Maranatha Mirror Messages are written by a retired pastor whose prolific writings have spanned six decades. These messages are inspired by deep prayer and an enduring commitment to Jesus, our Lord and Master.

These life sustaining messages encourage, inspire, and convict “People of the Way” to enter into the presence of the Living God and to mirror the image of the precious Lord Jesus, bringing his life to this hurt and broken world.

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Short Messages/Tracts

 

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE  

CONDITIONAL FRIENDSHIP *

God’s love is unconditional.

That love floods our sin-sick world at this moment.

It’s here for everybody.
Everybody.

“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

A new life, a clean slate for every human soul.

Not because we’re worthy.
Not because we’re worth saving.

Simply because he loves us.
All of us
Unconditionally.

God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
                                                                                      John 3:16

The Father sees every sparrow fall, observes every blade of grass,
and looks into each of our hearts with unconditional love.

“Come to me!
“I will heal every wound, break every chain, wipe away every tear!”

When we open our hearts to that love, we are drawn to the Father through a single door:

The door of forgiveness.

Which is Jesus, crucified and risen.
He is the door to the Father’s unconditional love.

Moreover, Jesus invites us to be his friends.

But here’s the mystery:

Friendship with Jesus is conditional.

“You are my friends, if you do what I command you.”
                                                          John 15:14

And what does Jesus command us to do?

Requite the Father’s love.

Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength,
and your neighbor as yourself.

Every parable, every teaching, every command of Jesus boils down to this simple command:

Love God and your neighbor.

“You are my friends, if you do what I command you.”

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus describes the life he empowers us to live, when we are his friends:

A life driven by love.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”
                                                                    John 15: 9-10

God’s love is unconditional.

It’s as steady as the burning sun.
But to actually know that love, we have to requite it.


We have to walk in love—toward God, toward our neighbor.

Every neighbor.

Jesus makes it possible for each of us to walk in love, if we will get under his yoke and learn from him.

And be his friends.

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
                                                                                  John 15:13-15

Dearest  holy and loving Lamb of God, Help us to sense your unconditional love that surrounds us at all times. Draw us into your arms. Flood us with your love. Heal us. Free us. Wipe away our every fear and tear. Oh Lord, that we would be so filled with your love that we are able to return it with an intensity like we never have before, an intensity that draws us into your very heart. As we are covered with holy love and holy forgiveness, may we enter into a deeper fellowship with you, as friends. As friends may we love you with all we have, as friends may we not let you down, may we do what you ask of us… to live a life driven by the very love you give to us.  Yoke us close to you, our dear, beloved friend,…so we are empowered to abide in your love…empowered to truly love our neighbor, empowered to unleash your forgiveness to this needy world … and as we share your love… may wounds be healed, chains be broken, tears wiped away and billions enter into friendship with you.

Message written August 2020 REB
Art:  By Chris Powers at Fullofeyes

THE MERCY PRAYER

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.                                                                                                                               Matthew 5:44

It doesn’t make sense

I finally landed a decent job, good pay, beautiful place.  Except for one thing:  my boss.  From Day One he decided I don’t belong.  He tells me to go back to Africa. He never leaves me alone.  Makes my life miserable. Human Resources won’t help.  So I’m leaving.

And I’m supposed to pray for this guy?  No way!

 ____________

 I thought I found my Prince.  We had a magnificent wedding.  A great honeymoon.  A few pleasant years.

 But now, with three little ones in a beautiful house my Prince has turned into a Monster.  A few drinks and he comes home in a rage.  He beats me.  He’ll beat the kids if I let him get near them. Life is intolerable, actually it’s dangerous.  The children and I are heading for a shelter before he gets home tonight.

 And I’m supposed to pray for him?  Thanks anyway!

  Maybe in Galilee

Maybe back in those days, when life was sane, Jesus could say,

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

 But in this world of lies, greed and violence, who in their right mind would waste time praying for those monsters who make our lives a terror?

________________

It’s the same world

Actually, the world back then was no more “sane” than it is now. And no less violent.

When Jesus showed us the way of God’s World, he was revealing the only way to live in any world.

The only way that works.

The way he lived to his dying breath.

They whipped him, beat him, taunted him, and nailed him to a cross to die.

Did he call down curses from heaven?

Did he threaten them with the fires of hell?

He prayed for them.

 “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

 That prayer had unspeakable power.  Power that hovers over us as I write these words—and as you read them.

God’s forgiveness flows like a healing river.

That forgiveness enters us and transforms us.

But it refuses to stagnate within us.

