The Lovely Dwelling Place of God

church-steeple-1458415648pU5“How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!” Psalm 84:1

Home décor and aesthetics are big business today – and with good reason.  Who doesn’t want a well-appointed home worthy of a magazine cover.  If your family is like mine, that look wouldn’t last more than a day past the photo shoot. What really makes a home beautiful? It’s not the paint or the furnishings or the landscape – it’s the ones who dwell there. It’s the people who call it home.

The Old Testament pointed to the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, as the dwelling place of God. The Tabernacle was made with the finest wood, the richest tapestries and was adorned with gold and silver elements. When Solomon built the Temple, the walls were covered with gold and only the finest stones were used throughout. It was necessary and fitting for the dwelling place of the Lord God to be the very best.  After the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, the Jewish people rebuilt it and the older generation grieved the smaller, less opulent structure. In time Herod remodeled and expanded the Temple to appease the Jews but, as Jesus predicted,[1] it was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans.

There are many awe-inspiring structures of worship throughout the world. Have you seen St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, or the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris? Maybe you’ve seen pictures of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow or St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. They are all awe-inspiring structures of worship. But the most beautiful of all God’s dwelling places is YOU. The Scriptures says that if you are in Christ Jesus “The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you” (Romans 8:11). You are the place where God chose to reside through His Spirit. You are the place God calls home. Whether you are tall or short, light or dark-skinned or any other color in between, no matter your weight or the color of your hair (even if you have none!), despite any scars or imperfections you may see, you are the lovely dwelling place of God in the world today. It’s not your physical appearance nor your clothes and accessories but it is the One who lives within that makes you the beauty you are.

Beloved, if you struggle with your physical image, may I suggest you look deeper than the surface? Look past the garments and flesh and see yourself as the exquisite abode of the Lord of heaven and earth. See the beauty within and let others see it too. My but you’re looking lovely today!

Holy Father, anything good in me is because your Spirit dwells within and makes me into someone beautiful, inside and out. Thank you for moving in – please make Yourself at home in me. Amen

[1] See Matthew 24:2.

Missing Out

487208491_b65831b4b5_z“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).

I was cleaning out my purse last week and found something I had forgotten I had – and I missed out on a special treat.  I presently work at Publix and every month our corporate bosses give us a coupon for a free something in the store.  Last month is was for a delectable new dessert item that I was looking forward to trying.  But I got busy with other things and the offer expired while the coupon was folded up in my purse.  I missed out on a sweet treat because I was distracted and not paying attention to what I had been given.

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.  God gives us so many blessings, so many wonderful treats and delightful surprises, but we are often fail to notice.  We miss out on so much He wants to give us because we are too busy and distracted by life and the world.  We run in frantic circles trying to accomplish all we think we must while the Lord invites us to sit at His feet and hear His heart (Luke 10:38-42).  We have peace summits, peace talks, and peace marches that offer little to no peace; Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you” (John 14:27).  We give our hearts and bodies to others in search of love – all the while God is proclaiming, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” (Jeremiah 31:3).  We search for something solid and sure in this unstable world, failing to recognize that “there is no Rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).   And when we get lost in this world filled with fake news and “alternative truths,” Jesus is “The Way, The Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).

What’s the key to not missing out on God’s good blessings?  James said it best, “Come near to God and He will come near to you, (James 4:8).  Draw near to God through time in His Word and through prayer every day. That is undistracted time (I’m preaching to myself here).  Time solely and intentionally devoted to God.  You may have to turn off your phone, shut down FaceBook, close out your emails – even (shudder) get up a little earlier.  “But I’m so busy, I don’t have time to give, and I’m too tired every day to give up sleep!”  I get it – I’m busy too, working full time, going to school, taking care of my home and family (including a husband recovering from shoulder surgery), teaching Bible Study, and serving in Women’s ministry at my church and I’m lucky if I get 6 hours of sleep a night.  But drawing near to God isn’t something we should try to “fit in” – it is a necessity, something we must consider a priority.  Dear friend, imagine how much time and trouble you and I would save if we approached our day with a peaceful, calm, assured spirit.  Wouldn’t you like to face your workplace filled with the peace of Christ?  How might it change your relationships if you knew God loved you with an everlasting, sacrificial love?  Might your day go a little smoother with a rock-solid foundation under your feet?  How comforting would it be to be able to sort out the truth amid the lies and deception of the world?

God is offering you all these blessings and so much more.  Don’t miss them.  Don’t get so busy and frantic that you forget what God has already promised to you.  Draw near.  Breath deep.  Listen.  Meditate.  Soak.  Then go out and face your day with the peace, love, assurance and wisdom that comes from God alone.  Don’t hide His promises out of sight and mind.  Claim what is yours today.

