Thursday, July 23, 2009

Do You Have "It"?

Recently a guest preacher at our church spoke about the Gatorade slogan "Is it in you?". Gatorade was formulated for football players who were falling out in practices and games due to the loss of fluids. Even though the players were trying to hydrate with water, H2O just wasn't enough to keep them from keeling over. A team of researchers was assembled to find out the problem and come up with a remedy. Loss of sodium and potassium by the players due to their hard work and massive sweating was diagnosed as the problem. The cure for the problem was formulated in the drink known as Gatorade. Gatorade puts back into the players the vital nutrients they sweat out. This "miraculous" sports drink equips the player to stay in the game and play to their full potential. Thus the "it" in the slogan, "Is It in You?" refers to Gatorade.
On the ever popular television show "American Idol" beloved judge Simon Cowell tells the contestants whether they have the "it" factor or not. Is the "it" factor the ability to sing? No. Most of the contestants who land in the finals definitely can sing. The "it" factor is referring to something deep within that shines out. "It" is not good looks or talent. "It" seems to draw someone to a person, a charisma. One of Webster's definitions for charisma is "an extraordinary power given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the church." Hmm... the power of the Holy Spirit poured into for the sake of others. Gatorade poured into a player enables them to play in the game, to play to their fullest potential. The power of the Holy Spirit poured into a believer enables that person to live in this world with effect. Ephesians 5:18 refers to a continual filling of the Spirit of God to keep on living as Christ would have us. To continually be filled with this power, the "it" factor will ooze out as it is poured in. As "it" pours out of a believer others benefit. Others will desire to have the "it" factor too. Can a believer give "it" to another person? No. But a believer with "it" can be so contagious that others seek to find and to have the "it" factor too.
Do you have "it"? Are you oozing "it"? Are others drawn to the "it" in you?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Poolside Living

You've heard of the Pool of Bethesda. The story in John 5:1-15 tells of this place where those who needed healing came in hopes of being made whole. The word Bethesda actually means house or place of mercy. I'm reminded of the song that says,"I'm running, I'm running, I'm running to the Mercy Seat, where Jesus is calling..." The only difference between the song and this story is that most of the infirmed mentioned here probably could not run to this place of needed mercy. The"certain man" noticed by Jesus had to have someone carry him to the pool. This man's infirmity had lasted 38 years and he was too weak or paralyzed to raise up into the healing pool waters. Every day he waited for his miracle. Every day became a shattered dream. 38 years of withered legs most likely left him with a withered heart. Until one day Jesus - the living, walking Mercy Seat came to the man in need.
What a strange question Jesus asked the man, "Do you want to be made well?" Excuse what may sound like sarcasm here but the man had suffered for 38 years and Jesus asks this. Why??? Notice Jesus did not ask "Do you need to be well?" There is a big difference between needing and wanting. You may need to lose weight, give up some unhealthy addiction or add something beneficial to sustain your life. However, if the "want" is not greater than the "need", the need just stays a need and nothing is accomplished. There have been times I have needed to shed a few pounds and even said I wanted to. Then a dessert tray came my way and I wanted some chocolate cake more than I wanted to lose the weight. Need went out the window in that moment. I don't mean to imply the man did not want to be well. However I notice him doing what many of us do - make excuses for why we can't get needs met. Jesus had such compassion on the man. Perhaps the Healer saw the withered heart more than the withered legs. With eyes locked on one another, Jesus commands the man to take up his bed and walk. Trust, obedience, surrender, healing. Had the command been ignored, so would have the healing.
Are you living by some pool of want, wishing someone will dip you in and "aba cadabra" you'll be well? True healing comes from the Mercy Seat. Only you can make the choice to rise up and walk.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


