The New Commandment

Most Christians are oh-so-familiar with Jesus’ familiar words about the first227062-20140710 and second greatest commandments, a teaching that occurred during His final week in Jerusalem, just days before the crucifixion:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 ESV)

It is a beloved passage, one that many of us have taken very seriously. But how often have we considered Jesus’ new commandment, which was given a few days later on the eve of His crucifixion as He met in the upper room with the disciples?

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)

As I read this passage a couple of weeks ago, late on the Thursday night before Good Friday, I was struck by how many times I’ve seen or heard it—probably hundreds over the years—but have not really pondered very deeply its significance. This new commandment far exceeds what He had spoken about previously! This commandment is to love as He loves, but how often do I/we fall terribly short of that goal? His perfect love is the mark for which we must aim and the Love Chapter, as it is often called, provides a good ‘recipe’ for love.

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; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a ESV)

Did you get that? God’s model of love is patient and kind, never jealous or boastful or proud or rude, doesn’t keep track of the offenses of others, is not happy about the wrongs of others and is very happy when truth prevails. But that’s not all; love never gives up or loses faith in others, it is always hopeful and endures hardships, and it also lasts forever. I believe that this example is only reflective of where Jesus’ love for us begins, because He was also willing to suffer and die for our sins. Anticipating his death the following day, he went on to say:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 ESV)

The thing is though, Jesus wasn’t just another everyday hero; you know, the kind we see on the news when a brave soldier saves others at the cost of his/her own life; or, as just happened this week, when a heroic lady at the Jewish synagogue shooting in Poway, CA threw herself into the line of fire, saving the life of her Rabbi and dying as a result. Yes, our everyday heroes do lay down their lives for their friends and that is a great love indeed, but Jesus took it a big step farther. When he willingly went to the cross, he took upon himself the punishment that was due to each of us for our sins; He died not to save our physical lives so we could thrive for a few more years on earth, but to make eternal life with God possible. Eternal life—that means unending life, living happily-ever-after forever and ever and ever—and that’s a whole lot more that anyone’s natural lifespan by a very long shot!

Considering Jesus’ new commandment to love as He had loved, I have to think that the love we think we have for others often leaves much to be desired. As we endeavor to become conformed to His image, we would do well to remember the last phrase of 1 Corinthians 13, …but the greatest of these is love. After all, this is how the world will recognize us as His disciples.

Shelter In Place

IMG_0947Recently, we re-visited some of my favorite childhood places in northern California. Wandering through Patrick’s Point State Park and marveling at the astounding beauty of the wild and magnificent north coast, I happened upon a cave set into a rock, which  immediately reminded me of Moses’ experience with the Lord:

And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. (Exodus 33:21-22)

Over the years, how many might have found shelter from the cold rains and mighty Pacific winds in this cleft in a rock? Only God knows, but probably many animals have founds homes there, and perhaps even men. It seems an ideal spot to shelter in place from a storm. But not all storms in life are related to the weather; rather, they are more likely to be the physical, emotional or spiritual assaults against our lives that happen almost daily.

King David understood that his hope was in the Lord, and wrote time and again of his faith; even in times when he was in fear of his life, he held fast to the One who was his Rock. David’s psalms never cease to touch my heart and the Lord always meets me in the midst of them, just as He did this morning when He inspired this post. 

Hear my cry, O God,
    listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
    when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me dwell in your tent forever!
    Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! (Psalm 61:1-4)

Under the shelter of God’s wings! Can you imagine that? I did; I thought of how cold this winter has been (yes, even in southernCalifornia!), and how cozy and comfortable my bed feels, especially with the covers pulled up to my ears and I am cocooned in warmth and safety, even as the rain pounds on our roof or the wind howls outside. That’s the way  imagine it must feel sheltered in the downey softness of God’s love, covered by His wings. But it gets even better, because in the very next psalm:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is God. (Psalm 62:5-7)

God is not only my refuge, my rock and my shelter from the storms, but I shall not be shaken. Wow! It just doesn’t get any better than that!

Storms of Life

20180416_100328_1523899731218The old idiom that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb didn’t quite hold true in the Midwest this year, as is well illustrated in a message from a friend in Minnesota in mid-April: “Today’s Spring blizzard is reminiscent of the delicious winter blizzards of my youth that caused school cancellations (public libraries are closed today because of storm—a small nod to the school closing ‘cheers’ of my childhood). The wind is angry, and pounds in bursts that nearly knock you over; snows whirl in madness; snow-downfall can be measured in inches per minute, and drifting creates splendid art forms that no human hand can rival; visibility is measured in feet, wind chill effect on temperature is surprising, and it’s all better looked at than felt!  I suppose, all in all, it is an exciting farewell to winter.”

