Category Archives: Renewal

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the brightshadow ofgod(1)Coming soon… a new book, “The Bright Shadow of God”  Weekly meditations to bring hope, encouragement, peace, renewal and inspiration.  Experience life in the Bright Shadow of God.  The book will be available to order soon.  If you are interested, please add a comment.


Let Them RING!

The Basilica at Montserrat

The Basilica at Montserrat

This is a repeat of a post from 2011.  Some things bear repeating…

In 2006 my wife and I traveled to Spain for the Christmas holiday.  The day after Christmas we went to Montserrat, a monastery up in the mountains just 40 kilometers west of Barcelona.  Many people from around Europe and the world make their annual pilgrimage to Montserrat for the Christmas celebration.  We found the lack of typical holiday trappings remarkable as we traveled through the countryside and finally up the mountain to the beautiful mountaintop basilica.

We stood in the open courtyard outside the entrance to the sanctuary, overwhelmed by the blue sky and the crisp mountain air.  At that moment, the bells began to ring inviting parishioners to join the Christmas Mass.  As they rang, we began to hear the chapel bells further down the mountain begin to ring.  Then, farther away, at the bottom of the mountain, the village cathedral bells began to chime.  The sound resonated throughout our bodies.  We could feel the thunder of the bells beating in our hearts.

One of my least favorite Christmas songs has always been “Carol of the Bells”.  I always found it repetitive and a bit annoying.  As we stood in that courtyard and listened to the cacophony of bells, a familiar pattern began to emerge… a lilt… a melody…  It sang to my soul!  “Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, throw cares away.  Christmas is here, bringing good cheer, to young and old, meek and the bold.  Oh how they pound, raising the sound, o’er hill and dale, telling their tale.  Gaily they ring, while people sing, Jesus is born, on Christmas morn!”

The pulse of the bells filled every corner of the world… they pounded and rang joyfully, unceasingly, sending the message of Christmas far and wide… but even more significantly, deep into me!  In that moment, I didn’t want them to stop… I wanted the ringing to continue forever.  Thankfully it does.  The truth of Christ’s birth and redeeming work continually rings and pounds and resonates in my soul.  Needless to say… “Carol of the Bells” has become one of my favorite Christmas songs.  Let them ring!!

Are they ringing in your heart and soul?


Forgiveness

Why is it so hard to forgive those who have wronged us?  We hold onto anger and resentment like treasured gifts while they silently destroy our soul.  I recently re-discovered a verse by John Greenleaf Whittier.  It speaks to this very issue…

My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellomen,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!
 
~  John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)
 

“…Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”  ~  Luke 17:3-5


Obedience and Subjection

Mark 1:18

… at once they left their nets and followed him …

It is a very great thing to obey; to live under a superior and not to be one’s own master, for it is much safer to be subject than it is to command. Many live in obedience more from necessity than from love. Such become discontented and dejected on the slightest pretext; they will never gain peace of mind unless they subject themselves wholeheartedly for the love of God.

Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to the rule of authority. Dreams of happiness expected from change and different places have deceived many.

Everyone, it is true, wishes to do as he pleases and is attracted to those who agree with him. But if God be among us, we must at times give up our opinions for the blessings of peace.

Furthermore, who is so wise that he can have full knowledge of everything? Do not trust too much in your own opinions, but be willing to listen to those of others. If, though your own be good, you accept another’s opinion for love of God, you will gain much more merit; for I have often heard that it is safer to listen to advice and take it than to give it. It may happen, too, that while one’s own opinion may be good, refusal to agree with others when reason and occasion demand it, is a sign of pride and obstinacy.

-St. Thomas a Kempis

The Imitation of Christ, Book 1 chapter 9

Point for Prayer:


To whom do you willingly grant authority in your life?In what areas of life is it tempting to be your own boss?


