|Posted on January 23, 2021 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
What do you say God really needs from us? Worship, praise, offerings? If you think about it, He really has the power and authority to achieve anything. And He certainly doesn’t need any help from the flawed and inconsistent children that we’ve proven ourselves to be. I guess the answer is simply, ‘nothing’. He doesn’t need anything from us. But there is so much he wants from us. Craves, really.
When He first formed us He had already done a tremendous amount of work creating a gorgeous universe filled with everything our physical bodies would need. And God wasn’t just a workman who designed a functional environment with sterile walls and hard surfaces. He was an artist who sculpted a world of vibrant colors and invigorating smells and sensations. From the crashing waves on the rocky coastland, to the breathtaking sight of a newborn foal taking its first breath, everything was done with precision and thought – for our comfort and pleasure.
But then, when all that creating was done, He formed His most cherished piece yet. Us. He formed us in His image with a specific goal in mind. And more than anything, He longed for a family of humanity that He could bless, and that would bless Him.
We spend an inordinate amount of time tearing down all that God put together. From the very environment around us, each other, and ourselves. We become so consumed with trying to understand why everything is broken, we can’t accept the fact that we’ve all been involved in the destruction.
This week we have another opportunity to be better than we have been. Our new President and Vice President have been inaugurated into office. However we feel about that, the votes have been counted and we are being asked to turn the page. And we have never needed a re-set more than we do right now. Now is the time to try and give God what He originally longed for – a human family that would image Him and His nature. A family that would work together to continue the legacy of this beautiful world He created for us.
With all the chaos in our country - economic downturn, racial unrest, political division and the current health crisis – today more than ever we must find a way to lay down our weapons and reach out our hands. Not giving up our core beliefs or our rights, but to extend a hand of peace and to show we are the image of God we were designed to be.
And along with the others already serving, we must decide to be the heroes that God wants us to be, refusing to spread division and bitterness – instead reaching out with words that comfort and prayers that will bring healing to our broken land. We know that there are deeply flawed attitudes that need to be shifted in our nation, but we will never achieve the victory over them by allowing ourselves to respond with lawlessness or violence. It’s never right, on any side, or for any reason.
We need to find our own personal heroes. Those individuals of faith who have modeled humility and servanthood their whole lives. Whether it’s the janitor at church, or an esteemed evangelist, those are the examples we need to look to when we’re deciding how we will respond. And look to the life of Jesus.
Matthew 8:1-4 talks about a leper who needed to be healed. In spite of the risk to His own health, and the popular beliefs of the current day, scripture tells us “Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Now is the time for us to reach out to those who suffer from the disease of a bigoted upbringing, selfish ambition or godless intentions. We can be that healing touch that shows the love of God in spite of someone’s current diseased condition.
Most importantly, as a body we must lift our prayers and petitions to the Father to heal our land and bring back stability. We know that whatever happens on earth, it is under the loving control of God. He hears us and will honor our fervent and humble requests. Romans 13:1 assures us that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. We can rest easy in the promise of His sovereign rule, and His overwhelming and relentless love for us.
Be blessed my Friend. God is on the throne.
|Posted on January 17, 2021 at 12:15 AM||comments (0)|
I have a sweet old dog named Sissie. She is aptly named, because at nearly 18 years old she is absolutely terrified of everything. No matter what she’s doing or where she is, she simply trembles in abject fear. She loves me more than anyone else in the world, and her eyes look up at me longingly, but she is too afraid to allow me to pick her up without stiffening, even though I know she craves the connection.
I got her when she was less than a year old, saved from an abusive home by a kind and nurturing Rescue. When I was looking for a new dog, I was really wanting a small puppy that would be able to travel with my husband and I on our evangelistic journeys. I was also craving companionship and connection from home, and the bigger dogs couldn’t travel with us in the RV. I was sure I could simply love her into feeling safe.
In reality, I only picked her out of the dozens of dogs offered because she looked so terrified and out of place. I saw her there huddling in the corner of the enclosure, with the other dogs playing and milling around her, head tucked into the corner – eyes shut tight – and knew I had to take her home.
I thought that given time, she would come around and start to heal. I was certain that she would be able to get past her terror and begin to thrive and enjoy her new safe environment. But here we are 17 years later and she still shakes at every movement and hides under every chair. When I know she needs affection, I have to get down on her level and gently coax her with comforting words. No matter how much she wants it, she can’t get past the fear and seek me out for love.
