The Results Are In!

poll-results4

Be careful what you ask for, the saying goes…for you just might get it. I made a call for suggestions on our next topic, and that’s exactly what I got! When I received the deluge of demands (okay, one request – thanks, Michael J), my heart initially skipped a beat. How can a series develop from Jesus calming the storm, I wondered?

Out of curiosity, I googled the definition of ‘storm’ and found this:

  1. A violent disturbance of the atmosphere with strong winds and usually rain, thunder, lightning or snow (synonyms include tempest, gale, whirlwind, tornado, cyclone, twister, squall, typhoon, hurricane)
  2. A tumultuous reaction; an uproar or controversy (synonyms include uproar, outcry, furor, brouhaha, rumpus, hue and cry, fuss)

Wow! I don’t know about you, but those definitions/synonyms jump out at me. They paint pictures of events so powerful as to demand some sort of reaction.

Intrigued, I looked up what the Bible has to say about storms, and it turns out that there’s A LOT – enough to keep us busy for many moons to come (yay!).

So sit back and enjoy the ride as we embark on our next series, titled Stormkeeper. I look forward to seeing you there!

Be blessed,

R

Image attribution:

http://blogs.e-rockford.com/applesauce/2014/05/15/flash-fox-news-poll-shows-obamas-job-approval-numbers-pretty-much-even/#axzz3b6yRFt6t

 

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God of New Beginnings: “Looking Back…and Forward”

new_beginnings

Fellow Wordzpreadians (yes, this is a word I’ve created and who knows? It may be in the dictionary one day… 🙂 thank you for joining me on the ride through the God of New Beginnings series, including embedded devotionals.

I’d love to get your feedback on any special learning point(s) you drew from the messages. For my part, I’m walking away with a stronger than ever conviction that God is in absolute and total control of any and everything. It doesn’t matter how dire the situation looks or how awful I feel inside. The same God who raised the valley of dry bones can always breathe new life into anything I bring Him.

But what about all those mistakes I made which contributed to this quagmire that’s holding me captive? I’m glad you asked! The God of new life is also the God of Amazing Grace, who loves each one of us much more than we could ever comprehend. Regardless of how badly we mess up, He does not look at us with disgust. On the contrary, He views us with everlasting love and unfailing kindness. He knows our frame (for He has walked in it), and is ever riding the heavens to help us – underneath are His everlasting arms.

God does not condemn us, and nothing can separate us from His love. But we can allow our view of Him to be obscured by doubt and fear – especially when we don’t understand what He’s doing or His timing. To that, I say we take a page from the book of the newly liberated Judean captives and hold on to His word. As we make it our center and core, God promises to reveal Himself to us in a whole new way – one which forces anxiety and fear to take a back seat.

Did you all get the same messages from the series, or was it just me? Do let me know! And while you’re at it, I welcome your suggestions for the next topic(s) to wordzpread through…(see? It’s catching on! 🙂

Be blessed!

R

Image attribution:

http://www.chathamsa.org.uk/2009/12/31/new-beginnings/

**Devotional – John’s Struggle**

 JohnTheBaptist1

Read: Luke 7:18-28

“Doesn’t he know I’m here?” John wondered. “Does he even care?” He’d tried calming the growing anxiety in his followers’ faces. Yet he too was running out of excuses. The unspoken question remained unanswered: why wouldn’t his famous cousin save him? Reports spread of Jesus’ miraculous works throughout the region. But John’s prison sentence stretched from days to weeks, and still Jesus didn’t come.

Finally, in a fit of doubt and despair, John sent his disciples to inquire. Was Jesus the Expected One, or should they look for another? (Luke 7:19) In response, Jesus told them to report all that they had seen. The blind saw, the lame walked and the dead were brought to life. Then he added something else – “Blessed is he who does not take offense at me.” (Luke 7:23)

John had enough scripture memorized to connect the dots of fulfilled prophecy. He knew the answer before he asked the question. But he was offended that Jesus didn’t stand up for him. At least, not in the way he expected.

Do you get mad at God when He doesn’t respond the way you plan, hope or believe? I know I do. I impose my expectations on God as rights, and then sulk when they don’t materialize. But I’m learning that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than mine, so I can’t always grasp the intimate details He’s working out. Instead, I must learn to trust that His plans and purposes for me are good and way better than anything I could have hoped or thought.

Despite his doubts, John remained faithful. He was ultimately beheaded, but not before Jesus stated that none greater than John had ever lived among those born of women. (Luke 7:28) Imagine what awaited him in glory. Imagine what awaits us as we learn to hold on to God in faith.

