Monday, December 31, 2012

HELP SOMEONE LOOSE WEIGHT



As the New Year dawns I am once again struggling with weight gain.  My eating is way out of control and I need to pull in the reigns, but my heart is not in it.  I kept my last weight loss off for 7+ years and I am totally not ready to start over.  It’s a new year.  It must be time to make a resolution. Right?  Well… that ain’t gonna happen. There is nothing easier to ignore than a resolution. I have plans. We will see how they work out.  But physical weight is not really what is on my mind right now.  Spiritual weight is.

Did you know that smiling can help make you and others healthier people?  Yes, SMILING.  It can be said that once someone smiles, they feel better.  So smile.  But don’t just smile, smile at someone.  Share your smile.

Have you ever been smiled at by someone you don’t even know and had no other contact with:  As in looking up in a restaurant and meeting the eyes of someone across the room who smiles at you.  Do you smile back because suddenly you feel a smile come on to your own face in response to their smile?  Have you ever been walking along and met eyes with some stranger and smiled at them while they smiled at you and maybe even exchanged a greeting?  Did that make you feel better, even lighter for a minute or two, at least?

Living where I do, I cannot leave this building without running into people everywhere I go.  Urban lifestyle, you know.  Some are hard working employees or college students;  some are down and out homeless people; and some are just a variety of neighbors who may be retired or disabled or just getting started in life as singles or couples.  It is not a neighborhood of the successful or wealthy.  But it is a very large neighborhood full of state office buildings, small businesses, two colleges, and multiple apartment buildings. There are always a lot of people walking around.  There are always a lot of people who could use the lift of a smile.

When was the last time you smiled at a perfect stranger or even responded to a smile from someone who is a stranger to you?  Sharing our smile is one of the simplest ways that we can make life a little lighter for others.

As for ourselves, how much weight do we carry around with us in our daily routine?  Do we really experience the Joy of the Lord in our daily walk?  Do we let that show on our faces?  Or do we carry our own load and let that show on our faces?  That’s against the rules, you know.  Jesus said to let HIM carry our load – whatever load that is:  Not enough sleep; too much on our work plate; problems at home, problems in scattered places where people we know are in some kind of trouble.  Whatever our load or burden, we are to give it to Him and let Him carry it.  We are to loose that weight.  We are to lighten up and get on with the program of how much He loves and cares for us.  Perhaps we should be smiling so much that we don’t even realize we are doing it.  That may make your coworkers and friends think we are crazy, but it will “spitefully” make their day a little lighter, too. 

This New Year let’s help others loose a little weight by smiling at them. :) We will notice a weight loss, too.  May we give and return smiles until it hurts and then keep doing it anyway as we progress though the year 2013.  Happy New Year to all.  God bless you!

Monday, December 24, 2012

THE PREEMPTIVE STRIKE



ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE the day that Christ was born.  That was the brief summary of the sermon on Revelation 12 which Pastor Tim preached this Sunday morning, December 23, 1212.  I am thrilled that he is preaching through Revelation because he has fallen in love with the beauty of it.  As he guides us along the way, he presents a picture that is understandable and beautiful and glorious in the name of God.

On this Sunday before Christmas, he showed us an amazing account of what that day is truly all about:  The preemptive strike.  Think about it from the timeline of His Story:  There had been some 400 years of peace and quiet on the earth.  No contentious prophets, and no serious uprisings or attacks from the outside.  No exile to foreign lands. Submit to the Conquerors and life will go on in a reasonable comfortable way.  (And, by the way, Barabbas and his band were having none of that.)

The peaceful existence was not just for the people of God but also for Satan.  Many have tried to claim to be the Christ, all have failed, so maybe Satan is feeling a little confident and not paying much attention to what is happening.  Keep in mind that Satan is not Omni anything, let alone Omni-present or Omniscient.

So where was he when Christ was born?  Visiting Herrod, keeping him in line?  Who knows?  I sure don’t.  But I do know that his peace and quiet was rocked thoroughly that night.  It was time to bring the Savior into the world and God did.  Right under his nose.

The thing is that we have all heard this preemptive strike term before, and without follow through to completion, they failed miserably.  But God never fails and Satan knows that.  That is one thing that he is all too aware of.  So imagine how angry he was that God had made his move. Certainly angry enough to spit fire!  Game on!  He and his minions were ready to fight to the death over this.  And Michael was ready to whoop them right back to where they belong.

At this point I tend to wonder again why we know so little about Jesus younger days.  Is it that Satan was too unsure about who He was to stir up trouble?  Was he content to bide his time?  We don’t know.  But we do know that the attack was on.  Herrod didn’t think about killing all those children on his own. And then, as soon as Jesus was baptized and confirmed as the Son of God by God the Father and the Holy Spirit., Satan stepped into His life.  Satan was there every step of the way as Christ ministered to the people and disrupted all that Satan had going for him.  And we also know that Satan is still trying to undo everything that God has put together.  Spiritual warfare is alive and in full action even to this day.

