OCT 2 USED UP
|Posted on October 2, 2021 at 9:30 AM||comments ()|
I know I talk a lot about my family. You’ll just have to bear with me as they are my corner of life, and the little microcosm that form the building blocks of my day-to-day existence. Who I am is, in great part, who they see me as. Now I know that God is the one who really has the real authority, and I know who He says I am. But let’s be honest – a lot of our identities are wrapped up in the lives we build during our stay here on earth.
As we age, we find the little puzzle of this life we’ve built is shifting, sometimes in ways that are not particularly comfortable for us. One goes off to start his own new life, and we can’t imagine how we’ll ever fill the hole that is left. A new chapter begins for another, and our thread is not as prevalent in the storyline. So, we wonder if we’re becoming less important. Big decisions are being made, and we don’t have the same voice in the process. And we ask ourselves if our usefulness – and relevance - is slipping away.
On one level, we realize that all these shifts are filled with blessings. New daughters or sons in law, perhaps a grandbaby or two, fresh celebrations and traditions – but they are all wrapped up in a pretty package called ‘change.’ The new guard is moving into the captain’s seat, and we’re being given the opportunity to rest a bit. So why doesn’t that feel particularly restful?
Our hearts dread the coming adjustments if we’re completely honest. As much as we want the ones around us to flourish on their own and become independent and strong, it’s painful to face the reality that we may not be quite as needed anymore. And even though we’re still young and vital in our minds, our own bodies begin to tell a different story.
On one hand, we celebrate their success and watch with joy as lives begin to bloom – and are truly proud that others have learned from the example that we tried to set. But we can’t help but grieve because they will soon look to someone besides us for direction and guidance. As much as it was wearying to be the one everyone looked to and depended on, that feeling of worth is like a drug that we aren’t ready to break the habit of.
I’ve watched my own dad, who is now almost 94, come to a place where he doesn’t feel necessary. I can see the confusion and sadness in his eyes as he quietly watches life go by – no longer an active participant, but more a silent spectator. And though we try and reassure him of our love, and I know he feels it, it is true that we’ve had to move on and start chapters that don’t revolve around him.
Seasons. Without them there would be no healthy growth, but that doesn’t make them any easier to bear. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 tells us that “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…” That passage surely sums of life, but it doesn’t tell the whole of it. Because while the world around us may be changing, one thing that stays the same is God. Hebrews 13:8 says He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And more than that we know that His love for us never shifts. So, while the house itself may be settling a bit, if God is our foundation it will stand forever.
While we might question our own validity in the changing landscape of our lives, we can rest in the sure knowledge that God will forever be God. When it seems like the world doesn’t see us anymore or put any particular value on our contribution, He is forever and always El Roi – the God who sees. The God who sees US.
We may sometimes feel like we’re losing control over our own lives, but the fact is that God was really in control from the beginning. Daniel 2:21 says “He changes the times and season; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.”
So, we can celebrate the change, even while it’s perfectly understandable that we mourn them a little too. Because El Roi sees the entirety of us. He was there at our beginning, and He will hold us until our end.
Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne.
Sept. 18: Just Go!
|Posted on September 18, 2021 at 11:25 AM||comments ()|
Have you heard the term “overbuilding the neighborhood?” If you’ve ever bought a home, you’ve likely been in a situation where you found the perfect house in the completely wrong location. You spy this beautiful structure that you can imagine living in – everything in pristine condition and ready for occupancy and it makes you wonder why anyone would even considering selling it. But then you look beyond the boundaries of the property it’s on and you begin to pick up on the neglect.
Practically speaking, we know to stay away from those places because no matter how attractive they might seem on the outside, the conditions of the surroundings will always affect how comfortable our life will be, and maybe even how safe. And beyond that, everything around the perfect house changes the actual monetary value of the home we want to buy. After all, if it were in the perfect neighborhood where everything was healthy and beautiful, we could never afford it.
That’s a pretty good analogy for our whole life. We spend so much time trying to make our physical structure comfortable and perfect, we lose sight of the fact that this is really just a camping spot for us – a temporary abode that, in the grand scheme of things, we will occupy for a pretty short amount of time.
