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.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Behind the Masks

Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32 There is a list of words that I hope never to hear again, ever. Prominently on that list is mask. Wear the mask, don’t wear the mask, I hate the mask, the mask is necessary and on and on. Enough! In the last few weeks more and more places in our community are making the, well you know, mandatory. That has sparked more conversations, more use of the word. The other day as I was praying for complete transparency with God I had to give a little laugh. Masks. As we walk through the world we make adjustments. I wouldn’t say that at work, wear that to school, talk to my parents that way or let my children hear me use that term. We carry ourselves differently depending on our level of comfort in our circumstances or with the people involved. We protect our hearts. We hide. How do we do this? Masks! These may not be the over the mouth and nose kind of masks but they do the same thing. Our mental and emotional coverings (see that avoidance tactic?) help us hide. They protect us from hurt, embarrassment and judgment or at least we like to think that they do. That plan make work out well with our people but it won’t work with God. Consider this. I’m going to see my friend today. She’s not a Christian so I won’t wear my Cross pendant or my Jesus t-shirt. She’s a little biased when it comes to race so I won’t mention how much I love my new neighbors who have a different skin tone. She’s in charge of the committee I want to be on so I have to be super nice. What is that? Or how about this one…. If the people in that room knew who I really am and how I really feel they wouldn’t like me. They would probably laugh me out of the room. So, I’ll paste on my smile, say as little as possible and hope for acceptance. And worst of all… If God knew what I was thinking, if He knew how I feel and the things I like to do and think, that would be bad. I’ll just say the right prayers, give the right amount of money, be nice to that person I really don’t like. That will show God that I’m okay. I honestly don’t know what the cloth/paper/heavy duty face protectors are doing for the current situation. I have no medical expertise at all. I do know that those other covers, the ones we all wear without protesting and often without even realizing it, those things are deadly. Far from protecting us or enhancing our quality of life, they keep us from being transparent, honest or at times, approachable. Take off those disguises. Live transparently with your eyes fixed on our Savior and Lord. Be real with Him and the people He shares with you. Who knows? You might feel much better.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Listen


 

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3

This morning I was thinking about how little people see each other.  I don’t mean that we aren’t together. It’s more of a level of observation thing.  There are people in our lives who cross our paths every single day.  Do we truly see them? Think of the person closest to you, someone you see every day. What is that person wearing today? What did he/she wear yesterday?

          I will never forget picking my oldest son up from Junior High, many, many years ago.  At that time I worked in an elementary school and so, left the house before he did. Getting to his school that afternoon I realized that I had no idea what he was wearing and in the sea of faces pouring from the building that would have been very helpful information.  The longer it took him to come out to the car, the greater the need to know grew. What if he didn’t come out and I was asked what he was wearing? I had no idea but I was fairly certain that “red sweat pants and a big t-shirt” aka pajamas, was not the correct answer. 

          I know what my husband is wearing today even though it isn’t his typical work outfit only because I commented on the shirt.  Small details that we don’t notice can make a huge difference in our relationships. So, I’ll ask again. Do you really see the people closest to you?

          How about the Holy Spirit? Do you see Him? Hear Him? While we may not be looking for a physical being, we should be able to see, feel and hear God.

          I was humbled about eight years ago when my granddaughter Faith shared something God had spoken to her. I asked if God spoke to her often.  She said in her sweet little six year old way, “Gram-gram, God talks to everyone all the time. Adults just don’t listen.”  Ouch!

          Then just last week my granddaughter Margaret said that God tells her what’s important and what isn’t. In her amazing five year old wisdom she said, “If God says it’s not aportant, I stop thinking about it.” Wow! Good for you Margaret!

          I asked her if she could hear God’s voice and she told me no. She said that he talks to her, “in her heart.”  She went on to say that He talks to her the same way He talks to everyone else. “Can’t you hear Him Grammy?”  Obviously not well enough angel girl and that is on me.

          It’s on you too.  Our relationship with God should be the most important or “aportant” one we have. No, I will never be able to tell you what He’s wearing but I should know what He wants me to say, do or think about.

