Tuesday, October 27, 2020

My Offering

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also love you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2 Standing in my kitchen, I was praying that what I was putting together for a friend would convey what I want her to know, that I so deeply appreciate her. As my mind spun around what can I add? What would she really like? Is this enough? I had to laugh. That is so often my prayer, “Lord, I don’t have anything to give. I don’t give enough. What can I possibly do?” and on, and on and…. Well, you get it, I’m sure. May I just say, GOD IS GOOD! (Yes, I know the caps mean I’m shouting. Yes, I am shouting!) While I was preparing my “gift” I was thinking about how often I feel that I don’t do enough, for friends, for family, for my hubby and certainly for God. I had music playing, another pretty typical occurrence. The Third Day song, “Offering” started to play and I started singing along. The song was half over when I stopped, realizing what I was singing. “This is my offering.” “I will give you my life.” I looked around my kitchen and at first, I thought this was God’s way of showing me that what I was doing for my friend was enough. She wasn’t expecting anything, so whatever I was doing was going to be a blessing. Then the bigger picture hit. I was doing for my friend because she is a blessing to me. She is a gift. It’s an offering to her, yes but I was giving to her also as a way of thanking God for her. Never wanting to give a small gift God then turned my mind to the place where I feel least adequate, with Him. There’s a lyric in that same song that says, “I stand before You at this altar, so many have given you more.” Now that one I get. That hits home. In His amazing grace God showed me that I do give Him my all, not all the time of course but more often than I realize. I stood in my kitchen and hit the replay button. I sang that song with all that I have. I am the offering that I have to give to Jesus. It’s small potatoes in comparison to what He’s given me but to Him, it’s exactly what He wants. If you don’t know the song or even if you do… I highly recommend listening to it. It’s a great reminder that if we will give back what has been given to us, God is faithful to bless us by using us to bless others. In other words, He will happily accept our offering, no matter how small it may seem to us, it is the perfect gift to God.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Selective Sight

You shall not bow down to them; for I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me but showing love to the a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:5-6 A precious little one that I know has a glass eye. We’ll call him Jack. Beyond the lack of his eye, Jack has a lot of other challenges. His brain hasn’t caught up with his chronology and it most likely never will. My expectation is that Jack will always need someone close by to help him through life. He’s a needy kid who is also a little bit on the naughty side. It was his uniquely naughty nature that taught me a spiritual lesson. You see, little Jack can pop out that glass eye and he does. The other day while I was with him another child in the room was yelling, “Eye, eye, eye.” Not having experienced Jack’s particular talent I heard it is “I, I, I”. Just as I was about to ask her to please be patient, another adult in the room responded. First, she thanked the little girl for pointing out the problem. Then she scooped up the eyeball and placed it in a little pouch. Reinserting it would be addressed later. I looked at sweet Jack and saw that eyelid closed as he continued with his very important task of spinning a cup on the table. So precious! It may not sound precious to you but if you could see this kid….! Later while praying and reading Scripture I saw Jack’s antics in a different light. Jack was task avoiding, so he popped his eye out. For a moment I thought about that. How often do I pop out or even just close my spiritual eyes? Answer: When I’m avoiding the Truth, when like Jonah before me I’m running away. Jack can’t see with that glass eye, so removing it is really just a naughty behavior. I, we, can pop our eyes out or at least turn them away from what we don’t want to see. That’s great when it’s something offensive but it isn’t great when like little Jack, it’s a naughty (read sinful) behavior. We read and sing about turning our eyes toward Jesus, toward our Father, toward heaven. When we do it may bring challenges but it also brings us closer to God. When we pop our eyes out or cast them away from God we miss out on so much. We look at lesser things. We deny the sacred in favor of the mundane or worse, the offensive. Pray today to have eyes that see and to keep those eyes, not just in their sockets but focused on what is true, lovely and praise worthy. Let that sight lead us closer and closer to our Savior and Lord.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Limping and Running Like a Prodigal