Next:

Do you find it difficult surrendering to God’s will when you don’t understand the full picture? What steps can you take to seek God’s perspective on a challenging situation?

Read Hebrews 11 to learn how important our faith is to God.

Be Blessed,

R

Image Attribution:

http://feedingonchrist.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/JohnTheBaptist1.jpg

 

God of New Beginnings: “The Ultimate Reset”

reset

I recently listened to a sermon where the preacher relived his memories of playing video games as a boy. Whenever a game wasn’t going someone’s way, he said, all they had to do was dive for the reset button. And just like that, the playing field was even again.

Wouldn’t it be great if life came with a reset button? There’d never be any need for anxiety, fear or regret. If things don’t turn out just as we like, the button would be waiting. This idea is not as far- fetched as we might imagine. In Isaiah 43: 19-20, God spoke through the prophet, saying ‘Behold, I will do a new thing…I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert…to give drink to My people, My chosen.” Hundreds of years later, Jesus was offering living water to the woman at the well of Samaria.

When God first told Abram that all nations of the world would be blessed through his seed (Genesis 12:3), it may have seemed like pie in the sky. After all, the man didn’t even have one child to call his own. And neither he nor his wife was getting any younger. Well, Isaac came. Then Jacob and his twelve sons followed, blossoming into the nation of Israel.

Even then, the promise seemed shaky. The Israelites couldn’t quite seem to embrace their God intended role, ending up scattered and in captivity. They emerged from bondage with a new focus on God’s word, but in time, their zeal for the law evolved into legalism. The spirit of God’s law was set aside for the letter, and appearances carried the day.

So what did God do? He sent His Son, to dwell among men in the flesh. Jesus, fully God and fully man, came to demonstrate what a sinless life looks like. And having accomplished that, He offered Himself in our place, a perfect and blameless sacrifice to take away the sins of the world. And now, through the blood of Jesus, we have boldness to approach the throne of grace, having been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.

“O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But THANKS BE TO GOD, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

We may not have the ability to turn back time, but God is abundantly able to turn things around. Jesus is the ultimate reset of history, of God’s story, of yours and mine. Because of Jesus, we ALWAYS have hope for a New Beginning.

Amen!! Be blessed,

R

Image attribution:

http://colebradburn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/reset.png

God of New Beginnings: “A People Reborn”

People of the word

In a stunning fulfillment of prophecy declared 150 years earlier by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28), King Cyrus of Persia proclaimed that God’ people (now broadly known as Jews) should return to their homeland and rebuild God’s temple (Ezra 1:1-4). So up went the tribal leaders, priests and Levites who felt God’s urging to execute this order. No sooner had these descendants of captivity settled in the cities of their homeland than they ‘gathered together as one man to Jerusalem.’ (Ezra 3:1b) Once in Jerusalem, they proceeded to build ‘the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses, the man of God…they also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings…afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering…for all the appointed feasts of the Lord…’ (Ezra 3:3-5, emphasis mine).

As if that wasn’t enough, the people came forward of their own accord to denounce those who had taken foreign wives from nations forbidden by God (Canaanites, Hittites, Moabites, etc). The entire congregation then willingly submitted to Ezra’s direction that such marriages be annulled (Ezra 9-10).

Were these the people who, only 70 years before, had been exiled from their land due to rampant disobedience to God’s word (including intermingling with forbidden foreign nations)? The same ones who had so neglected the Law of Moses that it lay forgotten in a nook of the temple and was only stumbled upon during a money gathering exercise? (2 Kings 22)

Yes…and no. They were the same descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; however, something had changed during the time of their captivity. Stripped of their national identity and Solomon’s impressive temple, the captives congregated around the one thing that they still had in common – God’s word. Although the Babylonians waged a determined campaign to make their captives forget about their homeland, these exiles held on to the prophecies of restoration with hope. To avoid assimilation into the culture of the day, they had to find some way in which to set themselves apart. And so, God’s word became their very culture. No wonder, then, that it was foremost in their minds and thoughts in a way that their ancestors had never quite managed. To this day, observant Jews take Deuteronomy 11:18 literally, and wear small black leather boxes containing scripture inscribed parchments during weekday morning prayers.

God’s people were so changed that they never again had another king. Instead, the priesthood rose in prominence. And the idolatry with which their ancestors had so struggled? It was truly a thing of the past. Modern day Jews are so leery of idolatry that they permit no images of God in any way, shape or form.

