A Song for Your Saturday

I hope that you find at least a few moments today to rest in the presence of Jesus — just as you are, with your heart open to Him.

For a little while, let go of expectation and obligation…let go of what you’re trying to hold together…and let the Father hold you.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.-1 Peter 5:7

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Together We Follow: Genesis 8

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Dear friends,

On the hardest days it helps if I write to you like this, a letter to sisters and brothers walking through this life with me. I am here, sitting in my dining room and watching the rain fall outside. The limbs of our pine trees move with the wind; the road has a layer of water covering its dark asphalt.

I don’t know where you read my words, but I know that we share this same sky, the same wind, the same rain that falls.

And we share the sorrow of everything that is happening around us.

The news is hard these days. So very hard. It is hard to even keep track of all the wrongs being done, all the pain felt, all the violence that circles our earth.

All through my news feed on twitter, I keep reading these questions: how long? When will things get better? God, where are You?

I wonder if Noah had some of the same questions. We will read today how the days on the ark stretched on and on after the 40 days of earth-shattering torrents. In total, he and his family spent over a year in the boat, with the memory of what had been, the unknowns of the future. I wonder if they began to doubt their rescue would come. I wonder if they begin to wonder if God had saved them from the violence of their time and from the storm only to leave them alone to figure out how to survive. Don’t you think, being normal men and women like us, that they asked – how long, God? Where are You?

Answers came– because God remembered Noah. He had never, not for a moment forgotten him. In His timing, the flood receded. In His timing, this family stepped into a new life and a new covenant–God promised that He would never flood the earth again . Despite the evil of man’s heart, He gave His word that the seasons would go on and life would not be destroyed. He already knew that sin would grow again in the descendants of Noah. He wanted to give a way of heart-change, of full redemption.

So where was God? He was there, cradling the ark among the mighty waves. He was there, teaching Noah to trust Him even in the silent times. He was there when Noah stepped off the ark, the feat of starting over ahead of him. He was there.

So where does this leave us? In this time that seems like an endless cycle of pain, where is God?

He is with us. Emmanuel–God is with us.  We can take this truth even deeper – He is in us. When Jesus left this earth after His resurrection, He did not leave us alone. He did not leave us as orphans. He did not leave us powerless. He sent His Spirit to dwell within us.

When God sent the Holy Spirit, He was showing us-I am not going anywhere. I am Your teacher. I am your comfort. I am with you. I am your power to push back darkness, to undo what the enemy has done.

So where is God?

Church…body of Christ…brothers and sisters…He is in us. We are alive in Him; in Him we live and move and breathe. He has given us His authority and His ear. We are sons and daughters of God, given all that we need to live in His image and to give others this hope of redemption, beauty for ashes, a day when all will be made new.

He has given us His weapons to demolish the strongholds of the enemy, to stand firm against his plans of destruction.

 He has given us His love that lights our path and shows us how to love each other. He has shown us the power of unity.

He has made us one body.

This is it. This is when we fall to our knees and stand in this gap to pray, even as Jesus prays for us. This is when we let our love speak louder than the hatred the enemy is spilling everywhere, every day. This is when we act out of faith instead of fear.

Are the waves high? Is the storm fierce?

Yes, we know that it is – but our Savior walks on water. Our Savior can calm the storm with one command. Our rescue has already come!

Our Savior is the One who says – yes, you will have trouble in this world. But take heart! I have overcome the world!

Has He forgotten us?

No.

Let us not forget Him. Let us not forget who we are in Him.

Let’s commit to love, to hope. Let’s commit to kindness. Let’s commit to prayer because prayer matters. If not us – if not the children of God who have been set free by His power and ransomed by His love – then who will declare His love to a world that needs it? Who else will love their neighbors as themselves and pray for their enemies?

This is the time for us – the Church – to let the Light of the world shine through us.

This is my reminder and yours– the darkness does not ever, ever, ever overcome.

Don’t be afraid to shine.

Love,

Christie

Genesis 8 

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede. The underground waters stopped flowing, and the torrential rains from the sky were stopped. So the floodwaters gradually receded from the earth. After 150 days, exactly five months from the time the flood began, the boat came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Two and a half months later, as the waters continued to go down, other mountain peaks became visible.

After another forty days, Noah opened the window he had made in the boat and released a raven. The bird flew back and forth until the floodwaters on the earth had dried up. He also released a dove to see if the water had receded and it could find dry ground. But the dove could find no place to land because the water still covered the ground. So it returned to the boat, and Noah held out his hand and drew the dove back inside. After waiting another seven days, Noah released the dove again. This time the dove returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the floodwaters were almost gone. He waited another seven days and then released the dove again. This time it did not come back.

Noah was now 601 years old. On the first day of the new year, ten and a half months after the flood began, the floodwaters had almost dried up from the earth. Noah lifted back the covering of the boat and saw that the surface of the ground was drying. Two more months went by, and at last the earth was dry!

