Listening to God

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Funny how God works on you sometimes, preparing you for the future that is to come.  I can look back now and see God at work for months in my life of my family.  I am the person who thinks I have it all worked out for everyone and then God comes along and turns my world upside down.  I have worked on this post before only to be moved to write something else, but now I am here again writing as God has spoken and now I am finally listening.  I have been mentally making plans for the future for one of my daughters.  I really believed that I had it all worked out for her.  I mean the Lord showed me closed doors and everything. Although, I knew the passion in her heart and what she wanted, and I did pray for the right doors to open that would show her the way.  Yet, I never expected that her persistence and prayers would be answered as they have been and my world rocked.  I am listening now God.  I know that I have not been.  Now, I can see how I did not stop to listen to your answers Lord because I was sure of mine.  I turn my ears back to you and to scripture.  James 1:1 reminds me, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”.

These are powerful words that we forget in our daily lives especially – “quick to hear”.  As I strive to be a better listener to the students I work with, the adults who are my colleagues, and the world around me, I have to be reminded that it is most important to listen to God and hear him when he speaks even if those words are coming from the mouth of my own child.   Scripture is a keen reminder to me of how God’s people have chosen not to listen to him.  So many of these times his people failed to listen and suffered the consequences of failure to be “quick to hear”.  Did I fail his test?  Was he or is he testing me?  “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” are words from Deuteronomy 13:3.  These words are a solemn reminder to me that I have to trust the Lord with all my heart and soul.

About a month ago this quote from Kyle Chandler showed up on my daily calendar, I am not sure why at the time I took a picture of the quote, but as God rocked my world this last week my thoughts went back to this quote.  Not for me but for the persistence of my daughter to get what she wanted for her future.  Now that I have been forced to listen to God and allow my daughter to walk her own path and not the one path that I was choosing for her,  I turn to God in constant prayer that will cause me to listen more intently to his words as he prepares not just her future but also mine.  It is important to me now that I have had my world rocked to stop and see the plans that God is laying for my family and that includes me.  I pray that the Lord hears my prayers as Psalm 61:1 states, ” Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;”, and I constantly humble myself as Romans 12:12 reads, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  I humble myself and pray and listen so that my prayers might be heard as John 9:31 reminds me, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” I am listening now Lord in order to do your will.

Closing Verse: ‘But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,’  Acts 4:19

Challenge:  Are you listening to God or making your own way?  My challenge to you is to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” and find comfort in God’s plan.

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A Christian New Year: Meeting Jesus During Holy Week.

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“He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:6)

Looking back over the Lent Season and more specifically Holy Week, I am reflecting on my relationship with Jesus.  This time of year is a like the new year, I realize that I need to tend to my relationship with Christ in order to grow stronger like the mustard seed in Jesus’s parable found in Luke 13:19, “It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”.  How did I tend my garden during Holy Week.

Holy Week began with Palm Sunday the reminder that Christ humbly entered into a week of suffering both knowing and understanding what the end would bring.  Jesus entered Jerusalem as a humble King but left crucified on a cross.  How should we as Christians reflect on this week and apply it to our lives?  Palm Sunday was a day I spent in reflection of the beauty around me, my family, and the life that God has blessed me with.  I was reminded of Christ as my King and Savior.  Also, sadly on this past Palm Sunday I was reminded of the violence that so many Christians suffer around the world just as Christ suffered to bring us to salvation.  The violence around the world and especially Palm Sunday must cause God to grieve for his people and his people must wonder what the future will bring as we move through Holy Week during such a volatile time in our world.  Palm Sunday reminds us that Jesus is peaceful and bring peace to our lives even in the midst of chaos.  As Holy Week begins my focus for the week even in my busy life is the walk with Jesus through this week.  I read his entry to Jerusalem and paused at Mark 11: 7-8, “And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.”  Palm Sunday for me was a day of reflection with little distraction from tending my garden.

Each day since Palm Sunday, I tried to understand Christ’s walk to the cross, and the lessons he taught the disciples and left for me during these last days.  He was preparing them for what they were going to witness in order to share the Gospel moving forward after the crucifixion, and he was preparing his people for a future with a resurrected Savior.

