Look

Where you look matters. I found this to be true at a boy scout camp family night where I tried out the slackline. (For any of you, who like me, might wonder what a slackline is, it is like a tightrope, just not so high from the ground. The line is fastened between two trees. It seemed tight, not slack, so I’m not sure where the name comes from. Brave or crazy or young people try to walk from one end to the other without falling off.) The key to crossing the slackline is to pick a point in front of you and focus on that. When you are looking straight ahead, you tend to walk straight ahead and keep your balance.

Freestyle Slacklining Stock Photos And Images - 123RF


I guess the same thing is true when you are riding a bike or driving a car. If you look to the right or left, you will tend to veer toward the direction you are looking.


The analogy to walking through life is obvious. Where you look matters. It affects your direction and your balance and your likelihood of falling or crashing.


This advice from Solomon in Proverbs could have been written to slackline walkers as easily as to those of us on life’s journey: “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” (Proverbs 4:25-27)


Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, repeatedly used a Greek word for “look” that does not appear anywhere else in the Bible except twice in the book of 2 Corinthians, written by Paul. The word is atenizo. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, it’s meaning is to stretch or strain; to be completely fixated; to stare at because fully occupied with or taken by; to observe with great intent and a fastened (fixed) gaze; to fix one’s eyes on some object continually and intensely; to look straight at, to stare at, to keep one’s eyes fixed on. A study of the twelve time Luke pens this word in his recounting of the life of Jesus and the beginnings of the church, while important and instructive, is beyond the scope of today’s post. The definition of the word alone is enough to catch our attention. Is that a description of how we “look” at Jesus? Do we gaze at Him, or just glance at Him? And how can we move from glancing to gazing? I am convinced that the degree of our fixation on Jesus Christ is directly related to our ability to live our lives well.


It starts with that first real look, at who Jesus is and at His invitation to follow Him.


Here is Charles Spurgeon’s account of his first life-changing look at Jesus.


“I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair now, had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm one Sunday morning, when I was going to a place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a court and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there might be a dozen or fifteen people.


The minister did not come that morning: snowed up, I suppose. A poor man, a shoemaker, a tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had nothing else to say. The text was, ‘Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth’ [Isa 45:22]. He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter.
There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in the text.


He began thus: ‘My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, “Look.” Now that does not take a deal of effort. It ain’t lifting your foot or your finger; it is just “look.” Well, a man need not go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man need not be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; a child can look. But this is what the text says.
Then it says, “Look unto Me.” ‘Ay,’ said he, in broad Essex, ‘many of ye are looking to yourselves. No use looking there. You’ll never find comfort in yourselves.’


Then the good man followed up his text in this way:
‘Look unto Me: I am sweating great drops of blood.
Look unto Me; I am hanging on the Cross.
Look: I am dead and buried.
Look unto Me; I rise again.
Look unto Me; I ascend; I am sitting at the Father’s right hand.
O, look to Me! Look to Me!’


When he had got about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes, he was at the length of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. He then said, ‘Young man, you look very miserable.’


Well, I did; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made on my personal appearance from the pulpit before. However, it was a good blow struck.


He continued: ‘And you will always be miserable—miserable in life and miserable in death—if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.’ Then he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist can, ‘Young man, look to Jesus Christ.’


There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that moment and sung with the most enthusiastic of them of the Precious Blood of Christ.”


Jesus Himself reminded Nicodemus of a time when looking had saved people. When the people of Israel had been impatient and complaining and spoke against God and against Moses, God sent poisonous snakes among them. The poison was killing them, so they turned back to Moses and God. God’s remedy was for Moses to make a serpent of bronze and set it on a pole. Everyone who was bitten would look at the serpent of bronze and live. This is recorded in Numbers 21:4-9.

Why is Jesus compared to a snake in the book of John? — Hope Radio ...


Jesus told Nicodemus, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15). Jesus compared Himself to the serpent. He became a symbol of God’s punishment. He became the poison of our sin that was killing us, and looking at Him is our path to healing and to life.


If you haven’t already, take a look at Jesus. Not just a glance. Consider Him. Stretch and strain to see Him and to understand His love. He wants to change how you walk through life.