Either God’s forgiveness flows through us to those who have wronged us or it disappears.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

 Forgiveness is God’s supreme power on this earth.

God’s amazing grace.

When the risen Lord said, “Peace be with you!” to his trembling disciples, he was flooding their lives with forgiveness

Forgiveness for their cowardice, their unbelief.

The instant we receive God’s forgiveness, we are empowered to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

When it seems impossible to forgive the one who destroyed our life, the Spirit of God comes like a wind at our back and helps us break through our bitterness.

The Mercy Prayer

 Many years ago Rex Andrews, a Bible teacher in Zion, Illinois, lost his way.  Andrews suffered through a long season of devastating guilt and despair, until the Lord found him, forgave him, and restored him to life. From then on, the theme of Rex Andrews’ life was God’s unspeakable mercy.  Whenever Andrews was wronged or slandered, he would pray what he called “The Mercy Prayer”:

 Lord, flood the person I am thinking of with your fulfilling mercies, meeting all their needs!

It’s not always easy to pray this prayer.

Sometimes we have to begin by saying, “Lord, I’m not sure I can mean the words,  as I pray mercy on this person.  Help me to keep praying the words until I can say them from my heart!”

Lord, flood the person I am thinking of with your fulfilling mercies, meeting all their needs!

Why should we stumble through life loaded down with bitterness toward those who have wronged us?

The same Master who paid our debt with his own blood will help us clear away those debts we hold against our tormentors.

And fill us with his peace.

Prayer : Beloved Lord, you cover us with such grace, such forgiveness….. again and again you wrap us in your tender mercy.  But we are stagnating in anger, resentment, criticism and hurt. Jesus, release us from this torment. We need your help to break through this bitterness. We want to be filled to be filled with your love and peace instead. Transform our hearts. Empower us to love those who have hurt us, wronged us, betrayed us, those who annoy us, and those who oppose us. May your forgiveness and healing flow from our broken and twisted hearts. Give us hearts that truly desire for them to be covered in your tender mercy. Flood them with your loving mercy, meet their needs, give them their hearts desire. Bless them, bless them.

Message written August 2020 REB
Art: By permission Rik Berry at rikberry dot com and Melani Pyke at melpyke dot com

UNHOLY CERTAINTY AND

HOLY UNCERTAINTY

Faith is being sure of things hoped for,certain of things unseen.

Hebrews 11:1

As the world keeps falling apart before our eyes, each of us is offered as a gift a flame that burns deep within.

The flame of faith.

This flame is absolutely certain that God rules the universe.

That nothing happens without his permission.

That when God speaks, he speaks pure truth.

That God never lies.

That flame of faith tells us that Jesus is God manifesting himself on our level.

Speaking human language.

Speaking only truth.

That Jesus never lies.

This faith is the only certainty we have.

Faith is being sure of things hoped for, certain of things unseen.

Everything else is uncertain, and needs to be approached with holy uncertainty.

Holy uncertainty about the politician’s promises.

Holy uncertainty about our money in the bank.

Holy uncertainty about tomorrow.

Holy uncertainty about the way God does things.

How unsearchable are his judgments,And his ways past finding out.

Romans 11:33

Yet we are tempted every day, every hour, to cling to an unholy certainty.

Certain about our own “rightness”.

Certain about our neighbor’s “wrongness.”

Certain about our own wisdom.

Certain about our innocence.

Certain that we know how God does things.

In order to keep that flame of faith alive, we need to daily abandon our unholy certainty for a holy uncertainty about everything except God.

Uncertain about our own “rightness.”

Uncertain about our neighbor’s “wrongness.”

Uncertain about the security of money.

Uncertain about everything but God.

Prayer

Dearest Lord, Master of all, we abandon ourselves to you. Quiet us until we fall before you, until the flame of faith within us is ignited into an inferno of awe and adoration. Help us to release our grip on the unholy certainty of our own feelings, our knowledge, our opinions and our judgments. Help us to daily grieve, repent of and abandon our sense of rightness, our sense of superiority and sense of self until our greatest joy is you, our only certainty is in you…. your absolute power, your pure truth, your stunning beauty and your perfect holiness. Amen.

 
Message written June 2020 REB
Art: Photo by Vlad Kutepov @kvtepov Graffiti on a building in Glenelg South, Adelaide, Australia via Unsplash (free photos for everyone)
Painting: Portrait of Edmond Duranty by Edgar Degas… (in the public domain)

I’M ALL WASHED UP

 

A lifetime of effort, and here I sit with empty hands.

Events beyond my control have cleaned me out.

