Monday, April 23, 2012

Refresh My Heart - Part 4

Refresh My Heart - Encourage Me

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that
none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."
Hebrews 3:13


According to Mr. Webster, we encourage one another when we give each other:
  • courage 
  • hope
  • confidence
  • support
Could you use some of that on a Monday morning? 

Some of you are in the kinds of circumstances that will require a double dose of all of those things just to get out of bed. For some of us it's just business as usual at the beginning of the week. Kids, lunches, laundry, bills, work, writing, and to-do lists. We're exhausted before the week even starts. 

Think of a time when someone paid you a compliment, sent you a thank you note, or just called to say how much they appreciate something you've said or done. Remember the feeling you got when that happened? Remember how it energized you just a little bit? It doesn't take much, really. Just a moment or two.

As I thought about the end part of today's verse it struck me how important we are to each other in daily spiritual warfare. Look at the verse again and read it out loud this time. 

Encourage one another to keep us from being hardened by sin's deceitfulness. What kind of deceitfulness? Well a few things come to mind right off the bat. See what you think about this list:
  • the lie that we are not good enough
  • the lie that we are too bad to be forgiven
  • the lie that God could never use us and would never choose us
  • the lie that we are worthless
  • the lie that we must be exactly like someone else to be useful to God
  • the lie that God does not care about the details of our lives
  • the lie that we can do things apart from God
  • the lie that we can handle a little bit of sin
  • the lie that we are better than others (although we would never actually say that!)
  • the lie that our sin is not really all that bad and God doesn't really mind it
  • the lie that___________________________ . Write in the lie you tell yourself right here. 
This could be a very long list. Suffice it to say, we all fall prey to one or more of these lies more often than we'd like. Sometimes it happens simply because we are tired and discouraged. We really need that courage and hope and confidence and support. 

Just as we are not to sin against God by failing to pray for one another (remember Friday's post?), we should not fail to stand together in spiritual battle by encouraging one another. It's such a simple thing really, with such a huge impact. 

Here are some ways to encourage someone:
  • make a point to notice something they've done well and brag on them
  • write a short note to tell them one thing you appreciate about them
  • brag on them to someone else
  • pray for them
  • take a moment to ask how they're doing
  • Listen to them
  • find a scripture that reminds you of them. Write it on a pretty note card and put it on their desk. 
  • offer to help them with something: picking up dry cleaning, going to the post office, filing, watching their kids
  • call them just to say hello and let them know you are thinking about them and praying for them
  • take them to lunch - just because
  • act like a secret pal and leave them little fun things every once in a while just to lift their spirits
Those are just a few things. The possibilities are endless and as creative as you are. 

Probably the biggest benefit of encouraging one another is the assurance that we are not alone. We can and should be the earthly reminders of the presence of God. How much are we encouraged when someone reminds us that God has a plan a purpose for everything that happens? It doesn't take away sadness or fear or concern, but it does keep us from losing hope. 

There is hope is Jesus. He is our hope. When we are tired and discouraged, and wishing more than anything else that we could quit, we need each other to carry our burdens, lift us up, walk with us, and remind us that we are precious to God. 

Let's make it a point today as we go about our usual Monday chores to actively seek out opportunities to encourage one another. We are all in a spiritual battle every day. We each must put on the armor of God and fight the battles he brings to us, but we need to know that we are not alone. 

Let us not leave one another without hope. Ask God to lead you today to someone who needs encouragement. He already has someone waiting for you.  Don't miss your chance!

I have prayed for you today. 


Friday, April 20, 2012

Refresh My Heart - Part Three

Refresh My Heart - Pray For Me ~

"As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord 
by failing to pray for you." 1 Samuel 12:23

Just this week I learned of a conflict between two friends. Both are strong Christian women with a passion for honoring God by serving His people. They have different opinions about how something should be done and it has led to hurt feelings on both sides and a broken relationship. 

Later the same day I heard from a friend whose third child, a little girl, was born last week, twelve weeks early, weighing less than three pounds. She is not eating. She may have Down's Syndrome. Her mother asked for prayer for her and for their family. She's a fighter, her mother said, but they are scared. 

