Yearly Archives: 2020

Close to Home

Sometimes our toughest challenges are those close to home – with those we love the most or are supposed to love the most. Sometimes we struggle with those who believe and those who do not – those who say they believe and those who do not – those who think they are awake but are asleep in their beliefs – those who think they believe but have never turned from themselves and put their heart where their head is.

It can be a lonely walk. But do not despair. You are never alone. For those of us who know that “God will never leave us or forsake us”, the question that follows is “what are we being called to do?”

Each of our circumstances are different – none of us lives the same lives. So no one knows the right path for each of us except for God. Thank God that the movement of the Holy Spirit will be different for each of us given what will bring God Glory. The key is to seek God’s path through our circumstances – not rely on our own understanding but seek God’s first. Be careful of outside advise from others who are not in a position to know the entirety of your situation – such advise should only be sought after a clear indication from God.

The Master, God, has given me
    a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
    He wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
    to listen as one ready to take orders.
The Master, God, opened my ears,
    and I didn’t go back to sleep,
    didn’t pull the covers back over my head.
I followed orders,
    stood there and took it while they beat me,
    held steady while they pulled out my beard,
Didn’t dodge their insults,
    faced them as they spit in my face.
And the Master, God, stays right there and helps me,
    so I’m not disgraced.
Therefore I set my face like flint,
    confident that I’ll never regret this.
My champion is right here.
    Let’s take our stand together!
Who dares bring suit against me?
    Let him try!
Look! the Master, God, is right here.
    Who would dare call me guilty?
Look! My accusers are a clothes bin of threadbare
    socks and shirts, fodder for moths!

10-11 Who out there fears God,
    actually listens to the voice of his servant?
For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going,
    anyone groping in the dark,
Here’s what: Trust in God.
    Lean on your God!
But if all you’re after is making trouble,
    playing with fire,

Go ahead and see where it gets you.
    Set your fires, stir people up, blow on the flames,
But don’t expect me to just stand there and watch.
    I’ll hold your feet to those flames.

Isaiah 50:4-11

Remember . . . we cannot be disgraced by those who have no power to disgrace us.  Stand firm. Stand strong. We have already won – we are His and we are almost Home.

State of the (Union) Heart

What is the state of your heart? Is it connected to your mind? Are they working together for God’s Glory? Or does your heart say one thing and your mind say another? Is your heart filled with what you need or what God desires for you? Is your mind scheming to manipulate even the simplest tasks of the day?

After that, Pharisees and religion scholars came to Jesus all the way from Jerusalem, criticizing, “Why do your disciples play fast and loose with the rules?”

 But Jesus put it right back on them. “Why do you use your rules to play fast and loose with God’s commands? God clearly says, ‘Respect your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone denouncing father or mother should be killed.’ But you weasel around that by saying, ‘Whoever wants to, can say to father and mother, What I owed to you I’ve given to God.’ That can hardly be called respecting a parent. You cancel God’s command by your rules. Frauds! Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye:

These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
but their heart isn’t in it.
They act like they’re worshiping me,
but they don’t mean it.
They just use me as a cover
for teaching whatever suits their fancy.”

He then called the crowd together and said, “Listen, and take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up.”

Later his disciples came and told him, “Did you know how upset the Pharisees were when they heard what you said?”

Jesus shrugged it off. “Every tree that wasn’t planted by my Father in heaven will be pulled up by its roots. Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.”

Peter said, “I don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”

 Jesus replied, “You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That’s what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that’s neither here nor there.” Matthew 15:1-20 The Message

Take stock and make adjustments, so that your heart is full of God who is love. If you are conflicted between heart and mind, then focus on love. It is out of the reservoir of your heart that you will live and live abundantly. Remember . . . your life is at stake.

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

 If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. 1 John 4:17-21 The Message

The “Call”

Continuing with Paul’s story after his meeting with Jesus on the Road to Damascus, Paul tells us that he was set apart by God by His grace. Galatians 1:15-16. For what? . . . To preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1

Paul knew he was separated and knew his purpose. He did not consult other human beings. In his own words to the Galatians, he tells us he spent three years in Arabia shortly after his conversion. What was he doing? We can only assume, God was preparing him for his mission – peeling off layers of his “stinkin onion” so he was indeed free of the chains of the past. That took time.