So, as we celebrate all the beauty of Christmas and all the warm fuzziness that comes with that, let’s also remember that this was God’s perfect plan at work leading to the eventual total destruction of Satan.  We have awesome things to look forward to because of this preemptive strike.  And we need to be praising God excessively as we remember Christ’s birth.  God is winning in spite of all the evil that is still in this world.  God is in charge, but the battle goes on for our minds and our souls.  Some people don’t survive the battle, and some of those take others with them when they just can’t handle the warring going on in them anymore.  So, at this time of great joy, let’s praise God for who He is and what He has done and what He will do to finally end this pain we suffer.

What a day this has been.  So much to treasure, so much Joy and Praise going on. that we cannot help but shout, “Hallelujah, it is Christmas.”  May we all enjoy His Peace and Presence with us through this season of Joy.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

THE SWADDLING CLOTHES


 
On this Sunday, the eve of Christmas Eve, December 23, 2012, I have been thrilled to experience two very different looks at the Christmas story.  This look at the swaddling clothes was so exciting to me that I just have to share it with you

Remembering that the shepherds were told that “this will be a sign unto you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths (swaddling clothes) lying in a manger.”  To many who read or hear this story this sentence is a given:  Of course He was found that way; it was prophesied to be that way. Others, like me, quietly ask, “Why is the swaddling a sign of anything since nearly every baby born in those days and for centuries after were swaddled at birth?” Even today the practice has come back into the lives of some new mothers.

Well, looking at several sights with a different view I found that many scholars see it as a sign of His appointed death:  He came to die. I also found that the wrapping done in death is also called swaddling and that is what the sign and reference is all about.

Therefore, as an object lesson, swaddling can help us to see that Jesus’ ultimate purpose in being born, was to die. Mary’s wrapping of Jesus in swaddling clothes foreshadowed His death on the cross: the price He would willingly pay for our sins. This Christmas, let us never lose sight of this fact: that Jesus was born to die, so that we who are dead could live. In the exultant celebration of Jesus’ birth, remember that the gift God gave us is Jesus’ death.

But this morning, while watching Day of Discovery, I was privileged to hear about this from a born-again Christian scholar whose field of expertise is Jewish history, and he had a little bit different angle to tell us about.  His summary is based on to whom it was a sign:  The shepherds, these very special shepherds.

It seems that in the writings of history, if not specifically in the Word, these were indeed very special shepherds.  They were the keepers of the sacrificial sheep and lambs that had been raised specifically for sacrifice when they would be needed.  They were referred to as the “priestly shepherds.”  This ties in with the study we are doing on the tabernacle and on the “assignments” given as gifts to the Line of Aaron to be priests and to the tribe of Levi to assist these priests as a way of life.

Apparently the fields where these sheep were kept were not far away from Jerusalem and between those fields and Bethlehem there was a 2-story tower that served as a look out and as a place to birth lambs.  When it was time for a birth, they took the sheep in this shelter and literally pulled the lamb out (as veterinarians often have to do, even today.)  The purpose was to make sure the lamb was born unblemished.  Then, to further protect the lamb from harming itself, they took “swaddling blankets” and quickly wrapped the lambs in them so that they would not sprain or break a leg trying to get up.  After they were calm, they were unwrapped and helped up to go to the mother and grow unblemished beside her.  

For these shepherds who served God and the priests so willingly day after day, this was a sure sign that this was the Lamb of God who would be the ultimate sacrifice.  They knew exactly what the swaddling represented and were thrilled out of their minds to see this answer to so much prayer and praise to God.

And, if that doesn’t make us grin from ear to ear, we have worked too hard to makeover Christmas into what we think it should be, leaving no room for what it really is:  The strike of God against all evil.  But that’s part of the other amazing thing I heard today and I will tell you about that in “ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE.”  :)

Meanwhile, may the PEACE and JOY of Christ, Himself, be with you all for ever and ever.  Amen.


Friday, December 7, 2012

GOD HEARD YOU


Recently it has been brought to mind that some believers think that sometimes God does not hear our prayers.  I admit that I was shocked by this declaration from someone I love and it disturbed me to sleeplessness in pain for that person and for others who were exposed to these thoughts.  I keep hoping that “God ultimately didn’t hear our prayers,” was a misstatement and not an actual belief of this person.  The next words were about how active God had been, and currently is in the situation; so I am sure that faith is still strong there, but I was drawn to find words to express the absolute truth that God hears our every prayer.