I’ve rarely experienced such a snow storm, but can clearly remember the historic Christmas flood of 1964. Today there are markings on trees and buildings of how high the water got, and it boggles the imagination. All roads into Humboldt County were cut off and the sky was full of helicopters doing all the things that helicopters do when there’s no other way in or out. We lived about half a mile from the Mad River, fortunately on the uphill side. This very angry river was often reduced to a trickle during the summer when it would only reach to our ankles as we waded across. But looking out over it that Christmas, all of the surrounding dairy and farmlands were totally under water for miles, with the tops of houses or barns peeking out of the water here and there.

The upside for us kids during what came to be known as a thousand-year flood, was that since there was no reception from any of the 3 incoming television networks (totally laughable now!), the local station played old movies nonstop. Since we couldn’t go outside in the rain and were on Christmas vacation anyway, Mom let us sit there and watch them for hours on end, an unheard-of treat. What else was she going to do in a house bursting at the seams with five bored kids in those day that were pre-computer, pre-smartphone and pre-electronic games? I loved it!!! Finally, when we could go back outside, there was a huge pond in the woods across from our house and someone built a raft that we paddled around for weeks, often falling off and getting soaked, but such fun!

It was pretty exciting to be in the midst of this big, terrible storm, but I had little comprehension of the impact of grief and despair it was having on many other people because we were safe and warm, and I had not yet experienced anything so tragic in my own life.

I still have some local newspapers that my mom saved, and looking through them on occasion reminds me of the widespread devastation. By the end of January 1965, about 200,000 square miles had been affected in parts of Oregon, Idaho, California, Washington and Nevada, 47 people had died, and thousands were left homeless. In our area near the mouth of the Mad River, the river not only met the ocean but also reached over to join with Humboldt Bay, causing a whole peninsula to become an island. Hundreds of dead cattle floated out to sea along with innumerable logs and stacks of lumber from the many sawmills the area, and the beaches were left with piles of wood and trash where the mighty waves of the Pacific deposited much of that which was lost. Aside from the physical and emotional trauma that cannot be measured, the price tag of about $540 million would equate to around $3.9 billion now.

Planted by the Rivers of WaterToday, if one is traveling through the scenic Avenue of the Giants a stop at the Immortal Tree will show the incredible contrast of a gorgeous little creek flowing behind the tree and a high-water marker on the front—mind boggling! IMG_2023

 

 

Perhaps my youthful lack of sensitivity to the vast reaches of destruction all around me are representative of the ‘it-can’t-hurt-me’ philosophy of so many today in regard to what the Day of the Lord will look like when Jesus returns:

Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
    cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the land a desolation
    and to destroy its sinners from it. (Isaiah 13:9)

For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3)

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:10)

The great day of the Lord is near,
    near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
    the mighty man cries aloud there.
A day of wrath is that day,
    a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
    a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
    and against the lofty battlements.

I will bring distress on mankind,
    so that they shall walk like the blind,
    because they have sinned against the Lord;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
    and their flesh like dung. (Zephaniah 1:14-18)

 

I pray that many will choose the safety that will belong to those who have chosen Jesus, for we will not have to endure His holy outpouring of judgment against His enemies that far, far exceeds anything as small as an April blizzard or a thousand-year flood.

...so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:7-8

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:9)

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40)

 

Free Resource for Decoding Dreams

 

unravelingthemystery2015bookstoreimage-207x300Whether one’s interest stems from Christianity, New Age thought, or just idle curiosity, dream interpretation is a popular topic. Therefore, in the vast array of resources that are available, it’s very important for Christians to view dream interpretation only from a Biblical perspective in order to accurately discern the Lord’s meaning of these night parables. His perspective is the only one that counts!

In 2015, I had the wonderful opportunity to facilitate a four-hour webcast about dream interpretation, Unraveling the Mystery of Dream Interpretationwhich I’m happy to announce is now available for free.

Released in June 2017, Exploring Heavenly Place, Volume 8: Dreamspeak is my most recent book, which details my personal journey into dream interpretation. It’s much more of a this-is-how-God-does-it-with-me account than a one-size-fits-all instruction manual, which I hope will encourage others to venture out into the heavenly realms of dream exploration and interpretation. Poof, and It’s Gone is a sample chapter from Dreamspeak that can be viewed on this blog.

 

 

I’ll Remember You

Eccles 12 1The cherished quiet moments of my morning time with the Lord had ended as the activities of the day began demanding attention. Fixing breakfast, I stole another quick, silent few minutes while standing at my kitchen sink to take communion and focus on the Lord. Moving on to the food preparation, I was surprised and blessed to sense my spirit declaring, “I remember You,” and I prayed, “Yes Lord! I do remember You; and I desire to remember You throughout the day, regardless of what is happening; I desire to remember You in the midst of chaos as well calm.”