God also calls us to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That “call” takes a different path for each of us. Some, like Paul, are called to travel and share the Gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus Christ. Others are called to share the Good News in their local communities through service or by one-on-one discussions with those they meet in their everyday lives. Still others, like Billy Graham, are called to large forums preaching to millions.

Regardless of how we are called to share the Good News, we need to be focused on that call and not get side-tracked by focusing on our personal holiness and what we perceive as the lack of holiness in others. Too often, we feel it is our business to look for splinters in others’ eyes but forget about the “plank” in our own. The “call” is not for “personal holiness”. The call is to share the “Good News”. Personal holiness is a side effect of knowing Jesus.

So remember the Words of Christ, himself:

“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.

 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

Luke 6:31-38 The Message

The Wait

My friend recently reminded me of Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus.  But it was how she posed a question that made me return to dwell on Paul’s experience once again. She asked this: “ If it took Paul three years to deal with forgiving himself then why should I think I am any different?”

I’m sure that you’ve heard the story of my earlier life when I lived in the Jewish way. In those days I went all out in persecuting God’s church. I was systematically destroying it. I was so enthusiastic about the traditions of my ancestors that I advanced head and shoulders above my peers in my career. Even then God had designs on me. Why, when I was still in my mother’s womb he chose and called me out of sheer generosity! Now he has intervened and revealed his Son to me so that I might joyfully tell non-Jews about him.

Immediately after my calling—without consulting anyone around me and without going up to Jerusalem to confer with those who were apostles long before I was—I got away to Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus, but it was three years before I went up to Jerusalem to compare stories with Peter. I was there only fifteen days—but what days they were! Except for our Master’s brother James, I saw no other apostles. (I’m telling you the absolute truth in this.)  Galatians 1:13-20 The Message

What struck my friend was that after this traumatic and life altering event of being struck blind and having Christ call him out, Paul took three years to get his act together before going onto Jerusalem to meet with Peter.

Three years to forgive himself. Three years to begin the process of loving himself through God’s eyes. Three years to learn. Three years to prepare. Three years to consult with God, not man. Three years.

Have you been through a life-altering event – a trauma – a time when Jesus called you out? If so, it may be that you need to learn to forgive yourself and learn to see yourself through God’s eyes. It may be that you need to take time to learn what God has for you in this new season – to take time to learn to rely on Him and not on human counsel. It may be that you need to sit in His Word in order to understand the need to sit in His Presence.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.  Jeremiah 29:11-14

Bruising with Words

Peter said, “I don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”

Jesus replied, “You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That’s what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that’s neither here nor there.” Matthew 15:15-20

 I hate when I screw up. When I say something that hurts another person. Something not meant for their ears, but they hear it. Regardless of whether it is the truth or not, the sting of misplaced words bruises the soul.

When the soul is bruised, the truth of the words is lost in the bruising. Truth is meant to be spoken in love, not in anger, criticism or grumbling.

I can still hear my mother’s voice saying, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Not only is it not good to say it, it is not good to think it in the first place. “Stinkin thinkin” is also a sign of discord within the soul.

But that is our nature, isn’t it. We complain and speak harshly about others all the time. Why?? . . . because we are born into a fallen world. Our nature is prideful and selfish. Just because we are born from above does not mean we automatically become perfect. No!!! We need to work at setting that type of thinking aside. When stinkin thinkin comes out in word form it means that our souls are in need of a cleansing. It means that we are not connected to our life source – the Vine.

So when it happens, we must go back to the great soul cleanser – Jesus – and ask for forgiveness, turn from our “stinkin thinkin”, stop our mouth from spouting and instead seek rejuvenation from the Lord in prayer, thankfulness, worship and praise.

