UP, UP, AND AWAY!!

I had the joy of going on a vacation in the Hocking Hills of Ohio.  What beautiful scenery!  The hiking was good and not too strenuous.  I stayed in a cabin and it was clean and comfortable.  There were many deer in the area and I was greeted me in the front yard by one.  Can you picture all of this?  It is the scene of a nice quiet, peaceful, relaxing vacation.  But I guess I wanted more so I called and reserved a place on the Hocking Hills Canopy Tour.  So, at 69 years old I was outfitted with helmet, harness, and cable for zip lining.  We traveled at least 8 zip lines in the tree tops.  The longest one was over 500 feet and the rider went 35 miles an hour.  I was the rider and I was traveling that fast.  Zip lines weren’t the only things to get us from one tree to another.  There were also cable bridges which would swing back and forth.  Yikes, what was I thinking?

While on this tour, I was always thinking about placing my hands in the right position.  There were thoughts of the beauty of woods from the treetops as well.  The tour guides told us to look around while traveling on the zip line but I kept my eyes ahead to see the landing place.  Landing was important to me.  I didn’t really look until I felt safe on the platform.  The tour guide made sure to catch me if I was going too fast to land.  It brought me joy to see his smiling face at the end of the line each and every time.  Would I do this again?  Probably.  Why?  I don’t know. 

Life, for the follower of Christ, is like traveling the zip line.  There are many things to see along the way but the finish line is the important focus.  In fact, we read in the Scriptures about where our focus should be.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1b-2a

Our lives are to be lived now with eternity in view.  We need to keep our eyes on the finish line.  Jesus has already zipped through this life on our behalf. I think of my tour guide who zipped before us.  He made sure to be ready to catch us as we came to the end of the line.  He got there first, which showed that it was possible and safe.  That’s what Jesus has done.  He has gone before us in this life and lived it perfectly because we aren’t able to.  He is now interceding on our behalf to the Father.  We can keep our eyes on him and trust him because he knows the line we will be zipping on in this life.  Our eyes, at all times, need to be on our guide and the eternity waiting for us.

I’m also reminded of the tour guide who stayed behind to help us step off the platform.  He made sure we were securely fastened and then waited for the one who had gone before to let him know it was safe for us.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ are represented by him.  We are to encourage one another by making sure we have what we need to live life reflecting God.  Is there someone who needs to be harnessed to the Word of God?  We can help her to see her need by pointing her to the Word.  Our lovingkindness in helping others take hard steps in life will go a long way.  Life is hard and we need others to help us who have their eyes on Jesus.

Those swinging bridges were harder for me to cross than the zip line.  I didn’t like the swinging and I was tempted to keep looking down as I crossed.  It was actually better for me when I put my eyes up and looked at the destination.  Satan loves when we keep our eyes on the circumstances in our lives.  As we focus on the situation, we can lose sight of the finish line.  We need to look up and see Jesus, who has suffered for us.  He’s at the finish line waiting for us.  The temptation to look to the right, left, or down is one we have to fight as we seek to keep our eyes looking up to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Was zip lining on my bucket list?  Not really, because I don’t have a bucket list.  I do have a finish line and only God knows when I’ll cross it.  What I do know for sure is, that when I cross that finish line, my Savior will catch me and usher me into eternity with him.  Let’s encourage one another to keep our eyes on him as we live the life he has given us! 

WHAT’S IN A NAME? I AM! – PART 2

Two words we use very often are “I am.”  These words are usually followed by other words describing our role in life or our position in our job or our family heritage.  We say these things so that others will understand us better as they get to know more about us.  There is an identification we make with our roles, jobs, or family when we add the words, “I am.”  Sometimes we just say our name, “I am Laurie Denise” by way of introduction.  Our name doesn’t really say too much about our character, which is one of the reasons we follow up the introduction with the other “I am” mentioned above.  There is one who says, “I AM” is his name, his character, and all that he is.  This one is God!

Our God is I AM which means he’s the self-existent one!  He is the Great I AM!  He is singular, existing without anyone or anything else.  He lives; He remains; He continues.  He came to Moses and introduced himself as I AM WHO I AM!  God told Moses to go to the children of Israel and to tell them, “I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14b) God gave himself this name.  There will never be a time when he will need someone or something other than himself to exist.  His name is forever. 