When my daughter was growing up and increasing in vocabulary she came across a very interesting word- infinity. I tried to explain infinity meant a number that was so large no one could even count that high. We talked about an infinite number of stars, blades of grass, sand on the seashore etc. I told her that I loved her "infinity" and she echoed the same back to me. Thus began our parting words at bedtime, the words we shouted as she left for school, and later our last words in a letter. Even on the days of her worst behavior I knew I still loved her infinity.
In John 21:15 Jesus appears after His resurrection and finds Peter and some other disciples out fishing. From the shore Jesus shouts out a fishing tip to cast to the other side. Up to that point the men had caught nothing. So maybe just maybe this wise guy might be right. They did what He said and, voila, a fisherman's dream! Peter instantly knew the man was Jesus and raced to the shore. After sharing breakfast with the men Jesus asks Peter a somewhat familiar question. "Do you love me more than these?" Who or what are the "these" is Jesus referring to? Some scholars say "these" refers to the other disciples and some say the fish. Not the edible fish they had just caught but the catching of the fish that was in Peter's blood. For some the hobby or work of fishing is addictive. A true fisherman thinks of little else other than the next cast, the next catch. When fishing becomes "life" to a man instead of a way of making a living or a fun hobby, that man is headed for trouble.
I don't mean to pick on just fishing here. I don't think Jesus did either. I believe the underlying question Jesus was asking Peter was, "Is there anything you love more than serving me, obeying me, being identified with me?" Before Jesus' death He commanded His disciples to go and make disciples (Matt. 28). Was that what Peter was doing now? Had Peter and the others gotten so disillusioned after Jesus' death that they returned to what they loved - fishing? So Jesus is asking what do you love more? What do you love infinity? What are you so sold out to that you would die to do it? What would you give up to follow Christ?
Often God asks us to give up certain things, die to them so we can live for Christ. We are then faced with the same question Peter was asked, "Do you love me more than this thing, this person, this lifestyle, this hobby, this job, this bank account...?"
Jesus told Peter he must be willing to give up what he loved dearly for what loved "infinity."
I hear the Savior asking me the same. What about you?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Knock Offs

Several years ago my daughter went to New york and bought me a great Christmas gift - a fake Kate Spade bag. I loved it! About the same time I had quit my job to go into full time ministry. At a Bible study I was attending I gave a prayer request - my husband and I were financially strapped. We were having to live minus my income. We needed God to supply our needs. One evening at a Wednesday night church supper I saw my prayer buddies. As I sat down with them to eat (having set my Kate Spade bag beside me) I kept noticing their glances to the bag and then one another. At last one lady spoke up and asked if my husband and I were so strapped financially why was I buying designer purses. I chuckled and explained. First it was a gift and second it was a knock off. Shock covered the faces of the women who were fooled by the knock off.
People are fooled by knock offs every day. Knock off purses seem innocent enough but generally the makers are dealing in illegal activity. Knock off drugs can end up harming people and some are even deadly. So it is with knock off religions.
"In the beginning was the Word...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...grace and truth came through Jesus Christ...that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life..." This is the Gospel of John in a nutshell. This is the real deal. Any knock off is deadly to the soul of man. The peddler of any knock off is guilty of a spiritual crime - perverting the Truth. People are easily fooled by knock off teachers and knock off teachings. Many are led astray. Why? People are not familiar enough with the Truth. They can't spot the fake, the twisted, the perverted brand that is harmful to their living and even their eternal destiny. To recognize a fake, a phony, a counterfeit, you must first know what is real, authentic, and true.
Live and abide in the words from John 8:32, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thrown off the Throne

My favorite passage in the Bible is Isaiah chapter 6. The first time I ever saw this passage it took me to a place I had never really brought myself to - the throne of God. Isaiah was a person just like you and me, real flesh and blood. He had real sins that needed a reality check for him to see those sins. Isaiah had gotten quite enamored by the great King Uzziah. Isaiah had almost begun to idolize an earthly king who was doing great and mighty things. Uzziah's great success allowed for the people to forget who was behind the success. When Uzziah was full of pride God struck him with leprosy and eventually he died. At his death Isaiah must have looked from the death of his idol to a place for some answers, the throne of God. Instead of questioning God about the Uzziah's death, he became speechless. On the throne of all thrones sat God Almighty. Uzziah was not on the throne, never was. Even the seraphim cried out, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!"
At that moment Isaiah realized how holy God was, and how unholy he, Isaiah, was. The Scripture doesn't say this but I believe this is where Isaiah realized not just the sin of unclean lips, but all of his sin - the sin of putting Uzziah on way too big of a throne and forgetting who was in control. When Uzziah was "thrown off the throne" Isaiah 's eyes and heart were set exactly where they needed to be, on God alone.
Sometimes we put people, places, and things on the throne. We even put ourselves on the throne and try to be sovereign over our own lives or the lives of others. We serve whatever or whomever we put on the thrown. When we do this God will have to throw off the throne whatever is occupying His rightful place in our lives.
A burning coal was placed on Isaiah's lips to purge him from his sins. After the conviction and the cleansing, there came a commissioning for Isaiah. Isaiah was to go and do what God would tell him to do. When Uzziah was dead, God was more present in Isaiah's life than he had ever been. Isaiah looked to the throne of God and was healed by God, set free by God, and used by God. Oh that we all would see ourselves under the throne of our God!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Lite" Salt

