{ Better Than }

God’s steadfast love is better than life. ~ Psalm 63:3

A good name is better than great riches. ~ Proverbs 22:1

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9

The end of a thing is better than its beginning. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:8

The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. ~  Ecclesiastes 7:8

To obey is better than sacrifice. ~ I Samuel 15:22

But God treats us much better than we deserve… ~ Romans 3:24

Consider others better than yourself. ~ Philippians 2:3

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Photos:

 Annie Spratt

 Michal Janek

 Tim Marshall

{ God’s Math: 1 + 1 ≠ 2 }

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  —Isaiah 55:8-9 

I am not a math whiz.  Of all my extended family members, I am probably the least gifted with numbers.

My brain lives in the realm of pictures and approximations. Math is too exact; too detailed.

Yet, other family members seem to be fearless of numbers. My math-major sister-in-law said once in a casual setting, “I love abstract math.”  

What is that? Math with no visible symbols? Who would want to make math harder than it already is?

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So, the other day, I was visiting a church, watching a group of missionaries assemble at the front.

This caused me to think of my daughter, who is working at a refugee camp far away, going beyond her comfort zone, doing brave things in a company of global strangers.

Which caused me to consider all my children and who they are becoming.

I wondered: 

Lord, how did this happen? How can it be that you take children from a humble home, raised by imperfect parents, and grow them into amazing, beautiful souls?”

It doesn’t add up.

So, I was thinking about God’s kind of math, right there in the church service. 

God’s equations go beyond 1+1=2. God’s math goes beyond what seems logical or rational.  God’s math even seems to work backwards sometimes.

God’s kind of math says:

  • 2 small coins can sometimes mean more than a large sum of money.  (Mark 12:42)
  • Weak can be more powerful than strong. (Isaiah 40:29)
  • A few resources in God’s hands can multiply at a miraculous rate. (John 6:13)
  • Those who are last shall be first.  (Matt 20:16)
  • When you give to God, you get back way more than you gave. (Luke 6:38)

Things put into God’s hands seem to explode exponentially.

Finally, the omnipotent God is not only a master multiplier, he is a caring Creator. Which earthly number cruncher would not only count stars in the sky, but also lovingly name them?

He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names. Psalm 147:4

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Photos:

John Moeses Bauan

Alexander Andrews

{ Fork in Road & Forgiveness }

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Have you ever disappointed someone when you changed your mind?

Have you ever known the shame of a damaged reputation?

If so, you have something in common with John Mark – the bringer of good news; the writer of the gospel of Mark.

John Mark traveled as an assistant to Paul and Barnabas, when they embarked on their missionary journey.  Halfway through, he opted out and returned home before they were officially finished.  No one knows exactly why:

  • Sickness?
  • Fear?
  • Exhaustion?
  • Spiritual failure?

Whatever the reason, John Mark’s abrupt exit bothered Paul.  It caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas.

Later, Barnabas (whose name means “son of encouragement”) wanted to give John Mark a second chance.

Paul wouldn’t have it.

So, Barnabas took John Mark one way, and Paul went another way with Silas.

In later years, Paul accepted John Mark as a worthy helper; he not only forgave him but praised him in the pages of scripture.

I would love to know what happened between the volatile rift and the complete forgiveness.

  • What’s the rest of the story?
  • Did John Mark have to prove himself?
  • What role did Barnabas the encourager play?

I think God used Barnabas to turn things around for John Mark with his encouraging:

 You still have worth! I believe in you!  Let’s go!

His support must have been life-changing — without it, John Mark would have just returned home.

With that encouragement, John Mark is down in history as being:

  • “Like a son” to Peter (1 Peter 5:13)
  • “Useful in ministry” to Paul (2 Timothy 4:11)
  • Author of the efficiently written gospel of Mark

 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Correction does much, but encouragement does more. ~ Goethe

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. ~ Albert Einstein

Photo credit:Jens Lelie

{ A Do-er or a Cutter?}

Yesterday in church we learned about Josiah, who became king of Judah at age eight.

Who was King Josiah, what did he do, and why does it matter hundreds of years later?

Josiah had a notorious grandfather (Manasseh) – recorded as the most dastardly king of Judah. He had a son (Amon) that walked in his evil footsteps, leaving a poor spiritual heritage to his son, who was Josiah, the young king we are talking about here…

Josiah was eight years old when his father was assassinated.  Early in his young royal life, Josiah was curious about spiritual things. Although his homeland was black with evil, Josiah still began to seek God.

