Matters of the Heart: Walls vs. Sleeves

If freely expressing one’s emotions is what it means to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve, I can honestly say that that practice no longer plagues me.

In the past, I had no boundaries. In the past, I didn’t know how to create beneficial and proper boundaries in regard to what I shared or didn’t and more often than not, relationships were … well … problematic.

Boundaries of expression and sharing are so beneficial! I wouldn’t want to go back to living like I was before.

Making one’s inner self available to the scrutiny, verbiage, and morality of others is vulnerability of the most child-like kind. As children we really don’t have the tools that more mature folk utilize nor do we have the desire to do anything but make our wants and wishes known. All the while trusting the ones around us to care appropriately and in a timely manner. As we grow, and our circles increase it becomes unwise to trust others with such precious content. Sparing and strategic use of our inner self is the wiser choice for everyone – ourselves and the precious souls around us.

Well, what is it we need to guard or protect? Our heart’s fragile, valuable, and complex content.

Using the definition of heart we looked at while pondering Proverbs 4: 23, our heart’s contents are these:

It is clear that God encourages setting good boundaries for heart contents.

Ephesians 4:26 (NASB)

26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

Ezekiel 24:16-17 (NASB)

16 “Son of man, behold, I am about to take from you the desire of your eyes with a blow; but you shall not mourn and you shall not weep, and your tears shall not come. 17 Groan silently; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban and put your shoes on your feet, and do not cover your mustache and do not eat the bread of men.”

Wordpress banner compassIt was this story of Ezekiel’s wife and the boundaries of grief he was instructed to keep, that inspired me to proactively protect my heart. The story is in Ezekiel 24.

God is using this prophet’s wife as a symbol of God’s sanctuary (Temple) among his beloved people. I know that because He says so in verse 21 and 22. You see, my heart was trampled early in life and the greif I lived with but did not understand was and continues to be a fredquent topic of conversation between me and my Maker. If He loved me, would he protect me?

Yes He loves me. Yes He protects me. And yes, I have a bit of responsibility to contribute to that protection. (Our contribution to protection is one of the main points contained in the book of Nehemiah.) We are not supposed to simply guard the content of our heart, we are supposed to blockade it. Strong walls are a huge deal both in Nehemiah and in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel pictured this concept of thick separation between our hearts and the outside world as the wall built around the temple in the vision he saw.

This was God’s temple. The delight of God’s eyes to which he compared the delight of Ezekiel’s eyes… Ezekiel’s wife. Its outer wall was twelve feet thick and twelve feet high. (Some scholars say 10.5 feet because they use the shorter cubit. The formula I used was that the measuring rod is six units of a long cubit plus a handbreadth or (21” + 3”)6 = 144” /12” = 12feet.)

It is interesting to note that the measurements for the wall of the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven uses 144 cubits and the rest of it bears a striking resemblance to Ezekiel’s description of the temple (Revelation 21:17 ). It appears to be similar in a ratio kind of way so I’m sticking with the twelve feet thick scenario.) But so much for Bible geekery. It is OK if you disagree with the actual thickness of the wall. The point is that it was a VERY THICK wall. A definite obstacle to ingress or egress. …Except through the gates established for that purpose.

Ahhh, yes. The gates. There is another little bit of trivia here that relates to guarding our hearts as the centerpiece of our well-being, the source of life.

Did you know they open and shut? These were not just passageways through masonry. No. These were doors with hinges and locks. In particular the gates on the east side ( from the outermost gate, through the Gentile court, to the Court of Israel to the Holy of Holies ) lined up geometrically directly across from each other so that if a person stood at the eastern most gate and looked toward the center room, that holiest of buildings, gazing intently west, they could see through every open door.

Those not allowed in got to view what being “in” would allow them access to. Those who were allowed access could enter.

Access is possible. Access is protected. Access is special.

Ezekiel was given rules for this open alignment access. The gate to the inner court was shut on the six work days. It was only open on Sabbaths and the New Moon festivals (Ezekiel 46). << the moon is a reference to the female of our species and probably another reason Mrs. Ezekiel is a part of God’s story here but that is a much longer story and a discussion…eh…debate… for another day.>>

As part of my Doing of the Word last year, I set my mind to writing this blog, sharing my heart’s experiences, emotions, ponderings, etc. with you on my Saturday, my Sabbath because that is the appropriate time for opening these doors.

Here are a few things to think about.

Who is the LORD of the Sabbath? Jesus 

Who is the LORD protector of your heart, His Temple? 

The doors to my heart are not always open. Are yours? Do you have good thick boundaries around the contents of your heart (emotions, conscience, courage, thoughts, and understanding)? Or do you wear your heart on your sleeve, sharing whatever with whomever, whenever?

Matters of the heart: Guard it Diligently

23 Keep and guard your heart

with all vigilance and 

above all that you guard,

for out of it

flow the springs of life.
Proverbs 4:23 (AMPC)

 

I thought about this verse when I thought about a recent conversation I had. You can listen in to part of it…(not represented word-for-word but thought-for-thought as I don’t recall the exact wording. It is here by permission.)

Me: What would you tell your 15 year old girl self about making friends?

Young Mother: Teenage girls are just mean.

Be confident in who you are.

