He wakes my ears to hear him every morning.

Isaiah 50:4 (NASB) says:

He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
The Lord God has opened My ear;
And I was not disobedient
Nor did I turn back.

This is just one of many scriptures that validates my faith that The Lord desires a relationship of personal communication with me. When I awaken, I never awaken alone; He is with me. And the quiet of the morning, before the day fully stirs in and around me, it is an ideal time to listen for His voice. His voice is there for the one who says, “I am your disciple. I believe you want to lead and teach me. I am ready to obey.”

The God who created the universe and the whole world around you, who created you, has the power to open my ears and yours, and it is His will to do so. A true disciple, who believes God wants to teach him, will not use the excuse that there is not enough time, for God knows how to make the most of even a few moments of undivided attention offered to Him in faithful response.

He awakens me morning by morning, to listen. He awakens YOU morning by morning, to listen, to be taught, to learn, to know Him. Let none of us who bear His name turn back from this precious gift!

Jesus Insists On Serving His Own

“Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, ‘Lord, do You wash my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Never shall You wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.'” (John 13:5-8, NASB)

I have heard good sermons on this passage from John, most of which come to the conclusion — and rightly so — that Jesus used this moment as a teaching illustration of how we should humble ourselves and serve one another. Yet I think there is an overlooked message here, the one that would have been most likely the immediate impression that Peter would have experienced in that original context of that moment: that unless you allow The Lord to come close in your lowest needs and moments, and let Him serve you like a menial servant to cleanse and wash and nurture you, you will not truly share life with him.

The tendency in all our various concepts of God is to keep him at a bit of a distance, which seems only right considering his greatness and holiness. He is God, we are human, and this truth easily becomes a stumbling block when God calls us close. Yet the Lord has given us countless indications that he is near, that he knows our thoughts, cares about the most intimate details of our lives.

no images were found

I think Peter’s soul absorbed this incredible concept as he watched Jesus wash his feet: “You, Son of God, insist that I must let YOU serve me, even menially and tenderly, in the ways only a servant or close intimate friend would do. This is a condition of our relationship. I already know I must honor and serve you as the Son of God, AND now you say I must offer my lowest needs to you to touch, to cleanse, to bless, to heal. It’s all or nothing. I cannot keep you at a distance. I cannot say to myself, this is too small or too dirty to invite The Lord into. To have any part with you at all, I must see you also in this way, as my friend who serves me in the most humble of moments.”

Ponder that, dear children of God, and let any barriers in your mind fall away so Jesus may love you in all the ways He longs to.

Living By Faith

Based on what we see and hear at our counseling table, it seems that many Bible-reading, church-going people do not really live by faith. Yes, they clearly believe IN Christ; but their habitual behavior reveals that they do not live by faith in Emmanuel, the Christ who dwells with them.

One who genuinely believes they are living life in the very presence of God will adjust their behavior accordingly. The flip side of that truth is that person who repeatedly gives way to behavior that is unChristlike, particularly in a marriage, is revealing that one of two things is going on: either they have no faith that God is with them, and is a personal witness to their behavior; or they DO know it, and have no fear of God. Either one is the equivalent of not living by faith. For God does say he is present with us, and he even knows our thoughts.

God does not ask us to earn His presence; it is a gift of the new covenant in Christ. But he does ask us to “live worthy” of this awesome gift. Living worthy is not about being perfect, it is about living like you really believe it, and adjusting yourself accordingly. To really live by faith is to adjust your behavior and your very thoughts to what is pleasing to Emmanuel, God With You.

You didn’t earn God’s choice to live with you, and you can’t make Him go away. If you sin, you sin in His presence. If you have permission to keep doing what you do, then you love yourself (and your choices) more than you love him. Once when God was addressing David’s sin with Bathsheba, God described it this way: “You despised me.” (2 Samuel 12) He made it most personal. It wasn’t just that David sinned; he behaved in a way that said to God, “I don’t love you; you don’t matter to me.”