It might be better to say that God drew him.  God does that – and it’s often surprising.  Especially when conditions around us don’t look promising, and we don’t appear to be headed in a holy direction.

All this drawing and wooing and curious interest about God made Josiah’s heart fertile ground.  God was preparing his soft heart for an upsetting, earthshaking event that took place a few years later…

King Josiah told workers to clean out the temple. This was looking like a no-brainer job. Laborers were simply there to de-clutter, dust and organize. They were even told to keep track of their own hours. Things looked easy.

As trinkets were unearthed and dust flew, a scroll was discovered and brought to King Josiah.

This scroll was actually a treasured but forgotten book of the Law of God — given and practiced hundreds of years before.

Back when people followed God.

Back before people exchanged a loving God for a lie.

Reading the scroll aloud put a horrifying spotlight on Judah’s current state of affairs. God’s chosen people had been living in direct opposition to the words of this scroll-book. The nation was practicing child sacrifice and idol worship, even though generations before they had ousted people that were doing these same things.

When Josiah heard the words of the neglected book, he wept and tore his clothes.

Here they were, trying to tidy up the temple, making it sparkle and shine. But the temple – the spiritual heart of the nation– didn’t need dusting, it needed to be stripped down, disinfected, dismantled and rebuilt.

Josiah’s heart was overwhelmed and heavily grieved.

But Josiah wasn’t only stirred.  He was changed.

Josiah turned the nation of Judah around 180 degrees.

(This thorough process involved lots of idols being ground to powder and piles of burnt bones.)

A woman named Huldah gave a prophecy at this point:

Judah be destroyed because of its abominations.  It would be disciplined for the cries of its sacrificed children. But because of Josiah’s repentance and love for God’s discovered Word, Judah’s depressing end wouldn’t come during Josiah’s lifetime.

Lots of personal lessons here:

  1. We should expect to see God’s Word in God’s house.  It shouldn’t be hidden, neglected, unused or unpracticed.
  2. Maybe we feel safe, knowing we will avoid the coming judgment.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t warn others. I want to be faithful to share God’s Word within my sphere of influence.
  3. When I am confronted by God’s Word, do I change?  Or, do I continue puttering around, just dusting the externals?
  4. Josiah burned and destroyed the evidence and the promoters of idol worship in Judah.  This made it impossible for the people to return to the former way of life.  Have I made it easy or difficult to return to old, sinful ways? Burning bridges here can be a good thing…
  5. 300 years earlier, a prophet actually named Josiah by name, predicting that he would destroy idol worship in Judah. (I Kings 13:1-10) The Bible is bursting with fulfilled prophecies, confirming its truth.  
  6. After all that Josiah did to reform Judah, his son Jehoiakim went the opposite way. He heard God’s word, and what he didn’t like, he conveniently had cut out with a knife and burned. God has no grandchildren; our children need to surrender to God for themselves. 
  7.  Josiah’s life ended on a strange note.  He felt compelled to fight against Egypt, even though Pharaoh warned him that it really wasn’t his fight. Josiah did it anyway — he dressed up like a common person, was wounded and died.  It’s always good to be reminded that even if a person’s life is resplendent and glorious, he or she is still just a person who makes mistakes. 

    @scissors
    When I read God’s Word, am I a doer– or a cutter (do I effectively *cut out* the parts of the Bible that aren’t comfortable or pleasant?)

Word of the Day: Resplendent

Scripture references:

  • 2 Chronicles 34,35
  • Jeremiah 36
  • 2 Kings 22,23

 

{ What If ? }

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” — Isaiah 55:8,9

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A baby boy was born into a loving family we know.  His first year was a roller coaster ride of surgeries and hospital stays. When he arrived home, each family member played a role in his everyday routine – and they served with joy.

This special~needs baby, with his explosive smile and simple cheerfulness drove any selfishness out of the home. What felt at first like an overwhelming challenge…had now become a blessing.

When unexpected circumstances surprise us, we often cringe and fuss. But what if we saw circumstances, events, and people – as God sees them?

  • What if the weakness of one child brings strength to the entire family?
  • What if, in serving an elderly parent, we have a taste of serving Jesus?
  • What if the most fragile members of the body of Christ show us God’s power?

We often see our loved ones, our neighbors, and other church members through our own limited eyes, and with our own sin-tainted, limited frame of reference. 