Don’t spend lots of time trying to get friends. If [the people you know] are really your friends, they’ll prove it.

Me: What should they do then? Learn something? Go do something like an adventure? Get a skill?

YM:  That would be good.

Be nice to other people but guard your heart. Don’t treat everyone like a close friend. They’re not.

It’s one thing to say, “Be careful who your friends are”, it’s another thing to actually do it. But it is so important.

YM: Sometimes being mean is just what they know how to do. It’s hardest at church because there, girls are supposed to be nice, [to know better] but they don’t…they aren’t.

I hope I can teach this to [my daughter] when she gets to be a teenager. I wish I’d known this (and done it) a long time ago.

In the spirit of loving our children, it is important to understand how we should guard our hearts…and teach them to do the same.

Guarding the  heart. Can we teach this or is it something one has to learn to  do by themselves? Both really. I picture it like learning to ride a bike or to walk or to sit up straight. Wordpress banner compass

What does it mean to guard a heart? Let’s take a look at the words used here in Proverbs and dig into some ideas about how this might be done.

Natsar

        1. to guard, watch, watch over, keep
          1. (Qal)
            1. to watch, guard, keep
            2. to preserve, guard from dangers
            3. to keep, observe, guard with fidelity
            4. to guard, keep secret
            5. to be kept close, be blockaded
            6. watchman (participle)

From this one word, what insights do think would be practical regarding our relationships?

Here are a few things I discovered about guarding my heart:

  • Danger to the heart – to my heart- exists.
  • I need to be loyal to my own heart – exercise fidelity towards myself.
  • What goes on in the inner workings of my heart stays in MY heart. It is a secret shared only with the LORD, my Maker and Sustainer.
  • The elements contained within my heart do not get in or out without my permission. They are blockaded.

Next let’s consider the heart itself. What is it?

Leb

Strong’s number 3820 – heart

  1. inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding
    1. inner part, midst
      1. midst (of things)
      2. heart (of man)
      3. soul, heart (of man)
      4. mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory
      5. inclination, resolution, determination (of will)
      6. conscience
      7. heart (of moral character)
      8. as seat of appetites
      9. as seat of emotions and passions 1a
  2. as seat of courage

From this word, what insights do think would be informative about who we are as women?

Here are a few things I’ve considered:

  • Our heart is one of several parts of which it is the center…a main part, essential to the function of the rest of the parts
  • My heart is the part of me that possesses my spiritual sense of being. The place inside where I talk to God. It can live and it can die.
  • Learning and holding on to learning happen here in my heart
  • My heart motivates me to action and can keep me on course…or allow me to get tossed by every wind and wave
  • My heart needs nourishment not gluttony
  • What I care deeply about is regulated and ruled over by what is in my heart
  • The condition of my heart whether weak or strong effects my ability to stand up in the face of fear and win…or lose.

Mishmar

Sttrong’s number – 4929 – diligence or vigilance

        1. place of confinement, prison, guard, jail, guard post, watch, observance
        2. jail, prison, guard-house
        3. guard, guard post, act of guarding
        4. observances

Some Insights:

  • Not just be loyal to my heart but be loyal with an iron clad loyalty. In and around my heart – bars, locks barriers, entrance codes and policies – all good things.

  • My heart is worth setting up fences and establishing and maintaining good boundaries in relationships.

  • I should develop the habit of, and effort required to protect my secret place and to blockade it.

Towtsa’ah

Strong’s number 08444 – issues, springs forth

  1. outgoing, border, a going out, extremity, end, source, escape
    1. outgoing, extremity (of border)
    2. source (of life)
    3. escape (from death)

What do we learn here?

  • Hearts can be big but they do have boundaries
  • What comes out of my heart has the power of life in it
  • What is in my heart can lead me away from death successfully

Chay

Strong’s number – 2416- life

  1. living, alive
    1. green (of vegetation)
    2. flowing, fresh (of water)
    3. lively, active (of man)
    4. reviving (of the springtime) n m
  2. relatives
  3. life (abstract emphatic)
    1. life
    2. sustenance, maintenance n f
  4. living thing, animal
    1. animal
    2. life
    3. appetite
    4. revival, renewal
  5. community

What I learn from life’s connection

  • It is from my heart that I am refreshed not from outside sources
  • Yes, from the over flow of my heart, my love, relatives increase. :)
  • I can impact my descendants with my heart
  • Life needs heart felt  maintenance
  • What goes on in my heart determines who I live with, my community…my friends

So much can be gained from guarding our hearts diligently. May the LORD guide your heart and may you guard it well. Amen

Darkness and Light – Part 2

In response to a reader’s request to take our discussion of light and darkness one step further, let’s consider this question:

If darkness doesn’t go away, how do we deal with it?

We know that darkness comes and then light comes. They take turns; The natural order (day and night) the spiritual order (ignorance and understanding) as well as the educational order (kinesthetic and logical learning). “There was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

It would seem that God expects us to allow these natural cycles of existence.

It would also seem arrogant and hostile toward God to think that we could make  all our time pass in either darkness or all of it in the sunshine. We are not the ones who ordained this order, God did. Not only that, but He determined that it should go on just so until He decides otherwise and changes it all

22 “While the earth remains,
Seed time and harvest,
And cold and heat,
And summer and winter,
And day and night
Shall not cease.”
Genesis 8:22(NASB)

What about the relationship people have to dark behavior?

