Shift Your Focus

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As I sat and read a devotional today something struck me that I’ve never really thought about before.  I love those moments when things are suddenly clear.  I must confess that so many things are still very foggy for me but I’ll take any clarity that my “Teacher” wants to bring focus to. The funny thing is that the thing that comes into focus wasn’t necessarily a thing that I was even confused about or even thinking about yet it was an important knowledge of a much larger picture.  I don’t know about you but I can be guilty of not seeing the forest for the trees.  This was a zoom out to focus and not a zoom in.

The disciples were always students, perpetual learners.  Most of the time they didn’t understand and Jesus would have to take them aside and explain.  I began to think about the Jewish culture and what it meant to have a Rabbi.  From a young age the rabbi would choose his students and tell them to follow him.  They were to continually study and learn. They’re teaching included their study of course but it was also to mimic the thoughts, words and actions of their teacher.  Think about it for a moment.  For years they were tutored and trained.  Many times they were taught to think because they were asked a question.  Rabbi’s like to answer a question with a question.  Do you ever feel like you have the question but are on a journey to the answer. I feel this way a lot.  I ask the Lord a question and He answers me with a question.   This is necessary however if we are ever to be in the position of training others as we ourselves are.  You are a constant student who is ever learning.  For example, Jesus would be approached by someone blind and He would ask him what do you want me to do for you.  Seems kind of silly doesn’t it?  Yet many times this was the case.  Much of our learning comes from asking the right question.

This is how it should be for us, always knowing we have much to learn and to not get settled thinking that we are old enough now with a been there done that attitude and have it all figured out.  Sadly, so much of what we think we know we know amiss.  We see through a glass darkly as the word puts it. We see through our lens, through our experiences, culture and upbringing.  It’s not easy to try to see through someone elses lens.  Have you ever put on someone elses glasses and things were blurry to you?  That’s my point.  We must be ever learning from the one with perfect vision otherwise we could be the blind leading the blind.  I don’t mean to say we can’t learn from each other.  Of course we can but our study and our focus should be on “The teacher”.  We should always be in the posture of a student eager to learn and follow the teachers example.  I can see why it was so difficult for the disciples to grip that it would be better for Jesus their teacher to “go away” as He put it, than to stay with them physically.  How would they learn?  How would they know what to do?  Who would explain things to them?  So many questions…

This is a great place to be in, wanting to learn and know what He would do or what He would say.  It’s not knowledge for knowledge sake but wanting to know truth.  The search for truth is a remarkable one.  Why?  Because truth sets free.  Jesus said come learn of me. He said Seek and you will find and knock and it will be opened to you.  I’m so grateful He gave His Spirit to us and didn’t leave us alone.  I can’t imagine how difficult navigating this life would be without Him.  When I get focused on one thing it’s His spirit that adjusts my lenses.  So be encouraged if you have many questions!  He will be faithful to you to help you ask the right questions and then to receive those answers that grow you.

By Jaime Luce

Real Freedom

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Emotions, necessary as they are, can change on a dime.  It’s kind of like the weather here in Texas.  They say if you don’t like it just wait five minutes and it will change.  They aren’t kidding either.  One day there is snow falling, I’m wearing a Parka to go into the Tundra, and the next day it’s sunny and 75 degrees outside and I’m tearing layers off and running the air conditioner. It’s completely Bi-Polar (pun intended). It’s just as remarkable to me that one day, like right after church, I can feel like I can conquer anything because Jesus is so near and the next day I’m laying face down in a ditch of self-pity.  It’s ridiculous! So today while reading James 1, I saw myself and realized what a hay day the devil has been having with me and I know better.  You see I wrote a blog called “Jesus is passing by” which really touches on this subject but today I would like to go deeper.  As they say on one of my favorite rides at Disneyland, “Hold on to your hats boys and girls, this is going to be one wild ride.”

Now I don’t want to scare you off because we really do live in a flesh suit that feels everything that is going on around us. And just as a reminder, Jesus is there lovingly to lift us up and brush us off and set us back on our feet again. I don’t mean to deny the pain that many are feeling.  Nor is this post about those who are going through grief and tremendous struggles.  However for the rest of us I do hope to help us see from a different perspective the reality of suffering according to the Word.

Let’s start with a little history.  James is the brother of Jesus.  Talk about someone knowing you really well.  This same brother didn’t believe in Jesus until after His death and resurrection.  He had to be brought pretty low and I’m sure he dealt with a lot of regret but because he really did know Him, he knew how He forgives and restores. Now James is the leader of the church at Jerusalem.  But instead of considering himself as anything he begins his greeting as James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.  A bondservant, which means he is a slave by choice.  In my above mentioned blog I told about the feelings Jesus must have felt being rejected by His family and home town (because they “knew him”) and how this prepared Jesus to teach His disciples how to be accepted and how to be rejected.  You see in this life we will all have these two anchors and every thing that falls in between. Emotions, they can lift or cripple us.  But the one I want to concentrate on is Self-Pity.

James says right out of the shoot in V.2 to count it all joy when you fall into various trials.  Now I know that the Joy of the Lord is our strength according to Nehemiah 8:10, but what caught my eye was the word trials so I looked it up.  It means many things but all it’s nouns denote suffering.  That’s what hit me.  Suffering.  We suffer for many reasons and in many ways but then I heard the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit say “but what is suffering according to My Word?”  Ouch.  I knew what it was.  According to most of Paul’s letters and Jesus himself we find that suffering means being persecuted for our faith.  To be persecuted for our faith is a whole lot different than me dealing with my feelings about any given situation.  Now again I don’t want to seem cold and indifferent but please hear me out because if you can get this it will lead to freedom in your life.  It’s a freedom that changes everything.  And believe me when I tell you I want you free.  I want to be free.  Jesus wants US free!

