Stranger in the Earth

thoughts on the way to zion

Archive for the category “Thoughts on the Word”

Lately….

Well, here’s my annual post! Okay, to be fair, I have a lot on my plate, and blogging often hangs out on the bottom rung of the priority chain right under “sleep” and “eat” (not necessarily in that order). Due to lack of funds both in my wallet and in the wallet of potential customers, my cake making “business”, if you can even call it that, has hit a  sustained lull. I blame NFL owners for this since they seem to have all of America’s money anyway. This being the case, I have taken up a number of interesting ventures.

Never in my life have I gardened, but I am now. Tomatoes, basil, onions, peas, beans, peppers, chamomile, sage, rhubarb, lettuce, carrots… the list goes on and on. Whilst humming cheerful tunes from My Fair Lady, I managed to obtain lumber from the nearby Lowes, and built myself a grid for my square foot garden. Running my fingers through fresh vermiculite and composted chicken manure is surprisingly satisfactory, and though my neighbors snickered at my determination in some pretty back-breaking work, I am OWNING my beds. I’ve absorbed books upon books on the subject of growing things, and have yet to be bored by all of the wealth of information found therein.

On top of this I decided to be a teaching assistant for the International House of Prayer University’s Book of Daniel Course. I have to admit, I’m my parents’ daughter. My teaching gene kicks on, and all of the grading and managing of a classroom makes me itch to know the subject matter more and more. Some would think it’s among the more boring responsibilities available, but I happen to love it. It’s not that I’m particularly good at administration or that I like administrating life in general- it’s that I’m a nerd and love to learn and be challenged. Plus Daniel is one power-packed book and has been a favorite for 7 years.

More than anything else, though, hunger for the Scriptures has swooped in and grabbed me by my throat. I have been spending more and more hours in the prayer room when time allows, and in that time I have been struck by how necessary our daily bread in the Word really is. I have recently become acutely aware of the loss I suffer when distractions create excuses, and excuses create a void where Biblical study and meditation once resided.  It’s never worth it to lose ground in reading the Word and getting to know the God who wrote it. But I have resolved to feast daily and let the Lord renew my mind, taking back the ground that was lost in my own memory of the Scriptures. The Lord is worthy of my time, and my time is the most valuable possession I can give to Him, so I’m hittin’ the Good Book pretty hard these days.

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Daily Bread

Upon the request of my friend Trisha, I am setting a small goal to begin blogging again. The hard part about blogging for me is the veritable lack of “flow” in small periods I am able to give to writing, because they are often abruptly interrupted by chasing an extremely fast-crawling baby before she reaches the stairs to begin her  frequent ascent. Thankfully she is currently playing at my feet by dragging as many Tupperware containers out of the cabinets as she can.

For the last several months I have been pained over a gigantic lack of Scripture reading and studying in my life, so last week I put together a plan to get rolling. Of course, since motherhood is not so new to me anymore, I hold the plan loosely, recognizing that it’s more of a suggestion than a to-do list. However, I find it funny that there is so much warfare surrounding the simple reading of the Scripture.  *pause for baby chase*

Given the amount of times in the last year I’ve attempted similar lifestyle changes to the one in progress, I’ve had my fair share of frustration over planning out my day. But I believe that this time is different. My husband runs a Christian summer camp for teenagers, and ever since the couple of weeks leading up to the beginning of it, I have noted a sudden rise in all forms of attempts at derailing my confidence in the ability of God to aid me in spending time reading the Word and in prayer. Side note: when you engage in partnering with the Lord in ministry, expect resistance from the enemy.

