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.