I live out in the country and my family’s farm is surrounded by other farms with cows or sheep. Recently one of our ‘neighbours’ added a new member to their flock, this new member is a little different than the other sheep in the fact that he is a bald faced alpaca. Yep I said alpaca, it surprised me too when I saw him. When inquiring as to why the farmer suddenly had a thing for exotic pets, we learned that alpacas hate cyotes and will chase them off if they come near the sheep. So the new member was there as a live in shepherd, a watcher to protect the sheep. The Bible tells us that Jesus is our good shepherd, in other words He goes above and beyond to take care of His flock. In the days of David the shepherds lived on the fields with their flocks to care for them; they would fight off bears and wolves and other passers by who were hungry enough to try to grab a sheep. Shepherds were injured, got sick and sometimes were killed in their diligent work, but nothing could draw them from their flock. Our modern shepherds don’t have the time to watch their flocks day and night and protect them from predators so they get help, hence the alpaca. Jesus on the other hand is like the old shepherds, the never leave, never give up soldiers of the fields who never allowed their sheep to fall prey to enemies. Like the alpaca, Jesus is a constant shepherd, out in the wilderness to protect HIS beloved. Jesus died to protect us from the enemy, like shepherds are willing to do for their sheep, but Jesus rose and came back with safety and freedom in His hands! He came back to us to continue to protect us as He continues to love us. Once in a while bad things may still come, but Jesus is still watching over us and He will never leave us in a storm longer than we can handle. Our shepherd never leaves us nor forsakes us, hallelujah what a saviour!
Who deserves the credit?
The deceiver comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come to save you and give you life.- John 10:10
The devil makes nothing, all he does is destroy; only God creates. God creates all things, He writes, paints and even cooks. All works of our hands done to God are works of His hands. God has a perfect plan for all of us, and the things we can do. Without God there is nothing but destruction, with God there is light in the darkest tunnel, paths through the highest mountains, and an end to all trials. God does not force us into His plan; He guides us and directs us, but in the end allows us to make our own decisions and that’s why sometimes we fail, because we have fallen away from God’s path for us. God allows us to fail so that we will draw closer to Him and realize the potential He gave us. The devil is a copycat and sometimes tries to make the good things God does for us look like things we have done ourselves, without God’s help. It’s a good trick because many people fall for it, many think they have succeeded in life because of their hard work, and that does play a part in success but in truth success occurs because: A. God has given them success, or B. the devil has allowed them to succeed to draw them farther from God, but in neither situation did they get where they are on their own. The devil comes to destroy because he knows in the end he will lose and he wants to kill off as much of God’s creation as he can before that happens. Only through Jesus can we triumph over the devil, only through Jesus can we succeed in life to the fullest of our potential, because only Jesus creates and guides our paths.
Let go my wandering spirit part 2
Nothing we desire is coincidence. Now don’t misread this, some desires are set in us by the devil because he wants to lead us to sin, and some are simply human desires because we are, well, human; but many if not most of our desires are given to us by God because He is guiding us to become the person He wants us to be. I am often overtaken by a longing for the Ocean, not just to stand on her shores and admire her beauty, but to be out on her, sailing, so far out that I haven’t seen the shore for days and have no idea what lies ahead on the vast depth of horizon. I often wonder why I desire this, is God drawing me to something that involves the ocean? Am I going to end up somewhere out at sea with no connection to the land? Maybe, or maybe I read too many Jules Verne novels. But if God did end up sending me out to sea, to search the oceans, I would not be spiritually wandering from Him, I would be physically wandering with Him. Missionaries travel this whole world, because they are wandering in the guidance of the Spirit. Sometimes if your soul seems to be yearning to go someplace and/or do something it’s because God is sending you onto your next horizon, it’s because HE wants you to share in an adventure with Him. When Gandalf came to Bilbo’s quiet countryside home and found the hobbit smoking his pipe on a bench he already knew that the journey needed Bilbo, and Bilbo needed the journey; he wasn’t searching for just anyone to go with him on his adventure, he was searching for that one, particular hobbit because no one else would do. When God starts to make our souls uncomfortable and makes us desire to wander it’s because He knows that the journey needs our special touch, our unique character, and He knows that we need the journey and that in the end we will be even closer to Him. Because the amount of times we fall on this journey and the amount of times God catches us add up to make our faith stronger and our focus more clearly on Jesus as our goal. So let go wandering spirit and wander away, you never know what your wandering is preparing you for.
Let go my wandering spirit part 1
My absolute favorite quote from Tolkien is: Not all who wander are lost.