And once you have looked, keep looking. Fix your eyes and your attention on Jesus and His way. If you get distracted and your eyes wander, look back. He is light and peace.

Joseph Prince Quote: “Look within, get depressed; Look around, get ...


“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5


“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3


Jesus, it’s when we look to You that we really see. Nothing compares to You. There is no path we want to walk other than the one following You. Please help us to keep our eyes and our attention on You and on Your kingdom. Forgive us for being focused on things that don’t matter much and being distracted from Your plan for us. Remind us to point others to Your beauty and Your truth. When we feel darkness slipping in, remind us that gazing at You covers us with light. When we grow weary and lose heart, turn our eyes back to You. Thank You for being the remedy for the poison of sin in our lives. Thank You for Your patience with us. It is because of You and Your name that we can pray these things. Amen.
-Leah

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – A Mighty Woman of God

What’s In a Name?

As I write this, my heart is a little heavy. Maybe what I’m feeling can best be conveyed through an experience I had at work last year. I had forgotten it, but in the last few weeks, it popped into my mind as an illustration for what is on my heart.

I work for an educational publishing company and often communicate with school leaders in the planning of training for their teachers. Our customers include schools of every kind – from big public school districts to small private schools. Last summer, I received an email from the director of a private, Christian school. His name was James. He was responding to an email that I had sent him in error. My email should have been sent to the school principal, who coincidentally had the same last name, but whose first name was Jamie. I hadn’t realized they were two different people. In his email response, he berated me for not emailing the right person and for wasting his time with something that wasn’t his concern. It’s not that uncommon for me to receive an unkind email every now and then, but what made this time different was his closing. This particular email was signed “In Christ’s love, James _________,” title, school name, etc.

Funny. And sad. More sad than funny. An email that was so out of step with something Jesus would say, but signed in His Name. 

His Name. Jesus. Christ. Lord and Master. In His amazing grace, He has loved us, redeemed us, and let us carry His Name. We are called ‘Christians’. We are named after Him. And most likely, the people around us know that we carry that Name. We are called by His Name. We associate ourselves with Him. (Think of those silly t-shirts that say “I’m with ________.) I’m with Jesus.

How often do we stop to really think about what a responsibility that is? I’m carrying the Name of Jesus. I’m letting people know that I represent Him. That’s what name carrying is – it’s a representation of someone. Think about it. I grew up a Garrison. I carried that name, and my parents did a lot of work with me so that I could carry their name well. I represented them and their influence in my life. This is true for every Christian. We represent Christ and His influence in our lives.

The Apostle Paul told us in 2 Corinthians that we are letters read by all men. Let’s check those verses out –

“You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3, ESV)

Do our letters accurately represent the signature they carry? Are we behaving in ways that are consistent with how Jesus taught us to live? Or are we like that email, venting our anger, pride, bitterness, etc.? The book of James issues a similar challenge –

“For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:7-10, ESV)

What I have seen lately on social media concerns me. I see strife, contention, bitterness, pride, and even hatred. That wouldn’t be as surprising or disheartening if it were coming from unbelievers, but I have seen it from people who are carrying the Name of Christ. This makes my heart hurt. I agree with James. My brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be so. Has it become okay for political views to rise above the call to love and humility we find in the Bible? Have we lost our love for the lost and replaced it with a passion for our agenda? Are we filling the world around us with our opinions no matter the cost and then signing the letter of our lives with ‘In Christ’s love’? 

There is a message by Damaris Carbaugh that was given at Revive Our Hearts’ Revive 2017 conference that I love. (The link is below. It’s a 20-minute video and worth your time to watch if you are so inclined.) In it, she talks about how when we misrepresent Jesus, we are really slandering Him. We are lying to others about His character. I remember the first time I heard this message. I was driving to work, and I cried the whole way there. Why? Because I have done that very thing. I have not always represented Jesus well to those around me. I have blurted out my frustration, vented my impatience, belittled people, etc. Those things do not accurately represent the heart of Jesus. My tears that day were tears of repentance. I find myself in that place over and over again, thankful that when I confess my sin, God is faithful and just not just to forgive me of my sin, but to cleanse me of all my unrighteousness.