There are many different teachings about prayer in scripture; some are hard to handle, and some are just plain wrong.  One school of thought is that when we are not “right” with God, our prayers “hit the ceiling” and never leave the room.  That is wrong on so many levels that it would take a long term study to cover it all.  But it is important to note that sometimes our working relationship with God is hindered by sin in our lives.  This does not mean that He goes deaf and does not hear our prayers.  It means that we do not enjoy the comfort of knowing and feeling His presence with us when we continue trying to serve Him while living with unconfessed sins


But, because at least dozens of people were praying through many long years, the sheer scope of the praying flies in the face of this whole idea that God did not hear those prayers.  It is not probable that all those people were out-of-sorts with God, all at the same time, even if that would affect God’s ability to hear.  And I suspect that, in fact, the vast majority were quite diligent in obeying God and living their lives for Him.  So why would there be room to suggest that God did not ultimately hear those prayers?  In fact, there is no room.  God hears are prayers and they are like incense to Him.  (Revelation 5)

The bold truth is that our exuberance in prayer (or lack thereof) is not the requisite of God’s hearing.  Nor is seeking Him from a point of great faithfulness, or being a proper, fully mature saint (whatever that is.)  All He requires of us is that we believe in Him as our God and Savior, keep in touch, and come to Him with any and all of our requests and needs, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. 

I believe that those of us who have accepted Christ as personal Savior not only have unrestricted access to God for praising and praying, but we have within us the Holy Spirit who carries our prayers to God in God’s own language, expressing our hearts and minds in a way that we could never accomplish on our own.  God not only hears the words of our prayers, He hears more than we pray.  He hears our hearts and our minds and our intentions.  He knows better than we do what our requests really are.

So why might we choose to say that He did not hear our prayers?  Because we did not recognize His answers.  A quick “Yes,” is what we are looking for, but sometimes the answer must be “wait” or “no” or even “Watch”… for I have a different solution than the one you think you need.  “My thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”  (Isaiah 55:8-9)  I am God and I am in charge of how things turn out.  I know what is really best.  Trust Me.

In Genesis 18,  Abraham prayed several times that God would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of a specific number of possible faithful few who might be still living there, knowing that his nephew and his family were there.  God heard and answered every prayer, “Yes.”  And yet He did destroy the cities in chapter 19. He did, however, spare the faithful few who actually did live there.  He knew Abraham’s heart and true intent and saved the remnant of believers, even though He had to destroy the cities because there were not enough faithful believers to overcome the evil existing in those cities.  Though Abraham verbally requested the rescue of the cities, God knew it was his family that he cherished and wished to preserve; but his family did not add up to the number Abraham had set as a point of consideration. God had a different solution than the one Abraham thought he needed.

I originally wrote this page for my own edification, but I have decided to share it with others in the hope that God might bless someone, or many, with the truth of His eagerness to hear our prayers and to always answer them in His own way.  May God be praised in the rise of incense from our hearts and lips as we go through our days with Him.  Amen

Friday, November 30, 2012

WHY?


I woke up this morning remembering that, just yesterday, someone we love had passed from this earth to Heaven, where she is now, rejoicing with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I also remembered that someone is asking “Why? Lord.”  Why did you allow such pain and suffering in this beautiful life? 

The young woman is my cousin whom I did not have the privilege of knowing very well because she grew up and lived her short life in many places that were not where I was.  But I knew she was there and I loved her pretty much because she is the daughter of someone I am privileged to know and love very, very much, my cousin Dorothy. 

Her name is Sarah and she was known by many.  She was a very pretty, very normal girl whom God brought into His life before she was ever born, and carried her through this life sweetly and steadily, even as she suffered pain most of us will never know or understand.  And that brings on the question, “Why?”  Not, “Why did she die?” so much as “Why did He allow such pain in such a wonderful young lady?”  “Why” would a God who loved her so much, let her be in so much pain?  “Why, Mommy, why?” 

I could say, “Once upon a time…“ and tell the story of Sarah, but Sarah is not a fairy tale character, Sarah is a beloved daughter of God, friend and sister of Jesus Christ, her Savior:  She has been a picture of Truth.  God’s Truth and the story of that Truth. 

So let’s just start where God started in all this:  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… and when it was finished, He looked at it and said, ‘It is GOOD’.”  He could well have said it is beautiful and it is perfect, without blemish.  BUT Satan came to the Garden and Adam and Eve chose to question God’s authority over all that He had created and sin came into this paradise of earth. And death came with it:  Death and pain and suffering to all of the creation He had so carefully put together and it was perfect no more.

Now we live in His Story.  It is the story of how we must each make the decision to love and obey Him and let Him lead us through this treacherous life on earth, so as to end up in Heaven someday to live for eternity with Him; or to walk away from Him and lead ourselves straight into the depths of Satan’s home territory and eternal suffering.  But how does that answer the question “Why did this lovely young lady have to suffer such pain if God loves her so much?”