If suffering Biblically truly meant persecution then first we must do a complete about face in our thinking and in our attitudes about life and circumstance.  We think we are suffering on every side.  It’s a lie.  We are blessed everyday beyond measure. This is the first truth.  I know that there are exceptions to this rule here in America but hear me out.  If I am sick, I can go to a doctor.  I can go to an emergency room and they can’t turn me away. If I am hungry I can go to a food bank and receive food. Most of us don’t deal with real want.  There are countries where there is no medicine even if you could go to a Doctor. There is no food even if you wanted it. We are truly blessed.  Even if I was suffering from a disease unto death, Paul said “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8 .  Death wasn’t a fear or suffering. Then that leads to the second truth. Suffering was persecution.  Hebrews 11 tells us what that is.  It says in V.36-37 “Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword.  They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented… I don’t know about you but I haven’t even come close to dealing with these things.  There are those in other countries right now who are and desperately need us to be praying for them however this is not the majority of us.

So I am forced then to look with eyes wide open at my own heart.  Self-pity has a way of creeping in.  When my niece was a little girl and she wasn’t happy she would hang herself over forward with arms practically dragging on the ground and head down too.  It was so funny to watch.  We called it “Sackloth and ashes”.  She was in the depths of despair to her but in reality she was just having a pity party.  I remember hearing someone say once “I’m going to go get a cupcake with a candle and throw myself a pity party” and she asked me if I wanted to come.  I laughed out loud as we both knew it was nothing more than that.  Self-pity. Unless I am being truly persecuted for my faith it is only then that I am suffering. So even if I am suffering persecution, James says in V.1-4 to count it all joy because suffering has benefits.  It produces patience and if we let patience work in us it will perfect and complete us to the point of lacking nothing. That’s a whole lot of something.

This whole understanding is a time shift.  It takes me from thinking in the temporal to the eternal.  It takes my mind off of what fades and passes away to that which will stand forever.  It removes my love of this world and places it in the world to come. This understanding removes self-pity.  Self-pity keeps me tethered to me and nothing else.  How can I be about my Father’s business if I can’t see past myself? Jesus was a servant of all who said of himself that the Son of man has no where to lay His head. Matthew 8:20. He wasn’t complaining with self-pity but simply stating a fact. He said He only does what He sees the Father doing and only says what the Father is saying. This is complete humility and servanthood.  I can only serve one master. It’s me or it’s Him. His life was literally a life of sacrifice and dying to self.  There is no room for self-pity. If I am feeling sorry for myself I can bet my flesh is as strong as ever and I’m still on the throne of my own heart.

And yet, if I can see my life as He saw His how free I would be. I would be living like Paul.  Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”. What can man do to me?

I have a daily challenge for you. To really think about every blessing that you have from a tooth brush to clean the teeth you have, to the clothes you get to put on, truly.  I know that’s funny but think about what you could not have.  The things you take for granted.  When you are hungry do you get to choose what to eat? When you need to get somewhere did you get to drive or ride in a vehicle?  Many don’t.  If we place our faith in Jesus He promises that He would meet our needs.  You may not have every want but you will have your needs met.

Again I want to emphasize how compassionate and loving our Lord is and that He is right there save us when we are overwhelmed and drowning. However I would submit that we do a self check.  Are we walking around in “Sackcloth and Ashes” in the pit of self-pity of our own making or is the enemy lying to you which robs you of your joy and instead you really are blessed. Ask Him what His thoughts are and try to turn your thoughts to the things that aren’t passing but eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:17 says For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So let the Joy of the Lord be your strength.  If you don’t know what to do James 1:5 says If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. All is not lost. Jesus said in John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” You will make it. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37

So count it all joy my brethren when you fall into various trials.  We can do this! Let’s choose freedom today and get busy doing our Father’s business.

By Jaime Luce

 

Who Am I?

 

By Jaime Luce

I am a Princess. Yep, you read it right.  Does that sound arrogant? Hang on and cut me some slack. I’m not looking for special treatment or have an attitude.  I used to not like it when I heard other people say it.  But now after some study and thought maybe I should as well you should too. Here is a term you might be more comfortable with. I’m a Sister. Both of these terms would be correct and actually carry the exact same weight and value to God for us His children.  Why do we call each other Brother’s and Sister’s in Christendom?  I know it isn’t used as much today in most church circles but after my devotional time today I saw its beauty and it’s weight.

I was reading in Hebrews 1.  Paul is explaining how Jesus is higher than the angels, His position and theirs. The revelation began to flood in when I read V.13 which says “But to which of the angels has He ever said: “”Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?” You see Father God is telling Jesus to take His place at the throne.  Then while there Father God will make all His enemies a mere footstool for Him to rest His feet.  Don’t you love that picture?  Jesus, with scepter in hand, is just RESTING His feet on all those who were enemies.  It’s actually kind of funny and sad.  You see if the enemies of God are mere resting places for His feet no less, then why are we so terrified?  Hey I’m not just preaching to you.  I’m talking to me too!  Let’s break down why we should not fear and trust our all-powerful God.

I am going through our church’s first of the year devotional.  Today it told a story of how a father was not aware of the fact that his 18 month old daughter had toddled right into the swimming pool, but her sister did and dove right in after her.  The only problem was the sister was only three years old and couldn’t swim either which didn’t seem to bother her a bit.  So with the three-year old holding onto the coat of the 18 month old she stretched her arm up to her daddy from under the water confident that he would pull them out.  After being pulled out the three-year old was completely unruffled with no fear.  She had absolute confidence in her daddy.  He could do anything and would do anything whenever she needed it. Isn’t it amazing how we know that our Heavenly Father is Master over all and yet we don’t exercise this same confidence.  He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think. Eph. 3:20  When did we go from understanding real trust in our Father to relying on ourselves and what we know.  It is crazy to think I can control anything more than my attitude. However my Father can and will.  Abba Father is willing and able to deliver us, lead us and strengthen us everyday.  In fact He wants to.  He’s just waiting on us.

