Saturday, April 28, 2018

Writing in Order to Speak It Out!!!

During the Lenten season,  February 14 - April 1, 2018,  I was asked to speak at two church events.

The first 'ask' was to prepare a reflection (which would be given during the time of a Gospel sermon) at a Woman's Mass at the church where I facilitate evening Bible Scripture studies. The Gospel passage was from John 4, an account of Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at a well in Samaria.

I did not write out that message other than in 'bullet points' I used when speaking from the podium. The Holy Spirit took care of the rest! 

The second request came as 5 of us planned a half day retreat at the same church. The retreat would culminate our Scripture study of the Book of Acts - such a tremendous study!

I was asked to share the same reflection as I had done at the Woman’s Mass. In preparing, I ended up revising the reflection, not the message,  to be more in tune with our retreat theme.

The last sentence in the Book of Acts, as Luke writes of Paul, is this:

“He remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”(NABE)

STM Bible Studies Retreat
Saturday, April 21, 2018
Theme: “Proclaim the Kingdom of God Without Hindrances”
 (Book of Acts)
Reflection:  Lynn Severance

There can be a variety of reasons we may feel hindered in ‘proclaiming’ the kingdom of God. Some that come to my mind are:

  1. As I am not a priest or pastor, what could I say that others would find credible? 
  1. Those in Scripture who did ‘proclaim with vigor’ cause me to feel I am not as they were in the ways I communicate.
  1. We can question ourselves and our own gifts when we compare ourselves to others.

We will find answers if we go to the One who gave each of us unique gifts that are meant to be shared.

Isaiah is one of the books in the Old Testament that is filled with prophecies. We read of their fulfillment in the New Testament. Here is a favorite of mine.

They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. (Isaiah 49:10) NIV

Isn’t this what we are seeking when we want to proclaim God and who He is to us? We need guidance. We need confidence that how we are led by the Holy Spirit, is the way He wants us to follow. We each have individual unique God given gifts that are our ways of proclaiming God’s Kingdom.

In the New Testament book of John, he shares about a woman we know only as the Samaritan woman at the well.

It was on one particular day, in the heat of that day at noon, she came to draw water from the well. There she met Jesus but she had yet to recognize him for who He is. Jesus, however, knew all there was to know about her (even the gifts she had yet to recognize in herself). 

John 4:14    
Jesus said to her:
those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. . . .it will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. 

Just as Isaiah foretold: He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.

The Samaritan woman had walked through the dusty roads of her town that day to get to the well around noon. The morning hours were (in her mind) for the women unlike her, ones with families who used those morning times to share of their lives and, most likely, gossip. Perhaps they had even gossiped about her! 

She had walked through many dusty roads in her life. 

There was a dusty emptiness in her heart, a tired heart not yet aware of how to rightly satisfy the deep needs in her soul.

It was at a ‘well’ on that one day, an ordinary day (or so it seemed ) that all that changed for her.

We read in the Old Testament these words from Proverbs 18:4b

The wellspring of wisdom is as a flowing brook.

We read in the New Testament Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman: 

“. . .those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. . . it will become in them a spring of water gushing up . . .

Isn’t that what we are promised when we come to know Jesus? 

He is the flowing, living water gushing up and his wisdom is what we seek if we are to ‘proclaim the Kingdom of God without hindrances”.

Jesus’ life had been one lived, at times, in dusty turmoil as he walked dirt roads under the hot sun proclaiming the Kingdom of God. He, and what he had to share, was often rejected but He knew what his Father had asked of him. What the Father gave him to share is what he preached. 

For each of us he suffered a journey through a dusty road that led to betrayal, a false trial, scourging and ultimately condemnation to death via Crucifixion. It was a road that led to our deliverance from sin with his victory in a Resurrection defying death. It became a reconciliation for us to our God. It opened the doorway to the wellspring of Living Waters that He is for us.  

Jesus appeared to his apostles a few times after his Resurrection. He let them know that He soon would be returning to His Father. They panicked. How could they do as He asked without him present with them?

As we read in Acts, He said He had to return to the Father so He could send his Holy Spirit to dwell within each of them - His Spirit, the wellspring of living waters continually flowing and gushing up and with wisdom to meet each of their needs. 

Once we come to know him; choose to accept him and all He did for us,

He dwells within the well of each of our hearts. 