Please use your faith to live a life worthy of God’s love and gift of himself to you. Please love him with your choices and your very thoughts. Then it can be said that you are a person who lives by faith.

 

Freedom

It took me awhile to figure out that God will bless me more with my freedom than I can.

I used to guard my freedom carefully. To begin with, I avoided trying God for years because I feared it would mean the loss of all freedom. Then when I surrendered to God’s love, I quickly saw that he blessed me way more in exercising his freedom to direct my life than I could ever imagine or accomplish.

Yet even after years of knowing God, and with a history of being blessed by him, I STILL wrestle with giving up my freedom; I am sometimes slow to exchange it for his choice for me. How foolish, how futile…. and the most effective way to rob oneself. Without exception, I have always regretted choosing my way over his; and I have NEVER regretted choosing his choice for me.

Jesus knew we would face this struggle. Indeed, as a man in a flesh suit like us, I believe he experienced this struggle as well, which could well be one reason why he carefully said to his disciples before going to the cross:

“Remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love.”  John 15:9-10

When he says, “you will remain in my love,” he isn’t saying he will keep loving you because you obey him! He is saying, “I want you to experience all the fullness of my love for you. I want my love to be the foundation and definition of your life. I want you to LIVE there.”

I can identify with something of this in how I feel about my own children. I loved them way more than I could effectively put into action, because as they grew up they increasingly had freedom of choice, and sometimes they made choices that subtracted from all that I wanted for them out of the fullness of my love. Of course, my choices would admittedly be imperfect and perhaps not all wise or even best for them, but we can be sure that the Lord’s choices for us are always those things. I say it often: God’s will is His love coming to you.

You couldn’t spend your freedom on anything better than that.

 

Olympic Effort

The London 2012 Olympics are in full swing, and in our evenings hubby and I often watch some of the athletes compete for their gold, silver and bronze medals. Along the way we learn of what it has taken for them to even come to the moment when they can compete for the prize. It begins with an athlete making a decision that will consume four years of their lives, during which their only focus can be on conditioning and training themselves to excel in their sport. It is a decision that affects their whole family, and the cost is always great. Once the decision is made, every priority of life is ordered around the goal to win that prize. They spend enormous sums of time and money in training and arrange everything about their daily lives in a way that serves the goal of winning that prize, to be the greatest athlete in the world. It takes tremendous dedication in the face of many obstacles, not the least of which are discouragement, weariness, and temptations to indulge in things that derail or defeat the athlete’s goal.

Whether you approve or disapprove of the idea of one investing everything in a goal that is ultimately for personal glory, it is hard not to admire the dedication, sacrifice, self-discipline and sheer hard work of such a person.

Oh, that God’s people would make such olympic efforts to love Him with all their might!

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  Mark 12:30

Seeds of Light

In recent days of studying my daily Psalms, two verses about light have captured my attention and given me joy. First, Psalm 97:11:

Light is sown like seed for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.  (NAS)

The image that comes with this is that of the Lord planting seeds in my garden — i.e., my life — of light and gladness (joy) when I walk in his ways. To say that seeds are being planted is different than saying He just bestows light, because a seed is something you plant today to enjoy on another day in the future. Thus, when I walk in his ways I can expect a crop of light and joy to bloom in my life in the days to come.

The next verse is Psalm 112:4:

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. (NIV)

Again, this tells me that as I walk in the ways of God (only by the help of the Holy Spirit, of course — as I always say, “my choice, His power”) there will never be darkness for me. Even in darkness, I will have light.

What is that darkness look like? It is experienced in many ways; some of which are uncertainty — fear — hopelessness — anxiety — being clueless — aloneness — a drawing into sin.

My take-away from these verses is that I don’t have to figure out how to overcome darkness. If I simply choose my way of being according to God’s righteous ways, he makes sure that the darkness will never overcome me.

In short, if we walk with the Light, we will always have light.

