Thursday, October 23, 2014

Can't Get Enough

He was finally here.

He didn't know if he should dance for joy or weep at the sight before him.

The rumbled remains of Jerusalem were still in the distance, and the sun gleamed behind the city like a beacon of hope. Or maybe it was a spotlight on their failures and all the work ahead of them.

He was going to look at it like a beacon of hope.

After all, God had made a way for him this far. He had moved King Artaxerxes' heart to send him and anyone who volunteered to go with him to Jerusalem. He had even sent the provisions and the original vessels from the Temple, as well.

Ezra could feel his heart twisting and jumping within his chest. He was so excited, and he couldn't hold it in anymore. He stopped abruptly and waved to the group of people tiredly stumbling around the rocks behind him. "Everyone, we are almost there!"

A weary, but happy cheer sounded from his traveling companions, and an older man, Tabza caught up to Ezra.

"Yahweh has set us on an excellent path." Tabza clapped him on the shoulder. Tabza just had this fatherly way about him. Tabza couldn't be more then fifteen years older then Ezra, but he supposed if he was also a father to ten like Tabza was then he would exude a fatherly attitude from his pores, too.

Ezra nodded. "Yes, the Lord has been good to us."

"You know why that is, don't you?"

"Because this is his will?"

"Well, yes," Tabza said with a chuckle. "But there's more to it then that. It's because you set your heart on God. You set your heart on his word, his law, to live and teach it." Tabza motioned to the city before them and the caravan traveling behind them. "It is because you were faithful to God. You set your heart on him, and he has blessed us and this endeavor because of you."

Based on Ezra 7, specifically verses 9 and 10.

"For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel."
Ezra 7:9-10

What I wanted to talk about today was how Ezra set his heart on God. Multiple times in chapter 7 it talks about how Ezra was skilled in the Law of Moses, how to do it, and teach it. Because of that, God's hand was on him.

Because Ezra was set so on learning and living God's Law, God greatly blessed him? It makes me stop and think: "Wow, am I doing that?" What about you? Have you set your heart on studying God and His Word?

I know, I know. I say "studying" and you flash back to high school and college days where you had to study. It was necessary to pass the test, and about the biggest drag ever. That's not how we should approach God's word. (Never mind the fact that we need it in order to get through life without screaming/spazing/crying/pulling our hair out.)

I'm an author. Books are my love language, so just stay with me. Recently some of my absolute favorite authors have been writing sequels to some of their best-selling series that had ended years ago. So any second I can get to read, even if it's just a page, I take it. Late at night, first thing in the morning, for five minutes on my lunch break before I have to run out the door. I carve out every bit of time to devour these delicious tales.

What if we approached God's Word like that?

Correction: Why aren't we approaching God's Word like that?

"I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil." Psalm 119:162

Awesome verse! This is how we should feel about God, the Bible, the Law, living and breathing all it. I want the kind of hunger for the Word, the desperation to read it that I will randomly just pick it up to read BECAUSE I NEED MORE OF IT, ASAP!

That's how it was for Ezra. The reason Ezra was so blessed by God was because he lived and breathed the Word. That's what we should strive for, the I-can't-get-enough attitude for God. Amen.

V. Joy Palmer

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Not Just Words"

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
As I was praying about today's message I really felt that the Lord wanted me to share with you the message that I shared yesterday on our kids devotional. It is about the need to trust in God. There are so many things in the news and in the events of our lives today that would cause us to be fearful or distracted from the things of God. We all to often hear people speak the words, 'Trust in God' and I really felt that the Holy Spirit wanted me to share this word with you as well as the kids yesterday as a reminder, a reminder that the words 'Trust in God' are not just words but a choice we make.
Trusting God isn't always an easy thing to do because it always involves making a choice and sometimes that choice can be a really hard one to make. Take a look at this example in Exodus 1:22-2:1-3 where a very special mom had to make just such a choice. When Moses was born the Pharaoh had commanded that all the babies that were born boys were to be thrown into the river and that all the girls could be saved alive. It says that when Moses was born she was able to keep him hid for three months but there came a point where she couldn't keep him hid and safe any longer so she made the choice to trust God to keep Him safe. Putting him in that basket in the river wasn't an easy thing to do! It would have been the hardest choice she ever had to make. She was trusting God to make sure he was safe.

It says that she ...took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed with asphalt and pitch, put the baby in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river's bank. Now if you keep reading the story of Moses you'll see that the choice she made to trust God was a good one! He did exactly what Proverbs 3:6 promises. He made a way for Moses to be found and raised in Pharaohs own household! He even made it possible for his mom to be his nursemaid so that she was able to still be involved in caring for him. She trusted God to make a way where she no longer could! It was a hard choice but as you can see by the outcome, it was the right choice to make. I love that this amazing mom trusted God with something she absolutely and totally treasured - the life of her son!