Do you have a prayer journal? I do. Are there times when yours is neglected and left to gather dust on your desk? Sadly, the answer for me is yes. 

Why is that such a big deal? Here's why.

Nothing unleashes the power of God on earth like prayer. Nothing protects, guides, shields, teaches, redeems, forgives, heals, restores, comforts, sustains and renews like the touch of God's hand. NOTHING!

Since we are certain of that why do we fail to call down the power of God in every situation? What excuses do we use?
  • I got busy - probably the number one excuse
  • God's going to do what He's going to do whether I pray or not
  • others are praying - it won't matter if I don't
  • I don't know what to pray for them
  • I don't have all the details
  • ________________________  Add your own excuse here. 

Prayer is a privilege. It is also a duty we have to one another, one we are not free to abdicate for any reason. 

We just celebrated Easter - the death and resurrection of Christ that made a way for us to go directly to the throne of God with our petitions. What an amazing gift! 

God is not interested in the coziness of our special quiet time place, the color of our highlighter, how absolutely cute our journal is, or whether we have our prayer time at the same time each day. Can you imagine the condition of any human relationship if we only conversed at a set time each day, and if we missed that time - oh well!

God wants us to pour out our hearts to him all day long. He wants to be more important to us than our blog, our tweets, our Facebook page and yes, our cell phones. 

What if we took every situation to him BEFORE we posted about it on Facebook? Can you even imagine it? How many times today have you checked your social media connections - all of them? Seriously, do you even know how often you did it? And yes, I mean checking text messages, too. 

Scripture tells us that if we want to know where our hearts are, look at the things we treasure. If that doesn't make you stop in your tracks...

Not praying for the people around you is like standing on the side of a pool holding the life preserver and having a party while someone in the pool drowns. God has given us the power of prayer. Do we really want to fail to use it?

Part of loving someone the way God wants us to love is praying for them. Even our enemies. We have a direct line that never loses a charge or a signal, and God never gets distracted by another voice. He hears us clearly. He's given us permission, even a directive to come boldly before him to make our requests known. He waits for us to do it. 

So, sometime this weekend, dust off your prayer journal and begin using it daily. Write down your requests, your thanks for answered prayers, your praises... Just do it! 

Don't sin against the Lord by failing to pray for those he has placed in your path. Start with a time of confession and ask forgiveness if you have been lax in this. God will be faithful to his word and will forgive you and wait eagerly to hear the prayers from your heart. 

Get in the habit of talking to him all through the day. It's a basic spiritual discipline but like exercising and eating right, we have to been reminded sometimes, and sometimes we just need a good swift kick in the spiritual pants. 

There are many ways we can love one another, but none so powerful as the way we pray for them. Who do you know right now that needs to be lifted to the Father? Write their name in your journal and pray for them now. 

What if you don't know how to pray for them? Here is what I do. I picture myself holding their hand and walking with them to the foot of the cross. Then I place their hand in the hands of Jesus and say, "This is my friend, Lord, please take care of her."

That's it. It's that simple. That's what I want people to pray for me. Prayer is not a ritual. It is not a special place in your home. It is not only for church. 

It is conversation with the One who knows you best about the ones who need him the most. 

If you are reading this post today, know that I have walked you to the foot of the cross, placed you in the hands of Jesus, and asked him to take care of you. I may not know you - but He does!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Refresh My Heart - Part Two

Refresh My Heart...Laugh with Me ~

"Rejoice with those who rejoice." Romans 12:15a

We are social beings, aren't we? If you doubt it just consider the popularity of Facebook and other social networking sites, and the number of texts sent each day. It's a staggering number! Something inside of us wants to share and connect with others. 

At no time is that more true than when we have good news to share: a long-awaited pregnancy, a promotion, a new car, a book contract, an engagement, even something as simple as the perfect pair of shoes. We just can't wait to tell someone. 

Do you know what it's like to truly celebrate with someone, to share their joy because you understand what it means to them? 

Have you also experienced jealousy because someone got something you wanted for yourself? You've pasted on a smile and congratulated them while deep inside your heart was either breaking or seething?