“I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”  Isaiah 42:8

The word LORD is used as Yahweh, I AM, or the self-existent one.  His glory is for him alone, not us.  He is to receive all the glory, praise, and adoration we can give to him.  There is no carved idol or idol of our heart that even comes close to being self-existent!   All idols will fail but I AM will never fail, never change, and will fulfill all his promises and purposes.  He is all sufficient for his children.

What about Jesus?  He is God and his name is also I AM.  John records a couple of times when Jesus says his name as I AM.  The first is found in John 8:48-58.  The Pharisees were accusing Jesus of having a demon.  He spoke to them concerning those who keep his work, never seeing death.  They were very upset by this and began to speak of their father, Abraham.  Jesus ends this exchange with the following,

            “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was I AM!”  John 8:58

Jesus honors the Father and seeks God’s glory, not his own.  He keeps the Word of God and loves others well.  He is not about himself but about others.  Jesus declares that he is I AM, the self-existent one!  He is the all sufficient Savior.

The second instance John records Jesus declaring to be I AM is in John 18:1-11.  This is the account of the arrest of Jesus in the garden.  He asked whom they were seeking and they said Jesus of Nazareth.  He answered, “I am he.” (John 18:5b)  John then gives us more information in the following verse,

“When Jesus said to them, I AM he, they drew back and fell to the ground.” John 18:6

When those who were going to arrest Jesus had come face to face with who he really was, KA-BOOM, they fell down.  This is awe and reverence for who Jesus really is.  This brings about humility in those who realize the truth which leads to a recognition of sin in the presence of the Great I AM!  We, too, need to be in awe and reverence of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  He is all sufficient for every area of our lives.

God doesn’t need to follow his I AM with anything because he’s everything.  We need to fall back and recognize who he really is and the benefits of knowing him as his child. 

Let’s marvel together how the Great I AM chose to humble himself by becoming a man who died a gruesome death alone for us.  There is none GREATER!

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10

What’s in a name? – Part one

We were all given a name when we were born by our parents.  They searched and discussed names until they came to an agreement of what to call you.  If you’re like me, then you’ve wondered what made your parents name you what they did.  I asked my mother many years ago the reason I’m named Laurie Denise and yet she called me Denise.  Her answer was that she named me after a singer-actress from the late 40s, Denise Lor.  The reason she didn’t name me Denise Laurie is that she didn’t like the way it sounded.  Parents have opinions about names and those influence the resulting moniker for you.  When my husband and I named our children, I remember rejecting the name he liked for our daughter because I knew someone with that name.  I didn’t consider her a very nice person and didn’t want that reminder around me.  Parents have reasons for the names they choose.  The names given to Jesus throughout the scriptures have reasons as well.  In this series we will seek to understand some of the names given to Jesus and how that should affect our lives. 

There may be some of us who have suffered teasing or ridicule from others because of our name.  Sometimes the effort to make the name of the child be unique causes others to respond with finger pointing and bullying.  You have probably suffered this yourself or know of someone who has.  I remember how in my high school the last name of one particular student became the putdown for others.  The name was used as a description of not measuring up to the crowd’s opinion.  This is hard.  It hurts.  Jesus suffered for his name.  In fact, as followers of Christ we have the privilege of suffering for the name of Jesus. 

“…they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  Then they left the presence of the counsel rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Acts 5:40b-41

These verses are describing what Peter and the apostles were going through after Jesus’ ascension to heaven.  Here’s what it teaches us.

  1. The name of Jesus is cause for joy in the midst of suffering.  Reminding ourselves of Jesus’ name and who he is can bring us joy.  It doesn’t take the suffering away but the reminder of why Jesus suffered for us will bring about joy.
  2. The name of Jesus is cause to choose right even when told to do wrong.  The apostles were told by the governing body to no longer speak the name of Jesus but they didn’t obey!  They spoke the name of Jesus and called others to follow him.  Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  This can’t be done without speaking his name. 
  3. The name of Jesus may mean we’ll have to be dishonored so that he isn’t.   The jokes, sarcasm, slander, gossip, bullying, and laughing may be things we must endure for the name of Jesus.  We know Jesus, who he is, what he’s done, and what he continues to do on our behalf.  We can persevere for his name.