Later in the life of Moses where we see yet another opportunity where the choice to trust God is necessary. It says that ...Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Exodus 14:21-22 Think about it. Would you dare to step between the water as it is heaped up as a wall on either side you? Would you be able to trust God to keep the water heaped up there, looming up on either side as you passed through along the path He has cleared for you? Would you dare to even take that first step? I love that God's people dared to trust Him and step between the walls of water!

What about in Matthew 14:28-31 when Peter says to Jesus, "...command me to come to You on the water."
So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to on the water in the midst of the storm if He will just say the word. He trusts Him to direct his steps even if it means walking on the water in the midst of this storm. At Jesus' word he gets out of the boat and walks toward him...all the while trusting. After a bit he gets distracted by the storm and he forgets to trust in the word Jesus spoke. He starts to sink and is overcome with fear. What does He do? He turns to Jesus trusting Jesus to save him. Jesus reaches out a hand and catches him up. What happens next. I don't know if you ever thought about this but it goes on to say that after Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him that ...they got into the boat and the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him saying, "Truly, You are the Son of God."  They got back in the boat together. That means that Peter and Jesus walked back to the boat together!
Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, ..." Now you might think that this is a bad example of someone trusting in Jesus but personally I think it is a terrific one. Look at what happens here. Peter lets Jesus know that he will trust Him and come to him

Trusting God is always a choice and that choice is always about linking up with Him, putting your choice in line with His direction, His provision. Trusting in Him means we look to Him for provision or direction or even a helping hand when being saved is the thing we need. He is and always will be faithful to meet all our needs if we will choose to trust!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Twisted Tongue

"But no on can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth." James 3:8-10

Why is it that we have such a hard time controlling our tongues? Its such an important part of us, capable of doing great things, but it also can do the very worst things. Build people up or tear them down, praise God or curse Him... as well as countless other things.

We must be careful with our tongues. They are so important in our walk with God. We should be using them for positive things, not for wasting them with idol words.

Matthew 12:35-37 "A good person produces good things form the treasury of a good heart and evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgement day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you."

Don't be foolish and wasteful with your words. They are more important than we realize. Every day, notice the good things that people do. Uplift them. Train your tongue to speak the good things. Let go of the bad things, and don't let them come out of your mouth.


Monday, October 20, 2014

"The Perfect Chance Encounter" Part 6

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:10-14
Once again, as we look at the next two verses we see yet again just how awesome and amazing Jesus is at revealing truth in His encounters with the lost. Jesus doesn't respond to Her question, "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?"  in a way that you or I might. He doesn't start making claims about His greatness or listing off His credentials or even offering up His title. Instead He responds to her question of "Are You greater? Is what You have to offer of more value?" by saying  "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." 

He immediately does the thing she asks Him to do. He reveals to her that what He has is in fact is of greater value! He compares what He has to offer with what she already has and knows. He points to the well and reminds her that while this water could quench her physical thirst its effects last just so long and she would indeed thirst again. He reminds her that she will be burdened daily with the labor of always needing to draw more. As she is contemplating this truth, this daily reality that she is all too familiar with He then compares it with the 'living water' that He is offering her and thus revealing its worth, its greater value when He says, "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

He declared His greater value by letting her know that His offer of the gift of living water was of a different kind, a different quality! He tells her that it would quench her thirst beyond the natural thirst that her well water could. He declared to her that it would be 'a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.' The 'living water' that He was offering her would be by its very nature forever and always undiminished. It would be a fountain springing up, continually bubbling up within her soul to nourish and to satisfy its desires. He showed her that its value went beyond the physical, the natural, but to the spiritual and to everlasting life.

With this answer, this comparison, He accomplished the very thing He intended when she first encountered Him at the well and He asked, "Give Me a drink." She is now in the the place where she is truly thirsty! Because of the words that He spoke and the truth they revealed to her He has stirred up a longing in her soul. She now longs with a desire for more than she has know in the past. She came for water but now, she has a different thirst and it is now a thirst for the living water that He offers!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Only You"

Psalm 135:1-5

Praise the name of the Lord; Praise Him,
O you servants of the Lord!

You stand in the house of the Lord,
In the courts of the house of our God,

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
Sing praises to His name, for it is pleasant.

For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself,
Israel for His special treasure.

For I know that the Lord is great,
And our Lord is above all gods.

Lord, we give you all our praise, all our worship! Only You are Lord of Lords and King of Kings!  Lord, as we come into Your house and enter Your courts today to praise and to worship only You, let it be with hearts that know You for who You are. Lord, we give You all glory, honor, and all praise. Lord, We lift up Your Holy Name and declare You and only You are worthy of all our worship!

