I've been silent, at a loss for words, uncertain I can begin to express the horror yet admiration, the awfulness yet awe, both appalled yet adoring, mortified yet thankful, deeply shamed yet convicted over this horrible yet beautiful act of Jesus. Reflecting on this horrific yet blessed act of love fills me again with overwhelming love for my Savior - what a wretched yet glorious day! how could my Lord beautifully yet awfully silent, perfectly yet mortifyingly humble walk thru the humiliation and torture spurred on by evil and dealt out by sinful man. And yet, "for the joy set before Him", the joy of rescuing His rebellious lost, because of a love too marvelous for words, a love so wide and deep and long and high, a love that exceeds our comprehension and any explanation, a love that can only be found in a perfect, holy, righteous, just and good God - only that kind of love could ever decisively and victoriously take on such hellish consequences so we would never have to, so we could indeed be set free once and for all! what is mankind that you are mindful of us? while we were yet sinners You would die for us❤️ My Lord and My God, too wonderful for words, worthy of all honor and praise, that my life would reflect even a tiny speck of your goodness & mercy, grace & love.
i always wonder what would be most helpful. i'll share two things: first is something i found to be a helpful "guide" if you will, and the second is just a way to pray. Thinking a double answer gives me a better chance of answering the kind of "how to" someone may be asking about. ;)
the "guide" or helpful tool i just mentioned is called "The Songs of Jesus" by Timothy Keller. In one year's time you will have prayed through the entire book of Psalms (these are the very songs that Jesus prayed and knew so well and they touch on every aspect in life we seem to find ourselves in)!
T. Keller mentions a few different ways you can do that. I love and highly recommend this approach: read that day's Psalm verses through two times, slowly (he divides the Psalms into "bite size" readings so this is really do-able), then ask yourself 3 questions: 1) ADORE - what did you learn about God for which you could praise or thank him? 2) ADMIT - what did you learn about yourself for which you could repent? ASPIRE - what did you learn about life that you could aspire to, ask for, and act on? Then begin praying (talking with God) about these things!!!! Adore Him, Admit the areas you need His help to change, and talk with Him about those things He wants you to Aspire to (ask for and/or act on).
The second way, is when you simply pray (without this tool). I love beginning the second I open my eyes to a new morning. If you are an alarm setter then set it 5 min earlier than you need to, so that once you shut off the alarm you can lay there and acknowledge - "wow, God! today's a new day from you! you woke me up, you are giving me this breath! i'm in a home and with a family (or surrounded by people) that are gifts from you. You keep this world running and together. Not only that you've created such beauty when I pause and look around at the intricate details (those beautiful flowers, those tiny creatures - like butterflies, the perfect way we were created to function in your image...)." Do you see what I'm doing there, I'm acknowledging and recognizing the Maker of all things. The One who has thought it all up and has a plan in all things. This begins to set the tone for the rest of the day for me. So then maybe I would talk with God saying, "so give me words that honor You and those i speak with," "lead me to the places and people You want to impact with your presence and your love through me today." And I would acknowledge together with Him, "this day seems packed full of things, appts, etc" "God, direct those moments, direct me, be my strength and sustainer. Thank you that you are with me in those appointments. Change those appts and places that I jumped ahead, making on my own (without you). I trust You and therefore I trust your agenda for this day that you've given to me."
So, this second way is an open-ended, conversational, ongoing prayer. That way, I've just reminded myself that He's with me, everywhere I go, everything I do. He's there and i can pick up where I left off, or simply continue my conversation with Him. For instance, I'm driving to work - "God, you're here with me on this drive, yay because without You I'd want to swerve and weave in and out of everyone, seeing them as obstacles in my way instead of your created image bearers. So, God, give me patience as I drive, bless that person in that car. I ask that You become very real in their life, God, that they would know You as their loving Heavenly Father."
Then through my workday, "God I'm really struggling to see eye-to-eye with this person. How do you want me to love them? Will you help me understand their perspective? Will you show me how to treat them with kindness and respect, in a way that brings you glory and shines light in dark places so that they too may see you alive and active in their day."
You're also prepared to walk through the toughest moments with Him. An unexpected tragedy occurs, you turn to Him, "God, THIS? I don't understand, and I'm not sure how I'm gonna get through it. But you do. I can't fix this, but You can. And right now I need you even more - your perspective, your loving arms, your strength, your guidance. God, i need you to help me take the next breath as I learn to trust you even in this, even if it doesn't change, even if it doesn't get fixed."
Talking in conversation all day long is a lot like that "pray without ceasing" we read in Scripture. It changes prayer from a task to a conversation with my best friend, my loving Father, my Creator who delights in me and has a plan for His world that is good. :)
Let me know if I can unpack anything more! Hope that helps!
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” – Ge. 1:27
God tells us that He made us in His own image – which means that all we do and all we are is meant to reflect Him.
Then, we open up Scripture and begin to read what we ASSUME are lists of ways to be or to act - things to think or not think, say or not say, feel or not feel, do or not do. It’s exhausting!