“But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Acts 9:15-16

This is said to Ananias concerning Paul.  The Lord had chosen Paul to reach others with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He is our example.  We learn…

  1. We are to carry the name of Jesus.  As followers of Christ, his name is our identity.  Jesus lives through each of us as we follow him and obey his command to love.  Not only is he our identity but we are called to carry his name to others.  We wear it and we share it!
  2. We will suffer for his name.  This may not be uplifting to us because no one likes to suffer, but as we’ve seen in the previous verses, it is a privilege to suffer for him.  His name deserves honor and we are not to forsake it.

“Then Paul answered, What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?  For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:13

Paul had been pulled aside by those who loved him in order that they might convince him to protect himself and not go to Jerusalem.  They knew he would be arrested but Paul was willing to do what God had called him to do. He’s our example.

  1. We can’t always protect others from suffering.  We want to especially protect the vulnerable.  The idea of a child going to a remote part of the world to spread the gospel can be a hard one.  Suffering will most certainly be a part of a choice like that.  The name of Jesus is worth the suffering and our efforts to protect will be fruitless.
  2. We need to be willing to suffer for Christ and allow others to do so as well.  The willingness of Paul to go to Jerusalem when he knew prison awaited him was all about the name of Jesus.  He wanted to spread his name.  The suffering was not considered as something from which to run away.  It takes prayer and dependence on Christ to be willing to suffer for his name’s sake.

Our name is important to us but there is no name more important than Jesus.  His name means Savior, something we can never achieve.  Because he is Savior, we can suffer for his name with confidence.  One day, and maybe soon, this will happen,

“so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”  Philippians 2:10

HOW DO I HANDLE DREAD?

The experience of dread is one we have all tasted.  If we were to compare it to an actual taste in our mouth, it would be bitter.  What makes dread so bitter is revealed to us in the definition of the word.  Dread is “to fear greatly, be reluctant to do something, or apprehension of something in the future” (Dictionary.com). The association of fear and reluctance to do something, go somewhere, or make changes in our lives is dread.  It can be associated with anxiety as we rehearse the dread over and over in our minds. The result of these thoughts will be bitterness toward the reasons we have dread.  If we are thinking about making a job change because the company is closing, we may be bitter toward the company as we dread the change. We may become bitter against a person who we see as the instrument of the change we dread.  How can I handle these thoughts of dread?  What is causing me to fear?  What are the thoughts I keep having that fuel this dread?  Does the Scripture have anything to say about dread?  Let’s look at a couple of examples.

The Egyptians

“But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad.  And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.  So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field.  In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.”  Exodus 1:12-14

Remember the sons of Jacob who sold their brother, Joseph, into slavery.  He ended up in Egypt and became the right-hand man of Pharaoh.  Eventually the brothers needed food and had to go to Egypt to get it.  After that, there is a family reunion when Jacob and all his household go to Egypt to live with Joseph.  God had orchestrated this in Joseph’s life in order to save many people.  The King of Egypt loved Joseph and welcomed his family.  After Joseph died, his family continued to grow in number, but a new king began to rule over Egypt.  This king didn’t know Joseph.  He had no idea about Joseph being instrumental in saving the people of Egypt during a famine.  All he could see was that the people of Israel continued to multiply, and he was afraid.  He dreaded the possible takeover by these people.  He chose to handle his dread himself.  Here’s what he did.

  1. He became ruthless with the people.
  2. He made them his slaves.
  3. He made them work at hard labor in all areas.

So what we see is that the king of Egypt dealt with his dread by becoming a mean taskmaster.  He thought he could control the Israelites this way.  However, this didn’t really relieve his dread because the people continued to multiply.  He had to change what he was doing and became more ruthless and even killed their young sons.  This is not the way to handle dread!

You may be saying but I would never enslave or murder anyone because of my fear and dread. Maybe not, but our goal is the same as Pharaoh’s, we want to control the situation.  In trying to control we’ll choose to manipulate, avoid, or fret about our circumstance.  All of these choices will lead us to bitterness when the circumstance doesn’t change.  Our way doesn’t work!