This statement makes me dream of far off places and uncharted road trips. I can imagine and visualize deep woods thick with ancient trees, their boughs reaching to me as if to guide me along my path. I picture chill mornings by a soothing campfire with a hot cup of coffee in my hand, my dog nestled on my knee and morning doves starting to sing a greeting to the day. Beautiful thoughts these may be, but what if we take a closer look at that phrase? Not all who wander are lost. Tolkien became devout Roman Catholic so there are Christ like connections to His novels and His quotes (whether he intended them or not). Many have written devotionals linking the “Hobbit” and “the Lord of the Ring” with the Bible; no one could possibly know if Tolkien would have approved of these derivative works or not but I doubt he would have minded. Looking at Tolkien’s Faith I wonder what He meant when he said “not all who wander are lost”? Scripture talks about a heart that is prone to wander from the will of God and from God Himself, but that is a different wandering than Tolkien meant here; Tolkien speaks of a physical wandering, a “letting go of the feet” if you will. Here is the point I get from “not all who wander are lost,” not all who wander physically are lost spiritually. Some of us have what may be referred to as a gypsy soul, a restless spirit that makes it so we must constantly be on the move. This may be the result of seeking a longing that only Christ can fill, a longing to know Him because we have wandered from Him, or never knew Him to begin with, but it may also be a need to wander set in us by God.
Love sets us apart
The difference between Christians and many, not all, but many other people is that we love the person despite our differences. We may not always like what the people do, what they believe in, or even the people themselves, but we always love them because our God tells us to. It’s not always easy, to be honest it’s usually not easy, but we choose to love anyways. God says to love your neighbor as yourself. He doesn’t say love the nice person across the street but hate the guy down the road who purposely walks his dog to your yard to let them do their business. God says to love everyone. In this modern age where it feels like we as Christians are being persecuted from every side it’s very easy to start to hate the persecutors; but loving them (the hard thing to do) is what sets us apart from them. There’s an old song that says “persecuted not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.” In the midst of everything the Christians all over this world are going through we are still not abandoned, we are still not destroyed, because our God loves us enough to stand by us and lift us up and give us strength; He keeps us going when we can’t go on. Are we perfect and deserving of such love? Absolutely! Not! But God still loves us. Those around us we find hard to handle don’t deserve our love; neither do those who attack us and persecute us and imprison us and beat us and kill us, but because God loves them still we will also love them, even if it’s a forced love it’s love. God hates what those people do to us and we have every right to hate what they do to us too, but He loves the person and that’s the hard part, seeing the hurting soul past the hurtful deeds. Nothing can separate us from God’s love, a love we receive and show. We must give of the love we are given because those people need to be loved too and they need to be shown Jesus very badly. So have a love without chains and love beyond the deeds, love the person because Jesus loves them and never forget He loves you too
I love my captor
What a beautiful contradiction we live in as Christians. We who are captive yet free. We are captured by God’s love, held by His grace, set free by His mercy; we are free captives. We are not branded as a possession, but we are marked with a seal as precious goods. A seal that doesn’t say ‘ you are my property’ but instead says ‘you are my beloved.’ We are not held against our wills with chains, but instead we are held safe with strong, comforting hands. We belong to Jesus, yet we are free to leave. Once you’ve known Jesus as your personal savior you will never want life without Him. We are a contradiction, captives who are free. But to be a captive of love, to be held by grace, to be saved by mercy is a capture I never want to avoid or flee from. Capture me my savior and never, ever let me go! There is no place safer than in the hands of Jesus. The world says that our Bibles are books of hate, but they couldn’t be more wrong because our Bibles couldn’t be more full of love. All of us have things we don’t like in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean those things are wrong, they’re just hard to accept. We are all sinners, that’s not a hate statement it’s just a fact. Jesus loves us and came to save the sinner, that’s also in the Bible. Jesus loves us despite our sin, that’s not a statement of hate it has love written in it. We are captured by someone of love, who wrote us a book telling us how much He loves us and giving us examples of His love. If we didn’t have sin we wouldn’t have needed a savior. The devil caused sin to become great, and he took captive many people, he took people right out of the church and caused them to do evil. Filled with sorrow and rage God saw that the only way for these people to become clean was to send a perfect sacrifice. With pain overwhelming His heart God sent His most beloved and only son as that sacrifice. Now we are set free. The devil had made us prisoners, captives under a cruel master, slaves to his every whim; but Jesus made us brothers and sisters, friends, captives of a new nature because we are captives of love. I wouldn’t want to be anything else. My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, yet I choose to stay with my savior, because in Jesus my master is my friend. Choose Jesus, He chose you before you ever existed.