But the world programs us to crave more… bigger… better. We’re taught from a very young age to never be satisfied with what we have. Even worse, we come to understand that it’s a ‘me first’ age. Selfishness is fostered in the form of being competitive, and we even feel like our identity and success is tied to the material possessions we manage to amass. Those of us who acknowledge that God is the Provider of all things can even begin to slip into a mindset that makes us believe what we have is a measure of how good He is.
But God’s yardstick is so different from ours. He shows us that we need to change our thinking – our inner man, if you will. Jesus very presence on earth, as well as His profound teachings, proved that our Father was looking beyond gestures and material possessions to capture the hearts of His children. It’s not that He doesn’t want us to have nice things or be physically content, but He is trying to teach us that it only brings temporary satisfaction and not eternal blessing. And what we have is not a measure of who we are.
Jesus said “follow Me” thirteen times throughout the Gospels. In Matthew 4:18-22 we’re told of how He called Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. Jesus told them “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” And in verse 20 we see their response when they “immediately left their nets and followed Him.” What could they have thought of this stranger that was telling them to change their lives and give up everything precious to them to serve a population of people that could seemingly care less about their mission.
Scripture goes on to tell us that Jesus saw two more brothers, James and John, fishing with their father. In the same way He called to them and they “immediately left their boat and their father and followed Him.” He wasn’t just encouraging them to take a risk, and the words ‘follow me’ went far beyond leaving everything comfortable behind. Jesus was saying ‘come and learn from me. Help me to help this lost world.’ And they didn’t question the call, they just followed.
We’re slow to answer the call because we’re so accustomed to putting ourselves in front of everyone around us. We seem to be much more concerned with getting ahead and storing up our possessions here, thinking it will provide safety and happiness. We’ve put so much emphasis on this life – our temporary tent as it’s called in 1 Corinthians 5:1 – that we’ve lost sight of how intangible the material is.
Instead of spending so much time trying to make our homes perfect – overbuilding the neighborhood - what if we spent more time trying to make the homes of those around us more livable? Jesus told His disciples to leave their livelihoods, homes, and everything they had amassed and follow Him to find peace and completion. Because the answer wasn’t in themselves as individuals, but in us as a family. Let’s bring everyone in, Jesus said. Go out and tell the good news! Be fishers of men.
God demands it, Jesus modeled it and it is the only way to ever find that complete and total peace we all crave. Because whatever hole we’re trying to fill up with more ‘stuff’ will only truly be satisfied when we recognize it can only be made replete by God.
Be blessed my Friend, God is on the throne!
Sept 11, 2021; Trust
|Posted on September 11, 2021 at 10:50 AM||comments ()|
My youngest grandson, who is inexplicably approaching his 18th birthday, has made the decision to enter the military. The Marines to be exact. While I have a mix of emotions running through me, the most prevalent is dread. The political situation of our world couldn’t be more unstable so who knows what the coming years might bring. And this is a young man who has never been away from home, and one that I still must remind to brush his teeth and make his bed. How I can possibly trust him to strangers, or even to his own devices?
But as the time approaches and I must look my fear straight in the face, I also must acknowledge that this is where the faith I’ve preached about for decades will have to have some teeth. No messing around now, I either trust in God’s sovereign will or I don’t. And if I search myself thoroughly, I need to also acknowledge that I’m not being asked to trust my grandson to strangers, I’m allowing God to work His will in my grandson’s life. And there is no precious cargo that He is not capable of carrying.
The world would like to call us naive to have such innate hope in a God we can’t (for the most part) physically touch or speak to, let alone plead our case. We’ve learned that life isn’t fair, and that inexplicable things happen with regularity. How then can we blindly put “faith over fear” as some are fond of saying.
If we had our choice, no one would ever have to learn about life the ‘hard way,’ have a broken heart (let alone a broken bone), and we would never be faced with watching them be sick or perhaps even leave us before we think it’s time. I know if I had my way, I’d be sending my grandson off to a college – one not too far away – where I could grumble about him bringing home a gigantic bag of dirty laundry every week or so, and I could see for myself that he’s eating right. But that isn’t part of the human condition, and that kind of insulation is certainly not guaranteed no matter how devout a Christian you are.