On Wings Like Eagles

What kinds of things do we place our hope in?
·         Our Job?
·         Our Family?
·         The Stock Market?
·         Our 401K
·         Our Home?
·         How about the earth we stand on?
What happens when these things fail us?  What sorts of circumstances cause us to lose hope and become weak and weary?
What are God’s special promises to the hopeless, the weak and weary?  Isaiah 40:31…
This is from the New Living Translation:
 [27] O Israel, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? How can you say God refuses to hear your case? [28] Have you never heard or understood? Don’t you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. [29] He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. [30] Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. [31] But those who wait on (hope in) the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
They that “wait” on the Lord… literal translation is “hope in.”  What does it mean to hope in the Lord?  Trust in or look expectantly to the Lord will “renew”… literal “exchange.”  Their weakness will be exchanged for God’s strength.  The Hebrew for this verb is used of changes of clothes.  In the New Testament, Paul encourages believers to “clothe” themselves with Christ (Col. 3:10)
Col. 3:10
…you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you.
Ephes. 6:11
Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil.
Ephes. 6:13
Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm.  
Where is your hope placed??  What are you hoping in… the economy… your job… your family… the stock market… your home… your life insurance…
You know… placing our hope in God releases us from the uncomfortable clothing/trappings that this world places on us… We’re basically putting on a new suit of clothes!  The Israelites in Isaiah 40 had forgotten their hope in God. 
Let’s look again at verses 27 & 28
[27] O Israel, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? How can     you say God refuses to hear your case? [28] Have you never heard or understood? Don’t you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
These verses indicate to me that hope is linked to trust!  You find hope in who or what you place your trust.  The Israelites had stopped trusting God. 
So, who is this God that we are being asked to place our hope in?  Can we trust Him enough to place our hope in Him?  What does Isaiah say…
 [9] Messenger of good news, shout to Zion from the mountaintops! Shout louder to Jerusalem-do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”    [10] Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in all his glorious power. He will rule with awesome strength. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. [11] He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. [12] Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed out the mountains and the hills? [21] Have you never heard or understood? Are you deaf to the words of God-the words he gave before the world began? [25] “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. [26] Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out one after another, calling each by its name. And he counts them to see that none are lost or have strayed away.
So, what is the promise for us when we once again turn our eyes toward God and look to Him and His Word for our hope…   This passage of scripture tells us that we’ll soar like eagles!  Wow… reading this passage inspired me to gather some information about these creatures to which we are being compared.
Some Eagle Factoids:
  • They mate for life… same nest is used for 40-50 years.
  • They prefer to stay in high places where they can see all around them.
  • They eat only living prey… they are very selective.
  • Eagles have been known to kill large prey simply by sheer strength of their grip
  • They’re able to see small prey in a field from over 100’s of yards away.
  • They can stay on wing for eight hours, covering 300 miles in a day
Now, Isaiah tells us that if we place our hope in God,  WE will fly high on wings as eagles… 
[31] But those who hope in the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
When we place our hope in the Lord we are designed to be like spiritual eagles…
We are designed to have:
I.       Supernatural Strength
Those who “hope in” the Lord will renew (exchange) their   STRENGTH.
I don’t know about you, but exchanging MY strength for God’s strength seems like a pretty good bargain! 
2 Cor. 12:9 Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need.  My strength works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.
Philip. 4:13 For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.
Literally, we EXCHANGE our weakness for His strength.  The image of that eagle flying high, nearer the sun, free and strong!
I am reminded of Kierkegaard’s story about “duck land”. 
On Sunday morning all the ducks got up , brushed their feathers, and waddled to church.  After waddling down the church aisle and  into their pews, they squatted.  Shortly, the duck minister    waddled in and took his place behind the pulpit.  He opened the duck Bible to the place where is spoke of the great power that was given to ducks by God… their wings.  “With wings,” said the duck preacher, “you ducks can fly.  You can mount up like eagles and soar into the heavens. You can escape the confinement of pens and fences.  You can know the euphoria of complete freedom.  You must give thanks to God for so great and powerful a gift as wings.”
All the ducks in the congregation agreed and shouted, “Amen!” and then—they all waddled home.
The point? 
God’s power is available to us.  He has given it to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, yet we remain weak and unchanged…  We nod and agree that this power is available to us, yet we don’t use it!  How do we use it?  We stretch out our wings of faith… they’ll need exercise from lack of use, but once we have begun acting out our faith, we begin to experience the kind of power God intended us to have!  He’s willing to exchange our weakness for His power!!
As spiritual eagles, we are also designed to have:
II.      Supernatural Vision
I’m not talking about Superman seeing through walls here… But, what changes take place in your view of everyday sights when you have seen them from high above?
Several years ago, my wife and I visited Boston.  Getting around Boston had been a bit confusing and we got a little turned around.  We decided to go to the observation level on the Prudential tower.   As we stepped out of the elevator and saw the city surrounding us, we suddenly had a different perspective on our journey.  We finally understood where landmarks were in relationship to other landmarks.  We had a different perspective… a better perspective.
Like the eagle being able to see a small animal from over 100’s of    yards away… We were designed by God, when our hope is placed in Him, to see beyond our present circumstances.  How?… through His Word… His unfailing promises.  Once again we return to that idea of TRUST. 
“HOPE”… what is it after all?  We literally see through different eyes by looking at our circumstances through the truth of God’s word. “faith is the substance of things hoped for… the evidence of    things not seen.”
The psalmist so aptly describes this relationship of trust…
Psalm 71:5-6 O Lord, you alone are my hope.  I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood. 6Yes, you have been with me from birth; from my mother’s womb you have cared for me. No wonder I am always praising you!
           