I would like to share with you these verses from the Apostle Paul –

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 1:1-3, ESV)

In a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Interestingly enough, that word ‘called’ has this definition in Strong’s Concordance – to receive the name of, to give some name to one, to bear a name. Paul is telling us here to be careful to walk in a manner worthy of the Name by which we are called. How do we do that? With all humility, with gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, with an eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Oh, how we need God’s help to live this out! My challenge for all of us this week is  to be mindful that we are representing Christ with our lives, whether accurately or inaccurately. When we misrepresent Him, let’s confess that (and even fix it if we can) and run to the cross with repentant hearts. Let’s be careful about what we choose to post on social media with an understanding that other people are reading the letter of our lives. Let’s live this week with our hearts seeking FIRST God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, and let’s not let ourselves get swept away in controversies that are secondary. Let’s endeavor to lift high the Name by which we have been saved, the Name above every other name.

Jesus, we love Your Name. Yours is the Name that has saved us, and no other Name is as precious as Yours. Please forgive us for the times when we have misrepresented You or made others think less of you because of our words and actions. We know that we need the help of the Holy Spirit to enable us to walk in a manner worthy of Your Name. Please empower us to be humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, and passionate about maintaining unity and peace. Please help us to be quick to see it when we fall short, and give us repentant hearts. Do Your good work in us, and help us not to be so tangled up in the affairs of this world that we miss what is most important to You. Let the world around us know that we are Christians by the love we are displaying for one another. May You increase, and may we become less. Amen.

-Dana

Don’t Strap on Your Sword

“Use your words.” How many times have you heard that said by an adult to a child, encouraging them to stop and work on communicating with words what they are wanting or feeling? It is an effort to discourage whining and fits and even physical assault, to have a conversation and agree on a plan. Sounds great, right? I’ve even seen it work. The child pauses and speaks, the adult responds, and positive movement occurs.

Use Your Words - Home | Facebook


We are living in a time of major discomfort and aggravation. There is an excess of uncertainty and conjecture. And people are using their words. Being physically distant from each other and having strong feelings seems to have created the perfect storm on social media. Words are flying.


For me, this situation has given me the opportunity to practice some truths I had been learning just prior to the onset of the COVID19 pandemic. Reminds me of medical training – first the book work and then the clinicals. Learn the principles and then take them to the real world and apply them.
Back on January 26, 2020, three friends and I started a study of Abigail1. It was a 6 week study, but it took us until March 28 to finish it. There was so much practical truth to absorb! Far too much to recap in detail here, but let me share one nugget that has stuck with me and reminded me to be wise with my responses.


In the Bible account of Abigail, found in I Samuel 25, David was a fugitive with an army of 600 men, living in the wilderness, hiding out from the king. He had done a favor for a rich man, Nabal, who was Abigail’s husband. David sent men to Nabal and asked for him to share some of his food at shearing time, a time of feasting and celebration. Nabal was rude and demeaning. When David heard the report of what Nabal had said to his men, he said, “‘Every man strap on his sword!’ And every one of them strapped on his sword; David also strapped on his sword; and about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.” (I Samuel 25:13) David was mad. He was heading out to answer Nabal with force. Enter Abigail, described as wise and discerning (and beautiful). She heard what was going on, acted quickly and decisively, spoke truth with humility, and diffused the situation, ultimately keeping David from acting rashly and sinning.
Unfortunately, I see myself quick to “strap on my sword” in response to harshness and unkindness. I feel ready to jump into action to defend myself or what I know to be true, and I want my “people” to get their swords out too. Swords are not the answer.

Davids Mighty Warriors - Believe Trust


Solomon, David’s son, penned this advice, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” (Proverbs 15:1-2).


I need to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry,” as encouraged by James (James 1:19).


All the hostility and division swirling around is so disheartening, but it has presented an opportunity to lay aside my pride, stop thinking about myself and how I feel, and pray like crazy for wisdom and compassion. I haven’t gotten that right every time, but I am depending on God’s grace to continue to transform me on the inside so that my words lift Him up and do not drive people away from His love and truth.

May These Words of my Mouth and this Meditation of my Heart be ...


Words have power. Another proverb from Solomon reads, “The tongue has the power of life and death…” (Proverbs 18:21).