Anyway, so far every time I sit down to have that quiet precious time with the Lord, something interrupts. Where my daughter’s nap used to last an hour and a half in the morning, ever since I began to plan my day around moments to get in the Word, this nap has been whittled down to 30 minutes on a good day. Today I was stoked because I found some old highlighters that would not bleed through rice paper. I searched the house and collected as many colors as I could locate, warmed up my nearly untouched cup of coffee, and since Natalie had only been sleeping for about 10 minutes, I was sure I would get around an hour to tear through Revelation and probably knock out Jude. A couple of text messages distracted me for a few minutes, but I was still good on time, and began my morning voyage on the high seas of the Holy Writ. Twenty minutes later, I heard the cries. My child was awake.  And annoyed about it.  I was happily highlighting my way through Revelation, but had barely begin. I I let her carry on for a short bit, but then the cries turned to screams, and upon closing the cover to my favorite book, I felt the ache.

I do not blame my daughter for interrupted sleep. It’s out of her control. Frustration would be too strong a word to describe such interruptions. “Disappointment” may be better suited, but even then, it’s a mixture of ache, longing, desperation (not in the negative sense of the word), hunger… maybe Bible-starved is the closest I can get to an explanation.  It would be one thing if it happened one or two times, but EVERY TIME? My record so far is 40 minutes of actual reading time, and today something special finally occurred to me.

Before beginning this new “schedule” of Bible time, I was daily aware of my need and my lack in making the Scripture enough of a priority to plan my day around it, but still felt so overwhelmed at the prospect of actually STARTING to read, that I neglected it no matter how conflicted I felt. Today, however, as much as I would love to have two hours to just dig deep in the Word of God in some way or other, whether by meditation, study or simple reading, what hit me was the fact that I was finally unable to live without it.

I’m not satisfied to live off of fumes from days and old studies gone by, or by someone else’s revelation. That’s why Jesus called it “DAILY bread”. I used to have all the time in the world to saturate myself in the Word of God, but now only brief snippets of moments. The powerful thing is that it counts. And what the devil doesn’t get is that all of the interruptions he can throw my way to keep me from the Word, only serve to deepen the hunger.

…And thank God for Bible on CD.

On The Wings of Change

The waiting period has to be the most emotional for me. For the past month, Zack and I have agreed to begin our search for a new house, one that would be ours for at least a decade or more. It all started at the beginning of last month when Zack massively encountered the Holy Spirit in such a way that he has been a changed man ever since. His heart has been continually aching for the poor. “I want to be like George Bailey”, he told me. I agreed, but didn’t have the same zeal until a week later when I went to the prayer room strictly to spend some time waiting on the Lord to see what He might want to tell me. After a divine appointment type conversation with a dear friend in the coffee shop, I began to have Luke 6:30 racing through my mind.

“Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back”, it says. The verse is offensive to the American dream, but Jesus gives no qualifiers to make it easier to swallow. Zack and I had only just begun discussing moving from our present situation because of some unfortunate circumstances that occurred with the owner of the house.  We had the option of either trying to buy it, or choosing to move elsewhere.

Suddenly I found myself burdened for the poor as well as I sat in prayer, but in a way I never would have expected. We could stay in our house and try to buy it, but  pictures began to flash through my mind of the people I most admire. All of them had two common characteristics: they are joyful and they are generous.   It was not only that they were generous with their finances, though that is a great prayer of mine (God, make me a joyful giver!  I want to give millions of dollars away for the spreading of the gospel!), but they are also generous with their heart and their time. There are those who give of their resources but never open their heart, and never give of their time. I want to be one who is generous in all three areas: heart, time, money.

Among the people I saw as I prayed came a random scene from a movie that I don’t particularly like. It was the movie “Ever After”, which I haven’t seen in years. The prince of the story is entirely too self-preoccupied for his own good, but after meeting the heroine of the story, he is ignited with passion for things he had never considered before. The scene that came to mind was when he was gushing to her about this newfound zeal and says the line, “I used to think that if I cared about anything I’d have to care about everything, and I’d go stark raving mad. But now I’ve found my purpose.”