Psalm 23:3-4 He renews my strength.  He guides me along right  paths, bringing honor to his name.  4Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
Proverbs 3:5  Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths.
We can keep our eyes fixed on our circumstances… or, through His Word and His Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we can rise above our circumstances and catch a glimpse of the eternal!
Philip. 4:6-8 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Once again… I’ll ask … where is your hope placed?  Are your thoughts fixed on what is TRUE and HONORABLE and RIGHT? 
Finally, as spiritual eagles, we were designed to have:
III.     Supernatural Freedom
John 8:36
So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.
         That word “indeed” means absolutely, unquestionably, completely free!
Romans 8:2
For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.
In other words, through His sacrifice, He has released us from the   restraints that sin places on our lives.  The work has already been done, we just need to live it out in our lives.
2 Cor. 3:17
Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom.
I grew up in Eugene, Oregon.  Many years ago there used to be a small zoo in Skinner’s Butte Park.  There were a few pathetic animals there, endlessly pacing in their cramped cages.  In addition to the bears and monkeys, there were several large cages with birds of prey.  One of these cages contained a majestic golden eagle.
Although the cages were large, the bird could not fully extend his wings, so he hunched on the wooden perch inside the cage, barely moving.  He looked miserable.
Finally, the city realized that these animals were being confined inappropriately and they decided to relocate some and set others free.  The birds of prey were to be released on a given day.
The day came for the release and they removed the cage from the golden eagle.  He just sat their staring.  He had been in captivity so long, he didn’t realize he was now free.  Someone took a broom handle and poked him a little.  He just scooted over to the other side of the perch.  After several failed attempts to release him, the handler finally poked him hard enough to upset his balance.  His wings stretched out to regain the balance and he realized he was free.  He began to fly, circling higher and higher into the sky until he appeared to be just a speck in the distance.
Sometimes God has to give us a good, sharp poke in the ribs… something to make us lose our balance and realize we are free.  Helping us find our wings.
            Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. 2We do this by keeping our eyes (hope) on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven. 3Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don’t become weary and give up.
Where is your hope placed?.  Are you living with supernatural strength… with supernatural vision… with supernatural freedom?  If you aren’t… where is your hope placed?

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