Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas – it’s all about the presents!

I remember a visitor to our community who would never miss a service at our church no matter what day of the week it was. It was not that the program or the speaker was so awesome, he just wanted to make sure that if God showed up he didn’t miss Him. The hope and anticipation of God’s presence is compelling. The shepherds left work early when they got the singing telegram that “God showed up!” It reminds me of all the Christmas choir presentations and cantatas I have been a part of. Each orchestrated presentation a wonderful expression of the events of the first Christmas. Just like the angelic choir the present day presentations bring good news, but those melodic crescendoing announcements are just that, announcements. When the shepherds heard their Christmas cantata they left what they were doing saying, “if God showed up we don’t want to miss Him!” My point is, those moments that bring Christmas thoughts to our minds, those warm memories, warm clothes, wonderful celebrations are just precursors to His presence. It’s not Christmas until you get to HIS PRESENCE. Emmanuel, God is in the house!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't worry, get a facelift! Yes men too!

Some sports require complete commitment, there is no trial/testing period to gently ease into it, sports like sky diving, ski jumping, scuba diving and bungee jumping. I remember really, really wanting to learn to ski and being convinced by my ‘ex’ friend that the bunny hills were unnecessary I took the lift to the top of the blue slope (intermediate, for those of you who do not ski). It didn’t look too bad looking down on the hill from the chairlift and I was quite sure I would be fine. Until, UNTIL, I stood on those two slippery slats of wood looking down! I couldn’t even see the bottom of the hill from the top and could not make my feet move, I needed a little push. I got one and made it down in one piece although I do not remember breathing for the entire run.

Isaiah was in much worse trouble. It was not a sport though, it was life and it was bad. His people were prisoners in enemy territory and he was being treated with contempt and disgrace and could see no way out, but he did not give into that fear. He said, “For the LORD God will help me; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed” Isaiah 50:7 (NKJV). This short verse is a prescription for overcoming when life is hard, demands are heavy and the outcome seems unfair. Look at it closely.

First, get your position right. “For the LORD God will help me.” He is GOD and you are not! Stop acting like it all depends on you. Not only is He in charge, He is willing and able to help you and you can count on Him. II Chronicles 20:12 states it differently, “we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” We will gravitate to what we are focused on. What are you looking at?

Second, you have an investment in this endeavor, “therefore I have set my face like flint.” Attitude matters. What are you thinking about? Focused on the problem? Reliving the scenario with different endings? Isaiah set his face like flint (determined, unswerving, solidly facing the truth), in Colossians 3:1-2 Paul says, “set your hearts on things above,” and “set your minds on things above.” Pretty much then, ALL of you is resolute, single-minded and focused on the right things, the things above, the answer, the solution, the goal. Focusing for long periods of time on the problem will only drag you down.

Third, be confident in the one in whom you trust. “I know that I will not be ashamed.” I know (am completely convinced, certain) the kind of confidence that allowed Jesus to sleep in the boat that was being tossed around by the waves, the kind of confidence that lets you sleep in the middle of your storm.

When we are facing a difficult situation or facing an adversity of any kind, the Bible is very specific in giving us instruction as to what we are to do. Look at 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting (releasing the weight of, flinging, hurling, as throwing overboard where they are irretrievable) all your cares on Him; for He cares for you.” Unless you have determined to call upon the Lord and seek His face, you will not be able to “cast your cares upon Him,” and therefore, you will be weighted down with “the worries of the world.” Worries divide the mind. The word “worry” means, “to divide into parts.” “a preoccupation with things causing anxiety, stress, and pressure.” Yuck! Remember setting your mind/heart is being single-minded, so focus and focus on what is good. Jesus specifically said, “do not worry about your life” (Matthew 6:25) or, “do not be anxious,” “take no thought for your life,” rather, “Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass” Psalm 37:5.

Commit, not think about it, consider or try, but COMMIT your way. When you say, “I do” you’re committed, when you stop worrying about it, smile and do what you know you should. Ask someone’s forgiveness, give generously, or go to sleep without worry, commit your way (give it totally to Him) and TRUST HIM. Not the bank, not your friend, not the doctor, not your mother, but HIM, TRUST HIM. Trust Him because he is the one who will make it happen. He will send the sunshine and the rain, He will bring health, He will restore ~ HE WILL BRING IT TO PASS. That is His promise. You can spend a lot of money and time on facelift products but the best way to get rid of worry lines is, don't worry!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Clear water, sandy beaches and gentle breezes.

Escape from the routine pressures of job, traffic and the everyday ordinary; spend a few days on the beach relaxing in the sand with the clear Caribbean water lapping at your feet and the gentle breeze stirring the palm branches overhead. The scene I just painted in your head sounds like freedom, freedom from the restrictive routines that regulate our everyday lives. Take a closer look and “as a rule” that beach scene is filled with routine, rules and restrictions. Jeremiah 5:20-25 tells us many things we can learn from the sea. Read it in your Bible and see if you don’t hear the same things I did.

