Hope in??

2016 August canoeing Crescent LakeHope matters. Exactly, what are we hoping in?

Tomorrow, I will undergo labwork, lung CT, and PFT (pulmonary function testing) to see if there is progression with my ILD (interstial lung disease). I keep thinking about how hard the “unknowns” are with this HP (hypersensitivity pneumonitis). I can’t “see” my lung disease. I can feel the effects, but I can’t see what is actually going on. So, for me, those days of testing are days that let me “see” into my lungs. I have little control with this disease, but the information helps John & I take the next steps. So, looking on the positive side, the metrics help us to know what action needs to come next. Of course, I will readily admit that I am afraid of disappointment, but without the metrics we cannot possibly know what to do next. So, tomorrow I will do the testings and hopefully gain clarification. I won’t gain control. I only get more wisdom & clarification, so that I will be more informed in order to make good decisions. Being nervous is normal because it is hard to be without control. But, the up side is the information that helps us to know how to manage our care better. I am sorry this is so long, but fear is a such a hard topic, and I think a lot of anxiety is due to the lack of control. It is hard to not have control over one’s body.

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But, I have a greater HOPE…

“‘But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’
‘If You can?’ echoed Jesus. ‘All things are possible to him who believes!’
Immediately the boy’s father cried out, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief!'”
Jesus asks the father to trust him as the sole resource, to relinquish the desire for control. Jesus also asks for me to trust him as the sole resource, to relinquish the desire to control the outcomes, to surrender the very thing that distances me from His heart of love. He asks me to run into the arms of compassion! Interestingly, Jesus didn’t heal the guy’s kid until he dealt with the father’s heart. So, Jesus again, by His Spirit, has been graciously revealing my own heart to me. My heart has so softened. I marvel at how Jesus healed generously. Jesus healed many, many people. Many of those people didn’t love Jesus, but He healed them out of compassion. My own heart has been shown afresh the compassion of Christ, and I want to run hard into those arms of compassion. If Jesus would heal people who didn’t believe in him, didn’t love him, will he not show the same compassion and more for his pitiful child? He wants me to trust him as my only resource, my only hope, my only life. I can give him my fears. It is safe to trust him. I don’t have to know the outcome. I don’t have to “do it just perfect.” I just need to run into His arms.

2016 August Crescent Lake

So, once again, my wayward heart has been changed by his mercy. Tomorrow is a good day, because I trust Jesus to love me. This is my hope! Whatever the outcome, I trust the heart of Jesus, the plan of God for my life, and the wise Spirit of God to help me each step of this journey.  This indeed is a solid anchor my for my hope; and because the love of God has been generously poured into my heart, I have no fear.

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Live a Life of Love

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Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2

Live a life of love.  It almost sounds easy.  It offers a warm and inviting, harmonious fix to our relational problems.

Why then would I want to live my life more selfishly? Real life loving requires strength that I don’t have, if I am honest.
Am I really taking to heart the life of Jesus and the instructions to imitate His life of love? He lived love.  If our wonderful Lord Jesus gave up his “rights” to reconcile me back to God, someone that did not deserve such mercy, why wouldn’t I want to be transformed to have this same sacrificial mind and heart?  Christ Jesus is the maker of all things; nothing exists without Him.  He is the Son of God, and He alone stands preeminent above every other power or authority.  And, yet, Jesus did not choose to live for Himself or grasp at the “God” rights.  His love was a giving, extravagant kind of love.

The very sad reason I chafe at living a sacrificial life of love is that I default easily to loving myself more, more than Jesus, and more than the people around me. I want easy comfort.  I don’t like relational messiness.  I don’t want to give sacrificially and extravagantly like Jesus did for me.  I often set standards that must be met before I will love freely.  I live like love should have to be earned.  But, I don’t know any of these perfect people.  Life can get really messy.  The person I want to love has weaknesses and failures.  I am ashamed that often I demand so much from others, which seems especially terribly when I have been given the truest love generously and without a price tag.  pleasing-fragrance-grace-god-ephesians-5-2I have this ongoing need to have these self-centric desires removed and to return again and again to my first love, Jesus–every single day.  So, that out of the joy of His love for me, the comfort of never being abandoned by Him ever, the confidence of every spiritual gift given to me to fulfill His purposes for me, and the resurrection power of His living Spirit working in me, I will have a quiet heart to do His will and live a life of love to Christ first above all, as well as in my relationships. I am dependent on Jesus to love like He loves. When it is easy and also when it is hard, my strength will come from Him as I live in Him and for Him. I could never live a life of love without the presence and power of Christ living in me, and gloriously that is exactly what is offered through His triumphant and generous grace.
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All Things: From,Through, and For Him

