Sweet Jesus

 

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This morning I woke up about 3 a.m. with the words to an old hymn on my heart. It’s not even in the newer hymn book we use at my church. I haven’t heard it in a long, long time. I guess God wanted me to do some pondering about the message behind the words this morning so I never went back to sleep.

When God speaks, I want to listen, no matter what time of day it is. So this morning I cherished these words:

“Ev’ry day with Jesus, Is sweeter than the day before;

Ev’ry day with Jesus, I love Him more and more.

Jesus saves and keeps me, And He’s the One I’m living for;

Ev’ry day with Jesus, Is sweeter than the day before.” (Music and lyrics by Robert C. and Wendell P. Loveless, 1936)

I love to think of Jesus as sweet. I pray Sweet Jesus. I cry out to Sweet Jesus in moments of tenderness and compassion and I sometimes proclaim Sweet Jesus! in my zeal and excitement.

Sweet is an adjective that means: 1. having the pleasant taste characteristic of sugar or honey; not salty, sour, or bitter 2. pleasing in general; delightful.

How fitting. How appropriate. How…sweet.

Life sometimes loses its flavor. Life is sometimes sour. Sometimes it’s even bitter. Yuck.

When I want to spit the bitterness of life out of my mouth I’m so glad I have Jesus to put the sweetness back in. Like honey…

“How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103

Several times in Scripture the Word of God is referred to as sweet and the first chapter of John’s Gospel tells us Jesus is the Word made flesh. I can’t tell you how often I’ve gone to the Word when life has handed me lemons and made some of the sweetest lemonade ever! And I don’t even like lemonade. Seriously. Never have cared for it. But Jesus has a way of taking the sour out of a lemonade life.

Can anything be sweeter than honey? Especially when it’s fresh off the comb.

Of course, you wouldn’t catch me trying to steal a bee’s honey. I don’t know anything about bees, but I know people who keep hives and cultivate honey. I’ve even heard of bee charmers. Did you know that most of the references to honey in Scripture are toward wild honey? It was a luxury and used for trading. In fact, the Promised Land was referred to as “the land flowing with milk and honey.” It was a place where God’s goodness abounded. Where the sweetness of His presence would be experienced in Israel’s prosperity, provision, and protection, as long as they depended upon Him and Him alone.

Hmmmmmm….the sweetness of God’s presence.

The sweetness of Jesus. His presence, His Spirit within me. So why can’t I be more sweet?

I want to be sweet. I want to be good. I want to be like Jesus. But sometimes I’m not. The enemy comes and steals my sweetness. Sometimes bitterness creeps in. Oh, how I need the Bee Charmer to extract that bitterness and replace it with pure honey. Plain and simple. I need to taste and see God’s goodness.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

O fear the Lord, you His saints:

For to those who fear Him there is no want.

The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;

But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.” Psalm 34:8-10

God is good. Yes. And Jesus is sweet. Any bitterness I find taking root in me I need to put away by turning to Jesus. He’s like a Bee Charmer. He can extract the bad and cultivate all His goodness in me when I let Him so that what comes out is…well…sweet…sweeter…sweetest.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

Bitterness is a root that causes all kinds of trouble. It not only tastes bad, it looks bad. It acts bad. It spreads badly. Like a cancer. It eats me up inside. It’s like lemonade with no sugar. It kills the sweetness of Jesus.

And that breaks my heart.

I want the root of kindness and tenderness to well up like an underground spring inside of me. I want forgiveness to grow and blossom and bear fruit for the Kingdom. Because this is what’s good. This is what’s right. This is what’s sweet.

And you know? The longer I walk with Jesus, the sweeter He grows within me. Every day can be full of flavor, flowing with grace, and flourishing with promise. Every day with Jesus it’s possible to love Him more and more.

The Amen Of God

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“…The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this…” Revelation 3:14

Revelation 3:14 was written by the apostle John on the island of Patmos, exiled for his faith. He was writing to the seven churches under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And what a message it was! One that has convicted me more than once in my spiritual journey. I’m not writing about the letter, though. I’m writing about the Name. I’m writing about Jesus, The Amen.

The Hebrew word, amen, means: surely, indeed, truly. It’s root word, aman, means: to be firm, steadfast, trustworthy, faithful. When we say amen at the end of a prayer, we’re saying we agree with the words we’ve prayed. When we interject amen during a pastor’s sermon, or a Bible teacher’s message, or a friend’s wise advice we’re saying we wholeheartedly agree. We’re confirming we believe what is said is true.

“Indeed, Your Word is surely true because You are surely trustworthy, Jesus. Amen.”

We throw this word around a lot, but somehow I think Amen-ing is serious business. I know it doesn’t always sound so serious and sincere when I say it. I’ve been known to take the more southern pronunciation and draw out the A with pomp and circumstance…you know what I’m talking about…with a long A and a singsongy voice….

A-A-A-a-a-MEN! Let’s not forget the Hallelujah’s and the Praise-the-Lord’s that follow. I can’t help it. It just comes out in one long profession of faith. I say it. I proclaim it. I mean it. Somehow, the longer I walk with Jesus, the more I cling to Him, the more I earnestly seek Him, I come to believe Jesus is The Amen in my amen’s. 

I want to live an Amen life.

A life that says Jesus is faithful. A life that says Jesus is trustworthy. A life that says Jesus is unchanging. The Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End. And everything In-Between. The Same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Forever One.

Oh y-e-s, sir! I hear an A-A-A-a-a-a-MEN! threatening to quake the walls of my heart and shake the foundations of my soul. There is power in an amen that truly believes. However I say it, however I proclaim it, however I shout it out, when it comes from steadfast faith it speaks right into the heart of The Amen.

