Assurances in Life – How Firm is Yours?

Unstable Assurances?

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Are there any assurances in life? It may seem like life is hanging in the balance in our current world crisis causing us to falter in the assurances that life holds. As we move into the 3rd week of isolation for most in the U.S. the assurances appear unstable at best and completely dissipated at worse. Many people are losing the assurances they thought they held as this situation continues to march forward and conditions appear on the surface to worsen. Where do you place your assurances, our governments or leadership? medical personal? researchers? pharmaceutical companies? Or are your life assurances placed solely in the only one that can save you no matter what may happen in the world?

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Count on God with Hope

What do You Have to Complain About?

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In today’s current world crisis, what do you count on? Are you complaining or lamenting about the problems affecting, not only the world but you? Many in the world are crying out to God in pain and despair over the current situation, but some were crying out way before this pandemic ever surfaced. It is in a cry of desperation that puts us in a place that we may feel alienated, misunderstood, and even lonely, which is why it is important to know that we’ve someone to count on. There is someone who has been through it all with us and stands ready to lay down their life and bring an end to the suffering. Christ knows and it why we not only cry out to Him, but we can count on God with hope. But what do we do with our complaints?

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Pursue the Right Path, No Matter What

Pursue the Right Path in the Selah

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Do you find it difficult to pursue or follow the right path in times of uncertainty? In 1963, singer-songwriter, Ricky Nelson sang “I will follow you, wherever you go.” He claimed there was no ocean too deep or a mountain too high to keep him from following. The words of that song came to mind this week in the moment of pause that the entire world is experiencing. Who or what exactly do we pursue or are we following when life turns upside down? What do we think the right path is and are we pursuing it?

The season of Lent causes us to pause, take a break, and breathe in deeply the love of God, reflecting on the right path. Throughout the book of Psalms, there is seen the Hebrew word, “Selah,” which is used at least 71 times and found in the book Habakkuk 3 times. The insertion of the word suggests a break, pause, or interruption. It proposes the need to breathe and take a rest. The term “Selah” is thought to be used as an insertion to act as a musical rest. During Lent, a Selah is a time to take a break from the “business-as-usual” and instead attend to our bodies, minds, souls, and hearts. It is a time set apart for worshipers to connect their faith to the path walk in which they live, move, and travel daily through life.

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Unleashed: Expressing Active Joy In worship!

An Unleashed Spring

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Spring is gaining on us and soon it will be fully unleashed, and most of us are excited about the warmer weather and breath of freshness that comes with it. Signs are everywhere from the bulbs popping up to the massive flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds that descended on my community during the last week. I can hear these noisy birds long before I can see them as they create a cacophony of what seems like unleashed wild abandon as they fly in or out of areas. The large flocks are a sight to behold and they most often stop Ezekiel, my Great Dane, and I in our tracks as they fly over us when we are out walking. These very noisy birds seem to be unleashing and expressing the active joy of life seen in spring.

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Never Alone – Paying Attention to Life

Never Alone

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Do you realize in your day-to-day life events that we are never alone? If we truly pay attention to the things going on in our life, we quickly realize that there is someone watching over us. Sometimes when we journey through life, we lose our focus and purpose as the world presses in on us. So, we often move through life going in and out with little thought of God and place our primary focus on our daily tasks. It is easy to forget that we are not alone, and we are not expected to carry life by ourselves. It is in these times that we need to pay even closer attention to our surroundings and carefully reflect on how Christ walks with us daily.

Spring will soon be here and with it comes the ability to really see how God is with us. There will be beautiful flowers popping up, leaves and buds opening, and the embrace of warmth after the coldness of winter. But soon after spring, the hot weather of summer will descend and once again, we might question if we are alone on earth. I read a story earlier this week about how nature reminds us that we are not alone.

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Happy Lent! Is it Possible to be Happy in Reflection?

Oxymorons – Happy and Lent?

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Today is the first day of Lent, so should I suggest, “Happy Lent?” Like the sunny happy color of yellow that God chose for the sour lemon, it seems like an oxymoron. There appears a conflict of terms between “Happy” and “Lent” or that happiness or joy could even be part of the Lenten journey. Should we be happy that Lent has arrived, or can one even celebrate the coming of Lent? To best think about those questions we need to explore what Lent is through a historical view to see if it is possible to have a “Happy Lent” or more to the point be happy in reflection.

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Silence: The Positive Effects of Being Quiet

The Effects of Noise and Benefits of Silence

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Is silence possible in our very noisy world? Even as I write in the quiet of my space there is a train coming down the track blowing its horn, a dog barks incessantly in the distance, and the hum of the diffuser on my desk buzzes along with the birds’ songs outside my window. What does true silence even sound like? I often long for real silence and feel that there must be positive effects on simply being quiet.

The definition of noise is unwanted sound and as that might be different for each of us, typically noise is thought of as loud or persistent unwanted sound that is not only annoying but that can also lead to adverse impacts on learning, quality of life, and health. Our bodies long for quiet and much of the world, especially urbanites, have no idea of what true quiet sounds like. Studies show that our bodies require silence to repair themselves. But often true silence begins by willing ourselves to be quiet, which in turn creates new ways of thinking and is a deeper form of experiencing life.

Silence is not only exclusive but rich and luxurious. There is a wonder in this precious commodity that seems set apart for only those with the means to obtain it. However, it doesn’t have to remain reserved for only those with special privileges, but if we want it, we do have to seek it out. One of the best ways to reach out for quiet is to simply stop making our own noise. It seems obvious that we can’t listen if we are talking and clanging our own gong.