I think many times we don’t grasp the love He has for us. What more could He have done? He died for us, was resurrected and sent His Spirit so that we could all have access to Him anywhere and at anytime.  He wants to be with us always.  Just as He wanted to walk and talk everyday with Adam and Eve.  That was His plan and design from the beginning. His love toward us is always for us. There is nothing that I can give Him that He doesn’t have, except me. So everything He has done was to make sure I could easily get to Him completely forgiven and free to be His. His love is completely giving and selfless. Jesus sacrificed everything laying down His life for this purpose.

Most people don’t have a hard time understanding and believing that we are Gods children. Even those who don’t really practice Christianity will say we are all Gods children. But greater still is that so is Jesus. Matthew 3:17 says …This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  There are many more scriptures that reiterate this fact but you get the picture. So if Jesus is His Son and we are Gods children then we are in essence the brothers and sisters of Jesus.  This can be easier to swallow than what I will say next.

Stay with me here because I’m building towards something.  So we know through the death and resurrection of Jesus that He is now at the right hand of the Father sitting on the throne according to Heb. 1:3.  Romans 8:17 says “And since we are his children, we are His heirs.  In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory….”. Well if we are heirs then there is something to inherit. We inherit His Glory.  What is His glory? It is all His majesty and anything that pertains to His greatness.  What is His greatness?  Think about it? He is more than our Father. He’s a King! He has a realm, a kingdom and He has a will for that kingdom.  A will! Get it?  We are heirs to His will. We have a will and testament to tell us everything that is given to us. And in case you missed it that also means that you are not just children but you hold a position in the kingdom.  You are Princes and Princesses to the throne.  Every resource that is the Kings is yours for the asking. And we know that “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. John 15:7

Now before we get ahead of ourselves we need to remember that many times a will has gifts and sometimes those gifts come with instructions. So it behooves us to ask Him what those are. We know from the verse reference above that we must abide in His words.  His will and testament.  Read it over and over.  Let it settle in you so that you know what it says to you about what is yours and what resources you have available to you and what gifts have been bestowed on you.  You see in a Kingdom the King has the ultimate authority.  Scripture tell us in Matthew 28:18 that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. We must lay hold of this truth and promise.

Life will throw at us every kind of trouble and we will be tested on every side.  But if we know who we are and who’s we are we will remain confident in our Father who happens to be the King to reach down and save us.  The key is to trust and know without fear that He is right there ready to take our hand and pull us to safety and without harm.  You may be in the fiery furnace today but He is the fourth man in the fire with you and He will remove your bondages and bring you to safety and freedom.  Or you may be drowning in circumstance, emotion or worse. I can promise you, based on His will, that He is there to save you.  He loves you with an unselfish love and wants you to trust that His will for you is the abundant life. He is a good father who is worthy of your trust. Then your faith in Him during your trials will be the testimony to those around you fulfilling the very purpose you were called to.  You don’t have to sweat the details.  His word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Psalm 119:105  If you are following the Will, He will make sure you are in the right place at the right time. You are a son or daughter of the Most High, a Prince or Princess to the King.

Be blessed this New Year.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1

 

Are You Offended?

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By Jaime Luce

What offends you?  Are you offended at the quote above?  Are you offended that the problem of offense can lie inside of us and not from those outside of us? Believe it or not this is not about politics or the normal mumbo jumbo about offenses.  As I was reading today in Luke 7 Jesus is questioned by the disciples of John the Baptist whether or not He is the Messiah they have waited for.  John himself had sent his disciples.  This is the same John who baptized Jesus and saw the dove descend and remain.  How could he not know who this was?  How could he question what he lived his whole life for? Yet at times, don’t we all?

I have always wondered about this and realized today when spending time with the Lord in His Word what the answer was.  Jesus always speaks to the real issue. So many times when we read, that is all we are simply doing, reading.  However, I find that in order to understand His Word I  must put myself in the room and watch the scene, not just read it. I see more clearly and hear the tones and feel the emotions like watching a great stage play. His Word comes alive and I am moved by what I see, hear and feel, which happened today.  I read how Jesus was moved with such compassion seeing a widow weeping on her way to the burial of her son.  I could hear her and I understood to some degree her weeping.  She would now be completely alone.  No one would be there to help or comfort her or to take care of her.  Then Jesus, full of compassion says to her do not weep.  I could just hear Him say it.  I could feel His grief in wanting her to be whole in spirit and not be so broken.  Remember that He came to bind up the broken hearted and our brokenness moves Him.  When we are grieved He grieves also.  Recall back to when Mary and Martha were weeping because their brother Lazarus had died.  The scripture tells us that Jesus wept too.  He wept with the same bitterness they wept.  He felt their pain and I promise you He feels yours.  Here in Luke 7 He felt this widows pain.  He comforted her and then spoke to her death and said live.  Her son was restored to life and now she could live again.  I know many times we lose loved ones or those dear to us but Jesus still knows how to speak life to our death. Sometimes it’s a work with people (outside of us) but sometimes it’s a work on the inside (a work of the heart).  This leads me back to John the Baptist.

John had given his entire life to preaching the message of the coming Messiah.  He told everyone to prepare the way of the Lord.  He was fearless when confronting the Pharisees and scribes. He knew the Messiah was coming.  He was overcome when he saw Jesus coming and wanting to be baptized.  He said Jesus should baptize him not the other way around. But Jesus always qualifies us.  He loves using you and I to accomplish His wonderful work. We always feel unworthy yet Jesus comes and loves fulfilling the will of His Father and uses us, His body, to complete the work.  He always includes us and never pushes us out. We are always wanted and usable if we will simply yield and believe Him.