Whatever happened to her in her past, she was never able to let go of it enough to fully embrace her future. While she’s lived a loved life in my home -- she is always safe and comfortable, has a full belly and warm bed every night, she’s never felt the complete joy and abandon that could have been hers had she let go of her fear.
I wonder how many of us that can be said of. We walk out of addiction, an abusive relationship, poverty or fear, and are living a life that is comfortable -- but certainly not the life of joy that we are entitled to. In His great love, God tries over and over to come down to our level and coax us, but we can’t trust Him enough to let go of the memories of our past. We survive, but we do not thrive.
But God didn’t just promise our survival, He promised us joy. Not just once, and not just if we’re perfect, but over and over and all the time. Romans 12:12 says “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
The very act of looking to hope as a reason to rejoice tells us that nothing is ever going to be perfect. In fact, we’re told we will have to be patient at the inevitable trouble, but our antidote from the cares of life is to give them to the Father in prayer. That’s a pretty complete prescription.
But first, we have to let go of the baggage that’s holding us back. Every breath we take, every moment we live is a new shot at happiness. That is, of course, if we’re willing to let go of the old pain that has us bound up. To hold on to the past is to, in effect, presume that God can’t change us or our circumstances. But Isaiah 46:18-19 tells us “do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I [GOD], will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
There is no hurt God can’t heal, no wound He is unwilling to bind up, and no dysfunction He won’t use or remove in order to make us effective and joyful in our journey here. We can survive our lives, much like my Sissie, fearful of everything around us – waiting for the next horrible thing to happen or being ineffective because we’re unable to take any kind of risk. Or we can grab onto the joy that we are promised, walk in the authority He has given us – and thrive!
Today is the day to be who God intended you to be, because tomorrow is just not promised. As Psalm 118:24 says “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on January 10, 2021 at 12:40 AM||comments (0)|
This week I received the very sad news that my good friend had gone home to be with the Lord, a victim of Covid. While I rejoice at the victory of his homegoing, I am also grieving with his sweet wife and family. One of our own Grace families lost their father recently, and we celebrated his life, but that doesn’t make the process any more comprehensible.
We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t want to ask ‘why’. What good can be found in a death that happens way too soon, and in a way that seems unfair and arbitrary? Does God not pay attention or love us enough to know how our hearts will be shattered and broken, or is someone else’s good of more importance that ours? In the midst of grief, the hard questions don’t seem to have any answer.
But knowing my friend I can’t help but wonder if some nurses’ life was cheered and touched by his unrelenting humor. Or if, in some small way, his death didn’t cause another person to be more cautious in how they go through their day-to-day activities – maybe even saving someone else’s life. I know everything that happens in this world has a ripple effect.
It seems we all know someone who is struggling with death and loss during this unprecedented time. Our hope can be swallowed up in the headlines -- our faith tested by the unknown. With the massive numbers of sick and suffering it’s difficult to not question God’s motives. How can we hang on to the belief that we’re not being punished or victimized by His anger?
It’s an unfathomable question and there are no easy answers except the one give to us by God’s provision and in His own loss. 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 asks “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
While I can’t begin to answer the ‘why’ questions, I can certainly answer the question of whether this is a way that God is venting His justifiable anger. Simply put, no! When we suffer, God suffers. We are His children whom He has chased down and restored over and over again -- from the moment He created and breathed life into the first man. He understands the devastation of grief better than any of us, and in His infinite love He weeps over our sin as much as He does our pain. [Hebrews 4:15, Luke 19:41] How can we presume God would punish us for that which He understands?
I’m not just stringing words together but have walked this cold and lonely road myself. I can’t promise that the answers will come in this life, but I can tell you that in every situation God has plan for our life and for our death. In a world of more than 7.5 billion people it’s easy to feel insignificant and small, but we are never inconsequential to our Father. Jeremiah 1:5a tells us that “before He formed us in our mother’s womb, He knew us.” More than that, we’re promised that “the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” [Psalm 33:11]
I don’t know your loss or your grief specifically, but I know the God we serve. If we can’t hold to one other promise, let’s hold to this: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [Psalm 147:3]. Joy will come again though it may take some time.
