Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Newsletter

It's over. Christmas was yesterday. The countdown and hype has ceased. The advent calendar has no more windows to open. No more "fa-la-la-la's." We throw away the wrapping paper, un-trim the tree, and return to work. There's no more talk of Christmas for several hundred more days.
Is this why Christ came? For tinsel and lights, and gifts under the tree? For festivities that, quite frankly, take priority over fellowship with Him?
I'm no Scrooge. I love this holiday more than most folks. I anticipate and decorate with great gusto. I promise to keep my Savior "the reason for the season." But to be honest, I fall short. I look back over the weeks that have passed and realize festivities trumped fellowship on more than one occasion. Gift buying and giving clouded the Gift - Jesus, the Babe, whose purpose was to give His life a ransom for many, including me.
The Wise Men weren't present the day Christ was born. Their journey to Him was long and extended past the date on the calendar. My journey to Jesus is much the same. It extends past December 25th. It's a day by day experience. Christmas day brightens the joy of why He came, but isn't a disappointment the day after the birthday party. The celebration should never be anti-climactic. My prayer in the coming year is to embrace with anticipation what the Savior holds for me each and every day. I want the celebration to continue in the way I live life!
This past year had some extreme highs and lows. In a moment of darkness, I questioned God as to why I was even still on the planet. He didn't answer me with words. He just opened doors. He extended grace to this women whose doubt had hit an all time low. He carried me through the valleys and, if I'm not off track, laughed when He placed me on a television show, radio interviews, and helped me finish my first book (I am hoping 2015 includes its publishing!).
The year ahead has some great things already popping up on the calendar. A new granddaughter makes her arrival in February, joining her two precious sisters. Speaking engagements are lining up as well. I celebrate Jesus because He was born, died for all sins (including mine) and is very much alive and active in my life. I desire others to embrace and anticipate what He wants to do in their lives as well as yours! Keep the celebration going!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Family Tree

"And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called  Christ." Matthew 1:16

Are the "begats" really boring? I'm referring to those places in the Bible when so-and-so begat so-and-so and the names seem to drudge on endlessly. At first glance the reading seems to be dis-missable, so one can arrive at the juicy part of fruit. But if we we skim over or delete such pertinent information, we actually delete some of the best bites of the whole story.

As I re-read the birth of Jesus in the book of Matthew, I exhaled perusing those "begats." Then I decided to become an undercover agent and dig into those mysterious people who formed the family tree of my precious Lord and Savior. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a host of misfits and depraved human beings. Abraham was ancient when God used him, Josiah - a mere child when he became king. Prostitutes are sprinkled along some of the family's branches, as well as foreigners, murderers, adulterers, and idolaters. Some of these folks were repentant for their sins and some died in their sinfulness. Many died holding fast to their faith, but not all.

What do all of these creatures of the Living God have in common? They are included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The ones who lied, deceived, prostituted, and murdered. The ones who fared well and those who failed miserably - all were used to create the story of the birth of our Messiah.

When reading the list of "begats" of Matthew, my eyes fall on the verse that culminates in "of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ." The Light of the world came from a long line of people who held darkness in their hearts. As descendants of the family tree that continued to grow, we are part of the ongoing story. He came to bring light and create us to be Light bearers.

 This is the Christmas message, beginning before the birth of Christ and still ongoing. We are part of the story that still needs to be heard. The depravity of humanity needed divinity so we could spend eternity with Him.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Torn Love

Hosea 2:23 ""I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they will say, 'You are my God!'"

"Torn between two lovers" - stinging lyrics from the seventies era, based on the story of Dr. Zhivago. How can anyone profess to hold two lovers with the same regard? Is this selfishness or something deeper? 

God created us in His image. He also put within each soul a need for Him, to be loved by Him, and to love Him back. Because He is the author of love, He's endowed us with the capacity to love others. However, we'll miss the mark on loving others purely until we grasp God's love for us. Most of us love selfishly - to get needs met. How beautiful love is when it's only desire is to impart beauty and edification into another person. The desire to love outside the boundaries of a covenant relationship is idolatry. You may be thinking I meant to say adultery. Yes, it is adultery. And idolatry too. An overriding passion charges ahead in extreme measures to get satisfaction. It exalts pleasure over another person's well being, even to the point of destroying relationships. At the center of the pleasure is self.

