Monthly Archives: September 2014

Say You Are Sorry

DSC_0187By Judy Villanueva

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

“Can you tell mom why you are being punished?” “I talked back and didn’t mind you.” (It amazed me how they always knew exactly what behavior had prompted the correction).“What do you have to say to mom?” “I’m sorry…” and then the tears would flow. It was interesting that as my little ones talked about what they had done they spoke in neutral tones, but when they actually said they were sorry they would cry. The act of apologizing moved their little hearts! It convinced me that not letting a child “get away with it” is not only good parenting because it reinforces the benefits of good behavior but also because it helps a child find their sorrow…the good kind of sorrow…the kind that God embedded in the human heart to help steer us away from the cliffs and toward His open arms of love.

It seems to me that part of being made in the image of God includes an interior sense of right from wrong. When we sin we can feel the sand-paper rub against our conscious and we will either hide from the discomfort of it or bring into the light of God’s love. Hiding and stacking our sins weighs down our soul and becomes a doorway to guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are great light-snuffers and work together to crush our spirit, and deceive us about ourselves and God.

Over time, ignoring of the holy prompts that are designed to lead us to grace, has a numbing effect on our conscious and before we know it, our hearts are hard and we are lost.

I wonder if confession has become a neglected practice these days. Have we abandoned the habit of inviting the Holy Spirit to prick our conscious with awareness of our sin and then, allow ourselves to feel a proper sorrow…a sorrow that leads to repentance? Do we dare trust the Love of God enough to know the truth about ourselves? Because it is in the safety of God’s love that we can know our sin and it is in the act of confession that our hearts soften and a holy transaction occurs…guilt for innocence, shame for dignity, and death for life and darkness for Heaven’s arms of love!

“Thank You, Father, that You’ve made a way for me to be set free…the once and for all freedom as well as the daily freedom from sin’s tangles. Thank You for making me in Your image and giving me a conscious that helps me know when I’ve sinned and feel a proper sorrow. Keep my heart open and sensitive to the Spirit’s corrections. Thank you most of all for Jesus and the gift of love that He gave on the cross. Amen.”

What about you?

Is confession a regular part of your spiritual life?

Is your heart numb to the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Are you open and receptive to Him bringing an awareness of sin in your life?

Do you feel a proper sorrow over sin?

Do you labor under shame and guilt? Talk with God. You can trust Him. There is safety in His love.

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If You Say So

DSC_0538By Judy Villanueva

Luke 5:3-11

Once while Jesus was standing beside the Sea of Galilee, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God,  he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake;  the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.

He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”  

When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken…

I wonder how Peter felt as he condescended to let down his nets for a catch, even though he had been out all night fishing with nothing to show for it.  I wonder if he rolled his eyes as he said, “Yet, if you say so, I will.”  He had already cleaned his nets and must have been exhausted, so putting out into the deep with Jesus would cost him time, energy and maybe the nap he’d hoped for.

I wonder…oh how I wonder… how he felt when the nets filled with fish and began to break!

Or, when the boats began to sink under the weight of this unprecedented catch!  Can you imagine that moment of bounty?  It was a tidal wave of provision that knocked Peter right off his feet!  It was also an announcement that Jehovah Jirah (Our providing God) was present, at work, and, in fact…next to Peter in the boat!

It amazes me to watch Jesus in this passage as He ministers and stays in touch with each moment and each need, from the people gathered on the shore hungry to be taught, to Peter in the boat…ready to be caught.  At first glance, it seems like Peter is on the peripheral of this story, until Jesus jumps into his boat and asks to go fishing.  Don’t you love Peter?  I love that he first tried to explain to God that he’d already “been there and done that!”  I love that he did it anyways!  And, I love Peter’s heart that, upon witnessing the bodacious power of God, fell down before Jesus awakened to holiness!

I find myself drawn to Jesus’ invitation to “put out into the deep waters”.  What might that mean for me today in my life?  Or, for you?

It seems to be a call to move away from the safety of the shore and all that I think I know, and point my heart and will at Jesus.

No matter how inconvenient or nonsensical, when Jesus speaks to me I want to pray, “Yet, if you say so, I will.”   Do I dare put out into the deep waters of faith and trust Jesus to do the impossible for me?  Can I let go of what I think I have control of and obey His every word?  I don’t want to miss the chance to fish with Jesus and experience the wonder of holiness touching my life…or getting to witness  our net-breaking, boat-sinking God!

“Father, forgive me for ever doubting that You are a good provider.  I hear your invitation to put out into the deep!  Help me to point my heart and will at Jesus and to do whatever You say.  Thank You, that You cannot help but be faithful!  Amen.”

What about you?

Do you want to go fishing with Jesus?

Are you available to follow Jesus and do whatever He says?

How do you respond to Jesus’ invitation to put out into the deep waters?  What might that mean for you today?

Do you know God as Jehovah Jirah, God our provider?

 

Worship:

“In Light of Your Glory” by Tommy Walker

“I Will Follow” by Chris Tomlin

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Living Awake

IMG_1775By Judy Villanueva

“Mindfulness.”   A word that seems to sum up the concepts of attentiveness and  awareness. “Full of mind” or in other words, a mind full of awareness! Don’t we often move through our days out of touch with ourselves and God? Occupations and preoccupations, television, email, facebook, and twitter, not to mention the plethora of other things that fill our time and attention, leave most of us fragmented – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

How are you? Do you know? How are you and God? Do you have an awareness of the condition of your heart and soul? Where are you feeling conviction that leads to repentance? Where are you experiencing goodness, joy and love? Can you name your dreams and disappointments? What are you learning? Are you living awake?