God was wisely sovereign when I heard the words on my birthday, “Your chest x-ray is abnormal.”  I had already been struggling with debilitating vision.  Now, I was being told that my lungs were being damaged by an overactive immune system which was attacking this much needed organ for breathing.  Over the last three years I have been struggling with unexpected and weird, even rare, health issues.   And, yet, I am being cared for with a sovereign wisdom that is perfect.  I don’t have to understand the why or know what will happen next; I just need to know my God, for then I will most happily trust and rest in His active care.

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God’s ways are inscrutable, because, honestly, I cannot even come close to knowing what the right questions should be to ask. God surveys all time in one gaze. He knows and sees everything, all at once, all the time. I can’t even begin to go there. I remember some of my past. For, today, well, I am here in the moment. And I have no ability to tell you what is going to happen next, because I frankly don’t know; and even what I suspect might happen doesn’t necessarily mean it will. Not so with God. He is beyond time. He is present in all time. And He controls the minutiae of every day in the universe as well as the invisible world beyond that which we can perceive. There is so much I just don’t know! How can I even begin to control what I can’t understand?


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Not only is God wisely sovereign over everything, but He is also dedicated to completing His work in me; so that I am made able to finish the works that He Himself ordained for me to do (Philippians 1:6).  I am confident that I will not have one unfinished task, because of His divine promises to me, His faithful love over me and His power to accomplish what He says He will do. God is able and trustworthy, so I am assured that He will complete everything concerning me.  When I actively believe these truths about my God, it makes me happy and at peace in and with my God, even smack dab in the middle of difficult days.  God always acts in a way that is beautiful and above reproach, and He is laying up His goodness for those who trust in Him.  “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!” (Psalm 31:19).   The apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Thessalonica sharing how he prays for them, “…that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” Paul writes in another letter, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”  So, if God is for me, then I am being held by the safest, strongest, and most worthy hands.


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Who I am and whatever I possess originates with God.  I didn’t create me.  I didn’t decide when I wanted to be born, or where, or into which family.  I have absolutely nothing to do with my existence.  Which is kind of crazy to wrap your mind around, because when things go wrong in our lives it is common to feel that you deserve a bit better in your life.  But, I don’t even exist on my own.  The breath in my lungs doesn’t originate inside of me.  God is generously giving you and me every breath.  It is all from God.  So, when I think about the good life plans ordained for me by God, and more specifically the tasks He has ordained for me to do, I must consider that none of which I was created do comes from me.  Everything comes from God.  It always starts and ends with God.  Even when I do the things I was designed by God to do, I am only giving back to Him what belongs to Him anyway.  God is not any richer by my giving to Him.  God is not needing anything that I can do for Him.  It is similar to a child giving a birthday present to their parent which they purchased with their parent’s money!  My behavior and good gifts will never put God into my debt; everything always comes from Him!  All glory, honor and power belongs to Him.  

Doxology

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

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(All images used are believed to be in the public domain.)

Once and Forever: the solution for not being “good enough”

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The ancient people of God were bound by the law.  Daily, it screamed out their failures in unbiased, unrelenting terms.  The law was perfect and pure.  It revealed wisdom.  Although the law was good in every part, the human heart defaulted to self reliance every time.  And so the law was broken over and over again.

Heart proud, the people were distanced from what their heart needed most–God’s presence and power.  (photo credit: ravenwhimsey)

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Every day this constant need for reconciliation was met at an altar.  Every day the heart was reminded, for each day brought a new need for reconciliation.  Continually needy, the ancient Israeli priests would begin afresh the work of mediation between God and His people.

