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Posts Tagged ‘God’s mercy’

The place name dogged me all week–my thoughts returning again and again to the words of John 18:5.THE NEW YOU

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. (NIV)

Familiar with the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, I knew of the events preceding the crucifixion. The humble Creator stooping over the dirt-encrusted feet of His disciples and cleansing them of Jerusalem’s desert sand—the actions of a servant. Christ—breaking bread in the presence of beloved companions and a friend turned foe.

But until a few days ago, my eyes seemed to pass by any mention of Kidron Valley. What could be its significance? Why hadn’t I noticed before? Jesus walked purposely through the Valley of the Shadow of Death to reach the Garden.

The symbolism is too rich to ignore. Kidron Valley, meaning black or sad, was a burial site to Jewish kings, priests, and prophets encased in tombs along the rocky slopes. And today? Thousands of limestone coffins stand end to end—the bodies of Jewish hopefuls awaiting deliverance through the long-awaited Messiah.

I can almost imagine Jesus surveying the valley and its surroundings. There, high on the slope, He could make out the southeastern edge of the Temple. How many hours had He spent within its walls proclaiming the truth? Inhaling deeply as He passed by a stand of olive trees, Christ might have swept His gaze to the far edges of the landscape and noticed the Mount of Olives. Did His stride quicken as He anticipated ascending into Heaven from that hill—the Father’s call beckoning Him home?

Determined, Jesus continued on as the dark valley rose sharply on either side–evening shadows deepening. He knew the history of the place—He’d seen it clearly from Heaven’s throne room. Christ knew of the treachery encased between the walls of this gorge—when the Chosen Ones had displayed worthless idols here. The people turning away from I Am not once…not twice…but three times. (1 Kings 15: 12-13, 2 Kings 23:6, 2 Chronicles 19:16).

Jesus knew—they would again turn from the Way and choose another.

And soon, the blood of hundreds of thousands of lambs would spill into the wadi, filling the valley with the scent of death; innocent blood staining its walls. The disciples might have noticed a look of satisfaction cross Jesus’ face as He considered the near future—that moment when His own, untarnished blood would pour out for all sin and sinners. Once for all—if they would only accept His gift. The perfect Lamb. The ultimate Sacrifice. The exchange of the Sinless for you and me.

Each step Jesus took in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, friends, brought us closer to Him. Because of His death and resurrection, we can claim the beautiful promise of Ps. 23,

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (NIV)

 

 Thank you, Jesus, for walking the dark valley of sin that we might be the sinless ones. Praise God for His mercy and overwhelming love. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons? (1 Samuel 1-MSG)

 

He didn’t understand. A loving husband, he reassured her of his devotion and cast aside the expectations of the day. But thoughts of the other woman intruded—unwelcome—and the cruel sting of her words embedded themselves in the tender places of Hannah’s soul.

At times, Hannah’s heart felt as hollow as her womb and, despite Elkanah’s gentle encouragement and generous love-gifts, nothing relieved the emptiness of her arms.

How she longed to hold a baby—feel its precious weight against her, inhale the fresh-from-heaven-scent, experience the ebb and flow of mother-life pouring sweet and abundant from her body to nourish a child.

Yet the years passed—one, two, ten or more–and the journey to the Lord’s tabernacle became Hannah’s personal trail of tears—the path from sorrow to depression and depression to despair.

Maybe He was her last resort. Perhaps it was the nudging of the Spirit. But, on one particular return visit to the tabernacle, Hannah made a decision that changed her life and impacted the spiritual direction of an entire nation.

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She prayed.

Crushed in soul (1 Sam. 1-MSG) and weeping with abandon, Hannah poured out every bit of her brokenness before God—the hurt, the loneliness, the desperation. Her fervent praying even caught the attention of Eli, the tabernacle’s priest. Mistaking Hannah’s silent muttering for drunkenness, God’s man even reprimanded her.

You’re drunk. How long do you plan to keep this up?