Then God said to Noah, “Leave the boat, all of you—you and your wife, and your sons and their wives. Release all the animals—the birds, the livestock, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—so they can be fruitful and multiply throughout the earth.”

 So Noah, his wife, and his sons and their wives left the boat. And all of the large and small animals and birds came out of the boat, pair by pair.

 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose. And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

Together We Follow: Genesis 7

Last Thursday, we read Genesis 6. We saw how the world was filled with violence and how God was broken-hearted over the corruption and pain. We read about the one righteous man left on earth and God’s faithfulness to him. So that Noah would be rescued – so that humanity would be saved – God instructed him to build an ark.

Today, we move into chapter 7…this is the moment when the boat is finished and God is telling Noah that it’s time to board with his family because the waters will soon come.

But at the moment, my mind keeps going to the space between Chapter 6 and Chapter 7.

This is the time after God has given direction and before the work is done. These are the days, for Noah, of telling his family what God had said to him. These are the days of going out to collect supplies, to cut down trees, to gather and store food. This is day after day of getting out of bed and getting to work – without a rain drop falling to reassure him, Noah led his family in a massive and unprecedented mission.

It couldn’t have been easy. There must have been moments of doubt, of fear. There must have been days when it all felt like too much, like too hard of a thing to ever complete.

Every morning, he had to make the decision to trust God. And this trust wasn’t just a matter of the heart — every morning, he had to make the decision to act upon the foundation of that trust. With every plank put into place, every swipe of pitch, every stored vegetable, he was saying again – I believe You. I trust You.

Every morning, he had to put his faith in who he knew God to be – and no matter what anyone else was saying, no matter the obstacles, no matter the illogical appearance of his task — he kept moving forward. And at the end of the day, he had to rest in God’s sovereignty. He had to rest – find peace – in in his faith that God was with him. He staked everything – all he had, his family, his life’s work – in the promise of God.

And at the right time, Noah saw it with his own eyes: God is faithful. He does what He says He will do.

I think this is where we are on many days, in many ways. The time between planting and harvest can stretch out, sometimes farther than we can see, and the every-day tending is an act of trust, a life of faith.

When we are weary, when the job seems too hard, when everything feels like too much…we rest in who He is: the lifter of our heads, sufficient grace in our weakness, the One who strengthens our tired hands.

Every morning, we decide again that we will keep moving forward, we will obey, we will be faithful in all the small things. Every morning, we say again – I choose to trust You. Every day, we make the choice to live in a constant surrender, trusting in who He is, boldly staking everything we have in His promises.

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Genesis 7

When everything was ready, the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I can see that you alone are righteous. Take with you seven pairs—male and female—of each animal I have approved for eating and for sacrifice, and take one pair of each of the others. Also take seven pairs of every kind of bird. There must be a male and a female in each pair to ensure that all life will survive on the earth after the flood. Seven days from now I will make the rains pour down on the earth. And it will rain for forty days and forty nights, until I have wiped from the earth all the living things I have created.”

So Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him.

Noah was 600 years old when the flood covered the earth. He went on board the boat to escape the flood—he and his wife and his sons and their wives. With them were all the various kinds of animals—those approved for eating and for sacrifice and those that were not—along with all the birds and the small animals that scurry along the ground. They entered the boat in pairs, male and female, just as God had commanded Noah. After seven days, the waters of the flood came and covered the earth.

When Noah was 600 years old, on the seventeenth day of the second month, all the underground waters erupted from the earth, and the rain fell in mighty torrents from the sky. The rain continued to fall for forty days and forty nights.

That very day Noah had gone into the boat with his wife and his sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—and their wives. With them in the boat were pairs of every kind of animal—domestic and wild, large and small—along with birds of every kind. Two by two they came into the boat, representing every living thing that breathes. A male and female of each kind entered, just as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord closed the door behind them.

For forty days the floodwaters grew deeper, covering the ground and lifting the boat high above the earth. As the waters rose higher and higher above the ground, the boat floated safely on the surface. Finally, the water covered even the highest mountains on the earth, rising more than twenty-two feet above the highest peaks. All the living things on earth died—birds, domestic animals, wild animals, small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the people. Everything that breathed and lived on dry land died. God wiped out every living thing on the earth—people, livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and the birds of the sky. All were destroyed. The only people who survived were Noah and those with him in the boat.  And the floodwaters covered the earth for 150 days.

Together We Follow: God’s Highway

“I’m holding onto you, Lord
You’re holding onto me…
I’m holding onto you, Love
You’re holding onto me…”

I’m feeling a little fragile tonight. A year ago, the sun set in glory like I’d never seen before and my Papaw went Home to see Jesus face-to-face, to sing ‘holy, holy, holy’ around the throne of God. The memories of last year are close, and what I’m really yearning for is the future…if only we could pull that veil before our eyes aside for just a moment, to see how close the Kingdom of God truly is. If only we could get a glimpse of that joy made complete, the glory that outweighs all of our pain.