Jeremiah 5:20-25 (in Martha’s words)
Tell my people to listen to the wisdom of the sea. Learn from her. You see the waves washing on the shore but do not understand. You hear the rolling breakers but don’t listen to what they say. This is what they show you. This is what they say. “Fear the Lord! Don’t go beyond the limits of His Word. Live in respect and response to His ways and directions and the seasons will come as expected. The sea understands that and respects the one who put the beach at the water’s edge then drew a line in the sand and said “don’t cross this line.” The waves try, they wash over the line only to recede again and come back to rest on the seaside of the line. “The sea knows, understands, and fears (respects, reveres, responds to) Me!” But my people do not. They don’t understand, comprehend or understand that fearing Me is for their own good. They resist the boundaries I have laid down for them. They have made their own tsunami by departing from the Lord and not fearing Him."

Fearing God – something we do not often think about and maybe do not understand but it is a good thing. In fact, “the LORD delights in those who fear him,” He takes pleasure in those who understand and respond appropriately to how awesome and powerful and mighty and loving He is (Ps 147:11).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Your attitude is showing

Offence! How easy it is to be offended. Real or imagined we see the splinter in our sister/brother’s eye and want to ‘help’ by pointing it out and in that way remove it but Jesus says in Luke 6:37-45, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Judging another requires pointing out his/her faults – ‘you’ve got something in your eye, here let me get it out for you.’ How can you help when you can’t see yourself. I am a nurse and I know how hard it can be to get a little speck out of someone’s eye. Even more so now that my eyes are changing. I wear glasses because I have been nearsighted since I was a child. But for years I have worn contacts for that and for the last year I have been using reading glasses. If I don’t have my contacts in I have to take my regular glasses off and hold the page close to read and if I am wearing my contacts I need my reading glasses to see detail or I have to stretch my arms out as far as they will go. SO come over here and let me take that little speck out of your eye for you. That is what it is talking about. Don’t judge (pronounce judgment on) and don’t condemn (pronounce guilt/judgment on.) We are too blind to our own faults to see that we are just as guilty. We are just as condemned. Look at the next verse, you can use my glasses if you want.

Read on from verse 39. He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? (skip verse 40 for now) 41 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
43 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

The fruit does not fall far from the tree. The apple tree is full of apples. The mango tree is full of mangoes and the tree that drops judgment on the person sitting under it must be full of judgment. Now let’s look back at verse 40, “The student is just like his teacher.” The student is a product of the teacher just like the fruit is a product of the tree. So what does your fruit look like? What product falls from your lips? Out of the fountain of thoughts and feelings your words spill out. So what kind of words are they? They reveal your teacher. We say we are children of God and Christ followers, then our words should reveal that our hearts are like His, not judging, not condemning, but forgiving and full of love. The tree of forgiveness produces the fruit of forgiveness.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lovin’ action

She was supposed to be a friend, a ‘joint heir’ with me in the salvation of Jesus Christ. We worshiped at the same church. How could we have gone from sharing difficult life experiences with each other to her hanging up the phone in my ear? I knew my position at work made me her supervisor but she seemed fine with it as we exchanged pleasantries. Later, when I informed her that I would need her help in another department for a short while she still seemed fine but when the time came for her to go she became angry on the phone. I tried to explain my reasoning to her but she had already made up her mind that she didn’t like this and it was my fault. She hung up the phone in my ear and with that I went from Christian to cross in 1.2 seconds.

My heart raced and my neck flushed as I marched in her direction. Half way there I thought to myself, ‘let me take a few deep breaths and calm down.’ I ducked into a side room and said a prayer, ignoring the words I could hear coming down the hall as she told coworkers how unfair I was. Inside I just wanted to go the other direction but I knew that in order to do my job I had to speak to her. I took another deep breath and walked down the hall towards her station. I stated my case calmly knowing my decision was right, I was just doing my job. I turned and walked away knowing that the words we had exchanged would forever change our relationship.

I was still thinking about that later when I opened my Bible.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 3:7-11) Oh Lord what are you telling me now? Am I suppose to reach out to her even though I was right? I don’t like this, let me look somewhere else. So I turned the page.
“Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (Oh God, you are not easy.) Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (Actions? You want me to reach out to her even though she treated me like that?) "This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us." (OK Lord, set my heart at rest.) "For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him." (Obey, mmm, so I can’t just forgive her in my heart and let it go? I actually have to obey that action command?) "And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them." (1 John 3:13-24)
So this is what separates the men from the boys, love in action.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The beauty of a lie

The beauty of a lie is that once you believe it the work is done. You will think and act like it is true from then on. Have you ever tried to change a habit, thought pattern or the way you feel about someone and been totally frustrated by your inertia? Resistance to change is not just because we don’t like change. We don’t change because we don’t truly believe it is true.