Jesus

“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”                   Luke 22:40-44

Jesus is our example of how to handle dread.  He was full of dread before the crucifixion.  He was going to become sin for us and bear all of God’s wrath against our sins.  The Father was going to turn away from him because of our sin.  These were very grievous conditions for Jesus.  He didn’t want to do it and was looking for another way.  We can learn from him as we look at what he did do.

  1. He prayed.  The Son of God, part of the Trinity, got down on his face and he prayed.  When was the last time you got down on your face and petitioned God?  There are a few times I have done this in my life and from that humble position, the Lord revealed things to me in a different light.  When Jesus prayed, it was not just a “God bless” prayer, he prayed from his heart of dread and anguish.  We need to pray earnestly and humbly.
  2. He prayed three times. Our dread needs to be something we pray about more than once.  We can’t lift it to God and then walk away.  As we bring it before God and share our emotions with him, he begins to work even through that.  God wants us to present all of our concerns to him.  If it’s still a concern, then present it again.  Talk it out with your Father who loves you as many times as you need.
  3. He yielded to God’s will. Jesus prayed concerning his dread but he always spoke of his awareness of God’s will.  He was aware of God’s will and he was desirous to do God’s will and not his own.  When we dread, our first instinct is to just change the situation, but that really isn’t the answer.  Jesus knew the answer, and that’s always God’s will.  God has a purpose for the something you are dreading.  He will see that purpose through, and we can follow kicking and screaming or yielding.  Jesus shows us yielding is the answer.
  4. He was obedient. After Jesus prayed this prayer, he was arrested.  He knew he was headed for death on the cross to redeem those who would follow him.  He walked the road to Calvary.  We must be obedient to follow Christ in the midst of our dread.  What do we need to change in order to be obedient?  Maybe just our outlook which should be trust in the Lord, rather than dread and fear.  Jesus was obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Egyptians or Jesus??  What example will we follow today?  The road Jesus took was hard and ours may be too. We know we don’t walk the road alone.  Jesus has gone before us, walks alongside of us, and protects our backs.

 

 

 

CHURCH FAMILY – PART THREE – PRESSING ON TOWARD MATURITY

Paul to the Philippian church: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Philippians 3:14-16

As the smoke clears, the battlefield comes into view.  It’s littered with shell casings, rifles, barbed wire, and dead bodies.  As we walk around this battlefield, we see two men who died together.  We know this because the one is holding the other’s head to his chest.  They fought together and died together.  These men were brothers in arms, fighting side by side for a common cause.  Their goal was not to die together but to celebrate a victory together.  It’s a sad thing to see, but it gives us a glimpse into the seriousness of war.  The other thing we see is the devotion these soldiers had for each other.  My mind now wanders to the church family and the devotion we are to have for one another. I’m reminded that we are in a battle daily against the devil’s schemes and our own evil desires.  The third verse of “Onward Christian Soldiers” addresses the church. This verse puts into perspective the devotion we are to have for one another.

Like a mighty army, moves the Church of God:

Brothers, we are treading, where the saints have trod;

We are not divided, all one Body we—

One in faith and Spirit, One eternally.

Onward, Christian soldiers!  Marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus, going on before.

(Lyrics:  Sabine Baring-Gould  Music:  Arthur Seymour Sullivan)

As Paul writes to the Philippian church and to us, he calls us to press on together.  In thinking about the battle we are in on a daily basis, we need to come to an understanding of what exactly it means to “press on” toward the goal.  Let’s look at some synonyms of “press on.”