God told some people, like Gideon, to shine the light into darkness and prevail. Others, like Daniel, He told to go on their way without confronting the wicked (Daniel 12:9-10), yet we see him also prevail (Daniel 6). In both the darkness and in the light God wins.

Going further back in time, consider the final deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt.

The Sea Is Divided

13 Then Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid! Take your stand [be firm and confident and undismayed] and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for those Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm.”

15 The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to move forward [toward the sea]. 16 As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, so that the sons of Israel may go through the middle of the sea on dry land. 17 As for Me, hear this: I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will go in [the sea] after them; and I will be glorified and honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and his war-chariots and his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know [without any doubt] and acknowledge that I am the Lord, when I am glorified and honored through Pharaoh, through his war-chariots and his charioteers.”

19 The [a]angel of God, who had been going in front of the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them. The pillar of the cloud moved from in front and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. It was a cloud along with darkness [even by day to the Egyptians], but it gave light by night [to the Israelites]; so one [army] did not come near the other all night. Exodus 14:13-20 (AMP)

Separation is key to understanding what should be done with darkness. On one side there was darkness and on the other light. This is what God arranged from the very beginning.

God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:4 (NASB)

16 God made the two [a]great lights, the greater [b]light [c]to govern the day, and the lesser [d]light [e]to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the [f]expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and [g]to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day. Genesis 1:16-19 (NASB)

Just as God separated the children of Israel from the Egyptians, and created a separation between dark and light at the beginning of time, He separates his own today. We are not children of the night but of the day Paul tells the Thessalonian church.

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you [a]like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as [b]others do, but let us be alert and[c]sober. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 (NASB)

Another description of people living in darkness:

Noah followed God’s example in dealing with dark behavior. Let’s see where doing the same thing takes us. If we track how God stepped into darkness maybe we can answer that first question: “How should we deal with darkness?”.

First transgression : Disobedience

“but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…” (Genesis 2:15-17)

First corrective measure:

Consequences:

  • God questions everyone,

  • God makes them aware of the reality of their situation,

  • Each participant gets cursed by God with one or more of these–

    • diet,

    • posture,

    • sorrow,

    • forced authority,

    • difficult relationship with the earth,

    • hard labor,

    • and returning to dust (Genesis 3:13-19)

Second transgression: Murder

Cain killed his brother Abel (Genesis4:8)

12 and not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother [Abel]. And why did he murder him? Because Cain’s deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 1 John 3:12 (AMP)

Second Corrective measure:

Separation (Genesis 4:10-16

  • Driven from the land by God

  • Hidden from God’s presence

  • Marked as the culprit for life (separated from community) by God

Third transgression:

  • The sons of God take wives from the daughters of men
  • resulting in corruption of mind (thoughts only evil all the time) and
  • rampant violence.
  • Corruption of all of mankind. (Genesis 6:1-8)

Third corrective measure:

Ultimate Removal

God totally removes mankind and animals from the earth by flood (Genesis 7,8) to a depth of 20 feet above the highest surface. Uh…this is decisively harsh. There are no take-backs, no more chances for changing here! And yet…

Fourth transgression:

Ham saw his father’s nakedness (Had indecent sexual relations with him when he was drunk) (Genesis 9:18-27) Apparently, dark behaviors traveled with them to the fresh new start.

Fourth corrective measure:

  • God is silent.

  • Noah (the wronged person) pronounces a curse on the child of the wrongdoer (Ham’s son, Canaan) to live in perpetual slavery of the basest kind to his brothers and their descendants and also to Uncle Shem and his descendants.

Did you catch that God is silent?

Each previous corrective act of justice was implemented by God Himself. This is the first one that man implements on his own. Wordpress banner compass

It is interesting to note that Noah follows God’s example using the curse as judgment. God’s blessing of Noah’s sons takes precedent over Noah’s curse and we see the actual living out of this curse as the sons of Israel (descended from Shem) take possession of the land of Canaan some years after the Exodus and quite a bit after Noah’s proclamation. Apparently, God approved of Noah’s just act and implemented it. 

Noah is not the only one to engage this type of justice. David has several what I like to call acid prayers. Psalm 109 is particularly corrosive.  Distinctive in David’s cry for justice is a curious mixture of personal action combined with leaving room for God’s wrath

On a personal note, I have begun to separate myself from dark behaviors with the help of the LORD. Included in this purge are: Speech (proverbs 4:24; Ephesians 4:29; 5:4-5; Colossians 3:8), Anger (Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:8), and inappropriate joking (Genesis 19:14; Ephesian 5:4; Proverbs 26:19).

Like Noah and David, sometimes God wants us to take action regarding the right course of justice. What we choose to do is important.

So, how do we deal with cyclical darkness?

We allow it and trust God who made all things to take care of everything unknown, to teach us what we need to know, and to protect us from harm.

How do we deal with darkness that becomes manifest as the wicked deeds of humanity?

We disallow it with the authority that God gives, in the way that God has shown (exampled) to the set apart peoples He calls his own.