 Upon hearing Hannah’s story, though, he pronounced a blessing—a salve to an aching woman’s wounds.

Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.

 A few years later, Hannah returned to the place of her prayers—a young boy trailing by her side. Greeting the old priest, the woman who had bowed humbly before God explained that this child—her child—belonged to the Lord.

And they worshiped Him together.

What an incredible picture of God’s faithfulness and mercy! The God Who Sees All never lost sight of His daughter. He listened to her cries, captured each tear, and answered her prayers.

And this same unchanging, all-knowing, wonder-working God? He is there for us in the same way He was for Hannah—patiently waiting for us to come to Him with our needs…our burdens…our hurts.

And, one day? Maybe the same will be said of you or me.

She prayed.

 

Scripture for Reflection

  1.  Do you think it’s a coincidence that each time Hannah was preparing to worship, the enemy came against her?
  2. What causes you to struggle in worship?
  3.  How has God redeemed your past hurts?  Or, is there a heart-wound you are laying before Him now?
  4.  In what way does His faithfulness encourage you in your walk?

 

1 Samuel 1

1-2 There once was a man who lived in Ramathaim. He was descended from the old Zuph family in the Ephraim hills. His name was Elkanah. (He was connected with the Zuphs from Ephraim through his father Jeroham, his grandfather Elihu, and his great-grandfather Tohu.) He had two wives. The first was Hannah; the second was Peninnah. Peninnah had children; Hannah did not.

3-7 Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there. When Elkanah sacrificed, he passed helpings from the sacrificial meal around to his wife Peninnah and all her children, but he always gave an especially generous helping to Hannah because he loved her so much, and because God had not given her children. But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.

Her husband Elkanah said, “Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?”

9-11 So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow:

Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
By giving me a son,
I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you.
I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.

12-14 It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He approached her and said, “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!”

15-16 Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman hard used. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.”

17 Eli answered her, “Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.”

18 “Think well of me—and pray for me!” she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant.

19 Up before dawn, they worshiped God and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife, and God began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked.

 

livefreethursday-sm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Leaning my full weight across the body of the practical, dark blue Samsonite , I managed to partially close the uncooperative zipper–it’s tiny teeth stretching in protest as I yanked on the metal grip in an attempt to coax it around the corner.  No joy.

Unwilling to give up, I perched awkwardly on top of the suitcase–legs splayed on either side of the bag as I released the second zipper.  You know…the one that expands the depth of the bag?  Nothing.

Hrmphing, I did the only thing I could.  Flinging the top open, I snagged my favorite name-brand-imposter-and-much-cheaper boots along with my purple Conair blow dryer and placed them neatly in my husbands overnight bag.  Perfect!

 

luggage

I do try to pack light, but this time I just had too much junk jammed into the carry-on.  And, if I admit it, sometimes I’m the human equivalent to that old, banged-up suitcase. The junk I’ve collected gets shoved inside until its ill-fitting contents burst from the inside out. Does anyone else relate?

How many of us remember the unkind words spoken by a trusted friend or loved one? Words that wounded so deeply they left a permanent impression on the tender flesh of our heart.

Like me, have you ever held onto mistakes of the past and even allowed those memories to hold you hostage to the traps of shame or self-accusation—unable to fully accept God’s grace and mercy. Could God really forgive me for that?

Over time, our hurts, failures, sins and regrets collect into a jumbled mass of personal junk and there we are—trying to shove them down…close them in—hide them from sight. Until we burst open. Because that burden? It is just. Too. Much.

There is a better way, friends. A way to be free of the junk! And it doesn’t require anything except giving the junk to someone else. That’s right—deposit it all at the feet of Jesus. He accepts anything and doesn’t concern Himself with what it is we’re handing Him. He’ll accept the brand new or a worn, filthy rag tucked at the bottom of the pile.

And when we offer our shame, guilt or pain to Jesus? All of the unwanted junk—each of those burdens–disappears. After all, Christ took them from us.

