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Another striking passage from Handel's Messiah is this bit from Job.

"As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. "Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; - Job 19:25-26 NASB

Job's book is thought to be the first scripture committed to writing, written even before Moses put down the Pentateuch. Job had lived through as much sorrow and hardship as any man before or since.

And yet...

In the end of his narrative, after all his friends have abused him and put him to shame, he makes this declaration. I know that my redeemer lives and that I will see Him.

It reminds me of David's understanding of death. When his infant son died, the product of his affair with Bathsheba, he ends his mourning, gets dress and returns to life. His time of morning was over, and his declarations was,

"But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me." - 2 Samuel 12:23 NASB

These men both had a concept of a time after life when they would see their redeemer and their loved ones. They were ultimately headed to Him.

Job even understood the resurrection of the body. After my skin is gone, in my flesh I will see God.

Eternity was in their hearts, and they knew that this life of hardship and trial, is not all there was. There is more.

There is more.

This is on my mind, in part, because, this year, our Christmas celebration has two loved ones less around the table. Two dear saints have joined the cloud of witnesses and celebrate the incarnation from the other side of the veil. My mother and my father-in-law have been celebrating Jesus in person these past few months. What a glorious thought. They are not lost to me, to us. They simply stepped out of this mortal mess into a glorious life of communion with God.

And one day, when Christ returns, they will be given new bodies, functioning, fully healed and whole bodies, and renewed minds, with which to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And on that day, if not before, I will go to them, as David put it. Moreover, I will go to Him - I will see my living Redeemer face to face. In my flesh, I will see God.

Oh, Hallelujah. What a day that will be.

Do you have that assurance? You can. On Christmas we celebrate God's greatest gift to us, His Son Jesus. Let this Christmas be the day you give your life to Jesus, once and for all. It's simple, a simple act of your will. Own your own failure and surrender to Him. He says—well—here–I'll let Him tell it,

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. - John 14:23 NASB

Have a wonderful Christmas.

Blessings and Joy to all.

Ben

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an absurd & tenacious hope

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The modus operandi of the new covenant gospel of grace by the dynamic of the risen and living Lord Jesus Christ will always be counter-intuitive, counter-cultural, and counter-productive to the ways of the natural world. Divine grace is always antithetical to human performance and productivity.

Jim Fowler

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard of the horrific story that came out of Virginia yesterday of a reporter and another man being shot dead on live TV. My Facebook news feed became so overwhelmed with this story and even videos from the TV station (that I did not watch), as well as a video from a camera that was on the shooter, that I had to step away yesterday for my own well-being. We are not built to handle an onslaught of evil – not instantly nor consistently. So today I am not privy to any details, though I do believe the shooter shot himself and died. I also saw some comments before stepping away from social media about how he should die…my spirit cannot accept this kind of talk; reading it makes my heart heavy and my stomach churn.

I did have a conversation with my youngest daughter earlier in the day about...

Read on: an absurd & tenacious hope | Risking Love. Writing Brave.

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I ran across this phrase in my reading this morning:

…because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, - Colossians 1:5

I love the idea that there is a stock pile of hope being accumulated for me in heaven. Some translators turn it around to sound more like I am looking forward with expectation for all the good that is awaiting me in heaven, and I am ok with that.

But this morning when I read that phrase, I got the image in my head of a vault in heaven where Father is placing bundles of hope in little paper bands, like stacks of bills.

And since I am a citizen of heaven and this account is a joint account, I have access to hope any time I need it.

You understand how joint accounts work right?

God makes deposits and I make withdrawals.

Hear this today if you are feeling hopeless.

God has set aside hope in and account just for you. You can draw from this account today.

This hope is withdrawn as we meditate on the goodness of God. As we look at who He is and what He has done, hope is transferred from our heavenly account into our soul’s hope wallet.

How is it with you? Are you in desperate need of some hope?

Try this out:

Father, I am feeling hopeless. (might as well be honest – don’t you think?)
You, Lord are good. You created me. You love me, and have even when I was fighting you. No place is too dark for the light of your life to penetrate. Come and give me hope today.

nora and papa at the table, benThanks for stopping in

See you again soon.