My stomach fluttered inside of me and I realized that what I thought I was made for was only a small fraction of the story. What was I beginning to understand about my future? It was as if Jesus was inviting me and my little family into the type of ministry that few (including myself) would think possible. Yes, we could stay in our current house, but I began to feel as though Zack and I were to be like a father and a mother to many who needed to know that kind of love. Too many people have grown up only knowing the abandonment and disappointment associated with being a child of somebody. I’m not even talking about adoption, though I pray we will be able to do that one day as well. I’m talking about expressing the love of Christ to people, young and old alike, that the Lord puts in our path who have never known the peace of a loving Christ-centered home, the warmth of an environment where prayer is commonplace, and the safety found in the care of ones who value those who cannot fight for themselves.

I felt as though the Lord was saying that the home we are currently in is too small for the  ministry assignment He has for us: to do life as lovers of Jesus with a tangible expression of helping those in need in a real way, on a daily basis. It’s a very expensive undertaking. We need a house with lots of room, lots of beds, lots of food, but thankfully I know this: the Lord ALWAYS pays for what He orders.  I have no idea what all of this will mean for the coming year, but life is about to get a lot more exciting for this little Hensley clan.

Staring at the Tsavos

Well… I’ve recently returned from a sucessful honeymoon, during which my husband and I made it to the Field Museum in Chicago. Our one purpose: to see if the legend of the Tsavo Maneaters’ ability to strike fear into even the most stout-hearted, though long dead, was indeed true. We walked boldly up to the glass diorama, and I exclaimed “Staring contest! You and me- NOW!”, quoting my favorite Will Ferrel SNL skit. I held the gaze of the taller of the lions until bordem led me to admire the taxidermy and spout off how weird it was that both of these male lions never grew manes.

The bottom line: I ain’t scared. I’m a little disappointed, but sorry, cats- you just don’t got it anymore.

The Appearance of the Seated One; Part 3

            And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Revelation 4:3            

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this series on the throne room, but I will pick up where I left off. Verse 3 is where things start to get really good. First, we have a man invited into the Beauty Realm by God Himself, who is about to blatantly disclose Himself in a way that had been hinted at in previous centuries to the prophets. We find that He is seated on High with no threat of losing control.     

        John’s eyes are now fixed on a Being who is seated and the best way he can describe the Person in front of him is like two beautiful stones. It is my belief that John, even with all that he witnessed around the throne, had only a small taste of glory, but was seeing the greatest light show imaginable. Jasper is a bit of a conundrum to me, but is a semi-precious stone that is found in several colors, depending on the location it is from. Likely John was relating it to what he knew of the breastplates of the priests. What it looked like exactly is less clear. According to my meager research on the matter, it is possible that the type of Jasper John was referring to was Yellow Jasper, which is the most common color in the Middle-East, but it has also been said that ancient Jasper was more like a really clear diamond than a dull stone, though I have found no concrete sources to support this statement.  Sardius (or Sard) is easier to pin-point. Sard actually means “red” and is defined either as a deep red or orange gem. 

        Why do I find this fascinating? Ezekiel 1:26-27 says this: And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were the appearance of fire with brightness all around.            

The question is, was Ezekiel seeing the Father, or was he seeing the Son? Well, first, we know that John was seeing the Father because if we look back at Revelation 5, the Son comes to the One seated on the throne to receive the scroll. Add to this Revelation 1:13-15 and we have an interesting collage.             …and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace…                        T

        Here is a clear description of Jesus as He appears in His resurrected body. (And for the record, He is a MAN forever!- This is our cue to take a Selah and weep). Now, here is another verse to throw in the mix: Daniel 7:9, which says,           

I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him.           

What is my point? Whether Ezekiel 1 is taking about the Father or the Son, the point is, we have enough verses to come to the conclusion that the Son is just like the Father. In His resurrected state, as seen in Revelation 1, Jesus appears to John just as the Father (the Ancient of Days) appeared to Daniel in Daniel 7.  In John 17:5 I believe Jesus is referencing even their similarity of likeness as Father and Son. He says, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”             The common verse of John 17:24 has an ever deepening meaning when read along side these passages. “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” Though we never pass from humanity into divinity, we are invited into union with the Godhead! This is outrageous.