Just Him and Me

I often think of David, out in his fields with the sheep, on the back side of nowhere…. and how he came to know the Living God, and became established in His love. No cell phone to tend to…. he only cared about communicating with One. No worship music playing on an iPod…. he made his own. And he knew God.

That’s what I go for, in a world where there is a fine line between my electronic tools enhancing my knowledge of God and actually distracting me from Him. I want to know him. I walk into my own fields nearby my house and tell my Father, I am here, I am listening, I want to know you. And I often feel His pleasure in this simple way of being.

Dad had his raw hunger, and he had the Holy Spirit. No scrolls, no Bible, no whiz-bang spiritual superstars to whip up his faith. Not a perfect man, not even close. But he knew God. Among all the voices in scripture, David’s stands next to that of Moses and Jesus himself in witnessing to me about who God is in truth, what he wants of me, and how I might know, enjoy and love him. Faith lives in me that my God is within reach as, as He was for David; for we drink of the same Spirit, we worship the same amazing Person.

Meant to Live By God’s Voice

“Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”  Deuteronomy 8:3, NASB

When Moses spoke these words, he was teaching the people about manna — the commanded bread that fell from heaven every morning to feed them in the wilderness. In fact, he begins by telling the people that God actually led them to the place where they would be humbled by their inability to provide food for themselves, and have to rely on God to be nourished. It was always meant to be this way between us and God.

We were created to live by the word of God — and I am not referring to having a gazillion Bible verses memorized. The Bible is an awesome gift to us, but it is only meant to point us to the Voice of God, by which we are meant to live. We are meant to be guided by His faithful Voice, to know him and walk with him. We are likewise meant to live through the provision of all that Voice commands on our behalf. Jesus did this, and it was the secret of his life and strength as a man on the earth like us.

Two things I’d like you to take away from these thoughts:

  • When you pray, ask the Father to command your life as he wants to give it — to command you, to command His creation to release what you need today. It will please him for you to acknowledge in this way that his Voice is faithful and is meant to provide all the sustenance of your life.
  • When you walk out of your prayer place, you will go out into a world full of voices: the voices of the media, your friends, your books; voices that may have some truth and love in them, but none that will give you life. God won’t allow it, and it is good for you to remember it. Let His Voice be the one you seek to hear, honor and value above all other voices.

This is how you were meant to live, and if you do, you shall REALLY live!

Loving Him together with you,

Tonia

Is Your Birthright Unblessed?

You can have a birthright and not be blessed to receive and enjoy it. As Esau discovered, you can have a right to something by virtue of just being born, but your birthright or inheritance will be unavailable or useless unless (1) you value and reach for it; (2) it is bestowed upon you — actually given — and (3) it is blessed for you and to you by your Father. (From pondering Hebrews 12:16-17…)

Our Salvation Is A Covenant

Our Passover/Easter season was extra special this year. We enjoyed an elegant, meaningful and joyful Seder meal with several dozen brothers and sisters in Christ on Good Friday, then joined other worshipping friends for a sunrise service and breakfast early Easter morning, and finished at a local church with a celebration of Christ’s resurrection filled with jubilant music, children dancing and baptism of new believers. Thinking back upon it all I realized how covenant-centric it all is…. in a small way we moved from one covenant snapshot to another.

The Seder is a remembrance commanded by God of the Passover protection covenant through which Moses brought God’s people out from their bondage. Tho commemorating a specific event in history, it also foreshadowed the time when God would deliver his children from their cruel bondage to sin in order to bring them into in the Promised Land of sharing life with God.

At the Passover supper Jesus lifted the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” That event concluded with Jesus’ prayer to the Father, a prayer laced with references to the core purpose and result of covenant — “I in you and you in me” — becoming those who share life forever:

I pray also for those who will believe in me through [my disciples’] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me…  (John 17:20-23)

Jesus was motivated by his passion to see us brought into that covenant fellowship, that shared life with God. Our salvation is a covenant, established in God’s heart from before the beginning of time, made between Father and Son, now offered to those who come to trust in the Son and his sacrifice for our sin. And its purpose is to bring us into God’s promise to share life with him, now and forevermore.

