Sunday, November 27, 2016

In The Air


 

"Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:39-40

A few years ago my mother was visiting from New York and we went shopping. Our first stop was a shoe store. We'd been there just a few minutes when Mom touched my arm. “Trish, is this a Christian song?” She asked me. I stopped just idly humming along and actually listened. “Yes it is.” Mom seemed baffled by that but didn't stop to comment as the shoes were too distracting.

Next stop a department store. While the shoe store is regional, as in they don't have them in New York, the department store is national, Mom is very familiar with that store. Once again she stopped. “Trish! This is the same song that was on in the shoe store! It's a Christian song. You said it is.”

Not sure why this needed to be mentioned again, I nodded. Yes, it was the same song. She then went on to express her surprise that it would be playing in the store! Oh right! I live smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt versus her home in Upstate New York! I guess it would seem odd to hear Christian songs mingled in with all the other music or as in the case of the shoe store, the only songs being played.

Today, whether you live in Florida, North Carolina, California or New York you are going to hear the name of Jesus while you're shopping. You're going to hear songs sung about the King, about the heavenly birth. Why? It's the tail end of November and because it is, stores everywhere are playing Christmas/Christian music. I love it!

It's not just about which state you call home either. It's also about who you claim as god, if in fact you claim a god. None of that matters. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic and atheist, we're all hearing the same songs. It is the one time of the year when Jesus is freely and gloriously proclaimed everywhere. Walking through stores I see and hear people singing along and humming along with lyrics like, “let every heart, prepare him room” and “what child is this” along with “go tell it on the mountain, Jesus Christ is born.” Granted those are sandwiched in with “Santa is coming to town” and “let it snow, let it snow” but that's not a problem. It just means that people who rarely, if ever, hear the name of Jesus are hearing it at least for a month or so and maybe sometime in that month they will truly hear it and believe.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Cursed or Blessed


 

Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength and
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He will be like a bush in the wastelands:
he will not see prosperity when it comes.
But blessed is the man who trust in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
Jeremiah 17:5b-6a, 7-8a

Jeremiah 17 has so much to say! In referring to the man who is like a tree planted by the water the Lord goes on to say that “it does not fear” and that “it has no worries.” Doesn't that sound wonderful? Why does that tree live with such confidence? The answer is in the verses above, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.”

The part of the verse that first caught my eye many years ago, was this, “He will not see prosperity when it comes.” It doesn't say it won't come. It says the man who trusts in his own flesh, his way, will not see prosperity. You know a “man” like that I bet. He worries and moans and declares woe is me, over and over. Meanwhile you're looking at a life that looks pretty good. Bills are paid, he's in good health, family is intact. So what's the problem? It's not enough. Again, the question is why and again the answer is in the verse. They're not satisfied because they're trusting in the flesh, in their own efforts.

Look at the man referred to as blessed. That man trusts in the Lord. The rest of verse eight says that man does not fear or worry, even though heat comes and even in times of drought. That man neither fears nor worries and using the tree analogy, the Scripture says that “its leaves are always green” and that “it never fails to bear fruit.” That man is not looking to his own power. That man is looking to his Father, to the source of all good things. (James 1:17)

Looking at circumstances, at the people around me I might decide that I need more; that what I have, what I am is not enough. Looking at my Savior, at the gifts from my Abba, I can see that my cup overflows. No thing, no amount of things, money, success is ever enough if that is your god and your goal. If God is your God and pleasing Him is your goal then whatever you have is a blessing.

Recognizing that what we truly need to live is a relationship with Jesus Christ, changes everything. It doesn't mean that we'll suddenly be rich and famous, living worry free lives in perfect health. It means that we know whatever comes along, whatever our circumstances may be that God is on His throne, that He loves us and regardless of how it may look, our leaves are green and our trees are producing fruit.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Blame


 

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities: the punishment that brought us peace was on him and
by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 (emphasis mine)
In responding to a note from a friend I was reminded of my childhood. Once I got to an age where I could make decisions and plans of my own, I seemed to have my parents' trust. I would provide information about my plans and for the most part, they okayed them. Then my sister did something that really upset them and the hammer came down.

Bear in mind, the sin, if you will, was hers. She did it all by herself. I wasn't with her nor did I have any knowledge of what she was doing. To add insult to injury, when our parents confronted her she lied and that is the day that trust went out the window to be replaced by inquisition. Her lies led to my being cross-examined.

