An Appetite for Righteousness

An Appetite for Righteousness by Karen Jurgens

First published on Heart”wings” Blog.

Have you ever thought of sin as having an appetite? Even in Genesis, God appeals to Cain: “If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” ~ Genesis 4:7.

What’s your weakness? Mine involves food and always has. Once I get the taste for sweets, I find that I can’t stop my cravings for them. On the other hand, when I fast sweets, I find that a mere taste of sugar repulses my taste buds. Now I cultivate my appetite for healthy foods so I don’t fall back into those bad habits. Just as sin places an appetite in us to do wrong, so God gives us an appetite for righteousness. Look at these scriptures:

“O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” ~ Psalms 34:8.

“How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” ~ Psalms 119:103.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” ~ Matthew 5:6.

“The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger, But He will reject the craving of the wicked” ~ Proverbs 10:3.

“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied” ~ Luke 6:21.

Appetite for Righteousness

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” ~ John 6:35.

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance” ~Isaiah 55:2.

“Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” ~ 1 Peter 2:2.

“But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, And with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” ~ Psalms 81:16.

Where do we begin? Proverbs 9:10 sets our feet on the first step of our journey:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Did you know that wisdom seeks us out?

“Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars; She has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine; She has also set her table; She has sent out her maidens, she calls from the tops of the heights of the city; ‘Whoever is naïve, let him turn in here!’ To him who lacks understanding she says, ‘Come, eat of my food And drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your folly and live, And proceed in the way of understanding’” ~ Proverbs 9:1-6

An Appetite for Righteousness by Karen Jurgens

Today you’re invited to the Lord’s table. Fill yourself up with His word. Drink of His water that never runs dry.

“And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail” ~ Isaiah 58:11.

Dear Lord, You tell us in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” May You give each of us today an appetite that drives us to satisfy our hunger and thirst for Your righteousness. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

~ All scripture is from the New American Standard Version.

Final Grains of Sand

First published in 2015, I want to again share my thoughts with you this Father’s Day. Wishing everyone a blessed day of celebration or blessed memories of  your father.
sands in hourglass

During my regular run in a nearby park, I slowed to a walk in the midst of the growing afternoon heat, mopping away the perspiration dripping down my face. Close behind me, a father and his little girl held hands as they went along. Proximity provided me an ear to their conversation.

“I love you, Daddy, on Father’s Day.” Her excited voice bubbled up to him.

“I love you, sweetheart, every day!” His tone promised forever, unconditional love.

The exchange was precious, and a smile spread across my face, reminding me of my own father. The only thing I have of him now are my sweet memories since he went to heaven twenty years ago. How I yearn to have him on earth again, to walk hand in hand, and tell him that I love him. Even though that’s not possible, I still have the rich legacy he left behind.

Growing up, he shared his love of baseball with me. In summer, he taught me how to play softball by practicing batting and playing catch in the backyard after dinner. He took my mother and me to practically every Reds game, beginning at the old Crosley Field and continuing years later in Riverfront Stadium. We had great seats in the section where visiting VIPs would watch Opening Day, the Playoffs or the World Series, and I have lots of famous signatures on my scorecard books tucked away for permanent safe-keeping.

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Although I still have his valuable collection of autographed baseballs and bats, my most precious possession is my memory of sitting next to him at the games, sharing a bag of fresh roasted peanuts, and asking all those annoying questions–whether foul tips count as balls or strikes, and who the players were—all which he patiently answered. Whether quoting RBI or home run averages, he lit up and was at his happiest when discussing the sport he loved most.IMG_1824IMG_1480

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Around the house, cutting the grass was one of his favorite jobs. Anyone who knew him would remember that because his lawn was always perfect. When I was a kid, our lawn’s size was an acre, and I used to sit on the front steps for hours and watch him mow. After he finished, we would sit together for a while and admire the fruit of his labor. Afterward, he would invite me to go with him to a nearby fast food restaurant, Henry’s, for a celebratory orange soda. Each week during grass season we followed the same routine, and that memory of sharing those times with him is still a comfort today.