BUT, what if these lists are describing a Person for us. What if they’re describing the perfect person of Jesus and showing us in detail Who it is we were made to reflect and what it would look like if our lives reflected Him.
So now as we read the following lists from Scripture, let’s first have a picture of the life and person of Jesus set firmly in our mind and let Him speak to us: ready?
“Just like Me (Jesus), let your love be genuine. Abhorring what is evil; holding fast to what is good. Loving one another with brotherly affection (reminds me of My dear friend, John, who called himself, 'the one whom Jesus loved'). Outdoing one another in showing honor (like when I washed My disciples’ feet). Like Me, bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…and live in harmony with one another. Repay no one evil for evil. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but, just like I did, leave it to God the Father, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord.' Instead, remember my parable of the Good Samaritan. If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21)
“Put up with one another (you should have seen everything my disciples went through as they had to learn how to not only get along but genuinely love one another those three years we traveled together). Forgive (I remember poor Peter, heartbroken when he denied me yet I saw in him what My Father saw in him and set out to restore him gently, forgiving him completely). So pardon any offenses against one another, because I see the whole picture and each of you are all still in the making. Remember, I have pardoned you (that’s the whole reason I came) and you ought to act in kind. But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together.” (Col. 3:13, 14)
“Every time you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, you are living as sons and daughters of your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:44-45) “Again, like Me, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Friends, I’m instructing you in how to reflect Me. And so, be merciful, even as your Heavenly Father is merciful." (Lk 6:27, 28,36)
Finally, remember one of my last prayers (on the cross), “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34).
This is the key to living freely. It is the key to reflecting Me. It’s the doorway to the abundant life that I came to give you. And I will be your help! So I leave you with this: “forgive others, loving them deeply from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22) for that is Who I Am. :)
"How far is too far" is asking the wrong question! The right question? Who has God made you to be? Because in answering that question you automatically begin to define and answer the first one!
In beginning to seek answers to that 2d question, Scripture says these things about us and our pursuit:
-"Seek first God's Kingdom & His righteousness and 'all these things' will be given to you as well." (Mt. 6:33)
-"Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind." (Dt. 6:4-5)
-"Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image , after our likeness...So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them" (Ge. 1:26,27). In others words, we were made to reflect Him in all we are and all we do (our thoughts, our heart, our intents, our will, our minds, our choices, our actions).
-"You shall be holy (or "SET APART") for the LORD your God is holy" (Dt. 19:2). "I have separated you from the peoples that you should be mine" (DT 20:26). If we are going to be like Him then we are going to live like Him and He is a God who is set apart from all others.
-"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8). These become our primary pursuits.
And Scripture also then warns about buying into the world’s way of living:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (where all has been set right, made perfect in beauty and perfectly just, where all we were created to be becomes fully, genuinely & completely real – not lacking in anything)? Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God…and such were some of you. BUT you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God. All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything...The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthian 6:9-20
CONCLUSION: The journey is the journey of the heart.
He made you for Himself…that you would know Him, you would know “how wide and deep” His love is for you, that you would journey your relationship w/Him, as His dearly Beloved, and find all your heart desires (“delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Ps 37:4). Secure in who you are in Him you find true freedom – freedom to enjoy the company of another, to love another without confusing God’s perfect love for the mockery of love the world has bought into which is “lust”.
The world has it all confused – upside down – we grab for things because we don’t know what else to do…but Jesus came to show us REAL, joy-filled, exciting, fulfilling life – and it’s not at all what the world has been telling us. (“The ‘thief’ (the one who wants to take your joy) comes only to steal and kill and destroy." Jesus says, "I came that they may have life and have it to the full.” – John 10:10)
So what is this mindset the world has bought into?
“For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the GLORY of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man…therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions…and since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” – Romans 1:21-31
BUT, when we get how much we’re loved, when we get how much He cares and how much He longs to help us become the beautiful people He created us to be, THEN, secure in ourselves and our relationship w/Him, we are free to love – free to love sacrificially, as He loved us, not confusing love with lust and giving away vital parts of our being which Satan masks as intimacy when really it’s a ploy, on his part, to take from us, leaving us feeling empty & longing for the real thing as he redefines what's real with lies.
If marriage is a picture of a beautiful, exciting, unbroken, intimate man & woman union, (which God refers to to describe His perfect unity of Himself and His forever commitment to His people), and if this marriage relationship includes the sexual intimacy of two becoming one, then isolating any part of that beautiful union from its intended design and using it outside of it’s intended purpose invites an empty, incomplete, guilt-ridden feeling which the Accuser will surely use to speak words of condemnation to you. Any activity leading you away from God’s grand design and closer toward this slippery-slope of compromise falls into the category of “too far.”
The answer to who God created you to be? A person with a pure heart who loves Him deeply and lives in the fullness of a relationship with Him finding that promised abundant life filled to overflowing with peace, contentment, completeness, adventure and joy.