Ben

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the water is stirring

…waiting for the moving of the waters; - John 5:3

How much of our life do we spend waiting.

  • I will do something big for God when …
  • I will fulfill my destiny when …
  • I will answer God’s call when …

Or maybe

  • I’ll pray more when …
  • I’ll read my Bible …
  • I’ll give my money to the poor when …

When what?

  • … when I’m out of school.
  • … when I’m out of my parent’s house.
  • … when I’m married.
  • … when I’m out of debt.
  • … when I’m retired.

Jesus says to the man waiting at the pool of Bethesda:

Do you wish to get well? - John 5:6

The man gives him a reason he can’t be made well. But that was not the question, was it?

God is not looking at you thinking

“Too bad he/she is in those circumstances.”

Rather, I am convinced these ‘huge’ obstacles that completely derail us don’t faze Him at all.

Jesus simply tells him:

Get up, pick up your pallet and walk. - John 5:8

  • He didn’t touch him.
  • He didn’t curse the pool.
  • He didn’t call a prayer meeting.
  • He simply told him to get up and walk.

What is keeping you from doing God will, from being what He has called you to be?

Can you hear the voice of Jesus today?

Get up and walk!

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

See you again soon.

Ben

Hey – don’t miss the recent addition to my “Encounters” series – “What I Found at the Well.”

Behold, you are fair (beautiful), my love! Behold, you are fair! You have dove’s eyes. (Song of Songs 1:15 NASB)

This is one of my favorite concepts in the Song of Songs, this idea of dove’s eyes.

What do we know about doves?

First, they say doves are [i]monogamous. Not all birds are monogamous. Doves connect and stick with the same bird “till death do them part.” Some even migrate together, but at the very least they spend mating season together.

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc
photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

What Jesus sees when He looks into the eyes of our maiden is a faithful partner. This is great because she has yet to demonstrate anything that resembles faithfulness, but it is credited to her account on day one of their relationship. The same is true when you enter into a covenant with Jesus. The moment you step into relationship with the Shepherd King, you take on His faithfulness. He is able to present you faultless before His Father with exceeding joy. (That’s a great place to shout.)

Let’s think a bit about the dove in scripture.

Noah sent a dove from the ark as the water was receding. He sent the dove out 3 times. The first time it went out and returned – it found no resting place. The second time it went out and came back with an olive branch. Finally it went out and found a place to live.

Here is a picture I saw tonight as I re-read the account of Noah's dove. In Genesis 1:2 we see the Spirit of God hovering over the water, with nowhere to light. In Mathew 3:16 we see the Spirit of God descending over the waters of Jesus’ baptism. The dove stays for 3 ½ years, but returns again to the ark, this time with an olive branch, that branch from the root of Jesse (Romans 15:12,) the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6.) Finally a short time later, accompanied by the sound of a mighty wind (Acts 2:2,) He again hovers over the earth, and this time He stays – the earnest of our inheritance. (Ephesians 1:13)

So our girl ventures out of her place of safety and tests the waters, and she finds the olive branch of Jesus’ faithfulness.

photo credit: Bill Gracey via photopin cc
photo credit: Bill Gracey via photopin cc

Finally, and this is my favorite, they say doves have unique eyes. Dove’s eyes have a single focal point. They effectively have no peripheral vision.

Here you can understand this one thing is attractive to the Shepherd King about our maiden, her unflinching gaze toward Him. When she looks at Him she sees nothing else.

So it is with you and I. As the old chorus by Helen Lennel goes

[ii]Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Misty Edwards has written a wonderful song she calls Dove’s Eyes (click for a link to a YouTube of her singing it.) The lyrics are my prayer today. Will you join me?

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I don't want to talk about You like You're not in the room
I want to look right at You I want to sing right to You

I believe that You are listening
I believe that You move at the sound of my voice

Give me dove's eyes

Give me undistracted devotion for only You

Misty Edwards

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BenThanks for coming today.