So there, at the Jordan River, John baptized Jesus and the heavens opened and the dove descended with a voice from heaven saying “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  Wow!  If I heard a voice from heaven I don’t think I’d ever forget it let alone doubt it, yet sadly, we do.  This same John is now in prison!  He isn’t feeling the miraculous or seeing for himself the power of God at work.  He is sitting in a jail cell alone.  You and I might feel the same way John did.  Maybe even feel betrayed in some way.  Or he may at least be thinking what in the world did I give my whole life for, just to sit in this jail?  God what are you doing?  Why are you doing it this way?  Isn’t there another way?  Even Jesus, when praying in Gethsemane, asked for another way.  However Jesus knew that surrender of our will is always the key to the answer.  For Jesus, His prayer was finished with “Not My will but Yours be done”.  When we are stripped of our comfort zone and pruned of all we think we know we begin to question everything.  We try to make sense of it all in an attempt to comfort ourselves from the pain we are feeling.   So in desperation John calls for some of his disciples and tells them to go to Jesus and ask Him are You The Coming One or do we look for another?  Did you hear it?  They said coming (future tense) not the one already has come.  There is much doubt already present in this question.  It wasn’t even a question of just making sure.  It was an “I think we missed it”, which is full of fear.  But look at what Jesus says.  He tells them to go to John and tell him the things they have seen and heard:  that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

Let’s unpack this a little.  First, Jesus cares when you have questions or doubts and He is all to willing to answer your questions.  The key is you must go to Him directly for the answers.  You will learn that He will always give you the answer.  Now he may use people to help show you things or explain what things mean just as He used the disciples to go tell John the answer but people are never the answer.  Jesus is always the answer.  His words alone are the words of life.  People have good intentions but they can’t speak life to your soul.  Unless their words are His words they remain only that, words.

Now Jesus knew that John knew the scriptures and all the prophecies regarding the Messiah and what He would do.  So Jesus used the Word of God as a confirmation to John by reiterating that He was doing what the prophecies said the Messiah would do.  Likewise Jesus will use His Word to speak to you and tell you who He is.  He doesn’t want us living off what other people have said.  It’s like having faith in faith.  There is no substance to that.  We have faith in Jesus!  We must know in whom we have believed and be persuaded in who He is.  Here is an example.  I can tell you all about my husband.  What he likes and dislikes and how he acts and responds to different situations but unless you know him there is no depth of understanding.  You wouldn’t know if you ran into him on the street simply based off of all the information about him that I gave you.  You may guess but you wouldn’t know him.  You may even recognize him by a description I gave you but you still wouldn’t know him.  I know him so well that when he calls I know him by his voice.  I don’t even need to see him. I don’t have to ask him who is this.  Prove to me you’re my husband.  Or just like how you may recognize a movie star in a photo or on the TV“““` but you don’t know them.  Do you see how silly it is to try to know God by others?  We must know Him for ourselves.  Jesus was reminding John of all the ways he knew Him.

Then lastly, Jesus says this: “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”  Wow!  Jesus is doing it again and speaking to the heart of the matter.  What was really going on was that John was offended.  He was offended that Jesus would allow him to be in prison.  He was offended that everyone else was seeing miracles but he was not.  He was offended that he had given everything and this is what he got in return.  Ouch!  That speaks to me.  I will admit I have been offended by Jesus before too.  I’m ashamed of that.  Because what am I really saying?  I am saying that this shouldn’t be happening to me.  I deserve better than this.  I shouldn’t have to be dealing with this.  I, I, I.  What I hear there is pride.  I’m foolish enough to think I know better than Jesus how things should go or happen.  John’s disciples had battled pride before when they were upset that disciples were now leaving following after John to follow Jesus.  But John knew the answer and said “I must decrease and He must increase”.  Though John knew this, it didn’t make it any easier to have to decrease.  Are you being pruned?  Are you learning to surrender?  Are you having to decrease?  This is where John was.  His purpose was coming to a finish.  He had run the race God had for him.  Being in this place can cause all of us offense.

So what is offense exactly.  Well according to the Lexicon it is to cause to stumble, to be entrapped in.  The Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament say’s this:  Cause to sin, to give up his faith, give up one’s faith and be led into sin, fall into sin; reject, desert, have doubts about; anger, shock.  Have you been there?  Have you ever been angry or shocked with God?  Have you ever doubted Him or fell into sin because you were mad?  Can I try to comfort you?  If John, whom Jesus said “among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the baptist”, can have doubts while in a difficult place, then so will we.  And our precious Jesus will love us and answer our questions and remind us who He is if we will ask.

Beloved, you are in the palm of His hand and He won’t drop you.  You may be in a very difficult place.  You may need this Jesus to speak life into your soul again.  You may be in a prison of doubt and need His words of assurance and comfort.  You may be offended and angry and not understand what’s happening.  I can tell you the answer is Jesus.  He alone was the answer and He alone is your answer.  His words can bring back the hope of your future.  His plans for you are good.  Jeremiah 29:11 says “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Isaiah 59:1 says, “See, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor are his ears to dull to hear.”  He see’s you, He hears you and He will answer.  Let’s lay our offenses down and trust the one who knows the beginning from the end.  Isaiah 55:9 tells us “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways.  And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Instead of being offended by this truth we can be encouraged by it.  He knows what He is doing.  This Savior who was there at creation is there with you now and He will be faithful to complete the work He has begun in your life. (Philippians 1:6)

I know this isn’t a spiritual quote or even one made by any spiritual persons but the truth is the same.  Both Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy said in their speeches that “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”.  If we are in Jesus and we have done our best to follow His instructions, and though it may be painful while we are walking in obedience, than this is truth you can stand on.  Jesus always tells us to fear not.  Why?  Because He knows the end of the story.  He knows what He’s doing in you, with you and for you.  His plans are always so much bigger than ours.  Just as His death was the key to resurrection life for not just himself but to all who would believe, so His plans for you are not just about you but for all those your life will touch.  Let’s lay down our offenses and lay them at the feet of the one who loves us with an all sufficient love and trust the plan He has for our lives.  It will be worth it all!