At that point my behavior, my choices and integrity no longer mattered. One horse had gotten out of the barn so they bolted the door on the next one. What was a quick, this is where I'm going and this is who is going with me conversation became endless questions. In response, I rebelled. Why oh why oh why was I paying for my sister's mistake? Short answer, my parents were living out of fear. Prior to her actions they had no thought that their daughters would behave that way. In light of new information rules had to be applied.

Whether or not that was right or fair is not the point. The point is this, I resented them and my sister because I was paying a penance for someone else. At the time all it brought up was anger. Later in life it would give me a glimpse, a teeny, tiny, infinitesimal glance at what Jesus did for all of us. In light of that I am no happier about what happened all those years ago. I am however so very, very, very grateful for grace; grace that forgives and forgives and forgives and never asks why. Why should perfect Jesus be crushed because I'm selfish or snide? Why should He endure my punishment because I resented enduring the blame for my sister? He shouldn't but He does. He does it because He is love, perfect love. Jesus took the blame for every nasty, thoughtless, heinous thing that will ever be done by anyone, anywhere and by those wounds we are healed and set free.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

For Your Good


 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Recently a friend of mine went through a ridiculously humiliating experience. I won't recount the actual event here because I love her and the details aren't all that important. Suffice to say, she was headed for a once in a lifetime experience when something went glaringly wrong. Humiliated and at a loss for a solution of her own, she approached someone she hoped could help. At that moment in time her thought was to salvage what she could of the event. The person she asked for help saw it differently.

My friend was trying very hard to fly below the radar, be as inconspicuous as possible. Her helper was having none of that shrinking violet routine. Instead she took the matter a little higher up the chain. My friend went from the very back of the room, so to speak, to the front row. She went from being mortified to being elated in a split second. Why? Grace.

The person she approached could easily have said, “Sorry sister.” She could also have blamed my friend for the dilemma and not been completely wrong. Did she do that? To quote my granddaughter's favorite book character, “Goodness no!” That helper truly helped. Beyond solving the problem, she made the solution so sweet that it took away quite a bit of the sting of embarrassment. In other words, she worked it for my friend's good.

If right now, your world looks a little off, if things aren't going your way, don't panic. If you need help, ask for it. In my friend's shoes I would have slithered away, too humiliated to ask for assistance. She didn't. She humbled herself and looked for a solution. What she got in response was a gift, a big one.

Scripture tells us that God is never outdone in generosity. (Matthew 7:9-11) If we as human beings know how to be kind and generous, helpful, leaving judgment to the side, how much more will our Father do for us? Our loving gestures hold no comparison to His.

So again, if today you feel tired, angry, disappointed, fearful, ask your Father, your Savior for help. He will help you. No matter how things look or feel right now, God does have your best interests at heart. Ask Him and wait to see what wonders He will do in your life.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

In Spirit


 
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body
but made alive in the Spirit.
1 Peter 3:18

Has anyone ever said this to you? “I'm so sorry, I can't be there but I will be there in spirit.” It is spoken to be supportive, to show a desire to share the experience but it's impossible for anyone who isn't Jesus Christ.
I cannot be in one place while my spirit is in another. Having been invited to an event, I may keep the invitee in my thoughts. I can pray for her, for the success of her venture. I cannot however, “be their in spirit” because I cannot separate my spirit from my body. Jesus can and did and does.

Deuteronomy 31:6b says, “for the Lord your God goes with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you.” John 14:16 says, “And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with your forever--- the Spirit of truth.” Matthew 28:20b says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

When we lose a loved one we like to think that person is looking over us, watching, caring for us from heavenly heights. I have no idea what happens after someone dies but I know this, the words from the Scriptures above promise me that Jesus, though no longer on this earth, is still very much alive and stands with me every minute of every day.

Those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior are not traveling this world alone. When Jesus returned to the Father he left us a Counselor, Comforter, Guide, to be with us, to dwell in us; that is the Holy Spirit.

Any one of us can pray for a friend, regardless of physical proximity and we can care for them and love them. We cannot be with them unless we are in fact, with them. My friend of longest standing, Mary, lives in Tennessee. I talk to her often but I am rarely with her and being with her is very different from talking to her.

The next time you hear someone say they're with you in spirit or you're tempted to say it to someone else, use it as a reminder of who is truly with you in Spirit.