Skelton_dood_it_1942My dad was also a big tease with a great sense of humor. I can remember his laughter at comedy shows back in the ‘60’s like Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Carol Burnette. But he also played jokes on his own family. When I was about five or so, he convinced me that if I could sprinkle salt on a bunny’s tail, then I could catch it. That entire summer I ran around the backyard with a salt shaker, but never could catch a single rabbit. I didn’t learn the truth until school began that fall. I thought that he must have had a good laugh watching me zigzag around the lawn with that salt shaker as he encouraged me to keep trying.

He also passed on important lessons of character through his own example for which I am eternally grateful. I learned about developing a good work ethic as I witnessed him work tirelessly as he provided well for his family. He is a true example of how to attain the American Dream.

He taught me to be honest and never lie (the few times I tried, I always got caught).

I learned to be obedient to his rules and respectful to others in authority (he only had to take me over his knee once, never twice).

He always instructed me, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.” (I’m always working on that one.)

His example of keeping everything clean, neat, and in its place made a huge impression on me. Order and peace reigned in our home and, to this day, is an important priority.

IMG_1829 (2)Most of all, his love of Jesus Christ and public profession of his Christian faith spoke volumes to me, teaching me to always be an active church member, study the Word of God, and tithe the first ten percent of my income to the church. His courage and fearlessness to stand up and speak up for what’s right have been my bedrock over the years. Even though he is not physically here, the Christian convictions that he modeled live within me as a rich heritage.

In November, 1994, a time arrived when he could no longer play his role as protector, and our roles reversed. On a day when he had routine prostate surgery, the doctor gave my mother the bad news. She wrote a note on the back of a dry cleaning receipt she found in her purse and handed it to me when I walked into his hospital recovery room. It’s bladder cancer. The doctor says it’s hopeless. At that point, my mother and I became his caregivers until his death on June 13, 1995—just a few days shy of Father’s Day.

Amid the sadness of that time, two specific occasions are picture-framed in my memory’s gallery. The first was after he was diagnosed with cancer and my mother had just told him the bad news. I entered their bedroom where he was standing and hugged him, saying, “I love you, Daddy.” We both shed tears. The last grains of sand in his life’s hourglass were swiftly slipping away.

The second was after he had been admitted to a nursing care facility for Hospice patients. His memory would come and go as he slipped into dementia, due to big doses of experimental chemo. One afternoon when he was lucid, I was guiding his wheelchair through the outdoor gardens where we stopped to admire the beautiful flowers. I took that opportunity to thank him for being such a wonderful father and told him how much I loved and appreciated him. That was one of the final days that he recognized me, and I am eternally thankful to God that I was given a window to tell him one last time. Such a priceless gift.

So, as I look into the sky this Father’s Day, I breathe out these words toward heaven. “I love you, Daddy. On Father’s Day and every day.

depression dove

Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost Sunday by Karen Jurgens

On the fiftieth day after Jesus’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended on those gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, as Messiah promised. Here’s the story from the Scriptures:

A Memorial to Freedom

A Memorial to Freedom by Karen Jurgens

Recently President Trump reminded us that freedom is a gift from God, not a gift from government.

How very true.

On Memorial Day, we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom in the United States: courageous men and women who have answered the call to defend our nation by the power of God. This verse summarizes it well:

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” ~John 15:13.

Memorial Day, a sacred day, is the proof of victory for all Americans. We honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to purchase our national freedom with their blood.

A Memorial to Freedom by Karen Jurgens

Is it a coincidence that we celebrate the memory of our brave men and women the day following Ascension Sunday? No, for these days have much in common.

Just as the president is our military’s Commander-in-Chief, Jesus is our spiritual Commander-in-Chief.

He proved His rank by living a sinless life and obeying the authority of God the Father.

He fought and won spiritual battles against Satan, such as after fasting forty days in the wilderness.

Obedient even to death on a cross, He purchased our salvation by laying down His life for our freedom from death, hell, and the grave.

Through His death and resurrection, He gave us power to overcome the enemy, Satan, through the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

The Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, is our weapon of warfare.

Forty days after His resurrection, He ascended into heaven and took His seat at the right hand of God the Father—the ultimate victory, the battle won.