 

 

God Separated the Light from the Darkness

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was[a]formless and void, and  darkness was over the [b]surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was [c]moving over the [d]surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darknessGod called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. Genesis 1:1-5

Pause and consider darkness and light for just a bit. These things are so foundational to our understanding of relationships.

The thing about light – effective light– is that it is never shy. It stands out. It is powerful. Acts with purpose. Brilliant!

Darkness is common to us all. Right alongside our initial formlesness [8414 tōhû – formless, waste, empty; (of speech) useless, confused, vain] and all cozy with void [922 bōhû emptiness, void associated with chaos, a desolation; ’empty and void’ is a state of total chaos] darkness was over the surface of the deep [8415- tehōm – the deep, depths, with the associative meanings of darkness and secrecy, controlled or inhabited by mysterious powers; “the abode of the dead”].

Have you ever considered our relationship to light? Before we understand the light we swim in and need to acknowledge our darkness. Can anybody relate to being confused? …wasted? …desolate? …Chaotic? …Vain? I sure can.

If the light source is central to a group of objects, all the cast shadows will radiate from that central point.
If the light source is central to a group of objects, all the cast shadows will radiate from that central point. (Bill Martin’s Guide to Drawing)

Though I can relate to those feelings I rarely visit them now and I definitely no longer live in them. I had help. I was rescued from darkness and brought into the light. Separation from darkness enabled joy in my life. 

Light comes by the intervention of a person intent on a happy attitude and relief from trouble.

As always, let’s define what dark and light are before moving forward.

Darkness – chôshek – darkness, dark, blackness, gloom; often darkness has the associative meanings of gloom, despair, terror, ignorance, or hard to understand. Android Bible concordance says (literally- dark; figuratively – misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, wickedness)

Light– ‘ôr – light, contrasted with darkness; by extension: brightness, lightning; daylight, sunshine; the figurative extension, “light of the face” is a positive happy attitude, resulting from relief from trouble [from 219- ‘ôra – light, morning light; happiness, serenity, cheerfulness; herb, mallow, a tasty edible plant.]

Isn’t it interesting that darkness doesn’t go away… not yet anyway. :) Darkness has its place and takes turns with light; “…and there was evening and there was morning the first day”. 

God determined that dark and light should be separated. So He got that accomplished. Darkness is separated from the light in Genesis 1:4.

This seems simple and obvious but have we really examined this truth in regard to relationships?

OK. Let’s talk about sorting our behaviors. Do we ask God to separate our light and our dark? …Emotions? …Coping mechanisms? …Habits? …Speech?

Those figurative uses for the words light and dark are sounding more important by the minute.

Let’s take a look at that word ‘separated’. In the KJV it is translated, ‘divided’ [Strong’s word # 914 – bādal – separate oneself, be expelled; to separate, sever completely, distinguish between].

Sounds like the Laundry Room to me.

 Stains- Be expelled! Raggedy? I’ll rip you up for rags. Darks go into this load. Lights go there into that one. And so it goes at least once a week and sometimes more.

Instead of saying, “Talk to the hand.” while dramatizing our separation from ideas, people, or situations we might choose to say something like, “Go do the laundry.” It is a great place, after all,  to learn about sorting the lights from the darks because when you don’t, you usually end up wishing you had.

Yes, this dark/light thing is still really about relationships.

14 Do not be [a]bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  2 Corinthians 6:14 (NASB)

So when you are doing your relational laundry, start at the beginning. Sort your dark from your light. Follow your Maker’s example.

Dark relational behaviors go in this load (gloom, despairing, horribly afraid, ignorant, or lacking understanding). Light goes in this load (positive, happy, relief, serene, cheerful, healing). They take turns (get washed separately). All the laundry gets done.

Call on the One who exists and causes all things to exist. God is the expert. Ask Him for help to distinguish which is which. He enables us (coaches us through) to distinguish light from darkness and is able to sort us all out perfectly.

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Offing the Good News

I learned a new word today!

Offing” is that place between the anchoring ground and the horizon. …That far distant expanse one can see while still on shore. The space in which something is likely to happen.

One can imagine all kinds of things looking at the sea. Standing on the shore looking from the sand to those vessels anchored a fair piece out into the water. Options increase as one’s gaze travels to the vast great water forming the backdrop upon which sails pierce the sky and shapely timbers scallop the darker hues of water’s less ethereal, tactile form.

What good do You look out towards?

It is likely that the space between the boat and the horizon will be active because it is likely that the ship will soon sail out with the proper weather and a fortunate tide. Others are expected to seek harbor in this place and so take the previous ship’s place.

What good things, people or events do you look for?

Our personal offing is a place of hope. …A place of waiting adventures. It is the passage to what lies beyond. Offing becomes the essence of our transitional journey.

The book of Revelation is the scope through which I view my offing standing on earth’s shore. Anchored there are angels of the sea and of the wind. The defeat of enemies and the victory of friends. There also are colors and creatures too magnificent for my imagination. Peoples of every language singing together. Banquets for celebration and banquets to get rid of foul enemies.

These are full of wonder and I love them but there is one ship that is in the offing that I look forward to the most. The New Jerusalem, my home.

“This world is not my home. I’m just a passin’ through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”

The good news is that she’s coming. She will be so great that all the others will leave to make room for her in the Harbor. Her crew is amazing but it’s her Captain I long to see.