My girls got it right. We need to slow down, listen and be more observant. We should never take that relationship for granted.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Spread Grace


 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Matthew 5:43-44

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Colossians 4:6

Grace and peace be ours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2

 

There’s a lot of talk, too much talk, right now in the world about germs and viruses and the spread of both. This morning I am expecting to see five of my grandchildren. As I was praying to be a blessing to them today a thought occurred to me, it’s a little silly but hear me out.

          When some of the children are here it’s as if I’ve grown a third leg.  I can easily stop and have some little body slam into me, they stay that close. Often when I’m washing dishes or washing my hands, there’s a little one at my elbow.  To be silly with them, I sprinkle a little water their way.  Most of them love it, all of them anticipate it.

          Thinking of that and seeing the image of one of my granddaughters right at my side I said a prayer.

          “Lord, please, let me sprinkle my grandchildren today, not with water but with Your grace. Help me, in my words and actions, to show them a glimpse of You. Amen.”

          What if we approached everyone that way? Certainly I want to sprinkle, splash, douse my grandchildren in grace but what about their parents? My own children, all adults now, can get under my skin quite easily.  I don’t feel terribly gracious toward them in those moments. I don’t feel grace toward them but what if I sprinkled it anyway?

          Further, what if I sprinkle grace toward the irritating co-worker or the rude clerk at the store or…. Everyone?

          The negative thought or comment is too often easy to find in any interaction, at home, at work and in our social events. I don’t want to bring the negative. I also don’t want to come empty handed. Saying or doing nothing is often just as bad as saying or doing something harmful.

          After saying the prayer above I realized that is how God wants me and most likely you, to live. We need to walk around our world sprinkling grace, especially on the most graceless people we see.

          As far as my grandchildren go, it’s twofold. They will receive grace and love from me and hopefully learn from my example as I am learning from Jesus, the personification of love and grace.

 

 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Think About Such Things


 

But he was pierced for our transgression, he was crushed for our iniquities: the punishment that brought peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Jesus is perfect. He was perfect even when he walked the streets of this imperfect world. He is/was perfect and also crushed and killed because of sin. Can you make that make sense?

          I bake. I love to bake! I especially love it when one of my grandchildren asks me for something specific. When their birthdays come around, actually weeks or even months before, I get the request.  Through the years and all the grandbabies, I’ve done cakes based on movies, animals, toys, pirates, books and whatever else they can imagine and ask. Sometimes along with the big cake I make cookies or cupcakes to match the theme. When I do there always seems to be one that just doesn’t look right (at least one) and that one, that photo worthy one that is just perfect. Perfect!

          Now I have things that look great but how do they taste? Bring in the always willing taste testers. Do I give them the one(s) that may not look so great or the one that is perfect? Silly question, right? I want that perfect one on display when party time comes.

          Read the verse above again. He, Jesus, was pierced and crushed. He was perfect. We are not perfect, except in His sight and that of His (our) Father. Jesus walked this earth and healed people, comforted people, brought light to the darkness and through it all did not commit a single sin.

          I can’t really speak for you, but I know that I have never healed anyone. (Don’t tell my grandchildren. They believe my kisses can heal their booboos.) While I have brought peace to certain situations and comfort to some people, I can guarantee that I have also caused angst and hurt innocent bystanders. I like to think that I can bring light into darkness but I’m not the Light. So, I ask this. Does it make sense that perfect Jesus was betrayed, pierced and crushed and I now get to live under His protection?

          If I need healing, comfort, provision or love, I ask my Father, in Jesus name. Why? Jesus paid the price for me. The perfect creation destroyed to protect the hot mess. How upside down is that?

          Philippians 4:8 says, Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things.

          What is truer, more noble, better, purer, lovelier, more admirable or excellent or more worthy of praise than the knowledge that the perfect One suffered, died and was buried so that you, not so perfect, could receive grace, mercy and healing?  