The Throne’s Occupant; Welcome to the Throne Room Part 2

Immediately I was in the Spirit and behold, a throne set in heaven and One sat on the throne.  Revelation 4:2 

Let me preface this with how vital it is that we peer into the Scriptures with more than an agenda to create an argument to combat those who would disagree. There are times when this may be appropriate, but not in the devotional setting. If the Word of God was merely a sales pitch to slap next to other religions then Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”, could be considered its slogan, but often we read the Bible from this perspective of “Christianity is the best on the market” rather than coming to the Man behind the Words in order that we may be filled with understanding to fall more in love with the Author. Psalm 119:19 says it best, “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.” This is why I am a huge advocate of meditation on the Word, and Revelation 4 is one of those places where I get lost in Beauty.

Last time we were looking at the open door, which I believe to be a representative of Jesus, the only Way to the Father. This time we get to look at the Father Himself. It is mind-numbing to think that the Father was visible to a human in such a way that there were words to choose from in order to describe Him. I love to join Revelation 4:2 with Daniel 7:9-10:I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool, His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.

The marriage of these two passages will blow your mind when you think of it. 100 million angels minister before this One who is seated! That’s just in His immediate presence- this is not including who knows how many who do His bidding on the earth. I find comfort here. He has all sovereignty, all knowledge and all power. O, that we would have high thoughts of God! That we would actually believe we were made in His image rather than believing Him to be the pinnacle of a hierarchy! He is transcendent, not just better than us.The best part about this is that this is the One with the voice of a trumpet who invites John into the heavenly court. He actually wanted him to experience the raw power and beauty of the Great Terror. O, but it gets better…

Welcome to the Throne Room (The Beauty Realm Part 1)

Due to a recent comment by a Sir Kevin in search of things on the “Beauty Realm”, which is better known as “Revelation 4 & 5,” I decided to see what I could do to throw some of my thoughts out there.

Revelation 4 is one of my favorite chapters in the entire Scripture. I am easily fascinated by beauty and when the Origin of beauty Himself is the one being described, I am lost for anything else. Lately I’ve been feeling somewhat caught in the doldrums of routine that I’ve hit the wall of not fixing my mind on things above (Colossians 3). So here is what I’ve got on the matter, but there’s much more to come.

Revelation 4:1 says, After these things I looked and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”

Read more…

Simply Musing

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8) 

But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3)

(This will sound like I’m in mid-thought, but that’s what musing is all about, right? They call it “charaz”, but this isn’t so much “wise sayings” as the definition of the translated word assumes. It’s more incomplete thoughts of a student who loves the Bible, so read on if you don’t mind that kind of scattered-ness). 

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The Saved Depraved

I am so glad I’m saved. Trite? Maybe. But I cannot help myself. Having grown up in the church, it is easy to pass by the profundity of the bestowment of salvation from eternal torment. Even more so if you’ve become too religious for your breeches.

It struck me the other day in a way I had not considered. I was in the middle of a prayer meeting and as I closed my eyes it dawned on me that I should be staring afflicting demons in the face as they shred me apart in hell- and it would be a just sentence…

… but Ephesians 2:4-10 finishes the rest of the story…

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. 

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The Sound of God

Today is stormy. I thank God for thunder because it reminds me of the heavenly throne room. In Revelation 4:5 it says

And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices….

Revelation 15 goes on to talk about how the Sea of Glass before the throne of God will one day be a gathering place for the saints. One of my favorite things in the world is this Sapphire Sea, and when I think of that place, where raw power erupts to the exhilaration to all in close proximity to its electrifying surges of expression, my heart moves with the glory of it all.

This is why I love thunder. As the peels of glory break forth within the heavenly concert, I’m undone as I hear the shadow of things to come when one day I will stand before Him.

High King of heaven, when victory is won. May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun! Heart of my own heart, whatever befall. Still be my vision, O Ruler of all!

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