 

Do You Believe This?

Blue Morpho Butterfly

“ I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

So spoke Jesus to Mary in the moments before he raised his beloved Lazarus from the dead. This entire story recorded in John chapter 11 is an occasion of both the greatest demonstration of Jesus’ power through the Holy Spirit and the depth of His human experience.

Jesus plainly established elsewhere that his decision to stay away, allowing Lazarus to die, would have been in obedience to his Father. He had to have known his beloved friends Mary and Martha would be very grieved, yet when speaking to his disciples ahead of the journey, we detect little grief in his words. But that all changes when he comes face-to-face with Mary and Martha and their grief. Now Jesus is “deeply moved in spirit and troubled;” he weeps as he approaches the tomb where Lazarus lay… even after uttering the [above] words to Mary affirming his power over death, even knowing Lazarus will live again shortly and that their grief will turn to joy. Jesus does not look away from their grief, he does not blow it off in a cavalier affirmation of faith, he enters into it with them.

In the human experience, knowing from a distance that an act or event will hurt another has much less impact than personally witnessing their suffering. In this moment Jesus was consumed with compassion for those who had been caused to suffer for a little while in order for the glory of God the Father and the Son to be revealed.

There are many ways to die. Aside from the death of the body, there is death to hope and dreams that comes from profound disappointment in life; there can be a crushing of the spirit by those we love and expect to love us; there is often death to the soul’s self-life when yielding to the will of God results in not having what we deeply desire or need.

Mary needed her beloved Jesus to come and heal her brother. He stayed away. Lazarus needed healing, and died. Thomas and the other disciples died to their need to be safe when they followed Jesus back to the place where the Jews wanted to stone Him [verse 16: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”] Jesus died to his need to run to Lazarus’ rescue; He definitely died to the need to maintain the good opinion of those he loved by hanging back and allowing them to suffer.

In all these things, Jesus experienced the depths of being human, and when faced with the overwhelming grief and disappointment of Mary, he was troubled to the point of weeping; he entered into and shared her grief. He knew he would be raising Lazarus to life again shortly, so that was not the issue. The issue was that in a moment when God wanted to reveal His awesome power and glory, to show the world that this Son of Man was indeed the Son of God who had power over death, he had to let death come for a little while, to settle in upon their hearts, in order that the glory of death being overcome and overthrown would be full. In short, at times we will taste death on the way to God’s glory being revealed in and around us.

I write to you of these things to make two points. First, let us not shy away from those who grieve, but be willing to enter into their grieving with all compassion. The Lord who gives life lives within us and wants to touch them. Second, let us not be afraid to die. If we die in some way large or small in body, soul or spirit, whether at the hands of people or circumstances or our own foolish ways or in obedience to God’s will — we who have entered into the covenant of Christ can rest in our little tombs briefly while trusting in the One who understands our grief, AND who has the power to resurrect us into life anew.

“ I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Knowing Him together with you, Tonia

Rocks In the River

A group of us women gathered for a retreat, and as He is fond of doing, the Lord surrounded us — literally — with the words and images and spiritual realities of what He longed to share with us. In this case, His subject was His living waters. As I prepared to lead the group studies there I knew we would focus on John Chapters 4 and 7, where Jesus speaks of streams of living waters that would flow into and go forth from those who drink of him — but the woman who booked the location for our retreat did not!  We landed in a cabin called Rio Casa — River House, at Tres Rios campground — three rivers — so named because the camp is bordered on three sides by three different rivers. One of those rivers flowed behind our cabin, just below the little hill we were perched on.