And Mary Kept All These Things In Her Heart…

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By Jaime Luce

What’s in a word?  I know that normally we say what’s in a name but today I wanted to mull over what’s in a word.  The word that seemed to keep jumping off the pages and onto my eyeballs was “Marvel”.  We even have a comic strip of super hero’s called “Marvel comics”.  Why do we put together the superpower or supernatural with Marvel?  Is it a clue to the depths of our feelings and hopes, or maybe even our faith?  I would venture to say it is.  This should prove to be a thoughtful journey. We begin this journey in Luke chapter 2.

The scene begins with Mary and Joseph traveling for the census where Mary goes into labor and gives birth to Jesus in a stall full of animals.  Just nine months earlier in Luke 1 we see that Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel to tell her she was highly favored and that she was chosen to carry the Son of God who would save His people from their sins.  She showed great faith in declaring “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word”.  And we know she really did believe by faith what the angel said because when Mary went to see her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist, Elizabeth exclaimed to Mary “Blessed is she who believed, for the fulfullment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”  So we know Mary was full of faith and I think it would be safe to say that she was hanging on every word spoken to her by the angel.  I know I would!  I mean this could ruin her reputation.  Her future will forever be altered and not because she chose it initially.  She was chosen and had to face what she believed about God in her innermost being.  We will see later how this was one of the purposes of Christs coming.  But first let’s look at the Shepherds.

In v.8 the scene shifts from Mary, Joseph and Jesus to the Shepherds in the fields just doing their jobs.  The verse says that the shepherds were living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then an Angel appears standing before them glowing!  They were terrified and the Angel tells them not to be afraid because he has good news that will bring great joy.  He then tells them about Jesus’ birth and where to find them.   The shepherds are so astonished they immediately set out to see for themselves.  Then there in the manger they see Jesus just as the angel had said.  So they did what anyone else would do.  They began to tell everyone what had happened to them and what they saw.  V. 18 tells us that all those who heard it “Marveled” at those things that were told to them. It is probably a good place to explain what to Marvel means.  It’s very simple.  It’s to wonder, to be amazed, to be astonished, to admire.  The story of Jesus’ remarkeable birth and all it’s surrounding components should cause us to Marvel! To ponder and think about it and its implications for our lives.  We should be amazed at His love for us that the “Darling of Heaven” would leave His kingdom and come die for us.  And that’s just the beginning!

Fast forward to V. 25 to the day that Mary and Joseph go to the temple to present Jesus to the Lord, as was the custom according to the law of Moses.  There at the temple was a man named Simeon whom the Bible says was a just and devout man and on whom was the Holy Spirit. So now we know he was quite a man!  That day the Holy Spirit directed Simeon to go to the temple.  When Simeon saw Jesus he said “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You  have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” Then there it is again. V.33 And Joseph and His mother “marveled” at those things which were spoken of Him.  I kind of struggled to understand that they marveled at this since they had first both been appeared to by Angels.  Mary to her face and Joseph in a dream.  Then the shepherds come and tell them that angels appeared to them to tell them about Jesus and what He would do.  This is where I really began to think about this word Marvel.  I mean doesn’t it seem like if you have a supernatural experience like that, that you would begin to let it sink in?  It’s as if they were hearing it for the first time, both times.  But wait, it gets better.

Simeon blesses them but then says this to Mary, “Behold this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against”(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  Now we’re getting to it.  That word thoughts means to reason, to question and consider.   It’s deliberation of turning thoughts over in the mind; reckoning by mental questions, opinions, designs, and disputes. The “Word Wealth” in my bible says this: Deliberating with himself, settling accounts, and suspicious because of his state of indecision.  Through one’s acceptance or rejection of Christ, the real thoughts of one’s heart toward himself and toward God become clear.

I hope you’re still tracking with me here.  When we are confronted with Jesus and all His glory this will happen:  We will begin deliberating in our minds, asking questions and having suspicions.  This happens because we are faced with our true thoughts towards God and ourselves.  Maybe Mary kept marveling because she somehow couldn’t believe that something so wonderful could come from her and it wasn’t necessarily her doubting in God but in herself and her calling, or the doubt that she really was highly favored.  We are forced to see what we really believe about Him and Us!  Simeon said this is one of the reasons for His coming; So that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.  How can we believe what God has said to us or about us until we know what we even think about God. Throughout Jesus’ ministry we saw over and over how the Pharisees, Scribes and Saducees thoughts toward God were challenged by Jesus himself.  He told them they didn’t even know Him, that they were of their father the devil!  Whoa, that’s pretty strong stuff.  Our thoughts should not be gained by other peoples opinions and beliefs or the traditions of men but from our own experience and study of His Word.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure even when you have heard from Him, and maybe even supernaturally, that word will be challenged.  Think of Mary.  She had no doubt that the angel Gabriel visited her and told her what and how this all would happen yet I’m sure she was thinking this can’t be right as she goes into labor and there is no place for her to give birth except in the barn with the animals.  She was alone and had no other women there to help her.  Or even years later as Jesus is hanging on a cross!  What did she believe then?  You must realize that if God says it, even when it’s challenged, it will surely come to pass as He said.  So let’s go back to the text.