The mistake we make is in thinking that faith exists without fear. I think there is a healthy bit of both in every situation, or no balance exists. It is our human nature that wants us to believe that to feel afraid will cripple us, and the exact opposite of showing trust in the Father. Fear can certainly weaken if we allow it to consume us. But, as the Apostle Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 12 “when we are weak, then we are strong.” He had clearly petitioned to Lord to take something painful from him – a ‘thorn in his flesh’ – but God said to him “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Of course, we wish we could keep out loved ones wrapped in a cocoon of safety, but that’s simply not possible. Particularly with our children, all we can do is armor them with prayer, inoculate them with good scripture teaching and show them how to use their own moral compass. Sometimes we recognize that we haven’t done a particularly good job of some of those things through the years, so perhaps part of our misgivings are based on our own insecurity. But despite our shortcomings God will move through the lives and hearts of our young people and our prayers will not go unheard.
I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit to trying every tactic I know to dissuade my grandson from this path, and even as he approaches the day where he will face all the required testing to make sure he’s fit for active duty, it’s been a conscious battle to pray for God to have His will, and not to plead for mine.
The very words I pray have changed because I remember that he doesn’t really belong to me. He is young, but he is a man of God who has given his heart to the Lord. All the preparation has been done, as best we could do in our own human weakness. We dedicated him back to God when he was an infant and it isn’t our job to try and ordain his future now. That will be between him and God. That doesn’t make me an award winning Christian, it makes me a woman who has learned that even in pain there is victory.
Psalm 37:23 tells us that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. Sadly, for a family sending their youngest into the unknown, we can only cling to the promise of that scripture, know that God always has a watchful eye on our children – even when they are grown adults trying to find their own way. God’s path may not be smooth and easy. In fact, there is no guarantee that it won’t be gut wrenchingly difficult -- but when they are walking in the will of God there is no safer place they can be.
That may not always look like the bubble of safety we long for, but God is listening to our passionate pleadings on behalf of our young people. 1 Peter 3:12 tells us that the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears attentive to their prayers. Attentive doesn’t always mean His answer will be what we want to hear. And that’s where our faith kicks in. Not without fear, but certainly with the comfort that can come from know that God is in control of every situation and every outcome.
We must trust that God’s will is always the best way, even when we can’t quite see it. He already proved His love by sending His Son – as a sacrifice for ours. So, despite our fear for their future, we know that He understands our misgivings and, even more than that, He loves our children more than we ever could.
Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!
September 4 The Beauty of the Beatitudes
|Posted on September 4, 2021 at 10:45 AM||comments ()|
f you are someone like me who grew up in the church, you’re familiar with Jesus words as recorded in Matthew 5. We call these teachings the “Sermon on the Mount,” with some specific passages called the “Beatitudes.”
The word Beatitude comes from the Latin ‘beati,’ which translates to happy or fortunate. The word in Greek has largely the same meaning. What Jesus was teaching us is that we need to look beyond the current condition or circumstance of our lives and understand that we will always be blessed – even in hard times – because we know of the ultimate reward the Father is preparing for us.
In Matthew 5:3-10 we told “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
But even while we know heaven is our ultimate destination, during troubled waters it’s hard to find the “blessing” part when thinking of mourning, or responding to a situation with meekness, or being hungry or persecuted. We all yearn for the blessing, but we want it without all the bother.
But along with the promise of our ultimate reward at the end of our lives is the implicit assurance that God has us on His mind and that He will always be fighting for us. We know that because He’s looking to a future time and place where we will live together and will have nothing but blessing and happiness.
Sadly, we can’t expect a perfect ‘heaven here on earth’ simply because we accept the gift of salvation. Our perfection cannot come while we’re in these flawed human bodies, and so we must struggle with the problems and heartbreaks of our existence. That will include loss, pain, illness and all the other conditions we are subject to in our “earthly tents,” as 2 Corinthians 5:1 describes us.
I’ve heard the Sermon on the Mount described as King Jesus’ inaugural address. He was declaring to His people the ethical and moral standards that are expected. The Jews of the day (not unlike us today), were so flesh-focused that they thought the bar was being set too high. They were all about the old laws of “thou shalt not kill, commit adultery, lie….” But to change their very responses to a cruel and oppressive world – that was simply asking too much. Jesus was saying ‘shift your focus from the religious and let’s start working on relationship.’ Not just with God – but with each other.