A few years ago my friend joined one of those weight loss centers. At her first meeting she was told what foods she needed to give up and what new items needed to grace her pantry. She headed to the store and bought her required dietary items. I marveled at the tasty items she threw out and what she replaced them with. One such item was salt. She threw away her regular dark blue box of salt and replaced it with the "lite" version. Instantly the pounds melted away. Salt is full of sodium and causes water retention and bloating. By replacing the full strength, weight retention salt with the "lite" salt her scale dial was diminishing. Since I am such a salt addict I ran to the store to get my new weight loss success ticket. I did not need to pay for those fancy, confess all, weigh in meetings. No, just a few shakes of the "lite" white granules and I'd be a couple of dress sizes smaller in a short amount of time. That was until I tasted what was in the light blue box. The "lite" stuff was about as disgusting as licking the end of a matchstick. I gagged. I coughed. I spit. And I decided "lite" salt was not for me. Kudos for my friend and her weight loss but I want the real McCoy on my eggs, steak, and grits!
"Lite" salt has less flavor and maybe even a bitter after taste to those craving real salt. So it is with a "lite" Christian. We are "lite" Christians when we profess Christ as Savior but do not flavor the world we live in for Christ's sake. When we make half heart-ed commitments, when our words, our signatures, our hands shakes are easily withdrawn, we become distasteful to a world that is desiring to see real Jesus followers.
The closing of Luke Chapter 14 says this, "Salt is good; but if the salt loses it's flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
What I hear is that I do not want to be "lite" salt in a salt craving world. I most certainly do not want to end up on a dunghill. What about you?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Diagnosis: Heart Problem

In Luke Chapter 18 a rich young ruler meets up with Jesus. Enthralled by Jesus' popularity and teachings, this rich young whipper snapper asks Jesus how he can get a slice of the heavenly pie, invest in some stocks of this heavenly venue, or get his name on the will like the others are doing. The Gospel is not clear as to how this young man had obtained his wealth but when I read between the lines I ask myself these questions. How did the guy get to be rich at such a young age? Did he start a lucrative business right out of trade school or synagogue? Did daddy leave him everything in his will? Was he born with a silver spoon in his mouth? There is always a story between the words "young" and "rich".
Jesus tells the over grown boy to do a simple thing - sell everything he has and give it to the poor. Pretty simple don't you think? Just put everything in your front yard with a sign that says' "FREE". Before noon it will all be gone. Since the fellow was wealthy he would've put out some really nice things, even silver and gold. The first takers of the day hit the jackpot! Can you imagine going to a garage sale like that?
We quickly learn the man had a heart problem - a problem of the heart. Letting go of what rightfully belonged to him could not be easy. Perhaps the wealth he possessed did come easily to him- a hand out or inheritance. To let it all go, to watch it slip right through his fingers, now that would not be easy.
Jesus tells us to do the very same thing today. Let go. Surrender all. Come to Him not clinging to anything. Be it wealth, or family, an unhealthy lifestyle, possessions both good and bad, God requires empty hands for us to receive from Him. When we truly search our hearts we find things that are precious and dear to us. Letting go can be the hardest thing in life to do. A clinched fist cannot grasp another possession, even if the other possession is much better.
Surrender, it's the key to true wealth.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Freshly Slaughtered

