Saturday, December 24, 2011

It Takes Two...

“If we are not faithful, he will still be faithful,
       because he must be true to who he is.”
Continue teaching these things, warning people in God's presence not to argue about words. It does not help anyone, and it ruins those who listen. Make every effort to give yourself to God as the kind of person he will approve. Be a worker who is not ashamed and who uses the true teaching in the right way. 2 Timothy 2:13-15
I love to dance... My husband Brad was a great ballroom dancer and teacher. He had the knowledge, skill and patience to not only teach me, but allow me to enjoy llearning. We often danced the romantic Waltz, the lively Cha-Cha and even the fun and energetic Swing! He knew just how to hold me “in position” so that I could not help but follow his lead. Sometimes he would speak instructional words into my ears as to what foot to move that we could move together on the dance floor and have it appear as if I knew every step perfectly. Only Brad and I knew my desire to follow his lead help to made my part of the dance look flawless and easy. There was one dance we never tried to master...and that was the Tango. For some reason, I just couldn’t stop laughing at the intensity of this dance. It seemed tinged with “anger” to me...and I was anything but angry when dancing with Brad!

“It takes two to tango”...a traditional proverb is well partnered with the Spanish one that says; “It takes two to quarrel, but only one to end it.” 
I can’t help but see a bit of the “Tango” proverb going on right now in our country. The hostility towards Christianity seems higher than ever. Unfortunately, the reaction of many Christians towards this hostility and to the “stepping on our feet” especially now during this Christmas season has us acting like angry tango dancers. 

When Christians engage in “Tango-ing over “The Reason for the Season”  and other often serious  “affronts” to our expressions towards our faith with non-believers and those who are hostile to Christianly...we open the floor to waltzing people away from the Manger Child rather than helping them to swing towards Him. 

Hmmm... I can’t help but wonder, what Jesus would feel if He heard someone say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. What would Jesus think of the person(s) who said it or even of the person(s)who mandates the Christmas season can not be about the birth of Jesus? What would Jesus say in response to these things? What would Jesus do?

Somehow... I think Jesus would have great patience with each one and express  compassion, mercy, love and grace towards them for he knows about their deeply hidden pains or lack of understanding of who He is. The Lord would know what words of encouragement to say and what actions to take. Only the Lord knows if  one day they may be receptive to walking across the floor and even take hold of His hand with the desire to dance... trusting Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit in us...we too can respond as Jesus would.

You know...for me one of the great thing about having danced so often with Brad is I eventually was able to anticipate his next move and even imitate his steps. I  often delighted Brad with what I had learned. I loved it when I delighted made dancing with him all the more special. 
Even more so, I love the thought that I can delight the Lord. How beautiful the feet that follow Jesus...

So...I still don’t want to tango! When someone tries to get me to dance to it, I just let them try that dance alone. I want to respond instead by imitating the steps I learned that has me delighting the Lord. After takes two...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Pause Button

Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for Him  ~ Psalms 37:7a
I have often been too “quick” in responding to just about everything in my life. One of the hardest things I have had to do is find my “pause button” and then... not misplace it! Although I have learned much through trusting in the Lord’s strength on how to “wait”, I still struggle with this from time to time.
Just, this morning as I read my bible...I  was “quick” to jump from my pondering over some Scripture verses and how the Lord would have me understand them, when I began to spontaneously think about how they need to be known as well by a few other people I could think of...
Instead of sitting still with my Teacher and allowing the Holy Spirit to help me absorb and fully accept in my own heart and soul His teachings...Instead of asking questions that would lead me to a greater understanding and knowledge for what God’s plans are for me...Instead of listening how He would have me be a reflection of His Word...Instead of being still and know that He is Lord...I jumped up from my quiet time with my own thoughts of how I could “use this” instead of how I could “be this”. 