Jesus never once said it would be easy. But He gave us these standards realizing that He would be leaving us with the Holy Spirit to guide, comfort and teach us as we journey (struggle) here in this very broken world. The word for that day – and for this – is that if we change how our hearts and attitudes respond to our situations, blessing will be the result.
And even more importantly, Jesus taught that we are chartered with the responsibility to bring everyone else into this protected family circle. He explains why our very attitudes and responses are critical. In Verse 13 Jesus says “you are the salt of the earth.” In other words, you are the life-giving sustaining substance that everyone around you needs.
So while we may not look at our trouble and suffering as a good thing, without that testing of our faith and endurance how can we really speak with any authority on goodness and provision of God? And when I say testing, I don’t mean that God is testing us so much as our situations give us an opportunity to reinforce and recognize His faithfulness. So maybe the better word would be proving. Our situations prove His love. Now that makes the beatitudes take on a whole new meaning.
Jesus tells us in Acts 1:7-8 “it is not for us to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive the power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” So when you’re feeling tested, remember that life isn’t about a grade for this response or that. We have guidelines and we have help – and we are not fighting through on our own. The Holy Spirit has been left with us here to comfort and guide through the pain of our human condition. And despite the trouble, we are surely loved.
Be blessed my friend, God is on the throne!
August 29; Relationships
|Posted on August 28, 2021 at 10:15 AM||comments ()|
Relationships are a complex thing. The very word has many meanings, even in the English language which is generally pretty straight forward in its approach to words. I think the most descriptive definition is the first one that good old Webster gives us: “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.”
Sometimes the relationship with people is one that is created by marriage or by blood, or by a common struggle, belief, fear, attraction or some other thread we may not even understand. We tell ourselves that the only healthy one is when the other person accepts us for who we are – but the truth is we spend much of our time trying to reinforce the idea that we can fit into another’s pre-conceived notion of who we really are. And, if we’re honest, trying to fit someone into our vision of them.
Early on, when growing into a relationship with someone, whether it’s romantic or some other type of connection, we tell ourselves that the differences are what make us fit. We think of the idiosyncrasies of the other person as quirky and cute. We tell ourselves that we love the uniqueness of that person and that they love our little eccentricities. It isn’t until later, when difficult situations arise to test that link, that we start to wonder if our differences are so great that will never fit. Eventually we get to the place where we can’t wait to break the tie because it starts to feel more like a noose. What we once adored becomes a burden and an annoyance.
In marriage (and often in other situations), we offer up the “you can’t change me” excuse as a reason for leaving the tattered link. And if that doesn’t work, we tell ourselves it must not have been a good fit in the first place if we had to change to make it right. That’s why we can be in a crowded room and still feel lonely. Because that feeling of isolation is borne out of the sure belief that we are not heard, understood or have value. I know for sure it’s much more heartbreaking to be in a relationship with someone and feel alone, than it is to actually be alone.
It is only in our relationship with God that we expect to be changed. Lord knows We might be a bit afraid of it, resist it on some level (maybe MANY levels), try and tell ourselves we don’t need it – but deep down we know that He is going to re-wire us in a way that will rock our world. We expect it, and eventually we accept it. And when we do let go, we always see the life-changing peace and incredible freedom it brings.
2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” Salvation is the beginning of a relationship that will have us evolving from the moment it starts to the last breath we draw here in our earthly bodies. That giving up of ourselves, the very thing we resist with our human connections, is the key to a perfect and healthy walk with God.
We must remember that we are the ones changing, not Him. Hebrews 13:8 tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” While our relationship with our spouses, or anyone for that matter, will always involve change by both people that is only because we humans are all imperfect – and God is not. When you put our flawed nature up against His perfect presence, we must do the molding in order to reach that place of complete and total perfection.
So, in terms of the relationships in our lives, if we want them to work for the long run we must make them completely God-centric. If we’re joining with another individual, we must both accept that we will be changing - but as God designs, not as we have decided.