See you next week.

Ben


[i] http://www.ask.com/wiki/Mourning_Dove

A dear Sister from my local church ministers as a sidewalk counselor in front of a nearby abortion clinic. Recently she shared this account with me. It is so moving. It is this kind of real world story from the trenches that I hope will stir us up to step out in faith. The story stirs in me hope and faith, and demonstrates how desperate our world is for what we often hold to ourselves.

Here is Christa's story in her own words

(The names have been changed)

Dear Friends and Family,

I am anxious to give you an update on today's sidewalk counseling outside a nearby abortion clinic.

I arrived at 7:30 a.m. and within the first 10 seconds, I locked myself out of my car, and locked my wallet, phone, tissues, gloves, lip-balm and all my counseling literature IN the car.  I had to borrow a phone to call home, and bless her heart, Hollie ran over to bring me a spare key, so I was able to get all my stuff and start interacting with people when they began arriving around 8:00 a.m.  (Thank you, Hollie!!)  I observed the clinic workers as they went in, one by one, through the side door: the office manager, the technicians, the anesthesiologist, and finally the abortionist, all of whom I tried to greet with a friendly "Good morning."  No one wished me a good morning.  Imagine that?

One sad thing was the sheer volume of customers: every 5 or 6 minutes, another couple went in.  By 9:00, the waiting room was overflowing with people waiting their turn to abort their babies.    Every time the door opened, I could see wall-to-wall people, standing room only, on top of each other.  Some of them would come outside to wait.  I commented, "Crowded in there, huh?"  One guy said, "Yeah, and it's really hot.  I couldn't stand it in there."  Some of the counselors refer to it as lambs being led to the slaughter, or cattle being herded.  What a business they've got going in there.

Most couples walked right by me, ignoring my offer of some "important information", but many took it and walked right into the building.  A few slowed down to take it, look at it, and listen to a few more words before they went in.  Sometimes the girl would march by and say, steely-faced, "No thanks.  Don't need it." But the guy walking behind her would take it from my hand.  Mostly I said, "Here's some information that they won't give you in this clinic.  It's really important that you know the risks of abortion, and they will not tell you this inside."  If I got another 10 seconds, I would add, pulling out the appropriate flyer, "Around the corner is the Lighthouse clinic, where all their services are free.  They won't take a dime from you, but they'll do your ultrasound and help you though your decision."  If I got another 10 seconds, I would say, "Inside here, you'll pay $175 for an ultrasound, and they will not let you see what is on the screen.  If you ask them to see it, they will refuse.  They are in the business of hiding the truth from you."  But it was rare that I got to go that far.

One young man came out, lit a cigarette, and was obviously distraught.  My fellow counselor, Jeff, said, "Is your girl in there?"  He said, "Yeah."  Jeff:  "You don't look happy about it."  Guy:  "No.  I don't want her to do this."  Jeff:  "Why don't you go in and get her out?"  Guy: "It's not that easy, but I'm trying.  I'm trying!  Say a prayer for me."  I asked him his name, and he said, "Billy."  I asked him her name, and he said, "Jeannie."  He dialed his cell phone, trying to reach her inside.  A little later, she came out from the back door with her mother.  The mother was about 50, Jeannie was about 19.  Billy joined them on the sidewalk and a loud, tension-filled argument ensued.  I stood very near them and heard everything.  They did not seem to mind my being there, as if they didn't notice me.

Billy:  "Don't do this.  Don't do it!  It's not right!"

Donna (the mother):  "Oh, look who's worried about what's right all of a sudden!"

Billy:  "I know, I've made mistakes.  And I'm sorry.  But this doesn't make it right."

Donna:  "You're an abuser!"

Billy:  "I know I have problems.  I'm going to get help.  I want this baby.  I can support it.  (To the girlfriend) Please don't do this, babe!"

Donna (the mother):  "I just know I can't raise another baby!"

Jeannie, crying: "I don't even know if I love you anymore.  I don't even want to be with you any more!  I hate you!"  She raised both arms to pummel him, but he fended her off.