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.   Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.                                                           We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him. (Isaiah 53:5-6 MSG)

It’s time for us to dump the junk and hold onto the truth!  I love traveling light.  How about you?

Recommended Book:  Traveling Light by Max Lucado

 

 

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
                                                    I well remember them and my soul is downcast within me.                                                          Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.  (Lamentations 3:19-23)

Image result for images broadview montana

Image result for images broadview montana

It sits on the edge of the wind-blown prairie and the Montana sky–an unknown town to most.  A strip of slender asphalt bisects the small rows of homes where Highway 3 snakes through the rock and golden grass.  A stranger passing through probably wouldn’t bother to wonder about the people living there or notice the two quaint churches pointing their steeples toward heaven.  A casual passerby wouldn’t care that the bar–a gathering place for regulars most nights- becomes a family hangout when the basketball team scores a victory.  And few will thank the farmer–the one pulling his hat down low on his tanned brow as he gazes across miles of burnished wheat–for getting dirt beneath his nails so that others can enjoy bread on the table.

But to me?  Well…Broadview is much more.  Broadview–and her people–are a significant part of my story.  It is a place of family…of pain…of remembrance–and of promise.

I left home when I was eighteen–certain I could evade memories…redefine myself…become.  What I didn’t realize was that God allowed me to have memories–both good and bad–in order that I would also have hope.

Through the eyes of hope I can look back and thank God for his mercies to me.

My family was broken, but the Father gifted me with 200 other people who cared–from the youth pastor and his wife to the school janitor.  My English teacher…the basketball coach…my 4-H leader.

Image result for images broadview montana

My grandfather lay in a hospital–his chest stitched from stem to stern while the fields were ripe for the harvest. A line of red and green combines dotted the landscape–each trolling the field and spitting shaft in the air.  The Life Giver sent his workers so that a farmer and his grandchildren would know the feeling of satisfied stomachs in the winter.

My childhood home lay smoldering–a heap of ashes.  Yet the Provider gave more than needed when donations from a lone Pancake Breakfast were stacked in front of us.

Broadview.

Insignificant?

Not at all–those 200 people made a difference.

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She stood near the street corner not far from a Kwik-Way gas pump–a crude cardboard sign in her hands.  Please help. Money needed.  The hastily written words left no space for pretense.  The young brunette with disheveled hair and frightened eyes was hurting.

Feeling the tug of a mother’s heart, I stopped to speak with the girl-woman.  Not  much older than my teenaged son, I wondered what circumstances could have led her here…to this place…and in this condition.  Ridges of bone stood out sharply against thin, peaked skin while dirt-smudged fingers pulled self-conciously at stained, rumpled clothing.

“Here,” I said, “please take this.  I don’t have much with me, but I thought you could use some lunch.”  And I handed her a bag smelling of French fries and grilled burgers.

“I work at that church,” I pointed encouragingly.  “If you stop by later today, someone will help you.”

“Sure,” the girl-woman said.  I never saw her again.  Since then, I’ve often  wondered. How desperately in need must we be before accepting help?  

Like this dear one, I have known what it is to be poor.  I’ve experienced hunger with nothing more than a six-pack of Pepsi in the refrigerator and a few cans of green beans in the pantry…but, I really mean a poverty of spirit.

The impoverished have few resources.  They are neither powerful nor influential and must rely on others for survival.  Those who are spiritually poor realize their similar condition.

All false-hood is torn away to reveal raw, human need.  And to the woman who weeps with loneliness?  He hears your heart repeating its muffled chorus…love me, love me.  To the little boy who yearns to be like other children?  He quietly whispers….I am enough.  To the cancer-riddled mother, He promises…I know the plans I have for you; plans to give you a hope and a future.

Are you like me, dear friend?  Are you in need?  Does your impoverished soul ache for relief?  Then embrace Christ today.  Admit your need.  Accept his offer of mercy.  He extends wounded hands in promise of an eternal tomorrow overflowing with the richness of His boundless love.

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  

(Matthew 5:3) 

  

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