As I sat in front of my computer screen to write all that I had just learned, I found myself looking at the blank page realizing I had already “forgotten” what I wanted to write. 
Yikes! Writer’s block...I quickly summed. Or perhaps I’m getting forgetful in my older age. Hmmm, I’ll stick with writer’s block I decided.
As I went back to those Bible verses that had earlier sparked my intent interest and given me such wonderful insight to share with others, I remained “void” of any inspired words to share. 
Frustrated...I sat and tried to remember what it was I had wanted to say. It seemed so important and insightful! So, I decided, to look up some other Scriptures on the same subject and perhaps from these Scriptures I’d recall what it was I had learned.
Still nothing...“Why can’t I remember?" I said out loud as I continued my quick search of the Scriptures. “What was it that I had just learned?"
As I began to slow down and take in God’s Word, I came across several Scriptures that may not have been “what I was looking for” but spoke perfectly to my greater need. 
“Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord”                      ~2 Corinthians 6:17a 

As I sat quietly meditating on 2 Corinthians 6:17a...I began to realize something interesting about my “forgetfulness” this morning. How could I possibly “remember” something I have not even heard? I had been in such a hurry to do something with an exciting introduction, that I had missed out on receiving a full and rich teaching that God had in store for me to hear.
As I sit here a few hours later having found my “pause button” once again ...I realize something else. I have been feeling very pressed to be doing “something more” be saying “yes” to the many request from others.
But I heard God say to my yearning heart...”Come out from among all others and come sit awhile alone with me. Stay and listen to my instruction. I will teach you and our time together will be a constructive period of time, not wasted. You may have many “good” things you want to do but...there is no virtue in activity in and of itself. Never labor to serve, or force an opportunity my child. Be at peace as you sit at my is there you will learn my ways and be made ready and able to serve and not become anxious or tired. My plans for your life are not for you to always say “yes” to the plans of others but to always have a willing heart that says “yes” to mine.” 
The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. 42 One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”  ~ Luke 10 41-42  

Hit the “pause button” on your life and sit awhile in the garden with Jesus. May you too find peace and great wisdom at the feet of the One who knows you best. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Divine Strength

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:5

Have you noticed that children don't hesitate to ask for help? They quickly realize when they do not possess the necessary or adequate ability to fix or solve a problem and will without hesitation cry out; 

“Daddy...mommy...please help me!”  As adults we often hesitant to ask for help...we will try “anything and everything” on our own first until we run out of options and have to look beyond ourselves. Our hesitation and resistance usually comes from pride. 

I’ve discovered to make progress in my spiritual life, I have to accept the realities of my inadequacy and also hold onto a willingness to ask God for help. The Bible says God is our Abba (the Aramaic word for "daddy") and He is always ready to hear His children's requests for help (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). 
So, here’s something to consider the next time you find yourself “in over your head”. Only power in weakness is Divine and is sure to keep its divinity where it belongs...with God, not the vessel.
Thank you Lord for being my strength and revealing your divine power found in the midst of my insufficiency and weaknesses whenever I call upon the precious name of Jesus. Your love never fails. 
“If we were made sufficient in all things, we wouldn't need God's sufficiency.”  ~ David Jeremiah 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Grumpy or Grace? is the one time of the year when the world peeks in on Luke's narrative about a baby born and laid in a manger. This is a time of year when the truth of the gospel washes across the globe. The words of familiar Christmas songs like Silent Night and Joy to the World are heard, and their message of love and hope reach inside the yearning hearts of people everywhere. Songs about the birth of Jesus, breathe the wonder of the Incarnation into the darkest places in our culture as well.
Try to imagine what people from every culture would experience if every Christian stopped complaining about “the war” on their holiday. What would the world experience if we stopped being “angry” over how it has been commercialized as they also watch us “buying into” the same way of celebrating Christmas as they do... exhibiting much the same signs of stress they exhibit?
Imagine what the Christmas season would be like for everyone if Christians would just be bursting forth with joy?  Shouldn’t those of us whose hearts have been transformed by Christ....shouldn’t we be the most joyous members of the human race when the calendar flips to December? 

I was thinking...maybe, just maybe, that tired retail worker at the checkout line would say "Merry Christmas," not because we demand and insist on it, but because the joy of this season so overflows in us that they couldn’t help but have it spill out of their hearts too!

The real war on Christmas is the one being fought every day in the hearts of believers, not by the retail stores policies or by politicians or even the economy. You know...Christians do have a choice to make in all of this. We can either revel in the miracle of the Incarnation or allow ourselves to be distracted from “the Reason for the season” by the enemy of our soul who seeks to rob God's people of our joy.

Yes... For Christians...Christmas is our holiday. Oh, the world may attempt to “rename” this season...but the truth is we have the most wonderful opportunities during the Christmas season by having nearly an entire month to rejoice at the unfolding of God's salvation plan. So this Christmas, may we be found celebrating the birth of Jesus with generosity towards those we love, charity toward those who don't celebrate as they ought, and gospel gladness and truth to a world that desperately needs the good news!
“Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” ~Luke 2:9-11 NLT
May the joy of the Lord guide you this Christmas...