  1. To proceed – As followers of Christ, we are to move forward in our lives toward Christ-likeness. We can’t allow the circumstances of life to stop us from moving on toward the calling God has given us.  This means we are to continue to be faithful in obedience to God’s Word by keeping our eye on the finish line, eternity.  The church family is called to help one another to move forward in their lives.  This means we have to enter into the life of another to encourage them when it’s hard for them to “press on.”
  2. To endure – There’s probably not one person who wants to have to endure the suffering this life has to offer. However, we are called to endure in suffering.  Sometimes we think it may be better to suffer alone, but that’s not church.  We are to share in the sufferings of others by weeping with them, comforting them, and providing practical needs.  Once again, it’s about entering into someone else’s suffering.
  3. To hold on – The ups and downs of this life and the relationships that come with it are hard to face. If we are to “press on” then we have to face them by proceeding and enduring, but how?  We hold on to our God and what we know about him.  Understanding God’s promises and his character needs to be what we grab onto when life is hard.  If we don’t know where to turn, we can remind ourselves of the truth we know about God.  Church, we are to help others to remember the truth about God.  The one who is suffering may need to hold on to you as you point her to the truth.  What a wonderful thing that God gave us the church, the body of Christ, to hold on to.  Be willing to be held by someone or even to carry someone in the effort to “press on.”
  4. To stand firm – Paul reminds us that we are to stand firm in what is the truth. As we “press on” in this life, we are to stand firm in the truth knowing that the truth doesn’t falter.  An important thing we need to do is to be sure of what we believe and walk in that belief.  We can stand firm because Jesus went before us and gave an example of standing in the midst of suffering and conflict.  We can look to his life for help to stand firm.  Remember the church is also a place to look for examples of those who are standing firm in the truth.  We can learn from them by watching how they stand firm and “press on” in the midst of adversity.

Church, we are a mighty army fighting the devil’s schemes and our own evil desires.  We need to be united in the battle.  One day the battle will be over, and we will enter eternity together.  Picture this:  as we leave this life, our head will be held by Jesus close to his chest.  We won’t die alone.  Then when we enter eternity, Jesus welcomes us with open arms.

PRESS ON, DEAR CHURCH—ETERNITY IS COMING!

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” Revelation 21:3-4

 

“I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD”

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

These words were said by Jesus to his disciples to prepare them for what was to come.  He was going to be arrested and crucified.  This was going to be very difficult for them, and Jesus wanted them to know peace in spite of the difficulty.  We, too, need to know the peace Jesus brings us in the face of difficulty.  These words can be a comfort to us.  Here are a few things to meditate on to give us hope in this troubled time.

  1. Peace is in Christ – Jesus doesn’t tell us to find our peace in health, wealth, or possessions.  Notice that he says, “that in me you may have peace.”  What does it mean to have peace in Christ?  Our peace is tied into what we believe.  What do you believe about Jesus?  Do you believe that he is the Son of God who came to the earth in human form to live a perfect life for you?  Do you believe his death on the cross was the perfect payment made in your place for the sins you’ve committed against a holy God?  Do you believe God accepted this payment, and that Jesus rose from the dead?  Do you believe Jesus is who he says he is?  If so, then you are a follower of Christ and are in Christ.  There is where the peace is!  You know that this life is temporary and eternity awaits you. You can have peace knowing that the Holy Spirit walks through these difficult days with you.  The internal is at peace when the external is in chaos.
  2. Tribulation in this world – Jesus always tells the truth. He tells us that we will have trouble in this world.  Sometimes it’s trouble with a capital “T.” We all face troubles in our lives, whether it be with our families, friends, neighborhoods, health, finances, or, at this time, the whole world.  The warning Jesus gives about trouble is to prepare us to face it.  He wants us to face it by exercising peace in him.  We can’t change the mandates that are being given to us all at this time, but we can certainly follow them in peace.  Our peace comes from the fact that our God is bigger.  We don’t have to complain or argue, but we do have to trust him as we walk through it.
  3. Take heart – Jesus tells us to “take heart.” This is an interesting phrase and we need to know what it means.  The literal meaning from Strong’s Concordance is to “have courage, to be of good cheer, take comfort.” This definition certainly does shed a little light on this, doesn’t it?  We must have courage in the face of troubles.  It’s not always easy to be courageous.  When the word courage is mentioned, we think of battlefields or great rescues of people.  In our current situation with the COVID-19 virus, we can also think of courage as being willing to trust God and persevere in the trouble.  Having the courage to homeschool your children, share your food, shop for the elderly, live meagerly, and encourage, encourage, encourage others who may be struggling with some fears.  Notice that the word courage is part of the word encourage.  You are helping others to have the courage to get through this with your encouragement.
  4. Jesus has overcome the world – These words are so comforting to us, especially now. There is victory in these words!  Victory over the world system, which is against God.  Victory over all the troubles we’ll face in this world.  We can raise our hands in victory because of what Christ has completed on the cross for us.  This was victory over Satan and all he can throw at us.  More importantly, it was victory over sin.  We, as followers of Christ, are no longer ruled by our sinful nature.  We are now free to live our lives in Christ without being in bondage to sin.  We are free to rejoice in Christ and what he has accomplished for us, regardless of the restrictions of the world around us.  We are free to follow the restrictions as we think of others and trust in Christ.