I like to think about the Father’s house, which has been made ready for us…where Father and Son are eager for our presence, where they wait with open arms to welcome us Home.

I like to think of the reunions and the laughter, the stories we will hear, the moments we will share. I like to think of the pure delight that will come with the first moment I hear my grandfather singing in a great Kingdom-of-Heaven choir.

I am holding onto the hope that we all share – because this road we’re taking, it leads to a real place, a real moment in time, the reality of life with Him. We are looking forward to a city  with foundations built by God, a city that cannot be shaken, a city where we will find our forever-Home.

And I can almost hear that great cloud of witnesses urging us on. I wonder if they’re saying something like – you’re closer than you know…it’s all worth more than you know…your faith will be made sight. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up! 

Eyes on Him, heart fixed on His promises…let’s keep walking, steady on. Let’s keep walking toward Home and the welcoming arms waiting for us there.

“Fear not, keep on, watch and pray
Walk in the light of God’s highway.”

“…they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.-Hebrews 11:16

“You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” -Psalm 16:11

 

Together We Follow: Genesis 6

 

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The next events we witness on our path through Genesis are not easy to see. There’s sadness here, immeasurable grief and pain.

But there’s hope here, too, because God doesn’t leave us alone in the hardest parts of this life. He always, always gives us a chance to take refuge in Him.

We’ve read the family trees. We’ve seen that Cain’s descendants put their roots deep in this earth, making names for themselves and bragging about acts of violence. We’ve seen that Seth, the third son of Adam, is the forefather of men who call upon the name of the Lord, men who walk faithfully with Him.

Years upon years pass…generations of men and women begin to fill the earth.

Genesis 6

Then the people began to multiply on the earth, and daughters were born to them. The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”

In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.”

It’s not easy to think about God – the Creator who lovingly shaped our earth and everything on it, calling it all good – deciding to destroy all living things. It is not easy to think about God destroying mankind.

We have to know that this was no abrupt conclusion, no hasty decision. What have we seen about the character of God so far?

He made Adam and Eve in His own image. He created an entire home full of everything they needed to thrive. He gave life. He warned men when they were in danger of letting sin take control of them. He was merciful even when they did not listen and allowed sin to enter their hearts, to motivate their actions. He was still there. He still took care of them, even promising that their own offspring would one day crush the enemy. He still gave life even when people chose death. 

So how did we get to this point? Because God doesn’t change, we have to know that — even though it isn’t written out in detail – His character stayed true through every generation. This means we can feel confident that He warned of sin, gave opportunities for repentance, showed mercy to those who turned to Him. We can be sure that the offer of life was ever in His outstretched hands.

We can also be sure that this gift of life was ignored, again and again, by this generation of our history. The passage says that every heart was evil. Every desire, every action, every decision was made from a place of greed, selfish ambition, hatred. We can only imagine how this affected every-day life. We can only imagine the violence, the poisonous words, the injury to spirit and body. We can only imagine that no one was safe and that every passing year brought more destruction, more heartbreak.

God looked at this planet He’d formed, at these precious people He loved, and they were incessantly – brutally – hurting each other. There was no peace, no rest, no innocence left among these men and women He’d only wanted to give joy and abundant life. Mankind was destroying each other.

And it broke His heart.

But in the chaos, one man remained fixed on the foundation he’d been given by his father. One man stood his ground and lived according to what pleased God, even while the rest of the world went their own way.

But Noah found favor with the Lord.

This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. Noah was the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence. God observed all this corruption in the world, for everyone on earth was corrupt.

So God said to Noah, “I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth!

Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and out. Then construct decks and stalls throughout its interior. Make the boat 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Leave an 18-inch opening below the roof all the way around the boat. Put the door on the side, and build three decks inside the boat—lower, middle, and upper.

Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die. But I will confirm my covenant with you. So enter the boat—you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring a pair of every kind of animal—a male and a female—into the boat with you to keep them alive during the flood. Pairs of every kind of bird, and every kind of animal, and every kind of small animal that scurries along the ground, will come to you to be kept alive. And be sure to take on board enough food for your family and for all the animals.”

So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.

Again, God provided the way of life.

In His just ways, in His faithfulness to the promise He’d made to Adam and Eve, God was not going to abandon Noah.

I’ve often wondered about Noah and his family. In a world filled with violence and corruption, there must have been days when they felt overwhelmed. Afraid. There must have been days when they didn’t know how they would survive. I wonder if Noah thought about what would happen to his family when he died, worried about the lives of his sons and their sons after them.