Jesus is the Amen of God. He made a way for me to the Father. He is my way. My truth. My life. All that I am is because He is. All that I need is fulfilled because He gives. All that I crave is satisfied because He sustains. All that I hope is realized because He promises.

And so I continue to amen The Amen. As much as I can, for as long as I can, I will strive to live it. Breathe it. Believe it.

So can you.

Reflections On The Psalms Takes Off

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He (Jesus) replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:21

God is so faithful, you know? Even when I’m not, He’s still so good to see me through seasons of doubt. I’m just being honest. It amazes me what a little bit of faith can do. It can be as tiny as a mustard seed and still move mountains. If that’s what a little faith can do, can you imagine what BIG faith will accomplish? I’ve found that God will really stretch my faith when He’s doing something new in my life. Last year, my word for the year was TRUST. I think I’ve discovered why…

If I trust more in my ability to make things happen I’ll most likely make a mess. I’ve made a few of those over the years and God is really good about showing me how to clean them up. Sometimes we learn best through the messes we make when we try to do things on our own without God’s direction, guidance, and strength. I love God’s way better. Waiting on God is hard, but His timing is always perfect.

Today, Relfections On The Psalms: Connecting With God Creatively, begins it’s public launch. You can find it on Amazon.com, at http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore, and you can order it through any data base in most major book stores across the country. I even have some copies of my own to sell if you’d like to contact me via Facebook or email at gracedtolive@gmail.com.

This book is and always has been God’s BIG idea for me. It’s His vision. I’m just His voice. Writing out the bits and pieces of my testimony and my faith journey was sometimes bittersweet. I cried a little bit and I have a few favorite devotions that still spark a tear or two when I read them, but today…

I’m reflecting on the faithfulness of God in my life. My story is His. My testimony is His. My journey is His. So is this book and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies…” Psalm 36:5

To those of you have purchased copies of Reflections On The Psalms, I want you to thank you from the bottom of my heart…with Sherry French, who is probably one of the most creative women I’ve ever met in my life. Her artwork graces the pages of this book and tells a story all its own.

And don’t forget…all my Frederickburg, Virginia friends! Sherry and I can’t wait to see you at 25 30 Espresso on Saturday, February 21st from 11-2.

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In The Shelter Of The Most High

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This morning I sat at my kitchen table and observed one of several stray cats that consider my deck their home. I had just uncovered the cage where my zebra finch, Muffin, had taken a long winter’s nap. I had given her fresh water and her daily portion of seed. She was in birdie heaven. I’m telling you…when I take the covering off her cage every morning and open wide the curtains to let the sun in she becomes an instant song bird. She takes a bath, flapping her wings and preening her feathers. She eats, tossing her gravel and flinging her seeds. And then she sings some more.

Muffin…no, I didn’t name her…may live in a cage, but somehow she doesn’t seem to mind. It’s all she’s ever known. I guess if I propped the cage door open she would fly away, but she wouldn’t get very far. She would still be confined to the walls of my kitchen. I guess you could say, she’s well protected.

Protected from stray cats, a finch’s worst enemy.

As I watched the enemy watch his prey a powerful truth washed over me. That cat sat right there at the windowsill for a good hour hoping to make a meal out of my Muffin. She was a mere foot away from his piercing eyes and he couldn’t touch her. All of a sudden I found myself laughing.

How often does the enemy sit at my window and watch me, unable to touch me because I’m protected by El Elyon, God Most High?

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1

There’s something in this verse profoundly significant. I have to dwell in the Shelter to be protected. I need to trust the Almighty to know what’s best for me. He sets boundaries for me because He knows I’m easily tempted and easily lured away from His protective covering. He doesn’t keep me in a cage, though. He gives me free will, but as long as I choose to dwell…to make my home…in His place of safety I’ll find the rest I desperately crave.

The kind of rest that says I. Need. Not. Fear.

Sometimes, doing things God’s way is hard. There have been too many times when I thought I knew what was best for me, but can I be honest? My way makes me easy prey for the enemy and it’s too scary out there to fly around without God’s protection over me. Yeah. I’ve had to learn a few things the hard way. I think God really does want me to fly high, but I think the whole idea of flying free means I fly under the shadow of His wings where the enemy can’t get to me. Believe or not, God wants me to soar. Isaiah 40:31 even says He wants me to fly like an eagle,

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” 

Sometimes it looks awfully tempting on the other side of the window pane. It’s easy to think God is holding out on me, but I’ve been on the other side of that window and I can tell you…the enemy has some pretty powerful claws and some mighty sharp teeth. He can do some serious damage, too. I’ve been wiped out by flying solo without the Almighty’s shadow hovering over me. It’s much nicer flying with the wind of the Spirit guiding me. Leading me where He wants me to go, guiding me to the place where His best waits for me. Not to mention, God’s protective power is no match for the enemy.

God, My Shelter, shelters me. Covers me. Protects me. Yet, still gives me wings to fly. Wow.

Every morning, He opens wide the window to my world and warms me in the Light of His Son. He gives me an abundance of Life-Sustaining Water and the Bread of His Presence. He meets my every need. What can I say? I’m in birdie heaven.

And when I look out my window, most days I don’t even see the enemy. He may be watching me, but I’m too busy flapping my wings, preening my feathers, singing a song, dwelling in the Shelter of the Most High and resting in the Shadow of the Almighty.

 

“Hold me close

Let Your love surround me

Bring me near

Draw me to Your side

And as I wait

I will rise up like the eagle

And I will soar with You

Your Spirit leads me on

In the power of Your love.” (The Power Of Your Love/Hillsong lyrics)