 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Being Liked


 

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 rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Several years ago my kids listened to a song that included the lyric, “we all want to be loved.”  In scripture we read over and over again about God’s love for us. As our faith grows knowledge of that love becomes a constant in our lives. God loves me. We wake up and we’re breathing. We get out of bed and begin our day with ample amounts of food, clothing, water and air and we know God loves us.  Even on the days when we feel ill or sad, somewhere in our heart we can grasp the idea, the hope of God’s love. But…. Does God like me? Does He like you? Yes! Yes, He does.

          Think for a moment of that difficult person in your life, parent, child, spouse, sibling, whoever he or she may be, think of that person.  You love them, some days you love them simply based on whatever relationship status they hold in your life. “I have to love her she’s my _____.”  But do you like her? Maybe. Maybe not.  Again, based on the relationship, blood or marriage, you’re compelled to show love to that person whether you feel it or not. You’re called to be there for her regardless of your emotions in the moment. You love your person, but you don’t necessarily like her or him.

          God is not like that.  In his book “Ruthless Trust” Brennan Manning tells the story of a man celebrating his eightieth birthday. When asked by his nephew why he was always happy he responded, “The Father is very fond of me.”  Manning goes on to say that our lives would be much fuller if in fact we could grasp the idea that God not only loves us but actually likes us.

          We know what it is to love and be loved. Love is wonderful but in some ways being liked and accepted is even better. Doesn’t it make you smile; make your heart expand, to know that God, the God of the universe, likes you?

 

“I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” Isaiah 49:15b-16

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Don’t Stop Short


 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23

For some reason it seems this verse is popping up everywhere I turn. I’ve heard it in sermons, at our family Bible study and read it in more than one devotional.  It’s true, we have all sinned. I’m not denying or arguing the veracity of the words.  Those words on their own are the quick and easy evangelism road. “Are you a sinner? Yes you are! ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ It says so right in the Bible. Now what are you going to do about it?”

          Left alone, presented that way, that precious verse is watered down, too easily ignored and basically just an ad for fire insurance. “Do you want to burn in hell? I didn’t think so!” Yuk! That’s what happens when we pull one little piece of Scripture and flail it around.  Look at it alongside the next verse....

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

There it is! Where the first half, verse 23 is too often misused as a scare tactic, it is truly a door opener for the amazing, beautiful truth of redemption. Verse 24 holds the key…. JUSTIFIED.

          I’ve heard a few sermons on that word but one always sticks in my mind, justified, just as if I’d never sinned.  Just as if I’d never sinned. Wow!

          I don’t know about you but that is grace, real, amazing, all encompassing grace to me. It is easy, very, very easy for me to see myself in verse 23, all have sinned. Yes, unfortunately, that’s me.  Sin? Check. Fall short?  Check. Forget completely about God’s glory? Check. So what can I do? If you read that and said a resounding, “me too” what can you do?

          We can read verse 24. “All are justified by the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (emphasis mine) Justified.  As my granddaughters love to say… Wait! What?

That’s right, all have sinned but all are justified as well. What’s the catch you ask? You are.

          That justification is yours for the taking but the price is humility.  Lay down pride, accept that you cannot erase the sin and that you desperately need a Savior and then there it is. It sounds simple and it can be but too often we make it harder than it has to be, often by getting bogged down in verse 23.

          Take a second and listen to the heartbeat of Abba. Listen to the voice of Jesus whispering forgiveness and mercy in your ear. Justified….. There it is!

 

 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Reminder


 

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

There are few things in this world of which I am absolutely certain. One of those is that I am saved by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Another is that He in His infinite kindness has blessed me with a wonderful husband.  My husband is not perfect and I can assure you that his wife is not either. We are great together and as I said, that is a huge blessing. I am thankful to need very few reminders of how blessed I am to have that man in my life, so it was extra heartbreaking for me when I watched a sad scene unfold in the grocery store yesterday.

          As I entered the checkout line the man in front of me, next in line, with his things sitting right next to the cashier, went to stand a few feet away. Given that we are still in pandemic mode, I checked my position. No, I hadn’t gotten too close. As I was wondering why he moved, the explanation rolled up, a woman in one of those scooter deals.