Just today, my devotional reading2 was about encouraging one another. The author pointed out that encouragement can take many forms, but that at the center of it, at its heart, is love. “Without it [love], all our attempts at using our words will rot and fall apart.”

Words be seasoned with salt


Oh, God, how we need Your help during this difficult and confusing time. How we need Your Spirit to guide our hearts and lead us as we communicate. Please convict us when we are “strapping on our swords.” Teach us to listen to You. Give us wisdom and discernment. Fill us with Your love for every person. We look to You. You never fail. We pray in the beautiful and powerful name of Jesus, Amen.
-Leah

1 Abigail, Living with the Difficult People in Your Life, by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

2Living Out the One Anothers of Scripture, a devotional from Revive Our Hearts

Trading Prince Charming

Our expectations can get us into trouble. We expect things to be a certain way, and when they aren’t that way, we are disappointed, angry, confused or maybe even disillusioned. I am a person who sometimes struggles with placing unfair expectations on others. I just want them to behave a certain way or do a certain thing. I expect it. And when that doesn’t happen, I find myself frustrated with them, even though I was the one who had the unrealistic expectations.

Where do our expectations come from? There are probably a lot of good answers to that question, but for now I just want to focus one one. Some of our expectations come from what we’ve been conditioned to believe by the world around us. Let me give you an example.

Many of us grew up listening to or watching fairy tales. You know the basic story line – the damsel in distress, the fairy who works her magic, the handsome prince who rides in on his white horse and saves the day, and the happily ever after. If fairy tales aren’t really your thing, just think of a good Hallmark movie. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a good fairy tale (or a Hallmark movie), but I wonder if they have given rise to misguided expectations.

Are we conditioned to expect that when we are in distress, we need a hero to ride in and rescue us from it all? Are we looking for Prince Charming and his happily ever after? We read about a different kind of prince in the book of Isaiah –

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, ESV)

When Jesus took on human flesh, the people of that time had a certain expectation of what they thought the Messiah should be. He would be bold, strong, a warrior, and He would rescue them from an oppressive Roman government. Their expectations of Him caused many of them to not even recognize Him for who He was. Who Jesus really was didn’t match what they had decided He should be, and they didn’t understand. Firm in their inaccurate expectations, many of them demanded His crucifixion. Their unmet expectations caused them to reject the very One who had been sent to save them.

Jesus, Prince of Peace. Not Jesus, Prince Charming. I wonder if sometimes we mistakenly expect Jesus to be Prince Charming. We are in distress, and we look for Him to ride in, rescue us from our mess, and ride us off into the sunset where we can live happily ever after, free of adversity and cares. This is problematic because this expectation isn’t rooted in truth and reality. Let’s look at something Jesus said –

“I have said these things to you, that in Me (Jesus) you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV)

In the world you WILL have tribulation – trials, sorrows, adversity. Jesus isn’t a prince who is going to ride in and make all of our troubles disappear. What He promises is SO much better than that. He has overcome the world, and He gives us peace even in the troubles. Prince of Peace. 

Peace. The absence of panic, worry, stress, unrest. The presence of calm, trust, assurance. The presence of Jesus, the very Prince of Peace. Our Prince brings peace not just for our hearts and minds, but also for our souls. Jesus has made the way for us to have peace with God. When we trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross as the payment for our sins, we gain right-standing with God. 

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (Romans 5:1-2, NLT)

Jesus didn’t come to give us a comfortable, pain-free life on this earth. He came to redeem us from our sin and to promise us eternal peace with God. If our expectation is that Jesus will rescue us from every hardship in this life, we will become disappointed, angry, confused, or maybe even disillusioned. If we base our expectation of Jesus in the truth of God’s Word, we know that He will bring us peace in the midst of our hardships.

I’m trading the idea of Prince Charming for the reality of the Prince of Peace. Prince Charming has always been fictional. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is real. I want to know Him and who He really is, not the version of Him that I expect Him to be. I want to stop expecting Him to take away everything that’s hard, and I want to be found completely full of His peace.  

And the best part? One day, He will ride in on a white horse and take us away to be with Him forever. There will be a happily ever after.