How do we value freedom? Its cost is priceless—God’s precious gift to us.

As we honor our military today, thankful for the priceless sacrifice of each life, let’s also honor Jesus Christ who gave the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind.

A Memorial to Freedom by Karen Jurgens

Ascension Sunday

Ascension Sunday by Karen Jurgens

Let’s rejoice together this Sunday as we celebrate the day Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.

Conviction versus Condemnation

conviction v condemnation by Karen Jurgens

What is the difference between conviction and condemnation?

Conviction is a positive thing. God uses it to prod us when we’re tempted and fall into sin. It’s like Jiminy Cricket sitting on Pinocchio’s shoulder, whispering, “Don’t do that! Turn away.”

In a Christian’s life, the whisperer is the Holy Spirit. He pierces our hearts unto salvation with discipline wrapped in love and moves us from disobedience back to the cross. Through the blood of the Lamb, grace awaits to cover and cleanse us from our sins.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” ~ 1 John 1:9 NASB.

Receiving God’s forgiveness is an uplifting, positive experience that provides freedom from guilt and shame. It’s like a caged bird flying through an open door, soaring through blue skies to rejoice in infinite freedom.

Forgiveness. There’s truly nothing like it.

Conviction v Condemnation by Karen Jurgens

Condemnation, however, is a horse of a different color, as the saying goes. Society uses the term many ways, such as a courtroom where a criminal faces imprisonment or death for a crime, according to the law.

Condemnation is depression at its blackest. The absence of hope. Termination. Utter despair. Guilt and shame.

Who condemns us? God?

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” ~ John 3:17.

Remember the bible story of the woman caught in adultery? According to their laws, she was condemned, caught in the very act. Before stoning her, the men asked Jesus his opinion—only for the purpose of bringing accusation against Him. But Jesus replied:

“‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’” ~ John 8:7.

As the men left, one by one, only Jesus remained.

“Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more’” ~ John 8:10-11.

If not God, then who condemn us?

Think back to the bible story of Job. Satan was permitted by God to test His righteous servant to prove his loyalty to God. Satan accused Job:

“But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to your face” ~ Job 1:11.

What about Adam and Eve in the garden? And Jesus during His forty-day fast in the wilderness? You know the answer.

Satan, the author of sin and death, condemns.

After all, sin is separation from God, and separation from God is death. Spiritual death now, while we are physically alive. But after we die,  physical and spiritual death for eternity. The only chance we have to escape eternal damnation is to confess our sins while we’re alive.  After we die, it’s too late. Truly, we sentence ourselves because God gave us the power to choose our eternal destination through our free will.

conviction v condemnation by Karen Jurgens

Will you be condemned and sentenced to hell?

Or will you be convicted, saved, and go to heaven?

If the Holy Spirit is convicting you, here is an example of a prayer you can pray:

Dear Lord, I confess I’m a sinner. I’m sorry from my sins and repent at the cross. Wash away the stains with your precious blood and make me righteous through Jesus Christ. Thank you for forgiving me and writing my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Conviction v Condemnation by Karen Jurgens

 

 

The Passion of Christ

Each year at Easter, I anticipate Passion Week, especially Good Friday. If the sky isn’t dark and rainy between noon and 3 pm, I feel cheated. I expect nature to reflect the deep spiritual meaning of this day. In my soul, I want to drink deeply of the scriptures, worshiping at the foot of the cross of my Saviour. I want:

  • to again be humble before Him, to endeavor to understand the depths of His sufferings and their meaning of freedom for me as a believer;
  • to take communion with a deeper perspective than the previous year;
  • to commune deeply with Jesus and feel His Holy Spirit within me;
  • to listen to what the Holy Spirit would speak to me on this holiest of Holy Days; and
  • to be still and know that He is God, my Saviour, and my Redeemer.

Here are some scriptures from Luke 22 and Luke 23 for further reflection.

May the Lord touch you as we continue worshiping with “Oh The Blood” by Kari Jobe with Gateway Worship.

The Passion of Christ

Dread in the Garden of Gethsemane

What do you dread?