Friday, December 2, 2011

What's It Worth?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~ James 1:2-4
How we view the “worth” of an object, a circumstance, an experience even a person... influences how we respond to it. You would think if you were given something that has great worth, you would received it with a heart of joy and gratitude...but that’s not always the case. 
Some things we receive in this life are hidden inside an outer casing that has no beauty by itself but inside holds the most perfect gift. Like a hidden diamond, too often I’ve only seen the blackness of a cold rock that I want to toss as far away from myself as possible. Yet, If I choose to patiently wait, observing and learning from the One who placed that ugly rock into my hand...I will see the black and rough edges give way to reveal the many beautiful facets of a valuable jewel that will give me great joy to last a lifetime.
So let’s consider together the worth of some “ugly rocks” that may have been placed into our hands. As a Christian...Is Christ worth our obeying even when we experience the pain of a spouse or friend’s unfaithfulness to us? Is Christ worth trusting when our financial security is threatened or even destroyed? Is Christ still worth adoring when our physical health cripples us? 
Is Christ worth serving when a loved one dies “too soon”? Is Christ worth all our devotion even when our actions are misunderstood and our faith slandered? Is Christ worth giving all honor and glory to and is the crown of life promised by God still worth our perseverance in faith when we lose everything this life once held so dear to us?

For me the answer is a decisive “Yes”! Yes Lord... it is worth whatever the cost is for me to experience the joy that comes from living a life that is filled with your purpose. I no longer desire achieving the things this world once held my attention of and left me unsatisfied, craving for something more.
It took losing someone I greatly loved for me to finally understand what James was actually talking about when he encourages us to “consider it pure joy...whenever you face trials of many kinds.” 

When my husband died, I thought it was reason enough for me to lose all joy. I questioned God, asking him how I could ever “consider” experiencing such deep pain and sorrow could ever produce joy in me. 
God is faithful..He keeps all His promises. The Lord led me through the pain of loss to discovered the greater treasure in life is to know Him more intimately. My agony in the hands of God produced in me a multi-facet jewel of wisdom. I developed a better understanding of God...something that I would never have experienced otherwise. 

In the years since my husband’s death I’ve seen and experienced the many benefits of knowing God far better than ever before. You might be knowing God as I do now...worth the suffering it took to get me here? 
Although I would not have chosen the death of my beloved husband to be my path to know God as I now do...I would not want to lose what I have gained by what it seems only Brad’s death could have brought for me to such knowledge. The Lord has given me an understanding of who He is by what He has brought me through. The compassion and wisdom and insights from Christ that filled my empty heart, helped me to see that our circumstances in this life are not made up of things that are to be only considered as “good” or “bad”... but as opportunities for God’s purposes to be lived out.  
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. ~ James 1:12
The great worth of the Lord’s blessings, His kingdom and the certainty of receiving the crown of life are worth immeasurably more than the vain attempts I once sought after by clinging to the values that had me desiring only ease and comfort in this life.

The decision to praise God and say that “Christ is worth obeying, trusting, adoring, serving, giving devotion to, honoring, and is worth of my perseverance in faith... no matter what comes my way in this life... is one that becomes from realism and accepting the wisdom to "consider it pure joy", whenever we face trials of many kinds.

However reluctant I may have been to embrace it, I have learned suffering when received rightly... is one of God’s most abundant means of giving grace. Glory.

Reveal the perfect Jewel of Jesus in me...

                             How I just love you Jesus!


Monday, November 21, 2011

More Than Enough

“They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”   ~ Romans 1:19-20 

Augustine asked two questions of the world:
"If there is no God, why is there so much good?"    
"If there is a God, why is there so much evil?”

There are many people who spend a lifetime asking only the second question. Those of us who have faith and believe that God’s goodness is all around us, can sometimes get caught up in “accepting” God’s goodness, but “forget” that what He has bestowed into our lives, is not ours to “store up” but has been entrusted to us for sharing. 
Our abundant God gives us enough love, enough mercy, enough grace...all provided with a salting of enough beauty and enough wonder. Enough for a whole world to see and experience all these things. What would happen if we were to share these things God has given “enough” of? Would we not have enough love...enough good?