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for He judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on His head were many crowns. A name was written on Him that no one understood except Himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and His title was the Word of God.The armies of heaven, dressed in the fines of pure white linen, followed Him on white horses. From His mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On His robe at His thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” (Revelation 19:11-16, NLT)

Come, Lord Jesus, our Prince of Peace!

Father, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to be our Prince of Peace. Thank You that in Your wisdom, You knew just what we needed – not to be rescued from every earthly hardship, but to be rescued from an eternity apart from You. You sent us the perfect Prince. Please forgive us when in our misguided expectations, we miss the truth of who Jesus really is. Help us to know Him more. Help us to love Him more. And help us to anchor our hearts in the hope that He is coming. Amen.

-Dana

Hitting the Wall

You’ve heard of “hitting the wall,” right? Probably you’ve even hit it a time or two. The expression first became a common part of my vocabulary and my life experience when I was in medical residency. Wikipedia says “hitting the wall” is usually referring to “a condition of sudden fatigue and loss of energy” during endurance sports like running or cycling. That is not quite what it meant to us during residency. We would spend months at a time doing 36-hour shifts every third or fourth night, while still working every weekday and in the mornings every other weekend. The work was not physical, but it was mentally intense and sometimes emotional, and it got to be exhausting. There were times that, after just running on vapors and gritting our teeth to get the job done, we would “crash” physically and/or emotionally. That was our “hitting the wall.”

Hitting the wall - Wikipedia


Recently, the phrase has resurfaced in my world, brought back by the COVID-19 pandemic. A friend of mine was honest and brave enough to share that she “hit the wall,” and had spent most of one day a few weeks ago in tears. I have heard it from others, too. You’ll be going along OK, doing what has to be done, even with joy, and all at once, something triggers a flood of emotion and sadness or anger. Where did that come from? “A condition of sudden fatigue and loss of energy,” indeed.


It’s happened to me several times over the past few months, most recently last weekend. The sadness and darkness hit, and although I kept on going, my joy was gone. Tears stayed close to the surface and slipped out easily. I had hit the wall. Often a good night’s sleep will get me reset, but the gloom stuck around through two nights. On Monday morning, I shared my status with my prayer group, and they prayed. Immediately after our prayer time, my husband brought the mail in from his car where it had been in quarantine. There was a letter for me from a friend. She had included a card with only these words,


“Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well.” Matthew 9:22


Those words felt like a message straight from my Father to me, right at the time when I needed it so badly. Take heart. Take heart, daughter. You are mine. You are well, and you are well because of Me. Have faith.


The prayers of my friends, the words of my Father, the faith in my heart all began to lift me up. I was able to get my feet back under me and move back into the light and joy. I spent some time that morning pondering the words “take heart,” and reading some Bible verses that include them.


The verse on the card, “Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well,” comes from the time when a woman with a chronic hemorrhage got close to Jesus and touched the hem of His robe as He was walking in a crowd. He noticed, stopped, and looked for her. He spoke to her. She was healed. The story itself is beautiful, and the message for us is clear. Go to Jesus. Reach out to touch Him. He will notice. He cares. He wants to speak to you and heal you. Take heart.


Matthew records another “take heart” from Jesus earlier in the same chapter. “Some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.'” (Matthew 9:2). The man’s sins were forgiven, and he was physically healed too! Again, a miracle amazing in its own right, but with a message for us. Sometimes we can’t even reach Jesus on our own. Sometimes our friends carry us to Him. We have to be willing to allow our friends in to our need. We need each other. There will be times we need carried, and times we do the carrying. Either way, get to Jesus. Take heart.


Jesus told His disciples 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.”

Take Heart — Known and Named


And here are a few more “take heart” verses to file away for when you need encouragement:
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14


“Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:23-24


Most likely there will be more hitting the wall. But the good news is that we don’t have to sit there and bang our heads against that wall. We can remind ourselves of the truth that Jesus holds the hope and peace and light that we are lacking. We can let our friends remind us and pray for us. The wall can’t stop us! Read what David sang in Psalm 18: “You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.

psalm18v29 hashtag on Twitter


God, this is such a difficult time. We feel so much uncertainty, and we feel grief, and we struggle. You understand. You care. You are the answer. We thank you for this time because it makes us more aware of how much we need You. We so need You! Will You meet us in our emotions and in our fatigue when we hit the wall? Will You lift us up? I pray for my brothers and sisters reading this, that they would take heart. Thank You for promising that in You we may have peace. May it be true in each of our lives. Amen.