          Her husband stood bagging their groceries and apparently there was a mix up about the payment method. The wife had headed to the car but had to return to fix the problem. They were not kind to each other, both were a bit snappy  but the husband was the worst. He bit her head off every time she spoke. She wheeled away again and the gentleman in front of me returned to the line. He looked at Cranky, who was just rolling his cart away and said, “You should be thankful you have a wife.”

          Right there I felt my heart break. That poor man! To speak that way to a stranger, I thought, his pain must be deep enough, and maybe even new enough that he just couldn’t help himself.  He also made an excellent point.

          How often do we snap at those people closest to us? Or ignore them? Or just simply take them for granted? My spouse, child, parent, grandparent, friend will be there next week. Will they?

          What about our stuff? Is it a given that we have a home? Food? Clothes? What about our freedom? I live in a military town which makes me more aware that our freedom is not free. I’m a Christian which is an even bigger reminder that my freedom and salvation come at a huge cost, not to me, but to Jesus my Savior.

          I hated being a witness to those two people being so rude and cruel to each other. I hated much more hearing the pain in the voice of the other observer but I am grateful to all of them. They were reminders to me to look at my life and say THANK YOU, JESUS!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Power


 

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Submit yourselves then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7  

For some reason, don’t ask me, I couldn’t possibly tell you, I decided to do a little renovation project. Due to the fact that it involves a fairly large piece of furniture and some pretty noxious smells, I’m doing it outside on our porch.

          When I first went out there this morning, I had the lovely accompaniment of bird songs. I had my music playing and the birds seem to just blend in with that, so precious. The second round was the same but on my third time out there a crow decided to throw a party. This may or may not be fact, but it appears that the way a crow summons his buddies is to squawk as loudly as possibly. LOUD! First it startled me, then it irritated me. “Shut up!” I yelled at it, loud enough for my neighbor to turn his head. Oops, not you sir, not you. No, I was not yelling at my neighbor, I was yelling at the ugly, disturbing sounds of that crow. That crow, which had jarred my mind away from the beautiful praise song that was playing….. Oh!

          That’s when God really got my attention. You see, the crow did shut up. Granted several of his little crow friends arrived on the scene shortly after but there was no more squawking. Two little words, spoken loudly and with authority that I don’t really have, I mean, I don’t control crows, made the awful distraction stop. Message received Lord.

          I need to speak to the devil that way. When he intrudes on my thoughts, my faithful, joyful, God-honoring thoughts, I need to say, “Shut up!” Then redirect my thoughts and place them right back on God.

          In fairness, that crow and his buddies have far more right to be in my yard than Satan has to be in my head.  Yes, the crow was annoying but he can’t hurt me. Satan can do huge damage in a very short amount of time with minimal effort on his part, if I let him. Read that again. If. I. Let. Him. NO! Shut up!

          I’m happy to report that on my next foray to the porch, (this is a spray, wait, spray, wait, project) our very majestic hawk was meandering in the yard, quietly, as is his nature. My music played, I was able to keep my mind set on Jesus, pray that I am not totally ruining this lovely piece of furniture and praise Him for reminding that where the enemy is concerned, I do have power, the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

There She Is


This is a rerun of an older message. I was reminded of it this morning and it seems that someone needs to hear this, to know that God loves you and is delighted to know you. So…..

There She Is

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12

 

Reading that verse this morning I was filled with joy at the idea of being fully known by God. This is a new experience for me. Any thought of God, of my Father knowing all about me has, up until very recently, made me quite uncomfortable, even ashamed. I’m human, all the way through and as such have done and said things I so very much wish I hadn’t. But God loves with perfect love. In the verses just prior, the very well known section of 1 Corinthians, it says, “it [love] keeps no record of wrong.” Thinking about that, about always, always, always being welcomed into my Father’s presence reminded me of a little friend of mine, Brittany.

Brittany’s mind doesn’t work in what we refer to as the “normal” way. She tends to grab hold of a phrase or two and repeat them over and over until something else catches her attention. The crazy part is that every now and then she gets a hold of one and uses it semi-appropriately. One of her current favorites is “There she is!”  My guess is that she hears it from her daddy, a man who clearly adores her.