And beyond that, we can’t judge or measure the other’s evolution. That is always between an individual and God. Paul said it succinctly in Philippians 2:12 when he said we must ‘work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” And that is why we need to let God do the picking for us. Whether that means a business partner, a best friend or a spouse – who we engage with has to be the person He says we are to be yoked with. And ‘yoked’ doesn’t just mean marriage. Every relationship in our life should be pre-ordained by God.
And when we find ourselves in relationships that seem to be a complete mess that God didn’t ordain (and be honest, we all have those) – let’s remember that, when necessary, He can change those around us just as He can change us. We don’t get to walk away from people just because things get messy. Once we get placed (or place ourselves) in the middle of a bond, we have a responsibility to stick it out. The time to move is only when He says, because we can’t possibly know why we’ve been placed in someone else’s life. God uses every single situation in our lives to make us better – and to help those around us. We are called to be His imager, which means we never ever give up. And if we are told to move on, the connection remains because we can affect someone simply by keeping them in prayer.
And that’s why relationships are a complex thing. But the one thing that is simple is that God is always working for us and that, as we’re told in Romans 8, all things work together for good to them that love God, and to them who are called according to His purpose. Put Him in the middle, and all the stuff on the outside just finds a way to fit together.
August 21, 2021; Let Her Speak
|Posted on August 21, 2021 at 11:30 AM||comments ()|
There has long been a lot of controversy about women in ministry and their ‘appropriate’ place. Of all the important topics we could debate, I’m not sure why this one gets so much attention. Is it really an issue of order and biblical integrity, or one of territory? One thing I know for certain is that if we try to keep someone from working within their God-given talents and calling, there is going to be a problem.
Make no mistake, I believe in order in both the home and the church. And while there are several passages of scripture written by Paul that seem to say women should have no place or voice in ministry, we need to keep digging. To really understand the full picture of what scripture is saying, we must understand the background and meaning behind every passage. There is compelling evidence that God not only intended for women to have a place among the leaders, but He specifically equipped them for that role.
In Judges 4 and 5 we find the saga of Deborah. She was not only a judge, so someone with a powerful voice in ministry and politics, but a warrior called into battle. And not just because she was the only one willing, but because God had a specific task that she was uniquely qualified for.
Before that we’re told of Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron. God placed her in a position of authority with her brothers. We know this because in Micah 6:4 she is named as a leader of the nation right alongside them.
Ester was called to risk her life to save the Jewish people. She didn’t just act as a sacrificial lamb, but with Godly direction she led her people into a time of fasting and prayer, then demonstrated her faith in the Almighty by stepping forward with courage and intelligence.
Even during Paul’s ministry, we read of Phoebe who is named as a deacon of the church. In Romans 16:1 we’re told of Paul’s introduction of her to the church – calling on them to give her a ‘warm welcome and every support.’ She was given the pivotal role of taking Paul’s letter to the church in Rome where she not only read it to the believers there but was likely called on to explain its meaning - certainly not something that can be done by someone who doesn’t have a voice and the authority to use it.
No one is disqualified to be used by God. There’s never anyone so young, old, damaged, different, disease-ridden or sin filled that He won’t clean up and call on. If we are willing, God is able! In fact, He uses our very differences to reach a world that is populated by the different.
So, to think that there is any segment of our human population that God can’t work through simply says we don’t understand the enormity of His strength and grace. He will use anyone, no matter who or how broken, to rescue all His children. He has one goal – to save every sheep in His flock.
In the 2nd chapter of Joel, the prophet tells of the Holy Spirit dream given to him, citing what God spoke, “…I will pour out my Spirit upon all of you! Your sons and daughters will prophesy; your old men will dream dreams, and your young men see visions. And I will pour out my Spirit even on your slaves, men and women alike…” And on the day of Pentecost documented in Acts, Peter tells us that vision was fulfilled.
Not just on men, not just on the rich, not just on the pious, not just on the Jews, but on everyone who would accept the gifts of the Spirit. Because God is not a Father of distinction. We are all His adopted children, and He doesn’t qualify us by our abilities He equips us for His call.
