NIV Hebrews 3
• 1…think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest…
• 7 That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, 8 don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness…
• 15 Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”
There’s a mystery involved in hearing the unspoken Word of this book we call our Bible. We know the mystery involves our training to recognize guidance and respond to Word that can speak truth into the human heart. “There is a beautiful story in the Old Testament where the prophet stands at the mouth of a cave and the Lord is passing. There is thunder, and the Lord is not in the thunder. There is an earthquake, and the Lord is not in the earthquake. There is fire, and the Lord is not in the fire. Then there is a still, small voice, and the Lord is in that voice. (See 1 Kings 19: 11–13.)” Intro to Following Jesus [Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety] by Henri Nouwen
OK, it’s the Holy Spirit…√. Do you imagine the writer of Hebrews was just casually writing “think carefully about this Jesus” or “today when you hear his voice” or “remember?” The answer of course is no! The Holy Spirit is the vital voice that teaches us to consciously respond to that mystery. The “gentle whisper” that happens “today” when you allow Jesus to teach you is the Holy Spirit speaking the reality of the Word within you despite the noise of the world around you.
The passage from 1 Kings ends with the question of the day. “And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here Elijah [insert your name here]?” I hope your answer is thinking, hearing and remembering.
1 Thessalonians 2 [TLB]
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
8 “We loved you dearly—so dearly that we gave you not only God’s message, but our own lives too…11 We talked to you as a father to his own children—don’t you remember?—pleading with you, encouraging you and even demanding 12 that your daily lives should not embarrass God but bring joy to him who invited you into his Kingdom to share his glory.”
13 “And we never stop thanking God for this: that when we preached to you, you didn’t think of the words we spoke as being just our own, but you accepted what we said as the very Word of God—which, of course, it was—and it changed your lives when you believed it.”
Thank God for those who speak on God’s behalf. Thank God for renewal. Remember that first Word you heard that broke through to your heart? I do. It wasn’t a flowery testimony about the saving grace of God or the penetrating conviction of sin in my life. I remember because it was embarrassment that God used to open the door to my renewal. [read that story here]
Embarrassment is certainly less comfortable than the encouragement of grace and less obvious than the demand for repentance but I’m living proof renewal can begin in a most unexpected way. There’s so much more to the purpose of renewal than knowing the right answer. Have you ever considered “that your daily lives should not embarrass God but bring joy to him who invited you into his Kingdom to share his glory[?]” If you haven’t thought about your invitation into His Kingdom for a while, it’s time to remember: God has a very personal stake in your renewal.
There’s no greater gift for God than a heart that remembers the embarrassment of riches He’s pouring into your daily life. Renewal is God’s personal, long-term investment plan for you…so you’ll be “equipped to share his glory.”
Remember the Image
I’ve been making these beaded memory wire bracelets for the Operation Christmas Child boxes our church will pack in November. They’re so pretty I decided to wear one to church last week. In an inspired moment I gave the bracelet I was wearing to a woman I know almost nothing about except she is a sister in Christ. I wanted her to know, and believe, I understood that about her. It made perfect sense to me to remove it from my arm right there in the church pew and place it on hers with a hug and the phrase “we’re a circle of sisters.” At that moment a simple piece of coiled memory wire with a lot of different beads became an object lesson for me. Memory wire is interesting because no matter how many times you test it by uncoiling it to put it on or take it off it remembers the shape it was created in. That’s both the basis and the beginning of my object lesson.
Memory wire is like the image of God created in us. It’s a shape we may forget but God remembers. We are the beads. The beads are only accents that make the bracelet a visible and beautiful reminder of that remembered shape. I hope that woman will wear her bracelet and let it prompt her memory: God remembers his image in her and so do I…AND….she’s a beautiful “bead” in the circle of sisters.
I’ll probably never see any of the girls who’ll receive one of these bracelets next winter but my heart is filled with that same hope for them. I know God remembers his image in each of them. My hope is that bracelet wrapped around their arm may help them remember too.
John 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind…14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Jesus always “was” but it took the Big Event to remind people to notice. This year it was odd to notice Christmas things beginning to show up in stores in October. It was a confusing reality that just didn’t seem right. Couldn’t we just get through Halloween and Thanksgiving first? In fact I wonder about that.
Remember the times Jesus makes reference to eyes that see and ears that hear? Remember all the things that are associated with our celebration of Christmas that impact our senses: sight, taste, touch, sound, smell. Remember when that “other” Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”?
What if the reality is God has not lost control of the celebration of the birth of his Son, our Savior to commercialism? Maybe God is using retail to remind us to notice it’s his reality on display even though the stores may have a different plan.
• What if those beautiful illuminated trees decked out with ornaments and flashing lights are meant to remind us of a long ago star?
• What if the Christmas music playing everywhere is really the modern-day version of the angel choir?
• What if Christmas hoopla is God using the money, time and effort retailers put into Christmas to appeal to our physical senses to remember HIS reality?
• What if crowded aisles full of people searching for the perfect gift is God reminding us Christmas is the reality he chose “to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives,” the Big Event.
God bless reality.
Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
My only other “Jesse Tree” was made for a church decoration years ago early in my own faith journey. I was caught up with the idea of a simple branch as a decoration. This year it’s different. The origami Stars are folded around the Word of Light for each post to help me remember. The ornaments for the days in between posts represent ways I do remember God has worked in my life. This year the Jesse Tree is more than a decoration.
Isaiah told about gifts the Savior would receive, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”
There’s a little piece of knitting to remember my first real awareness that God could use ordinary hands and a pair of knitting needles for his purposes. Prayer Shawls were knit with nothing more than those hands and trust that God would open my eyes to recognize a connection he’d made between his heart and my hands to know who should receive that shawl. Giving away those shawls was an unexpected gift that changed my life in ways I could never have imagined.
This year the Jesse Tree is my visual reminder of why I choose to spend these days remembering the Big Event; the birth of our Savior. I can see with my own eyes how the branch is changing as the ornaments are added each day. They are the gifts received, remembered and returned that make the branch beautiful and add Isaiah’s capital “B.” God bless the fruit of the Branch.
• 26 “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
• “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
Get it? You’re the seed! A tiny speck planted in the kingdom of God that grew. Nothing emerges from the dirt full grown. Growth is a combination of day and night in the soil of “thy will be done” for this crop to grow. Growth is almost imperceptible except for comparing then to now. Remember then? Remember now?
You’re the crop! You grew and became one of “the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” But wait, there’s more! God isn’t finished with you yet.
You began as one small seed planted in good soil and inexplicable growth happened. You became part of the crop and now “the harvest has come.” Here’s the Lightning Flash: as inexplicable as it may be, you’re the evidence there really is a kingdom of God happening “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Remember? You’re the harvest!