  • The first day of school?
  • Beginning a diet?
  • Facing a new job?
  • Speaking in front of a group?

No matter our circumstances, we all can plug in a memory that makes our palms sweat and our stomachs knot, where we’re forced to tiptoe through a tunnel laced with fear of the unknown.

Do you think Jesus felt dread on Thursday night following the Passover meal? Unlike us, He knew the future because He was God as well as man. As He entered the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples, as was His custom, He encouraged them to pray that they not enter into temptation.

Dread in the Garden of Gethsemane by Karen Jurgens

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground ~ Luke 22:41-44, NASB.

Can you imagine drops of sweat turning into blood? I researched that condition and found that it’s indeed possible. Blood vessels clustered near the sweat glands can burst under extreme stress, producing bloody sweat. (To read more about drops of sweat turning into blood, follow this link.)

Luke, a physician, is the only apostle who includes this detail about Jesus. It lends understanding about the tremendous dread our Lord must have felt as He prepared to suffer and surrender His life for the sins of all mankind—past, present and future. God even sent an angel to minister strength to Him in that hour.

On this Maundy Thursday, let’s reverently give humble thanks to our precious Lord who willfully pressed through the dread of the coming Cross. There He would bear our sins, knowing He would face temporary separation from the Father—the price He willingly paid to redeem us at Calvary.

The precious blood of the Lamb sets us free from sin and death. My prayer is for all to find salvation in Jesus, God’s perfect Passover Lamb. These verses tell how:

…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED” ~ Romans 10:9-13, NASB.

May God richly bless you this Easter season as together we worship our Lord and Saviour, Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace in the Midst of the Storm

Peace in the storm

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!” ~ 2 Thessalonians 16:33 NASB.

Two am. The dark silence of sleeping night explodes with a piercing siren from my phone.

Tornado warning. Take cover immediately.

I stumble out of bed, reach for my robe, and peer through a shutter. In the highlight of garage spotlights, driving rain pelts sideways through the shadows. Trees bend sideways, their new leaves shaking violently as they cling madly to their branches. A city siren screams warnings over the howling wind to take cover. I fumble down the stairs in the dark, aiming for the safety of the tornado closet, praying that God spares our home and our lives from destruction.

The next morning, the sun shines golden bright. The sky is clear blue, washed so clean that it sparkles. Trees lift their leaves upward, as though casually sunbathing at the beach. All is calm, all recent violence forgotten. Trails of downed leaves and debris lay scattered on the roads—the only sign left of those early whirlwinds.

Driving through it jogs my memory of a dream about a tornado I had a few years ago. Like an etched vision, it doesn’t fade with the passage of time, probably because it represents a paradox.

Here’s the dream:

I was standing in a house, looking through a huge picture window on the second floor. Flatland circled the property, and I could see only ground and sky in the far distance. Then the wind kicked up, and storm clouds colored the horizon. A purple funnel appeared, barreling toward the house. I yelled to my family to head down to the basement to take cover, but I was glued at the window, watching the violent twister approach.

Just yards away from striking the house, the funnel cloud suddenly changed into a giant man. He looked directly at me through the window as he walked toward me, holding out his hands as if to help. What struck me most was the deep compassion on his face. He appeared extremely concerned for my safety and well-being, and I sensed that he was my protection from the storm.

But at the same time, he was the storm.

That’s the paradox.

My interpretation is that God abides camouflaged within our storms of life. What brings destruction also results in cleansing and newness. Although we fear the roaring whirlwinds around us, Jesus is in control and will protect us, His children, from harm.

Where does Scripture reflect this principle? One example is the story of Jesus and His disciples sailing across the Sea of Galilee.

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“And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”” ~ Matthew 8:24-27 NASB.

I’m left with a picture of the awe-struck disciples on their knees, worshiping Jesus who stands before them. I envision the same outstretched hands and compassionate eyes like the man in my dream, whom I believe to be the Lord.

Are you caught up in a tornado, a storm of life?

Don’t fear.

Jesus is at the center of your storm.

He is your peace.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” ~ John 16:33 NASB.

 

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