There is a dingey moored just at the edge of the dock with the word REPENT intricately painted on her bright red stern. All who go out to the Captain’s great Lady must get there aboard the REPENT.

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The long dock greets many sad and tattered folk. They walk the sturdy but weathered boards of REALIZATION dock. With every step they realize that their broken and wayward paths have caused them much pain and sorrow, that they were deceived. They thought the things they craved would bring them belonging, happiness, and satisfaction… but no longer. Each pylon is marked with a truth about the Captain they knew but forgot was an unchangeable reality.

All Powerful

KING of kings

CREATOR of Wisdom

MAKER of Heaven and Earth

Deserving HONOR

WORTHY

CHOSEN

APPOINTED

KIND to all

HOLY

JUST

COUNSELOR

ONE TRUE JUDGE

CLOSE FRIEND

By the time they reach REPENT, they are eager to set sail and climb aboard her with joyful, expectant hearts.

Their expectation is realized as they are welcomed aboard with warm greetings and smiles. When they finally arrive to board the Captain’s Lady, the atmosphere is charged with festive faces and free jubilant sounds of music and dancing.

Still the Captain’s men and women go out onto the shores of many lands inviting all who are thirsty or weary to join the Captain and His Lady on their next adventure.

Will you join us?

It’ll be the BEST time ever!

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Finding the Good News

Last year I made an effort to do what the Bible said. It was truly life changing.

In December I tried to welcome people in Jesus Name with a glass of wonderful well water. That was an interesting experience. Not everyone accepted. Sometimes I botched up the process. A few times I actually forgot to be that welcoming but today is a new day…this is a new year. I can practice the right things the right way at the right times. The more I practice right living, the better I’ll get at it.

So in 2016 while I continue to engage the things I have learned previously, this year will also hold a trek through Truth to find the gospel.

No. I’m not heading off to the middle east or to Italy, nor any other exotic port of call. At least I don’t think so….

I can travel to and through the gospel right here.

‘Gospel’ is kind of a weird word. It doesn’t sound like what it means. It has become a part of English musical genre titles and other distortions. If one tells the truth, they swear it’s ‘gospel’. This word gets so talked about in Christian circles that I wonder if anyone else needs it redefined.

Most of the references to ‘gospel’ are these: Strong’s # 2098 and #2097 but there is an interesting third word, #4283.

2098 -used 77 times in the New Testament – euangelion – good news, gospel (from #2095 – well, well done! + #32 – angel, messenger; this can refer to a human messenger or to the supernatural class of being that serves God)

Jesus’ parable of the three servants comes to mind. The goal of this teaching is to think about what you do with what you are given.  That’s a New Years/January kind of concept, right?

21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your [a]master.’

22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
Matthew 25:21-23(NASB)

The next mentioned word is #2097 – euangelizō – to preach (bring) the good news (gospel), often with a focus on the content that is brought. In the New Testament this content is primarily the testimony of Jesus Christ (born of a virgin, God’s only begotten son, lived, suffered, died, was raised to Life, ascended into Heaven, sits at His Father’s right hand, lives to intercede for you and me, and all of this according to the Scriptures proclaimed about Him).

Interesting to note that out of the 101 mentions of “gospel” Galatians 3:8 has an old testament reference. This is our #4283 – proeuangelizomai – to announce the gospel in advance.

[a]Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.Therefore, [b]be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God [c]would justify the [d]Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abrahamsaying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with [e]Abraham, the believer.
Galatians 3:6-9 (NASB)

God sharing information in advance is good news. Blessing is good news. That Gentiles get to share in Abraham’s blessing is fantastic and fabulous… fantabulous good news because we are included – you and me.

So far I have seen a few topics labeled ‘gospel’ in Scripture:

  • Blessing
  • Grace
  • Peace
  • The Kingdom

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So I was wondering…. Do I have a gospel too?

There is the good news of pleasant things. It is absolutely good news that I am learning to knit with more consistent skill, to use my new smart phone, and can get to SeaTac airport and back in a calm frame of mind after navigating thick, late afternoon traffic. (If you understood my driving and vision challenges you would be thanking God with me about this one…). I am eternally grateful for the relationships God has put into and taken out of my life.

There is the good news of being right with God. It is even better news that God answers prayer and that that He chooses to say yes to me a lot. It is GREAT news that God is merciful when I tell him all about how I mess things up … that He forgives me… deep sigh. Oh how I love Him! He shows His love for me in so many ways.

These also are good news types of things. Clean drinking water. The birth of healthy children. The successes of crippled children. Cancer recovery. Experiencing faithful married love. Rescue from abuse. Decisions to stop abusing. The list goes on and on, we just have to think about thinking on these things for a minute or two.

How many gospels are there? Good news is good news, right?

Yet we have this warning from Paul:

Perversion of the Gospel

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you [a]by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7 (NASB)

Making good news into something it’s not… well, that’s just bad news.

Here’s what we can do.

Chart the good news we experience personally in life. (daily, weekly, monthly or in five year increments)

Answer these questions. What does that tell you about yourself? …About God, the giver of all that is good?

Is ‘good news’ a course you stay on? Where are you right now in relation to good news?