He is ever ready for us to meet with him there. He will reveal the unique gifts we have that will help us know how to share - not compare ourselves to  anyone else - but recognize and accept gifts we have been given to proclaim the Kingdom without hindrances.

But we walk dusty roads in our lives. There have been and are events and challenges in each of our lives that can get us so tied up in turmoil in our minds, it can become more than a dusty road but one huge whirlwind of a dust storm. 

We grasp for answers in a panic much as the apostles felt when Jesus told them He had to leave. We scoot here and there in our mind wanting understanding, relief, answers. The noise of turmoil is deafening. It can block out the still small voice in our heart that is wooing us out from the mind-blinding turmoil. And don’t we, as women, love to be wooed!!

The Holy Spirit dwells within the well of our hearts
 not in our minds. 

He longs to meet with us in that quiet place where we can hear him.

It was quiet when the Samaritan woman met Jesus at the well. It was just the two of them. He knew her needs and the words that He would say that He wanted her to hear.  And she did hear. Her life and life direction was changed that day  - just an ordinary day (or so it seemed). 

Later this morning each of us will have some quiet time to reflect, time to be alone and, if desired, to journal the thoughts that come to us.

Let’s pray for one another that we each will meet the Holy Spirit in our heart and allow him to bring us refreshing waters of wisdom and guidance. He alone can share with us what He wants us to know. 

May each of us approach that time knowing He will have something to say and we will be quiet enough to hear!   


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book Excerpt #37 Let All Creation Sing!

19. Let All Creation Sing! 

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. 
Praise the Lord. (Psalm 150: 6) 

When God created his works of creation, He declared everything He made as very good (Genesis 1: 31). In Psalm 150, every part of God’s creation is exhorted to give him praise. God is immutable, incapable of changing (James 1: 17; Hebrews 13: 8). He looks upon the good in his creation, yet acknowledges the evil that exists from the ways mankind has marred his work.

 In Hannah Hurnard’s book, Hinds’ Feet on High Places, the heroine, Much-Afraid, is on a journey guided by her loving Shepherd. As she travels, God’s creation is prominent in the lessons she learns as she encounters flowers, waterfalls, rainbows, mountains, and deserts. 

My perspective thrives when I read this book. It handed me strengthening lessons before chronic illness became my constant companion. Now, insights go deeper with each reading, encouraging me to stay focused and strong. 

One lesson connects to Psalm 150. 

Much-Afraid discovers a single small flower in the desert. It is sustained by keeping its face toward the sun and drinking an occasional drip of water coming from a leak in a pipe. The flower’s name is Acceptance-With-Joy

Unlike mankind, all other creation dwells contentedly in being. Its existence breathes out its praise. Mankind alone chooses if he will respond. From a worldly perspective, this is often viewed merely through one’s accomplishments.

God asks that we be content in him. He looks on each heart’s intent. There is a place and a balance for both accomplishments and stillness. I am not to shy away from tasks He equips me to perform but they do not identify me. He does. I often need renewal in understanding this as there are limitations to what I can now do. 

I want to accept with joy each season in my life. My Creator asks that I turn my face upward to be nourished by him. Throughout all seasons, one constant remains for me.

 I am his.

This is my praise and He declared everything 
He made as very good!

Lord, I join in the chorus of your loving creation that praises you with joy! May you delight in the gift of songs that breathe out our thanksgiving. Amen.

Lynn L. Severance. “Seeking the Light of God's Comforter When Challenges Dim Our View” 19. “Let All Creation Sing!” Redemption Press. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Excerpt # 36 Ultra Sounds

27. Ultra Sounds

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3: 17) 

God consistently ministers to me through music. It can come via classic hymns, current praise songs, or secular music with spiritual meaning arising from its lyrics. Understandably, this Zephaniah verse is a favorite of mine. 

Here is how other translations 
present its end-point message. 

“Who will sing joyfully because of you (NABRE). 

He will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing (KJV). 

With his love, he will calm all your fears (NLT).“

As a lover of words, I find the lyrics in a song can reach the deepest parts of me. I have known difficult times when I endeavored in prayer with no evident relief. Then I would hear or remember a song and the needed encouragement emerged. These verses state that God sings joyfully because of me. 

Imagine that! 
He wants to calm me. 

He is content just to be with me— a quiet calm, soft as a feather sheltered under peace-filled wings. 

