But Jesus

It happened in the Garden first. At the moment sin entered God’s perfect creation, the first man and woman saw their nakedness…. And they hid themselves. They had believed the deception of the serpent, enticed by the luscious fruit on the tree and the promise of being like God, and they chose to disobey their Creator. What follows is the greatest tragedy in the course of humanity’s existence, as history was forever changed by their decision to rebel. Immediately, their eyes were opened. They saw that they were naked. They were ashamed. They hid. More specifically, out of their desperation and shame, they sewed a covering out of fig leaves to conceal their nakedness. This was their first attempt at concealing, hiding their shame from one another. But they had a greater problem. Hearing the Lord God walking in the garden, they ran for cover in the trees, a second attempt to conceal their transgression, this time from the Almighty Himself. Didn’t they know there is no hiding from their Creator? Surely they did, but that does not stop the desperate from trying anyway. Thus began the art of concealing. It is an art that has been attempted by all and mastered by many over the course of history. We become expert manipulators and chameleons, presenting what we hope others will believe about us, concealing what we hope they will never find out. As children, it is imperfect: the toddler who attempts to sneak out of his bedroom after bedtime; the child who eats forbidden cookies but fails to wipe the chocolate from her mouth; the brother who hits his sister while...

Training Required

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  Hebrews 12:1-3 The Ancient Christians, living in North Africa and the Middle East in the third century are described by Paul Thigpen, in an article from Discipleship Journal (sept./oct 2004), as “athletes of God.” I LOVE that. ATHLETES OF GOD. These men and women had earned the title of athletes for God! They had developed the strength and commitment along with a willingness to endure the training required to be held in such company. What does it take to be a “spiritual athlete” in this day and age? We are an exhausted culture, and if the thought of another race to run sounds exhausting, take heart, this type of discipline is not meant to exhaust, but exhilarate! It’s meant to help us RUN THE RACE set before us. It’s not on piled on top of all of the other things on the daily “to do” list, it focuses our eyes on the prize as we hit the pavement. These disciplines, when practiced consistently, help “lay aside every weight and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before.”  I hear you. Discipline...

Trusting in the Unseen, not the Unknown

Who doesn’t love the Faith chapter in the Book of Hebrews?! “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 NKJV We want to believe. Let’s look at it a little more closely: Faith is the substance of things hoped for. The word translated substance comes from the Greek hupostasis which means a placing or setting under, a substructure or foundation. In Hebrews 3:14 and 2 Corinthians 9:4, it appears as the word confidence. Hupostasis is a substructure, or foundation that although it may be hidden, exists beneath and supports what is visible. Just as the foundation of a building is not seen, but the building above the ground is visible, the foundation, the hupostasis, is very real and is vital in supporting the building! Our faith is that foundation, that confidence, that even though we can’t see it, we know that it’s there. It’s what holds everything together. It’s sure, it’s tested. Now, “…the evidence of things not seen.” And evidence? The Greek there we won’t attempt to pronounce, elegchos, which is translated a proof or conviction. So, Faith is the substance, foundation and confidence, of things hoped for,  the evidence, or proof and conviction, of things not seen! The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says, “Faith is trust in the unseen. It is not trust in the unknown, for we may know by faith what we cannot see with the eye.” Take a look at the picture below of my youngest son, Korey Ross, taken in Jurmala, Latvia, in Eastern Europe. In this world things are not always as they seem. We get caught up in the cares of this life, we always want more and think bigger is better and faster is cooler. But as the picture...

Use Your Spurs!