Be encouraged. Relation-ships can always be realigned and persons redintegrated through Jesus. 

Come along with me. Let’s see where our good news and God’s good news take us. Please share  your good news with me so I can share a “Well done!” with you in the comment section below.

Thanks for visiting Brought About: Relationships Realigned. May your 2016 be filled with good news.

What We Look At

As a little girl, I loved grandma’s Christmas tree. Her noble was perfect every year. This tree had layers of green shelves; spaced perfectly, providing just the right places to show off brightly colored glass ornaments. Each ornament had a place of honor. Morning rays of sunshine set them off gloriously. First light traveled through the boughs of a redwood grove just beyond grandma’s living room, then wiggled their way through her glass paneled wall to finally dance with delight on each and every one. In the evening, huge cone-like colored lights made it spectacular.

Mom… well, she decorated differently. As a single mother of three children, it was her job to set the tree up and string the lights. We were included in the Christmas tree tradition because she made it our job to make ornaments for the tree. They were fun to make but most years our tree wasn’t so beautiful.

One year, Mom didn’t buy an ornament kit. We used last year’s creations to decorate that year’s step up from a Charlie Brown tree. Ours had more branches but somehow it seemed so very weak and pathetic.

To make matters worse, last year’s ornaments didn’t “do” storage so well. Yet, each of us dutifully fished them out and tried to salvage what we could. Mom went into her bedroom and returned hauling an arm load of beads that otherwise hung as a drape between her bathroom and her walk-in closet. She immediately busied herself hanging all the beads on our tree just so.

I was devastated! Our tree looked like a hanging garbage bin. Mom had placed all the strands of beads in the center, effectively hiding all the good stuff while proudly displaying all those battered projects of the past for everyone to see. I couldn’t help myself – tears welled up. I HATED this tree.

Come here,” mom said, “I have something to show you.” Mom waited while all of us nestled under the tree. She was patient until our backs were on the floor and our heads as close to the trunk as possible. Then she flipped the light switch.

Wow! It was beautiful. This must be what heaven is like, I thought, and I was happy. No matter what anyone else saw, I knew about the beauty inside our tree. I’d seen it.

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Stop for a moment. Focus in now. Hold both hands in front of you – palms facing in.

Repeat after me.

It’s not what you see….”

It’s not what you see….”

Now close your fingers in to make circles and say with me, “…It’s what you look at.”

Bring your hands together so that one is in front of the other and look through the tunnel you created.

It’s not what you see. It’s what you look at.”

What you choose to look at can make all the difference.

My friend, who is very particular about decorating her Christmas tree, was looking at her Christmas tree on day in grief. “Our church family is supposed to be connected just like these Christmas tree lights but I feel so disconnected.” Her heart was broken. In the quiet she heard a voice say, But Connie, You are my ornament. You reflect the light I shine on you and I love you.” She looked at the light dancing playfully and brilliantly on her ornaments. Then Connie understood her place of honor in God’s sight and she was happy.

My home no longer houses a Christmas tree  but I always decorate for the holiday season so that light can dance through our days and our nights. By God’s grace our decorations will always reflect the glory of cheerful hearts that only God can create.

Remembering that what I look at matters helps me to better appreciate the spectacular dance of light within my own life and the lives of my family.

Friend, May the LORD of light and the Maker of Joy cause a dance of praise within you as you focus on the bits of bigger pictures and see precious details that previously eluded your notice. Amen

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Phases of Favor

There is a growth phase – sometimes during the holidays but not always – in which children desperately desire to please their care-giver (usually Mom and Dad). Mom and Dad generally like that bit.

Then the next phase arrives. Now Mom and Dad are left wondering where their wonderful child went and what sort of evil has possessed them. Evil is not the culprit. Development and processing are.

Children go through behavioral phases of  favor and disfavor.  Sew in peace so that you raise a harvest of righteousness. Sound familiar?

In His wisdom, God designed these to happen at alternate times for a reason. Instruction.

If the gift or reward, instruction or proper encouragement are missing during the phase in which a child seeks favor, the next phase, which should be the practice-what-we-learned phase becomes the I’m-stuck-and-nobody-will-help-me-so-I’ll-figure-it-out-on-my-own phase. That limit pushing… Mom and Dad don’t like quite so well. Honestly, neither does the child. It can be rough on everybody.

Each phase builds on the successes and failures of the previous phase.

Phases of favor shouldn’t be wasted. Scripture teaches us to bear fruit in season and out of season. Making the most of favor is how growth in every season occurs efficiently.

That’s just how it works… in our physical families and also in our spiritual families.

Have I always been successful either participating in or teaching the fine art of favor? No, but I can always choose to be better at it each moment…in the right-here-and-now phase. I can learn to be better at it by paying attention to how God dispenses favor and why.

How do the children of God please their Heavenly Father? How does God effectively reward them if they do?

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The following is a list that will help guide your success as well as mine.