A Christian believer (really a redundant term) will recognize many lies in this video, some blatant and some more subtle. I will only address one of those lies. Click on the link or copy and paste it into your web browser to watch the short video

Oprah grew up hearing and knowing truth. She describes experiencing the worship of God in all His greatness, His power, His presence and she agreed with what she heard until God was described as a jealous God. Believing jealousy to be a bad thing and unable to reconcile that with her belief that God is love, she searched for and embraced another God that was who she wanted him to be. She “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Rom 1:25), when she believed the lie that her god could not be a jealous God. Some relationship in her life defined jealously as evil, perhaps controlling and manipulative. Once she believed that lie, all the evil one had to do was reproduce that lie in her future experiences. “When he (the evil one) lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies…there is no truth in him” John 8:44-47.

So believe with me for a moment in good jealousy. What does godly jealousy look like? Imagine a father refusing to share his children with the drug addict on the corner and jealously protecting them. Imagine the sister who stands up for you in your absence, defending your name and reputation because she is jealous for your good name. Imagine the husband refusing to share his wife with other men. She is his and he loves her and he will fight for her and will protect and love her, He is jealous for her. Even better, God is jealous for you. He knows that you will be safest, blessed, your joy will be full, when you worship Him and Him alone. “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” Ex 34:14. “For the LORD your God…is a jealous God…Do not test the LORD your God…Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the LORD's sight, so that it may go well with you…” Deut 6:15-18.

God knows that life will be best for you when you believe the truth and walk in the truth. Believing the lie that jealousy is ungodly will keep you from experiencing His all encompassing love as well. Until the lie is recognized and confronted it will rule your actions. Coming out of agreement with that lie breaks its hold. Imagine the freedom that comes when Truth shows up and says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” Jer 31:3. The Truth is the only one who can set us free. Here are some facts about Truth.

First of all, Truth is a person, not an idea or a concept. In John 14:6 Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life.” Not, I’ll show you the truth or reveal the truth, but I am the Truth.
John 1:17 - Truth came through Jesus Christ.
Ps 40:11 – His truth protects.
John 8:31-32 - Truth sets us free.
Ps 119:30 – Truth is chosen.
John 3:21 - Whoever lives by the truth lives in light.
Ps 86:11 – He teaches truth and how to walk in His truth.
John 4:23-24 – True worshipers worship Him in spirit and in truth.
John 16:13 – The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, will guide you into all truth.

The trickster is good at sugar-coating lies so ask the Spirit of truth to reveal to you any lies you may have believed about God, about yourself, or about others. When He reveals a lie, ask His forgiveness for believing the lie, come out of agreement with the lie by saying “I no longer agree with this lie,” and ask Jesus, the Truth, to replace the lie with His truth.

This song and is a great example of replacing a lie with the truth about a jealous God. Hear the truth of how God is jealous for you, He loves you, He wants you, all of you, He will not share you with anyone or anything. Let the truth sink from your head into your heart as you listen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

If it doesn’t look like Jesus, sound like Jesus, smell like Jesus, it probably isn’t Jesus.

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being…” (Heb 1:1-3 NIV).

The reflection in this picture does not lie. The image below is the exact representation of what is above. What does Christ-likeness look like? Ask a leader in any church and you might get a description of a good solid church member who attends faithfully, tithes regularly and serves willingly. Then there is the man who walked into our little congregation two weeks ago. He was easy to look at, young, muscular, handsome and friendly. He had no church history so his muscle shirt and colorful language were normal for him. After church he burst into his aunt’s kitchen exclaiming, “I think I #*@#*ing got saved!” He described the unfamiliar stinging of tears while we were singing and a burning in his heart while he listened to the preaching of the Word. Being a tough guy he was confused by these sensations but his aunt explained that those were normal responses to the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The young man returned to the church on Wednesday evening. As he sat and talked with the pastor about his sinful life, his need for a savior became clear to him. With his head in his hands he confessed his sins, unaware that his tears could be heard hitting the carpet. As he lifted his head he said, “I feel so light, so clean.” He had received forgiveness from Jesus and made Him Lord of his life.

There were immediate changes. The cussing that had sounded so natural now seemed uncomfortable. The next day, he crawled into his pickup to go to the family job that paid his bills but he didn't even start his truck. He just couldn’t do it anymore, it was illegal and he knew it was wrong. The next week he went back to see his family, the familiar cussing, fighting, and screaming greeted him as he entered the house but somehow it didn’t feel natural for him anymore. Before long his brother got angry and told him never to set foot on his property again or he’d shoot him! However, later that day he went to his brother’s place and mowed all his grass for him. Is this young man changed? You bet he is!