Monday, as I worked, I remembered that on this day Jesus entered the Temple in Jerusalem to find practices that where not for a house of the Lord.  Jesus drove out those who bought and sold in the Temple by overturning the tables.  He spoke in Matthew 21: 13, ‘He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”  Jesus did not show anger according to the disciples, yet spoke the truth of what he saw happening in the Temple.  He protected God’s house.  As I worked this day, I remembered Jesus and this frustration and walked through the day with Jesus as my focus.  Hold your tongue, speak truth, show love is my focus for this Monday of Holy Week.

The next day, Tuesday,  Jesus was met the Temple leaders who tried to question his authority.  Christ spoke and taught this day in parables as he spoke to the leaders and prepared his disciples for his coming death and resurrection.  As I read the lessons Jesus taught on this Tuesday before his death, I search for the lessons these parables can teach me today.  One parable is the parable of the Two Son’s (Matthew 21: 28-32) which illustrates Jesus rejection by his own people.  The lesson that Jesus has taught me today is to be careful and remember to humble myself before God and ask for forgiveness of my sins.  I tell students that their character is what they do when no one is looking, but I must remember that God is always watching and Jesus has reminded me of that today while reading the parables he taught on this Tuesday before his death.

On Wednesday, Judas conspires to betray of Jesus, yet in the evening Judas rebuked Christ for allowing Mary to wash his feet.  I try to get inside of Judas’s mind.  What was he thinking?  Did he love Jesus?  Was the money worth this betrayal?  Was he considering backing out?  I have never heard the term “Spy Wednesday”, but as I researched some of this Wednesday of Holy Week, I found this reference to this day.  Matthew 26: 14-16 clearly speaks of Judas’s betrayal, ” Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.”  This makes Wednesday a strange day to walk through.  Knowing what Christ knew about his future, about Judas, yet continuing to love through the pain he must have been bearing this week.  I find myself in prayer and thankful for the sacrifice Jesus has made for me.

Maundy Thursday has arrived and Jesus is preparing for his Last Supper and the final directions for his disciples.  He breaks bread and washes their feet showing his servant example to prepare the way for their ministry. John 13:5 shares Christ service to this disciples, “Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”  He poured out his love on his disciples knowing the outcome he faced within hours.  This Thursday I find myself focussing on God’ beauty around me.  The world he has created for me, yet his greatest gift he sacrificed for me.  I don’t stop and focus on Christ enough and show his love to others.  I fail to wash the feet of those around me as the example Jesus left for me.

Good Friday or “Black” Friday is here.  Why is it Good because Jesus suffered the unthinkable death and descended into hell to wash us clean.  He suffered so that we might not.  Jesus brought the “Good” back to his chosen.  He chose to suffer so that we would not have to even though we are more  deserving of this death.  I am humbled at his gracious love for me.  I can not get enough of the beauty around me and the handiwork of God.  As I watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, I know he painted a beautiful picture for me that I did not deserve.  I am extremely humbled by his mercy.  So many years ago this Friday ended as described in Matthew 27:51, ” And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.”

The darkness of Saturday has fallen as Jesus death is real. His final words still ring in their ears and as I read them this morning they linger in my thoughts all day.  ‘When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’  John 19:30.  It is hard today to really imagine the pain those close to Christ must have endured this day and the separation that Christ endured for us from his Father.  But the pain for his mother is something I can not imagine.  What she must have suffered watching him die on a cross before her eyes?  Even though Mary knew he was special and in God’s hands, the pain must have been crushing for her.  Saturday must have been a dark day for Mary as she grieved the loss of her first son.  This Holy Sabbath for the Jews must have seemed empty for many.  I know I feel the emptiness of this day, but long for the Glory Easter morning will bring.  A sense of renewal once again is coming.

Easter morning is here and I wake to a sense of peace and rest.  I walk through the day thinking of his sacrifice and glory.  I am indeed saved because Matthew 28:6 tells me, “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.  Come, see the place where he lay.”

Closing Verse:   “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Challenge:  Have you stopped to humble yourself before the Cross?  The cross which bore your savior so many years ago.  Even though Holy Week has passed don’t forget to stop and tend your garden.

Please share if lead…

#Redemption

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If you were following the NCAA tournament you could not have missed the redemption tour message from the Carolina Tarheel Basketball Team.  After the final game with the Redemption tour was complete, I started thinking about what the word redemption means.  What did it really mean to those twelve young men playing basketball.  Redemption is defined in two ways  the action of regaining or gaining possession of something or clearing a debt and the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.  Both apply to this years National Champions, but how does it apply to our lives?