Ways to Please God:

  • BE SEXUALLY PURE/RESPONSIBLE – Exodus 20:14,17; 1 Thessalonians 4:6-8; Acts 15; Romans 12:1; Revelation 22:15

and that [in this matter of sexual misconduct] no man shall transgress and defraud his brother because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we have told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us to impurity, but to holiness [to be dedicated, and set apart by behavior that pleases Him, whether in public or in private]. So whoever rejects and disregards this is not [merely] rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you [to dwell in you and empower you to overcome temptation]. 1 Thessalonians 4:6-8 (AMP)

  • LIVE BY FAITH – Hebrews 11:5,6: 2 Corinthians 5:7

But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 (AMP)

  • WALK IN A MANNER WORTHY OF THE LORD – Colossians 1:9-11

For this reason, since the day we heard about it, we have not stopped praying for you, asking [specifically] that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [with insight into His purposes], and in understanding [of spiritual things], 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord [displaying admirable character, moral courage, and personal integrity], to [fully] please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing in the knowledge of God [with deeper faith, clearer insight and fervent love for His precepts]; 11 [we pray that you may be] strengthened and invigorated with all power, according to His glorious might, to attain every kind of endurance and patience with joy; Colossians 1:9-11 (AMP)

  • OBEY FROM THE HEART (in public and private) WITH GOODWILL (cheerfully) – Ephesians 6:5-7 — Isn’t that every parent’s dream? Oh to be obeyed and look upon the obedient child’s smiling face!

[a]Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with respect for authority, and with a sincere heart [seeking to please them], as [service] to Christ— not in the way of eye-service [working only when someone is watching you and only] to please men, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart; rendering service with goodwill, as to the Lord, and not [only] to men, Ephesians 6:5-7 (AMP)

and all [of them] drank the same [a]spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not well-pleased with [b]most of them, for they were scattered along the ground in the wilderness [because their lack of self-control led to disobedience which led to death].

Now these things [the warnings and admonitions] took place as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did. 1 Corinthians 10:4-6 (AMP)

  • DO NOT CATER TO SINFUL DESIRES – Romans 8:7-8

the mind of the flesh [with its sinful pursuits] is actively hostile to God. It does not submit itself to God’s law, since it cannot, and those who are in the flesh [living a life that caters to sinful appetites and impulses] cannot please God. Romans 8:7-8 (AMP)

Rewards:

  • WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE & JOY – Ecclesiastes 2:26

26 For to the person who pleases Him God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who pleases God. This too is vanity and chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:26 (AMP)

  • ESCAPE FROM IMMORAL WOMEN –

26 And I discovered that [of all irrational sins none has been so destructive in beguiling one away from God as immoral women for] more bitter than death is the woman whose heart is [composed of] snares and nets, and whose hands are chains. Whoever pleases God will escape from her, but the sinner will be taken captive by her [evil]. Ecclesiastes 7:26 (AMP)

  • A NEW BODY – 2 Corinthians 5:5-10 Don’t we ALL want one of those?!

The Temporal and Eternal

5 For we know that if the earthly tent [our physical body] which is our house is torn down [through death], we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our [immortal, eternal] celestial dwelling, so that by putting it on we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened [often weighed down, oppressed], not that we want to be unclothed [separated by death from the body], but to be clothed, so that what is mortal [the body] will be swallowed up by life [after the resurrection]. Now He who has made us and prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the [Holy] Spirit as a pledge [a guarantee, a down payment on the fulfillment of His promise].

So then, being always filled with good courage and confident hope, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises]— we are [as I was saying] of good courage and confident hope, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore, whether we are at home [on earth] or away from home [and with Him], it is our [constant] ambition to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we [believers will be called to account and] must all appear before the [a]judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be repaid for what has been done in the body, whether good or [b]bad [that is, each will be held responsible for his actions, purposes, goals, motives—the use or misuse of his time, opportunities and abilities]. 2 Corinthians 5:5-10 (AMP)

  • PEACE with others who please God – Luke 2:13-14; James 3:18

13 Then suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host (angelic army) praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest [heaven],
And on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased.” Luke 2:13-14 (AMP)

  • POWER & AUTHORITY – Revelation 2:25-27

25 except to hold tightly to what you have until I come. 26 And he who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God] and he who keeps My deeds [doing things that please Me] until the [very] end, to him I will give authority and power over the nations; 27 and he shall shepherd and rule them with a rod of iron, as the earthen pots are broken in pieces, as I also have received authority [and power to rule them] from My Father; Revelation 2:25-27 (AMP)

 

May the LORD reward you well

for actively seeking His favor.

Amen.

Waiting for the Bread

 

Long ago when our family was little, learning to bake bread became a goal worthy enough to make sacrifices to accomplish. It would save us money, be healthier, and everyone could enjoy homemade challah for our Sabbath meal. A great idea with great reasons why I should do this. So I did.

Who should teach me? I had heard one of the pastors in our church rave about Ardelle’s bread. Guess who I asked to teach me? Ardelle.

Ardelle and her husband Cecil were chicken farmers. They were advanced in years and just the two of them worked the farm.

My would-be teacher believed in hands-on learning. She was so thrilled to be asked and promptly invited us over…me and my four little people … to bake bread.

Her house was warm and cozy. All the ingredients and utensils were laid out in readiness. There was plenty of room for the children to participate.

It was perfect.

Except for one thing.

I wasn’t prepared for the waiting.

Ardelle helped us to mix and shape the dough. Everyone enjoyed that bit.

But then it came.