So now, if you ask yourself the question, "how far is too far" I think you'll have your answer. :)
"The kingdom of heaven," Jesus said, "is like treasure hidden in a field. Someone found it and hid it, and in great delight went off and sold everything he possessed, and bought that field." - Mt 13:44 :)
I was recently asked to share what I think would be a "good" way to read thru the Bible, so here's my prayed thru thoughts:
Follow the chronological reading of Scripture, using "the Voice" (and/or ESV) translation(s). As you read thru the OT ask God what it is He wants you to know about Him (since that's why He gave us every story in the OT); listen for verses that begin to point to/reveal Jesus, since Jesus is the fulfillment of all God was doing & saying in the OT.
As a break from the chronological reading, I'd also (maybe one day a wk for each) alternate between the Psalms - the song book that Jesus used, and Proverbs (the wisdom literature - since God promises to give wisdom generously to all who ask Him for it). If it's a Psalm day, I'd use Timothy Keller's approach & read the same Psalm thru twice slowly, asking God what it is He wants you to know about Him (giving Him thanks & praise), what He wants you to change about yourself based on what He's showing u about Him (repenting - leaving that old way behind) and finally, what did you learn about life that He wants you to act on, ask for, or aspire to (beginning to live this new way w/His help).
I'd also incorporate the NT into your reading so that you begin to simultaneously hear all about who Jesus is, all He's done as the final fulfillment or completion of what God was doing in the OT, and how that means hope, rescue, freedom for you (aka God's Good News in Jesus is great news for you). You'll also hear how God planned to continue Jesus' work of spreading His kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven" thru His church & in the power of His free gift of the Holy Spirit.
So maybe a week of reading would look like this:
Sunday - OT (chronologically)
Monday - NT (I can't decide which Gospel is my favorite - maybe start w/Mathew since it points to Jesus thruout as the fulfillment of the OT scriptures u r reading)
Tuesday - a Psalm
Wednesday - a Proverb (switch tues & wed around if u prefer to read a chapter of wisdom followed by a chapter from Jesus's songbook)
Thursday - return to OT
Friday - NT
Saturday - OT
Praying for joy-filled, life-changing, hope-giving reading that leads you to the greatest treasure ❤️
"you will seek me & find me, when u seek me with all your heart." - Jer. 29:13
"Blessed is the one who DELIGHTS in all of Scripture, and who meditates on it DAY AND NIGHT. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither." - Psalm 1:2,3
Praying for lives this upcoming year filled w/day-after-day, all-day-long delight in God & His ways; praying the Spirit sweeps thru individuals, families & communities worldwide filling people & places w/His promised blessing of abundant, thriving life b/c we became a people who KNOW Him - fully & completely depending, yes, but, even more so, DELIGHTING in Him and His ways! praying, even now, for a blessed New Year :)
Celebrating the Great I Am - the Suffering Servant who is mighty to save; Who gave His life as a ransom for many AND sits in victory at God's right hand; the King of kings & LORD of lords who reigns in honor & majesty; Who sits on His throne AND draws near to dwell with us; the babe in a manger holds all things - all power & authority are His; He knows all things & sees all things and wraps everything He is & does in His amazing & extravagant love offering the only real hope, joy, grace & peace, healing & wholeness to and thru u & me to a world in great need. He's the greatest gift!🎁
Shepherds, out in the field, on what they thought was just another ordinary night.
And their job? In this instance, guarding their flocks from predators in the darkness of night. Suddenly, darkness itself was replaced by a glorious light as God sent angels to shepherds with a message of great news - Jesus, the long-awaited Rescuer, has been born.
The shepherds? Well, they immediately leave their sheep in search of this extraordinary news. And after finding Jesus, in the exact fashion God had said, they returned to their sheep - spreading the story along the way and praising God for everything they had seen and heard! :)
Here's what struck me for the very first time: God sent shepherds to meet their Good Shepherd!!!!
In God’s great wisdom, He chose some lowly shepherds as the very first visitors to journey to the feet of the One who came to do on a worldwide scale what they do in their fields – guard His people (as they follow Him) from the one prowling around in the darkness but, MORE THAN THAT, He came to gloriously dispel darkness itself with His great light!
Shepherds, on a not so ordinary night after all, came into the presence of the true Good Shepherd who, in reality, had really come for them.
Praying God breaks into the ordinariness of our days with this same amazing truth and that we too become a people who, everywhere we go, can’t stop praising God and sharing all the extraordinary things we’ve seen and heard! (Acts 4:20)
Merry Christmas Season! :)
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:8-11
out of God's great love for us He set a rescue plan in place:
"for the joy set before Him" (the joy of freeing us for Himself), Jesus left the splendor of Heaven, was born into His own created world, as one of His created (God-in-flesh), and accomplished for us what we could not accomplish for ourselves - giving His life as a ransom for many.
In other words, because of God's immense love for us and longing that none should perish, He took it all on Himself, doing what was necessary and simply bids us "Come."
That's quite a rescue plan!:) #ForeverGrateful
living loved and passionate about sharing my journey and insights with others...praying you are challenged along the way and always blessed : )