During the Lent season, many Christians have turned their hearts toward Jesus and his sacrifice and humiliation to provide “the way” to our Father and everlasting life.  Hebrews 9:12 defines Christ’s redemption of us, ” he entered once and for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”  As I focus on discipline and sacrifice during Lent,  I compare my life to the redemption tour.  I reflect on the ups and downs of my life -both the joy and sin.  I see my failures and the hurt this causes those I love and most importantly Christ, yet in the end I know my debt is paid and I have been saved by Christ and one day I will live with him in heaven.

One part of the redemption definition focuses on being saved from sin.  This Easter season we remember the sacrifice that God made by providing his only son, Jesus, as a living sacrifice in order that our sin might be washed clean.  1 John 4:19, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”   With Christ partitioning for me before the throne, my sins are not forgotten but heaped upon Christ in order that I might be presented as a bride in her white gown.  Much like the team that has made numerous mistakes and their coach graciously and humbly accepted as his fault in order to put forth a complete team the next time they hit the court.  This sacrifice brought them to glory and a National Championship.  I long for my championship and my home in heaven with Christ.

The redemption definition also includes regaining or gaining possession of something or clearing a debt.  Christ as clearly paid our debt with his blood, his redemption for us.  We are reminded in Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” By paying this debt he has allowed me to gain possession of a heavenly home with him one day, my championship. As the Tarheels watched the clock tick down to zero, they could feel their redemption for all that had been lost in the last championship game, but this loss had now been regained.  Just as we were once lost we now are found in Christ, our shepherd, so that we might gain his glory through his redemption for us.  This gift is defined in Romans 3:24, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”.

Closing Verse:  “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” Ephesians 1:7

Challenge:  Have you stopped to discipline yourself and reflect on the sacrifice of Christ this Lent season.  As Holy Week comes to an end turn your focus to Christ’s gift of salvation through the cross.

Please share if so lead.

 

Watching Your Game Film

IMG_0983Does you “game film” matter?  I recently heard a prominent educator, Baruti Kafele, use this terminology to refer to educators taking a deep look at how they treat their students each day.  As I reflected on my daily life as an educator, I saw a deep comparison.  As the March Madness NCAA Tournament wraps up this week, I began to really look at some of the last teams – Those Final Four!  What characteristics do these great basketball teams have?  They have a leader, a coach, but that coach is usually humble and gracious and always shoulders the burden of blame. This coach does not just show the way but lays the ground work for his team to follow.  As I pondered the role coaches play in the life of their team,  I realize how much a coach symbolizes the love Christ has for us.  Christ is our coach who came to earth to pave our path to salvation. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” ‘1 Peter 1:13-16.  Christ preparation for our salvation included the disciples (“And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17), parables (“This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:13), and a living example of how to win over Death (“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6).  If we follow this path we are National Champions with a spot in heaven with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now back to my question – Does your game film matter?  Does it matter how we lived today, yesterday, and even last year.  Do we stop and look in the mirror each day and reflect on our own life?  Do we live a life that is an example of the life Christ lived?  Are we striving to live our life like the example our Coach has provided, Christ?  As I watched these teams battle together, win and lose together, I caught a glimpse into God’s team.  I believe Christ is cheering us on from heaven, always praying we will follow the game plan he has laid for us.  This plan of prayer, scripture, and refection of our lives.  As we review our game film do we see Christ?  Do others see Christ?  This is the purpose in reflecting on our lives, checking our game film, to ensure we are following the game plan and example Christ has provided for us.  1 Peter 2:21 shares Christ example this way, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

Christ is a coach for the church.  We have to work together even with all our differences and opinions to bring everyone on the team to the final glory of winning that Championship Game. I want to play on God’s team, but that means I have to watch my game film each and every day.  I must stop to pray, read scripture, and reflect on my day to see that I am following the path that Coach Jesus has paved for me. 1 John 5:4 speaks of victory, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”

Closing Verse: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3.

Challenge:  Take out a mirror and look at yourself.  Do you see an example of Christ looking back at you?  Rewind and reflect on your game film.

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