Next task—get online to check email, but I Remember You began playing in my head. Remember that smooth jazz tune? Its popularity has endured since it was first introduced in 1942 when my mom was only fourteen years old. It was a time that was dominated by the horrors of World War II and perhaps, it was also a time when focusing on the sweetness of someone you loved was comforting amidst the anguish. This morning, only the first 2 lines were resonating, so I Googled the song for the rest of the lyrics and was astounded by the relevance of the last verse to my own romance with God:

I remember you
You’re the one who made my dreams come true…
…When my life is through
And the angels ask me to recall
The thrill of them all
Then I will tell them I remember you

God has made it clear that He always remembers us, just one example being Psalm 40:5:

You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.

But do we remember Him with that same passion—every day, all day, and not just on Sunday, Easter or Christmas? We love to receive His blessings, and we often cling to such wonderful promises as we read in Psalm 91, but have we looked closely at the ‘gotchas’? Check out the qualifiers for the protections promised:

1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.

If we expect to receive God’s blessings, we must make Him our dwelling place—we must live in Him, hold onto Him, and know Him so intimately that we are on a first-name basis. When we do, we will remember Him always and, as in that last stanza of the song, our greatest memories and our testimony throughout eternity will be of His love and faithfulness, His mercy and grace, His peace and comfort and sufficiency throughout our lives here on earth.

Poof, and It’s Gone!

Version 2

 

 

Poof, and It’s Gone is an excerpt from my new book, Exploring Heavenly Places, Volume 8: Dreamspeak, which I’m excited to announce is now available. Print, PDF, Kindle, and Nook versions are all available via Aslansplace.com

 

 

Tourist traps abound as one travels just about anywhere in the world. On road trips through the southwestern deserts of the United States these may take the form of gift shops that are advertised miles in advance. Most of them are a huge disappointment by the time one arrives but by then you’re so ready for a bathroom break that you stop anyway. Inside, one usually finds a large variety of items of regional interest, though a close inspection will reveal that they are made in China or some other far-away land more often than not. Prominently displayed are the beautiful dream catchers, originally created by First Nations peoples who believed that the night air is filled with both good and bad dreams and that a dream catcher hanging over or near the bed and swinging freely in the air would catch those dreams as they flow by. Good dreams supposedly know how to slip through the holes and slide down the soft feathers so gently that many times the sleeper does not know that he/she is dreaming. On the other hand bad dreams don’t know the way and get tangled in the web, perishing with the first light of the new day. Nice, if it really worked, but it doesn’t!

It was eighth grade, and I’d had the most incredible dream ever, one I would never forget! Such a great plot; complete with everything necessary to finally get an A the next time our English teacher delivered the dreaded news that we had to write a story. Other writing assignments were fine, but coming up with an interesting story line was beyond me; so I remember very clearly the moment a few months later when the previously dreaded assignment was given. In shock, I sat helplessly at my desk with absolutely no memory of my award-winning dream. Too bad that nobody had ever taught me the truth of scripture:

He will fly away like a dream and not be found; he will be chased away like a vision of the night.[i]

Moses understood the transitory nature of dreams. In praying about the brevity of life, he compared it to a quickly vanishing dream:

For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.[ii]

Fortunately, Daniel understood too. Had he not, would he have been able to recall the details of his dream/visions of the four beasts?

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter.[iii]

We don’t need dream catchers, but we do need to catch our dreams by following Daniel’s example.

[i] Job 20:8

[ii] Psalm 90:4-6

[iii] Daniel 7:1

Peace

john-14-27OK, so maybe I’m bragging a little, but a mom’s entitled. Right?

My son is an amazing dad, and to watch as his three little kids run to him for comfort blesses me beyond belief. Tears disappear as he cuddles and comforts, for in his arms they feel safe and loved; in his arms they have peace.

From an adult perspective, the traumas that send a child fleeing to a parent for comfort may seem very insignificant; but an ‘owie’, hurt feelings, sibling squabbles, a scary dream, anything that shatters his/her peaceful world seems as big a deal to them  as do the things that shatter ours.

As 2017 looms large on the horizon, there are certainly a lot of issues with which to be concerned. Whether our problems are personal, national, or international; there is much that would make us yearn for a place of rest and safety. Fortunately, such a place does exist, and we can rush headlong into the loving arms of our Father to be comforted just as readily as my grandchildren run to my son. Jesus understood this well, as He encouraged His disciples:

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 32-33)

About a hundred and fourteen years ago, Cleland B. McAfee wrote “Near to the Heart of God” from a place of personal grief and loss. Modeling Jesus, he also knew from Whom his strength came:

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
Refrain:
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God;
Hold us, who wait before Thee,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.

Over 2000 years ago, God was there for Jesus’ disciples; over a century ago He was there for Mr. McAfee; and He is still there for us today. May we all rest in His peace today, tomorrow, and throughout 2017.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)