I’m done.

And don’t be telling me to pray. I’ve been praying my heart out and things keep getting worse.

If these words describe what you’re going through, it’s possible that you are now closer to the Kingdom of God than you have ever been.

It’s possible that your hands are not as empty as they seem. 

Often when we finally hit bottom heaven comes down to where we are and opens a door.

It happened that way with Naomi.

“Do not call me Na’omi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Na’omi, when the LORD has afflicted me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

                              Ruth 1:20-21

“The Almighty has brought calamity upon me.”

Through this calamity heaven was setting up the heredity of King David, preparing for the day when the “Root and Offspring of David” would appear on the shores of Galilee.

Naomi lamented her bitter state, but she never turned from God in her bitterness.  

And God never turned from her.

And if you cling to God with that tiny, faltering thread of faith, God will never turn from you.

 

How long, O LORD? Wilt thou forget me for ever?How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?

How long must I bear pain in my soul,and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him”; lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in thy steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.

I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13

 

 

Prayer

Dear Lord, when we feel all washed up, finished…when calamity strikes… rescue us from our own bitterness. Help us to see beyond our own emptiness and helplessness.  Meet us there.  Look at us God, answer us. Bring light to our eyes, even in pitch-black darkness. Breathe your life into our souls.… So we can once again celebrate your kindness with awe and passion. So we can once again sing a song of joy to you our Most High God.

 

 

 

 
Written May 2020 REB

PRAYER IS THE WORK

 

 Some people sit around and pray, while others go out there and get the job done.  

Maybe so—when it comes to building projects, “church growth”, and fund-raising.

But in the kingdom of God, prayer is the work.

Nothing happens until we pray.

     …Pray the way the Master teaches  us.

  Lord, teach us to pray!’

He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

We never see Jesus teaching the disciples how to preach, or heal, or cast out demons.  But he never stops teaching them how to pray.

 Here’s where you start

And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation.”

 The Lord began by giving them the Lord’s Prayer—

—which is the door to the world of prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer is the door we enter every day,

as the Spirit keeps teaching us how to pray for the rest of our lives.

Intercession—where prayer becomes work

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’….”

God keeps sending people to us who need what we are powerless to give them.

 Like the friend pounding on his neighbor’s door at midnight, we turn to God and cry for help.

 “Lord God, my hands are empty!  Give me what I need to help this person!”

 So why doesn’t God respond?  How come nothing happens?

….“And he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’. I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs.”

This kind of prayer is rarely answered in an instant.  It takes tenacity and discipline.

 It takes faith.

“And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?”

Child-like faith.  Confidence that the Father will answer.

 Don’t slink away with a pout. Keep pounding on the door of heaven!

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”        Luke 11:1-13

The help we need, the only help we need, is the Holy Spirit of God.

We cry out for the Holy Spirit, not so we can see visions and perform signs and wonders or drift into ecstasy.

 We cry out for the Holy Spirit so we can pray!

The Holy Spirit is the one who teaches us to pray, helps us to pray, and even prays with us!

 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will                               Romans 8:26-27

Prayer is not preparation for the work.
Prayer is not support for the work.

Prayer IS the work!

The outcome of our thanksgiving and praise and faithful listening to the voice of the Lord, is the work of intercession.

 We lift before God’s throne the names of those the Spirit puts on our hearts—and they are instantly bathed in supernatural light.

 When we name that person before the throne, heaven touches them, wherever they may be on this earth.

Starting with our loved ones and expanding all the way out to the people who despise us,

we simply lift their names before the throne of heaven…

…that God may touch them with redemptive power.

 We pray for refugees and children, the sick and wounded, the tyrants and the martyrs.

  A waste of time?

Satan keeps telling us that we’re wasting our time, lifting those names every day before God’s throne.

 Because Satan knows the power of intercession, and dreads it.

 How many souls have been delivered from Satan’s grip through the relentless intercession of those who never give up!

 How many “Simons” have been “turned again” through the work of prayer!

  “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have all of you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail;  and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”

                                               Luke 22:31-32

Message written May 2020 REB
All art in today’s post is by Anthony Falbo who is inspired by the Holy Spirit to paint.

HOW SPIRITUAL IS OUR SPIRITUAL WARFARE?

“We’re living in a war zone,” says the preacher.

And we all shout, “Amen!”

But which war zone is the preacher talking about?  Does he mean the war taking place in the realm of spirit, the war between Darkness and Light?

Or is he talking about the political war raging in our land?

Many believers are so heavily engaged in the political war, that they are losing the battle in the spiritual war. 