Beyond the pain here, we can hold onto the victory that God has guaranteed through the death of Christ. Revelation 21:4 tells us “He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away.”
Let me leave you with the lyrics to a wonderful old hymn, written by Jim Hill.
There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come
No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye
All is peace forever more on that happy golden shore
What a day, glorious day that will be
There'll be no sorrows there and no more burdens to bear
No more sickness and no more pain, no more parting over there
And forever I will be with the One who died for me
What a day, glorious day that will be
What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see
When I look upon His face the One who saved me by His grace
When He takes me by the hand and leads me to the Promised Land
What a day, glorious day that will be
Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on January 4, 2021 at 12:35 AM||comments (0)|
This is the first Sunday of a brand spanking new year, and the first Grace Notes too. I’m not sure we’ve ever needed a reset more desperately than we do this year. All around us we’re watching as the world writhes and groans. Where do we find peace? Where do we find justice? Where do we find some kind of relief from the overwhelming grief and fear?
As Christians, we know the answer is under the wings of the Almighty, as it tells us in Psalm 91. But if I’m completely transparent with myself and you, I have to admit how inadequate and hard to grasp that thought can be in the middle of this battle. I know! That probably makes me a terrible Believer and perhaps even a worse Pastor, right?
I don’t think so. It makes me honest and human – and I know I’m not alone in feeling these things. I take comfort in the fact that God understands and mourns the brokenness of our times right along with us. Beyond that, I’m completely convinced He doesn’t hold it against us. You see, the trouble in this world isn’t because God has abandoned or judged us, as some would like to claim. It’s not even because the Enemy has a stranglehold on the earth. I am convinced that what we’re going through is birth pains. And, as any mother can tell you, that is never without pain, blood, messiness and fear. But it is also a source of incredible joy.
That upcoming joy is also why we have is hope. The unrelenting, unending, unchanging knowledge that God is preparing a home for us where none of these issues will have any authority. When the New Jerusalem is birthed, that’s where we’ll fellowship with Him, living in a utopia where there will be no illness or sadness, and where we will see our loved ones again. It may seem far away at times, but we know it’s there.
So in the meantime, for however long it takes, we are being called on to make sure we extend that hope to everyone around us. The world may be in chaos, but we still have a job to do. Looking to the future, we must rely on the promises left to us in Scripture, and work on our relationship with God to ensure we’re doing our part to clean up this mess and prepare for the final chapter.
What better time is there to do that than at the start of a brand spanking new year? Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV) says “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Instead of making a new year’s resolution to spend more time in exercise, or to lose weight or pray more (things we should be doing anyway), let’s just focus on one goal: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”
If we can just let go of the mess of 2020 and look to the amazing future God has planned – ‘pressing on toward the goal’ – we will find ourselves happier, healthier, and more productive in all ways.
I know we all thought the end of 2020 would see some kind of miraculous relief. In reality, we’re still looking at a fairly hazy future, but we have the assurance that the fog is going to lift because God has promised that He will rescue and relieve His people. Isaiah 40:31 says “they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Eye’s straight ahead and focused on God, Church. That’s how we must enter the new year. God never gives up on us, so let’s not make the mistake of ever giving up on Him.
Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on December 26, 2020 at 11:55 AM||comments (0)|
In John 3:16, one of our most beloved verses, we’re told of the most amazing gift that could ever have been given to us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him won’t perish but will have everlasting life.”
Now that’s a gift that can’t ever be surpassed. And it’s also something that, once given and accepted, can never be taken from us. It doesn’t matter what kind of craziness is going on in the world, it will never be stolen, confiscated, restricted or rescinded. And to receive it, all we’re asked to do is have a believing faith in the gift of Christ’s birth, sacrificial death and resurrection. Simple and complete.
I don’t know about you, but Christmas looked a little different for me this year. There was no party, no Christmas program at church, and I was thriftier in what I spent. But this year was no less precious than any other I’ve celebrated. In fact, because finances were less available than time, everything was more meaningful. To give something painstakingly thought out, whether purchased or created, is a blessing to the one receiving and to the one giving.