He returned to church the next Wednesday and again he and pastor sat at the back, his head in his hands and those tears reverberated as they hit the carpet. This time he was crying for his brothers and his parents. He loved them and he knew they didn’t know his Jesus and he couldn’t bear it.

Now I have a few questions for you.
#1 - Do you know this Jesus and how do you respond to His Holy presence?
#2 – Is your desire to be Christ-like stronger than your need to have money/security?
#3 – Has the love of Jesus compelled you to put down your pride and love your enemy?
#3 – When was the last time you cried for your lost friends and family?

Christ-likeness may not look like the church lady in her Sunday best, but then again, it might. One grandmother in our church knew nothing of this young man’s journey yet she quietly gave him a brand new soft leather bible this Sunday. She blessed him with words of grace and encouragement as she handed it to him.

Christ-likeness ~ if it looks like Jesus, sound like Jesus, smells like Jesus, it must be Jesus.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives….We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 1:1-2:11 NIV).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

His Timing is Perfect

When the shutter is timed just right my ‘Pita’ dog can fly! Timing, when it’s perfect we love it, when it is off, it’s terrible. The timing in a car need only be off one iota, whatever that is, and the car will not run smoothly. If one person in the band is out of rhythm it ruins the whole piece, and when our hearts are out of rhythm with the Holy Spirit, it ruins our peace.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal 5:25 NIV). When that still small voice whispers in your ear, don’t dismiss it like you might a child who interrupts your train of thought. The One who set each planet spinning at just the right speed knows the timing of your life, and when He speaks His timing is perfect!

I was traveling when a friend in another country crossed my mind so I prayed for her as I sent her a quick email. Ten minutes later my phone rang and she told me of how much she needed that prayer today. She was overwhelmed by a decision she needed to make and her husband was working overseas. We only had a few minutes so I prayed for her on the phone. “Father, please let her know you are with her, hold her hand and walk with her through each moment of this day.” When I finished she was crying and could not talk as we hung up.

I went back to my computer and saw that she had replied to my email before she called me. As I read it I understood her tears. “You can’t imagine how I needed that today! I just wish Jesus could hold me by the hand and not let me go. I need Him so much today, to make a big decision. I wish you were here to pray with me.” The Father had wanted to tell her through me that He heard her prayer and he was holding her hand. His timing is perfect!

“For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour and moment what [you] ought to say” (Luke 12:12 Amp). There is “joy in making an apt answer, and a word spoken at the right moment--how good it is!” (Prov 15:23 Amp)
(Photo credit ~ Marjorie Dixon)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

From Loving to Living

I have a lot of loves in my life. My God, my husband, my family and friends, and yes, my dog too. Then there are all those things I love to do. I love to ride, motorcycles and horses, I love snorkeling, talking with friends, (I recommend you do NOT discuss this one with my husband), good music, live theatre, musicals (don't bring that up with Paul either) and skiing. Then there are those things that I think I love. I love the idea of being fit, but seldom exercise. I love the idea of having lots of books but seldom read, I love the idea if writing but put it off for over a year. It reminds of the tree in this picture. It looks like it started growing up and then got side tracked. It meant to be a straight, tall tree but time passed and it got harder and harder to straighten out so it just made the best of it.

There is one other love that I sometimes let slide. I love the idea of knowing God, really knowing Him, and hearing Him speak to me, but there are days I put Him off and ignore Him. Oh, I can be hard on others if they are not faithful but still want God's blessing. The Word is very clear, 'Blessed is the one who does not slow down... stand around... or sit down' but "instead you thrill to God's Word, you chew on Scripture day and night" (Psa 1:2 MSG). That person, the one who really loves God and His Word, will be like a tree solidly planted by the river... bearing fruit in each season of life, reaching their God-designed-purpose and destiny.

The distance between loving an idea and living the ideal makes a huge difference in the outcome. Loving the right things and then pursuing them with all of life provides the destination and the motivation. That may sound like hard work but a wise teenager in our church recently surprised me with his wisdom when he said, "If you choose a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life." And the God of all creation says, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut 6:5 NIV).

Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm back!

Well, for you faithful few who have been checking and checking this page ~ I am finally back. I promised to write and after a year of traveling, studying, moving and putting off the blog, I'm back. We over-did the traveling, moving, and living on the run, until we paid for it. We are now settled into a home for our things, our bags, our dog and our hearts. It feels good. Since my last blog I went back to seminary and completed my Master's of Arts in Christian Education, traveled to Honduras twice, spent a month in the Cayman Islands, and finally landed in Texas where we have been for 8 weeks. I have not forgotten my promise and God has not let me forget His desire for me to write. It may be that I write for those who read my blog and it may be that I write for myself, or maybe ~ maybe, I'll write for HIM and you and I can just listen it.