Many Christian leaders are so invested in the political war that the powers and principalities have taken over their lives.

In spiritual warfare we do not contend against flesh and blood.

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

                                              Ephesians 6:12

Spiritual warfare requires the armor of God, not placards and shouts and self-righteous screams.

Spiritual warfare means doing things the way Jesus does them

Can you picture Jesus organizing a crusade against the Sadducees or the Herodians or the Romans?

Spiritual warfare leaves flesh and blood alone and goes after the unseen powers ruled by the Father of Lies.

Spiritual warfare uses only the armor of God and the weapons of heaven.

Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  (6:13)

The weapons used in spiritual warfare are the direct opposite of the weapons used in the political realm.

Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  (6:14)

We gird our loins with truth and abhor the lie—

—in ourselves and in those we work with.  

We speak the truth. 

We live the truth

We do not compromise with evil, telling ourselves that the end justifies the means.

Our righteousness is not self-righteousness but the righteousness of the cross of Jesus.

We act as men and women who have been crucified with Christ.

and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; (6:15)

The gospel of peace is on our feet. 

We don’t just talk it, we walk it

We “let the peace of Christ rule in (our) hearts, to which indeed (we) were called in the one Body”!  (Colossians 3:15)                          

Besides all these, taking the shield of faith,  with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. (6:16)

 

Faith, not in “Christian principles” or “Christian values” or “Christian culture”.  

Faith in Jesus. 
In Jesus alone. 

Faith that not only calls him Lord, but does what he commands.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (6:17)

When we wear the helmet of salvation, we think with a mind clothed in the wisdom that comes from above. 

We weigh the words we hear from our leaders against the words of our Lord. 

Do the words we hear from our leaders sound like Jesus?

The Sword of the Spirit is more than throwing Bible verses at the enemy. 

Jesus IS the Word of God. 

Jesus is Lord of the scriptures. 

The Sword of the Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus.

The words that I have spoken to you, they are Spirit and they are life.”  John 6:63                                               

We speak as his Spirit gives us utterance. 

And we hold our peace when his Spirit orders us to be quiet.

The real war zone is not found in political rallies, memes and cable news. 

The real war zone is at the door of our hearts

A war we cannot afford to lose.

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we need your help in fighting this spiritual warfare. Help us to see who the real enemy is. Help us to clothe ourselves properly for the real battle. When we go to war, may we truly take up the weapons of heaven, not the weapons of this world, and may we use them against the powers of darkness, not against flesh and blood. May we be willing to be crucified with you, crucified to our own self righteousness, our own opinions and beliefs, crucified to compromises you never called us to make.  May we speak and live truth in loving obedience. Gird us with your truth, cover us with your righteousness, shod our feet with your holy gospel of peace, shield us with your faith to defend us against the attack of the true enemy, guard our minds with the helmet of your salvation and arm us with your spirit dearest Jesus.

 
Written April 30, 2020 REB

Satan’s Clothing Sale

 

Yes, Satan is having a clothing sale. 

 He has cut his prices.

 For a small compromise you can be the proud owner of whatever style of Sheep’s Clothing appeals to you.

 Here are some of the latest lines.

The Prophet

 When you wrap yourself in this garment, you will be able to identify the Anti-Christ!  You will astound the world by revealing who it is!

The Prophetess

This masterpiece of outerwear causes your followers to swoon, as you teach the “Joseph Method” of interpreting dreams.

The Christian Politician

 Everybody knows that there’s a pressing need for politicians with a Christian Agenda.  Wearing this stylish cloak, you will be an answer to their prayers!   As you stand up for Christian Values, the folks will be eating out of your hand!

The Doctrinally Sound Scholar

This garment has been in great demand these days, with so many challenges to the faith infecting the Christian world.   When you wear this robe you will demolish the arguments of all who challenge the doctrine of faith.   It’s what you believe that counts, not what you do!

 Not what you do  ???

“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

                     Matthew 7:21

How long will Satan’s sale on Sheep’s Clothing last?

Until the supply runs out.

For a slight  compromise you can wear one of these wonderful wraps. 

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?

So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.

A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Thus you will know them by their fruits.

                                 Matthew 7:15-20

Prayer

Holy Father, give us the discernment to not be deceived and to not deceive ourselves with these wraps. Help us to recognize a lie, no matter how well disguised it is, to recognize any subtle compromises we make, to know good fruit from bad fruit. Precious Lord, we lay what we are before you. We trust you to prune us, to take our hearts of stone and to turn them into hearts of flesh. Cleanse us within. Remove any disguises, any manipulation, any subterfuge which separates us from you. Lord, give us hearts that seek you, thirst for you, that desire a loving, honest, enduring relationship with you clothed with your beautiful nature with no disguises. So that we are filled with your life and inevitably burst forth in life bearing fruit.