The answer to the second question is one that can be revealed in that the problem of evil in this world isn’t a problem at all of proving, “Is there a God?” The evil that is done in the world points out the problem is found in our own hearts...hearts that are turned inward to accommodate “self”. Amazingly... when we turn our heart outward... we in turn bear testimony to the loving existence of God! 

I just love how God reveals Himself through the world and people He created. He didn't have to, but He allows us to be a part of what this world craves to see and is questioning to know about Him. He lovingly chooses to allow His Son to be seen in us...His children. 
Thank you Father. All glory, honor and praise is Yours. You are more than enough....

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Never Alone

...though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, ...You are with me...
~ Psalm 23:4

Sometimes I feel alone and discouraged. Life has...well, not taken the course I thought it would when I made my plans years ago. Truth is... I can’t get the plans I made this morning to “work out”! Yikes!

I didn’t expect so much difficulty and heartache to continue in my life once I made the decision to surrender my will and trust God’s. I somehow imagined my obedience to follow God’s plans for my life, would bring me a lot of “through the meadows” kind of walks in my remaining know... “heaven” here on earth.

Instead...I still have too many days of “uphill climbing”. I’m cut by the hard jagged edge of unkind words and stumble over the rocks of difficult circumstances that bruise my tired soul. I look up... but I can’t see “the top”! Yet, I know my Guide is just ahead of me because I can feel the tug on the rope of faith that is firmly tied from His Spirit to my own.

The voice of my Guide can be heard over my loud gasping and crying out for “a moment please, just a moment” (or two), of rest. I hear Him encouraging me to take my next step when I suddenly feel a lifting of my feet off the ground. Ahhh...thankful, I decide that tough "spot" was easier than I thought it would be. This brief reprieve is just long enough for me to regain some needed rest and strength before once again returning to the surface of that mountain of life I’m climbing.  

Along this tough journey my Guide lets me catch up with Him and His presence fills me with joy. We sit together along side a hidden stream nestled inside a remote part of the mountain. I see my Guide bend down by the water's edge and place something into it. He once again sits down beside me and as we look out over the clear water before us, I see many beautiful stones along it’s edge, some look like gold and others appear to be precious jewels.

I ask my Guide if I may take a few with us... He laughs and tells me that each of these pretty stones were once the hard jagged edges and big stumbling rocks I encountered on our climb here. He tells me that He carried each one of them to this place and it is in this stream they became transformed into such beauty and were given their great worth. He tells me that even though I may not have noticed, each time I experience the cut or pain these stones caused me, He saw it all and poured over me His healing balm. He said He sees my every struggle and hurt along the way. I’m told it’s best to leave these pretty stones here and recall their beauty instead of being weighed down by them as I continue on our journey together. I decided to name this lake; Beerlahairoi, "You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees".

As we got up from this pleasant resting spot, I asked my Guide if we could just remain here and not travel any further.” I told Him, “I like it here with you and this place is so beautiful!” I never imagined a place more wonderful than this. Please...I begin to plea... “I’m tired of climbing and I don’t like it when I can’t see you. I’m weary of having to do this alone. Why do I have to go on?”
My Guide smiled as he took me by the hand and helped me up from where I sat. As He tighten the cord that bind us together He spoke these words; “This place is not the place I have promised you. I have something better in store for you...a perfect place. Come...just a bit further. I am always with are never alone. Keep looking up and listen for my voice and I will make my presence known ever step of the way. In the moments of your deepest need I promise to always provide. You see, you call me your Guide, but I am also know as Jehovah-Jireh, "The-Lord-Will-Provide". 

You know..loneliness comes to all of us. Remember that God sees you, and He will provide.
When God seems absent from us, He is often doing His most important work in us.
~ Author Unknown


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

ONE Step at a Time

The testing of your faith develops perseverance. James 1:3 (NIV 1984) sometimes destroys a spirit. But character can be strengthened in the crucible of suffering. Do you ask God to develop perseverance in you through each trial you face? I didn’t use to ask God for anything but relief! But I have learned through the most difficult trials in my life there is great value in asking God to develop in me perseverance so that when the next trial comes... I will be more fully prepared to know how to respond in it. Remembering God's strong arm of faithfulness will be all we will ever need to help us withstand any crisis. 
God’’s Word is my Guide... and it is good to remember that it is God who is leading me. So I have learned to banish my worries by adopting these words..."one step ~ enough for me.”  
God desire to lead you too. You might as well quit straining to know what tomorrow will hold since God doesn't give us a crystal ball to see into the future. His Word is like a lamp unto our feet and a light for our path, (Psalms 119:105). God's Word tells us we don't need to know what will happen tomorrow. Praise the Lord! I can leave tomorrows problems until this gives me at least one less thing to persevere through today! 
I have been given today to walk one step at a time... unafraid because I’m walking on the lighted path with Jesus. 