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) “Let us consider” means to consider carefully and attentively, to concentrate by fixing one’s thinking, to fix one’s eyes or mind upon. (www.blueletterbible.org; http://biblehub.com) This is more than a casual thought.This means that I am concentrating. I am spending time focusing my thoughts. What am I to focus on? How can I spur others on “toward love and good deeds?” The word “spur” is also translated as provoke, stir up, motivate, promote, stimulate and excite.  The original meaning can also mean irritation. Hmm…irritation, provoke, spur…what are we supposed to provoke our friends to do? We are supposed to encourage them toward love and good deeds. The New International Version translation of the Bible uses the word “spur” here. I picture someone riding a horse and using his or her spurs to move the horse in the right direction. I am sure the spur is irritating to the horse, but it moves him forward. It keeps him from being content just standing still. How do we do this for others? Does this mean we have to be irritating and pushy? No, but I think if we have a friend who is stuck in their comfort zone and they are not moving forward, then we are to lovingly stimulate or excite them, to motivate them to move forward. The truth often does irritate us at first, because we...

The Jesus Doll

A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that we’re going to die?” (Mark 4:37-38) A storm rages, and Jesus sleeps. Do you know the feeling? You’re in the middle of a crisis, scared for your life, and Jesus seems clueless or, even worse, disinterested? Just because Jesus doesn’t do what we want doesn’t mean He’s not with us and fully aware of what’s going on. Just because He doesn’t respond in our timing doesn’t mean He doesn’t care. Jesus is not a doll that you can position, mold, and move according to the story you want to tell. You can’t pick Him up and set Him aside at your convenience. You’re not in charge. He is. You cry out to Him in desperation, because He has the power to do something, then you don’t approve of the way or the when of what He does (or doesn’t do). You think you know what action is needed, but you can’t get it done by yourself. The waves are too big, the winds too strong. You call out to His authority, yet you withhold a handful of control yourself, because you don’t completely approve or trust. The control you think you have is an illusion. Open your hand and check. It’s empty. Whatever you think you’re clinging to isn’t yours to grasp. Regardless of the impression Jesus is making on you, of the posture you see Him...

Welcoming back an old friend & a HeBrews Giveaway!!

We are thrilled to welcome Leah Adams BACK to the Cafe! We love when we have the opportunity to celebrate blessings with an author. Leah has just released her new Bible Study, HeBrews! Welcome Leah back to the Cafe and don’t forget to leave a comment to win a copy! The winner will be drawn on August 15th. The Better Choice Right there it was on the kitchen counter. My opportunity to choose the good or the better. It was my choice, and I weighed it carefully. I liked both choices, really. And neither were inherently bad. But, clearly, one was better. Which would I choose? The store-bought, plastic wrapped pecan pie, or the ice-cold bowl of rich, creamy homemade strawberry ice cream. Although I adore pecan pie, this time it was the loser. The homemade ice cream won out as the better choice, and the moment it caressed my taste buds, I knew I had made the BETTER choice. Life is similar. Every day, sometimes many times a day, you and I are offered a choice between the good and the better. Vacation at the beach or mountains. A date with Joe or Tom. The red dress or the purple one. Faithfulness or cheating in marriage. Black shoes or another pair of black shoes (yeah, you have to be a woman to understand this.) Job A or Job B. Serving Jesus or serving self.  Choices. Choices. The tension created by choices has been around for thousands of years. Eve had a choice to make: fruit or fasting; obedience or disobedience to God’s command. To build an ark or...

word-filled wednesday {see and pray} :: approach

The Word Hebrews 4:16 (NIV) Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. The Prayer Father, the idea of having complete access to you wows me! I have permission to come boldy to your throne whenever I have need, no matter where I am. No appointment is necessary. No guards to prevent me. No special access code needed. It's just me, your daughter, entering into your presence. Maybe I have a request. Maybe not. Sometimes, I just want to enter and sit, soaking in your amazing essence.  Maybe I simply want to show my gratitude, leaving with tear-streaked cheeks. Either way, no matter what the need, I have access!  Thank you for being a Father who gladly welcomes his children, wanting each of us to step up, out and toward you. By becoming flesh, you granted all flesh entrance. I'm overwhelmed by my gratitude.  In Jesus' Name, Amen… The Share If you are joining us today & “Seeing & Praying”  THIS WORD, we’d love to encourage each other on the journey. Part of this experience is to share and see what the Lord reveals to each of us we come together in community to share the Holy Word. We encourage you to journal, create & pray through this verse and share that with our Wednesday with our community by commenting below. We hope that with all of us centering on one verse that the Lord will reveal...