Written June 2019 REB
Art:Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing Jeff Preston licensed through Good Salt

LEST YOUR HEARTS BE WEIGHED DOWN

 

But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth.

                                                         Luke 21:34-35

Easier said than done.

Whose heart isn’t weighed down these day

How can you watch the news and not have a heavy heart?

How can you walk down the street and ignore the pain in those faces?

How can you look into your own heart and still be at ease?

Dissipation:          wasted strength

Drunkenness:      wasted mind

Cares:                    wasted worry

 And yet…..it can be done.

By the power of the Spirit of God we can walk through the Valley of  the Shadow of Death, fearing no evil.

          For thou art with me.

         Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

                     I need to know this in my soul.

                     I need to carry this in my heart.

To discipline my mind to renew itself in his presence.

But watch at all times, 

Praying that you may have the strength to pass safely through the things that will take place, And to stand before the Son of Man. 

 Luke 21:36

The Lord cannot do my praying for me.

         But he will help me when I start to pray.

       I will know this to be true once I take the one step within my power:

To open my heart and call upon his name.

 

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, we come to you with heavy hearts, afraid of the future, afraid we won’t be up to the task of dealing with the turmoil of this world, the troubled around us and our own quivering hearts. We open our hearts to you, calling on you to give us the strength, the confidence, the clear minds and the faith we need to stand before you, knowing you are with us, knowing we never face evil alone, and that in your presence we will find the safety and comfort that lifts our hearts and make them soar with courage to face anything you call us to.

 
 
Written June 2015 REB

OUT OF OUR LEAGUE

Jesus tells us to beware of false prophets. He expects us to know them by their fruits.

But Jesus never told us to separate true believers from hypocrites.

That job belongs to the Son of Man and his angels at the Final Harvest. (Matthew 13:41)

Yet how quick we all are to decide whose faith is valid and whose is not.

We can spot spiritual flaws a mile away!

How can that liberal Democrat be a Christian?

How can that flag-waving Republican belong to the Kingdom of God?

What a relief to discover that God knows who’s who.

He knows who’s walking the walk and who’s hiding venom under their tongue.

We’re out of our league when we try to purge the Kingdom of hypocrisy, when we start pulling up those tares.

We don’t know what we’re doing.

Time to back off, and leave it with God.

If we make it all the way to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb,

we may be amazed at who’s there…..and who isn’t.

One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind.

He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.
If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God;

for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

So each of us shall give account of himself to God.

Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never
to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

Romans 14:5-13

 

Prayer

Jesus, dearest Master and Judge,  forgive us for trying to stand in for you, for taking up the gavel of judgment we have no business handling. Only you know the hearts of our brothers and sisters, only you know even our own hearts.  We lay our judgmental attitudes, our venomous tongues and thoughts before you. Lord, turn the despising arrows we aim at our brothers and sisters into loving intercession that supports them as they walk the road they have chosen to honor you.  Despite different beliefs, different biases, help us to see and to rejoice that you are our Lord and that we shall bow before you and lift your name together.

 

 

Written April 2020 REB
All images by Krieg Barrie (no titles given) via ©Goodsalt

Yet I am Not Alone

The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.

John 16:32

It’s what kept him focused.

The confidence that his Father was with him.When the disciples fell apart and fled,

Jesus was sustained by this Presence which never left him.

When Jesus says to the disciples (including us) “Lo, I am with you always,” he is doing for us what the Father did for him.

He is the Vine; we are the branches.

The Vine is always there.

The Vine never lets go.

In the fiercest storm the Vine holds the branch firm.

The Vine commands the branch:

“Abide in me.”

Only the branch can do that.

Only the branch can focus on the Vine and keep the connection alive.

If the branch abides in the Vine, it is sustained in every storm.

If the branch neglects that connection, there is nothing the Vine can do but weep.

So how do I abide in the Vine?

By opening my heart to his words, daily, hourly.

Those words are the life of the branch.

For starters, I open my heart to…

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew Chapters, 5, 6, 7)

His Upper Room Discourse. (John, Chapters 13, 14, 15, 16, 17)

His words about the End. (Matthew, Chapters 24, 25; Mark 13; Luke 21)

His words after the Resurrection. (Luke Chapter 24 and John Chapters 20, 21)

Those words have a life of their own.