God has many ways that He might use to achieve His ends, but His wisdom determined the best way to accomplish them. ~Samuel Willard

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Victory is Yours...

    ...They will fight against you,
       but they will not defeat you,
    because I am with you.
    I will rescue you and save you," says the Lord.
Jeremiah 15:20b (NCV)
We’ve all been there. Life seems to be going along peacefully and your problems are small, when suddenly out of “nowhere” you are engaged in a battle! 
Like a peaceful nation that must defend it’s walls and enter into battle when attacked from it’s enemies, our peaceful lives are called to battle when we are attacked by life’s harsh realities. When our lives are touched by serious illnesses, broken relationships or financial name just a few...we must leave our “mountaintop retreat” and go down into the valley. The valley is a sandy battlefield where keeping a firm footing on the solid foundation of God’s promises will be necessary for our victory.
One of our most difficult struggles we will engaged in will be to resist the noise of the enemy’s taunts and seek the Lord’s voice instead. Thankfully, the Lord understands our weaknesses and weariness and He is faithful to lead us firmly to victory in the valley. Yet, how bittersweet the victories can be when the battle ends. 
Feeling tired but grateful for all God has done...the Lord gives us His strength for our victory journey up to the summit with Him. Gently He guides us to sit with him high above the trees and look out with Him to a breath-taking view of what He has created. While resting with God in this moment of peace and beauty, it seemed safe to ask him...”Why?” Feeling a bit bolder still, we may even make a heartfelt request, “Please Lord, no more tough battles...this last one was too hard”. 
 It is here in these intimate moments with God that the Lord has chosen to speak to our hears and imparts the godly wisdom we pray so often for.
“What is necessary will come.” he reveals, “There is nowhere you will ever go that I have not also been. My truth always are assured the victory.”
Ahh... the sacred summit. In a world of constant change...there is a place that we can find a permanence. That place is in the person of Jesus Christ.
This is why You are great, Lord GOD . There is no one like You, and there is no God besides You, as all we have heard confirms. 2 Samuel 7:22

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Trust Me!

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans:15:13 NLT
Last night was a rough one. My mom who lives with me had what I will call an “episode of obsession”.  Somehow her thoughts took her to thinking about her photo ID that will expire next year on her 85th birthday. She became very consumed in worry about how she was going to be able to renew it. I assured her that she had a full year before it would expire and that I would make sure it was renewed well in advance of it’s expiration. Yet, she continued to fret and worry as she began to search her address book for the phone number and address of who to contact regarding her ID. 
As I sat down beside her, I reminded her that I knew this was important to her and that it was important to me too. I promised her I would not forget to take care of this and then asked her if she trusted me to take care of all the things she no longer can do for herself alone. She said “Yes, but...” So we went round and round a few times as I tried to assure her of my competence to take care of this important matter. I again asked her to trust me and she kept saying she believed me and trusted me. 
Finally after many reassurances, I told her I loved her and then made her promise me to stop searching in her purse and drawer for information that I already possessed and would take care of. She said she loved me too and with a laugh we “agreed” that she would stop worrying about her ID. But she did not keep her promise. I saw that she was consumed in worry by the “unknown” of how I would get this done for her. So I went to my computer and found all the information we would need, printed it out and showed it to her. Finally, she seemed to breath a sign of relief as she “believed” me by seeing that I did have all the necessary paperwork to send in. After a while I went into her room to see how she was doing and she was contently reading her book. She looked up at me and smiled saying, "I feel it will be ok to wait until next year to renew my photo ID”. 
This morning as I sat and read my Bible, I found myself feeling very overwhelmed with sadness and dissatisfied with my life. My thoughts were filled with missing Brad. I was longing for what I had with him and feeling very depressed. I tried to pray but couldn’t. So, I sat silently instead. 
It was in the quiet I heard the Lord speak to my heart and ask; “Do you trust Me? I promised you I would take care of you. I will make sure you have all your needs met before any one of them “expires”. Stop worrying and can trust Me.”
I had to smile as I recognized some of my own assurances to my mom the night before and even more... I saw myself, as my mom, in my consuming thoughts of worry over the things I can not do alone. 
So I prayed. “Thank you Lord for loving me and for caring about what is important to me and treating them as important to you. Help me to place my complete trust in you so that I am able to take my eyes and thoughts off of me and find your rest from all concerns. I know You have every one of my needs in your hand and You will not fail to provide for each one as the need arises. Oh Lord, I am filled with joy and hope when I am found trusting you. I am greatly blessed to be given the opportunities your give me to serve the needs of others with the power of Christ in me. When my eyes leave me and are focused firmly on Jesus, I discover peace and find rest in hope. All glory is to God. Amen.”
Depend on the Lord;
       trust him, and he will take care of you
. ~  Psalms 37:5 NCV