I imagine there must have been times when he felt alone, like he was carrying the weight of his family’s well-being on his shoulders .

But he wasn’t alone and the future was not hopeless, in spite of how circumstances seemed.

God promised rescue, if Noah would hear and obey His word,  from the violence, from the pain, from the unremitting struggle on the earth.

It would come at a great price, at a high cost – but God would use this man and his family to save the human race. As long as even one man was seeking Him, God would be there.

And one day, generations down the line, He would put on flesh and take the judgment of sin Himself – those wages that are death – so that no other man or woman would have to bear it. It’s His way, to provide salvation for us. In His love, He never wants our hearts to remain far from His.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.-Hebrews 2:14

 

 

 

 

Together We Follow: Genesis 2:1-17

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The beginning of time had dawned, called into being by the voice of God the Father. Genesis 1 showed us how He spoke of light, sea, plants, animals, and mankind, bringing it all into existence, and how He called it all good.

Did you notice how the creation of mankind, man and woman, was more personal to the Creator?

About us, He said ‘let us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness…”

Who, exactly, is that ‘Our?’ We already saw that the Spirit was present, hovering over the water in Genesis 1:2.

A few verses from the New Testament will show us…

John 1:1-3 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”

Colossians 1:15-17

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Jesus Christ has been a part of our story from the beginning. He was in that ‘our‘, fashioning mankind in the image of God. He was a part of forming our world and our souls. Even then, as they formed eyes and arms, vocal cords and heartbeats, bone marrow and toes — I wonder if He was already thinking about the great step He would one day take to put on this flesh Himself, willing to humbly become a part of the creation He was orchestrating.

The heart of the Father, Son, and Spirit (this perfect communion is a beautiful mystery, isn’t it?) was love. This creation – declared very good – was made out of love. We, the only creation made specifically like Him, delight the Father’s heart.

The 2nd chapter of Genesis tells us how the first week ended and delves into more detail about the making of man. Today, we’re reading Genesis 2, verses 1 through 17.

So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed.

On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.

This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth.

When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. For the Lord God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil. Instead, springs came up from the ground and watered all the land. Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.

Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into *four branches. The first branch, called the Pishon, flowed around the entire land of Havilah, where gold is found. The gold of that land is exceptionally pure; aromatic resin and onyx stone are also found there. The second branch, called the Gihon, flowed around the entire land of Cush. The third branch, called the Tigris, flowed east of the land of Asshur. The fourth branch is called the Euphrates.

The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

I am awed at this moment — God formed Adam, breathed His own breath into Adam’s lungs. This was no far-away God, no distant Creator…this Father lovingly molding us, instilling in us His own joy and love of beauty, His own desire to create and give of Himself, was as close as He could be…His own breath filled us, set our hearts dancing to His rhythm.

For Adam, He made a home full of wonders. God planted a garden — I love this thought! – full of beautiful trees and delicious foods. My mind goes to my own parents and grandparents looking out over a stretch of land, deciding just where each plant will flourish, arranging the colors to make it all spectacular, picking out which tree will make a home for butterflies or birds, eager to see harvests of plump tomatoes, lemons bright on branches, green beans ready for the supper table. I believe that when God planted this garden, it was just like that – every intention was for this to be a home nourishing body and soul. It was a home made to delight, made for pleasure. God put it all into Adam’s hands – it was a gift, a place for him to tend, to work. Adam was in charge of his home, able to take care of the animals and plants…the man made in the image of God was given a reflective authority to work as God worked — out of joy, out of love.

And here, too, we see a choice set before Adam: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Notice that God did not tell Adam that he could not eat of the tree of life. Obedience would bring life; disobedience would bring death.

Choose life or death.  It’s a choice that will echo down through generations of mankind.

But this, too, is a reflection of the One who made us – He is a thinking, active, present God — and like Him, we are able to think for ourselves. Adam’s freedom to choose…our freedom to choose…was given because true love is never forced.

Love — although not always easy — is rooted in a decision, a setting of the heart’s affection and loyalty to another…will Adam choose to set his heart on God? Will he choose the way of life God provided?

What sort of harvest will the world’s first man reap in this Garden made especially for him?

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*PS- Here’s a little extra information….it isn’t clear if God named the rivers in Eden or if Adam had that job, since he was tending the garden. But I like the meanings of their names, because it gives me a little picture in my mind of what they might have been like…Pishon: increase. Ghoul: bursting forth. Tigris: rapid. Euphrates: fruitful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing Him

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Today we have a choice. And I hope that we choose adoration over anxiety, worship over worry.

I hope we choose to remember that He is always stronger, always bigger, always the God who overcomes.

This is how His joy becomes our strength, how His grace sustains us. This is where He gives peace. This is where we live by faith and not by emotion or what we can see.

Today, we choose trust. We choose joy. We choose gratitude. We choose truth.

We choose praise.