Siting in a meeting, several months ago, I noticed one of my co-workers squirm a bit. Then he reached into his back pockets and pulled out two hand warmers he had placed there in anticipation of a cold meeting room. We had a little laugh and that was the last I thought of it, until one chilly morning run, a few weeks later, when I inserted hot hands into my gloves. As my body heated up my hands felt quite toasty, and that is when it hit me; the vision of him literally being in the hot seat.
When we are in the hot seat for something we’ve done- we begin to squirm. We try to explain ourselves or blame others. It wasn’t our fault or maybe we try to justify our behavior, like a child who gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar or with icing all over their face and still protest it wasn’t them. We’ve all been there at some point to some degree.
But what would it look like if we came clean now? If we faced those things from our past that haunt us and keep us awake at night; and instead of squirming and justifying- we owned it. What if we took it to God and talked to Him about it, asked for His forgiveness, for the part we played and laid it all out, instead of hiding from it? It is at that point God’s grace kicks in and we can have full realization of His redemption. Isn’t it better to receive that now so we can have peace than to wait until we are truly in the hot seat later? If we have taken it all to God already and allowed Him to redeem it and restore us through the blood of Christ- then we won’t have to dread facing Him later.
But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. I John 1:9
So, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16
Here is an interesting fact I learned recently in my Western Culture class; do you know where the name ‘marathon’ originated? During the Persian invasion of Greece, a man named Phidippides (fi-DIP-i-deez), was the messenger who ran the 22 plus miles from a town called Marathon to Athens, to tell of the Greek victory over the Persians. (Rawls, 2018)
Since becoming a runner about nine years ago, it has never been my goal to run a marathon. The longest race I have completed was a 10K (6.2 mi.) and the longest run on my own has been 7 miles. These days I do about 2-3 miles each day.
My main goal is to run for my health not to harm it. For me, that is what I would be doing if I trained for a marathon. Finding out I have the first stages of osteoporosis and that running is good for my bones only added to the many beneficial reasons for continuing this sport. I enjoy running and spending that time with God. I do not want to turn it into something I dread. I have learned to listen to my body and give it a day of rest when it needs it; that helps my muscles recover and I feel the difference the next time I run. Besides, this is where a lot of these messages come from…my time with God in nature. I have the time to process, pray and receive. God teaches me a lot, but I realize it is not just for me, so I share it with others in hopes it blesses them as well.
However, when I think about the things God is preparing us for it reminds me that the opposite is true. It is in God’s timing. Most of the time He must remind us it is a marathon, not a sprint. We can celebrate the milestones along the way, remember to take breaks, rest, and enjoy the beauty of the journey. We may not know the end goal of our trainings, but God does. We can slow our pace and take one day at a time.
Our experiences and lessons along the way can be used to help others. Sometimes, we think we know where we are headed only to be shifted in a completely new direction and focus. If we are staying our course, with God as the leader, we can rest assured we will get wherever we are going at just the right time. We should not settle on anything less. It may take a little longer but that is the nature of the marathon.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1 NLT)
To be humble and repentant before God, crushed by the sense of guilt and sinfulness.
Hebrew word: daqaq (Holman, 2015)
In reading Isaiah 57:15, when it tells us that God not only dwells in the high and holy place, but also with him who is a contrite and lowly spirit, (ESV); have you ever stopped to think about that? I did recently and it is mind boggling to think that the God of the universe, who created all and is all, who fills the temple with His glory and presence, also lives inside us through the Holy Spirit. To be contrite is not saying that God wants to literally crush us, but our pride must be crushed so we can become humble before a Holy and Almighty God. We cannot serve man and God.
Arrogance does not feel the weight of sin or guilt. It is only a humbled spirit that feels that kind of weight. When we feel it, that is when God enters us and gives us grace for our sinfulness. When God lifted that weight from my shoulders, I rejoiced and fell to the floor, it was not a choice. It was the only response for such a realization in my broken life. In our humble posture we can be lifted-up, because of Jesus. Isaiah 53:5 says, “but he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (ESV) There was only one who could answer this call. We had someone willing to supersede for us- who took our place at the cross and became our substitute- that person was Jesus. A sinless Christ became human and took on our sin so we could be saved and live in peace with God and have a relationship with Him, through the Holy Spirit. The same God who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us.