Monday, August 29, 2011

God's Testing

...He might test you, to do you good in the end— ~Deuteronomy 8:16c NKJV
Jesus is the great burden-bearer. I don’t know about you, but too often when trouble enters my life, I have first sought out and accepted anyone and everyone, who professes concern for me, hoping to find the comfort and relief I am desperately needing. Whenever I do this, I find I have created a painful delay in receiving the very things I crave the most! The truth is, none of us need to look beyond God to find the guidance and wisdom we are seeking when burdened. 
All things that touch our lives will unfold in perfect order as God has planned them, if we allow Him the freedom to shape our circumstances and lead us in the right decisions. 
It is good to remember...the Lord is merciful and kind. He loves us beyond measure. He intends to do us good, and He will bring into our lives those who can truly help us, if we leave it all in His capable hands.
God’s Word assures us that the Lord’s plans are ones that will ultimately prosper us. He wants us to know Him, and to know him more intimately. When difficulties come, it is by His order and filtered through his fingers for our benefit. 
When others say you have trouble. God says you have a test.
The test we face in life may seem impossible to pass...but our God who gives the test...also provides the answer. 

 “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. ~ Matthew 11:28-29 Common English Bible

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Today is the Day!

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead... ~ Matthew 28:5-7b
I love Easter! Of all the special days in the year, celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection brings me the greatest joy and overflows my soul with boundless hope! It is also impossible for me not to be focused on the promise of His return as well. One day...Jesus will come back! 
Jesus’ first visit here on earth was greatly misunderstood by the people during that time as it remains still to this day. The Jewish people were looking for a king...not a servant. Like many today, the people during Jesus’ time must have had many debates and long discussions that included long streams of unanswered questions. Not so unlike today. Perhaps the most common question for all would be...”How could it be that God would wear the skin of mankind and allow himself to be treated with such distain... with such disregard?” 
The power He displayed in calming the sea and winds...healing the sick and even raising the dead, must have created great confusion amid their awe and as we read in God’s Word these miracles even angered many. The Jews and Gentiles who met and heard of Jesus must have asked many times over; “Who is this Jesus? Why does he speak with the authority of God, but look like an ordinary man? How can I be sure He is the One?” 
Feeling both drawn to Jesus and feeling perhaps is easier to “do nothing” when given a choice to follow Jesus. 
He (Jesus) said to another person, “Come, follow me.”The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” ~ Luke 9:59-60 (NLT)
This kind of excuse sounds acceptable to our ears until we understand the real heart of the matter. A choice was given to this man to go with the Messiah! To go with Jesus would mean he would have to leave behind the familiar. He would have to leave behind some of the people he loved and give up some of the things that he thought brought him security. It would cause him to make a sacrifice...give up temporary contentment and acceptance for a life that would surely bring great challenges, trials and even rejection. Sounds like a pretty bad trade until you remember who it is you are going with! 
Is there really any doubt if you believe Jesus... that you can also trust Him? You can trust him not only with your father, but with every person you love. You can trust Him with your life! In fact... your life is what Jesus cares most about!
Which brings me back to Easter...did I mention I love Easter! Here is why...
By Easter morning the grief stricken disciples of Christ had spent three days in deep sorrow and morning over the brutal death of Jesus. (Perhaps like me, you also know what this kind of grief feels like..the unimaginable pain). This is what the followers of Jesus are experiencing... By now all hope is lost...all faith in what they believed to be true has been replaced with fear and unending questions full of doubts. It even appears to them that the religious leaders were right after well as all the people who had rejected Jesus’ call to follow Him. Following Jesus had cost each man the rejection and ridicule from those family members and friends who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. So in the midst of grief mingled with despair over what to do now... suddenly comes a rapid secession of knocks on the’s Mary Magdalene and she is saying she and Mary has just seen Jesus. He’s alive!
“Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. ~ Luke 24:38-41a (NLT)
Easter fills the Christian heart with joy and wonder... and hope. Amazingly...the story doesn’t end here...Jesus is coming back! 
Jesus came to earth the first time he said; “to serve and give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). When Jesus returns in glory, He will be honored, exalted, and bowed down to. “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-10).
Before Jesus’ return we still have time to make the choice of acknowledging His lordship and submitting to Him voluntarily. When Jesus returns, it will be too late to choose, too late to change your mind, too late to receive His gift of eternal life by belief that He died for your sins. Everyone who has not believed and bowed before Him will be forced to bow...even worse...will be then banned from His presence - forever. 
Have you chosen? To refuse to chose is to have chosen already. Dear friends... Choose now, before it is too late. 
For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:2 (Bold type added is mine)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's In A Name?