Holy Father, I know Your blessings never expire like my coupon, but I give up so much when I fail to “cash in.” I miss out on so much – especially Your sweet presence – when I get frantic and over-busy.  Call me to sit at Your feet.  Remind me every morning to draw near so that I can face my day filled with Christ.  Amen.

When the Lion ROARS

roaring-lion“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour,” 1 Peter 5:8

When I was younger my family went to a “wild” animal park in Florida, the kind where you drive through while the animals roam around.  All the animals ignored us for the most part; they were used to the steady parade of cars.  We drove through the lion’s section, most of whom slept in the sun or lazily watched us passing by.  But there was one male lion who didn’t take to kindly to our presence, and as we slowed to get a closer look at him he shook his head, sending his mane spiraling outward and let out a thundering ROAR!  We all jumped, my little brother started crying and my dad stepped on the gas.  I’ll never forget how my heart pounded in my chest.

Peter says we have an enemy who is like that roaring lion.  He is fierce and ferocious and always on the hunt for easy prey.  He is ruthless and malicious and will attack without provocation.  He hates humankind because he hates God and everything God loves.  And he has a particularly fierce hatred for Christians.   He stalks believers and paces back and forth with his menacing demeanor.  And he roars.  He roars out accusations and threats.  He roars out a list of your failures and sins.  He roars about what a bad mom you are, that you’re a lousy wife and a hopeless, useless mess.  He roars out that God could never love you.  He roars out lies.

How should we deal with this roaring lion?  In his very next verse Peter tells us exactly what to do. “Resist him, standing firm in the faith,” (2 Peter 5:9) James agrees, saying, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” (James 4:7.  Paul tells us to “Stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11).   Proverbs 28:1 says “The righteous are as bold as a lion,” Friend, when the lion roars, you stand in the righteousness of Christ and roar back the Name of Jesus and the Word of God.  You remind the devil that he is a defeated, powerless fool and that his destruction is assured.  You declare that “The lion of Judah” (Rev. 5:5) has already claimed the victory.  The devil roars, but that’s all he can do to those who belong to Christ.  Don’t tremble.  Don’t run.  Don’t back down. “A lion . . . retreats before nothing,” Proverbs 30:30.  You are a righteous lion. ROAR!

“When the Lion ROARS” first appeared on Deeper Roots: dbethandrews.wordpress.com

 

Faithful Friends

friends

“Some men came, bringing a paralytic, carried by four of them” (Mark 2:3).

I just couldn’t pray.  I couldn’t pray because the pain ran deep and wild like muddy water rushing through a broken dam.  I couldn’t pray because I was an intercessor; I’d never prayed for myself.  I couldn’t pray because I couldn’t find the words to say.  My mind was numb, my heart was shattered.  I was a broken woman, paralyzed by the crushing burden I was bearing.  And I had to keep it all to myself.  I was the one others looked up to, the one with wise answers and a verse for every situation.  If they saw me now, I would lose their friendship and respect.  I became very good at wearing the mask and hiding my feelings.  I fooled everyone.

Well, not quite everyone.  Two friends looked past my disguise and saw the raw, open wounds of my heart.  They could not be duped into believing I was okay.  And because they loved me – the real me – they prayed the prayers I could not.  They prayed over me on the phone.  They prayed over me at my office.  They prayed over me at the altar and after Bible study (which I was still teaching).  They prayed over me at McDonald’s and Wal-Mart and wherever we were.  They carried me to the Father when I couldn’t carry myself.

In Mark’s Gospel, a group of friends are bringing a paralyzed man to Jesus for healing.  Four of them bore his weight as they held the corners of his mat.  They climbed onto the top of the house and tore away the roof to get their friend to the only one who could help him.  Interestingly, Mark says “When Jesus saw their faith. . .” he forgave the man and healed him.  Their faith.  No the paralytic’s faith.  The faith of his friends.  I wonder if, like me in my time of distress, the man had any faith himself at all.

Someone you know needs your prayers.  Someone needs you to pick them up and carry them to Jesus.  They have no strength of their own.  They are paralyzed by life’s struggles and unable to come to Jesus by themselves.  The Lord honored the faith of the man’s friends, just as He heard and honored the prayers of my friends.  Healing came for the paralyzed man and for me; borne on the wings of others’ faithful intercession.  Beloved, let’s look beneath the surface of our friendships.  Let’s seek out the ones who bear the heavy burdens, and let’s bring them to Jesus.  When my faith was almost gone, the faith of my friends carried me.  Who needs your prayers – and your faith – today?

“Faithful Friends” first appeared at Deeper Roots .

When Was Jesus Really Born?

calendar_with_drawing_of_christmas_tree_marking_christmas_day_019623bl-890x395_cA friend recently asked me about the validity of celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25th.  The Bible doesn’t put a date on a calendar, and while we can get a good idea from tracing the astronomical records of a unique star, no one wrote the exact date into the annuals of human history.  Many people have commented that shepherds would never have their flocks out in a field or on a hillside where they would be exposed to frigid temperatures.  But several scholars have noted that generally, the temperature does not drop to those levels until after our traditional Christmas season, so there is reason to assume we’re pretty close.