Well, let me tell you of a conversation I had very recently with a total stranger.  We were waiting to be evaluated for a fitness program and we began discussing our various hindrances of old age, when she piped up and said, “You know, our bodies were made to last.  They actually should not break down like this and someday it will happen that science will finally break through and find a way to stop this deterioration that is happening.  That will be wonderful, really wonderful.” Well, by the time I got my jaw up off the floor, our fitness instructor was there to start the eval, so I did not get a chance to say, “You are right!  Our bodies were meant to last!  But science will never be the answer to the problem and I can tell you Who is.”

You see God’s Story of Grace and Mercy is not one that is reserved to those who believe.  The rainbow I saw this morning is a promise to all the earth and all creation that He will never bring such a flood again.  And the rain that does fall, or fails to fall covers all not just a chosen few, just as the sun shines on all, not just a few.  And His plan of salvation is for all, as is His love and desire for all to be saved.  Jesus died for all and all are welcome to turn from sin and come to Him, believing and trusting that He is their Savior.

But, in the meantime, on this earth, all suffer in some way or another.  This earth is permeated in sin and we cannot get around that.  Our world is wrought with problems and even those who give their lives to God and live for Him must suffer the consequences of this world being a depraved place.  One of those consequences is that our bodies betray us and we suffer illness and pain, just like everyone else.  God’s story for Sarah was lived out in pain, but that is not all of the story.  The rest of the story is that Sarah bore the light of the world in her life and many have seen that light because of her life.  God helped Sarah bear up under the burden of the failures in her body and she smiled and laughed and enjoyed life to the fullest as much as she could.  People noticed and now other questions are also being asked. “How did she do that?”  “What was her secret?”  “Why was she able to be such a joyful person with all the pain she endured?”

The answers lie with God.  He is the source of all pure joy and peace, because He is Joy and Peace and Love and Long-suffering.  All things Good and Great are of God.  He is Love and He loves us and wants us to live life to the fullest with Him as our Guide and God, living in the Hope of the Truth that we, too, will one day see Him face to face and live in Heaven with Him for eternity.

Sarah is there now.  We can imagine her dancing with her God and singing and rejoicing and feeling no pain at all for the first time in many, many years!  Hallelujah.  Amen.  

There is much more to know about God’s Story. And we can find it clearly written in the very Word of God, the Bible.  May we feast on it and, because of our own belief and trust in God, join Sarah and Jesus there one day!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

SAID NO ONE, EVER


At this Thanksgiving Season a lot has transpired.  Many Happy Thanksgivings have been said, many people have made a point to suggest things that they are thankful for while many others wondered what in the world there is to be thankful for and some skipped the day (even the week) altogether to go shopping. 

There is definitely a shift in what people are willing to be thankful for.  Many were thankful for love and family.  Many were thankful for the help of others in desperate times.  Many others were thankful for possessions and even a little, if not a lot, of prosperity in these tough times. Some were even thankful for having enough to give away, helping others who needed it more.  The truly wise were thankful to and for their God and all that He is and all that He does for us daily, hourly, minute by minute.

But there are some things that are very difficult to be thankful for, anytime of the year.  Some are very serious like a very sick loved one.  Others are fairly frivolous, like my own inability to say thank you for the fact that my heat is not working and it is very, very cold in my apartment… that may be a silly “said no one, ever.”

However, my mind went to dwelling on some situations I know of and I could not help but begin to make a list of serious “said no one, ever” situations and I thought I might share some with you here just to shake things up a little for some people who simply can’t see the damage they are doing to others by the way they live.  Come along with me and say to yourself “said no one, ever!” after these examples:

I am so glad that my mother drinks too much and beats up on my Dad and us in her anger…

I am thankful that my Dad is a drug addict and even sells drugs to keep us going…

I am grateful that my 17 year old sister has a 28 year old man taking care of her now even though he pimps her out to make a living…

I am thankful for the times like Thanksgiving when the family gets together, gets drunk, and fights all day…

I am so happy to get to listen to my parents rant and rave and threaten each other with harm… 

I love having chances to make excuses for my parents and why they can’t come to things at school…

I am thankful that my Mom drinks too much and forgets to come get me at school…

I am so grateful that my husband beats me because it means that he loves me…

I am thankful that my husband always comes home to me no matter what else he has been doing…

Personally, I can remember times when I was grateful that Dad wasn’t home because he and Mom were not yelling and screaming at each other.  My best friend and I decided where to spend the night on Saturday night by whose parents would be passed out first.  That was certainly something to be thankful for…

Did you happen to notice that most of these examples come from children?  I guess that is what started me down this road in the first place:  Knowing children who are living these circumstances right now because their parents just can’t seem to pull things together.