We had a glorious time there, in which we studied about the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives, exploring what life is meant to look like when one is a child of God that drinks from His Spirit. In the Lord’s power and faithfulness we all experienced renewal and healing, especially from weariness and wounds of the heart and spirit. We were thoroughly refreshed there, and some would say forever changed.

As we gathered on our final morning to worship the Lord, each of the women were radiant and lovely, full of new hope in the Lord’s love and goodness. As we went around the room and shared our “take-aways,” I rejoice in their new joy, yet knew from many retreat experiences what it would be like to return home and step back into the very things they had needed renewal from. “Lord,” I prayed, “do not let the tiniest part of their time with you be robbed, and please establish them firmly in what you have given them hope in.”

The Holy Spirit then drew us outside for our last half hour together, in view and earshot of the river. The Lord had us close our eyes and just listen. Only one sound broke the peaceful quiet of the morning — the lively waters below us. While the flowing waters were unrippled and silent both upstream and downstream from our cabin, a row of large rocks in the river there forced the water to bubble up and around and over, producing the little rapids and their happy notes. After we listened awhile, soaking up that soothing, playful sound, the Lord said,

“Notice, daughters, that it is the rocks that cause the river to make its music. Without the rocks there would be no sound.”    !!!!!!

We opened our eyes and smiled at each other, thoughts racing and playing across our faces, as what He said sunk in. The bubbly lifesounds we were enjoying were only produced as the water flowed around the rocks, which are OBSTACLES to the flow of the water. We quickly and collectively got the “Aha!” moment of understanding that these rocks represented our troubles, wounds, afflictions, weaknesses or circumstances. The fact that the water only produces its music as it washes over those obstacles, is a metaphor worth pondering. May the smiling Spirit who pointed it out to us at the river reveal its meaning in your life.

As for us, we returned home with fresh streams of living water in us, making our music of joy and thanksgiving to the Lord for the life He brings to flow over and around the rocks in our lives!

New Year, New Book

I love new beginnings, and the change of seasons and times. The Lord uses these things to refresh me and add the extra oomph sometimes needed to break out of old patterns of being. In line with that thought, I am excited to announce the publication of our newest book, Rooted & Established In Love, which invites you to examine anew the roots of your relationship to the Lord. Here’s what the back of the book says:

“Do you experience God’s love and enjoy Him? Do you struggle with “the greatest commandment” to love God with all your might? This book addresses both issues, teaching why and how a believer must be established in a life with Christ based upon God’s way of loving. This timely book explains:
Why you may be dry, frustrusted or weary in your Christian experience due to flawed roots of relationship such as legalism, fear, neediness or spiritual ambition.
Why you need to be firmly rooted in God’s love for you, then grow on to be established in loving God wholeheartedly. Between these “bookends of love” a Christian is meant to know and share life with God in the land of the living.
You can only experience God’s love, and be enabled to love God faithfully in return, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the Father’s amazing gift to His children.
Establishing believers in intimate, satisfying life with God is the primary work of the Holy Spirit and the means by which every promise of abundant life in Christ will be realized.”

This is the first in our ScribeLife Series, smaller books we will be publishing to help you know God in all the ways His priceless Covenant makes possible. At 130 pages, it is a quick but powerful read. This title is available on our website in paperback and e-book formats (for all e-readers) and, of course, wherever you find us.

God bless you to never give up on seeking the love life to which God has invited you!

Tonia

The Great Feast and the Shelter of Faith

Today marks the conclusion of what Jesus’ Jewish culture called “The Great Feast,” or the “Feast of Tabernacles,” a week-long celebration that coincided with the beginning of harvest. God instituted this feast in the law to given to Moses in Leviticus 23, instructing his people to set up and reside in temporary shelters (or sukkah) for a week each year, commencing 5 days after Yom Kippur. In their temporary tabernacles they were to pray, eat festive food with family and friends, read God’s word, and be JOYFUL every day of the feast. No mourning was allowed; fasting was forbidden.