I did say that the Bible doesn’t give us a precise date, but it does actually tell us when Jesus was born.  Galatians 4:4 says, “When the time had fully came, God sent His Son, born of a woman.”  I find so much comfort in that.    The Bible is chock-full of references to time, from the record of Creation to “the day [when] His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives.”   God actually does have a calendar of sorts – a divine calendar – and all of human history flows according to the plans He made before the creation of the world.  Everything will happen “when the time has fully come.” 

I hope you take that personally.  Because the same God who established the universe’s timeline has your name on His calendar too.  He is moving in your life according to His purpose and design.  He is making things and people and events come together just as He planned.  Beloved, your life is not some crazy quilt with pieces of all shapes, sizes and colors haphazardly sewn together.  It is a work of beauty, precision and exactness, stitched firmly together with blood-red cords.  Every moment of your life has been leading up to the magnificent finished project that will be revealed “when the time has fully come.”

So feel free to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th with joy and thanksgiving for God’s perfect, divine plan.  And remember that He’s an “on-time” God.  It won’t be a second late.  Nor will it be a second early.  It will be “when the time has fully come.” 

“When was Jesus Really Born” first appeared on Deeper Roots at dbethandrews.wordpress.com.

Why Bethlehem?

christmas_bethlehem“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea . . . “Matthew 2:1

I had a conversation recently with a friend who is moving away.  She is greeting this transition with both anxiety and excitement.  “It’s all going to be so strange in a new town, but who knows what God has in store there?”  I remembered my own move just a year earlier and that same mix of anticipation and trepidation.  Like my friend, I believed God was behind our relocation, that His will for me is here in this place.  I believe God sets things in motion and orchestrates events so that His will is fulfilled.  The Bible is filled with story after story of God’s hand in the events of human history, and in particular in individual lives.  But sometimes the path He chooses is hard and difficult to understand in the moment.

Joseph had a destiny in Egypt that affected his family, the forthcoming nation of Israel and the entire world.  But God took him through pits and prison on the way.  David would be king of Israel, but by way of the sheep fields and running for his life through the wilderness.  I love the accounts of Paul; God had a purpose for him, to “carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel,” (Acts 9:15).  He declared, “you must testify about me in Rome, (Acts 23:11).  And he did indeed make it to Rome to declare the name of Christ Jesus, but he arrived as a prisoner, through a storm and a shipwreck and a snake (Acts 27-28) .

Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem fulfilled a prophecy made hundreds of years before: “Out of you, Bethlehem Ephrathah . . . will come one for me who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).  How did that happen when His mother was in Nazareth, some 100 miles away?  “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  And everyone when to his own town to register,” (Luke 2:1, 3).

Beloved, a life surrendered into the hands of the Lord God Almighty may have twists and surprises, and yes even doubts and struggles, but you can be assured that He is faithful to fulfill His purpose.  Don’t be afraid of these “strange things that are happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).  It’s just God at work fulfilling His purpose for you.

The devotional, “Why Bethlehem?” first appeared on “Deeper Roots” at dbethandrews.wordpress.com.

 

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Worried woman and shopping bags

“Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy?” Isaiah 55:2

“If I only had a boyfriend, I would be so happy.”  “If I were married, I would finally be content.”  “Oh, if I could have a baby, my life would be perfect.”  “Lord, I don’t need a mansion, but if I could just have a home of my own, I’d be satisfied.”  Ever said one of these, or something similar? I’ve said all of them – and guess what – they didn’t deliver what I thought they would.  The boyfriend was a jerk, the marriage turned sour, the baby cried. All. The. Time.  And the house ended up in foreclosure.

Our key verse is part of God’s call to the nation of Judah to leave behind all the things that had failed them and come to the only sure thing that could satisfy – Himself.  They had wearied themselves trying to gain wealth and power, position and pleasure – but still their lives were empty.  The harder they tried to create a satisfying and fulfilled life, they further they got from it.

Does that ring any bells for you?  It sure does for me.  I’ve known moments of what I thought were satisfaction or joy or peace, but they were only temporary and soon I was looking to the next thing/person for what was missing in my life.  But the truth is that I was not looking for what I needed, but for what I wanted.  And my wants changed with the next commercial, the newest pair of shoes or the next hunger pang.

Beloved, what are you relying on for satisfaction?    Or maybe the better question is what is it you want?  Wealth?  Status?  Food?  Ministry?  Perfection?  People? Acceptance?  None of these will fill that void inside you.  It is only when you and I look to God to fill our wants that we gain a satisfaction that is eternal and unshakable. There is no need to look for the next thing, because there is nothing more satisfying than Him.

“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” first appeared on the Deeper Roots webpage at https://dbethandrews.wordpress.com