As we meditate on these things, the fears of this world dissipate in the light of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  Let’s focus on him today and all he’s accomplished for us, that we may live an abundant life.

“…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.”  John 10:10b-11a

READ THIS!…Life with Mom

Originally posted 1-10-2017

My mom lives with frontal lobe dementia disorder.  Sometimes I wonder what she thinks about her days.  They are pretty much the same for her.  She stays in bed for longer periods of time now even into the afternoon.  When I turn her over to get her up she always begins to count the blades on the fan with awe.  She counts a lot.  What’s that about?  It’s always a little different when I seek to interact with her.  Perhaps I shouldn’t call it interacting but more like entering her lack of reality.  God, how can I better love my mom?

Yesterday was no exception.  It was an odd day for her because she was up and busy.  What I mean by that is she was wandering around opening cupboards.  She said she was looking for something but didn’t know what because she didn’t find it.  It sometimes takes me a while to decipher what she is saying.  I watched her reach into the silverware drawer and pull out a spoon.  Then she walked to the back door with it and then she took it and handed it to my dad.  While he was still looking at the spoon, she came back into the kitchen and picked up a bowl of cashews.  She took the cashews to him.  He said, “These are nuts, I don’t need a spoon”.  I wanted him to just say thank you.  She was doing her best to give him something to eat.

After a while she settled down at the kitchen table with a can of Dr. Pepper.  There was a paper towel on the table with which she was playing.  When I came into the kitchen she shoved it over to me and said, “Here read this.  You’re not going to believe it”.  I picked it up and flipped it over a couple of times and assured her that she was right I didn’t believe it.  She shook her head in a knowing fashion as if we shared some secret.  This was hard for me.  There are things that happen which cause me to cry and this was one of them.  God, how can I better love my mom?

Her life is an existence every day.  She exists because God wants her to continue to live and breathe right now.  Some people might think there’s a lesson to be learned by me but really my mom’s life is not about me but about God.  We are all here for Him.  So a better question is, “What can I learn about God as I love and care for my mom?”  This incident with the paper towel brought to mind my forgiveness.  You see when Satan accuses me, I hand him the blank paper towel and say read this!  Jesus has taken all my sins and there is nothing there.  There is nothing to read!  There is nothing to bring about accusation.  That too brings tears to my eyes, tears of gratitude for a Savior who completely and utterly forgives me.

“In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace,”  Ephesians 1:7

You see I love my mom better when I understand my God and His love for me.  I want to see Him on this road.  I want to reflect Him.  I want to honor Him as I seek to honor my mom.  That’s what I want to learn in all of this.

So the next time you feel accused, pick up a paper towel and read it.  Then thank God that it says nothing because Jesus has washed you clean.

 

 

WOMEN…THESE ARE NOT GOSPEL ISSUES!!! PART ONE – INTRODUCTION

Originally posted 11-6-2015

The Gospel is the truth of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world who lived, died and rose from the dead.  Paul says it like this, “Now I want to remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you,…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 15:1a, 3b-4     The Gospel is the good news of Jesus.  The Gospel is the good news of salvation.  The Gospel is the good news of forgiveness.  The Gospel is the good news of eternal life.  The Gospel, in reality, has nothing to do with me and what I do.  It is all about the Lord and His goodness to us.

It is so easy for us to begin to attach our opinions or our beliefs to the Gospel.  We do that because we own our opinions and beliefs so they must surely be RIGHT.  Some people might refer to their opinions as their “soap box”.  This expression originated a long time ago when soap was delivered to stores in wooden crates.  These crates, once emptied, could be used for an instant platform on which to stand.  Once on the platform, then you could begin to speak so that others would know your opinions on a certain subject.  Those who stood on the empty soap box were very passionate concerning their subject matter.  We, too, become very passionate about our beliefs and opinions.  So passionate, in fact, that we will begin to see the Gospel through the lens of our passion or maybe even attached to our passion.  This is very dangerous.