So how do we rise above those feelings of envy so that we may truly rejoice with those who rejoice?

By remembering that God has a perfect plan for us.

That's easier than it sounds because along with that we have to totally surrender to that plan. We have to want His plan MORE than we want our  own.

But what if we could do that? What if we could truly embrace God's plan, trusting that He directs every moment of every day, every encounter, everything we see as an obstacle or interruption? What if?

If we could do that, if we truly believed that we are exactly where God wants us to be for this moment, and had exactly what he wants us to have right now, could we truly be glad for someone else?

I think so. Here's why. Just like loving someone, trusting in what God has given us and being content in that is NOT something we do in our own power. We must, every day, center our thoughts, our entire beings on the person of God. When we are immersed in who He is, the importance of everything else just falls away and we can trust that the way He works in every life is absolutely perfect.  We know that the future He has for us is being built on what He is doing today. 

Who has something you've been wishing and praying for? How has your attitude been about that? Have you been rejoicing with them openly while secretly frustrated about your own circumstances? 

It takes deliberate focus on God - a discipline - and a willingness to submit our will to God's Spirit. If we are willing He will change our hearts so that we are first content with Him. When that happens we can truly rejoice when good things happen for others. 

It is our privilege to celebrate with one another, experiencing their joy and excitement as our own. It is a wonderful gift from God. 

Content and celebrating. Sounds like a great way to live!

I celebrate with you all of the blessings God has given you, even the ones I want for myself. God is wise, his timing is perfect, and his love never fails us. 

Find a friend and rejoice with them today. See the hand of God at work in them and know that he holds wonderful things in store for you, too. 

You are in my prayers today.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Refresh My Heart - Part One

Refresh My Heart...Love Me ~

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is
Love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  Matthew 22:37-39

People need love. The more unlovable we are - and we are experts at convincing ourselves that we are undeserving of love -  the greater our need is for love. God tells us over and over again that he loves us, and he proved how much when he sent Jesus to die in our place. 

How sad - how sinful - that those who can make us feel the most unloved and unlovable are often those who have accepted the greatest gift of love for themselves.

Nothing gets in the way of loving one another like our taking on God's role of judge and dispenser of justice. When we take on that role we can never do it with the same compassion and unconditional love that God freely offers to us. We do it out of anger, arrogance, a need to make ourselves look or feel better, or the ultimate justification...defending God and showing others where they fall short of God's perfect plan. 

Isn't that the least we can do for those wayward souls?

Think about it. Are there people who would not feel comfortable coming to your church because they would be so harshly judged by the good Christians in attendance? Who would they be?

  • a gay couple
  • a woman who has had an abortion
  • an unwed pregnant woman
  • a man just released from prison
The Bible is God's love story to us. We are never more like Jesus than when we are loving the unlovable. Of all the things we are called to do on this earth while we wait for His return, the most important, the most life changing, the thing with the most eternal significance is LOVE. 

Imagine the grace experience of someone who believes himself or herself to be damaged beyond redemption, but finds unconditional love and acceptance and validation of their worth in the words and actions of God's servants on earth! Can you? Can you feel the gratitude, the relief, the total wonder of it all?

God loves and judges with perfect balance and perfection. We don't, and can never hope to. Thank goodness that is not our calling. 

We are called simply to love as God loves us: because we need it, not because we deserve it or have earned it. 

You may not have a problem with any of the situations listed above. It may be another one that causes you to judge instead of love. We all have things that trigger our urge to judge, but our desire to love comes from God, and he is greater than any force on earth. 

How do we begin to refresh one another with love? We start by recognizing God's unlimited love for us, warts and all, and allowing Him to fill us with gratitude and love in return. It must start with God. We are incapable of loving ourselves or others apart from Him. 

God calls us to love and what He calls us to do He equips us to accomplish in His power. 

If you feel unlovable because of the actions, experiences or choices of your past let me assure you that you are God's heart, and He pursues you as the priceless treasure that you are. In His love letter to us you will find tales of murderers, prostitutes, cowards, liars, thieves, negligent parents and wayward children. You will also find the stories of their redemption and how the touch and purpose of God changed their lives forever. 