At this thanksgiving time, I am grateful to know one woman who has finally found the Joy in life without drugs and a freedom from hatred that had plagued her for several years.  She is finally enjoying a sober lifestyle with all her faculties intact.  She is finally able to hear what God has to say about life with Him and to follow those precepts with more clarity than ever before.  She was finally able to make the decision to put Him first in her own life for the sake of her children.  Praise God for how He is willing to work in any life to bring about the pure Joy of knowing Him and Loving Him and reaping the reward of being His. 

And how did this come about?  A decision was made to get out of town; to move away from the influences that plagued her and kept them riled up all the time.  Now they have new friends who love God and are sharing their own struggles with this couple who are living a whole new country life style that is fun and exciting to them.  May God bless them richly and may we all be active in praying for the same results in the lives of the lost and the wandering who are all around us.  Amen.

Monday, November 12, 2012

DISTRACTED LIVING



There is so much hullabaloo going on right now over distracted driving that it makes me think about distracted living.  Is one just as serious as the other?

Let’s look at one important fact:  You cannot drive without distraction. If all else is being done right, your own mind will drift away to some other thoughts besides your driving.  That is not to say that those things defined as distracted driving are not extremely serious.  It is to say that all driving is serious and some type of extreme caution must be taken to pay attention.

I have a very fond memory of giving a young lady a ride one day during the time that she was taking driving lessons.  She was quite passionate about paying attention.  She exclaimed that “you can’t take your mind off your driving, even for a minute.”  :)  That’s when I first realized that “that is impossible.”  And I have since learned that lesson well. 

Being aware of our driving and all the possibilities for messing up or having someone else mess us up is very important.  But thinking about those things exclusively for any serious period of time is basically impossible.  Yes, we need to limit what we do or concentrate on while we drive.  And we need to be aware that some things distract us for way too long:  chewing on anger, worrying, crying, using cell phones or other radio devices, staring in the rear view mirror too long, staring at a person in the car to whom we are speaking, even just singing along with our favorite tunes or talking a blue streak with great enthusiasm.  That last one is a trick I pull much too often.  If I ever offer you a ride home be sure that I am going toward YOUR home and not mine because my brain GPS will otherwise take me straight to my house.  That is where my car is trained to go.  I can pretty much forget “stopping” somewhere for a moment on the “way home,” too, because my car is very stubborn that way.

My thought on handling these things with a normal (not super) mind is that we must practice.  As we learn to drive and as we “practice” driving, we must include times of complete control:  deliberately going through the motions we were taught and know, training and retraining our mind to react to the possibilities we know are out there.  Then, when we are distracted our brain will pick up on things we may not be totally aware of in time to respond.  Even when we are not in the car, we can go over these things in our minds to help keep us alert.  And don’t tell me you don’t do it when someone else is driving, otherwise why would you slam on the brake you don’t have at nearly every intersection?  :)  I even think that training for the worst case scenarios is an excellent idea if we can get into such a class.

So, where does distracted living come into this?  Well, because of conclusions drawn in my Bile study classes, I have been considering the facts of distracted living.  We definitely live distracted lives.  There are just too many things that need to be done and too little time to do them so we tend to jump and run, grabbing what we can as we go, without much regard for who we are following or who is leading us through each and every day.  And that can be very dangerous.  A crash could be pending.

I’m thinking that in order to live life without distraction from where we are going, what we are supposed to do, and why, we need to practice, going over and over again in our minds (with heart felt urgency) those things which Christ expects of us as God’s children, His brothers and sisters, and His friends. And we need to consciously practice those things He has told us to do.  But, first, we must know what He taught us to do and that means we have to become well acquainted with Him in His Word.

I was reminded just yesterday how important it is to understand that worship is not about us, it is about God. We are not at all encouraged to seek our own blessing in worship, but to bring blessing to God in our praise and study. (Check Revelation 4.) And our training in the Word is not about us, it is about Him.  We need to stop looking constantly for OUR blessing from His Word and seek more intimate knowledge of Him from His Word and that will be our blessing for the day.  And that can be our reminder of how Christ expects us to live out our day, His way.

We will find much distraction in our daily lives, but we must keep our ears and eyes alert to Him and we must keep the communication channels open, constantly; talking with Him about every little thing, in order to be used by Him daily.  May we all practice life with Christ in full enthusiasm for the Peace and Joy it will bring us and the blessings and worship it will bring to Him.  Hallelujah, He is God!


Monday, October 29, 2012

SEASONING


Recipes.  The bane of my existence.  I have never tried to use a recipe but that I found I had few or none of the ingredients.  I gave up.  To this day, I prefer to follow the directions on the box or make up my own combinations.  My cousin (a replica of Julia Childs), who loves cooking and uses all the best ingredients in her recipes, just shakes her head in disbelief that I could be so backward about using seasoning, and gathering things for a recipe. Gourmet, I am not. (But I sure know how to eat what she cooks!)  So just be glad that I am not here to share recipes. 