These changes didn’t mean that they were now perfect. However, the new mindset paved the way for the ultimate fulfillment of prophecy – Jesus. Although Jesus was rejected by the larger population, there were a few key individuals who recognized him as the Messiah of scripture.  And with these few, God changed the world.

Deuteronomy 32:46b-47a says ‘…be careful to observe all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life…’ Is that how you see God’s word? Join me next time as we explore this statement.

Be blessed,

R

Image attribution:

https://www.jerichocop.org/ministries/people-of-the-word/

 

**Devotional – Hope Awakening**

valley of dry bones

Read: Ezekiel 37  
“He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’” (Ezekiel 37:3a)

The question caught Ezekiel off guard. For a moment, his mind wandered back to his very first vision of God. Then, he had seen the heavens opened and had caught a glimpse of God and the awesome majesty of his throne. “And when [he] saw it, [he] fell upon his face…” (Ezekiel 1:28) Snapping back to present day, the prophet looked around the valley that God had just spirited him to. Now, he “saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.” (Ezekiel 37:3)

Ezekiel hesitated. He still recalled the appearance of God’s glory, the fire, the brightness of His beauty. But right now, his eyes beheld another story – a valley full of dead, dry bones. Whatever life had once coursed through those remains was long gone. Could they live again? It certainly didn’t look like it. Still, if anyone could bring these bones back to life, it was God. Finally, he responded with the only truth he could wrap his mind around. “[He] said, ‘Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’” (Ezekiel 37:3b)

Sometimes the situation in front of us is so overwhelming, it blocks everything else out – even what we know to be true about God and His promises. Hope seems lost, distant and unattainable. At times like these, our best recourse is to cry out like the father seeking deliverance for his son, “Lord I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

God is faithful to meet us where we are. He responded to Ezekiel with a directive to prophesy to the bones. When all was said and done, “breath came into [the bones], and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.” (Ezekiel 37:10)

In the midst of their captivity, God’s people felt like they would never get out of the hole their sin had dug them into. Babylon seemed inconquerable and hope improbable. And so, God sent them a word of hope telling Ezekiel, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord…I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,’ says the LORD.”

No matter where you are today, what hurt or disappointment you’re dealing with, God is saying, “ For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Father, give us the grace to receive Your word and promise of hope. Amen.

Be blessed,

R

Be blessed,

Image attribution:

https://www.google.com/search?q=valley+of+dry+bones&biw=1183&bih=625&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=mxUrVc_6CcP4gwSF1YKwDw&sqi=2&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ&dpr=1#imgrc=tGIf6jble0_nIM%253A%3Bk_KXTX63rY7WhM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fi1.ytimg.com%252Fvi%252FF83bDsHpkpg%252F0.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fbaixarmusicasonlines.com%252Fmp3%252Fezekiel-37-valley-of-the-dry-bones-rise-o-israel-rise.html%3B480%3B360

God of New Beginnings: “Foreshadowing Easter”

daniel-in-the-lions-den-emerson-l-freese-jr

Daniel served prominently in the Babylonian court for decades, gaining the favor of one king after the other. Eventually, his counterparts got fed up – Daniel’s exceptional qualities were making the rest of them look bad. Seeing no other way to trip him up, a bold plan was hatched to attack him on the subject of his faith. It didn’t take much to feed Darius’ ego and get the decree issued. By the time the king realized the malicious set up, it was too late. Daniel was hurled into the lions’ den, and a stone placed over what should have been his tomb. His enemies gloated. Daniel’s fate was sealed and evil had triumphed.

Sound familiar?

But the story wasn’t over. Daniel emerged from the den very much alive and God was undeniably the victor. This awesome display of God’s sovereignty drove Darius to issue a different decree – one in which all nations and peoples were commanded to fear and reverence Daniel’s God (Daniel 6:25-27). As for Daniel, he continued to prosper in the reign of Darius and into that of Cyrus the Persian.

This is the same Cyrus who proclaimed that the Lord, the God of heaven had appointed him to build a temple at Jerusalem in Judah, and that God’ people should return to their homeland in order to execute this order (Ezra 1:1-4). The captivity was over – thanks in no small part to the influence of a man who dedicated his life to honoring God.

And it all started with a decision made right at the start of captivity. When the situation seemed darkest, God was already paving the way for deliverance through the life of a remarkable young man.

Today, we celebrate our deliverance from captivity to sin through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Rejoice! God always has a plan.

Happy Easter!

R

Image attribution: http://fineartamerica.com/art/paintings/daniel+in+the+lions+den/all