There is a reason those stories are included in the account of God's perfect love for us. It was to show us that no matter what our circumstances, God's perfect love covers everything, and takes someone damaged and despairing, and turns their story into a beautiful tale of hope and purpose. 

We need to be careful with one another. Each of us is a priceless, irreplaceable treasure in God's eyes and in His heart. He traded the very life of His only Son for you, for me, and for each precious soul that lives. 

We not only refresh one another with love, we offer a life changing introduction to the One who loves perfectly. 

May our love lead us to pray for and support one another as fellow recipients of the same love and grace. Loving someone doesn't mean condoning those things that are wrong. God doesn't do that and He loves perfectly. It simply means we recognize our place under God and with others. 

Who do you consider unlovable today? Ask God to help you see them with His eyes and His heart and love them through you. 

We refresh the hearts of one another in so many ways, but the greatest of these is 


You are in my prayers today. 


Friday, April 13, 2012

A Little Ecclesiastical License...

It's Friday...

Normally the last work day of the week. I'm taking this one off though with the intention of doing some catching up with writing and laundry and relaxing. It's my personal extension of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 -  a time for everything. Today is a time to get things back in order - my home and my schedule - so next week can start smoothly.

That's the plan, anyway.

Jesus set a wonderful example for us, didn't he? He had the most important mission in the history of the world and he had only three years to complete it. And still he rested when he needed to. 

Next week I'm starting a series of posts on refreshing our brothers and sisters in Christ. To do that we need to let the Spirit refresh us through His word, prayer, and rest. 

What refreshes you? What takes you away from the obligations and stresses of life and washes them away? What helps you keep going? 

This weekend I will fill my new flower bed with color, working in the dirt with my hands and concentrating on making my yard look beautiful. It's a luxury, and one we don't indulge in often, but the weather is beautiful, the sunshine is warm and soothing, and for just a few hours I will soak it up and enjoy the blessing of home and family. 

Do you need to be refreshed this weekend? What will you do to make that happen?

Have a wonderful, relaxing weekend. Rest, worship, relax and recharge. 

I am praying for you.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Little Hidden Gem


It's a tiny little book. One page. Twenty-five short verses, tucked away between Titus and Hebrews.

It can be read in a few minutes but I don't think it can truly be fully absorbed so quickly. The primary theme of this book is the change in status of Onesimus from slave to brother in Christ. 

What caught my attention this time is Paul's referral to refreshing: first, he thanks Philemon for refreshing the hearts of the saints (v.7); then later (v.20) Paul asks Philemon to "refresh my heart in Christ".

I loved reading that and started to think about how to do that. What is it that refreshes us, and how do we do that for each other? That led to a list which has become a sort of "audit tool" for me as I compare the habits and practices of my life with the teachings I find in God's word.

How do I stack up against that list? Hmm. Some days better than others. Some days I fail miserably, and if I'm totally honest, some days I don't even try very hard. 

Some days I'm tired, overwhelmed, my Spirit completely dry. There is nothing in me for me, let alone anything left for anyone else. Do you ever feel that way?

What do you do when that happens? How are you refreshed in Christ? How do you refresh others?

As Christians it is both our responsibility and our privilege to "refresh the saints".

For the next few weeks, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I'd like to explore some ways that we can be refreshed as we refresh the hearts of others. I need it. I think we all do at one time or another. 

I hope these posts will bless you as God's word always does. I also hope you will share your own experiences. 

Join me starting Monday for a series of posts on refreshing your spirit. Here's a little sneak peek - prayer is one way we do this for one another. 

Let's start that now. I'm praying that we will all learn how to lift one another up, and that we will have a refreshed relationship with Jesus and with one another.

Be refreshed today. 


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

To-Do Lists with an Eternal Twist!

Today I want to refer you to a blog post by Barry Hill. He is known as the Ordained Barista and his post on to-do lists is wonderful and thought provoking. If you're a list-maker you need to read this. 


- Law vs. Grace

- Rules vs. Relationship

- Doing vs. being

Click Ordained Barista to read what Barry learned from his son about list making. It will change the way you think about and make lists. 

