The Lord will again choose Jerusalem to be his special city. Judah will be his share of the holy land.
Zechariah 2: 12 ERV
Lord, we have been faithful in returning, but look at this mess! Seventy years, Lord, perhaps it would be better if there was nothing left.
Lord, I didn't ask for this job, you know. I was out there watching sheep, minding my own business. Are you sure I'm the right guy for the job? Public speaking definitely isn't on my resume.
1 Listen to this, Israel. God is calling you to account—and I mean all of you, everyone connected with the family that he delivered out of Egypt. Listen!
My name is Alice, and I'm a recovering Netflix junkie.
Our kids had been telling us for a couple of years we needed to get Netflix. Finally, when we got our new smart tv after Christmas, Tom and I took the plunge.
Lord, we have totally screwed up, all of us. What a mess we've made of things!
12 That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me all your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, mourning. 13 Let your remorse tear at your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful. He is not easily angered; he is full of kindness and anxious not to punish you.
Exhortation is an old word, perhaps a word we don't use much any more. Nevertheless, it's meaning is far from lost.
exhort /ɪgˈzoɚt/ verb
exhorts; exhorted; exhorting
: to try to influence (someone) by words or advice : to strongly urge (someone) to do something
Dear Reader, lately I've been reading more and more about the effect of our words. I know, not a new topic. But one thing has added to my thinking, and it's the effects of our words, good and not so good, on ourselves. Will you join me in digging a little deeper?
Dear Reader, I can't tell you how much joy it gives me to write for and to you. My goal with each post is to give you a little something to smile about, or to reflect on. Sadly,it wasn't always this way.
My poison pen found its voice early on. It began at recess, in 5th grade. I crafted the letter, promoted its virtues, and solicited the signatures. We didn't like our music teacher, and thought our classroom teacher, Mrs. Moore, would be much better. My classmates and I didn't even hesitate in addressing it to the superintendent of the school district.
Our (my) letter found its way to the principal's office. Since my name was signed, boldly, proudly, and first, guess who was invited in for a chat.
The effects, and consequences, of that first poison pen experience didn't deter me from being an enthusiastic participant in the circulation of "Slam Books" a couple of years later. Middle school girls can be the meanest.
And then something changed.
Attending a Youth for Christ rally in 9th grade, the Lord spoke to me in a new way.
Our God, you bless everyone whose sins you forgive and wipe away.
God began chiseling away at my heart. It took a while for Him to make me understand how a gift can become a curse.
So I confessed my sins and told them all to you. I said, “I’ll tell the Lord each one of my sins.” Then you forgave me and took away my guilt.
As young marrieds, Tom and I sought pastoral counseling in the midst of a family loss. One of the pastor's suggestions was to write letters to all the people we felt had caused us anguish.
When we returned with the letters,he put them in envelopes and sealed them, without reading them. The written purge had allowed harsh thoughts and feelings to come to the surface. Healing was something else altogether.
The pastor wasn't finished with the letters quite yet. He told us we always have a choice about our words. We can put a stamp on the envelopes and send them to the recipients. We could pull them out to read over and over again. Or we could destroy the letters.
The pastor told us that neither sending or destroying the letters, guaranteed the death of our words. We could always rewrite them.
What seemed like a somewhat harsh lesson, taught me the power of our words, spoken or written. The Lord had chiseled out a big enough hole in my heart to begin using His gift for His glory.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
How fun it has been to discover the joy of exhortation over the pleasure of denigration. I love our weekly visits, and also sharing encouraging texts, notes, and letters.
To be completely honest, Dear Reader, sometimes my lack of online presence is my attempt to keep my poison pen in check. For me, social media can be a powerful temptation to spew venom once more. (That's not a social media criticism, just a chink in my personal armor.)
Dear Reader, do you have a gift you have to guard against becoming a curse? What ways has God shown you to reflect and share His glory?
I've become very spoiled in the kitchen. Cooking and dishes are definitely not high on my list of priorities these days. Once in a while there are pots and pans that need the kind of attention a dishwasher can't provide. Yikes! Thankfully, Tom usually does the scrubbing.
I've regaled you with how much I enjoy my morning oatmeal,nuts and all. Unfortunately, healthy habits can come with a price, like scraping the bottom of the pan. I love my oatmeal, but honestly, I think the slime it leaves could be used as wallpaper paste. This is one pan Tom chooses to leave to me.
Thanks to John Maxwell, I've come to appreciate my silly systems. Systems like letting the oatmeal pan soak before scraping or scrubbing.
I think God, perhaps, is a systems guy, probably the creator of systems. He certainly has a plan for seeking and saving His children.
Look at it this way. If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one? And if he finds it, doesn’t he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who stay put? Your Father in heaven feels the same way. He doesn’t want to lose even one of these simple believers.
There seems to be nothing more important to the Lord than bringing each of His sheep into the fold. That's you and me, Dear Reader!
From time everlasting, God had made a choice and created a system to make that happen.
God chose to give His creatures free will. He knew it came with dangers to us and potential rejection of Him. Which of us doesn't have regrets over a choice we wish we had made differently? How often have our choices broken God's heart?
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
But God loves all of His children, no matter what our choices are, no matter how deep, how stuck, how stubbornly we cling to the bottom of the pan.
Sometimes God's system includes soaking us in His warm, soothing love. Other times, He nudges us to remove stains of sin from our lives.
And if He absolutely has to, if the stains are so deep that the pan is no longer serviceable, He pulls out the steel wool. Our Heavenly Father would rather inflict the temporary pain of a stiff scraping and scrubbing than throw us in the trash.
God knows scraping the sin from our lives can be a painful process. He also knows we can't do it ourselves. Giving us free will can mean rejecting His help, so He developed a system to get us into the dishwater.