Nice / Pleasant / Thoughtful / Considerate / Honest / Trustworthy / Hard- working / Fun / Encouraging / Friendly / Generous / Forgiving /Positive...Mean / Unpleasant / Forgetful / Inconsiderate / Liar / Gossip / Lazy / Difficult / Unkind / Selfish / Self-absorbed / Stingy / Unforgiving / Negative.
Christian / Prays / Believes the Bible / Full of Hope / Lives life as though God is the answer to everything /Naive / Foolish / Delusional / Out of touch / Inconsistent / Hateful / Prejudice /Hypocrite....Lost / Unsaved / Evil / Beyond Reach / Closed -minded / Sinner / Rejected... 
Have you noticed how people (even you and me) tend to instantly label (name) other people? I find that this happen a lot with people we don’t know very well or have just met. It is also something that is done to us! This “name calling” isn’t limited to people who don’t know each other very well... we actually add even more “names” to the people we know best. Like it or not... we will always have people who both know us well and don’t know us at all... give us new names. 
As Christians we understand by God’s Word that the world will not understand our ways. In fact we have examples in the Bible of how some pagan rulers did their own version of “name calling” by attempting to change the names of God’s devoted followers. In Genesis 41:45 we learn that Pharaoh “renamed” Joseph, Zaphenath-Paneah. Giving Joseph this Egyptian name was probably meant to entice him into the Egyptian culture and to sooth the ego of this Ruler who may have been uncomfortable with placing a foreigner and former slave in charge of all of Egypt, second only to himself. This new name is mentioned... but the biblical writer is careful to ignore the name thereafter. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon would later attempt in much the same way to conform Daniel and His friends to Babylon culture (See Daniel 1:7). The efforts of these Rulers fell short of success in both cases.
Today Christians are pressured to conform to the world as the world attempts to “rename” us too. We are in a constant battle as the world ~ even those with kind intentions ~ attempt to mold us into the image of the world’s culture. Like Joseph, who could not control what other people called him, but remained faithful and dependent on God, we too can keep from adopting what the world says is common and acceptable and remain faithful to God’s teachings.
 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” ~John 15:19
Joseph’s new name was intended to make him “blend in”...unfortunately... the “new” names we as Christians today are labeled with are not usually given to “adopt” us or draw us into closer ties with the world but are given to isolate and disclaim us. How we respond...or rather not respond to these names is vital to our witness of who we are in Christ. The names placed on us that the world gives to Christians should not affect our actions. Whether these names are given to flatter us or insult us, we can choose to ignore the world’s names and rejoice in the fact that God has adopted us and knows our real name...our true identity is found in Him alone. 
Fruit of the Spirit ~ Kind, Faithful, Gentle, Self-Controlled, Loves, Joy-Filled, Patient, Full of Peace.
The sound of some names we are called just sound good...and right to our ears... but the most pleasing sound to my ears will be the sound of Jesus’ voice when he calls me by name and leads me home.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. ~ John 10:3 (Bold emphasis is mine)