When we soak them into our souls, the Lord himself comes with them.

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.”

John 15:7-8

Prayer
Gracious, loving Lord thank you that you do not leave us alone. Thank you that you never let go. Help us to rise to your call to “abide in me”. May we do just that. May we find you daily in your beautiful words. May we open our hearts to them, soak them deeply into our souls, drawing life from them so we bear fruit as your disciples.

Written May 2020 REB
All artwork by Kevin Carden licensed through Good Salt.

WHEN MY HEART IS OVERWHELMED

Who of us has not staggered before that overwhelming mountain of trouble?

Who of us has not known that Valley of Impotence?

Who of us is not even now gazing into a future of chilling uncertainty?

And yet….

To be overwhelmed is to be facing Reality.

The Real World is always overwhelmingly uncertain.

            What do we do now?

            Where do we turn?

Who can we trust to show us the way?

The Wilderness of Desperation is the place where we begin to seek God.

Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. When my heart is overwhelmed;

Psalm 61:1-2

When I finally discover that I am not the center of the universe,                         that all the gods of this world are empty idols,

I begin to pray.

All those clever words are gone.

I have nothing left in me but a cry for help.

Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

Lead me to the one who alone knows what’s going on.

Who alone can help me.

Heaven’s answer often comes in three waves:

We receive the protection of God.

Then the direction of God.

Then the peace of God.

The Protection of God

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”  And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”     

                                                      Luke 10:17-20

The same power that protected Jesus until his hour arrived now protects those who walk in his light.

If we belong to him, we are invulnerable until our work is done. 

We are surrounded by heaven’s invisible fire until it is time to lay down our lives.

The Direction of God

…but will have the light of life.” Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness,

                                               John 8:12

In answer to our prayer we are drawn to one who knows the way, and shows us how to navigate the darkness of this world.

 He is our Light, one day at a time, one step at a time.

 “He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The Peace of God

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

                                                                John 20:19

“Peace be with you,” from the mouth of the risen Lord is electrifying.

That peace is the power of the world to come. 


When my heart is overwhelmed,
The Master breathes on us his Spirit of Peace to hold us steady through every storm.

lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

Soon our cry of desperation becomes a daily prayer.

Every day we cry for help.

Every day the Lord surrounds us with his protection.

Every day his Spirit leads us ever closer to the City of God.

Every day the Master breathes his Peace into our souls

 

 

Prayer:

Holy, majestic, trustworthy Lord, when our hearts are overwhelmed…lead us to you, the rock. You alone are what we need. We admit our impotence, our vulnerability, and our fear of the uncertainty before us. Everyday surround us with your protection. Everyday draw us to and lead us with your light.  Everyday breathe your peace upon us.  And every day, instead of being overwhelmed by life’s storms may we remain steady in you, our Beloved Rock.

 

 

POOR IN SPIRIT

Why is it so hard to connect with God?

To hear God’s voice.

To know where we fit in this crazy world.

To have faith.

Why are we so deaf to the voice of God, so blind to the glory that surrounds us?

There is a strange arrogance in us all that isolates us from God like a prison wall.

Arrogance.

Until that wall comes down,

not even the Angel Gabriel can get through to us.

So Jesus opens his Sermon on the Mount with these words:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

To be poor in spirit is to take down that wall,

and keep taking it down every day of our lives.

The wall comes down, when we face reality.

There is nothing in us that justifies our arrogance.

All our claims to “importance” are illusory.   

Our wisdom is an illusion.

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

                                I Corinthians 1:20-21

Even with a soaring IQ we manifest an uncanny stupidity,when it comes to the ultimate issues.

We were born with brains, but not with wisdom.

Our wealth is an illusion.

“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”                                                           

Luke 12:16-21

Our material wealth is as fragile as the mist. When it becomes our security, we’re setting ourselves up for disaster.

Our righteousness is an illusion.

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.

Joshua had no idea how filthy he was.  He was the High Priest.  He was a “righteous man.”  

But his righteousness was an illusion.

And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” .

Joshua’s garment was filthy, and so was his turban, signifying that his mind was also a mess.

And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.

                                       Zechariah 3: 3,4,5

We have far more in common with the Pharisee, who prayed, “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are…” than with the tax collector who stood afar off and beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Our very life is as fragile as the flower of the field. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone. Its place remembers it no more.

                                      Psalm 103:16

No matter how we try to bolster our sense of who we are by comparing ourselves with others, by counting our gold, or multiplying our Facebook friends, we know, deep within, that we are actually tiptoeing on the edge of Eternity. 