During the days I was preparing this writing, a medical test required an ultrasound for further evaluation. The test itself was not unnerving to me, but anxiety arose as to what might be wrong. Listening to music the morning I prepared to leave my home for the appointment, I heard a perfect song. I carried it within me.

 Could this be God’s song during the long test? 

Medical ultrasounds penetrate deeply into a physical body, discovering details undetected otherwise. 

For some reason the vestibular dysfunction condition I live with escalated to fearful heights during this test.

 Could I feel God or hear him singing over me? No. 

Did I keep singing internally? Yes. 

Did his care penetrate deeply as the medical equipment 
did its work? Yes. 

Was it a duet? It surely was!

Lord, I am aware that the ultra sound I need most to hear is the whisper of your presence in the midst of my turmoil. Thank you that your songs of delight are not dependent on my feelings. Your love and faithfulness is resonating at all times. Amen.

Lynn L. Severance. “Seeking the Light of God's Comforter When Challenges Dim Our View”. 27. Ultra Sounds. Redemption Press. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Allowing Jesus to Turn Water into Wine

This devotional is from the “Rest Ministries” vault and showed up as a ‘memory’ on Facebook from January 27, 2014!!

It seems as relevant as an encouragement now as it was then - at least in my life where much transformation is going on!

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2a).

Scripture’s account of Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana is compelling. Jesus loved a celebration. Although He felt that his time to manifest God’s glory had not yet come, He knew His Father’s heart that the celebration not be spoiled.

Jesus and water are themes throughout Scripture.

Immediately after His baptism in the Jordan River, He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where Satan tempted Him for 40 days. The anointed waters of baptism surely nourished Him to resist.

When adversities pound into my life, I am exhorted to: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1: 2).

How can I count the daily afflictions “as joy” had I not the strength of the Holy Spirit’s blessed presence–a wine transforming my watered weaknesses for God’s purposes? It is a surrender impossible without my trust in Him.

My life, no longer full of vitality that I once knew, can cause me to feel much like the jars of clay filled to the brim with plain water. Though water is life giving, when celebration is the dress for the day, what am I to do with the feelings that I have been left out?

I can remember Mary’s words to the servants at that Cana feast. “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).

God asks me to trust the miracle of His living water within me, more powerful than wine, but also the fruit of the Vine I cling to.

God trusts me! Best I keep learning by trusting Him so that I can can be ready for His transformational miracles that will change my life.

Prayer: Lord, only You have the power to make the changes in my heart and life that will most richly honor You. My heart’s desire is to be still and to let Your power unfold miraculously. Amen.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Book Excerpt #35 "Serving the Lord with Gladness"

25. Serving the Lord with Gladness 

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 
(Psalm 100: 1-2 ESV) 

As I read this verse, I recall early August of 1987 when I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. I was emotionally numb, awakening from surgery to this startling news. The following day, after a sleepless night, a stirring turned me to a flicker deep within. I whispered, “Lord, help me. My eyes are upon you.”

 I had a deep encounter with the Lord, who came gently with his still small voice. He had to reveal to me what I was feeling. Each emotion was addressed and counsel given. I later realized that He had personally taken me through the first part of Scripture’s 2 Chronicles 20. 

Therein, Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah are awaiting enemy armies that totally outnumber them. Feeling powerless, they turn to the Lord for help. 

He tells them not to be afraid: 

“For the battle is not yours, but God’s . . .You will not have to fight this battle . . . stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you . . . Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”  (2 Chronicles 20: 15, 17)

I relaxed knowing I could confidently face 
my overwhelming enemy. 

The rest of that Scripture has Jehoshaphat instructing his people to go forth to meet the armies, singing praises to God. This became my stance during my months of chemotherapy treatments. 

The people of Judah and I experienced victory 
over a beaten foe.

As to the above psalm’s verses? I came to recognize more deeply that I serve a faithful God. He continues to uphold me as I face challenges, some lasting years beyond the cancer diagnosis and triumph. 

He reminds me very often that the enemy is beaten. 
I am not. 

He is worthy to be served and praised. He first served me as Savior. Now I serve him with a spirit of joy, gladness, and song because He has shown me that is how one celebrates knowing the Lord is the One securing the victories.

Lord, help me continue to make a joyful noise, praising you. Your faithfulness is known, received, cherished, and everlasting. Amen.

Lynn L. Severance.”Seeking the Light of God's Comforter When Challenges Dim Our View” 25. Serving the Lord with Gladness.” Redemption Press.