But recipes are not the only place where seasoning matters.  Life needs quite a bit of that, too.  One of the quick ways to season life is to spice it up with peppery words.  Another is to party, party, party.  And then there are the multiple options for entertainment:  from TV watching or dinner and a movie to blowing one’s mind with drugs and debauchery;  from elegant Symphonies to Gangsta Rap concerts or Raves and riots; from time with family to time as far away from family as possible, even by working too much.  We have a lot of choices.

Recently I have observed a life that is constantly falling apart and found it necessary to reply to a call for help by saying that what I was seeing in her life was SEASONING.  I see her as trying to live life the way she has always lived it, surrounded by people who encourage a life style of careless behavior and offensive language while trying to bring God into it as more sprinkles of SEASONING.  That may seem harsh to many of you, but as her former sponsor and an always available accountability partner, it had to be said.  This struggle has gone on for years with dramatic ups and downs, all related to the fact that surrender and humbleness has never been her selected option when things get rough.

Since that time, I have mentioned this idea a few times to different groups and it seems to make sense to them that when we follow God, we cannot just go on living life as we always have while adding a little God here and a little God there for SEASONING.  And this idea seems to fit in well with both of the Bible studies I am doing this fall:  A Woman’s Heart (Beth Moore) and 1 Peter (Wiersbe Bible Study Series.)  One emphasizes God’s desire to live His life in us and through us and ALWAYS WITH us, while the other emphasizes the living, breathing Hope for life with God for eternity.  BOTH require a mind/heart involvement with God on a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis.  And, for sure, neither supports the easier method of mixing God into the life that we are already living and going on as usual.

Vote for change.  We must change if we will be more like Christ.  Change is not easy.  But change we must.  “Put off the old… Put on the new.”  These are not clich├ęs.  These are orders from on High.  These are our marching orders from God.  His expectations are HIGH and He does expect us to change and change and change as we continually grow closer to Him.  If our lives have not changed and or are not changing over time, we are doing something wrong, very wrong.  We must eat and drink from His Word and apply the truths there to our personal lives and then concentrate on following those applications throughout the day. (One day at a time, one hour at a time, every minute of every day.)

One of the high scoring examples on my list (because I have been through this twice) is language.  We cannot continue to use peppery language right along with everyone else.  It may be taking God’s name in vain or it may be using “bleep” words that are all too readily used all around us.  Praising God and spewing such words is not acceptable at all.  One or the other, not both. 

Another, because I observe it on facebook a lot, is posting morally offensive material.  If the “F” word shows up somewhere in the name of the sight or in the words posted, it is not something a Christian should post.  It not only shows our God in a bad light, it encourages use of “peppery” language by others. 

But the biggest thing I believe needs to change in our lives when we desire to become more Christ-like is who we hang out with.  And sometimes that even means family.  Psalm 1 is very clear that we have to move along.  No more “hanging out” with the people who keep us down, but instead hanging out with God’s Word and God’s people who will help us up.  Sometimes this means even limiting the amount of time spent with some or all members of our own family.  But for sure it means getting away from those “friends” whose advice and counsel will continually drag us down into disobedience and failure.  At least one of my friends had to move out of town to get away from these “friends.”

May we all keep a sharp eye out for the path of destruction so that we may avoid it at all cost.  May we feast on the Word of Life and know that it is the main meal, not just the seasoning. May we seek counsel in the Word and from women who have lived life with Christ for several years and have wisdom to share.  And May we be filled with Joy as we do.

Monday, September 24, 2012

TALKING


While contemplating the desire of God to be with us, it occurred to me that we were not only created in His image, we were given a gift of immeasurable honor:  the gift of speech.  Image, if you can, God walking through the Garden with a cow and discussing who He is and why the cow is a cow?  That would be a very lopsided conversation since cows can’t talk.  Cows are definitely curious and they will seek out other critters just to stare at them and hope to find out some juicy gossip, but they cannot gossip or talk about being cows or anything else because they cannot talk.  And, yes, God could read their mind, but did God give them words to even think with?  That is, a language like we use? Not likely.  So it is probably safe to say they we are the only creatures who use actual words as language the same as God uses language to communicate with us.  Other creatures use noises and body language, but we have been given words and speech.  How often do we stop and thank God for words and the ability to speak them?

