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“children running and shouting through the Temple, ‘Hosanna to David’s Son!’ . . . Jesus said, ‘Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?’” (Matthew 21:15-16).

Easter dawned on the horizon as Christ marched through formidable gates to redeem His house of worship. With every step across the courts of women and Gentiles He manifested God’s presence among those furthest removed from the holy place. In strode the One Who would make all things new.

The resident authorities balked at change. The current state of worship served their lifestyle of disdain and exclusion. Sizable gifts impressed them, not whether men offered them from their hearts. The swindling of poor worshipers failed to prick their conscience. Priests and politicians shared the drink of corruption. The Temple rulers shrugged away such apostasies.

But, oh, those children.

Jesus foreknew the Temple purification would meet resistance. Sanctification always does. He took time to weave a whip, readying His physical instrument as He prepared for battle against unseen forces. While we don’t know the inner details of this quiet time, Christ maintained perfect concordance with His Father throughout His life. That He prayed during these moments requires little conjecture.

God’s maelstrom thundered across the Temple as He flipped wooden tables over onto the stone floors. Merchants pawed across the marble tiles to recover spilled coins. Christ’s whip cracked over their heads and spurred them to flee the halls. His voice echoed off the smooth walls, declaring the purpose of His Father’s House. And His task was not yet complete.

Sanctification requires more than cleansing filth away.

Enter those relentless little worshipers. As the children ran through the Temple, the Lord used their praises to help cleanse the Temple by renewing its divine purpose. It wasn’t enough to stop doing wrong. The right type of worship had to fill God’s house again. Worship like a child who loves the Lord.

Scripture defines Christians as “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1Corinthians 6:19). Just as the driving out of money changers represented something larger in need of removal from the place of worship, our lives tend to harbor elements that don’t belong. Our sin nature clings to its corrupt old ways and resists change. Despite human and supernatural opposition, Christ’s sanctification can renew our lives. If we submit to His ongoing work of transformation, He drives out residing powers that don’t belong. Pride, selfishness, all manner of sinful strongholds flee out of the halls with a pathetic squeal.

A purged Temple isn’t fully cleansed yet. After the Lord relieves my soul of a nasty attitude, renewed purpose must complete His work. I need to reorient my spirit and fill the cleansed spaces with the worship He desires. Whether He prescribes certain actions or a discipline of stillness, complete renewal means submitting to renewed purpose. I must worship Him with the relentless praise of a devoted child.

Not childish, but child like. Knowing my utter dependence upon Him, yet comfortable that He carries me. Filled with awe and wonder. Accepting the unexplained. Believing without seeing. Trusting with all my soul. Loving Him with all my heart.

Will you join me in worship today, accepting the royal status as His transformed child?

 Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there” (Matthew 19:14-15).

“‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me'” (Matthew 18:3-5).

From the sun’s wink at the zenith, a blue of immeasurable depth extends in all directions to the horizon. I squint at the brilliant sky, wishing it could swallow me whole. Through a gullet of downy clouds, the stuff of daydreams would carry me into the heavens. I could float, suspended just below the stars. I’d peer through breaks in the clouds to watch over those still locked onto the landscape. A unique perspective for prayers. The rare snap of autumn chills my arms, reminding me a vertical dive would prove colder than I imagine.

What if all our dreams of flight were meant to show a lost part of our inner design? Could the Lord have inscribed upon our unconscious minds that we were meant to fly? The notion remains absurd if ascribed to our mortal bodies, but I have long pondered the spiritual meaning of our penchant for soaring. After all, we were not created for an eternal attachment to things of dust.

Since our souls must rise above earthly desires and things temporal, examining the spiritual aspects of flying could provide significant insights. The need to rise beckons us toward faithfulness in our entire journey with God, not merely the post-mortem span. Christ redeemed us for more than this life, even while we are still living it.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll explore these magnificent benefits through which Christ provides wings to believing souls.

Freedom

Perspective

Wind-Reliance

Peace

“those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles” Isaiah 40:31

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“Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. . . Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” – Matthew 24:4-6,12-13

In less than twenty minutes of evening news, we see evil circling our community. Spouses lie crushed physically–and worse, emotionally. Parents harm infants. Children shoot classmates by the dozen.  The dark-clad terrorists victimizing lands across the sea are not as far away as they seem. Evil plots against those created in God’s image, conscripting pawns to carry out its destruction.

Fields, once green with potential, stand browned and dry. Clouds gather over love’s light, and the earth shudders. Christians murmur about end times. Some huddle in fear as persecution mounts across the world. Ripened wheat fields look rather dead, even hopeless, to the untrained eye. Farm folks know the signs of harvest, as should Christians.