The way God works is far above our own plans.  His ways are higher.  His eyesight is better. 

“God sees hearts as we see faces.” –George Herbert

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. — 1 Samuel 16:7 

~~~

Photo by: https://unsplash.com/@marcojodoin

 

{ Out of My Circles }

A compass sits in my desk drawer and I don’t know why.

It has a sharp point for anchoring itself to paper. On the opposite side sits a metal clip gripping a blunt pencil.

It’s a tool for drawing circles. Once every five years I need that.

The other 1,824 days the compass is just there to poke me in the finger as I rummage for pens, stamps or white-out.

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Perfect circles are pretty on paper. But when it comes to life, getting into a circular pattern seems stagnant and dull.

  • I develop a bad eating habit (snitching whilst cooking!) that needs to be broken.
  • I realize after 30 days that I have forgotten to get outside and take a walk, even if it’s cold outside.
  • My children alert me when we are in an oatmeal-for-breakfast rut.

Overall, we are supposed to look back over this un-repeatable journey and see progress, maturity and growth. Life is more like a path than a circle.

When things rouse me out of my circles, sometimes I fight it!

But scripture reminds me to move along, with phrases like:

  • Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? (Joshua 7:10)
  • Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along! (Song of Solomon 2:10)
  • Arise and go, for this is no place of rest… (Micah 2:10)
  • I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home. (Mark 2:11)
  • Up! (Judges 4:14)
  • Let us throw off everything that hinders…and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us! (Hebrews 12:1)

Here’s to getting up, pressing on, and making progress!

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“It is always hard to see the purpose in wilderness wanderings until after they are over.” — John Bunyan

“To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it. I will yet go forward.” — John Bunyan

“This hill, though high, I covet to ascend; the difficulty will not me offend.  For I perceive the way to life lies here. Come, pluck up, heart; let’s neither faint nor fear.” — John Bunyan

 

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo credits:unsplash-logochuttersnap

unsplash-logoJohannes Plenio

{ Who Am I? }

I was ready for Black Friday this year. I bought the:

Instant Pot DUO80 8 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Saute, Yogurt Maker and Warmer.

instant pot

My tech-savvy son told me the most popular item throughout the cyber weekend zoo was the

DNA Ancestry Test Kit.

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With this kit, you can:

  • “Uncover your ethnic mix” and
  • “Connect with relatives you never knew you had.”   (Is that a positive thing?)

 So, people are curious about themselves and their background.

And the Bible is full of background.

It lists more than a few genealogies.

And the records don’t leave out the unsavory relatives. They inventory the kings, the scoundrels, and the heroes.

If church people today were given the task of writing Jesus’ background, we might be tempted to skip a few people on the list.

It doesn’t look holy to include:

  • Rahab the harlot
  • Tamar the schemer
  • Ruth the foreigner

Yet, there they are.

Jesus’ arrival turned everything upside down.

  • He didn’t come to earth in a golden chariot, he came as a helpless baby.
  • He wasn’t born in a palace, but in an animal barn.
  • He didn’t boldly grab power, he chose to give up his life.

 

The Bible tells me about my background.

It says:

  • I’m made in God’s image — Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image…
  • I’m a sinner by nature —  Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 
  • He chose to redeem me — Ephesians 1:7  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace… 
  • He calls me His child — Galatians 3:26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 

So, I don’t think I will purchase the DNA kit. Black Friday is over and besides….

…I already know I’m half Norwegian, a quarter German and a snippet of English, Irish and Scottish.

Deeper than that, I’m a redeemed image-bearer and a child of God.

© Lisa M. Luciano 🙂

Word Prompts:  snippet and zoo

{ Fraud }

      bookshelf

airytales, anyone? Here are a few:

eal Science: The Big Bang

rrogant Love

nderstanding God’s Ways

oing Good: The Way to Heaven

 

Truth:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. —Genesis 1:1

For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world…—Romans 1:20

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…—I Corinthians 13:4,5

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! —Romans 11:33

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. —Ephesians 2:8,9

 

Word prompt of the day: Fraud

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fraud/

Fraud“>

{ Triumph }

 

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Sin-stung at birth, I'm 

Waiting for a makeover 

And timeless triumph


©  Haiku ♥ Lisa M. Luciano 

1 Corinthians 15:54-55
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, 
and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying 
that is written: 
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? 
O death, where is your sting?"


Triumph“>

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/triumph/