When self needs are all consuming, they become idolatrous. "Me, myself, and I" gets the top priority of every decision and action. God is absent from consultations for advice. Anyone's effort to stop the passion and lust is met with arrogance and defiance - a recipe for disaster. 

The Book of Hosea parallels the adulterous wife of Hosea the prophet, and the adulterous relationship Israel had with God. Just as Hosea's wife took other lovers while married, Israel worshipped other gods. She bowed to numerous idols and forsook the God who'd covenanted her as "His people, his children."

Eventually, God allowed great disaster to result from their idolatry. Neither Hosea nor God threw away the people they had covenanted to love. Hosea bought his bride off a slave block. God did the same for Israel. He wooed her back to Himself.

The same is true today. God paid for our slavery to sin and idolatry with the blood of His Son. He doesn't take lightly our idolatry or adultery. Yet, He's still in the business of wooing us back. Forgiveness and restoration are the essence of His being. Like Israel, we are idolaters and adulterers, but He is the Lover who won't let go. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Free Indeed

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36
Sheer exhaustion and a navigation device led me and my husband to the nearest beach we could find recently. We typed in the address of our seaside hotel and let the navigating voice lead the way. While cruising down the interstate, the directions took us to an off beaten path. Straight off I-20, we headed down narrow country roads lined with rows of white cotton. A harvester was plowing through the fields as we passed. My mind raced back to pictures of slaves bent over in the hot sun, fingers bleeding, while sweat poured off their bodies. Thank heavens for the abolition of slavery and the invention of a cotton harvester.

After passing the cotton  fields we headed straight through the downtown of a lightly populated city. It looked like a scene from an old western movie. A local hardware stood on one corner, and a general store across the street. What caught my eye next nearly slumped me over in my seat. Right in front of me  emerged a white clapboard church, crowned with a steeple (minus the cross). The sign out front was not a sign depicting the name of a church. No, this neon sign boasted "Adult Entertainment."

Moments before I was thankful for the progression in men's hearts to abolish slavery and find a way to move civilization forward. Now I second guessed any progression in men's hearts. Slavery still exists - just not in the cotton fields a few miles back. Bondage that takes into captivity the hearts of men and women who slither the floors of a forsaken church is modern day slavery.

I ached to let these captives know there was One who paid a high price to set them free. Their nights no longer need persuade them to return to the place that drains the blood from their souls. They could walk away free, never to return to an evil master who lures with lies and pays with cruelty. The harvester of their souls shed sweat and blood so they could live in freedom.

Are you a slave to anything? Are there neon signs that draw you into forbidden places, or people that could destroy your heart? The cross is still alive with power to set men free.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Greater Than



2 Cor. 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”

Teaching math to a toddler requires creativity. If you wonder whether they can grasp the greater than- less than principle, try cookies. If Charlie’s sister gets three cookies and he gets two, he becomes unglued. He understands she got the greater amount and he was slighted. Sometimes adults act the same way when they feel slighted. We all want more of a good thing. We often fare better when we are given less than what we desire. We don’t always know our limitations. Ever watch diners at an all-you-can-eat buffet? My husband calls them human feeding troughs. 

We can be gluttonous with more than just food. We consume too much social media, television, and a host of other distractions. We deceive ourselves into believing we can take in just one moment of a sidebar in life. Before we know it, we are engulfed by the distracter. Too much of anything becomes a bad thing.

Looking too long at a distraction wasn’t prosperous for Eve, King David, Achan and several other biblical characters. When their desire to feed the flesh was greater than what God had intended, and they ignored His commands, they suffered tragic consequences.

Often enough, I ignore God promptings. I hear that still small voice whisper, “Enough. Stop.” Later, I regret not heeding the voice of the One who knows me best, and my limitations. Yet, even when I ignore my Creator, He applies the greater than principle. His grace is greater than all my sin. His grace is greater than all my guilt and self condemnation. His grace is more than enough!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Running Blindly

"To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house." Isaiah 42:7

Every day he sat by the road begging. Blind people were confined to the side of dusty streets, just close enough to grab the attention of daily travelers. "Alms for the poor" was his mantra. Bartimaeus was his name and his very existence relied on the mercy of others. Pity was of no help. Compassion mingled with coins - his only hope of survival.

One particular day the streets were more crowded than normal. Word spread that Jesus was walking right in the path where Bartimaeus crouched for his next hopeful encounter. Money was what he routinely asked for, however, healing was the truest desire of his heart.