We are here for a moment, then we are gone.  Like a stone falling into a pond, we disappear and we are never seen again.

Our one hope is to pull down that wall and connect with God. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

We can do it.

 God will help us.

As soon as the wall is down, the arrogance gone, the door to God’s World flies open.

We begin to hear God’s voice.

God’s glory floods our ordinary days.

The kindness of God finds its way into our hearts and flows out of us as a river of life.  

Prayer becomes as natural as breathing.

The joy of the Lord is our strength.

Jesus is truly our Lord and our Friend.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Dear Holy and compassionate Lord, tear down the arrogance that separates us from you. This separation is draining life from us, crushing our souls. We lay down what keeps us from you…our illusions and delusions about our own importance, about our own beliefs and attitudes and even about our own righteousness. We need you. Without you we are broken. We repent of not opening our hearts to you. Lord in our brokenness, as we bow before your holy throne, flood our hearts with your presence, with your glory, with your life… and these poor spirits shall arise blessed and living once again.

THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 91:1

So where is “the secret place of the Most High”?

Where is the place where the shadow of God’s protection never leaves us?

It’s not a fortress.

It’s not a cathedral.

It’s not a cave in the mountains.

It’s a path that leads through danger and trial and indifference and disdain.

The path of obedience to the Master’s call.  

If we go where he sends and do what he commands, we are safe, even if we lose our lives.

This path alone is the “secret place of the Most High”.

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”                                                                                 

  Luke 10:17-20

Does this mean I’ll never have an accident?

I’ll never get sick?

I’ll lead a charmed life?

It means that as long as we stay on the path of obedience, the protecting circle of holy fire will never abandon us.  

“You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death;  you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.” 

Luke 21:16-19

So we stay on the path, and never presume on God’s protection.

“Follow me”, says Jesus, “and every minute of your life will be lived under the shadow of the Almighty.”

Dear Lord, Almighty God we desire to live under your shadow. Keep us on the path that leads to your secret place, the place of the Most High. May we remain obedient to the call of you, our Master. May we trust we are safe no matter where you send us, protected by that circle of fire that never abandons us as we seek to follow you every moment of our lives.

.

THE SIMPLE ROAD

Every morning when we get up two roads open before us:

The Fancy Road.

The Simple Road.

The Fancy Road is alive with colored lights and up-beat music as everybody presses toward their hopes and dreams—or runs from their fears.  

If you ask 10 people where this road leads, you receive 10 different answers.  

But where does it lead?

And why is everybody in such a hurry?  

The Simple Road is almost empty.  Those who travel this road are bound for a single destination:  

    The magnificent City of God.

    The place for which we were made  

               

Every morning when we get up, we choose the road our heart desires

We rise to walk a little farther, to get a little closer to our destination. 

The Fancy Road always beckons, even though the destination is unclear.

If we choose the Simple Road, we will not walk alone.

We will be sustained by the Master, for he tells us, 

“I am the Way.”

“I am the light of the world.  

Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness”

Every day anew we make the choice, until the choice is fixed forever.

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Matthew 7:13-14

Prayer

Gracious  Lord… You are our way, our truth, our life. Each morning as we face our day, make it our heart’s desire to choose the simple road. Keep our eyes focused on the destination. May each step we take, bring us ever closer. And thank you, that our paths are lit in the midst of darkness, that you sustain us and lead us through the troubles of this world to everlasting life as we walk this simple road each day. 

 

TIME ON MY HANDS

 

There’s nothing wrong with relaxing, reading a book, watching a ball game, after the day’s work is done.

But what do we do when there’s nothing to do?

What do we do when all the doors are closing and all the lights are going out?

No hockey games, no basketball games, no baseball games, no movies, no concerts, not even church!

When all we have left is time.

When Job was stripped of all he had, he still had time.

When Jonah landed in the belly of that fish, time stood still.

When time becomes our burden, what do we do?

We do what we should have been doing long ago.

We ask ourselves, “What are we going to do with the time that’s left?”

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day, before night comes, when no one can work.”

John 9:4

We can fill in the time by being entertained, distracted or cheered by the song of our favorite singer.

Or we can “work the works of him who sent us while it is day, before Night comes, when no one can work.”

We can present our bodies to be spent this day as a living sacrifice to God.

We can turn our minds away from the gathering darkness and open them to the light of the Spirit…

….to love God this day with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.

Job had nothing left but time. So he used it to sort things out before the God who baffled him.

Time finally caught up with Jonah. In the belly of the fish he finally accepted the fact that God is in charge.