The High Priest
The rites of purification had been completed.  The man’s wrinkled skin had been scrubbed clean in strict rituals.  The old man had been a priest for many years, and the rules had remained constant and rigid, never changing at the break of dawn.  The separation between God and the people remained fixed, for there was never enough soap to cleanse away their inherent disunion with complete holiness.  The distance between the people and their God was so vast that there would not be a way to reach the other side at all had not God El Elyon (God Most High) become God Yahweh (a personal, covenant-making God) intiating a covenant with his people that provided access.BALT9F  “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Leviticus 17:11.  Yahweh had made a way for His people to have a personal relationship with Himself through the blood of an atoning sacrifice.  Their brokenness and bent toward sin made a daily sweet fragrance of sacrifice an ever-attending need; so, atonement, a perpetual sacrifice for their constant need, was a constant “must have” for the people of God.

There were daily sacrifices, special one-time sacrifices, and then there was the special Day of Atonement. On that one day, a chosen high priest would enter behind the enormous veil that separated the people of God from their holy God to make atonement for the people’s sin.HP1  The high priest entered the Holy of Holies robed in priestly garments: bearing the weighty ephod of gold upon his shoulders representing the government of his people; the beautiful ephod, woven in blue linen threads,  which covered his heart, bejeweled with precious gems, representing each of the tribes of Israel; the breastplate of judgment, the Urim and the Thummin,  lay weighing against his heart representing the verdicts of acceptance or rejection; the sash girding his waist reminding him that he came to serve.  The entire costume was both physically and symbolically heavy.  The Law prescribed every detail; and access to God demanded a strict adherence to the code, every detail whispering that these were garments of holiness to be worn by the mediator.

Now it was time for the priest to enter behind the thick veil of the Holy of Holies and make atonement for the peoples’ sin.  The priest’s heart trembled. The circle of high priest’s garments were adorned with embroidered blue, purple and scarlet pomegranates with little golden bells stitched between, 33bec4402072917157ba3c8e7792f670and he purposefully listened for the tinkling bells circling the skirt of his robe as he walked toward the veil.  The musical sounds would be the only indication to the rest of the people as they waited for him that God had kept His covenant with them when he sprinkled the blood on the Altar.  Let the musical bells sound in worshipful praise; for if the blood did not provide acceptable access to God, the priest would die during the sprinkling of the blood offering.

Walking through the tabernacle courtyard, the old man’s eyes lifted to the flickering flame of the almond blossom cups branching off the hammered, pure gold lampstand.   His heart was raised in hope knowing that this constant flame was a visual reminder to assure them of God’s presence among them.  God had given them so many reminders. Each part of his day as a priest was filled with reminders of a God who desired to be known and loved by His people.  Tabernacle05-06

Born broken in sin, bent toward self-reliance, the priest marveled at the visual, repeated reminders of their need for God’s presence and power.  Though ritualistically purified, the old man approached near to the bronze basin of water to cleanse his hands and feet yet once again.  LAVER9SHe watched as the water splashed from his hands; so many washings, yet he was never holy.  God was so very separate from them, and God’s brilliant holiness was once again on the old man’s mind.  The chasm between man and God was wider than any earthly canyon; and yet, he mused, God remembered his people and provided a way of access to Himself.  Still, he trembled knowing that these offerings for atonement were continual, for none of the people, including himself, could ever stop sinning.  The cavernous gulf between God and his people never closed, for their perpetual unrighteousness seperated them from the glorious, shining worthiness of a completely holy God.

He waited as the anointing oil was administered covering his body, again for purification.  Again and again, the message was clear:  I am holy; you are an unclean people.  Everything was designed to remind them of their constant need for God’s presence and power, and their inability to gain it own their own.  
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The aroma of incense flowed upward filling his nostrils.  The incense was also always perpetually burning reminding them of their constant need for intercession with God.  The incense of the altar was never to go out; they were visually instructed as to how much the people desperately needed their God.

