A Clean Sweep

A Clean Sweep

The beginning of a new year gives a chance to look back at the accomplishments and struggles of last year and look forward to the new and hopefully better one. I change the calendar, the checkbook register and get a new “planner”. My husband and I sit down and discuss home improvements needed, taxes and vacations… but not at the same time!

_20180126_094451 (1)January is known for its “white sales” – new appliances, linens and storage containers.  Decluttering, downsizing and organizing guru’s share the latest tips to contain the mess.  Every year we make the same or similar new years’ resolutions because we want to do better, be nicer and feel healthier.

We often deal with the stuff around us but what about dealing with the “stuff” in our hearts? The classic booklet “My Hearts Christ’s Home” by Robert Boyd Munger weaves a story of inviting Jesus in and giving a tour room by room of our “house”. Each room represents a place in our lives but the host balks at letting Jesus see the hall closet.  The stuff in that closet is old and smells bad ; like bitterness, bad habits, past secret sin we hang on to. Only Jesus can help us clean, reorder and restore this closet of our heart.

DSC_0927 (1)  It’s easy to ask God to forgive us for “little sins” of omission or commission. But what if we are honest and go a little deeper? We can try to justify our feelings and actions – but that doesn’t bring peace of mind. The Bible has a lot to say about unclean hearts.  God sees and knows it all and yet we often try to sweep our “stuff” under the rug or hide.

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you Psalms 69:5 (ESV)

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

Only God can wash our hearts from all the hurts and hang-ups. He says come – let me remove the “dirt” and cleanse you from the inside out. God desires to restore a right relationship with Him and promises us a new beginning. He is the God of second chances! Even if something seems impossible to forgive (like trying to get red ink out of a white shirt) there is nothing impossible with God.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.       Psalms 103:11-12 (ESV)

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Start the New Year off by spending time in prayer and reflection. Let’s open up the closet of our heart and ask God to do a deep cleaning. Sometimes that deep cleaning takes a long time because first we need to recognize our fears, failures and faults in order to let Him work on those areas. The process isn’t easy but it is freeing and satisfying. Let this prayer of David be yours :

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.        Psalms 51:6-10 (ESV)

 

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Weary Travelers

Weary Travelers

According to AAA, an estimated 115.6 million Americans were expected to travel this holiday season. That was a 3.9% increase from last year and includes plane, train, automobile, bus and cruise travel. AAA expected that more than 853,000 would call for some type of help. On an average there is a one out of five chance of a delay but on December 26th you can expect a 66% chance of delayed service. And for the 21st year in a row, Atlanta, GA is the world’s busiest airport! That is a lot of travelers for one season.

Throughout the Advent season, without realizing it, we have heard a lot about travel.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.              Luke 2:1-5

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The Bible is not written like a novel so we don’t have a detailed play by play of the actual travel but we know that every Jewish household had to register in their tribal capital. That equals a lot of people traveling by foot, donkey, camel and wagon caravan. The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem would be a grueling 90 miles up and down some treacherous mountain roads.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”              Matt 2:1-2

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These wisemen from the East were astrologers that had obviously studied the Hebrew scripture possibly left by Daniel.  They may have come from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Southern Turkey. The distance from Persia to Bethlehem (maybe up to 9000 miles) traveling over varied rugged terrain for months would be so long and tiring. Yet they journeyed on in their quest to seek the Christ Child.

Friend, in the past year did you become weary in your journey?  Did life take unexpected twists and turns that made you feel weak and vulnerable? Do you feel like you have lost your way or that somehow your dream is just too far off to ever reach? God never promised an easy carefree life but He did tell us that we are never alone.  He does promise to give us a renewed vision and the strength to reach our goals step by step when they are in line with His word.

Here are just a few scriptures to hold onto as we begin the New Year:

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Josh 1:9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.     Prov 3:5-6

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.     Jer 29:11-12

It is my prayer that we all start off the New Year on the right foot and step by step journey into 2020 with confidence and strength in God’s power, protection, and provision for the way.

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All Scripture quotes in this blog are taken from the New Living Translation

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Seasons Ahead

Changing Seasons Ahead

Leaf “peepers” come from all over the country to view the fabulous array of color in New England every fall.   “Look at the leaves”, “Oh, aren’t the leaves pretty”, the speaker said with a grin.  “Friends, what is so great about fall? I’m afraid to tell you everything is dying!”  Everyone replied with a groan.  IMG_6478

Autumn is such a wonderful time of year and yet it is an annual swan song.  While we are enjoying the harvest we are also preparing for winter.  Shorter and colder days require a change of clothing and preparation for the months ahead.  We also need to be prepared for changing days ahead – life is not static. It would be boring if it were!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.   Eccl 3:1 (ESV)

Besides changing the calendar, what is changing in your life?  Are you in a new season of life?  Maybe you have a new career, new home or new status? You may be in a good or very difficult season of life. We can trust in our loving and faithful God to lead and guide us through every change and challenge we face.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.          Prov 3:5-6 (NLT)

I am in the midst of change.  Our daughter is married, our parents are all gone, I retired (my husband plans to keep working – yay)  and I have health issues that sometimes slow me down.  However, it has been confirmed that He isn’t done with me yet.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?                                        Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

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There is more time for my  ministry of speaking and writing.  I need to be a little more flexible and a lot more tuned in to hear His voice by not being so “busy”and that is not so easy for me. Change happens whether we are ready or not! And so you see dear readers that my new blog is not completely ready to go live.  Please stand by because He’s still working on me!