I Thessalonians 5:19 – NLT translation says, “do not stifle the Holy Spirit” while ESV reads, “Do not quench the Holy Spirit.” In doing a little word study, we see that stifle means to suffocate and quench means to extinguish. Putting this into context, the Thessalonians had experienced false teachers, so they were “extinguishing” the Spirit’s fire by not believing in any prophesies. They despised manifestations of prophesies and were cutting them all off. Paul is telling them by cutting off all prophesies they were essentially cutting off a valuable source of encouragement. Instead of rejecting all, they should test everything to see what is true. I would encourage you to read the Scripture for yourself and ask God for wisdom for understanding His truth. It is well worth the time an energy. All OT Scriptures point to the coming of Christ. Before the Holy Spirit came, Jesus came in human form and died so we could live. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, God placed the Holy Spirit in us to guide us and give us confidence that we are His as we look forward to that day when Jesus comes back for us. Eph. 4:30 tells us “do not to bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way we live.” (NLT) (1:13) “we are sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit.” God’s promises are Yes and Amen; He put His seal on us and has given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:20-21, ESV)
We should read the Bible to understand God’s heart. The mighty will fall, the weak will stand tall. His promises are sealed with a Holy kiss; to give us a future and a hope. Jesus is the only answer for a broken world. When we feel the weight of the world closing in on us, we can lift it up to God and ask Him what He wants for our life, and then be willing to listen and receive the Holy Spirit in peace and grace through Christ who sets us free. May we steep in the goodness of God, showing love and kindness to others as He has shown us.
According to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, shalom appears in the OT 180 times. It is not used in a negative manner, rather involving completeness or wholeness as with the repairing of a relationship. One could say it means to have harmony with friends and family or even with allies, but it also can refer to health and security or being safe. We see in the OT testament it being used to describe a sense of confident awareness that all is well, as we see in Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (ESV) Another verse that comes to mind, and one of my favorites, which a song called, “The Blessing” is based on, is Numbers 6:24-26; if you haven’t heard it yet, it is worth it to look this one up on YouTube. (V24) “The Lord bless you and keep (guard & protect) you, (V 25) the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; (V26) the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (ESV) (Countenance involves taking notice and treating people with favor.) Here the word peace or shalom is “total well-being”, so, it is indeed a grand and positive gesture to pray this blessing upon someone.
In the NT, we see peace used in a different sense. Here the translation is eirene, and in addition to the “total well-being” we see in the OT, it can also relate to not only our physical well-being but our spiritual well-being. Another great verse that we can associate with this is John 14:27, we see Jesus use it as a blessing, when He says to the disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let them be afraid.”(ESV) I believe, to capture the fullness of this message and blessing we need to back up to the previous verse where Jesus tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit is coming, He will teach them and remind them of the things Jesus said to them. He is giving them foreknowledge that after He is gone, the Holy Spirit or Helper will come to live inside them to comfort them. This message is not only for the disciples of Jesus’ time but also for us as believers in Christ, so that we also may be comforted and receive the blessings of Jesus; the peace that passes understanding. A confident awareness in God.
The ESV study Bible notes that it is all that Christ would do or had done through the cross and the resurrection to end the dominion of sin and to make peace between God and man. Peace between all who are in Christ and state of being spiritually whole again. Not because of us, but because of Christ. The world cannot achieve or provide peace because it cannot deal with the problem of sin. But God’s peace guards the Christian’s hearts and minds and “surpasses every thought” (Phil. 4:7, ESV).
Now that we have established the usage and meaning of the shalom or peace in the Old and New Testament, let us look further at our Spiritual gifts. I believe we, as believers in Christ, can achieve both the OT and NT meanings through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 12 was in my recent reading, when I picked up a book, I had purchased several weeks prior and began to read it. In “Forgotten God” Chan specifically brings the readers attention to I Corinthians 12 as a reminder to take seriously and, “to believe that you have been given manifestation of the Spirit and that your church, the worldwide body of Christ, and the world are crippled without your involvement,” (Chan, 2009, p. 91). If you are not familiar with or have not read I Corinthians 12 recently, please take a moment to read it. It gives us a picture of the church (as the body of Christ) and all its members. We are all one in Christ and are to use our gifts, given to us by the Holy Spirit, to help each other and build up the church. If you are like me, maybe when you think of the church, you immediately think of it as the place we go on Sunday morning or that your service is limited to your local church involvement. When we look at the big picture here and allow our minds and thinking to go beyond that of human limited views, we can see the church of Christ, and as Chan put it, “the worldwide body of Christ”, we can expand our horizons and realize that our gifts are to be used, not only in our local church, although that is important, but also wherever we are. Whether that be at work, school, the grocery store, our community or neighborhood, we are to use the gifts given to us to their fullest for the Glory of God, through the love of Jesus, with the help of the Spirit who gave them to us.