The advancing darkness casts an ominous hue over the world’s landscape. It comes, as Jesus said it would. When things appear beyond all hope of rescue, expect the Savior to show up for harvest. Not just at the end of times, but whenever dry circumstances creep in and threaten to steal our faith. Bleak days occur far ahead of the end days, for the world and for each individual’s personal experience. Instead of growing fearful, we should prepare to offer our fruit.

When things feel uncertain and situations drain your vigor, it’s time to raise your head. Declare and demonstrate your purpose. Show the tasseling Spirit’s power to reap unbelievable benefit when all the worth seems lost. Congratulations on your coming victory over evil’s doom. Thank the Lord for looming challenges, because it’s a certain sign of a magnificent harvest on its way.

I don’t venture up onto my roof often. In fact, I only brave that weak-kneed climb if no one else volunteers to help with an annual task. My core tightens as I wobble those initial steps. After I reach the center and grip onto an anchoring structure, my lungs relax for a full breath. I look out across the treetops as dusk honeys the heads of our neighborhood live oaks. My view extends beyond our street to the school, ballparks, and the mass of homes further outward.

A moment on the peak shifts my perspective. The sunshine’s caress penetrates my cheekbones. The breath of a fresh season revives my senses. I consider distant homes as my neighbors. At this moment, when God secures my quivering frame, the world feels both larger and more intimate. Standing on the rooftop, I recognize myself as a saint.

As twilight darkens my view, time demands my return to life on the level earth below. I resume my daily routines, walking across the dust of the past toward the tomorrow from which it will grow. The miseries and burdens of passers-by permeate the stagnant air. I see despair in their eyes and feel the pull of hopelessness from their hearts. So much pain. I reach out with an urge to help, but hesitation quivers in my fingertips. I, too, have knees prone to buckling. Who am I to offer them strength? What if I let these fragile neighbors down? My doubts and fears tire me, and I begin to sink onto the curb of purposelessness. The suffering of life on the roads and in the alleyways tempts me to forget I am a saint.

Rays warmer than sunbeams lift my drooping chin. I need not search with my eyes to know Who is there.

“You are not made to be a saint for the rooftop,” He says. “Nor are you made to pour your own strength out to sustain these others.”

I want to leap from the curb and snuggle in His arms. Every muscle of my body, to the core of my soul, longs to soak in His presence forever. “Keep me with You,” I say.

My spirit inhales a heady draft of His invigorating fragrance.

“You are a saint because I am with you. Here on the road…” He turns my shoulders to face out across the vast neighborhood, through the nearby fences and into the world beyond them. “And out there. I am the strength you offer, the healing you convey. You got your bearings on the rooftop so you can live My purpose while you’re down here.”

I crane my neck, attempting to glimpse His brilliance. Though my eyes fail to capture a view of the Son, He has not left me alone. The Word of my promise-keeping God anchors my certainty about His location–within my heart.

I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20).

The confidence that He remains with me girds my weak knees to venture out into the world and steadies my frail arms to reach out to bless those who suffer. I do not merely give myself to those in need, but I offer Someone far better. He alone can transform the unsteady roof climber into a earth-treading saint. The Son Who did so for me can change any willing soul. With such immense suffering, the world needs more saints to climb down and share His love on the roadway. Let’s reach out together, in His strength, to leave no neighbors to despair of hope.

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John17:20-23).

 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:18-20).

I pry my tongue from the pasty mire on the roof of my mouth. Parting my chapped lips, I heave in a breath of sultry air. Perspiration streams down my legs as I trudge across the parking lot. I struggle with a dizzy urge to hustle out of the August glare. My body cannot muster speed as it fights through the soupy haze. I hope my lungs don’t melt before I reach shade. I stagger through two sets of double doors. Freon-chilled air caresses my sticky neck and shoulders. The air conditioning fails to quell the nausea in my core or settle my reeling head. Shelves of empty vessels, soda concentrates, and coffee pods stare at me from the walls. Packaged beverage machines line the aisles. None can rescue my parched body. I need water. And there’s none here.

In our arid world, it’s common to stumble into the wrong places seeking water. When crowds stream toward a shady spot, it glimmers like a refuge mirage. The environment hooks our senses and draws us in. The diversion promises relief from the harsh elements, but indulgent comforts prove shallow. Hedonistic balms spritz an oh-so-temporary soothing over the outermost layer of skin. They vanish into thin air before reaching the burning need within. Pleasing the senses cannot quench the soul.

Some of us grope for chemicals, alcohol, or sex as a respite for inner thirst. But false relief can take more innocuous forms, too. Shopping, food, or other benign endeavors become toxic when misused as hydration. Like salt, good things offer benefit when used for the proper reason and in appropriate doses. When poured into our spirit’s well in place of living water, even good things can parch us to death.