We need to remember that we aren’t in charge of the ‘order’ of things, God is. We all have the right, responsibility, and privilege to declare His word and His works, and to testify of His promise of grace and salvation. Let’s not get so caught up in religion that we forget that we must allow God to set the stage for His work, and to use whatever and whoever He feels is best suited – not unilaterally eliminate someone based on human perceptions and prejudices.
The harvest is great and the workers are few. We can’t afford to disqualify anyone from the arduous work we have ahead of us. And if you’re wondering if you’ve outlived or out sinned your usefulness, I can assure you that God has a plan and a purpose for us until the very last breath we draw. Until we’re celebrating in heaven, we are all called to soldier together.
Be blessed, my Friend. God is on the throne.
August 14; This is How We Fight Our Battles
|Posted on August 14, 2021 at 11:45 AM||comments ()|
The Roman military has been known throughout history to be one of the mightiest and most powerful. During the time of the Gospels, Rome controlled most of the Holy Lands so it is no surprise that they are often mentioned in scripture.
When we think of them, we recall the scenes in the New Testament where they crucified Jesus. We cringe when we think of the soldiers twisting the crown of thorns on His head and beating Him until He was hardly recognizable as a man. We read many stories of the Roman soldiers killing and persecuting the Israelites, or their godless Government profaning God’s temple and trying to paganize the Jews.
It’s hard to ascribe anything at all redeemable to the hated warriors, with their formidable training and impenetrable armor. In our heads, we likely think of a soulless automaton who mindlessly follows the bloody orders he’s given. What we don’t often take into consideration is that if a soldier was given an order to guard someone and they escaped, that soldier would be killed. And we need to remember that the Roman Empire was merely a political machine that God ultimately used to prepare the world for the birth of the Messiah and the spread of the Gospel.
In Matthew 8, we read of a Roman Centurion (an officer) who loved his servant to much that he was willing to approach Jesus and request healing for him. In fact, the officer had so much faith that he didn’t even ask that Jesus physically examine the servant, knowing He only had to speak a word and it would be done. And his faith was rewarded. In Matthew 8:33 we’re told that “Jesus said to the officer ‘go your way; as you have believed, so let it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed that same hour.”
These frightening men were really just flesh and blood. They weren’t unreachable or without conscience and feelings. In fact, much of what motivated them was fear and training. And a lot of what made them so formidable was their dedication to the service they were called to. The truth is, they weren’t always the enemy. They had a job to do and often only took action against Christian at the instigation of the Jewish authorities.
The Roman army could win when others could not because they had a single-minded determination. Their shoes had curved spikes in them so once they dug their heels in, they were not going to be moved. If faced with a larger enemy, they would lock arms. Where one could have perhaps been knocked down, linked together they were impenetrable.
How much more could we accomplish if we would dig ourselves in and link arms? Satan uses whatever weapon is at his disposal, including banding together those who aren’t originally our enemies, and creating an army to harm us. We might not appreciate how he works, but there is a lesson in the relentlessness with which he pursues his goals. We can get as upset as we want about the Enemy’s self-serving and destructive ability to keep us weak, but we’re foolish if we don’t learn from it. And he only has the power and authority we allow.
We have all the armor we need in the authority of our Almighty God. Our strength doesn’t come from ourselves, it comes from the “power of His might” [Ephesians 6:10]. If we would just grab each other and hold on, dig our spikes into the ground and stand together, there isn’t an enemy out there who could breach our walls.
We are living in a time when there is a battle raging around us. There’s a reason why Paul writes about putting on the “whole armor of God in Ephesians 6. Satan is ‘the accuser’ and he stands ready to try to fool, divide and destroy us. In verses 11-12 Paul says we need to keep our armor on so that we can “stand against the schemes of the devil. We don’t wrestle again flesh and blood, but against the rulers of darkness of this age...”
If we’re thinking that the battle isn’t raging, we’re not watching the news, paying attention to the climate, looking at the economic picture that is becoming our reality, or allowing ourselves to understand the rate of homelessness and crime in our world today.
But we have an ace up our sleeve. Instead of cowering in fear, we can stand up fully shielded in the whole armor of God. Our waist will be girded with truth, our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, with a shield of faith that will allow us to quench the fiery darts of Satan.
