Overshadowed with Expectancy

cloud I saw this cloud as I traveled from Regina to Saskatoon a few days ago. It stayed in this formation practically the whole trip. An umbilical cord to heaven was my first thought as it seemed to extend beyond my sight. I wondered if God was like us when we as humans  tend to say we need to ‘cut the cord’ with our children and allow them to become more independent. In some ways, yes, our free will may get us in trouble early on but it also allows us to choose to follow the One that created us. At that time we get a new umbilical cord of sorts called the Holy Spirit, that keeps us connected to our heavenly Father and Jesus and helps us to navigate this new life.

Umbilical cord may have been a close association to my baby focus these days but it was still a sweet analogy of how God continues to give us life-giving nutrients. Baby focus = Our daughter recently announced we will be grandparents for the first time, my good friend is about to give birth any day, our lives are surrounded by young families with little ones right now and of course as Christmas approaches I reflect on baby Jesus; the most important baby of all time.  

Luke 1:30-35New International Version (NIV)

30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God.

As I have been reflecting on the miracle of Christmas this year these verses have been especially prominent in my mind and in my readings. I don’t know about the rest of you but the submissiveness of young teenage Mary and how she must have known her God and how an encounter with God completely changes someone, never fails to blow me away. And that is just a piece of this incredible story! The orchestration of all of the parts and lives and circumstances God used to come to earth as a baby and change our future is mind-blowing, if you choose to believe the truth.

I love the term the ‘Power of the Most High will overshadow you’.  Overshadow in Greek is Episkiazo (ep-ee-skee-ad-zo) which means to envelop. It is used in the New Testament 3 times meaning God’s overshadowing presence which always brings His plans to pass. In these verses pertaining to Mary it particularly means that the Holy Spirit will come over her and impregnate her. My devotional said today, “God chose to place Himself inside her womb so that you and I could, one day, carry His presence inside of our lives as well.”

Edwin Louis Cole said ‘Expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles.’ Mary had an expectancy in God, not in what He was doing or how, just simply that He could. Can you choose to believe this Christmas, just simply that He can, that He did all of this for you and He desires to meet you in the darkest, most broken places of your heart. Your pain is not too hard for Him. Pastor Craig Groeschel said, ‘Push through the pain to the point of praise.’ Worship will break into your hurt. He also meets us in our joy and in our peace and through our relationships, He is Love. Let your prayers be that the Holy Spirit will overshadow you and impregnate you with possibility, hope and the anticipation of who God is and who He wants to be for you.

Merry Christmas from my heart and my family to yours. Let the Light of the world shine through you in 2015 and watch the finger of God change the world, one life, one moment, one miracle at a time.

 

 

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Spinning Tire Perspectives

I went for my first walk in the snow today. What, you say, don’t you live in Saskatchewan where that stuff has been on the ground for a while? Why yes I do and I guess that is not entirely true about it being my first, I have walked from the house to the garage, from the car to my destination and returning again from the garage to the house. This one was for real, a bundle up and walk for an hour with snow crunching underneath and going through the park. I had a walk in mind when I saw that the air was not cold enough to hurt my face today. As I sat worshipping this morning though God placed an urgency in my spirit to go for a walk right away. Who am I to argue?

My first block in I encountered a young man slamming out of his car, hands in the air #@%&!!! I asked God, is this why the urgency? The man proceeded to slam back into the car and rev the engine, forward, spin, reverse, spin, slam on the steering wheel. By this point God moved me to stand on the sidewalk near him until he caught my eye. He looked over, probably thinking oh great, or some sort of that kind of sentiment and opened the door. ‘Can I help you? I could drive if you want to push?’  Resigned as I was his only option he jumped out and started shoveling furiously. The car was a standard and I just happen to love and know how to drive a stick. For me it was a fun adventure, not so much for him. After a few maneuvers we were free of the sinkhole that had swallowed his little sports car tires. ‘Thank you lady, you saved my day.’

‘You are welcome, I hope the rest of your day is blessed. ‘

He apologized for having to see him that way. I patted his shoulder as we switched spots and said,’ It is just a stuck car.’

‘It is now, it wasn’t then. Thanks again,’ He smiled and got in to carry on to whatever his day held for him.

