Crude oil costs per barrel … elevated Gas prices at the pumps … elevated Pinch felt by consumers … extraordinary However, this is not what came to mind as I thought about the cost of oil. Thinking about this journey with my LORD … I have come to the conclusion that this is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, anyone that states that Christianity is for the weak is sorely misguided. No, it is definitely not an easy journey.
‘… wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’ Matthew 7:13-14
Narrow is the road that leads to life … and only a few find it. Fewer still are those who are willing to pay the price to travel that road. There is a cost – a substantial one – which requires the anointing of God Almighty.
This is not an anointing that comes with a slathering of anointing oil. However, we gain some valuable insight by looking at some of the key ingredients in anointing oil. Why? There is spiritual truth in this natural product and the processes required for its development: Olive Oil – this delicate oil, commonly called ‘liquid gold’, is extracted when olives are grinded to a pulp and then pressed. It is an arduous process which produces valuable oil. It is a key ingredient in anointing oil.
Myrrh – is a dried gum resin. According to online resource Wikipedia, ‘it is produced by the tree as a reaction to a purposeful wound through the bark and into the sapwood.' The term is derived from an Aramaic word which means ‘bitter’, which represents part of its bitter but pleasant smell.
Frankincense– is also a gum resin. Similar to the process for extracting myrrh, it is derived from slitting the bark of a tree and allowing the gum resin to flow. Once hardened, it is scraped, gathered and pressed to extract the sweet smelling fragrance.
Sweet Cinnamon – obtained through a process called coppicing where ‘young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level. In subsequent growth years, many new shoots will emerge and will be harvested [Wikipedia].’ Then the harvested branches are processed by scraping off the outer bark and beating the branch evenly with a hammer to loosen the inner bark. It produces essential oils which are intensely sweet.
Like physical anointing oil, spiritual anointing is made up of many components and produces a valuable, sweet smelling product. Similar to the olives used to make the key ingredient for anointing oil, there are individuals who have been plucked, and scrubbed and crushed and pressed. And these that will endure the process realize that all of their experiences [positive and negative] become part of the oil that fuels their journey.
Like myrrh, there will be bitter circumstances of life which are marked by intensity and severity. There are wounds which have been inflicted: mental abuse as a child, domestic abuse as an adult, being misunderstood and ostracized, suffering bouts of poverty and illness, the death of dreams and loss of loved ones. Each one could inflict damage which would be difficult to overcome. Yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s amazing grace, each wound becomes a purposeful component in the fragrance that your life carries. These things are not all made good, but He works all these things together forthegood (Rom. 8:28). The key is to allow the ‘bitter experiences’ to work for you and not let them define you.
Similar to the process for gathering myrrh, frankincense is drawn out by slitting the bark of the tree. However, unlike myrrh, the result is not a bitter product, but a sweet smelling fragrance. There is still a cutting that takes place, a hardening, scraping, gathering and pressing – yet it is the sweetest product which is delivered through a very exacting process. Galatians 5:22-24 tells us, ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control … and those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’Crucifixion is painful. The body of Christ was slit open to bring sweet salvation to a sinful world. Likewise, those who call themselves Christians will not escape the process of dying – yet we understand that it is to bring forth a sweet harvest of the fruits of the Spirit.
Lastly, we have the cinnamon. ‘Young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level.’ Anyone out there feeling like they have been cut down to the ground? It can be a painful process. Yet we must understand that every productive tree is pruned or cut upon so that it will be more productive and fruitful. Our lives are no different. Jesus said in John 15:1-2, ‘I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.’ And He know the precise amount of cutting, beating and hammering necessary to allow your life to ooze forth everything that God deposited in you.
The end result is a product unmatched by the best anointing oil. Once the processes have been endured, the Holy Spirit has done His work and the fullness of time is reached, the life of the believer who is willing to pay the price is transformed into the very likeness of Christ Jesus. And we who have submitted to God's working, proclaim with Christ:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,
Because the LORD has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion [literally, a parched place],
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
Yesterday I talked about the wondrous work that God does when you find yourself dangling from a strand at the end of your frayed rope. I wrote about how, 'The LORD God Almighty takes you in His hand, grabs hold of that thread and weaves you a beautiful new future'. However, as I went through my day yesterday, it occurred to me –
In weaving together a beautiful and promising future, the LORD will likely use fabrics that look less like luxurious bedding and more like a patchwork quilt.