In Deuteronomy 20:4 we’re promised that “the Lord our God is He who goes with us, to fight for us against our enemy, to save us.” Now that’s a weapon with punch! As they say, “buckle up buttercup.” There’s a battle going on, but we know who wins.
Be blessed, my Friend. God is on the throne.
August 7; Parenting
|Posted on August 14, 2021 at 11:40 AM||comments ()|
My three grandson’s mother was killed in a car accident when they were very young. They are now reaching adulthood, but I will likely always see them as precious young boys just starting out in life. In the past ten years since their mom died, I’ve done my best to try and fill the void for them. Their dad, my son, has done the same. But I think I’ve always wondered what their lives would have looked like had they had their mom around throughout their growing up.
For one reason or another, it has become common for our children to be raised in single-parent homes. Studies show that in Western cultures about 90% of people will marry, and about 50% of those will divorce. In families with multiple marriages that number grows exponentially.
It saddens me to know that many generations are affected by marriages being out of balance, with one parent or the other taking on most of the responsibility for the family. I’ve wondered if the brokenness around us isn’t directly related to this ungodly dynamic. But then I got to thinking about Jesus’ life, and the example it is to us.
If you love bible history and mystery, as I do, you’ll realize that scriptural references to Jesus’s earthy father end when He was young. Scholars believe that Jesus was likely somewhere between 12 – 19 years old when Joseph of Nazareth died - before Jesus’ ministry even started. We know that he wasn’t the Messiah’s biological father – but he was the one that God chose to raise Jesus and be the example He needed as He entered manhood.
We know that Joseph was a kind and compassionate man. When confronted with his fiancé’s pregnancy, certain that he hadn’t impregnated her, he chose to do the right thing and not shame her or put her in danger. More importantly, we know he heard from God. Matthew 1:18-25 tells us that an angel of the Lord told him to take Mary as his wife, and that she was blameless. Despite material evidence that would seem to contradict that, Joseph was obedient to God’s command.
Although in manhood Jesus didn’t have a biological father present in the flesh, God provided everything He needed to prepare Him for the important mission that was coming up. The Father hand-picked His human parents, looking for a man of integrity and a woman of faith. Joseph obediently accepted the role as surrogate father, teaching Jesus the customs of His religion and providing spiritual training and nurturing love.
Families may not look exactly like we think they should, and our lives may not always turn out in a way that fits our preconceived notion. But all that really matters is that we acknowledge and accept that God is weaving the tapestry, and His ways aren’t our ways. Whatever the circumstance, He will provide – and He is the one who decides what a parent looks like.
Every child is intricately designed and formed with a specific purpose in mind. Psalm 139:16 says “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, everyone one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. And in Isaiah 49:1b we read “the Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named my name.
Whether our days here on earth are spent in a broken home, or with one parent absent through death, our real heritage comes from our Heavenly Father. And if we are the ones being called to be a surrogate parent, we need to remember that we were placed in that child’s life to be an example of the character of God, who is the real parent.
God entrusted Joseph with the earthly life of our Redeemer, His Son. And He has given us the sacred responsibility to teach the generations to come about the true nature of our Heavenly Father. So, when we step in as a step-parent, grand-parent, guardian or Sunday School Teacher, we must acknowledge the privilege and trust that God is bestowing on us. The eyes of the generations to follow are on us, and every step we take should be measured by that ruler.
In Deuteronomy 6 the children of Israel are told “teach [God’s commandments] to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and first thing in the morning.” And those commandments are more than rules, they are loving instructions about who God really is. And the instruction is more important today than it has ever been.
We have a critical task -- to teach our children – whether they are ours by biology or God’s covenant trust. And we teach by example because our little ones are watching and learning whether they belong to us or not. Psalm 145:4 tells us “One generation shall commend His works to another and shall declare His mighty acts.” Let’s make sure the message is clear and seen in our lives, no matter the role we play.
Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!
July 31; What is Love?
|Posted on August 14, 2021 at 11:40 AM||comments ()|
How easily do we say the words “love you?” And when we do, what does that really mean? With the advent of the heart emoji, we’ve sanitized the expression so much it’s almost a throw away phrase – easy to say, but hard to quantify.