Cease the Noise and Be Still

The noise we make as individuals often comes from the added activity of busyness that takes over our modern-day lives. So, when we take the time to purposefully be quiet and create our own silence, regardless of the noise around us, it helps not only our bodies slow down, but it allows us to listen internally. It is in these moments that we can quietly watch for the glory of God to reveal Himself to us. When we choose to sing songs of silence not only can we hear more clearly the voice of God, but we can allow ourselves to stand in awe of Him.

It has been said that “To listen to God in worship is greater than to hear any man/woman preach.” When we take the time to be silent and listen to God, we can clearly see the wonders of Him. It is in this place that His magnificent glory takes center stage and there isn’t anything for us to do but to quietly sit and bask in His glory. Being still and quiet appears to go hand in hand and when these two activities come together with our ability to experience God and worship Him at a higher level, we can then see glimpses of His glory.

Seeing and Listening to the Glory on the Mountaintop

As we look to the events on the Mount of Transfiguration, the glory of Christ is revealed opening both eyes and ears to the magnificence of God. Christ allows the disciples a glimpse of glory giving them a sense of awe and wonder. When we allow our souls to experience silence, through quieting the external and internal noises of life, we allow the voice of God to be clearly heard. For we, like Peter, James, and John at this moment on the mountain, not only will see the glory of God but clearly hear Him.

But even as He spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to Him.”

Matthew 17:5 (NLT)

It was with these words in the quiet that the disciples understood that Jesus is the Son of God and it is this astounding truth that prompts the proper response of worship. Here in this clear transfiguration on top of the mountain, the realization comes that Christ is more than a great leader, a good example or influence, or great prophet. He was all these things and much more because He is the Son of God! When we cancel out our own noise and create our personal silence, we too can understand that the message of the transfiguration is simple. It is the complete change of the appearance of Christ into His more beautiful spiritual state that allows His full radiant glory to shine and it is this transfiguration that allows us to understand fully that the words of Christ are true.

Learning How to Bask in the Glory of Silence

When we cancel out our own noise and accept the silence of His presence, we can see the glory of Him all around us, clearly seeing His light, colors, wonders, and beauty no matter where we are. It is on this higher plane of silence that we can put our skepticism aside and embrace that there are mysteries in this world that we will not understand but in this, we can be assured that God is behind them all. Furthermore, it is in this place of silence that we know and understand that we can depend fully on Christ and trust Him and His message. This allows us to completely commit our lives to be led by Him. When we take the time to daily reflect in silence, His beauty will surround us as we can clearly see Him.

One of the ways we can be encouraged to experience silence through the glory of the Transfiguration ourselves is through the practice of Lectio Divina, which means divine reading. It is a monastic practice of reading scripture, not for study, but for the living Word. Typically, there are 4 steps involved in this ancient-modern practice; Lectio (Read), Meditatio (Reflect), Oratio (Respond), and Contemplatio (Rest). It is the final step that allows the silence to transform us in the stillness of God. It is in this silence that our eyes fully open, we can listen carefully, and pay attention to the simple song of silence that reveals the glory of God.

Seeing and Hearing Clearly in the Silence

Won’t you be challenged to be silent with God each day clearly hearing His voice and seeing Him in your surroundings recognizing His full authority over you? Find your conviction rooted in knowing that Christ is the Son of God. Seek your motivation in the revealing that God gave authority to the Words of Christ and you can fully trust Him knowing that the Bible is not a collection of fables or human ideas about God. Surround yourself in the comfort of knowing that God’s very Words are given through people to people and you hold life because Jesus is the Messiah that came and will come again for you.

Love in Christ,

E.J.

Postscript

Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.

Heri Nouwen

Extra Study

Psalm 2:7, Matthew 3:17; 12:18, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22, 2 Peter 1:17

What are Your Thoughts?

Do you take time to seek silence with God on a regular basis? Have you experienced the positive effects that listening to God in the silence can hold? Share your thoughts on the positivity that comes in your life from willing yourself to be quiet and bask in the silence of His glory.

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Credits
  Manney, E. (2019, October 18). Lectio Divina: A  Beginner's Guide. Retrieved from Busted Halo:  https://bustedhalo.com/ministry-resources/lectio-divina-beginners-guide       

Obedience: Developing Faith with Some Help

Obedience and Control

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The word obedience often concurs up feelings of negativity. Its meaning seems to go against human nature as it is defined as “compliance with an order or submission to another’s authority.” We, humans, prefer being in charge or more specifically in control and thus like things to submit to our ways instead of the other way around. Where does your life fall in with obedience? Could you use a bit of help to be obedient while developing your faith?

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Simple and Basic: Demonstrating the Love of Christ

Do Simple and Basic Actions Speak Louder than Words?

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What would a simple and basic life look like? In our complicated world today, these words sound quite inviting. We often hear phrases like, “return to the basics” or “living simply.” But these words can mean a variety of things depending on your definition of both simple and basic. For some, it conjures up thoughts of living a life with only the essentials without the frills while for others it might mean just paring down the excess, but still living comfortably. However, we should look beyond the “things” of life when examining the words, simple and basic. We need to look to the root of human relationships and leave the tangible behind. Simple and basic means just loving one another with whatever means we can love with as we demonstrate the love of Christ through our actions.

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Find Peace with God’s Upside-Down Plan

Upside-Down World

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It seems like we live in an upside-down world. A world where sometimes wrong is seen as right and right as wrong. As humans, upside-down isn’t always pleasant, as most of us prefer the space around us and beyond as stable and full of understanding. The world is anything but this and if we study history, outside of Eden, it never has been. How we deal with the upside-down world though can be conquered when we study God’s upside-down plan. It is in the acceptance of His plan that we realize our upside-down world isn’t so upside-down. Furthermore, it is in this place that not only can we come together to change the world but do it with the grace of peace.

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