The Bible is rich with references to this feast; it is a frequent backdrop to the life and teaching of Jesus. Like all of God’s special seaons, the Feast of Tabernacles (or Sukkot) illustrates beautiful realities about God and his people. God gave it originally to commemorate the time when the Israelites lived in the terrible wilderness protected only by His faithful provision and presence, so they would never forget his faithfulness and devotion to them there.

God wanted them to always remember that after setting the Israelites free from slavery in Egypt, he ordered Moses to build a tabernacle so that he could “dwell in the midst of” his people. This reveals much about God’s heart to not be a God far off, but to share life with his people.

Rabbinic sages teach that just as God left Heaven and caused His presence to dwell on earth in the midst of their camp, His people will show God that they also leave their homes and dwell with him in the sukkah, the protective shelter of His faithfulness. It is to me a lovely picture of how we meet with God by faith; and how that meeting is meant to be characterized by joy and blessed life.

Eliyahu Kitov writes of observant Jews in The Book of Our Heritage, “When Sukkos comes, and they leave the comfort of their homes to dwell in the shelter of the sukkah, it is then that they feel secure. Their hearts are filled with trust and joy, for they are no longer shielded by the protection of their own roof, but by the shelter of faith and trust in God. One who places his trust in the shadow of the wings of the Shechinah knows no fear at all.” For this reason their sages also call this festival the “shelter of faith,” because to them it represents the shelter of protection which is provided by faith and trust in God.

What worshipping Jews celebrate for just one week of the year is, I believe, a picture of what life (in the heart) is meant to be every day for the children of God who live by faith in Jesus Christ. We are safer in the shelter of God’s faithful love than anything the world offers. Furthermore, God has chosen our hearts for his tabernacle. Whatever else is going on outside, on the inside — where life is shared with God — there should be joy, satisfaction, rest, devotion to God’s word, and continual communion with the amazing and gracious God who chooses to live there.

From heaven’s perspective, this world is a type of wilderness for God’s children, because our sojourn here is temporary while we travel towards a better place, a promised land. But while here, dear believer, your heart is God’s tabernacle, and His heart is your tabernacle. Dwell in the shelter of His love, always, dear people. I am absolutely convinced that this is God’s joy….

Tonia

The Days of Awe

Today we are in the middle of what worshipping Jews call The Days of Awe — the first ten days of every Jewish New Year during which one is meant to spend extra time reading the Scriptures, set aside more time with God, to examine one’s heart and life in the light of God’s ways:

Am I walking rightly with the Lord?  With other people?

Are there any sins I need to confess…. any broken relationships which need to be mended?

It is a time to take stock and make things right, in order that one can be renewed in every way with God and man.

I love it that God made a special season for this; new year, new clean slate of the heart. Christians celebrate Easter and Christmas as a means to honor both the birth of Christ and his sacrificial death and resurrection. As much as I love the traditions surrounding these, I am also being awakened to a beauty and purpose in God’s original appointed seasons prescribed for his people in the Old Testament. These seasons, known as the Feasts of the Lord, are all built around one thing: entering, honoring, knowing and renewing relationship with God.

These God-appointed seasons, described in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus, are meant to be times of turning one’s attention back to the Lord, celebrating and renewing our relationship with him. In addition, the annual observance of God’s seasons provides a natural calendar to educate young ones about the nature of God, our place in his family and a right response to Him.

Though Jewish rabbis added many traditions to these celebrations down through the ages, we need to look back to the beginning and never forget that God himself set up this calendar of celebration, remembrance and renewal. Furthermore, he said that the observance of them was appropriate …. forever. You see, these appointed seasons are not about being Jewish, they are about being God’s people, and we are those people. We are not called to keep Jewish rituals, but we are called to honor God’s heart and ways. My heart has been quickened to learn God’s purposes in these special seasons; this is on my table, so I offer it to you as well.