It's a great post and I've found a great new blog to follow. Let me know what you think.

I'm praying for you today. 


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Who's telling your future?

"Do not boast about tomorrow for you do not know what a day may bring."  Proverbs 27:1

Would you like to know what the future holds for you? for your family? Have you known Christians who consult with psychics or fortune tellers? I have. I don't understand that really, but thought of some reasons why people would try to get a glimpse into the future. See if you can think of others...
  • we want to be in control
  • we lack trust in God to direct our lives
  • we think if we know what's coming we can be prepared
  • we think we can change something we don't like if we see it coming
You may add your own reasons here as well. 

I think there are a few reasons why God does not allow us to see the future: 
  • if there are bad/hard things ahead we would  spend energy and focus worrying about and dreading what was coming, and miss the joy of today
  • if there are good things ahead we could look forward to those things so much that we miss what God has for us today, including those things that would lead to better things in the future
  • we could begin to think we didn't need God - think about Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden
  • we are incapable of seeing and understanding the big picture. We can't do that on a day to day basis. What makes us think that we could handle the whole future?
  • knowing the future would give us a false sense of security
  • God wants us to trust Him.
That's the bottom line, isn't it? Trust. Do we trust in the God who holds the future in his hands, or do we trust in our own knowledge? Do we boast in our own ability to control our destiny or do we, as Paul advises, boast only in the Lord?

Consider this: if we cannot live in each day that God gives us because we are anxious about the future and in a hurry to get there, what makes us think that we will not continue to do that tomorrow instead of enjoying the things we dream of today?

Life happens - good and bad - to all of us. Whatever the future holds, know that God has already been there, conquered it, and won  victory over it. 

The best way to be prepared for the future is to know the One who holds it. We do not know what a day may bring, but He does. We all have things that weigh heavily on us - concerns and worries for the future. What are those things for you? Have you spent so much time anticipating the future that you are missing what God has for you today? If so, make a change right now. Take that concern to him in prayer along with your anxiety and fear of the unknown. He understands and he loves you and promises a peace beyond understanding. 

Share your thoughts: How do you handle anxiety about the future? Do you have a special verse that brings you peace and comfort?

I'm praying for you today. 


Monday, April 9, 2012

I know that voice!

"...his sheep follow him because they know his voice...
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me..."
John 10:4b, 14

Last week my chaplain and I were manning a table at a fundraiser and listening to - unfortunately for me - golf. The Master's tournament to be precise. Three things about that:

  1. I know nothing about golf.
  2. I don't want to know anything about golf.
  3. As loud as it was I was able to tune it out. I heard none of it.

And for the chaplain:
  1. He was completely focused on it.
  2. He knows hundreds of pieces of trivia related to the game, the courses, the clubs and the costs.
  3. He recognizes the players by their voices. 
It's that last point that I want to stay with for a minute. It's not such an unusual thing to recognize someone by their voice. We do it all the time: family, friends, musicians, actors, politicians. It is said that a mother can recognize her baby's cry or laugh in a room full of children. For a patient who is dying it is believed that hearing is the last sense to go. It is a gift from God that allows us to hear the comforting voices of our loved ones at the end of our lives, even when we seem to be unaware. 

Yes, there is great power in a voice. 

So here's the big question...

Do you know God's voice when you hear it?

How can you know? Here are some things to consider:

  • Is what you hear consistent with scripture? If not, you can stop right here. God never contradicts himself. It should go without saying that you can't be sure of this if you're not in God's word consistently. 
  • Do godly people you know and trust validate and confirm what you hear? Have you ever told someone that you feel God leading you into a particular place of service or to a specific decision, only to have them immediately say that God had placed that very thing on their hearts for you? That's validation. These are people who pray for you regularly and hold you accountable. They know what's going on with you and are not surprised when God moves in a particular way.
  • Do you experience a peace about your decision even if it makes you nervous or a little afraid? When God calls us to action that action is very likely to take us out of our comfort zone. That's a great thing because it means that he is about to do something in us or through us that only he can do! It can also make us want to run for the hills. When your focus is on God and not your feelings, do you know deep in your soul that it is right? That is from God.
  • Do you trust God to lead you and accept when he closes a door? Any time we are faced with a big decision my husband and I pray this prayer:
    "Lord, if this is your will open every door for us, and if not, please slam it in our faces. Don't even give us an opportunity to make the wrong choice." Pretty simple right? That's why we pray that prayer. Years ago we prayed that prayer when he was interviewing for a job that we just knew he would get. Then he got the call that they had hired someone else. We couldn't believe it! It would have been the perfect job for him. What was up with that? As we sat talking about it we remembered our prayer. It was such an amazing feeling to see that disappointment as an answer to prayer. God had absolutely not allowed that door to open. If we pray like that we can hardly complain when he marks our paths and guides us by closing doors. 
  • Do you spend enough time with him, just listening to him and getting to know his heart, that you can recognize when something is not of God? Law enforcement officers are trained to recognize counterfeit money by studying and becoming familiar with the real thing. They know when something doesn't look right. That's how it is with God. We should be able to discern things that are not of God - with the guidance of the Holy Spirit - because we know Him so well. 
The bottom line is, the more time we spend in communication with God the easier it is to recognize his voice when he speaks to us. 

How are you doing with this? Need to spend some more time listening?  Me too. 

Start today. There's no time like the present to get started with this. MAKE and SCHEDULE some time with your Savior today. Open his word and let it speak his heart to you. Sit quietly and meditate on what you read, asking God to speak to your heart. 

What about you? How do you know when God is speaking to you? 

Thanks for visiting today. I am praying for you.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Victory!

Easter Sunday...

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here;
He has risen!"
Luke 24:5b-6a

Because of the cross and the empty tomb we can:
  • live as one who has been forgiven
  • live as one who has a hope and a future
  • live in the power of God's Holy Spirit
  • be assured of the absolute victory of God over sin and death
  • live in victory every day
  • do all things through Christ who gives us strength
  • take life and peace to a dying world
  • know we are loved with an unconditional love that knows no bounds
  • live forever in the presence of Jesus
Celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today. Celebrate it every day by living and walking in his resurrection power. He came to bring us abundant life full of power and love and strength. 

Live in it. 

Celebrate it. 

Share it. 

Thank God for it. 

"He is not here - he is RISEN!"

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lent Day 40 - The Sacrifice

"When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him...
It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. When he had said this he breathed his last."
 Luke 23:33a, 44-46

It all came down to this moment, when Jesus committed himself to his Father and finished his work on earth. 

Crucifixion was a common form of execution in Jesus' day and as with other times in history I'm sure that for many people watching an execution was just another form of entertainment. Even so, they had to know that something was different about this one. No, not something - Someone. Creation itself reacted to the death of its Master. Even one of the guards said, "Surely he was the Son of God."

Just as his life had been different, so was his death. It was death on his terms and according to his plan. He deliberately chose a path for himself that led to pain and fear, betrayal and abandonment - all so he could set us free. 

What was it like for him? We will never know this side of heaven. 

If I had the ability to free myself from the pain and torture would I have chosen to endure it for someone else? What about someone who will not be born for a hundred years? a thousand? 

Jesus felt all of the human emotions: gut-wrenching fear, doubt, anger at the betrayal by his friends, physical, mental and emotional pain, and finally, he knew the pain and emptiness of God turning away. 

Love overcame it all. Love for you and for me. 

His sacrifice does not fade in importance and power the further history moves away from the time of the Cross. It is as powerful today as it was on that day at the place called the Skull. 

Surely he was the Son of God. He is our Savior, the sacrifice for our sins. As horrible as his physical death was, it has saved us from everlasting death and separation from God. 

He went to the Cross for you. 

He stayed there for you. 

Take a moment in his presence to worship.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lent Day 39 - The Life

"Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Luke 2:52

" God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him."  Acts 10:38

"Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."  John 21:25

What a life! Jesus began his ministry when he was about thirty years old. Before that he worked as a carpenter, helping to take care of his family and preparing for ministry. We could learn from that. As the Teacher said in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything: a time to prepare, a time to rest, a time to serve. 