When time becomes a burden, the door to God’s World is always nearby.

One step through that door and the burden of time falls away, as the Lord of Time illumines the next step.

I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

John 16:12-13

When time becomes a burden, look for the door to God’s World.

It’s but a step away.

Dearest Lord Jesus, we offer this time we have to you. Turn our minds away from the gathering darkness and open them to your light, to your Spirit. In reverent love, we offer you all that we have, including our time. May we hear what you speak. May we follow the Spirit of truth, step through the door, and do the work you call us to do while we still have time.

.

AN ISLAND OF ETERNITY

Why is it that our days are charged with stress? 

Is it our circumstances?

….Or is it our mind set?

True, we live in an Age of Anxiety.

History is ‘out of control.’

The entire race senses immanent worldwide disaster in these possibilities:

          Unmanageable war.

         Food shortages.

         Worldwide pandemic.

         The collapse of nature’s balance.

And yet, the One “through whom all things were made,” and whose presence in this world still “holds all things together”…

…offers to all who will receive it, an “Island of Eternity” within to hold us through any crisis.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.   Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 14:27

This peace is not imaginary.

It is more than a “mental state.” 

It is life and power from another world—from Eternity.

If you have already committed your life to the Lord Jesus, here is the promise of the Spirit to you:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let all people know your forbearance. The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

                                                         Philippians 4:4-7

Prayer
Eternal Lord, through whom all things were made, who holds all things together… we accept and welcome the island of eternity you offer us… your peace… true peace. May we draw within us the life and power that comes from eternity. With this we can face any crisis, any fear. We rejoice, because you are near, you hear us, you exchange our anxiety for peace… a peace that keeps our hearts and minds dwelling with you the Eternal One. What a gift…thank you, Hallelujah!

I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD


“I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

Peace in the midst of tribulation.

Focus, while everything’s falling apart.

Because the Master has overcome the world.

He tells us this, hours before he is arrested and executed.

“Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Dragged away in chains—

— he has overcome the world?

Mocked and spit upon by jeering men—

— he has overcome the world?

“My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me!”

—He has overcome the world?

Yet when he steps out of his tomb as the Firstborn of the New Creation, he has indeed overcome the world.

He has overcome—

—the Prince of this world.

—the curse hanging over the human race.

—death itself.


The world stumbles on toward its final hour, unaware of the One who has overcome it.

Blind to his glory.

Deaf to his call to repentance.

Ignorant of its approaching Day of Accounting.

But to those who have ears to hear, he says,

“In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, 

I have overcome the world.”

He never promised us a smooth ride.  

He promised that as long as we are in this world we will have tribulation.

But we will also have joy.

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” 

John 15:10-11

We will also have peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled,  neither let them be afraid.”

John 14:27

If Jesus has overcome the world…

And if we have abandoned our lives to him…

…we will walk through the smoke, fire and chaos of the present hour quietly trusting our Master’s promise:

“In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, 

I have overcome the world.”

Prayer

Dearest Lord Jesus, that we truly would take heart, knowing that despite trouble, chaos, bleakness and uncertainty, we don’t need to be troubled or afraid because you have overcome it all. Help us to willingly obey your commandments, to abide in your love and to abandon ourselves to you, finding the peace and joy you have for us in the midst of all tribulations.

Things Are Out of Control

 

Anybody with eyes to see cannot miss how every level of life on this planet has reached a tipping point.

Climate.

Terrorism.

The economy.

Pandemics.

Corruption in the halls of power.

Mean-spirited talking heads, stirring up strife. 

Is nobody in charge?

Not even God? 

 It is impossible to predict what life will be like a year from now, or even next week. 

 The foundations are shaking.

Earth itself is reeling from its vision of what lies ahead.

 And yet…..

“…You will hear of wars and rumors of wars;             

see that  you are not alarmed.”

Matthew 24:6

Don’t panic.

 

In spite of all the chaos and confusion, 

there is a Controlling  Hand poised above it all.  

 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  And when they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them,

 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…..”

Matthew 28:16-20

 This Risen One,  the Incarnate Truth, is still in charge.

The Lord reigneth let the earth rejoice!

Psalm 97:1

Prayer
Holy perfect heavenly Father, we reach to you as things are getting out of our control.  We know as this earth is reeling and spinning, that your hand is still in control. Please keep us from panicking and being sucked into the chaos. You are here as mighty and loving as ever.  You are alive, merciful, and powerful and we are yours. May we rejoice in your reign, in your control. May we rest and trust in your hand despite and within any coming chaos.

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