Blessings in Disguise

New Heavens and a New Earth

“Pay close attention now:
   I’m creating new heavens and a new earth.
All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain
    are things of the past, to be forgotten.
Look ahead with joy.
    Anticipate what I’m creating:
I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy,
  create my people as pure delight.
………..

For my people will be as long-lived as trees,
    my chosen ones will have satisfaction in their work.
They won’t work and have nothing come of it,
    they won’t have children snatched out from under them.
For they themselves are plantings blessed by God,
    with their children and grandchildren likewise God-blessed.
Before they call out, I’ll answer.
    Before they’ve finished speaking, I’ll have heard.
Wolf and lamb will graze the same meadow,
    lion and ox eat straw from the same trough,
    but snakes—they’ll get a diet of dirt!
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
    anywhere on my Holy Mountain,” says God.

Isaiah 65:17-25

It is the wee hours of the morning. I am sitting with my canine companion in her final days here on earth. She has been with us 14 years. So in my anguish, I asked God to remind me of how and why she came to be our treasured Meg.

The evening before my mother-in-law died, we visited my father-in-law and the kids all came running in with seven pups in their arms – chubby and super cute except for one who was tiny and obviously not well. The kids held her up and said what’s wrong with this one Poppop? In words only a farmer could say to a group of grade schoolers, he said, “Aww that one . . . she’s the runt – can’t get enough milk at the milk bar . . . not enough room for her. She’s probably going to die”. In unison, these loving cherubs turned to me and said, “what are you going to do?”

I looked at those beautiful innocent faces and remembered now how earnest and full of love they were. I told them there was nothing we could do now but get the runt back out to her mother alone and let her eat while they played with her brothers and sisters.

The next day my Husband called to let me know that his Mom had passed on. We were expecting it, but it was an emotionally tough time. She was an awesome mother-in-law. I couldn’t imagine someone more wonderful to have than her. My Husband finished the conversation with “What are we going to do about that puppy.”

Now, I had already told my mother-in-law that I was not ready for a puppy – our 18 year old dog had died four years earlier after a year of hospice care. I kept saying to her, I just can’t deal with a puppy at the same time I am caring for four kids, my Dad and your son!

So of course I replied, “we are not doing anything with that puppy.” He replied, “No really, what are we going to do with that puppy?” I replied a bit louder “WE are not going to do anything with that puppy?” There was a moment of silence and then I said, “you have that puppy in your van, don’t you.” The answer was a simple “yes”.

The day Grandma went home was the day the kids remember our Meg coming home. I did not want her . . . but my Husband and the kids desperately wanted her. So in she came. The first night I slept on the couch with her crying on my chest yearning for her real mom and siblings . . . not fit to be away from them yet. My thoughts bounced between “Lord, please do not let her die” and “Where is everyone now at 2:00 a.m.?”

The next day, my husband went to the hospital with a gall bladder attack that required surgery. As I made arrangements for the kids and now a puppy, I remember asking God why – why now – I just did not need one more thing! Yes indeedy – at that moment it was all about me.

But time went on. She became a member of our family. Each of the kids had periods of time when she was their favorite. She was a constant in the home – available to each of us for comfort and exercise, laughter and sorrow.

You see, God is acutely aware of the “troubles, chaos and pain” of this world.  He walks beside us everyday – all day – and what can seem like “the last thing I need right now,” is the very thing we do need.  Grief never seems like a blessing.

In our memories, Meg’s arrival in our family coincides with the passing of Grandma. God knew we needed help and the blessing our Meg has been to us over the years has been immeasurable!   I now know what I did not know then – God Blesses us even when we don’t know He is Blessing and even when we can’t see through our circumstances.

But by the Grace of God go each of us!

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. Romans 12:3 The Message

Sometimes we lose sight of who is in charge. God brings His goodness to us. Our job is to share that goodness with others. If we think God’s goodness is generated from us, it leads to a prideful existence – an existence that turns the spotlight away from God and onto us.

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. Romans 12:4-6

Remember pride . . . it “goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” Proverbs 16:18. So be careful. Return to your first love – Christ – and remember what goodness you are called to share.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. Romans 12:6-8

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