The look on each child’s face that said, “Now what?”

Ardelle informed us at this point, “Now we wait.”

We were supposed to just sit there and wait?

Yes.

My kids don’t do that.

“Well”, came the reply, “You can’t rush bread.”

The waiting was horrible. There were no toys in the van to occupy them.. or in the farm house either. Nobody took them outside to play on the farm which would have been a brilliant idea. Cecil came inside instead. He sat on one couch. They sat on the other and stared at each other.

As a point of reference, it takes three hours to bake bread from start to finish. Imagine four children under the age of seven with nothing to do for three hours in an unfamiliar environment.

Should I leave and then come back? How would she be able to tell me when to come back? Without cell phones we were sort of stuck. I SOOOO wish Ardelle had told me ahead of time what baking bread was like BEFORE we experienced it, before we unwittingly invaded their sanctuary of a home with our wiggly, vocal selves.

Cecil and Ardelle were gracious. I was a wreck.

It is a day I will never forget.

Since that day I have learned the art of  baking bread every week. Another important addition to my life as a baseball/soccer/dance class mom – being prepared to keep the peace wherever I was and to be more prepared for any curve balls that came my way. That meant stocking the van with things to do, food to eat, and extra clothes to wear.

The lessons I learned from Ardelle and Cecil are treasures; Be ready. You can’t rush the bread.

Scripture teaches that the shoes of readiness come from the gospel of peace. It’s a circular thing. Readiness makes for peace. Peace helps us to be ready… for anything.

Just like you can’t rush the bread baking, you can’t rush peace either.

In the Bible, the kind of bread Ardelle made – risen, fluffy, feathery goodness – is the bread of fellowship. (Leviticus 7:13)

Fellowship is a church-word. Most people think of people getting together for a good visit when they hear that word “fellowship”. The bread of fellowship in the Old Testament has a different message all together.

In the King James version of the Bible, this fellowship offering is called the Peace offering. Let’s define that, shall we? [ Strong’s word # 8002- fellowship or peace offering / from 7999 – šālēm – to be finished, be completed; to be at peace; to repay, make restitution, fulfill (a vow); be repaid, be fulfilled; to be brought into peace.] According to Nelson’s Complete Book of Maps and Charts, it was the only offering in which the person offering the sacrifice shared.

Baking bread has always been a partnership with God. A good loaf is good because of ingredients, atmospheric temperatures, barometric pressure, fermentation and time. Some of those items we can control…others are brought about by God’s hand alone.

So it is with the finishing of every project under heaven. At the end of all things others have waited for us to get there in order to be made complete, to be brought into peace, to be finished.

You and I share in this, as well as another great waiting. And like unprepared children we don’t understand what appears to be slow….taking much too long. The completeness of peace seems so very far away. BUT…

Nevertheless, do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.The Lord does not delay [as though He were unable to act] and is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is [extraordinarily] patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

A New Heaven and Earth

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will vanish with a [mighty and thunderous] roar, and the [material] elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and the works that are on it will be [a]burned up. 2 Peter 3:8-10 (AMP)

Just like the bread will rise, and complete it’s goodness baking in the oven, this day will come. It will be spectacular and we wait.

Waiting is horrible for the unprepared. If only we could know when we would be made complete. If only we could know when … then we could bide our time and get ready at the last second. Right?

Nope.

31 Heaven and earth [as now known] will [a]pass away, but My words will not pass away. 32 But of that [exact] day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son [in His humanity], but the Father alone.

33 “Be on guard and stay constantly alert [b][and pray]; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. Mark 13:31-33 (AMP)

This is exactly what the early church did. It is exactly what we must do too; Be on guard and stay constantly alert and pray.

42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and [a]to prayer.

43 [b]Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and [c]signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed [d]were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread[e]from house to house, they were taking their [f]meals together with gladness and [g]sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding [h]to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (NASB)

Being brought into peace is like walking into a room where the aroma of baking bread fills the air and eager anticipation fills each heart…while we wait in fellowship for peace to come out of the oven. I am so looking forward to completeness. Aren’t you?

 

God’s Chosen Instrument: My Son

My Son

You are the instrument God has chosen to play.

He put you together in a very special way.

He carved your shape with a knowing hand.

There is no other like you in all the land.

Made to last with a thick protective coat,

Each string is strung to sing its own special note.

 

The pressure of His fingers firm upon your heart,

‘Tis Love’s tender melody, God’s wonder working art.

Sometimes suffering  His pluck

Produces obedience with tears,

Guided by His Rod and Staff, God’s life in you we hear.

 Producing harmony with each and every strike,

A symphony resolves that true musicians like.

 

Deeds of kindness pace the sheet’s top line

Efforts to be gracious, show His mercy, son of mine.

Submit to His instruction, move at His command,

These songs  He penned for you long before you had a strand.

Middle notes reflect respect, righteousness, redemption,

The rise and fall that comes to all

and chords in Him that strengthen.

Base notes build and hold a bold, infectious beat

I’m grateful for firm ground beneath our dancing feet.

 

When you’re a boy, you’ll have the strength to you need.

When you’re a man, a mission and in His wisdom lead.

When the Master’s musicality calls your heart to sing

That day, my son, you will be a very… very good king.