Knowing some people cannot hear and have trouble speaking because of that, makes me stand in awe of Helen Keller even more.  She couldn’t see or hear, and it was years before she grasped any form of language.  When she did it was mostly about “things.” This is this and that is that.  Then some “ties” were made concerning using those things and her language prospered.  But how did ideas begin to form for her.  How did she become so literate that she could express things as complicated as philosophies?  (Just my wandering brain asking questions.) She has been quoted over and over again as to her thinking on many subjects.  Where did she develop these word skills.  How did she learn to think, let alone learn to express her thoughts?  Isn’t it amazing to know that even the ability to think is God given?  How often do we thank God for the ability to think?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I know that His creatures can communicate with each other and can praise their creator, and they somehow know that He IS.  But they have a different type of intelligence given to them specifically to glorify God even in their very existence.  And they are wonderful to get to know.  But they cannot articulate what is on their minds and share it with others because they do not have words with which to speak. (Have you ever put “words” in an animals mind?  If you have and love animals, you have.)  God gave us words, even though it became necessary to split us up into different languages to keep us from plotting against His Holy plans.  He also gave us the ability to learn each others languages so that we would not be isolated from sharing Him with each other.  How often do we thank God that we can communicate with and translate for people who speak languages other than English and thereby share God’s Word and Love with them?

Imagine just how special and unique it is that God gave us these abilities so that we can walk with Him and talk with Him and sing praise to Him because “He walks with me, and talks with me and He tells me I am His own… and the Joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”  How often do we “walk into the garden” to be with Him alone and listen and know that “He speaks, and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing.”  And how long do we “stay in the Garden with Him” listening to all He has to say and relishing it in our hearts?

Some people say that this song “In the Garden” is not scripturally correct.  I have no idea why, unless it speaks to them that someone else is more special than they are.  That is not the point of this song at all.  The point is that God desires to be with us and when we come to Him in the sanctity of our relationship with Him, He is always there to hear us and to speak with us.  And that is Joy, pure and simple.

Imagine that you are Eve, before the fall or imagine that you are Mary when Jesus appears to her, or better yet imagine that you are you and you are the one Jesus meets with every time that you seek Him.  That makes it pretty scriptural to me.  We are His heart’s desire and we are His treasure.  He is deeply invested in us and He will be there when we seek Him and He will commune with us on the spot. 

May we all seek Him new while “His mercies are new every morning”.  And may we all know that He is there where we are, when we are.  May we always be praising God that He seeks us, speaks with us and longs to bring us home one day.  Come Lord Jesus.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

JUST DO IT


Has anybody heard that phrase before?  If you live in the Northwest (or almost anywhere else in the world) and you have not heard it you have had your ears pretty tightly closed.  Nike Shoes ads used this as their “catch phrase” for many years.  Basically, I guess, they were telling us to stop making excuses and just get out there and do what you have to do.  As “catchy” as that was and still is, Nike is not the first and will not be the last to say that.  The first to say that was God.  And He said it dozens if not hundreds of times.  “Just do it,” He told His people.  “Just do it.”  “Just turn from your wicked ways and follow me.  Do what I tell you to do.  Be who I want you to be.”

Now in this discussion of my rambling thoughts some may be offended with picture I will draw.  Some may think it is irreverent.  Some may think I have crossed a line somewhere.  But I hope you will just see the picture of a love filled heart expressing the awesomeness of the God who loves me and you so much that we can not comprehend it.

In the beginning, God created…. “WHY?” is the question that people often ask.  Why did He create us at all?  Why are we here?  What is our purpose?  Wouldn’t we be better off not being here?  Or, as the Israelites often queried, “Wouldn’t we be better off back in Egypt where at least we had 3 squares a day and clothing and shelter?”  Foolish, foolish question, but asked frequently during the walk in the desert.

Frankly, we are here because God wanted us.  We are created in His image so that He could walk and talk with us, commune with us.  His idea of Paradise was having conversation with us in a quiet place of pure beauty, where He could provide for our every need and talk with us about Himself.  He desires to be with us and for us to be with Him.  Adam and Eve failed to be satisfied with that and spoiled the immediate closeness of their relationship with Him, but He already had the plan in mind to bring us back together one day.  And He immediately announced the plan and put it into action.  He desires for nothing to come between Him and us.  He wants us.  In fact, He wants us so much that He is willing to keep asking us to come to Him.  “Just do it” is His plea.

But how much does He really want that? He wants it enough to throw Himself at us, face down, over and over again.  How many times have we seen Moses and kings and prophets throw themselves face down on the ground before God pleading with Him to save His people from themselves.  As I was studying the Kings and Chronicles, I kept seeing God, Himself, throwing himself at the people pleading with them to save themselves from themselves by simply turning back to Him in humble surrender and obedience.    I am not trying to bring humiliation on God here, I am trying to get us to recognize just how much He desires us, and desires the very best for us.  He repeatedly told them that none of the prophecies would have come true if they would just turn from their wicked ways and follow Him. This very constant pleading with us could be considered a humiliating thing to do.  But, for God, this is a magnificent, awesome act of love and desire for our good outcome and pleasure.  What a picture!  What a deal!