As the noise level increased, the blind man shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

In the hustle and bustle of the crowd, Jesus stops. He commands for the shouter to be brought to Him. Others regarded the blind man as a nuisance. Jesus saw a man in need. At the command of Jesus to come, the man jumps to his feet, running blindly toward the voice of the One who knew his greatest desire. The King of Kings asks the beggar an unfathomable question, "What do you want Me to do for you?" Without missing a beat Bartimaeus begs, not for money, but to be given the gift of sight.

In the twinkling of an eye, his eyes twinkled. And who was the first person he laid eyes on? Jesus. The scales were removed from the beggar's eyes because the scales had been removed from his heart. Bartimaeus had not only heard of Jesus, he believed Him to be the Son of David. Isaiah had prophesied Jesus would be a light to the Gentiles, open eyes that were blind, and release those sitting in darkness. Bartimaeus qualified on all accounts. And Jesus, He said the man's faith made him well.

Have circumstances blinded you? Shout. Jump. Run blindly to your Healer. He sees your greatest need.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cured



"Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed." Hebrews 12:12-13

 I once worked for a chiropractor. As a newly single mom, I grabbed the job out of sheer desperation. At first, I was skeptical of chiropractic care. My boss, Dr. Ben, schooled me in the foundations of this healing practice. Little by little my disbelief vanished. I observed people gnarled with pain, bent over and grimacing, straighten to their normal height. Eventually my whole family surrendered to what they had once mocked. How can anyone deny the relief which evolves from hurting to healing? We certainly believed.

People, who don’t understand our Lord as Healer, never benefit from the pain He takes and exchanges for the gift of true healing. Surrendering back breaking burdens at His feet, we leave with a straighter posture and position. He is the lifter of our heads and the healer of our hearts.

Can the burdens we carry in our minds and hearts affect our bodies? Doctors report many physical illnesses are the cause of internal stressors. When we hold onto hurt, anger, and un-forgiveness our bodies become prisons of pain. When a breakdown occurs emotionally and physically, we end up heading for either a doctor’s office or a counselor. I heard the fastest growing form of Christianity is Christian counseling. People flock to someone who can help uncover the source of mental or emotional anguish they are experiencing. Surrendering and uncovering past and present turmoil is a prescription for healing. 

I am a proponent of Christian counseling. I am also an advocate of dropping at the feet of the One True Healer, Jesus. Often enough the position of being prostrate at His feet ensures a head held high posture. He lifts the damaged emotions and pain. He restores. He cures. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Too Late

"Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Matthew 27:3-4 ESV

 Judas - one minute an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, the next His traitor. Why would he do such a thing? Perhaps greed, power, anger. When these emotions were heightened by the surrounding events, Judas took one of the most magnanimous falls in history. From sitting at the table with Jesus to a secret meeting with the chief priests, Judas did the unthinkable. He handed over a life, then later, took his own.
  Judas was impulsive. He spoke out of turn. His words advertised what his heart had been holding in secret. His sin became public display. His shame, grief, and guilt are a reminder what impulsiveness can lead to.
 The prophet Isaiah referred to Jesus as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." As I read the last days of Jesus' early life, I can see why he was sorrowful. He knew what was in the hearts of his followers, not just the ones who were with Him at the moment. He knew what the hearts of all who would ever follow Him were capable - and would carry out.
 Judas, too, was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. However, his was different than Jesus'. He was undone by his own sin. His regret was too late, or so he thought. Instead of repent, he replayed the course of his actions, and took his own life.
 For the rest of us, it's never too late to repent. We can come to the feet of Jesus, the place Judas left, and confess the sin in our hearts, and the ones we have committed. It's never too late to come.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Ping

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 (ESV)