These Ten Days of Awe began with the first day of God’s New Year on his special calendar, which occurred last Thursday on September 29, originally accompanied by the blowing of trumpets — God’s wake-up call to his tribe (no iPhone alarm clocks then, my friends…) to turn and return their attention to him. The Days of Awe culminate this Saturday, October 8, with the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), which for worshipping Jews is a holy day of fasting, repentance, receiving of forgiveness, and seeking of reconciliation. No work is done on this holiest of days; it is entirely set aside for God and his purposes of the heart.

This was originally the day that the high priest entered the Holy of Holies with the blood of a perfect, spotless lamb and poured it on God’s mercy seat to make atonement for the nation. Then one day, Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, came once and for all with his blood; He fulfilled and achieved atonement for mankind forever.

So what remains for us in observing this special season? The never-ending need to turn and return to God in our hearts; the need to examine oneself and make things right with God and man in a deliberate way, not subject to the whims of life and occupation and pre-occupations.

All that one might discover through meditating, reflecting and seeking God these 10 days needs to find its resolution and be put to rest. God gives a deadline (the Day of Atonement), not because he’s bent on forcing us into a corner about our sin, but because this adoring Father wants everything dealt with that would steal life and joy, so we can get on with the celebration. Because five days after the Day of Atonement, a huge celebration begins….His prescribed Feast of Tabernacles, a joyous time of enjoying God, family and life’s blessings that his people were asked to celebrate for a full 7 days. God knows how to start a year off right. As his people, it is wise to pay attention; as his children, it is good to honor our Father’s heart for his appointed season.

 

 

Treasure Hunting in the Prophets

Are you one of those reluctant to read the Old Testament prophet books like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and those pesky little guys like Obadiah and Nahum? Many are, which is the reason I wrote a Bible Study course called “Finding the Heart of God in Every Book of the Bible.” I wanted to entice readers to search for the treasure in every book, namely understanding the heart of God.

Jeremiah had the unfortunate job of warning Judah about the impending overthrow of Jerusalem and exile that was coming because of Israel’s sins against their covenant with God. Most pigeonhole Jeremiah in the “book of judgment” category, but that is a mistake. That opinion is what you get if you only know Jeremiah’s message by sermon osmosis, rumor or drive-by reading. When you read the fine print of Jeremiah, here is what you learn about God:

  • That God suffered hundreds of years before he finally said “Enough!” He was not quick to become angry and judge.
  • Even after the decision to judge his people, his messages warning people of the impending judgment (WAY ahead of it coming) was laced with pleading that if they would change even now, he would relent and not bring the judgment their behavior called for.
  • That when the Lord confirmed his people would be forcibly removed from the Promised Land and taken captive into exile, he said, “But leave marks on the road so you can find your way home again, for I WILL BRING YOU BACK.” He was planning their restoration even in the midst of being forced to punish them.
  • That though God punished his people for violating their covenant to possess their Promised Land, he did not abandon them. Repeatedly he says, “I will be with you… I will go with you… I will watch over you and even bless you in the land of exile if you trust in me and not other gods.” It becomes clear that even while God exercised judgment, He never abandoned the relationship! They lost their promised land, their blessed place, not their connection to God.
  • Even while warning of His judgment nations like Egypt (Chapter 46) where many of his exiles went, God promises that while he brings judgment against the ungodly government and nation, he would keep his people safe: “Jacob [i.e., my people], do not fear, nor be dismayed. I am going to save you and your descendants from the land of their captivity. Jacob (my people) shall return and be undisturbed and secure. Do not fear, for I am with you, and you will be okay while I make an end of that nation.”

Dear people of God, Read the Word! Know your God!

Tonia

A Verb Looking For Its Object

In preparing for my most recent Women’s Retreat, the Holy Spirit taught me something new about surrender. Our normal concept of surrender to God is to give everything up, or lay everything down, abandoning ourselves, yielding entirely to Him — and this is certainly true. “But you don’t finish the sentence,” the Holy Spirit said to me…don’t say, ‘I surrender,’ say ‘I surrender to your love!'”