I was reminded of the quilts that my grandmother use to make. They were heavy, sturdy coverings, made up of pieces of fabric that had a history. And, while the aim was to provide physical warmth, something about them also provided some comfort for the soul. You knew they were made with love, over time, and that each piece mattered. Swatches that might have worn out their usefulness in another garment were granted newness of life and purpose when combined with other displaced and intentionally selected fragments. They all came together to make something magnificent and useful.
Know that the fabric of my life is just like that – and yours too.God takes the beautiful and the ‘not so beautiful’ materials and He makes something glorious. It made me think about the multitude of situations and experiences which have become part of my life's tapestry as I tried to captured just a few of them in a 'wordquilt' that I made this morning:
I am so thankful!
He is my Father, Friend, LORD and King, Creator & Craftsman
The joys of motherhood and the challenges of single-parenting
My lack of college education and His marvelous grace
The seasons of abundant wealth and the bouts of poverty
The poor choices and the Spirit-led decisions
The painful betrayals and the encouraging 'helps'
The influence of friends, family and adversaries
The strengths and the weaknesses
He has taken it all and He has worked, andisworking,allthings together for the good just like His Word says in Romans 8:28. The bad stuff is not made good - but it becomes useful for good.
And I am assured, because of His faithfulness and Jeremiah 29:11, that He has good plans to prosper me, not to harm me;to give me a hope and a future – to lead me toward the plans and purposes that He has prepared for me. I am convinced that He is doing the same for you!
Sounds crazy, I know!The much more familiar term is 'upside down and inside out'. Yet this is the phrase that came to mind as I thought about the Kingdom of God. You see, in the Kingdom of God, everything is 'backwards'. Well, it is actually perfect. It is just backwards from the world's order and perspective.
* The humble are exalted (Lk. 14:11) * The weak are strong (II Cor. 12:10) * You die to live (Mk. 8:35) * The last is first (Mt. 20:16) * You give all and increase (Pr. 11:24) * And the servant is the leader (Mt. 23:12)
But, why tell you all this?
If you have been saved for fifteen minutes, you likely understand some of the intricacies which make God's Kingdom very different from the world's systems to which we have become accustomed.
Here is the reason -
In the midst of the journey - particularly if it has been a long journey - there is the possibility of becoming weary and losing focus. All of the 'signs' seem to blur and you can't quite grasp which direction is up, down, east, west, right or wrong.
You get exhausted - frantically and repeatedly checking your 'road map/Bible'. You start questioning whether you took a wrong turn. You are too tired to keep going. Yet, you feel this inner urging to keep pressing forward. It can be dizzying and overwhelming!
Thanks for pointing out the obvious, right? Well, there is a glimmer of light, a flicker of hope
This is it -
If you've reached a crossroad, and don't know which way to turn, If you have finally come to the end of your strength - Yet you still need some to take the next step When you've sunk to the lowest point, and you cannot find 'up' In a Kingdom where down is up and last is first - You are probably closer to the destination than you think
DON'T GIVE UP!!!
When you find yourself dangling from a strand at the frayed end of your rope, The LORD God Almighty takes you in His hand, grabs hold of that thread and He weaves you a beautiful new future. All the things that have kept you down, become part of the fabric which holds and uplifts you. All of the stormy circumstances, which have been raging on the outside, are doing a hidden work to bring about a change on the inside. They are helping to shape your character so that it more closely reflects that of Jesus Christ. They are preparing you for every good work and positioning you to possess every promise that God has uniquely set aside for you. And 'I AM' ... well, Heis working allthings together for the good, for your good. (Rom. 8:28)
Downside up and outside in ...
Keep Believing, Keep Trusting, Keep Praising and by all means - Keep Moving Forward ... with God ... in Victory!
Praying for you, that you be mightily blessed in every way!