While they were at the temple a prophetess named Anna prophesied of His redemption.  So in one day they receive two confirmations of who He is.  Then the text jumps ahead to when Jesus is twelve years old.  His family has traveled to Jeruselem for the feast per their custom.  When the feast is ended and they have begun to journey home Mary and Joseph realize that Jesus isn’t with them.  They travel back looking for Him and find Him in the temple where it says in V.46 “Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking questions.  And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.  So when they saw Him, they were amazed…”

Time has passed since their visitations with Angels and of prophecy’s about who He was and what He would do.  Maybe is was time to encourage themselves in their faith about the promises of God.  Maybe they got so used to just living life and raising children that they forgot what was promised about Jesus and His purpose.  I’m not sure why it was so surprising and amazing that Jesus would be in the temple and discussing the things of God after what they were told about His life.  But this I do know.  When we see Jesus at work His nature causes us to question, as it should. When we see Him moving in us or in others we should Marvel and see if we still hold firm to His promises and plans for our lives.

What are our thoughts towards God and Ourselves?  This leads me to one last gem here that struck me.  Let’s not forget our Savior came as a baby.  A baby!  A baby that needs to be raised and trained.  If Jesus needed prophecy’s and confirmations of who He was and what He would become then so do we and so do our children. As we raise our children we must ask the Lord His thoughts and plans for our lives and those of our children so that we can train them up in the way they should go. Jesus was in the temple and our children should be also.  We should be taking them to the house of God to teach them and train them how to hear from the one who knows their purpose.  A place where they can ask questions and listen and learn what thoughts to think towards God and toward themselves.  The world will tell them they are someone else.  They need, no, we all need to know what He says about us.  You may be a Mary, called to be a mother or you may be a Simeon, full of the Holy Spirit and serving at the church.  You may be an Anna, a prophetess to the people of God.  Whatever He has called you to, I challenge you to Marvel. Marvel at His greatness and power.  Marvel at His love for you no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve come from.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says this “Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgement, and righteousness in the earth.  For in these I delight, says the Lord.”

Don’t let the worlds feeble attempts of greatness cause you to marvel.  Marvel at Him, at the one who created it all from nothing and let Him show off His superpowers on your behalf! Jesus is my Superhero and no one else compares!

Jesus Is Passing By

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By Jaime Luce

Is your storm raging?  Are the winds against you?  Have you been in this contrary position to the point of exhaustion?  I have been in this place many times.  That place where though you have seen God move on your behalf and maybe even seen the miraculous, here you are again in the midst of another storm.  Today while getting my morning Starbucks as per my routine, I flipped through my Facebook while waiting for my drink.  I came across the story of a woman who had been through one storm after another to the point of exhaustion and wanting to quit.  Complaining to her father, he puts three pots of water on the stove to boil.  Into the three pots he placed potatoes, eggs, and coffee beans.  Exasperated by the watching and not understanding the daughter complains “what are you doing?”.  Finally the father speaks and asks “what do you see?”.  She says, “Potatoes, eggs, and coffee”.  This isn’t helping and the father explains that all three of these items were put into the same situation but resulted in very different outcomes.  The potatoes, though they went in hard, were changed and came out soft and unable to stand up to the heat.  The eggs, though going in fragile, came out hard on the inside.  The coffee, however, remained unchanged.  Rather than the boiling water changing the coffee bean, the coffee bean used its circumstance to make use of the boiling water, creating something new and useful, coffee.  Then the father asked his daughter, “which one are you?”.  Then as I sat down to have a time of devotions I read the story in Mark 6. Which leads me to today’s muse.

Mark 6 has several different stories to tell but what I found is a deeper thread running through all of them beginning in chapter 5.  Many times we read the stories of Jesus healing people and teaching the disciples but we don’t pay attention to what Jesus was dealing with Himself.  This chapter immediately follows the account of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood and the raising of Jairus’ daughter back to life. Which on a side note has a beautiful picture of Jesus speaking to Jairus. When Jairus hears the words that his daughter is dead Jesus immediately tells him “Do not be afraid, only believe.”  He spoke hope as quickly as the words of death were spoken.  He always has compassion and speaks life to us in our moment of panic.  Okay, side bar finished.  Back to the topic at hand.  After all this happened we see that Jesus went to His own country.  This is so sad to me because He grew up there and no one believed in Him.  They questioned who He was, who taught Him, and how He had done what people said He could do.  His response to this is in Mark 6:4  Where Jesus says, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.”  Can you imagine how He was feeling?  The ones He wanted to minister to most were the same ones He could do the least for, even in His own house.  This can be such a lonely and discouraging feeling when your loved ones do not believe in you.  For most this would lead to all kinds of dysfunction. Thankfully our Teacher always shows us what to do.

Then Jesus who continually cares about the Father’s mission and not Himself began to train the disciples to go out into the ministry on their own.  He gave them power over unclean spirits and told them how to be received and how to be rejected.  These things He knew from personal experience as we just saw.  Once they came back they shared of all they had done, all who were healed, and all they taught.  Then we see while they were doing the ministry, and doing it for the first time alone, they get the news of John the Baptists murder by beheading demanding them to stop to bury John’s body.  All the disciples were dealing with great grief.  You know the feeling.  When you work and work to take care of everyone and in the midst of all your giving you get hard news.  Another storm.  Sometimes things just seem to come wave after wave, crashing over you. We know they were feeling overwhelmed because Jesus says in Mark 6:31, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  Jesus and the disciples were longing for time to recover. Another side bar, remember that your Pastors and leaders too, get overwhelmed and need a break.  Be good to them.  Pray for them.  Encourage them as they are always giving and find it hard to take time to rest and be refreshed.  Side bar closed.