The danger comes from confusing Gospel issues with everyday life issues.  Each day we make many decisions.  These decisions need to be made for the glory of God.  However all believers do not need to make the same decisions concerning every life issue.  Let’s make it clear right now that there is no compromise on the Gospel.  As Followers of Christ we need to agree on the Gospel as stated at the beginning of this blog remembering that it is not a comprehensive study of the Gospel in one paragraph.  So what is a life issue?  How do we make intelligent decisions?  Can’t I just have a life manual to guide me each day?  These are all good questions.  Let’s try to tackle these questions.

  1. So what is a life issue?  Very simply put this refers to living.  In order to live we make decisions on what we will eat, drink, wear, where we will go, what type of work we will do, who we will marry, how many children we will have and how to take care of our elderly parents.  This is a short list out of a long life.  The one thing we know for certain is that God does care how we live.  “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31  This verse tells us that no matter what the life issue is we are to remember to give God the glory.  Can we do that with differing opinions?  I think we can.
  2. How do we make intelligent decisions? As Followers of Christ, God has provided for us His Word and His Spirit to help us in our everyday life.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  James 1:5  We are reminded to pray and ask God for wisdom.  We need to rely on Him.  “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”  Proverbs 15:22  We should seek counsel from those who are wiser than we are.  Once again this is not an exhaustive list of how to make intelligent decisions.  I think one more scripture is very important to us in the decision making process.  “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not all to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:3-4  In making decisions we must remember to look out for the best interest of others whether that be family or friends.  God calls us to put others first.
  3. Can’t I just have a life manual to guide me each day? There are those who will make the statement, “the Bible is the manual for life”.  This is not totally true.  The Bible is the story of Christ.  It is the Gospel story.  There are parts of the Bible which give us instruction on living as Followers of Christ.  We need to remember that Christ lives in us and we need to be reflecting Him in all we do.  In that sense it could be our life manual, however when we need to decide whether to use cloth diapers or disposable diapers, we will not find a chapter and verse for that decision.  We have to make that decision to the best of our ability.

This is the introduction to looking at Gospel issues versus life issues.  We need to explore this because we so confuse the two that we turn people off to the Gospel.  Another thing we do is judge others, shame others and seek to manipulate others to hold our opinions on life issues.  This causes great division in the body of Christ.  It is time to stop this nonsense!

In the coming blogs we will look at specific issues that have entered into the church and caused division among its members.  Here are few examples:  food issues, infant issues, dress issues, schooling issues, and work issues (in the home, outside the home).   Women…these are not Gospel issues!!  It is time to stop spending time on these issues that could be better spent on Gospel-living!

WEAKNESS OR STRENGTH?? – Part one

Originally posted 11-11-2016

Strength is a very important characteristic nowadays.  What does it mean to be strong?  The dictionary defines strength as:  the quality or state of being physically strong, the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force, or the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way.  The characteristic of being strong is probably more defined by the last two definitions than the first.  Sure, there are those who want to be able to pick up a boulder and throw it, but not many.  Most people want to be determined, effective and resistant to forces that try to move them in directions they don’t want to go.  How does this strength play out in the life of a follower of Jesus or does it?

“She dresses herself with strength…” Proverbs 31:17a

Let’s think about how our culture would translate that verse.  Our culture puts great stock in a strong woman who knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to speak it.  You may hear things said like, “you’re stronger than that” or “you don’t have to put up with that” or “push on and just do it”.  These are statements which represent our culture’s affection for self.  This type of strength is a selfish pursuit of wants.  So when the world interprets this verse they see it as saying, “she prepares herself each day to succeed and accomplish what she wants to do.”  It is a very selfish interpretation and is certainly not what the verse means.  What does it mean for a follower of Christ to dress herself with strength?

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Philippians 1:21

According to this verse we, as followers of Christ, are living as Christ in this world.  If we are living as Christ, what does His strength look like?