On my dusty journey, I often feel the heat sapping my strength. Discouragement threatens to force my rubbery legs to give way beneath me. I gasp for some fresh breath to revive me, to help me plod forward another mile. Sometimes I want to go shopping or head to the spa. If I indulge my flesh instead of praying through my frailty, I end up with a mouthful of sand. Nothing satisfies. Disappointment adds to my emptiness. Then I remember the obvious. Only the Fountain of Life can refresh my spirit. When I feel least able to pray, that’s what I need most. Turning to Scripture and prayerful meditation draws me near to Christ. He fills the dry, empty caverns of my soul and quenches my deepest need. My hope renews, and I thank Him for His patience with me.

After our reviving moments together, sometimes the Lord encourages me to visit the spa or the mall. But we go together, sloshing with the threat of splashing passersby. Instead of seeking fulfillment there, I remain piped into the Fountain so I don’t miss an opportunity to share His love and peace with someone else.

 

“All my fountains are in you” (Psalm 87:10).

They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
 For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:8-9).

She brushed past us in the school hallway. Her shoulders sagged beneath the weight of brimming tears. Flushed cheeks and nose betrayed her struggle to withhold sobs. She avoided eye contact.  The girl continued down the hall in silence, as if she hoped to take cover before the cry burst forth.

Did she know I prayed for her? As a complete stranger to her, I didn’t dare stop her or say anything that might add embarrassment to her morning. Of the dozen sorrow triggers I can imagine for high school orientation, I had no idea which one crushed her heart. I cannot say whether she whisked home without a single friend to ask what was wrong. I don’t know where she broke open to release that imminent flood of tears.

Perhaps the girl believed her stifled cries went unnoticed. If so, I pray she learns the truth. Though she’ll never know I cared, may her heart come to know One Who loves her without limit. If she sobs in a subterranean cave or weeps at the bottom of the sea, His heart will feel each stab of her pain. No cry is hidden from His ear.

I plead with the Holy Spirit to bring her a friend who will impart Christ’s love to her. She should not continue to feel unheard, unseen, or alone in her suffering. In more ways than one, she is not alone. Far too many people struggle in silent isolation from others, unaware of how precious they are to God. Christ reaches toward the lost and broken with compassion-scarred hands. I wish more people knew that He hears every moan and cherishes each tear as part of His own heart’s pain.

We can become the flesh of His embrace, reaching out to share love with the outcasts and the crushed souls. Whether today’s call is to prayer, an intimate conversation, or a blog post, the Spirit will prompt us. Offer hope. Show them Who cares. Though culture insists on qualifications like intelligence, vigor, or status, God seeks heartfelt obedience. Those who listen to the Spirit can brighten the world. One shivering soul at a time. In these chilling times, a throng of suffering hearts depends on us.

 

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18).

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

“When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate” (Exodus 22:27).

“You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed” (Psalm 10:17-18)

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering” (Isaiah 53:4).

“You Yourself have recorded my wanderings.
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your records?” (Psalm 56:7-8)

 

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:14-16

Drought left the western earth thirsty, a tinder box waiting to catch with little more than a warm breath. One stray ember sparks a relentless blaze. Forest fires rage across thousands of acres and acrid smoke plumes across an entire state. Ready conditions require little to spur great flames.

We searched through sodden ditches. Green wood and rain soaked logs filled the truck bed. After an hour of persistent effort, we nurtured forth a glimmer of light. We fed the resistant stack, refusing to lose hope. A sweet reward loomed ahead, so  we worked with undaunted perseverance. Soon, the glow warmed all who surrounded it.

On fire

Joy overwhelmed me, since I had no intention of missing out on s’mores.

Christ calls us to act as His fire starters in the world. Some territories will receive the healing light of Jesus’ grace like parched brush. Flames will blaze from their hearts with an instant wildfire and spread to thousands of souls. Other ground we must cover lies sodden with resistance, and might not respond to our friendly invitation right away. We must not give up hope on those who question the truth, but continue reaching out to build light into the soggy pits of this world. Focus on the eternal goal and persist in love.

Imagine embracing the glimmering hearts of those Christ has sparked through your life of loving friendship. What joy we have in that hope, for a reward far sweeter than s’mores awaits us.

Some vow to scale a cliff, visit a world wonder, or learn five languages. Others plan to taste exotic delicacies or indulge in the arts. Aimed toward travel, achievement, or adrenaline-laced adventure, most call these goals a bucket list. This litany of tasks aspires to define the completeness of one’s life. Measure the quality of life by the percentage of items checked off before kicking the bucket.

I tried to set a list in high school, with the following included among my goals:

  • Visit Mont Saint Michel.
  • Go to Australia.
  • Become CEO of a company.

I added, subtracted, tweaked. In college, I aspired to own a Lexus AND a company. Dreams of castle tours and grand success eroded in the wind like sand sculptures.