God sent His only Son to take our sins on Himself, to be scraped clean so our original value is reclaimed. Our value to ourselves and others.
Our value to God doesn't change, He loves us from the beginning, through the middle, no matter how messy or stained, until the very end. In His wisdom, He understands that if we don't recognize and accept our personal value to Him, it will remain a challenge to choose Him. We must be made clean.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments.
Dear Reader, have you experienced the suds, or maybe the scraping, of the Lord lately? I don't know about you, but sometimes the cleanliness of His grace makes me cling even tighter to that which needs to be scrubbed away.
How do you get out of the sink? How do you regain your personal sense of value, and reclaim your position as a child of the King?
Dear Reader, thank you for joining me on the road to the cross. My heart leaps to share the old, old story that remains new. Please accept my humble accounting of the treacherous path Jesus and His followers took to the cross, and gloriously beyond. (Road to the Cross will continue during Monday visits this Lenten season.)
Can it get any worse? They've killed my Master.
They tortured and humiliated and killed him. All that's left is this final task. And yet, my pace slows with every step, the heaviness of my spirit weighing down my feet.
Can I do it? Can I complete this final act of service to my Lord?
There's the tomb, but hesitation holds me in its grip. The stone of this neighboring tomb feels cool and smooth beneath my hand. Let me rest, just for a moment, rest from heartbreak and weariness of soul.
He walked on the water. He healed the sick, and even raised Lazarus. He fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes. Has he really left us?
Where are the miracles now?
God, help me do what must be done. He was disgraced in death. Give me strength to to restore some honor to him.
Now on the first day of the week Mary Mag′dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
How could this have happened? The soldiers rolled a stone across the door to the tomb. Who could be so cruel?
We must find him!
Where are the disciples? Why aren't at least Peter, James, and John here?
2 So she ran to Simon Peter and the other follower (the one Jesus loved very much). She said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”
Where are they going? We have to find him! How could they just leave like that? I must find him! But where to look? Where do I begin?
Our Master taken. John and Peter abandoning hope. Am I to search alone?
11 Mary Magdalene stood crying outside the tomb. She was still weeping, when she stooped down 12 and saw two angels inside. They were dressed in white and were sitting where Jesus' body had been. One was at the head and the other was at the foot. 13 The angels asked Mary, “Why are you crying?”
Angels and gardeners. I am trapped, trapped between heaven and earth, and all I long for is to see my Savior again.
He gave me everything when I had nothing to offer him. And now I am blinded to all this world holds.
16 “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned toward him.
How can this be? I saw his horrible death, his broken body taken from the cross. But He lives! My Savior lives!
They're never going to believe me! Faster, I need to run faster. He lives! My Savior lives! I've got to tell them.
It was all true, everything He told us, everything we could not believe because we did not understand. But it's all true: my Savior lives!
"Peter! John! He lives! The Master lives! I saw Him, spoke to Him! He told me to come tell you that HE LIVES!
Come, I will show you!"
What's your hang-up? What gets under your skin and drives you to distraction? Or worse, what's that thorn in the flesh that sometimes drives you to the brink of despair?
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
It's okay, Dear Reader, everybody has SOMETHING going on. Truly.
Being as tall as my third grade teacher, and most teachers after that, (not to mention the boys) plagued me all through school. To this day, I refuse to purchase "Jolly Green Giant" vegetables. 'Nough said. (There's not enough space here to delve into my REAL hangups.)
Good old Paul, he cuts right to the chase, doesn't he?
Each of us must bear some faults and burdens of his own.
Here's the cool thing, Dear Reader. Paul is in the middle of the mess, too!
19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
We're talking Paul here, people. You know, the Big Kahuna! This is the guy who is said to have spread the gospel the most in the 1st century. And this guy referred to himself as an "ambassador in chains".
The big news is this; are you ready? Listen closely: God knows we're not perfect. God knows it and He still chooses to love us. He chooses to love us so much He would allow His Son to be sacrificed so we could live victoriously now, and with Him later in eternity.
I think it comes down to this,we're all ambassadors in chains. We all have something that encumbers us. All we have to do is call upon our Savior, and He will break whatever the chains are that bind us.
Writing the church at Ephesus, Paul assures them that the barriers,the brokenness no longer matter. The Son of God cast it all aside. Jesus cleared the field so the cross would stand firm, drawing all people to Him.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.
Divisiveness is not new. It must have set many Jews' teeth on edge for Paul to preach a messianic message to Gentiles. They (the Jewish people) were God's chosen people. What right did they (the Gentiles) have to heaven?
But here Paul is, writing to a Greek city about an equal opportunity Savior. And he's not just writing about the availability of Christ.
11 This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him.
Can we imagine, dare we embrace, the notion that our Savior is not only seated on the right hand of God, He also longs to be actively engaged in our lives. We can come to Him boldly, with no hesitation. Our past, our present, our failures don't matter to Him.
And because they don't matter, we can have confidence in our access to the "the immeasurable riches of his grace" (Ephesians 2:7 RSV). We are no longer aliens or slaves with no redemption in sight. I love the way the writer of Hebrews puts it:
So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need.
We've kicked off the new year, Dear Reader. I'm not big on new year's resolutions, however, perhaps it is a good time to claim, or claim again, all Christ died for me to have. More than that, to resolve anew to share in the claim with all of God's children.
Dear Reader, I'd love to hear how you are claiming and sharing the riches of God's grace. How are you most comfortable sharing grace? What about uncomfortable ways? How do you remain confident that God is in all of them?
Hi, my name is Alice. A Way with Words is about sharing faith,
fun, & encouragement. Thanks for stopping by! I hope you find a little something to take
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