Some years ago my husband and I went to Russia on a mission trip. One evening we went to what was considered a "nice" restaurant. After arriving and waiting outside for our seating, a gentleman pulled up in an old truck. He took out a sickly looking lamb and then disappeared out back with the animal. I wasn't quite sure what was going on but my mind was somewhat restless. Our wait to get into the restaurant was long. After being seated our tour guide ordered the meal for us all. We waited for what seemed like hours before our dinner was served. You can guess what the night's specialty was - lamb. I kept thinking how in America we have USDA graded meat. I believe that means an inspection of the animal and the way it gets to the market and then on a menu. I had never partaken of freshly slaughtered cuisine before. I could not enjoy the meal. My mind's eye raced back to the poor lamb I had seen just hours before resting on the ground.
Recently my Pastor took us to the tenth chapter of Hebrews. In verses 19-20 we find that we can have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way He opened for us through the curtain, that is the flesh. The word "new" in these verses means freshly slaughtered. For some reason that really impacted me. I tend to view the Cross as an event that happened 2000 years ago. While the Cross represents Jesus' death that paid for my sins and the sin of all mankind, to imagine Him as freshly slaughtered takes my breath away. To compare the freshly slaughtered lamb that made me feel uncomfortable at the dinner in Russia with the Lamb that was slaughtered for my sins almost seems sac religious. However there is a comparison. The lamb that was slain for my dinner was to feed me, that I could enjoy my meal and the time with friends. The Lamb that was slain on the Cross was to give me life. A life that I could enjoy because He paid for the price of my sins. Because Of Christ's death I can approach a holy God and He sees me with freshly slaughtered blood - that of His only Son! I never want the Cross to be an event that is a 2000 year old memory. I want to see myself covered in freshly slaughtered blood. Hopefully this will change my way of living!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Love At First Sight

Two Thanksgivings are etched in my memory banks forever. The first was the Thanksgiving I was pregnant with my daughter. During the meal my baby moved dramatically within my womb for the very first time. I jumped up with glee and announced her somersault. My brother-in-law stated it was probably just gas from the heavy meal, but I knew better. Nothing could squelch the joy I felt at her letting me know she was alive and kicking. I loved her before she was born.
The second best Turkey Day was this past year. My daughter and son-in-law invited us to Florida to celebrate the holiday with them. At breakfast my husband and I were given a little gift bag to thank us for making the trip. Inside that bag was a card. My eyes caught the inscription"Love at first sight". Next I saw a fuzzy, static laden photo with a little white dot - an ultrasound picture of my daughter's baby. My very first grand baby!!!! Truly it was love at first sight. I patted my daughter's belly that held her offspring, my offspring. The photo remains on my fridge, a frequented place in my house. I gaze upon the dot and wonder what she will be like, who she will look like, will she love me? I already love her.
Listen to 1 John 5:1 (The Message Bible) "Every person who believes that Jesus is, in fact the Messiah, is God-begotten. If we love the One who conceives the child, we'll surely love the child who was conceived." Spiritually speaking, we are all offspring of the Father if we are His children. Therefore we ought to love one another. We have been conceived by the Father through the blood of the Lamb.
Humanly speaking, I love this grand daughter (yes, it's a girl!) because I loved her mother first. Because I have loved my daughter since the moment I knew she was in me, I also love the one who is in her. I will love her no matter what. She is a part of her mother, a part of me, a part of my mother, but most importantly a creation of her heavenly Father.
Each ultrasound picture gets more clear in detailing her features. While all of that is amazing it doesn't make me love her more. I love her just because......

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Naughty Corner

The year was 1961. The place was St. Ann's Catholic School. The teacher, Mrs. George. There were two words in her vocabulary that evoked immense fear in the lives of her kindergarten students - Naughty Corner. This was a place in the classroom housing one piece of furniture, a chair facing a blank wall. A most dreadful place! To a five year old that yellow, plastic chair with steel legs was as intimidating as an electric chair to a death row inmate.
Good old Mrs. George had plenty of patience but when tested to the limits her last resort was the Naughty Corner. Anyone sent there went with everyone's eyes watching the long mile back to the dreaded place. Lessons were learned as one sat face to the wall, backside to the class. Remorse, repentance, shame, guilt, anger at self and the teacher (or perhaps the child who didn't get sent), swirled about like the fairground's tilt-a-whirl.
The Naughty Corner was for naughty behavior. God doesn't do naughty corners. Time outs however, He does do. There are consequences when we make wrong choices. Prison may even be the consequence of a wrong choice. Yet my Bible tells me in Romans 8:1 there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Time outs may set us aside from where we want to be while we reflect on how we need to be. Time outs get us alone with God for reflection, reproof, conviction and confession. Time outs heal. Sure the healing process may be uncomfortable and even hurt - so does necessary surgery. After the healing takes place and lessons are learned, the time out can be understood and deemed valuable. Time outs are to build up, not tear down. Time outs are to bring us to a higher place with God on our journey. Time outs are not naughty corners. They rescue us from ourselves, deliver us from humiliation, and set our face on The Redeemer.