do we think we can feed our spirit when we are bombarded with a constant cacophony of chaos and commands for our attention?

As we unplug and find quiet spaces to listen and find joy in God’s handiwork, we allow ourselves the certainty and openness to hear His voice. We drink of His living water when we are distraction-free. We notice the small, mundane miracles in our everyday lives.

Robins Nest

Even Jesus needed to get away to be alone with his Father.

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Matthew 14:23

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

And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. Mark 6:46

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. Luke 5:16

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. Luke 6:12

We all have busy schedules, a list of To Dos. Too many times I’ve heard, “I don’t have time in my day to sit with God.” My heart aches at the bondage of this statement.

We do not remember the first commandment, the one Jesus said was the most important: “to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Mark 12:29-30)

We do not recall, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

We forget, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

Is our commitment to our relationship with God only honorable when it’s convenient? How can he lead us to still waters if we are inconstant friends?

He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:29

Does this sound familiar?

tpsdave allfreephotos.com

tpsdave allfreephotos.com

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39

If Jesus can calm and bring peace to the wind and seas, will He fail to bring peace and calm to your heart?

There’s an old “Light Bulb” joke that goes,

“How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?”

Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change.”

If you’re still wondering why your days are filled with disorder, and you haven’t a moment to breathe;

If you’re still telling yourself you’ll wait until Sunday to be filled because your other six days are already reserved;

If you’re running on empty and don’t know where your next refill will arrive;

empty

I pray you stop. Here and now.

Take back your time. Remember Whose you are. Give the time you’ve given away to the One gives you each twenty-four hour day. Let Him give you rest. Allow Him calm the waters inside you. Choose to begin your day anew with fresh mercies and His voice.

NIMBY

Not In My Back Yard

Definition from Wikipedia: NIMBY (an acronym for the phrase “Not In My Back Yard“), is a pejorative characterization of opposition by residents to a proposal for a new development because it is close to them, often with the connotation that such residents believe that the developments are needed in society but should be further away.

The NIMBY concept originated in the 1980s, and popularized by comedian George Carlin. (language warning!)

It seems NIMBY is gaining popularity again around the crisis of Central American children trying to gain access to American soil.

And what are we, as Christians, going to do about it?

I think the picture below, seen on my Twitter wall this morning, illustrates the dichotomy perfectly and succinctly.

Nimby.3.jpb

Are we truly followers of Jesus who will refuse to turn away children, sent by their parents in time of dire need?

OR

will we turn our backs on them because of political expediency or fear?

Will we create excuses to send them back into extreme poverty, famine or death because we refuse to be the hands and feet of Jesus?

Will we refuse to feed the least of these, living in denial and walk out our lives as goats in sheep’s clothing?

How many more opportunities will we have to open a hand of God’s grace that He has freely given to us time after time?

What will you say when He asks you if you fed him, gave him drink, clothed him?

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in. Matthew 25:35