{Wordfilled Wednesday} What do we see in the waiting?

I can’t pretend to know God’s purposes for my summer. We’re in a holding pattern. We cannot see what lies ahead. Commitments have been only penciled in on the calendar.  Invitations are replied to with an, “I’ll have to let you know…” and the children are growing frustrated with the “I don’t know” responses to their curious questions. Life is tentative. Scheduled loosely. Unpredictable. We’re waiting on others to make some decisions that will affect our future. We’re waiting on God to reveal His purposes to us. It is a familiar place, where I sense the Holy Spirit’s conviction and the voice of the Lord whispering in my soul, “Don’t forget what I’ve taught you.  Glorify me in the waiting.  Worship me in the unknown. Trust me with the outcome.” I sort of sigh. Aren’t we always waiting on God? I’m impatient. Of course, there are seasons when we feel as though we know our commitments. We go about scheduling our days, because certain pieces feel fixed, like work, school holidays, and celebration times.  But there are also those times when we most certainly feel like we’re on a need to know basis with God — seasons in which we face unemployment, illness, pending closing dates on the house we’re selling and the one we’re buying, conceiving a child, awaiting on the adoption papers, and even the restoration of a broken relationship. I think God gives us these unpredictable seasons in order to remind us that we must walk by faith, all the time.  It is all too easy to forget that He’s in charge. When life lacks moments...

Stick-to-it-iveness

I placed a problem in front of my students with some instructions and gave them a time limit (I’m a high school math teacher…did you guess?) Once I asked them to get started solving the problem, hands started to shoot up across the room. “I don’t get it. Where are we supposed to start?  What are we supposed to do?  How are we supposed to do this?” I had determined in advance that I would not answer questions, but instead, I would only ask them.  So, I responded. “Did you ask your teammates that question?  Did you try to draw a diagram?  Did you read all of the instructions?  What pattern do you see here?” I walked around the room answering questions with questions.  After an hour of forcing those kids to stick to their task, they finally began to solve the problem, without my help.  They didn’t think they could; they got frustrated and wanted to give up.  They wanted someone to just give them the answers, so they could move on to another thing.  But I wanted to see them persevere through this problem solving exercise. And, in the end? They discovered that they could do it.  They felt the power of success (despite challenges).  They experienced the joy of working through a problem with a team and finding a solution. As I think about it, I wonder if God works that way too sometimes.  We get frustrated by the struggles we face in life and we come to Him with all our questions.  We want answers.  We want Him to lead us straight to the exit...

Salad Bar Bible

I treat my Bible like the salad bar at Denny’s. No, I don’t load it up with cucumber slivers and bacon bits. The thought of blue cheese drizzling over the gold-edged pages, pooling on top of, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob,” clearly makes me cringe. Yet just as particular as I am about picking and choosing just the right toppings for my lunch plate, I pick and choose which Bible verses I believe as well. I’m not proud. Don’t let my casual comparison lead you to believe I have anything but respect for God’s Word. But God has pointed out that either I choose to believe the whole book in its entirety, or I choose not to believe it at all. I tend to hand select verses like croutons and sprinkle them on my life, to season it just so. Choosing verses like, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” (Matt. 11:28 NIV) or maybe a smattering of, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you,”(Deut. 31:8 NIV) gives an extra crunch and satisfaction to my day. But I often choose to leave the, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor… then come, follow me,” (Luke 18:22 NIV) and, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands,” (Ephesians 5:22 NIV) sitting like the cubed ham and syrupy beets – untouched. With head high, I walk away, my life sweeter for not mucking it...