I believe that’s how God looks at it too. He could just set the world back on its heels, wipe everything out and start again. He’s had to do it before, and it wouldn’t be a difficult task for Him. But instead, He put together a plan, made a sacrifice that had meaning on so many levels, then offered it to us to receive in whatever measure we are willing. You see, it’s not just about the gift. It’s also about our desire to reach for it.
Have you ever put thought into a special present for someone, then had them appear unimpressed by your offering? Generally that seems to happen with children. They don’t understand the value of the perfect gift, or what it takes to find it. So they would rather have the box than the expensive toy inside. But sometimes we just miss the mark, perhaps because we don’t know the recipient as well as we thought or got caught up in our good intentions.
I know I’ve received things that were so “not me” that I wondered what the giver was thinking. Were they gifting something they wanted or did they just not know me? I once received an electric potato peeler. It was an expensive gift, but the reason he gave it was because his job was to peel the potato’s for our family meals. Suffice to say it was a learning experience for him.
But the gift that God offers is not ‘one size fits all.’ Salvation means something different for everyone who receives it. The rescue that is offered is eternal -- not something that will wear out, expire or become obsolete. And it was prepared individually for you and me, in spite of the fact that it’s available to the whole world. The Giver knows us intimately and completely. Scripture tells us that He even knows the number of hairs on our head, so surely He knows exactly what the gift needs to look like for each of us.
I couldn’t help but notice that Christmas lights went up particularly early this year. In this broken world of ours many people would like to be mad at God and blame Him for the chaos and pain around us. But we all know where the dysfunction actually comes from; and admit it or not, we know where the relief will come from as well. Like children, we ignore the beautiful contents of our life and concentrate only on the packaging.
Despite the goodness of God’s gift there’s no possible way for us to really reciprocate. It’s freely given, and nothing is expected in return. Once we grasp the gift, unwrap it, and let it affect us, there’s no possible way it will ever be taken back. So how could we possibly repay that but by our loyal love and belief?
This season let’s take a minute to remember that the difficulties of 2020 were not from God, but the cure for them can be found in the promises and favor that He is offering us. Zephaniah 3:17 says “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” Now that’s a gift!
Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on December 20, 2020 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
When God first created mankind, it was in the hope that He would have someone to commune with here on earth. The master design was that we would create with Him and the Heavenly Host a perfect civilization where there would be fellowship, harmony, peace, and beauty.
We’ve pretty made a mess of that through the centuries, and 2020 is a strong reminder of what happens when we’re out of the will of God. But instead of focusing on the many horrors of this year or those of generations past, we can look at one thing that has never changed. The redemptive love of God that continues today with relentless energy and unwavering devotion to us.
Even when His creation chose temporary temptations in Eden, He began work on a plan to restore us to Him. Despite the sin that festered and rotted society forcing Him to wipe out the generations in a flood, God kept a seed sheltered to rebuild. Then, when His arrogant children again tried to subvert His will at the tower of Babel, God put a permanent solution in place that would ensure an eventual return to the design He had originally mapped out. And it started not with fire and fury, but with the birth of a Messiah.
Isaiah 9:6-7 prophesied “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
There are two accounts in Scripture of the actual birth of Jesus – in Matthew 1 and Luke 2. Both are simple and eloquent in their accounting of the event. In Luke we’re told that messengers appeared to some shepherds that were out tending their sheep outside the small town of Bethlehem. The angels told them “don’t be afraid, we bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
In Matthew, we simply read a quiet account of how Joseph, the earthly (but not biological) father of Jesus was informed of the impending birth. Again a messenger appeared and said “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Two things stand out. The first words to everyone in this redemption story is “don’t be afraid.” We spend a lot of time today being afraid. The world around us is in complete turmoil. The political climate is hot and unsteady, our very health is threatened, our way of life has been altered and compromised and chaos seems to have claimed everyone’s thinking.
But we can stand on the promises in the second part of this message. From the prophesy in Isaiah to the proclamation at the time of Christ’s birth, we are reminded that He was sent to save us. He is our Counselor when we’re confused, our Mighty God when we have no direction, our Everlasting Father who will not abandon us, and the Prince of Peace who will rebuke chaos and restore this world to its original design.