1 :either of two flaps on a horse’s bridle to keep it from seeing objects at its sides
2 plural: a limitation or obstruction to sight or discernment
With horses, these are believed to be a help; to keep him ‘forward focused’ and to discourage him from becoming easily distracted by scenery, people and other horses; to keep him from being ‘spooked’ by his surroundings. This is great for the animal. However, blinders serve a purpose to the human population as well.
Throughout my many years walking with the LORD, there have been several instances where I have prayed for spiritual blinders:
* To keep me from sinning
* To keep me forward-focused
* To keep things in proper perspective
* To keep me attuned to His priorities
* To keep my eyes fixed solely upon Him
* To keep me from becoming distracted and fearful
Maintaining proper spiritual perspective is absolutely crucial:
‘And when the servant of the man of God had risen early and gone forth, behold, a host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" And he answered, "Fear not, for they that are with us are more than they that are with them." And Elisha prayed and said, "LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see." And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.’ II Kings 6:15-17
Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened. Yet there was nothing wrong with his natural sight. After all, it was the sight of the hosts which were compassed about the city with horses and chariots which instilled terror in his heart. It was his spiritual vision or perception which needed to be enhanced – his physical vision was all too accurate.
You see, eyes and vision are a blessing, but they can also be a hindrance; so much so that Matthew 5:29 tells us, ‘If your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.’
I don’t know about you, but I do not see a lot of people gouging out their eyes in a quest to conquer sin or to grow spiritually. I know I have not done it. Sound too extreme? Do you have a low threshold for pain tolerance? Perhaps you just don’t like the sight of blood - not that you would be able to see it at that point. Now I'll admit, the thought of someone plucking their eyes out is pretty gory. But, what about a 'naturally occurring' blindness?
Who would pray for blindness?
We petition God for all sorts of things – for things that we perceive as positive.Yet do we desire Him enough to pray for the things that might not feel so good?
Do we ask Him to send us situations and people that will challenge us to develop the fruits of the Spirit and become like Jesus Christ?
How many times have you heard someone say, ‘I don’t pray for patience anymore, because every time I do, something happens to aggravate me’?Yet that is exactly what we are supposed to do – embrace situations and circumstances that will help us to develop character like that of Christ, even if it is an unpleasant process.
Are we so committed in our journey with Him, that we are willing to endure whatever may come so that we may know Him more deeply and make Him known?
If we could know the LORD, as we’ve never known Him, and see Him, as we’ve never seen Him – though blind – would we consent to that fate?
If we could hear the LORD with greater clarity, because of the removal of distractions like sight and sound – would it be worth it to us?
"LORD, I do not like this lot in life. Yet if my walking though it will bring you glory and conform me to Your image - let the situations and circumstances remain."
"My God, I know that Jesus bore injury to His body for my healing. Yet, if this illness is developing some aspect of my character so that people see Him when they look at me - please donot let the healing manifest at this time."
"Father, I thank you for the gift of sight, but if these eyes are a stumbling block to me seeing You in Your glory and becoming all You have purposed for me to become - at the precise moment that You have ordained - take it from me."
How often have we ever heard prayers that sound like that?! How often have we uttered prayers that sound like that? Yet, we must recognize that what we view as adverse and limiting can actually be beneficial and empowering.
It is interesting that some of the most profound quotes have come from Helen Keller, an American author, political activist and lecturer, left deaf and blind at the age of nineteen months from an illness she contracted. Here are just a few of the many …
"I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark; but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a manmade world.”
“My darkness has been filled with the light of intelligence, and behold, the outer day-lit world was stumbling and groping …”
”The Bible gives me a deep, comforting sense that “things seen are temporal and things unseen are eternal.””
”A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.”
Blindness – a benefit? Who, being blind, would not pray to be healed?
I pray that you are doing well today - enjoying your journey with the LORD. As I thought about our journey together and with God, the following thought was impressed upon my heart...
With all of our getting in our journey with God, it is so important that we get ‘the point’. Yet we cannot just focus on the points that we feel benefit us. No, we must embrace the primary point which is this:The LORD God Almighty lovespeople. He loves you and I. He loves everyone. And He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the saving knowledge of grace - and love Him.