All this from my king
It is for us that Jesus died; it is for us He rose again and it is for us that He prays and He works. Why would a king work for a slave? Because in dying He set us free and we are no longer slaves of this earth. Why would a king die to set a slave free? Because He is a true King and ruler, one who loves His people and does everything for them. He shows us our failure and mistakes so we can fix them before it’s too late and He helps us fix them. Sometime He allows us to fail so we can learn from our failure and fall on Him who rises us up again. He never leaves us and comes to us even from the depth of death He rises again and comes for us. Love is the message we were given and the message we share. Because love is what this world needs and Jesus is love.
At the cross
The flowers in the photo above are called crown of thorns. Which I felt applied well to this weekend.
Crosses were used for executions often during the days of Jesus. Few deaths held as much fear as those planks of wood; it was slow and painful and humiliating, absolute suffering. I imagine being there, among the observers. Standing before the cross, staring up at the dirt and blood coated feet of the man hanging there, my stomach turned with sickness. The scent of sweat and death lingering in the air always and the spot never clear of it. Birds hungry from days in the desert circle above, chattering to one another, or to the people below, no one can tell. Agonizing moans and cries emanate from the accused and their loved ones, mixed with taunts and mockery from those who had nothing better to do than to watch. One man stands out among the other two, His pain seems deeper and His situation more controlled. He wears a crown marking Him a king, His sign reads, “hail, king of the Jews” but what king would hang on a cross? Blood pools beneath Him and His sorrow I can begin to feel. Then He looks at me and I am amazed by what I see. Eyes so filled with pain and sorrow are smiling with love. His being there feels like it holds a great purpose and suddenly the sky grows dark. The birds have scattered in fear and a great crack is heard from somewhere within the village. Looking back to the man I see with a broken heart that He is gone. Until a warm hand slips into mine and I look to see Him standing next to me smiling down with that same love I saw before. He leans over and whispers in my ear,
“You are worth this sacrifice.”
We are worth the sacrifice of suffering and death to the one who gave it all for us. Jesus gave up His kingdom, gave up His dignity, gave up what we would refer to as His pride; He gave up His blood, gave up His flesh and gave up His life, because He deemed us worthy. We are not worthy on our own, but because Jesus decided we are worthy that makes us worthy. He sacrificed because He loves us. He took the keys from the devil, unlocked the gates of hell and set the captives free because suddenly their sins were paid for and forgiven. He rose from the grave as an unmatched sign that He is king and He has conquered death. It may sound crazy, a battle between good and evil where one supreme power controls it all, but the crazy thing is it’s real, it’s happening and we are a part of it. When Jesus comes back I want to be found sitting at the foot of the cross. Where do you want to be found?
The fourth man
Every time we go through a fiery furnace, if we have faith , we will see we are not alone. When we go through troubled times we have to have courage that God will be with us. We will be privy to the world standing astonished at the glory of our God. Our bounds will be broken and we will walk freely, He will break us from all fear and we will be cleansed. God knows what we are going through. Even if we are going through fire God is with us, even if we feel alone we have a friend standing with us. A friend who looks like a son of the gods, because guess what? He IS God’s son.
Leprechauns are invisible faerys born out of Irish folklore. If you catch one you get to make a wish or get his pot of gold, it depends on the legend you follow. Many times however leprechauns bring misfortune instead of great wealth, they’re jokesters, tricksters, and their fun doesn’t usually bring anyone else fun.
Have you ever tried to find one? Searching the great outdoors for little, invisible, green men. You can search and search but you’ll never find him, they are masters of deceit. Now where little green Irish faerys can be fun and amusing, we know another mischief maker who likes to play nasty tricks while staying out of sight; he’s called the devil, or the chort, or the dark prince, no I’m not talking about Dracula! The real devil, and yes he is real, is not someone to make light of, without Jesus we would be in great danger of him all the time. He likes to make us chase after pots of gold too and when we think we’ve found one he pulls a nasty trick on us and we find ourselves far from God and dwindling in despair. The devil uses all sorts of wicked intentions to get us off track and draw us into his web. Like Frodo in Shelob’s lair we need a loving friend to brave the treacherous climb, sacrifice himself and save us. If it hadn’t been for Sam’s agápi for Frodo the ring would never have been destroyed, if Sam hadn’t been willing to risk sacrificing his own life Frodo’s quest would have ended right there, so close to the goal that they could see it. Jesus saved us from similar webs, webs of desire, deceit, disease and also death. Jesus did sacrifice Himself to save us from the devil who was toying with us, Jesus set us free. If it wasn’t for Jesus our quest of life would end at the first struggle, if it wasn’t for Jesus we would be lost, if it isn’t for Jesus we would be looking at the goal of our struggles and not be able to continue to the prize. Jesus saved, saves and will always save.
Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow. Don’t search for trouble, search for Jesus, He’s the one you want to hold on to.