At this point in the story I am desperately hoping that Jesus gets some time alone.  But the crowds of people who always followed them saw where they were going and ran ahead of them so that when Jesus and the disciples got there a great multitude was there waiting for them.  I mean come on, they need a break!  But look at v. 34.  “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.” So He began to teach them many things.  This went on until way in the night.  No one had eaten or had brought food to eat.  Jesus tells the disciples “You feed them”. The disciples not understanding what He meant, questioned Jesus’ words knowing it was impossible.  We are just like them.  We don’t walk in the knowledge that Jesus is the miracle worker to do the impossible and if He asks us to do something, there is a way and He will perform it.  We remain in our pattern of natural thinking.  Jesus on the other hand knew what He was going to do.  He was going to do what He always does.  He tells us to bring Him what we have, that’s all.  Just bring what you have no matter how insignificant.  He will take it as He did, bless it, and then ask you to share it.  He even shows them how to share it.  And in doing this the multitude is blessed and their need is met.

We as humans make ministry too complicated.  Just take what you have and give it to The Lord.  Let Him bless it and then share it as He gives you direction.  It’s that simple.  Jesus said in Matthew 10:8 “freely you have received so freely give”.  Our problem is the same as the disciples had. We bounce right back into natural thinking even after witnessing the power of God, without remaining firm in the knowledge of God’s provision.  Then Jesus told the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side so He could send the multitude away. Following Jesus’ instruction they are immediately forced to deal with another storm in the natural.

The scripture tells us that Jesus was longing for time to pray alone and be refreshed, yet He can see His disciples straining at rowing.  They were struggling to go where they were told to go because the wind was against them.  Let that sink in.  Do you ever feel like “God I’m doing what you told me to do and yet the wind is against me.  I’m struggling to get to the other side like you told me”. Well first can I tell you, me too. We all struggle with the same thing.  The enemy loves to bring confusion to your mind about the very thing that the Lord has commanded you to do. You think you know what the Lord wants you to do but accomplishing it isn’t easy. It seems like maybe we heard wrong because surely if we heard Him correctly this would be easy, right? I really questioned the Lord reading this, this morning and asked Him to show me what I’m missing. In V. 48 it says, “Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them.  Now about the fourth watch (which by the way is 3-6am, so they were straining all night and not making progress) of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.” WHAT?  HE WOULD HAVE PASSED THEM BY?  How could He do that?  Why would He do that?  The one who always has compassion was going to just walk right past them.

Oh my goodness folks.  When He showed this to me I got it.  Jesus was walking without strain on the same waves that the disciples were straining against due to the wind.  The Teacher was again teaching a lesson.  Why do we strain when we know we have heard His instruction? He had just multiplied the food from nothing with no effort of theirs other than to assess what they had and give it to Him.  Yes, there was wind and yes, there were waves which made it difficult and even a struggle to row, yet Jesus was walking on the waves with ease.  They thought He was a ghost and cried out in fear.  So Jesus of course says, “Be of good cheer!  It is I; do not be afraid” and got in their boat.  Here is where we pay attention to what Jesus said.  His first words were “be of good cheer”.  This is our clue when we face opposition.  You see there are different kinds of storms.  The kind that can drown you and take your life if you let it. Then there are the storms that can’t really harm you yet can still cause you a lot of struggle and strain.  This was exactly that type of storm.  The wind pushed against them making it difficult to gain ground. The kind of winds that can wear you out.  And remember they were already tired to begin with.  They had ministered all day and into the night.  That is usually when these kinds of storms come.  You know those kinds of struggles.  The ones that feel as though everything is pushing against you and are not for you.  When there is nothing propelling you forward or giving you the lift you need.  But Jesus told them what the answer was.  “BE OF GOOD CHEER, IT IS I; DO NOT BE AFRAID.”  Do you see it?  The first thing they needed to do was have joy.  Be of good cheer.  Be happy!  God has given the direction. So regardless if it is easy or not we should have joy because in 1 Thessalonians 5:24  we know, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” That’s something to be joyful about.  Remember how Joshua and the children of Israel were instructed by God on how to enter the promised land and take Jericho?  They marched around for 6 days and then on the 7th day and the 7th time around they were to blow the trumpet and let out a great shout.  Why do you think they were to do that?  Well first when you lift up your voice in victory it gives you strength.  It’s the “I can do it!” in our spirits.  That’s why the scripture tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  Jesus stands up in you and you feel the strength and the victory.  You may ask where does the joy come from?  It’s the understanding that we already have the victory.  The knowledge that you don’t have to strain for it.  Jesus said it and that settles it.  It’s what He said to Jairus.  “Do not be afraid, only believe!”  You must walk the walk or fight the fight with joy.  Paul called it the good fight of faith.  Not every storm is bad.  Sometimes they are lessons in victory.

Then, to shout with victory confuses the enemy.  He isn’t sure what’s happening.  The thing he sent for you to struggle against is making you joyful?  How can that be?  A cheerful spirit is a win, win! You go from strength to strength (Psalm 84.7) and from glory to glory. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

Then Jesus tells them “It is I”.  We must remember you never have to fear Jesus or anything He calls you to do. “It is I”.  He is there accomplishing something in you and for you.  All we have to do is call out to Him and He will immediately join us.  He told them “Do not be afraid”.  We always seem to need reminding that there is no need for fear when you have His joy and know it’s Him and He’s with you.  But the disciples did not understand this.   Mark, the author, tells us why they didn’t get it in V. 52 telling us they had not understood about the loaves, because their hearts were hardened.  This means that though He had just performed a great miracle from nothing more than what they had and fed over 5,000 hungry men let alone women and children, the disciples did not have the confidence that Jesus’ provision was enough to cross the wind and waves.  They weren’t able to apply the knowledge of His provision in any circumstance.  Their hearts were hard, like the analogy of the egg in boiling water, they were hard on the inside because of their storms.