As we head into Christmas, let me leave you with the lyrics to a beautiful worship anthem written by Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash and Matt Redman:
Born of God and Son of man – there before the world began
Born to suffer, born to save, born to raise us from the grave
Christ the everlasting Lord – HE SHALL REIGN FOREVERMORE
Noel, Noel – Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel – the story of amazing love
The light of the world, given for us – Noel
Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on December 13, 2020 at 12:45 AM||comments (4)|
While I know that Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25 some 2000 plus years ago, I’m so glad we choose to celebrate the amazing gift of His birth – no matter what date. It’s not the precise when so much as the profound why.
We know that Isaiah prophesied of Christ’s birth about 700 or so years before the actual event. We also know it was the culmination of a plan God had put in place thousands of years before that - the final solution to the continuing problem of the sin and brokenness of the children He had created to populate the earth and maintain a paradise where He could reside with us forever.
As a mom it’s hard for me to not focus on the weeks that must have led up to the birth of Jesus. Putting aside the strange and supernatural occurrences that led to Mary’s pregnancy, how must she have been feeling physically and emotionally in those final weeks?
She was very young and untested, getting ready to start a life with an older man that was virtually a stranger to her. He could have abandoned her to die on her own in starvation, or could have had her immediately stoned. Did she wonder at his continuing kindness? Mary knew they were going to be leaving on a difficult 7-day journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It’s likely she had never left home in her life and would now find herself among the family of her betrothed. Did they know and believe that she hadn’t committed any sin by becoming pregnant, or would they be skeptical and unaccepting of her and the baby?
I remember how I felt in the two weeks leading up to the birth of my son. Both incredibly joyous and breath-takingly afraid. I was anxious to have my precious child in my arms but overwhelmingly scared that I would fail at every opportunity – likely dropping him on his head the first minute they put him in my arms. It’s a powerful combination of emotions.
And that doesn’t even begin to describe how uncomfortable it is to carry another human inside of you and try to cope with the physical and emotional turmoil that no one can prepare you for. And to do it on the back of a donkey, sleeping on the hard ground at night, trying to feel comfortable walking into the complete unknown? I just can’t fathom it.
The couple had to know they were carrying out an amazing and difficult plan. Both Mary and Joseph had taken such a complete leap of faith, accepting the mission God had placed before them. And while I knew my child was a gift from God, I did not have the added responsibility of knowing He would be carrying out a plan of salvation for the entire world. I was worried about being able to pay for college, but the angel had told Mary that the child who had been planted in her womb was “the Holy One… who will be called the Son of God” [Luke 1:35]. No pressure there.
Every step from Nazareth to Bethlehem was a walk of faith. As Mary approached the soon-coming birth, did she wonder about whether she had the strength to carry out the plan to completion? Did she ask herself if there might not be a way to back out and take an easier road? I remember in the days before my child’s birth, as preparatory contractions started, thinking to myself “I don’t want to do this!” I had the benefit of going to a clean hospital room with great drugs available to me. She didn’t even know where she would lay her head while giving birth to a King.
But Mary accepted the responsibility God had placed on her with such grace. In Luke 1:46-49, in one of the most poignant songs written in scripture, Mary says:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is might has done great things for me,
and holy is His name.”
Instead of speaking out in fear, she chose to sing praises. This precious young girl was the right choice. How wise God is. She didn’t look to the burden or the inevitable pain she was facing, but to the privilege of being able to participate in the greater plan God had laid out. That is true faith, because it’s borne out of complete and total trust in our Father.
This year, as we approach the holidays, what better time to remember that no matter how bleak things may look in our world we are the Kingdom of God – the adopted children of the Most High King – thanks to the birth of Christ. Let’s take a breath, and move forward in faith, trusting that God has never stopped working on our behalf. Hebrews 11:1 assures us that faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we surely know who hold our tomorrow.
Be blessed, my friend, God is on the throne!
|Posted on December 7, 2020 at 1:40 PM||comments (0)|
At countless weddings around the globe we’ve heard the words of 1 Corinthians 13 read with great earnestness and tender intent. What better place to proclaim these words of love than at the beginning of a new chapter with someone we are pledging ourselves to. They say in part, “Love is patient, love is kind … it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
We work so hard on the relationship with our spouses, particularly in the beginning – or at least we should be. I’m not sure where we ever got the idea marriage would be easy, aside from the many fairy tales we read as children. But after a time, familiarity and the reality of life’s daily grind can begin to wear away at the enthusiasm.