We know there are different kinds of love. The love a mother has for her child is certainly not the same as our love of pasta or chocolate. And that passionate adrenal rush we feel when we first meet our future spouse is certainly different than the deep and abiding devotion we feel some twenty years down the road.
So, are they all love or should that word just be confined to a particular feeling or person? We know that love encompasses a range of emotions, some strong and some fleeting. But that doesn’t make it any less love. We tend to toss off “love you” pretty easily but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Really, is there a limit on how much or what kind of love we should show?
In all it’s forms it opens up the speaker and the hearer to the possibility of emotional attachment and acknowledges that there is a warm connection and understanding. Just because a word is said often, doesn’t strip it of it’s power. English has one word for love so we use it a lot. But in the Greek and Hebrew of Scripture there are really three basic ways to define it.
One is eros, which refers to the flesh and, while not specifically called out in the Bible, physical love is mentioned in the context of marriage so we know it has meaning and importance.
Then there is philos, which refers more to warm affection and deep friendship. In fact, this is used in Matthew 10 to refer to the love for a parent or child. Jesus used this word to express His love for his disciples and friends.
But then there is agape, which speaks to the sacrificial and unconditional love of God. This is the type of love we see in John 3:16 where it reads “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”. It’s mentioned again in Matthew 22:37 when Jesus said “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And again in John 13:34 when we are told to “love one another; as I (Jesus) have loved you…”. The word Jesus used for love in these passages is the verb form of agape, so it describes an action not just a feeling.
Agape love is one that is stripped of all it’s pretense or need for reciprocity. I love you just because. It stands alone and unselfish, and is the love God feels for us. Romans 5:8 simply says “But God demonstrates His own love (agape love) toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It doesn’t get any less complicated than that.
And to take it a step further, this agape love is what we are commanded to demonstrate to the world. Remember Jesus command to His followers to “love others as He has loved us.” That means agape love… a word that requires action not just a heart emoji, a smile, an invitation to church or a gift in the offering plate.
I will never apologize for being that person that says “I love you” a million times a day, because I really do. I have a heart that is mushy and ready to be touched by a babies cry or the breath of a puppy, and will be moved to anger in defense of strangers. I’m glad God wired me that way, and I think that as the Holy Spirit works on us we all start to feel more of that for our human sojourners.
But I want to learn to go deeper than that and truly seek an agape love – not just for my family or those in my circle – but for the whole world. In our human form we can never be Christ, but we are Sons and Daughters of God, and can seek to be Christ-like in our compassion, self-sacrifice and agape love. And that means even caring for the one who hurts us or may never appreciate what we’re feeling.
Remember, ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ That means He loved us, not knowing whether we would ever love Him back in the same way. That’s agape. To coin an old 70’s song… “what the world needs now is love sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”
July 26, Grace
|Posted on August 14, 2021 at 11:40 AM||comments ()|
I was thinking about the name we have chosen for our church body –Grace Community Church.
“Grace” (from the Greek New Testament word charis) is God’s unmerited favor. It is the kindness and mercy of God that we can never earn, repay, or be deserving of. It is given freely, although it wasn’t free - it was paid for by the blood of Jesus – a sacrifice that we could never possibly understand with our human minds and hearts. An Acronym for Grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. I’m not sure who first termed that acronym, but it is incredibly true.
And then there is “Community,” which is defined as “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common,” or “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
I’m so humbled by the thought that what we share in common is God’s love for us. We are a family because we recognize that, although we are flawed and lacking within ourselves, through the blood of Jesus we are strong, capable, and redeemed!
It made me realize how much a want to open my arms and pull others into our community. I want the whole world to know that this special favor is available to everyone. I want to take a message to the world that no matter what they’ve done or who they are, God is available and yearning for them. And I want them to know that our doors are open to them in whatever condition they arrive. There is a Casting Crowns song that says:
Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
would care to know my name,
would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
would choose to light the way
for my ever wandering heart?
Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are…
Let’s take our message, and our love, to the streets this week. Invite someone to come and fellowship with us and join our community -- not because of who we are, but because of who HE is.
Be blessed, my Friend. God is on the throne.