The point is that without a bit of quiet space every now and again, it is near impossible to experience a mindful existence. Our souls need time to catch up with our fast-paced lives and this happens best when we slow down and quiet ourselves. Silence, being quiet in a quiet space, and solitude, simply being alone, are helpful and awakening practices. They confront our need to save ourselves and control everything. They help us to bow!  In silence and solitude we learn to bow our minds and our hearts before God. And, this is reorienting to our souls.

The difficulty is that these are quickly becoming lost practices in our culture.

Little in the routines of home, school and work invite us to pausing places where we learn to catch up and connect with ourselves.

And, the danger is that, without such practices, we become “functionaries”without a heart, unaware of the needs in and around us. We may live busy lives but we miss out on the richness of living awake, in touch and present to God, ourselves and others.

If any of this rings true for you, then the next question is “Where to begin?” Any habit of quieting will be helpful. Taking a few minutes a couple times a day to be alone and quiet is a great way to start. Make it simple and doable. Turn off the “noise” of your life including your computer, cell phone, television, radio and sit alone quietly. There is no need to think or say anything. Just breathe, sit with God, and allow the silence to begin to create some peace inside of you. If emotions come up, acknowledge them but return to them later. In these few minutes, the goal is simply to rest in God’s presence. And, if you need a little more motivation read Psalm 8:3-4

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

God is mindful of me! He is mindful of you! To consider that the infinite God of the universe takes notice of me is beyond astounding! He sees us and is completely and totally awake to our every thought, breath, tear, smile, and prayer.

“How I pray for Holy help in daily awakenings, mindful presence with myself and others, and for greater awareness that I am on God’s mind and that He cares for me. Amen.”

What about you?

Are you living awake?

How are you and God?

Where are you experiencing goodness, joy and love?

Can you name your dreams and disappointments?

You are on God’s mind and He cares for you!

Worship

“Awake My Soul”  by Chris Tomlin

“Awake My Soul” by Phillips, Craig and Dean

 

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Abba Father

levi and joeBy Judy Villanueva

“I will be a Father to you and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”  says the Lord almighty”.   (2Corinthians 6:18)

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”   (Romans 8:15)

The Lord your God in your midst,
 the Mighty One, will save;
  He will rejoice over you with gladness,
 He will quiet you with His love, 
He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

“Let’s go hunt for fire flies!”  It was evening and bedtime was fast approaching but there was still time for one more adventure.  My son alerted his children that the firefly walk was about to commence.  “Grab your flashlights and let’s go hunting!”  Off they ventured into the dark with magic on their minds and daddy to lead the way.  “Is that one?” his little ones asked excitedly.   “Maybe!  Let’s go check it out!” their father replied.  Flashlights in hand and eyes wide with anticipation, they laughed, told stories and skipped in the night under their dad’s watchful care.  Of course, there were no fireflies to be found in this part of the southwest, but it didn’t seem to matter to these three exuberant hunters!  Their little hearts were filled with an adventure that was all about being with their dad.

What do you think of when you hear the word “daddy”?  It’s a big word that sets off big feelings because dads play a very important role in our lives.

They are protectors, providers, mentors and guides.  Dads are storytellers, dream-shapers, problem-solvers and hope-givers.

Fathers have enormous shoes to fill, for as they love, little hearts are tilled and readied to know their Abba Father.  Is dad good, faithful, and kind?  Does he rejoice over me with gladness? Can I count on him? The tricky part of this, of course, is that however good a dad might be, he will always be a human dad.  At best, he is a humble man versed in kneeling before his Heavenly Father,  confessing his failures and praying for strength, grace and power to love  his family well.

Sadly, many didn’t have a dad “at his best” and may find their hearts tangled and wary of trusting another Father.  But, I pray you’ll consider that our Heavenly Father is divinely different.

The Lord God is in your midst!  The Mighty One who saves sings over you with gladness!

Is this how you know God?  It is true!  He calls us sons and daughters and rejoices over us!  He knows our names and longs for us to know His name as Abba, our dad!  The reality of His love surrounds us and is a place of welcome always and in spite of whatever other realities may exist.  His arms are always are open, his ears always tuned, his face always toward us, and his heart always ready to give all it has…to have us.   The Mighty One in our midst is OUR Father!  And, He invites us to join Him in light-filled, firefly adventures and the discovery of a life loved and led by Him.

“God, bless dads.  Help them to sing with gladness over their little ones.  How desperately this generation needs dads and moms who will delight in them.  Thank you for our dads and help us to be grateful, forgive them their failures and trust You to meet our deepest needs.  Thank you that You are our ever faithful Abba Father!   Amen.”

What about you?

What was your relationship like with your earthly father?  Have you both celebrated and forgiven him for where he blessed or failed you?

 Do you know God as a Father?

Can you relate to calling Him “Abba” or “Daddy”?  Do you feel close to God?

How does it feel to know that God delights in you and sings over you with gladness?

Worship:

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