-Leah

Psalm 31:24 NIV "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the ...

Consider the Lilies

I need a shepherd’s hook. My mother-in-law gave me a hummingbird feeder last year, and I don’t have a way to put it out yet. We’re home all the time now, and I would love to have my hummingbird feeder out. The potential of seeing hummingbirds outside my window brings me joy.

So, with this in mind, I stopped at Discount Drug Mart a couple of weeks ago after grocery shopping to see if they might be selling shepherd’s hooks. To my disappointment, they were not. I grabbed a couple of other items I needed and headed to the checkout. I was a little bummed. As I was waiting for the cashier, I spotted a display of Easter lilies. I’m a sucker for flowers these days, and I decided that if I couldn’t have my hummingbird feeder to look at, I would fill the void with Easter lilies. (There’s a reason that stores put things where they do.)

I brought my lilies home and decided to put them on my dining room table, which is where I have been working every day. They are right behind my laptop. I wanted to be able to see them when they bloomed. I wanted something lovely in the middle of my mundane.

Since I’ve been working from home, I have made an effort to take a walk a couple of times during the day when the weather and my schedule cooperate. As I was walking one day (post-lily purchase), a line from a verse entered my mind with lightning speed and out of nowhere. “Consider the lilies.” It was so unexpected that it actually made me smile. Consider the lilies. Here’s the line in its context in two passages of Scripture –

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:27-30, ESV)

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:26-28, ESV)

Anxious. It’s a word that most of us are personally acquainted with. Google tells me it means – experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Did you catch that last part? Something with an uncertain outcome. Right now, that is our address. We are living through something with an uncertain outcome. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy certainty. I like to know what to expect, and I really dislike the not knowing. And yes, the not knowing sometimes has me experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness – anxious.

Jesus tells us here that our anxiety isn’t doing anything for us. We can’t even add an hour to our lives by this emotional work of anxiety. (On a side note, don’t you love how he calls adding an hour to our lives a small thing?) If we can’t even do that, why are we anxious about the rest?

Next comes the object lesson. Consider the lilies. I wanted to know more about that so I looked up the word ‘consider’ in the concordance. It comes from the Greek word ‘katamanthano’ which means to learn thoroughly or examine carefully. Examine the lilies carefully, and learn thoroughly from them.

What does He specifically want us to consider? How they grow. He wants us to learn thoroughly about how they grow. I was still intrigued so I decided to go back to the concordance to see what it said about the word ‘grow’. The word in Greek is ‘auxano.’ It’s used 22 times in the New Testament, and it is translated as ‘grow,’ ‘increase,’ ‘give the increase,’ or ‘grow up.’ I was fascinated to find out that it is the same word that John the Baptist used in this well-known verse –

“He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30, ESV)

Consider how the lilies grow. “They neither toil nor spin.” In the context of what Jesus is saying, they aren’t anxiously trying to grow. There’s no stress involved. They are planted, their roots take in nutrients from the soil, they’re watered by the rain, and they get energy from the sun. They grow. God has made them that way. Their beauty doesn’t come from their intense labor or their own ability to spin fibers into beautiful outerwear. God, in His great care, clothes them. 

Anemone coronaria

In general, lily blooms last about 1-3 weeks. That’s not very long. Here today, gone tomorrow. And yet, God clothes them in more glorious array than even King Solomon with all his riches. “How much more,” Jesus asks, “will He clothe you, O you of little faith?”  You see, even the lilies know not to worry about what they can’t control. They are totally dependent on God to clothe them, to give them growth. We, in our little faith, can learn a lot from the lilies. If God can take care of them, He can certainly take care of us even when we don’t know what tomorrow brings. Jesus goes on to tell us –

“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:29-31, ESV)

Our Father knows. He knows just what we need. Earlier in Matthew 6, Jesus says, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” What a comforting thought – He knows. He doesn’t just know what we need, He also provides it. What should our response be? To seek His Kingdom, to be about His work, to be focused on the things He has called us to. His Fatherly promise to us is that as we do those things, He will make sure that we have what He already knows we need.