There are the many times his dirty socks are carelessly tossed right next to the hamper for you to pick up. Or the million events you’re late to because she can’t seem to get ready on time. How about your humiliation when she yelled at you in front of your mom, or when you caught him rolling his eyes at something you said. And then there’s the really big stuff, like finding out he’s been texting someone else in a way that made you feel insecure or suspicious, or the overspending that spins your finances into chaos.
Pretty soon we can’t even hear those vows in our head, let alone want to read or follow the mandates laid out for us in the “love” chapter of 1 Corinthians. And it’s not just in our marriages, but in all our relationships – with our kids, parents, co-workers, church family, friends. As these little (or big) hurts begin to tally, the scorecard just seems to lean heavier and heavier into the negative column. The blush quickly fades from the rose.
But the most important words in that chapter, and ones that we often overlook, are perhaps the simplest. Love “keeps no record of wrongs.” It’s not a this for that equation. There should really be no scorecard. Because if we’re not keeping score there can’t be any losers.
King David said it most eloquently in Psalm 130:3 when he wrote “If You, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand?” In spite of the fact that we should be staggering under the weight of our transgressions, we are really skilled at asking God to forgive and forget. We know we are offered His limitless grace, so why are we so stingy in extending that same forgiveness to the ones around us. It’s especially ironic since God never hurts us, but no matter how much we try we are bound to injure our loved ones just as much as they do us.
We are co-existing in this world with a myriad of different people, all with their own injuries, pains, personal predilections, strengths, and weaknesses. If we don’t shift our focus back to loving those around us like God does, we are never going to live in a way that will allow God to bless us and help us thrive. And, by the way, keeping this kind of scorecard is exhausting!
We can wrap the package up anyway we want, but the truth is we have to stop keeping score. If we really want to be someone else’s impression of Jesus, then we must start acting like He does. That means, as we’re told in 1 Peter 3:9, we “do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” We must always be the ones who stop the fight and extend a loving hand. Those black marks we check against someone else’s name, really only mark us.
If God doesn’t keep a list of all the ways we’ve hurt Him, disappointed Him, or just plain ignored His voice in our heads, then why should we? I’ve heard it said many times that this old world is just broken. But I’ve come to realize it’s not the world, but the way we are interacting in it, that needs to change. If we do our part, loving without trying to keep a record of rights and wrongs, then He will take care of the rest. After all, judgement is way above our pay grade. And there’s nothing at all that God can’t restore, renew and repay.
Be blessed, my friends, God is on the throne!
|Posted on November 29, 2020 at 12:25 AM||comments (0)|
We’re closing in on a year that has been more challenging than most of us can ever remember having experienced. But when I really examine what’s going on, I realize that it’s not so much that the events are so extreme individually, but that they are so global and all-encompassing.
If I examine all that I’ve personally gone through since March, this is certainly not the worst that’s happened to me in my lifetime. But it feels that way because we’re seeing the whole world struggle with the same issues at the same time. You’d think that would make us unite, but instead we’ve allowed it to divide us.
That’s not on Covid-19, global warming, President Trump, the Democrats, Republicans or the news media. That’s on us. Where in the world did we get the idea that we would be able to just skate through our lives without trouble or strife? I can tell you where we didn’t get it – in the Scriptures.
Nowhere are we told that living for the Lord is a “get out of jail free” card. Our salvation isn’t insulation from disaster or a guarantee that our lives will be perfect. What it promises is comfort through our trials, stability and peace in spite of adversity, and joy at the end of our journey. It’s just hard to hang on to that when the storm is raging around us.
While attending to his dying wife, C.S. Lewis said “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
He is certainly shouting at us now. Our job is to shake off our fears as much as we possibly can, and begin to move in faith with or without that fear. The time has come to stop standing against the wall, hands wrapped around our heads, ducking away from the chaos. And now is not the time to give up.
In 2 Corinthians 4:15 we’re told: “These sufferings of ours are for your benefit. And the more of you who are won to Christ, the more there are to thank Him for His great kindness, and the more the Lord is glorified. That is why we never give up.”
Even though we may feel like all hope is gone, our salvation tells us that there is still something better waiting for us – a great ending to the story. Verse 16 goes on to say “Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever!”