I believe when we are doing this, then we will have shalom or peace – knowing all is well, confident in God, not ourselves, and can sincerely pray for others to find this peace as well; to be successful in their endeavors, and use their gifts and talents to the Glory of God as we walk together through this temporary life and world, in an attempt to show others the love of Christ, in hopes to bring others to Him, through the saving grace of Christ Jesus. The steps to victory are steep, but the Spirit will help us. It is easy to be the same- the challenge is being different. When we have these critical components in place, and genuinely walk by the Spirit through faith, we will not want to follow the world anymore; and that, my friend, brings true peace and freedom.
All of us probably have a different view of what the Bible is and how we should use it. I know I have been guilty of saying it is a book of instructions to guide us and show us how to live in this world. While I still believe that to be true, I wonder how others interpreted it. I want to add that it is that and so much more.
Some look at the Bible in two sections, the Old Testament, and the New Testament with lots of little stories in between. I may have been one of those people at one time, but with my new biblical class I am learning so much more about the Bible. (Yes, in case you did not know, I am in school now). God is amazing and full of surprises! Anyway, the Bible is God’s story. From start to finish and all the stories in between, He is the main character. The Bible tells the path God chose to redeem humanity. It is a beautiful love story- God loved us so much and this story tells of His plan to send His Son to save us so we could be in relationship with Him again. Ezekiel tells us that the cross is the ultimate sign act of Jesus profound love. The Bible gives us guidelines on how to be in a relationship with our Heavenly Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and with each other.
We live in a broken world. Because of the sin of one man, Adam, we are all sinners in need of a Savior. We have all fallen short. We will never be good enough to earn our salvation. That also does not give us a license to sin either. (Romans 6) The Good News is because of Jesus we are all saved by His grace. God’s restoration is open to anyone who chooses His plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. We are all on the same sinking ship. What it comes down to is if you will accept the life raft Jesus is offering.
The Bible says we will all be held accountable to God on judgement day for how we live. Sometimes this is a subject we tend to ignore or avoid because we do not want to think about it or simply do not understand it. But I thought Jon Weece did a great job in his sermon recently when he asked, “Do you want to live in fear of that day or trust what Jesus did is enough?” What a sweet message of love and grace that brings us hope.
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for, it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1
The tradition of handshaking may soon come to an end. Our grandchildren may not know the concept and question why we ever did it. With COVID 19 and the rise of germ awareness in general over the last few years, alternatives are starting to appear. Even before COVID 19, the fist bump became popular among young and old alike. I have also seen the elbow touch as a personal greeting of late. Even my dad got in on the fist bump a few years before he passed. It seemed a little strange to me at the time to see him use it, but he was a hip dude, at least in that regard. I am sure he was being mindful of germs in his attempt to change his life-long handshaking habit for the new gesture.
Did you ever stop to wonder how the handshake got started in the first place? The history of the handshake, according to History.com, has existed for a long time, as a symbol of peace. Even though its origin is a bit fuzzy, one popular theory is that it began to convey peaceful intentions. By extending the empty right hand, it showed the other person they were not holding a weapon. It goes even farther to suggest the whole arm was involved with the grasp closer to the forearm and the shaking motion was to dislodge any knives or daggers that could have been hidden up the sleeve.
Over the last several decades, it has become common place to greet someone with a handshake, whether that be at the brotherly fellowship in church or a formal business meeting in the corporate world. It was so popular that the History site also claims there have been lessons on how to shake properly, with just the right balance of firm, yet not too forceful. I remember a time when a female boss of mine a few years back told me to always shake with a firm hand and look the person in the eye; she went on to reiterate the importance of doing this was particularly true when greeting a man in the corporate world. I never forgot that. Although I already shook with a firm grasp due to encountering weak shakes at church, which I affectionately called the limp fish, something I did not like. For this reason, some people regard the handshake as the first impression barometer of sorts. If someone’s shake was not firm enough one might question their assertiveness or confidence.