During recent decisions about travel, a shift in my attitude took me by surprise. Once a type-A, goal-oriented individual, I found myself feeling an unusual lack of concern about the agenda. A fresh perspective dawned upon my spirit—what I do-see-visit on this earth is of little consequence. Though I still enjoy experiences, circumstances alone cannot offer fulfillment to my life.

A visit to the mountains will fade from memory, but worship on the summit could change my impact upon others. It isn’t the castle tour that adds treasure to my spirit, but the love shared with those on the tour along with me. Whether I own a company, publish a blog post, or mop the kitchen floor in vain, my accomplishments will be measured by how I honor Jesus in each moment of my day.

My bucket list has shortened to one item–obey the Lord. While it sounds more like a rule, this solitary goal offers a view of the most miraculous wonders, the adventure of a lifetime, and an eternal crown of glory. I might never wear a crown or dwell in a castle before I kick the proverbial bucket, but my goal extends to eternity. More of a post-bucket list, really.

Whether I travel the world or communicate to it via twitter, my dream is to serve Jesus well along the way. If I have millions to donate or a word of truth to offer, let me glorify the Lord in the way I give. Whatever I become, wherever I go, and in all I do, Lord help me honor You.

That’s a goal I have to keep working on for the rest of my life. What about you? What’s on your bucket list?

 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

“’Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘…I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.’ …But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God… For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well…Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:15-17,20-21,30-31,33-34)

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

The odd life of a fairy tale creature begins ahead of our classic “once upon a time” moment. Forest animals pranced among the trees without a musical score and avoided humans until Snow White entered the scene. Attic mice scurried along like common vermin before Cinderella inspired them to sing. A frog croaks regrets of lost glory, his hopes fading day by day, until a royal kiss restores his identity.

In the backstory, these charming characters showed no promise. Unremarkable critters continued their existence with little or no potential to play a role in an epic tale. They knew nothing else, expected nothing more. Had they remained outside the storyline, they would have lived in perpetual commonness. The author chose them, knowing the story required drawing those specific characters into destined lines on its pages. Author selection transformed them from mundane whatevers into extraordinary creatures. 

As we scurry through the everyday ho-hum of our existence, commonness takes hold of our identity. We look into the mirror and declare the same first name–ordinary. We feel unremarkable, insignificant. Hope of promise or potential eludes us. Dramatic plights destined to change a kingdom remain foreign dreams, unknown to us.

Enter the Author. He opens His Story and everything changes.

Once upon a time, an epic tale chooses each of us. We choose whether to accept our destined role in the extraordinary new life. Remaining outside the storyline delivers a sentence of mundane existence. The Author’s quill feathers whisper over us an invitation to choose life.  Our previous lackluster state cannot limit the Author’s power. He specializes in dramatic transformation. The more impossible a character’s elevation seems, the more it adds sparkle to the story.

Examine the Author’s previous work. Ordinary mice like Gideon become valiant heroes. David, the bleating little back-country kid, morphs into a king with an everlasting legacy. And in a little mudpuddle called Nazareth, an impoverished girl becomes the mother of God’s Son.

Those who accepted Him as Author of their lives received a transforming Holy Spirit to dwell within them. The Lord’s power seated inside, no Christian remains ordinary. Unlike the fairy tale versions, our mirrors tell precious little of who we are. The Prince of Peace knows your identity and your true destiny. Take His hand, and accept your role as an extraordinary creation. Follow the Author’s Words and become part of the story that will lead to to a joy far greater than happily ever after could promise you.

Several months ago, I discussed a certain tree with my son. Thin clusters of leaves struggled for air between clumps of moss.
“Did it even bloom this spring?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Hope there’s nothing wrong with it. I love the spray of tiny flowers across the lawn when it blooms.”

As summer dawned, my husband yanked the grey shrouds away from its branches. Rain drenched its boughs and trickled into the earth to quench its roots. Sunbeams renewed the once-veiled tresses. Life blushed green throughout the treetop, and buds exploded in celebration. Blooms carpeted our lawn from mid-summer to the season’s twilight. I now gaze on a lush canopy of flowers and leaves to adorn our home, with no end to its productivity in sight.

My soul has seen such inactive seasons. Wintry doldrums appeared where spring called for flowering. Parasitic issues choked my spirit, but I remained impotent to escape them on my own. The Gardener, Owner of my home and life, came to my rescue. Christ helped me remove the hindrances keeping me in an untimely season of lifelessness.

I am now free to drink Living Water and glorious light through my mind and heart down to the roots of my soul. I look forward to a lengthy time of flowering, to carpet the neighborhood and spangle the crosswinds to faraway lands.
For in Christ, blooming season remains limitless.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”(John 15:1-5).

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).

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