Tagbah – To Walk Where Jesus Walked -part 6

Tagbah – To Walk Where Jesus Walked -part 6

Our trip to Israel was so amazing that I am still processing all we saw, learned and did.  A place called Tagbah is still the most meaningful for me.

Tagbah sits on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee at the foot of the Mount of the Beatitudes.  This was a favorite fishing spot for the men from nearby Capernaum.  There are several warm springs that enter the Lake here that attract numerous fish especially in winter.

Togbah

There were two churches built at Tagbah; one that comemmorates Jesus feeding the 5000 – The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. This is built over a 4th century church where Byzantine tile work can still been on the floor under the altar. The second church  – The Church of Peter’s Primacy – is where Jesus made His third post-resurection appearance to the disciples.  Jesus had been crucified. All of the disciples hopes and dreams seemed gone so the men went back to what they knew best – fishing.

3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out IMG_2092in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.4 At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was.5 He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied.6 Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.7 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore…….8  When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. ….15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? ” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.          John 21:1-17 (NLT)

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This church sits by the shore and the rock incorporated into its floor is believed to be the place Jesus served breakfast.  A communion table is set in a small garden nearby.  We stood on the shore listening to these scriptures and we were challenged to think of Peter’s restoration and what God may be saying to our own hearts. Three times Peter denied Jesus and three times he was asked, “Do you love ME?” – with the command to “feed MY sheep”.

Peter, the first called, the one to always speak up, the one to jump ahead, one of the three closest friends of Jesus, had really blown it. In fear he had denied our Lord not once but three times.  Jesus lovingly confronts and forgives him then restores and renews Peter’s mission. Friend, it does not matter where you come from or what you have done in the past. Jesus will confront us with our failures or selfishness so we can repent. There is nothing too big or bad that He cannot forgive. He loves you and has an incredible plan for your life. Search your heart and see if there is anything in the way of your relationship with Christ.  He’s still asking “do you love ME”?  then come follow Me……

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Jerusalem – To Walk Where Jesus Walked- part 5

Jerusalem – To Walk Where Jesus Walked- part 5

“Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. During its long history it has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, and attacked 52 times.”* Today Jerusalem’s status is the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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The gospels all give accounts of Jesus’ visits to Jerusalem but it would be impossible to tell the total amount of time there. We only have two accounts of Jesus’ childhood visits to Jerusalem and the Temple. During His first visit as an infant, His parents dedicated their first-born to the Lord.  It was then that the prophets Simeon and Anna proclaimed the child as Messiah, the redemption of Jerusalem, salvation and light to the Gentiles.

In Luke we also read of the boy Jesus lagging behind in the Temple after Passover and his parents departure.  After frantically looking for him, they found Him sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.

But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[     Luke 2:49 (NLT)

Roman Cardo
The Cardo – marketplace

During the reign of Herod the Great the city underwent great architectural achievement. Herod tried to show off his wealth, wisdom and cultural prowess by “Romanizing” much of his kingdom.  He rebuilt the Temple, created an opulent palace for himself and homes for the elite. During Jesus’ visits much engineering and construction would have added to the excitement as well as congestion in the city.

Jesus’ last week was spent in Jerusalem with His disciples. They traveled there to celebrate Passover not knowing it would be their last feast with Him.

As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him.37 When palm sundaythey reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.
38 “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” Luke 19:36-38      41 But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to weep.42 “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.  Luke 19:41-42 (NLT)

Jesus’ last week was spent teaching in the Temple, sharing time with His disciples, and celebrating Passover. His huge welcome would be soon forgotten by mob mentality. He was betrayed, beaten, condemned, crucified and then buried in a borrowed tomb. But on the third day that tomb was empty! Jesus is alive! The grave could not keep Him, Death could not hold Him and as He promised He will return.

IMG_2352So many scriptures, so many visuals passed through my mind as I stood on the Mount of Olives facing the Temple.  This was the place where Jesus often came to pray. And it is believed that Messiah will return here to the New Temple and claim it for His own during His Millennial reign. (read Ezekiel 40-47 and Zechariah 14). So much history is here past, present and future!