Jesus had a ministry of three short years, but those years changed the course of history and completed God's plan for redemption. They were three very important years!

He had many names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He was a healer and a teacher. He was a maker of fishers of men. He was kind and compassionate. He was focused on his people and the things they needed. He was passionate about respect for his Father's house. He was brave and courageous in the face of betrayal, torture and death. He loved children. He could have chosen to be born in a place and time more comfortable but he came instead to a people searching for the Messiah - waiting to see the Salvation of the Lord. 

What was it like for him to walk on and among his own creation? Did it remind him of that perfect time in the garden before the fall? As he walked among us did he picture the time when creation would be restored? Did it give him strength and encouragement? 

Wholly human - totally God. How is that even possible? 

I wish someone had written those books that John talked about. I would love to have that insight into the life of Jesus as he grew, as a young man, as he gained understanding of his purpose on earth.  Wouldn't you love to read  about a day spent with his brothers and sisters? Did he play tricks on them? Did they pick on each other. Did he stick up for his little brother or sister when someone picked on them or hold their hands when they were scared? 

So many things I'd like to know about his life, but I can never hope to absorb all that was actually written down. Someday when I see him I'll ask him about those things. Not that it matters - I'm just curious. 

He lived a perfect life without sin. That was part of the plan. One who had no sin would take the blame for the rest of us. Imagine the weight of it all! 

One perfect life. All part of God's plan. 

In your quiet time today, thank God for the example of Jesus and for his teachings. We can never hope to be like him on this earth, but we can let God make us a little closer every day. He came for you. He lived a perfect life for you. He died for you. 

Thank him today. 

I am praying for you. 


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lent Day 38 - The Plan

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14

" angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:20-21

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn...
the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."  Luke 2:6-7, 9-11

What an amazing plan. We live life at breakneck speed, always wanting to hurry things up. Do more in less time. God has patiently been working out his plan through centuries of time since the fall. He has watched the world as a whole as we have become too sophisticated for him, relying on science and our own cleverness to get us ahead. We map the human genome and think that we are just a breath away from unraveling the secret of life. One day we will be so clever and so smart that we will no longer need a god to worship nor religion to lean on. 

God's plan is so simple. A debt incurred by one and paid in full by another. 

We are too arrogant for such a simple plan.  It doesn't make sense and because we can't reason it out we reject it. Religion is for the weak and simple-minded. Right? What does scripture say...

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; 
God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - 
and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are,
so that no one may boast before him. 
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us 
wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 
Therefore as it is written: Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 1:27-31

God chose a baby boy who would grow up to be a simple carpenter and a servant to be the conquering King over sin and death, just not in the way we would expect. By dying he conquered death. By living again he brings us life everlasting. In losing our lives to him we gain them back forever. In humbly submitting ourselves to him as our Lord, we take our places as children of the King. 

Sin bound us in chains as prisoners of the enemy. God's plan has already redeemed us and all of creation. We are free, we are redeemed, we are loved. When we are weak, he is strong. 

Yes, it is quite a plan. It is perfect as he is perfect, and we can't mess this one up. We can only refuse to accept the gift. That would be a tragedy.

If you know Jesus as your Savior take a moment to thank him for the beauty and simplicity of his plan, and for bearing the burden of our redemption on his own. We call it God's plan, but it is  only one part of his plan for the world. He is working it all out every moment of every day until it is time for his return.

If you don't know Jesus as your Savior know today that this plan is for you. Talk to someone who can help you understand what it's all about. Accept the gift. 

God had been preparing people throughout all of history for the birth of the baby who would be our sacrifice. Now he prepares us for the day when he will come again in final victory over the enemy.  He always does what he says he will do. We can trust our lives to him and our eternal futures. 

Today think about the awesomeness of God's plan and the patience and care with which he is working it out.  Think about the awesomeness of your Savior. 

I am praying for you today. 


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lent Day 37 - The Fall


"So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life."  Genesis 3:23-24.

It has been many thousands of years since that happened. God knew when he banished Adam and Eve exactly how long he would wait to redeem his creation. He knows today the exact day and hour of his return.