Now, with everything that is going on, even Christians have had to stop the practice of handshaking as a welcoming greeting. In Paul’s day, in I Corinthians 16:20, we see him tell the Corinthians to greet each other in Christian love, or a holy kiss. A kiss on the cheek was a common greeting. That is better than how Tibet greets one another, according to Afar Magazine, in an article about how people greet each other around the world, one sticks out their tongue. I am sure they had their reasons, which probably was like the original handshake, and both ‘stuck’ to become a common greeting in each area respectfully. We certainly have some strange traditions and most of us have never stopped to ask where they come from or why we still do them. I guess the elbow touch, or some other form of greeting will derive from the COVID era and generations to come will not have a clue how it got started as it becomes common place among their generation. Something to think about as we begin new habits. What kinds of habits are we forming that we would be okay with handing down to the next generation? May we all be mindful of the legacies we are leaving.
Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. We all know these seasons and probably have a favorite. Most of us would probably say Spring or Fall is their favorite because it is the right temperature, you like when flowers are blooming or maybe the Fall colors take your breath away. Whatever the reason, good or bad, we have a love/hate relationship with them.
Recently, I had a different thought about the four seasons. I believe we also have seasons of life. A spiritual and physical. For the spiritual we could look at it this way:
Fall: We fell into sin (a fallen world)
Winter: Death to self (we realize we should be living for God instead of self)
Spring: New birth (renewed by Christ for a new life)
Summer: Maturity & peace
Now, let us look at our physical seasons:
Spring: We are born
Summer- We mature
Fall- We are aging
Winter can be like a dry season in our life. But no matter how long we have been in a dry, dark season, God can bring new life and refresh us with living water of the Spirit.
Just like the valley of dry bones, if we listen to the word of the Lord and have faith, He will breathe new life into us. (Ezekiel 37)
Jesus replied, “I assure you no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So, do not be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8 NLT)
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. (Eccl. 3:1-2 NLT)
The Bible is one big story. It is God’s story, and is for the restoration, rescue, and redemption of His people through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Some time after the accident with my sister in 2013, I witnessed a black bird take its last breath, after hitting my front door head on. A tear escaped my eyes when its chest fell silent. My life could have easily been taken away in an instant when we hit that rock wall. But, instead, the Holy Spirit breathed new life in me, so I could live for Him to fulfill His purpose.
God chose to rescue me. Through a series of life-altering events, my life was transformed with an indescribable outcome that changed the trajectory of my future. I was missing one key ingredient in my life- a relationship with Christ. I was putting a man in His place. Once I got my priorities straight and started paying attention, everything else started to fall into place. I cannot express enough the importance of having a relationship with Christ. Something I never knew existed but has changed my life in a profound way. So grateful God threw me a lifeline through Jesus when my ship was sinking.
The only way I can express my love back to God for saving me and loving me is through my humble obedience as His faithful servant, something I strive to be every day, even though I fall short. The stronger my faith becomes and the deeper it is rooted the more I can trust Him with every aspect of my life.
My gratefulness is immeasurable. Some days I still cannot believe the impact Christ has made in my life and the ways He changed me. I am still learning every day and am happy to share the things He illuminates to me through the Holy Spirt to hopefully bring others to Christ as well.
I hardly ever get into a conversation about politics. It is just not something I want to debate. Frankly, there are bad things about both sides that make us think about morals and principles, or the lack of them. On the contrary, if we look hard enough, and admit it, there are good things about each as well. I do not want to get in any heated discussions about or with either party, it is just not worth it. I am sick of all the advertisements going back and forth accusing each other of the same things. It makes me not want to vote for either party, (but I will vote!). Ultimately, I will try to choose who I think is the best person for the job (this involves a LOT of prayer), and even though I feel there are slim pickings, my decision and final vote is between me and God, and it’s the same for others as well.
We need to be alert. Satan is driving a wedge between us using politics as his weapon. I have seen some of the closest friends be divided and lose a lifetime of friendship. People are taking sides and allowing the enemy to have a foot hold, to pit brother against brother, Christian against Christian. We need to let Jesus and love be the overarching factor that unites us, not let politics divide us. That is exactly what the enemy wants. We are to love all no matter who they vote for, even if we do not agree. We should show others who Jesus is instead of showing ourselves by plastering our worst on social media.
Change begins with us. Who can you love today despite who they are going to vote for? Be kind. Be gentle. Be humble. Be still. Be who God created you to be.