The questions I ask myself and you dear Reader:

Do I love God’s Word, as much as Jesus did; to read, study and apply it to my daily life?

Do I appreciate the freedom I have to worship in a church building without persecution?

Do I fully understand the power and victory available to me because of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death?

Do I live each day fully as if it were my last?

And finally – am I ready for His return? What if it were today?

 

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Jericho – To Walk Where Jesus Walked part 4

Jericho – To Walk Where Jesus Walked part 4

DSC_0469Jericho, “the City of Palms”, is and was an oasis in a very dry and mountainous land due to an ancient stream running through it.  After Jerusalem, it is the most excavated site in Israel and archaeologists have marked it as “the oldest city in the world” due to layers of artifacts dating to the Neolithic age. Today it lies within the Palestinian territory of the West Bank near the Jordan River.

During Jesus’ lifetime the Jericho road, which led to Jerusalem, was well traveled but quite dangerous. Caravans full of cargo, military personnel and pilgrims heading to Jerusalem would all use this roadway. The trip from Jerusalem to Jericho was approximately 18 miles and would descend more than a half mile in elevation.  Jericho is the lowest city in the world at 850 ft below sea level. Because of the isolated terrain, people were a target for bandits who had plenty of places to hide.

Herod had built his winter palace there and the city catered to the rich and powerful. It JerichoSycamorewas also a designated home for the priests and Levites on roster to serve at the Temple. A perfect place for a tax collector named Zacchaeus.  The blind and lame would have been sitting along the road begging for alms.

The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37  

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the Jericho roadother side.33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Jesus’ audience would have circled in to listen carefully. They understood the characters, dangers and the severe terrain. Neither a priest nor a Levite would want to ceremonially defile himself. It would have caused a great inconvenience of time and money. So instead they see the need but pass by on the other side. Jesus goes on to describe a despised Samaritan, who stops, sees and goes above and beyond to show deep love and mercy towards another human in great need.

This parable applies throughout the centuries. We should see needs and stop to help or get involved if we can. NO, we can’t help everyone. The needs of today are so far and wide – in our neighborhood and across the globe. But we ALL can make a difference in ONE person’s life. Ask God to open your eyes, don’t just pass by. Be like the Samaritan who didn’t see ethnic, social or economical differences but instead a neighbor in need.

 

Chorus from Amy Grant’s  My Father’s Eyes

She’s got her father’s eyes,
Her father’s eyes;
Eyes that find the good in things,
When good is not around;
Eyes that find the source of help,
When help just can’t be found;
Eyes full of compassion,
Seeing every pain;
Knowing what you’re going through
And feeling it the same.
Just like my father’s eyes,

 

References used include:   BiblePlaces.com / Faith ND/  Bible Odessey / Wikepedia

The Sea of Galilee – To Walk Where Jesus Walked, part 3

The Sea of Galilee – To Walk Where Jesus Walked, part 3

Our visit to The Holy Land included a boat trip on the Sea of Galilee as well as visiting many towns around it. In the Bible, this body of water  is called several other names including the Sea of Tiberias, the Lake of Gennesaret and Lake Kinneret. The “Sea” is actually the largest fresh water lake in Israel and is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth at approximately 700 feet below sea level. It is approximately 33 miles in circumference, 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. The lake is fed partly by underground springs, although its main source is the Jordan River.SeaofGalilee2

“Because it lies low in the Great Rift Valley, surrounded by hills, the Sea of Galilee is prone to sudden turbulence. With little warning, mighty squalls can sweep down the valleys around the lake, whipping its tranquil surface into treacherous waves.” *

 

In modern times tourism has become the major local industry. In Jesus’ time it was fishing. The fish were caught, dried and exported all over the Roman world. At one time the Lake was also the main source of water but now great conservation measures are in place. Today the lake supplies only 10% of the country’s drinking water and there are bans on fishing from April 15 through August 15th.

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It was a calm day in May, therefore no fishing, when we sat on the Sea and I could only imagine what it looked like when Jesus walked here. Yes, He walked here!

22 Immediately after this, (the feeding of the 5000) Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home.23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here! ”28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.      Matt 14:22-33 (NLT)

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The disciples had just participated in the miracle of feeding an enormous crowd with a little boys’ lunch. Jesus now defied gravity and physics by walking to their boat in a storm. Peter was always eager to jump ahead but circumstances sometimes distracted him. Fear and doubt interfere with our faith too. In all of our own circumstances we need to keep our eyes on Jesus to withstand the storm or go where He sends us. We can stand strong and courageous knowing the Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth is with us even if we are sinking. Whatever your circumstances today remember all He has done for you already. So keep your eyes on Jesus while holding his arm tightly and He will carry you through.

For nothing is impossible with God. ”     Luke 1:37 (NLT)

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”     Josh 1:9 (NLT)

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References used:   Seetheholyland.net       Bibleplaces.com          Wikipedia