In our current study of God’s desire to be with us, we are quickly finding him seeking to be with us.  He desired to walk daily and often with Adam and Eve.  They spoiled that.  He desired to walk closely with the leaders whom He gave to His people.  He spoke to them in dreams and through messengers and even coming Himself to walk with them for a few moments here and there.  Yet strong trust was hard to come by for them.  But He had promises to give and promises to fulfill and He kept on trying.  He would not, did not and will not quit trying to get our attention. He wants to be among us.  And now that Jesus died for our sins, He desires to be withIN us, always. That is His desire and that is what His plan is all about.  He is no longer in a place among us that we must go to in order to be with Him.  He is in us and with us to the end of the age.  And then we will be with Him, forever and ever.  He pleads with us to come, to listen, to trust, and to obey.  He pleads with us to “just do it.”  And He does that so that we may know our own little paradise right here on earth and that we might be with Him forever in Heaven.

May we all stop making excuses for not stepping up to the plate and accepting the promises of God and following Him moment by moment, and aging year by aging year.  May we all “just do it” as He leads the way!  May we all live life more abundantly in the Joy that He gives us so freely.  May God bless you and me with overwhelming love for Him.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

KING CYRUS KNEW


King Cyrus of Persia knew about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… the God of Israel.  And King Cyrus knew that he was appointed by the God of Israel as King and as ruler of the “world.”  He also knew that his duty was to let God’s people go and return to Jerusalem after 70 years in exile in Babylon so that they could re-gather and rebuild the temple and God could once again live among them. He even returned all the temple pieces which had been taken all those many years ago and prayed a blessing on those who went.

Personally, I get chills even thinking about the awesome God who brought all this about.  He had proclaimed this would happen and He saw to it that it did.  I would love to ask how it was that King Cyrus knew these things.  He and his people did not worship or believe IN this God.  He was not even a twinkle in his father’s eye when these things were proclaimed.  Obviously, then, someone took note of what God had said and the words were passed down over time.  The “whole world” knew about this by the time it happened.  And, yet….

Knowing and believing IN could not be more separated than we see here.  He knew, his people knew, the Israelites knew and even the conquered people of Babylon knew.  But, basically, only the Israelites actually BELIEVED IN this God.   And they wavered as though what was happening was too hard to believe.  Many did not choose to return.  They liked the life they were living in Babylon.  But, by God’s Grace, many did return and much was accomplished in the next few years, including getting back to the keeping of the Law and the sacrifices and festivals.  The rest of the world sat by and watched.

And this brings me to my point of today’s blog:  The Word and knowledge of God was spread around into the European, North African, and Middle Eastern world though these circumstances of exile and through even more of the world through trade.  He was not unknown.  We have too many examples of leaders of other countries who acknowledged his existence and His power.  But He was ignored.  He was believed to be the most powerful God of all the gods, but He as not BELIEVED IN.

How sad is it that some can come so close to God without ever stepping out in faith to believe IN Him.  I believe that one of the most difficult situations we deal with as Christians is to know and even love someone who is constantly hearing the Word of God, taking in knowledge and then being satisfied with knowing about Him but not at all willing to commit to Him, in faith.  It can be so frustrating that our desire to take them by the shoulders and shake them into believing grows stronger and stronger. 

And yet we cannot do that.  No one can make someone else believe.  We are instruments for God to use to bring the message, but He is in charge of their believing.  We tell them of Salvation and then put them in God’s hands for the final outcome.  And this is often where we are the weakest and ask “Why, Lord, why?”  Why didn’t my family respond to you?   Is it my fault?  Was my testimony that bad?  Can I hope that You worked a miracle that I am not aware of?  What is my hope for them?  How do I let go of the guilt and go on serving you?

And I am reminded of the many testimonies of pastors and missionaries that went on and on for years and years before the light began to shine in those who received it.  And then those ministers come before the people and all the people want to know is “How many souls have been saved in your ministry?”  I also ask myself that question and come up lacking and wondering if I am doing anything worthwhile at all.  J. Vernon McGee (a well known radio evangelist and teacher), in his autobiography, says that “My job is not to save souls but to preach (teach) the Word and leave the results up to Him.”

Many of us take it for granted that people who are proud of what they do have a problem feeling humble.  But what about those who are feeling so useless that staying humble is a backbreaking ordeal.  It isn’t easy to stay calm and not stand up and shout to be noticed.  But in the Body of Christ, the church, even the appendix is important in the work that it does (and no one has figured out what that is) but when it tries to do the job of the bowl, it gets infected, causes a great deal of pain, and needs to be cut out.

May we all keep ourselves aware that we must be doing for Christ, but also may we all be joyful and content in the jobs we are given to do.