Thinking about being fully known and at the same time fully loved by my Father I could see him, looking at me, catching my eye and saying, “There she is!”

Beloved, our Father feels that way about us all the time. It doesn’t matter who we think we are or what we are doing, through the sacrifice of Jesus we have been made beautiful and forgiven. I have no idea what details Abba sees when he looks at me. Tall? Short? Talented? Awkward? I couldn’t tell you. I barely know what I see in me. This I do know, whatever he sees, he loves. How great is that?

I am very grateful to Brittany for shedding a new light on this Scripture for me. In my hardest, darkest moments as well as my happy ones, I plan to picture my Abba looking at me and saying, “There she is!”

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Who Are You


 

 Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the winds and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:38-41

Have you ever tried to put yourself in that boat? I have.  What were the disciples thinking? “We’re all gonna’ die. We’re all gonna’ die!”  Then someone has the brilliant idea to wake up Jesus. By their reactions to his action, I can’t think they expected what happened to happen. I think they woke him up because he was the leader. It was his idea to go to “the other side.” Now it was his responsibility to get them there.  And he did!

          At that point everything changed.  Picture those same men once Jesus had spoken. “What just happened?”  “Did he just tell the wind and waves what to do?” “He sure did and they did what he said!”

          Now they’re in shock. They exchange looks of total amazement.  “Who is this?” How can they not know the answer to that? Seriously, they’ve been with him for some time, heard him preaching, seen him drive out demons, heal the sick and offer forgiveness of sins. Still they are in awe. “Who is this?”

          Have you ever experienced a moment like that with a friend you’ve known for at least a few years? You’re together and suddenly she’s singing, singing in a voice that should be recorded and shared with the world. “You can sing?” You ask, astounded that you never knew.  Or maybe you’re visiting another friend and comment on a beautiful painting or sculpture only to find out that she is the artist. To say you’re surprised is an understatement, right?

          What if you were leaving that friend’s house just as the sky opened up to rain and that same friend said, “Stop!” and the rain stopped? Is she calling 911 at that moment? Or maybe giving you CPR?

          We think we know people and then… SURPRISE! The disciples did know Jesus. They had seen miracles but some of them were fishermen, subject to the mercy of the weather. They knew the dangers of a bad storm. They also knew that once it set in, there wasn’t a big chance that it was going anywhere anytime soon. Then Jesus said, “Quiet! Be still!” and that happened! “Who is this?”

          Take a minute to look at your life. Have you ever had a “who are you” moment with Jesus?  Write him a note of thanks for the times he has surprised you with his mercy, grace and amazing power.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Safe Zone


 
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7
 The name of the Lord is a fortified tower,
the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

Did you play tag when you were a kid? Do you remember home base or the safety spot? If you could get to that space before being tagged, in any given round of the game, then you were safe. No one could touch you.

          I’ve watched as my students play that game and have even, on occasion been the “safe” space. They run and try as hard as they can to stay safe, to elude the catcher.

          Sometimes I feel like my life is a bit too much like that childhood game. Running to evade or escape the plans of the enemy. Fortunately I have the same option as the players of the game, find the safe zone. Even better I don’t literally have to run.

          The proverb says that the righteous “run to it [the name of the Lord] and are safe.”   The running in this sense, thankfully, can be done on my knees. It can be done in my car, shower, kitchen or anywhere I find myself feeling under attack.  You have the same safety net, the same spot that is out of harm’s way.  It is the name of the Lord.

          In these trying times, as we face uncertainty, one thing remains, the name by which we are saved.  Call on the name of Jesus. Cry out to Yahweh or Abba. Claim the protection and provision of Jehovah Jireh. Claim the peace of Jehovah Shalom. Trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to lead you home.

          We are facing a challenge right now that we can’t comprehend or predict. We can trust, believe and hope in the name of the Lord. He will guide. He will protect and provide.  Don’t panic if you can’t trust the news, the government or even your own thoughts. Trust in the name of the Lord and be safe.