  1. Jesus said of Himself, “…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28  Serving is a sign of strength.  When we serve others it’s not about what we want or what we can accomplish.  It is about others and their interests and needs.  It is about putting others before you.  Easy?  Not always.  It takes strength of character to serve.  That strength is not part of our DNA, but when we are followers of Jesus we have the Spirit within and share in His DNA to serve.
  2. “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23  Jesus displayed strength in his ability to trust God in the most painful circumstance of the cross.  He didn’t flex His muscles or call out for relief and tell others how wrong they were.  He trusted His Father, God.  True strength is trusting God in the hard times even if they don’t change.  No pushing to get our own way but in trusting God to know what is best for us even in pain.
  3. “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” Hebrews 12:2a The strength of Jesus shows up in His ability to look beyond the circumstance of the cross to eternity.  The joy before Him was the promise of a future reward waiting for Him.  This reward was a seat at the right hand of the Father.  As followers of Christ, we are also part of that reward.  He was looking to the results of his suffering on the cross, reconciliation between God and man.  He had the strength to suffer because of the joy of the outcome.  As followers of Christ we have an eternity with Him awaiting us, which gives us the strength to endure today, tomorrow and next year.

So how do we as followers of Christ dress in strength each day?  We serve others, trust God, and look to the future awaiting us.  Our strength doesn’t come in getting our way or experiencing what we perceive to be happiness.

“The LORD is my strength and my shield…”  Psalm 28:7a

Our strength in the Lord may appear as weakness to this world but in reality will look like Jesus.  Are you weak or strong?   Dress yourself today in the strength of character that flows from the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

IN A LITTLE WHILE…

Do you remember when you were a child with anticipation for your birthday or Christmas?  Perhaps you were excited to know that your grandparents were coming to your house.  Those days seemed to go on forever.  You couldn’t help but ask your parents multiple times when the event would take place.  Remember their reply, “In a little while”.  This little phrase was used sometimes as a pacifier in order to find some relief from your constant asking.  But other times it was used as consolation to let you know that the time was indeed coming.  Is there a time for “in a little while” in our lives today?  Yes, very much so as we travel this road on which God has called us to walk.  We need the consolation from our Father, “in a little while”.

“My mom is sick and will never get better.  How can I carry on from day to day?”

This scenario is one of waiting for an outcome that will only bring more sorrow.  The loss of a parent is hard but so is caring for one who is ill.  The waiting for us is hard because we don’t know how long we will have to wait.  Our Father says to us, “In a little while”.  “Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

“I’ve lost my baby.  I am utterly devastated.  Will I ever be pregnant again?”

The loss of a child is a very deep grief.  As a mother you have carried this one inside of you so the attachment is real.  It’s okay to have great sorrow over this loss.  You are sad.  Sadness should be expressed.  It is not commendable to ignore this loss.  It is right to acknowledge it.  How long does the deep grief last?  When will it be over?  Our Father says to us, “In a little while”.  “…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…Christ Jesus…who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”  Romans 8:26b, 34

“There is downsizing going on at my work and I am the one who got cut.  What am I going to do?  My income is needed.”

Financial problems hit all of us at one time or another.  We can be in a position of feast or famine.  When the money is coming in, we enjoy it and depend on it.  But when the money isn’t coming in, we can choose to panic and be in despair as we worry about food, clothes and shelter.  These are hard times to work through especially if it becomes difficult to find another job.  Our Father says to us, “In a little while”.  “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

These are only a few examples of life and how hard it hits us.  Our Father, God, gives us consolation from His Word.  This means that God provides truth for us so that we will be less disappointed and more hopeful in the circumstance.  He gives us hope by letting us know He cares, and we can trust Him in the midst of any situation.  Sometimes we have multiple situations at once which cause us to feel overwhelmed and hopeless.  We need to hear His words to us, “In a little while”.  We don’t always know where to find those words so we have to depend on what we do know.  It’s a good time to rehearse our knowledge of God’s character.  We know He is good, so even in the midst of these hard situations, we can tell ourselves He is good which will bring about consolation for us.

One day we will have more than consolation; we will have sight.  That day will be greater than we can comprehend.  John describes it for us.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Revelations 21:3-4

Do you hear what He is saying to us here?  “In a little while”.   We can hang on in this world because we know what is coming in the next.  Find your consolation in Him today.

In a little while      “Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelations 22:20b