I’m so glad I need a shepherd’s hook. If I hadn’t needed a shepherd’s hook, I wouldn’t have gone to Discount Drug Mart that day. If I hadn’t gone to Discount Drug Mart that day, I wouldn’t have purchased Easter lilies. If I wouldn’t have purchased Easter lilies, I may have missed out on a simple truth that my heart needed to remember. But because my Father knows what my heart needs, He providentially arranged all of those small steps so that He could remind me that it has always been Him who has taken care of me.

Today, by His grace, I’m not going to be anxious because I know that my anxiety doesn’t meet my needs. I’m going to ask God to help me to learn thoroughly from these lilies that He is trustworthy and that I can depend on Him. As I seek His Kingdom, He will make sure I have exactly what I need.

Father, You are so good to us. The way You love us and take care of us is incredible. Thank you for already knowing what we need. Thank you that before we even ask You, You know. Help us to learn from the lilies that no amount of mental effort or anxiety will ever get us what we need. Help us to depend on You, to trust You, and to seek Your Kingdom. May Jesus increase in us. Amen. 

-Dana

Called By Name

Today is Easter. Resurrection Sunday. As we reflect on Jesus’ resurrection today, we read of Mary Magdalene, crying beside the empty tomb. As if grief and despair weren’t enough, now her plan to give Jesus a proper burial was impossible. His body was gone. She was unable to make sense of the absent body, present graveclothes, questions of angels. It really was too much. And then someone behind her, someone else asking why she was crying. She didn’t know who it was, but she answered, looking for help to find Jesus.

And then, “Mary.”

Her name. His voice. His presence and love in one word, exploding in one amazing moment of realization and incredible joy.

I want to hear Jesus say my name. When I am filled to overflowing with sadness, when things are not going according to my plans, when He is right there but I can’t recognize Him. There is something about being called by name that breaks through and changes everything.

Jesus told of a good shepherd in John 10:3. “…he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

Jesus Knows His Sheep | Faithful Steward Ministries and FSM ...

Call me by name! Lead me.

This made me curious. Who else had Jesus called by name?

The distinction belongs to only nine people as recorded in the gospels. There are nine reports of Jesus calling Peter/Simon by name. Andrew brought his brother Peter to meet Jesus, and Jesus said, “You are Simon son of John, and you shall be called Cephas (Peter).” John 1:23. Jesus knew him by name and gave him a new name. It was the beginning of a journey that would change everything for Peter, not just his name. In Matthew, Jesus spoke to Peter by name referencing Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Messiah, and He said “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” Matthew 16:17.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32. And after Peter declares his undying loyalty, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:34.

Peter did deny Jesus. Three times. And three times, Jesus gave him the chance to answer the question, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” John 21:15,16,17.

On all of these occasions, the use of his name made the words more personal and more pointed.

Jesus used Martha’s name in tender re-direction. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. There is need of only one thing…” Luke 10:41

He used Zaccheus’ name to call him out of the tree and to tell him that He wanted to come to his house.

In Luke 7, He spoke by name to one of the Pharisees who was smirking on the inside, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” He proceeded to contrast Simon’s false piety and pride with a prostitute’s genuine love evidenced by her sacrifice, courage and humility.

Jesus called Lazarus to life after four days in the grave. “Lazarus, come out!”

He called out Philip’s lack of understanding. “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?” John 14:9 And He acknowledged Thomas’ change from doubt to belief, “Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed.” John 20:29.

When Judas met him in the garden of Gethsemane to betray Him, Jesus called him by name. “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:48

I am sure Jesus spoke to lots more people by name. It was (and is) His way-personal, familiar, direct. He cares about people. He knows them. He invites them to believe and points them toward the things that are real and matter most. He brings them back from death. He encourages them to really know Him. He gives second chances to love and serve Him.

Today I am inspired to listen for the Good Shepherd. I want to hear Him speak to me. By name.

Isaiah 43 New International Version (NIV)

“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel:

‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine.’ “

Isaiah 43:1

-Leah

When God Calls Your Name - Gerrardstown Presbyterian Church