Therefore, it is important in all of the ‘getting’ that we do not neglect grabbing hold of true understanding. If we do not love God and if love for people is not at the center of our heart – then we are not at the center, the heart, of what matters to God.
So many people spend countless hours trying to determine their purpose in life. They purchase books, spend time considering and contemplating and worrying. They see trained professionals for counseling that will help them sort it all out.
Yet when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He simply responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
To love God and to love people … To know God and to make Him known … There is no greater purpose. This is why we exist.
Oh, that our prayer would be heartfelt, passionate and focused like that of Jesus! ‘And this is life eternal: that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.’ John 17:3 NKJV
II Peter 3:9 tells us that the LORD is not willing that any should perish. He desires for all of creation to know Him and to be in relationship with Him. Likewise, this should be our heart's desire.
I love how the LORD works!
I drafted this post on Friday, March 11th and sure enough, when I went to church on Sunday the pastor was preaching on the same topic! Understand this, when God desires to emphasize a point with His people, He will speak to several of His people, at the same time, about the same thing. The pastor joked, ‘This is the shortest sermon outline, ever!’ Short and simple –
Love God and Love People.
It is not enough to love God without loving His creation. It is impossible to love people without the love of God filling every portion of our hearts.
Love God and Love People.
It is so much simpler than we make it out to be. Yet God so desires for us to experience His very best on our journey that He made it easy enough for everyone to follow.
In pursuing God and His purpose for our lives, let’s make sure that we never lose sight of the principle objective. Everything we are and everything we do flows out of our love for God and His love people – which should also be our love. It is amazing, once we understand the ‘why’ – the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ become much easier to sort out.
When we do all things out of a love for God and a love for people; when our quest is to know and become like Christ and to make Him known while making disciples – the doing flows naturally and we cannot help but to obtain success in the journey!
‘… and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.’
James 5:17 NASB
‘Now it happened after many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying … I will send rain on the face of the earth.’
I Kings 18:1 NASB
‘And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.” Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” So he said … ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’”
I Kings 18:42-44 NKJV
‘Then … the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.’
James 5:18 NASB
"God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”
Numbers 23:19 NASB
Do not grow weary in well doing. Keep believing and trusting and worshipping. I see a cloud … I hear a sound … It is the abundance of rain …
These are notable times in which we live – yet not altogether surprising. The Bible tells us in Mark 13:8, ‘Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles’ And these are justthebeginningsofsorrows.
Yet there were two other notable earthquakes which once shook our world.
‘Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"’ Matthew 27:54 NLT
Jesus died and the earth shook violently …
Yet, ‘Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. 5Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said…’ Matthew 28:2, 5-6 NLT
Thank God for Jesus – He is risen and He is ruling, He has conquered evil and restored us to perfect fellowship with God.
He is Father, He is Savior and Friend. He is comfort, joy and peace - without end. He is seated on His throne - with no impediment to His reach. He faithfully redeems all who seek. He is a loving Father who cares about the things which concern us. He is moved, with care and compassion, but He is never shaken … The earth may quake, but the LORD is our Rock (Deut. 32:4) He is the One True and Living God, the LORD God Almighty who is always in control.
Praying for the people of Japan … Praying for all who will suffer impacts as a result of this earthquake ... Praying for all the people of the Earth …
Songs that fill you with joy and excitement, Songs that touch your heart and cause you to reflect, Songs that help to keep you going when the journey gets long, Songs that focus on God's goodness, exalting Him high above every concern.
Praise and worship are powerful! Music can sooth a soul when storms of life are raging ... So, I am sharing just a few of the countless songs from my journey playlist. I've attached several YouTube videos, praying it won't crash anything. Why don't you take some time to create your own journey playlist.
He has given us a garment of praise,
for the spirit of heaviness ...
Enjoy and Be Blessed!
Our God is greater ...
Than anything we have faced,
Than anything we are facing,
Than anything we will face
He is Able ... I've Tried Him and I Know!
Here I Am ... I'm Still Standing!
Immanuel, God is with us ... El Shaddai, All Sufficient
Let the Earth quake ... Our Hope is Unchanged!
I will run, forever I will run ... unto You, O God