I know it doesn’t seem small to us right now. But we need to keep our eyes focused on what’s in front of us – perhaps WAY in front of us – so we don’t get swallowed up in the mess and muck of the present. Because, while our salvation doesn’t promise us freedom from trouble, it does offer this in Verse 18.
“So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.”
There are three things that real faith requires: Feet, Fortitude, and Fruit. To make it through this journey we’ll have to start moving forward with determination and endurance. And though we may not be able to see the blessing – the fruit – we have to keep focused on the truth that it will be coming. If not in this world, then surely in the next.
When Abraham was told to leave his home and go into unknown and uncharted territory to receive his inheritance from God, he moved forward. He didn’t know what the future would hold. Hebrews 11 tells us he was willing to live in tents and wait for the “city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
We may not see the light at the end of this particular tunnel, but we know it’s there because it’s been promised to us by God. So while we’re waiting, let’s shout out to the whole world that something better is available. We can disagree on everything else under the sun, but we have to agree that now is the time to get that Good News to our hurting world.
Be blessed my friend, God is on the throne!
|Posted on October 24, 2020 at 11:25 AM||comments (1)|
For some it’s become a bit of a challenge to talk about our Faith. That’s Faith with a capital “F.” These days, with all the division we’re seeing on so many levels, it’s unsurprising that it’s tempting to stay under the radar of anything that might appear to be controversial.
But when you think of it, how sad is it that our beliefs should be considered controversial? There was a time in our not too distant past when our country was founded on the fact that we are “one nation under God, indivisible…” Yet today, everything seems to divide us.
Did you know that the original Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a socialist minister? Rev. Francis Ballamy hoped that it would be used by citizens in many countries. It wasn’t until 1923 that the words “United States of America” was added, and it wasn’t until 1954 that we added God into the wording.
President Eisenhower, in response to the Communist threat of that day, convinced Congress to make the change and created the pledge we say today:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
And to the republic for which it stands
One nation under GOD, indivisible
With liberty and justice for all
It’s no surprise that it took a crisis to ask God to be part of the equation, and no surprise that it will take a crisis to bring Him back.
Because now, once again, we have become divided – in no small part because we’ve allowed ourselves to become sensitive to the criticism of the world when we share our Christian faith. We’ve slowly become accustomed to hushing ourselves while the declaration “ONE NATION UNDER GOD” is threatened.
The American republic was founded on a set of beliefs that have been tested many times during our history, starting with the Revolutionary War. Among these beliefs is the idea that we are all created equal – no matter our descent, religion, social, or economic standing. We have the fundamental right to freedom, free speech, due process and freedom of assembly.
As a country, we have had to stand up and fight for these rights – because even as the Declaration of Independence was originally written, it didn’t include everyone. But we grew and evolved and demanded that the original intent of our Constitution be instituted. As slow and painful as the battle was, can we afford to go backwards and allow the victories to be forgotten or wiped away?
In case you’re starting to think this is just another political rant, let’s circle back to the original statement. In our current situation, it’s become offensive if we talk about our Christian beliefs. They are considered archaic, misunderstood, or even worse - misguided.
But God was the original equal opportunity Creator, and we need to remember that it is on Him that not only this country, but our very existence, was really founded.
In Scripture we’re told “God treats everyone the same. He will punish sin wherever it is found. He will punish the heathen when they sin, even though they never had God’s written laws, for down in their hearts they know right from wrong. God’s laws are written within them; their own conscience accuses them, or sometimes excuses them.” Romans 2:11-14 TLB.
We have a life raft big enough for everyone. Are we going to row around, jealously guarding our right to be on that life raft – or are we going to share space, call out to everyone around us to come be saved, and reach out a hand to pull them in? Should we be afraid that somehow God’s big lifeboat won’t remain stable if everyone is on board?
We know from Matthew 5 that our Father will allow the “sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and He sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” However inconvenient, politically incorrect or uncomfortable it makes us, we must continue to share the message of equality, hope and salvation, whether we think people deserve it or not.
We’re not going to preserve our rights or freedoms by arguing with one another or by keeping quiet – but by diligently sharing the good news to everyone around us. Come on in! There’s plenty of room in this boat. God is going to get us through this election, through the Pandemic, and through the brokenness and division in our world. As long as we keep inviting Him in.
Be blessed my Friend. God is on the throne!