Yet another occasion to love being taught by the Spirit of Christ….He shows me things and connects things I would never have come up with intellectually or theologically.

Surrender is a relational transaction, always something or someone. Dictionary.com says of the verb surrender that it is used with an object, and means:

  1. to yield (something) to the possession or power of another.
  2. to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion, etc.: He surrendered himself to a life of hardship.
  3. to yield or resign (an office, privilege, etc.) in favor of another.

For a Christian, the true object of our surrender is the Person who is the only truly good being, the unfailing lover, the one who died to give us real life. At a women's retreat.At that women’s retreat in the Michigan woods I asked each woman to fill in her blank at the end of the sentance, “I surrender to ________.”  A sampling of the answers:

  • I surrender to His goodness
  • I surrender to His rest
  • I surrender to His faithfulness
  • I surrender to His peace
  • I surrender to His grace

I invite you to fill in your own blank, and surrender anew to the Lord who asks you to yield all of your life and being to Him, and gives so much more in exchange!

Bless you in knowing your God,

Tonia

The Fine Print

DaisyTHE FINE PRINT: Discoveries in those little footnotes, study notes, cross-references and lexicon entries.

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me.

And let him drink, who believes in me.

As the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

The footnote alternative found in the 1984 NIV for John 7:37-38.

The Theology of Aloneness

A.W. Tozer, one of my favorite authors, published a wonderful book in 1950 entitled “The Divine Conquest,” in which he identified a common problem among Christians that still exists today. Quoting a few excerpts:

A.W. Tozer

A.W. Tozer

“Is it not true that for most of us who call ourselves Christians there is no real experience? We have substituted theological ideas for an arresting enocunter; we are full of religious notions, but our great weakness is that for our hearts there is no one there…..

“We talk of Him much and loudly, but we secretly think of Him as being absent… we think of ourselves as being alone….

“The men and women of the Bible talked with God. They spoke to Him and heard Him speak in words they could understand. With Him they held person to person converse….  Nothing can take the place of the touch of God in the soul and the sense of Someone there…”

We are often asked why we named our ministry “Shammah.” The answer is this is our favorite biblical “Jehovah name” of God — Jehovah Shammah — because it means, “God is present.”

Child of God, please believe.  Do not doubt His word, and do not ignore his presence; the one leads to the other…

Perfect theology BEGINS with believing in God’s presence… Jehovah Shammah for YOU.

Tonia

Our Hungry Orphans

Zambia Orphans

Some of our orphans in Zambia

I’ve not written here of our Zambian Orphan feeding mission; many of you may not even know that we collect and send money to a church in Zambia every month to feed the street orphans of Chifubu, the “third world” district of Ndola. Several facts prompt me to speak up about it now:

  • Since 2004, we’ve been able to raise and send money to feed 80-100 orphans one hot healthy meal every Saturday. We now have 250 orphans who come for a meal.
  • Occasionally we have succeeded in offering 2 or 3 meals to the orphans a week, especially when some other organizations have helped. However, these have been temporary commitments, and we are back to only being able to feed the orphans once on Saturdays.
  • Donations have trickled to an all-time low while the number of orphans is at an all-time high, and after this month, we will not be able to regularly feed the orphans one meal every Saturday unless new funds begin to come in.

Would you pray about making a donation for our Zambian orphans, or even a monthly commitment?

Donations can be made by credit card sent securely through Paypal sent to shammah@charter.net. Or you can send a check or money order payable to “Shammah Ministries” at 280 Son Shine Circle, Azle, TX 76020, with the notation “Feeding Zambian Orphans.”

PLEASE WATCH OUR 9-MINUTE VIDEO on our website to see a complete description of this project.

Please publicize this need to your home group or local church.  100% of donations are used to feed and provide for these orphans. Thanks for your time and prayers for these needy ones!

Love me, love my orphans….

Tonia