 I sometimes attribute human characteristics to God even though I know he doesn't get tired or distracted. For example, if it had been me, I see myself looking ahead to thousands of years of people - my creation - getting themselves into serious trouble and expecting me to get them out AND never learning from their mistakes. 

How in the world did he banish them without his heart breaking?! He created us for perfect fellowship with him - walking in the garden together kind of fellowship - and we ruined it. Even though he knew he would fix it one day can you imagine the sadness in his heart as he turned them out and withdrew his favor from them? He cursed the ground, turning one part of his creation against another.  

I think this is another way we are made in his image. When we lose someone we love we grieve even knowing that we will be reunited in heaven. I believe that God grieves the loss of fellowship with us, the perfection of his whole creation, even though he knows that he will one day make it right again. 

How could he not grieve when he sees the ruin we have made of his perfect work? 

Think of times when you have felt far away from God, as if he had turned away and wasn't listening to you. Now imagine how that would feel if you had ever had a perfect relationship with him as Adam and Eve once did. 

Thank God the story doesn't end with the fall. God always had a plan. 

Today take time to consider the consequences of sin, how creation and our fellowship with God were destroyed. God grieves even as he is working out his redemptive plan. Ask him to restore your fellowship with him. Sit with him a while and listen. Ask him to show you his heart and you will see his love and concern for his creation. Ask him to work in your heart so that his love becomes yours, and you see his concern for each precious part of his creation.

Thank him that our stay in this world is a short one, but let him fill your heart with an urgency to tell the story of his redemption to the rest of his world.  

I am praying for you today.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lent Day 36 - The Creation

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...
-let there be light...
-let there be an expanse between the waters...
-let dry ground appear...
-let the land produce vegetation...
-let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night...
-let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth...
-let the land produce living creatures...
-let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over...all the God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them...
And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."
Genesis  Chapter 1

I love handmade gifts. I love the uniqueness of them and because I cross-stitch and make jelly and do some other creative, crafty things, I appreciate the time and love that go into something created by hand. For me, just the fact that someone would think about making something for me makes me feel very special. I accept such a gift as a treasure. 

You may have some handmade things at your house: quilts made by grandmothers, crocheted afghans, embroidered pillows, furniture built by an ancestor and handed down through the generations... If you have such things you understand how special they are and how meaningful. It's as if you have a part of that person there with you. That's a special gift for most of us. There are some, however...

My husband's grandfather had a furniture/home appliance store many years ago and tells the story of a newly married couple who came in to buy a stereo and were five dollars short. They traded a wedding quilt made by her grandmother for that five dollars so they could have that stereo. I'm still horrified by that story and hope that her grandmother never found out what she did. I also want to find that girl and slap some sense into her... 

God must feel like that sometimes. He created this beautiful, perfect world knowing what we would do to it. I love to imagine God thinking about his creation like an artist sitting before a canvas considering which colors to use and what subjects to paint. He made some of the most bizarre and amazing creatures, many of which have still never been seen by a human. Why would he do that? 

For his pleasure.

 I like to think that there are elements of his creation that still give him pleasure. His purview is the whole of creation. He cares for us, yes. He sustains us and blesses us and made a plan to save us, but he cares for his whole creation. His perfect creation was damaged when man sinned and it has been in bondage right along with mankind ever since. Its redemption is tied to ours. When the time comes for God to redeem His creation he will redeem His WHOLE creation (read Romans 8:18-22).

Does that make you feel a little bit small? Me too. Humans can be so arrogant, can't we? We are not his first creation, but we are "very good". We are the ones who messed it all up, but he made a way to save it and us. 

Consider God's creation today. All of it. We are such a small, finite part and yet he loves us as if we are the crowning jewel of it all. We are, you know. The earth was made to praise him, but we were made to fellowship with him. 

That thought has given me a new perspective on my relationship with Him. It's funny how even feeling smaller makes me feel more special, as if I understand a little better what it means to be loved and cherished by Him.

Meditate on God the Creator today. Stand in awe of the works of his hands and take special notice as you go about your day. See the hand and mind of God in His creation, and don't be surprised when your heart becomes filled with praise and wonder. 

I am praying for you today.