God Bless!!!

Staff  of Snack Time Devotions

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"The Perfect Chance Encounter" Part 5

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" John 4:10-12
Today's bite size message from our chance encounter is taken from the next two verses where the woman responds to Jesus' offer of living water. She immediately recognizes the offer and counters with what she sees as a problem. How is He able to give her living water? Where does it come from? How and where is He going to get it for her if He has no vessel?

She knows that without a vessel it is impossible to draw water from the well. She recognizes that it is humanly impossible for anyone to give living water and that in fact without a vessel, Jesus wasn't even able to draw water from the well itself. While, in the natural, all her eyes could see was His lack of a vessel, and the impossibility of 'living water' happening; there was also a part of her that responded to the hope He offered. He had sparked a need that also caused her to acknowledge, that maybe? Maybe there was a vessel? Maybe there was a way?

I love that and even though she doesn't yet recognize the she is looking at and speaking with the vessel that makes 'living water' possible she does recognize the desire He has stirred up within her to hope for more! She than asks Him, "Are You greater than Jacob?" Are You greater than what I've know in the past?"  "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" Jesus had just told her that He was the gift of God that could provide 'living water' to her. She acknowledges that Jacob's gift to them had been this well. She reminds Him that it had provided water to Jacob, his family, his livestock and that Jacob's gift had been providing water to them for generations. The water that she had come to draw was Jacob's gift to his children. She is asking, "Are you greater than Jacob? Is Your gift of  'living water' truly of greater benefit?" She's is asking, "Can I hope for more?"

Friday, October 17, 2014

Big Love

The crowd gasped as an old woman hobbled before Jesus. She looked downright contrite, clearly expecting the lecture of an lifetime. Jesus, however, did not wear an annoyed or stern expression. In fact, based on the curl of his lip, Jesus looked amused.

Jairus watched the woman and Jesus. He was trying to quiet the way his heart was screaming, "What about me?! Don't forget my daughter! She's dying! Jesus, don't forget about me."

Sure, he had some sympathy for her, but who wouldn't? The woman had suffered for twelve years from this affliction. Like so many others, she knew that Jesus was the answer. But he had gotten to Jesus first, and time was not on their side. They couldn't delay.

Jairus attempted to keep from bouncing in anxiety or tapping his toes in impatience. Jesus had completely stopped to deal with this woman. Apparently, Jairus had to wait his turn.

Finally things seemed to be wrapping up. Jairus was just about to jump back into the conversation and urge Jesus to follow him when he saw him.

It was a servant from his house. A trusted servant and long time friend.

Without even being close enough to speak, Jairus knew.

He met the other man's grim eyes, and watched as he shook his head slightly. It was like watching his whole world fall apart. His daughter was gone.

The anguish rolled toward him like a tidal wave, but just before it could claim him, a hand clasped his shoulder.

"Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well." Jesus spoke quietly, but firmly. Oh, how he wanted to believe those words and cling to them like the lifeline that they were! Without them, he would drown.

So he nodded, and followed Jesus.

It was his turn.

Based on Luke 8:47-50

Recently, I did a blog on this topic on our spin off blog, Snack Pack for Kidz. However, ever since then, I haven't been able to shake this thought, this message. Somebody, maybe all of us, needed to be reminded of this very important truth.

So here goes...

I started wondering one day about how Jairus must have felt watching this woman receive healing. What emotions would be tugging for control of me if I was in the one waiting there? Jealously, annoyance, and good old fashioned freaking out. I would be happy for the woman, but it would be forced in light of my own trauma.

I would be thinking one thing.

Hurry up! I saw him first and it's my turn!

Come on, I can't be the only one.

What I have come to absolutely love about this story, more then any other part, is that moment where the deep pit of despair calls to Jairus, but Jesus pulls him out with ten little words. "Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well."

It's that moment where Jairus has to see and believe that Jesus is big enough, powerful enough, and has enough time to help him, too. Despite what the natural says. I love to picture Jairus realizing that God is big enough to help him, too.

God has so much love for you, it would squash you like a bug! I know that's a silly statement, but seriously, it's totally true. God has all this love and time for you and your life and all the problems that come with it. Just because He is God of the universe, and has billions of other people to focus on doesn't mean He doesn't have time for you.

Point in fact, you are priority. You are a VIP to the King of Kings.

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

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

God has big love for you. You can never hear this message enough. Probably because it takes so long to sink in... So I say again, God has big love for you. It is real. It is great. And it is big enough for everyone and their baggage. So don't be afraid to trust God. Only believe.

V. Joy Palmer