Billy:  "I understand.  And you know what?  You don't have to be with me.  I just want you to know I I'll take care of our baby.  By now he was weeping, and he bent forward as if in anguish.  "We've made some bad mistakes, both of us have.  But doing this won't make it right.  You can't make it right by piling another bad thing on top of it!  We can't reverse this!  Don't make the decision in a panic.  Take some time to think about it."

Donna (the mother):  "She HAS been thinking about it."

Billy, to the girl's mother:  "It's only been 2 weeks.  Donna, you're trying to force her into this.  (To his girlfriend)  Last week you were picking out names!"

Jeannie, crying:  "I don't even know what I think.  I'm so confused.  I don't know what I want."

This whole time, they kept going back into the clinic, and out again, yelling at each other.  Every time they went in or out, he would be crying in the open doorway, "Baby, please don't do this!  Don't do this!  It's not right!"  I could see all the people inside in the waiting room, just inches away from this anguished couple, hearing all the drama, loud and clear.  I wondered what they were all thinking as they were waiting for their abortions.

Then the three were all out on the sidewalk again.  Billy:  "You know it's not right."  Turning to the Jeannie's mother, he asked her, "Do you think this is right?  She answered, "No, of course it's not right.  But what else can we do!"

Mother and daughter pulled aside to talk privately.  At some point, I repeated the suggestion, "Why not take her around the corner to the Lighthouse center?  They will sit you down, listen to your story, and help you think through your decision."

When the ladies rejoined him, he urged them to walk the three blocks to the Lighthouse pregnancy resource center.  "Baby, let's just go talk to them.  We have nothing to lose, and they can help us."

Back and forth the battle went.  My homeschooling friend was across the street with another friend, praying.  It was their first time coming to pray at an abortion clinic.  I could see them gripping each other arm in arm, eyes closed tightly, crying and praying with all their might.  I wondered what God had me there for.  I just prayed.

Finally, mother and daughter moved away and I heard the mom say, "It's your decision.  It's your life, and only you can make this decision.  I love you.  Maybe we can even think about adoption.  Call me when you need a ride home."  They hugged and the Mom left.  I thought her attitude had changed and it was a breakthrough.

Now it was just me with Billy and Jeannie.  I said, "You know, in this clinic, they don't care about your lives.  With them, there's only once choice when you walk in there; they want your money.  Then they spit you out, and they won't even call you to see if you're okay."  (I knew this from the abortion clinic website which says, 'We won't call you.  You can call us if you have any problems.')  Billy turned to Jeannie and said, "You know it's true, baby.  The last two times you were here, they never called you.  They don't care at all about you."

I managed to add, "But at Lighthouse, they are very loving people who won't take a dime from you.  They will walk you through this decision, and they'll be there for you week after week, as long as you need them.  They have a lot of resources to help you through this.  They just want to help.  You have nothing to lose by going there are talking to them.  You can always come back here if you want to."

Billy said, "Baby, these people aren't going away.  They'll be here if we want to come back.  Let's go take a walk to talk to those people.  Please.  Take my hand, and I'll walk you there."  She finally agreed, and off they went around the corner.  I called the Lighthouse people to let them know this couple was on their way, and told them just a little about the drama that precipitated their coming.  The woman was appreciative of the heads-up.

Well, we were rejoicing, counselors, and praying people alike.  That took a lot out of all of us.  What a battle, but how glorious to see God move in people's hearts.  I never witnessed a man in the throes of anguished repentance before.  How humbling to have been there and witnessed this.  I was quaking and shaking violently for the next 45 minutes, as the tension worked its way out of my system.  Besides, it was really cold!

That's the story.  Thanks for listening.  I know it's not easy to read about people in such pain and anguish, but I thought you'd want to know what your prayers did today.  I wish more people could witness the street-reality of this spiritual battle with their own eyes.  Lives are really lost or won every day (mostly lost) in this, and 679 other cities in America.

Christa

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BenJoin me in praying for Christa, and those across the country standing the this gap.

Thanks for coming by.

Ben

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