Jesus just may pass on by if you don’t invite Him to travel with you.  He was passing by because He was going where He told them to go.  He didn’t even need a boat to get there.  Just like He didn’t need a bunch a food to feed people.  His provision is always enough.  It’s enough even when the wind in against you.  And just like the disciples, once His joy is with you the wind will cease.  You will realize that a storm isn’t a storm if you have His joy.  A storm isn’t a storm when you invite Him on your journey of obedience.  A storm isn’t a storm when the Creator leads the way.

I know you may be facing some very real challenges and the wind is against you, but today ask the One who made the wind and waves to step into your boat and receive His joy.  He is always trustworthy.  The scripture says in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  Let Jesus speak to you before you panic as He did for Jairus.  He has shown us that no matter what is going on He always has compassion on us.  You may be in the boiling water of life.  Which one are you?   The potato, the egg or the coffee bean?  Jesus is passing by.  Don’t miss your opportunity to remain firm ,standing in confidence in your spirit, and change the elements outside of you and let His joy give you victory.

Can you hear me now?

By Jaime Luce

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Are we really listening?  I have seen this quote several times lately and I even shared it on Facebook myself.  It’s a truth that’s worth paying attention to.  It is said that communication is at the heart of most of our relational problems.  Many times we think that the person we have the conflict with just isn’t listening to us.  I mean really have you ever said “You’re not listening to me.”  Or we feel misunderstood.  We say “You don’t understand”.  I think we are all right because we are usually not really listening.  And here is the kicker.  God is saying the same thing to us.  “You don’t understand” and the reason you don’t understand is that ” You’re not listening to me”.

We do have a hearing problem.  It’s so funny how for the most part we think it’s always the other person.  So hang on.  Don’t tune me out now.  This is what I mean.  It really is exactly what the quote says.  So here is another quote for you.listening

You know when we are being formed in our mothers womb we develop our ears before our eyes.  God is so wise.  This is why scripture tells us that the just live by faith and not sight.  Justice is truth with right actions.  This we do because we know it is right regardless of what it may look like on the outside.  And how do we know what the truth is?  By the only source of truth, the Word of God.  You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).  And how do we gain the trust or faith in that word?  Well the scripture tells us that Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.  So what it’s saying is that even though we read the words with our eyes it is our spirit who hears it.  It’s the hearing that affects us from the inside out.  Our sight affects us from the outside in.  If we live from the outside in we will always be shaken by the storms around us but if we live from the inside out we won’t be moved by the surrounding storms.

I’ve also heard it said to think about what you are thinking about which is a right thing to do.  But I submit to you to think about what you are listening to?  If faith comes by hearing we must be diligent about what we hear.  Hearing God was an inherent gift given to us at creation.  God came and walked and talked with Adam and Eve everyday.  This was not only what we were able to do but what we did regularly.  It isn’t some spooky thing to think we can speak to and hear from our creator.  You wouldn’t think it strange for a father to talk to his children and yet so many do.  We have been tricked out of our relationship with the most awesome powerful holy God who happens to be our Papa.  Every little boy likes to have that “my dad is bigger than your dad” or “my dad is stronger than your dad” verbal contest.  Our daddy put that in us.  He wants us to know he’s the biggest, strongest and most awesome there is and then to rely on that knowledge.

So this then brings us to a crossroads of sorts.  Because not only can we hear from HIM but He expects us to listen!  Imagine that.  A parent expecting his child to not just hear but listen and act accordingly.  And this isn’t because He’s mean or a tyrant with a big ego wanting his way but because He’s a good father and he wants to teach us how to grow and be secure in who we are as His children.  The problem is we rely on our eyes and not our ears.  When He speaks He expects us to listen.  To think you can’t hear is a lie.  How can we ever grow up into strength if we can’t hear who we are, where we are to go and what we are to do?  We must receive the truth that we can hear.  Mark 4:24-25 says “Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear more will be given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given;  but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”   This is such a great promise!  If I listen He will talk to me even more.  I can choose how much I hear from him.  But by the same token if I don’t listen He will quit speaking.  Isn’t that how it is with each other?   After a while if the person you keep talking to just doesn’t listen then you quit speaking. We no longer waste our time.    Which brings us back to our quotes.  We must become people who listen in order to learn and grow and not those who mearly listen in order to reply.  When we only want to reply we show just how proud we are in thinking we already know it all and don’t need to be taught.  We must humble ourselves and listen to our father.  Then the great benefit is His promise that faith will rise in us because faith cometh by hearing.  His words are available to us everyday.

If you aren’t reading His words or praying and conversing with Him you really can’t hold Him responsible when you feel confused and don’t know what to do.  We must grow in our faith knowing He has made the way for us to hear Him and know Him.  The faith that comes is not a faith in faith which is nothing more than positive thinking but the knowledge that He will do what He has promised.  It is that truth that allows us to walk by faith and not by sight.  Sight without hearing can be very deceiving.  It’s like those videos that depending on the music in the background can fool you on what you are watching.  If I see a shark in the water with circus music in the background I exect silly clown activity with bumbling around and running into things but if I hear the Jaws song I expect someone to die! We need our ears open and paying attention.  We need to listen with the intent to hear and learn.  Let’s be good stewards of the ears we have been given.  They affect our very spirit.

Today you can rest in the knowledge that you have a good dad who wants to walk and talk with you.  He will give you the guidance and strength for whatever journey you find yourself on.  Don’t choose to walk alone or in fear.  And for goodness sake don’t go listening to all the wrong things.  On this journey pack your bible and take heed to what you hear.  I promise He will speak.