Constant need.  Each step toward the Holy of Holies reminded him of how much he needed God to give him access.  Every ritual reminded him of how he could not enjoy God’s presence without God making a way.  He was still dirty and would keep being dirty.  Only the acceptance of the atoning sacrifice would give him access to God and forgiveness of the transgressions against their holy and just God.  Healing of their sins would require the spilling of blood from an unblemished sacrifice.  His heart ached.  How he longed for complete deliverance from this body of death.  The sacrifices were never enough.  The work of the priest was never done.  No one was ever good enough.

“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take aways sins.  Therefore, when He came into world, He said:  ‘Sacrifice and offering You do not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.  In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no pleasure.  Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come-in the volume of the book it is written of Me-to do your will, O God.’ Previously saying, ‘Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the law), then He said, ‘Behold I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first that He may establish the second.  By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:4-10.  

The ritualistic symbols and priestly duties were only a foreshadowing of God’s plan for a better mediator.  No bleeding bull could take down a proud heart.  No precious baby lamb, no matter how wonderfully unblemished,  would forever change the bent of a rebellious heart.  No the only way to sanctify the heart was to give the owner a new one!  The only way to take away the hard rock heart and inscribe righteousness on a living, breathing heart was to give new life.  The old covenant was made obsolete, because of the weakness of our flesh.  The Law was good and without fault, but we were the messed up ones who could not keep it.  A new covenant was offered that would abolish the old one.  This time the offering would be a final propitiation for sin.  However, it would be very, very different this time.  The real body of a man would be offered, an earthly life lived just as we live, tempted, but never sinning.  A life lived in complete obedience fulfilling all righteousness 24/7.  The unthinkable would take place–this sinless life would be made to be sinso that a final, forever atonement could be made and all of the holiness could be given to the sinner!  There is only one man that could fulfill all of the requirements, and He is the Son of God.  So, God, did the unthinkable.  Yahweh kept covenant faithfulness and steadfast love with His people by sending His one and only perfect Son to reconcile us back to Himself through a new and living covenant of grace.  God gave His Son; the Son gave His life; and the Holy Spirit was given as the seal of this new covenant of redemption.  “It is finished!”  cries powerfully of this unbelievable reconciliation accomplished by the death of the Son of God.

It is the new covenant of Christ’s own blood that washes me, so that I am no longer defiled.  I will not get dirty again.  No more washings.  When I come before God, I confess my sins.  I claim my unworthiness, attesting to the fact that I will never, never be “good enough.”  All of my sins, past, current, and those I will still wrongfully do are covered by the atoning blood of Christ.  The judgment of God rejected Jesus on the cross blackening the sky, and the Lamb of God took all of my rightful condemnation and bled out; and yet God saw the righteous blood and was pleased to accept atonement in full.  We know this because death was not the final word.  The thick veil covering the Holy of Holies was dramatically torn from top to bottom opening the way to God’s presence.  Death did not hold the Son of God, but He had the authority over death and was raised the third day just as He proclaimed it would be.  I am now clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and every time I choose to enter into his Presence and Power, I have the victory of resurrection grace.  There is a way across that  cavernous gulf between God and his people.  Because of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, nothing can separate His people from His love or from the glorious, shining worthiness of a completely holy God.  Jesus is our perfect sacrifice, our perfect mediator, forever interceding on our account; and now there is no need for anything more. “But Christ, because he lives for ever, possessses a priesthood that needs no successor.  This means that he can save fully and completely those who approach God through him, for he is always living to interced on their behalf.  Here is the High Priest we need.  A man who is holy, faultless, unstained, beyond the very reach of sin and lifted to the very Heavens.  There is no need for him, like the High Priest we know, to offer up sacrifice, first for our own sins and then for the people’s.  He made one sacrifice, once for all, when he offered himself.” Hebrews 7:24-27.

Once for all, the constant need for a clean heart has been satisfied.  Our hearts are no longer distanced from what the heart needs most–God’s presence and power. Hang onto this sure hope, “…since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22).  Our hearts are happy and we bring a daily sacrifice of praise to Jesus, for there is no more distance between us.

              Our constant need has been satisfied once and forever in Christ’s life.
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