June 27, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 209: The Sign


The Sign

"For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." (Luke 2:11,12 NKJV)

Shortly after my husband and I bought the house that would become our newlywed home, we discovered a plate in the sidewalk bearing the letter "S"—the first letter of the last name of the previous owner. Since we were on our way to becoming Mr. and Mrs. Spencer, we joked that it was a sign the house was right for us.

Sometimes, though, I have not been joking when I've asked God for a sign that something is right or that something is His will or that I should go one way or the other, make one choice over another.

God does not owe us any new signs. In one, magnificent Sign, God answered every question, settled every doubt, cleared up all confusion. Of course, just reading that sentence, you, like I, might be thinking, "Really? Because I've still got plenty of questions, doubts, and confusion." We would like more signs...new signs. This, though, is where faith stands in the gap. Faith trusts God in the storm before the calm, in the night before the morning, in the famine before the feast.

Still, in His generous grace, God desires to confirm Himself and His will to us. When we are standing at a crossroads or trying to decide between Door #1 and Door #2 or a "yes" or a "no," we can still look for a sign to help us discern which road, door, or answer is right for that particular season given the light we have to walk in at the time.

S ~ Does it sync with Scripture? God will never lead us away from His Word, so any "guidance" I think I'm seeing that takes me in that direction is a "road closed" sign.

I ~ Does it promote intimacy with God? I once heard a Bible study teacher say that if something will cause me to trust more in God, it's probably not from the enemy, because that's exactly what he doesn't want. The reverse seems true, too.

G ~ Does it make use of the gifts God has given me? God doesn't give us spiritual gifts just so we can leave them wrapped or stash them in the closet.

N ~ Does it glorify His name? If something I'm thinking of going ahead with will make God's name more known or cause people to see Him for who He really is, there's probably at least a "proceed with caution" sign attached to it.


And above all else, if the sign I think I'm seeing leads me to the Babe in the manger who is now my Savior, I hope I'll follow the shepherds' lead and hurry toward Him.

June 26, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 208: Living Stone


Living Stone

"As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4,5 NIV)

God is so good at putting things together that at first sound discordant but which, under His skillful conducting, ultimately sing together in harmony.

Weak who are strong.

Poor who are rich.

Wounds that heal.

Death that brings life.

Stones that live.

In Jesus—the Living Stone—and in us as we follow His lead "like living stones," the animate is merged with the inanimate. We borrow from the stone's example—its steadiness and solidity—but add to it our aliveness.

The stones that are not living will cry out if God is not praised...but we, the living stones, can and must praise Him: "'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!' Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples!' 'I tell you,' he replied, 'if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out'"(Luke 19:38-40).

The stones that are not living cannot tell of God's past faithfulness...but we, the living stones, can and must remember and recount: "Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far the LORD has helped us'" (1 Samuel 7:12).

The stones that are not living cannot move themselves to create safe and correct boundaries...but we, the living stones, can and must rebuild the ancient lines: "Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings" (Isaiah 58:12).

And the stone that was not living could not roll itself away from the tomb, but Jesus, the Living Stone, can and did open the way from death to life: "But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away" (
Mark 16:4).

In that moment, Jesus settled Himself into place as the Chief Cornerstone for a spiritual house we are still called to be about the business of building. We, the living stones, build this house by doing what living things do: we breathe (the Breath of Life); we eat (the Living Bread); we drink (the Living Water); we grow (in the Sun); and we rest (in the Shelter).

If some do not understand what we are building, we remember the ultimate discord that turned into the most beautiful song: rejected, but chosen. 


And we sing on.





June 25, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 207: Living Bread


Living Bread

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51 NIV)

*Bread Recipe*

Basic ingredients:

1. Flour: the foundational building block of your bread.

2. Yeast: gives your bread its lift and rise.

3. Salt: for flavoring and preservation.

4. Water: hydrates your flour, activates your yeast, and brings all the separate pieces of your bread together into a cohesive unit.

Procedure:

1. Mix all ingredients together using a wooden spoon until a rough, shaggy dough forms. At this point, you will need to get your hands dirty. The dough must be kneaded. It must be worked and twisted and turned and pushed and pulled so that the strands of gluten (like invisible elastics) in the flour will be activated, giving the finished loaf structure and stability and resiliency. The dough will resist your efforts. It will want to snap back to its original shape, but keep at it. Kneading is not a process that can be shortened or skipped. It requires effort and patience, but the end result will be worth it.

2. After the dough has been kneaded, it must rest. Protect it with a cover during this rest so it doesn't dry out and put it somewhere warm and draft-free...a gentle environment for the yeast to do its unseen work.

3. Once the dough has risen, it needs to be punched down. It will look at though it has gone back to its unrisen state, but here again, unseen work has been done. It is further along than it looks at this point. Trust the process and deflate it and let it rise again. This will make the gluten strands stronger and develop the flavor of the bread. It will have more character and value.

4. Once the dough has risen again, gently turn it out onto a secure surface and form it into the shape you want to end up with. Let it rise once more while you heat your oven. It will need to be hot. For all the bread has gone through so far, if it is not subjected to a blast of heat, it will never be useful. It will never nourish and sustain.

5. Bake your bread until deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven and let it cool. Tempting though it may be to push it into service right away, it will be more useful and easier to handle if it has had time to rest.

*Living Bread Recipe*

Basic ingredients:

1. Flour of faith: the building block of your spiritual bread.

2. Yeast of praise: what will give your bread its rise and lift.

3. Salt of seasoning: flavors and preserves your bread.

4. Water of communion and community: fellowship with God and with other believers hydrates your faith and brings all the pieces of your living bread together.

Procedure:

1. Mix together your faith, praise, seasoning, communion and community. Living bread is just that—alive—so different proportions of the various ingredients will be needed in different seasons. When your faith is heavy, you may need more praise to lift it up. When it is dry, you may need more communion and community to hydrate it. When it is bland or going stale, you may need more seasoning to give it flavor and make it last. You can stir these ingredients together easily at first, but eventually, you'll need to get your hands dirty. Your living bread will require some muscle and effort. There will be pushing and pulling and twisting and turning required. Your dough will resist. It will want to spring back to its original shape. But keep working it. All your effort is activating the invisible strands of elasticity and strength that will give your bread its form and function.

2. Once your dough is formed, you need to protect it and let it rise. Patience will be necessary. The yeast of praise must have time to do its lifting work; it does not always happen immediately. And even once your bread has risen and looks ready for the heat of the fire, it is not. Painful though it may be to do, your dough must be punched down and deflated so that it can rise again, stronger and more flavorful. Once it has risen again, it is ready to be shaped into the form its Maker desires for it. At this point, it will be set aside for another rest. (Rest and waiting, as you can see, are essential elements of the bread-making process.) During this final rest, the oven is being prepared. High heat will be required, but if the bread is not subjected to this heat, it will not be suited to its ultimate use. It will not, in fact, be bread. It will be incomplete and unusable.

3. Finally, your bread goes into the fire. All the work that has come before has prepared it for this stage. And this fire is not intended to consume but to complete.

4. Once your bread has baked, take it out of the oven and allow it to rest again. Resist the urge to immediately put it to use. Be gentle with it. Portion it out wisely. Be nourished by it, and do not take it for granted. It has the power of life in it.