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive grace and mercy to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him: he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20b To say that I love the story of the Prodigal (Lost) Son is a vast understatement. I don’t even know how to express my deep appreciation and connection to that parable. I do know this, I have been the older brother, I have been the father (and in the sense of standing in an empty doorway, still am) but today I find myself in the uncomfortable but to me, enviable, position of the son. For the past few days I have myself wandering in a desert of my own making. The lousy choices, though encouraged by others, have been my own. The phrase “lousy choices” isn’t even accurate. I’m finding myself revisiting the same sin pattern over and over. This morning I woke up feeling, “sick of it, done with it and over it” as my granddaughter Harper used to say. Today I fell at our Father’s feet like a dirty, hungry, miserable prodigal. For me this isn’t about wasting money or living a wild life. For me it’s been more of an ignoring God’s will and commandments to serve my own agenda. Now, serving my own agenda might not sound that bad but before you excuse my behavior let me avail you of the consequences in just a few words. I have felt apart from God. NO! I am blessed to say that I’m not starving in a physical sense. We have a comfy home, plenty of food and clothes and my husband and I are very happy together. We can hope it was an empty soul but we know it was an empty belly that sent the prodigal back to his father’s house. That is not the case here. My belly is full. My soul felt broken. This morning I went to our Father feeling dirty, ashamed and disgusted. I’ve wasted time and opportunities. I’m not giving specifics of my sin because I know how many people would minimize them with an “oh everybody does that”. Well, I don’t answer for everybody, only for me and my heart needed very much to confess and receive forgiveness. How did God respond? Oh sit down sweet sisters and brothers in Christ because this is beautiful! I cried out, feeling guilty and ashamed and God answered with this, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 To me that is the exact equivalent of a cloak, a ring and a fatted calf. I cried out to be cleaned, forgiven and accepted and God, in His tender mercy, pulled me into His embrace. If you feel at all lost or removed from God, take a look at your life. If there’s something there that causes you to cringe or try to escape, take it immediately to God’s throne. Go there with confidence, knowing that forgiveness is waiting. My obstacle is lifted now. I can sit with God and there’s nothing in between us. You can do the same! Run (or limp) like a prodigal and fall into the only embrace that truly matters.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

"I Said Please!"

But Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man is not to live on bread only, but Man is to live by every word that God speaks.’” Matthew 4:4 Jesus said to the devil, “It is written also, ‘You must not tempt the Lord your God.’” Matthew 4:7 Our adorable youngest grandson, Luther, is about eighteen months old. A couple of months ago he discovered the power of the word please and he’s been using it ever since. When he asks for anything he quickly says, “I said please!” Which given his age sounds a lot more like “I said peas” but that makes it even more powerful. The problem is that in Luther’s mind, “I said peas” is an absolute guarantee of a positive response. Not so for poor Monkey, (my nickname for him). Imagine his reaction one day when he gave me his “I said peas” and I responded, “I said no.” He was shocked! How I dare I say no when he said please? Luther’s please, as precious, adorable and sometimes powerful as it is, follows the pattern of Jesus’ response to Satan. The difference being, while I can, hard as it is, look at his face, that tiny face with the huge eyes, and say no, Satan cannot stand when Jesus says, “It is written”. The way that Jesus responds to Satan is a perfect example for us. When we are tempted or tried we need to respond the same exact way, “It is written” and follow it with a promise from our Lord. What comes after “it is written” depends on our circumstances or situation but this I know, there is a Scripture for every temptation, problem or challenge that we will encounter. When Satan taunts that you are alone, that no one cares, respond with this. “It is written, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’” Take that Satan! Not only am I not alone but I am in the company of my Savior, filled with His precious Holy Spirit. If you aren’t familiar with God’s promises to us, look them up in your Bible. Become familiar enough with a few of them so that even if you can’t recite it perfectly or offer the chapter and verse you can certainly stop Satan in his tracks. Remember this, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 Remind the enemy that you walk in the Light! Or simply say the Lord’s name. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and they are safe.” Proverbs 18:10 Follow Luther’s example, “I said please!” Say, “I said, it is written!”