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing on March 8th. A space ship can land on the moon and come back to earth with no problems, yet we can't find a missing airplane. I've watched with millions of other onlookers in anticipation for the plane to be found. The aircraft and black box are important to the searchers. The bodies of loved ones are important to the families and friends. The nightly news elevates our attention as sounds of "pings" from the carrier's black box have been declared. The news of the pings is encouraging, but until the plane is found, hope is waning, despair and anger waxing. Lives have been lost and man's resources to recover the aircraft have been futile thus far.
As a society we weep for the souls now lost deep beneath the ocean's waters. Did we weep for the lost souls while they were alive and walking the streets of their home towns? Do we concern ourselves over the lost people in our families and circles of influence?
If the plane is found, the bodies may be recovered. Their souls however, left the plane the day it plunged into the ocean's deep. Where each person wound up for eternity was a choice they made before the flight's demise.
Every day we encounter people who've not given much attention to where they will spend eternity. They may be unaware of the consequences of "deciding not to decide" about eternal life. I observe folks and their carefree attitudes of waylaying the decision to settle the issue of an eternal live position.
Those of us who are secure in heaven as our final destination often get smug. We observe the lost and judge. Sometimes we pity. But just how often do we take the bold step to share the life giving hope of Christ? Concerned over being scoffed at, or rejected, trumps witnessing to one whose final destination extends far deeper than the ocean floor. Procrastination eases our consciences until we hear of the planes that go down and the unexpected heart attacks, the car accidents, and so on. Then our spirits are jolted into shock. We can be catalysts for sharing the news of eternal life. Caring enough to share before a person dies has to be paramount. After they've left the earth's surface, all the concern is a dated headline. It is past.
Today, will you join me in listening for the pings of lost souls? Let's be part of the search and recovery of those who are slipping into eternity never choosing heaven as their final destination!    

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Edge



“Glory and honour are in his presence; strength and gladness are in his place.” 1 Chronicles 16:27

Sweat pouring off my face, heart pounding out of my chest – I am on the brink of collapse. Just when I think my body will keel over if I squat and jump one more time, my ears perk up. Words from the blaring music fill the exercise room. I hear something about being on the edge of glory. The instructor informs us we are all on the edge of glory as we pump the weights and tone the bodies. Is this what being “on the edge of glory” is all about?

As I listen further to the words of the song I realize the lyrics depict a night of debauchery and label it as being on the edge of glory. This is the furthest thing from the definition of glory. Curiosity sends me to search the Scriptures to understand what glory truly is. I notice the word is used 402 times. Pretty impressive. Glory originates from God and belongs only to Him. In its purest form it manifests the splendor and majesty of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
As I comb the verses using the word glory, I discover we frail human beings have the capability, and command, to give God glory. If it originates and permeates the very essence of the Almighty, how do we give glory back to Him? 

First I must draw near to Him and believe He is who He says He is. This is faith, and part of the giving glory journey. As my Abba Father, He bestows gifts on me. Around me. Even in and through me, He displays His glory. There’s a hitch here. I can’t keep any of the glory for myself. There’s no 10% commission for me on what belongs solely to the originator. Credit belongs where credit is due. As I behold Him, take Him in through His Word and worship, I am able to reflect Him. The Word assures me some people will observe my good works and glorify the Father who enabled me to do them (Mt.5:16). This is ascribing what is due to whom it belongs.

I want to live this life cycle of glory: from Him, for Him, to Him. To God be the glory…..

Thursday, April 3, 2014

LET IT GO




"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." Ephesians 4:31
  
The sermon grabbed me. I wanted to cover my ears as the preacher warned about the consequences of clutching onto anger. A hardened heart had served me well for quite some time. As a warm cloak on a chilly evening, un-forgiveness insulated my heart from the calculated cruelty of my enemy. To remain safe, I wrapped myself in the wrong kind of protection. The fa├žade was evident to those who knew me best. My interior was crumbling and my exterior was catching up.

My ears perked up as a story was told about a father and son who held onto a grudge long after its expiration date. (A grudge not released ensnares its victims.) So the father decided the time had come to lay aside all differences and hurts. He took out an ad in the local newspaper which read, “Pablo, I forgive you. Meet me at the town square this Sunday. Love, Papa.” Much to Papa’s surprise, hundreds of Pablo’s flooded the square that day. 

Hurt people flood the streets of every town in every country across the globe. A false theology soothes our consciences. “Build a wall so high, no one can crawl over to hurt you ever again.” Brick upon brick, sealed with the mortar of hurt and anger, the wall becomes a tower. This faulty religion is problematic. The person inside the wall holds himself hostage to his bitterness. Those outside the wall are suspect as potential threats. Loneliness is a strange bedfellow. Nights are long and the darkness perpetuates. The sun never really shines over this tower of protection.

Mentally I envision myself as Papa. I demolish the walls of the tower. I await the noon hour to see if my Pablo will come. I carry no grudges with me. A heart of forgiveness serves me well as I await my son, my only son. Will he release himself from his tower?
I wait…..