As I continued walking and asking God to show me His perspective in that situation a few things came to mind. First of all, we never know a lot of the time the impact we may have on someone by going where God wants us to go. I have no idea what that gentleman had going on nor did I need to know but perhaps He needed Jesus to love him through me for that short period. Maybe his quick frustration was habitual and next time he may pause and think life is not an emergency, just breathe. God also showed me how His presence in me, without me even saying a word sometimes can bring awareness of sin.

He also reminded me that even though it was just a stuck car, when we are in the middle of a situation and it is frustrating or rather we lack the patience in it, it is difficult to see past the spinning tires sometimes. It took just a few little moves for us to release from the snow trap. What kind of perspective change do you or can you make when your tires are spinning? I encourage you to take a step back, tilt your head, press in to Jesus, call a friend, buy a vowel, whatever it takes to see more clearly. Even if a situation has been long-suffering or seems too painful to bear much longer, one turn of the wheel or a word of gratitude or even a push may give you enough momentum to get free and be hopeful. ‘May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.’ Romans 15:13

Jacob, after he dreamed of angels and ladders, awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it.’ Genesis 28:16. When you feel distant from God, pray these words and ask Him to give you an awareness of His Presence. He delights to show us and it may even come in the form of spinning tires or some old lady who knows how to drive a stick.

 

Joy Unspeakable while Suffering Well

At first glance this title seems like quite a conundrum but in fact it is my heart’s desire. After all, we have not been promised a suffering free life but man do we fight against it don’t we? John 16:33 says,’I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ hallelujah we say but then our focus blurs from our suffering and as it is defined, suffering is not a walk in the park. Suffering – the state of undergoing pain, distress or hardship. Pain caused by injury, illness or loss etc, physical, mental or emotional ( I am adding spiritual as well for when we are separated from God, this causes pain in our lives,  in our spirit, in God’s heart and forever with eternal separation if we don’t choose Him).

Joy Unspeakable are the words that God spoke into my spirit as I was praying yesterday. Although I am not totally sure what this will look like as it unfolds I know that as my intimacy with God increases, there is more room for joy to bubble up. How can we share what Jesus has done in our lives if we have no joy? How can we minister to the needs, hurts and interests of others as Jesus did when we are bound up in our own? Pastor Bobby Conway wrote The Fifth Gospel and he says that we are the fifth gospel. As Christians, we were left in this world for two reasons, to grow in the likeness of Christ and to share the message of Christ.

How do we accomplish this seeming conundrum of joy amidst suffering? We move our expectations from our suffering to our Saviour! Suffering provides us opportunity to show hope. If we can suffer well, we show the hope that is in Jesus eternally. Before this topic seems too heavy, also know this, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17. I don’t dismiss at all that circumstances can seem too much to bear when you are under the weight of them but in the perspective of eternity, they are momentary. I have experienced suffering in many forms and I watch friends and family suffer in various ways. I have also suffered without the joy and hope of Christ before I knew Him and that is a dark place, one I never want to experience again. Suffering, especially watching others, breaks my heart often and have I been successful with joy unspeakable all the time? Definitely not, I would dare to say not often. As I mentioned before though it is my hearts desire as I learn to trust God more with orchestrating my life as He sees fit.

Now, how do we suffer well? Even typing that makes my flesh want to fight against it a bit! 1 Thessalonians 5:17,18,’Pray without ceasing, in EVERYTHING give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ Ephesians 5:20,’ ALWAYS giving thanks for ALL things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.’ (emphasis mine) We give thanks and we keep our eyes on the eternal value of the trouble we may have to endure. Guarding our mouths is another way to suffer well, are you constantly complaining about your distress? Ephesians 4:29 says,’ Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.’ My husband Wade was a perfect example of this last week as he thanked God for a disagreement we had and gave thanks for an opportunity to learn better for next time. This is not that we shouldn’t talk with someone about our trouble but to just be careful it does not become chronic and that we are retraining those thoughts coming in to find places of gratitude instead.

God has been highlighting Romans 8 for me this week and I encourage you to read the whole chapter. Today these verses jumped out at me, vs 15-17, ‘For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father”. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.’ God wants to share His glory with us. Incredible. Lord even when we suck in our suffering? Absolutely! But it is easier when you can do it well and I receive more glory for what is worked through your joy unspeakable. And ps, it is not all about you…2 Corinthians 1:3-5, ”Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

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