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Encountering God Unexpectedly

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20 The other day I heard the old song, “American Pie” by Don McLean. Toward the end of the song, he references, “the three men I admire most.” He goes on to identify them, “the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.” If you look up the lyrics, those names are appropriately capitalized so, I suppose the writer has at least a passing respect for those precious names. I don’t pretend to know anything about his faith but I know his lyrics shine a spotlight on my own faith. I love running into words about God where you don’t readily expect them. There’s another old song called “Get Together” which contains the lyric “when the One that left us here, returns for us at last”, referring to Jesus’ return. I write fiction. Some of my characters are very strong in their faith and because of that, my readers come across Scripture and conversations about God. I know that my motives are pure. I want to point people in the direction of the marvelous Light, the One True God. I cannot speak for any other author or songwriter but I can say this, it doesn’t matter. The motivation of the writer isn’t what is important. What matters is what happens to us when we hear God’s name or words about Him. I mentioned songs that seem to present God in a very positive light. There are plenty that misuse His name, His attributes and His Word. While I am certainly disgusted when God is not honored, I still can be thankful for the fact that He has been brought to my mind. I cannot answer for another person’s motives but I can stop and praise God every time I encounter His name or something about Him. Look and listen to the world around you. There are so many people, too many people who ignore God with their lifestyles and behaviors but even they know His name. It amazes me that anyone can question God’s existence when His influence is so far reaching. Enjoy the moments when God surprises you with His presence. Then try to live in a way that brings Him more and more into the world.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Hidden Gems

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him he said to Phillip, “Where shall we buy bread for all these people to eat?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit on the grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). John 6:5, 10 “About five thousand men were there.” Five thousand men. That doesn’t even begin to address women and children. We have some pretty good indicators that there were women and children were there as well. The verses say, “people” not just men and they eventually get the starter food from a boy (verses 8-9). So how many people were there? If we say that even half of the men brought a wife with them that takes us to seven thousand five hundred. If each couple came with one child (highly unlikely that there would only be one child in each family) that adds another two thousand five hundred for a grand total of ten thousand and that is a low estimate. Have you ever gone to an outdoor event where there is a speaker? We don’t rely on the voice of that speaker reaching through the crowd. They use all manner of sound equipment to make sure that the speaker is heard throughout the crowd. Even so, if you end up far enough away, back in the out edges or up in the nosebleed seats, you don’t always hear every word accurately. In Jesus’ day sound equipment didn’t exist. Yet at least ten thousand people gathered to hear Him speak and to see His face. Think about that for a moment. Go back to the same crowded event of our day. How do we make sure everyone can see the action? Jumbo screens strategically placed. Jesus didn’t have cameras or screens. Still all those people walked some distance to catch a glimpse of Jesus and to hear Him speak. We read the story and are amazed, as we should be, that Jesus took five loaves and two fish and fed an enormous crowd. Huge miracle for sure but not the only miracle in the story. Jesus drew all those people to Him and as far as we know it wasn’t because He was gorgeous. (Isaiah 53:2) Ten thousand or better followed Him to that place. How did they know where He would be? They didn’t have radio and TV ads or billboards along the road. No one was sending out social media blasts. So how did they know? Another miracle.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Enjoy the Gifts

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 The other day I was running low on paper towels. Realizing that fact, I became more aware each time I used one. Just the day before I would grab a paper towel and not think twice but once I knew that I was on my last roll, I became cautious. That made me think about God and how I handle all that He has given me. In several places in my home you will see the first half of the verse above, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” Those words are followed by the reminder, “Remember to thank the Giver.” I have one on the door coming into our house from the garage. There’s one on the pantry door, one on the door to our bedroom, one on our hall bathroom mirror and maybe one or two more. If someone stops to read it and gives thanks to God, that is great. That is not, however, why they are there. I put them there to remind myself that everything I have is a gift. Too often we see God’s love and generosity as something to use sparingly, as I did with my dwindling paper towel supply. We don’t want to over ask God. We don’t want to sound spoiled or incapable. Too many of us have the idea that some of our needs or wants are too trivial, that God has more important things to do and care about, so we should leave Him alone. Wrong! God’s love is the complete opposite of my paper towel dilemma. God’s love is endless and all encompassing. The more I ask of Him, the more I turn over to His guidance, the more I lean on His understanding and not my own, the more peaceful and joyful my life becomes. God cares about us to a level we cannot comprehend. Luke 12:6-7 says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” God’s love and provision are endless, boundless. He wants to give us good gifts. Do we want to receive them? While my paper towel usage may need to be limited based on supply, my use of God’s love should never be limited. I, we, should be open to receive whatever God sees fit to send our way. Don’t worry about being worthy. We’re not. Don’t measure today’s need or want against what may come up tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day and God’s great faithfulness is new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23) Perhaps there is some earthly possession that you need to use carefully but don’t approach God with that same attitude. His love is lavish (1John 3:1) and He wants us to receive it, use it and share it, all day, every day.