Says Easy, Does Hard

Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Matthew 19:19 

This whole “love your neighbor as yourself” business says easy, but does hard, and there’s a reason for that.  Jesus regularly taught principles that rankled people and caused a shift in their perspective.  Jesus’ own disciples, upon hearing him proclaim in the temple that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they wanted to be one with him, said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”  Many didn’t, and the herd was thinned that day.

Truth:  There are times when living for Jesus says easy, but does hard!

We often face a struggle of the will when trying to put self in a bottle.  Being creatures with egos, we find it difficult to live out the fullness of this hard teaching about love. This week, though, Jesus has opened my eyes to see the contrast between how we help one another and how the world does it.  In the world, help denotes payback.  Few people who live without Jesus in their heart freely give either love or possessions. Some, but not many. Whereas inside the church, we’re all striving to share selfless love on a daily basis, and not just with church members.  Be it generosity, kindness, toys, or tools—we regularly share with others in ways that meet or exceed the way we take care of ourselves.

Today, if you are finding it hard to love others on the same level as you love you, know, you’re not alone.  We’re all finding it hard, given the day. Here is what I know: The only thing that stretches our Jesus muscles, is lifting Jesus weights.

What part of the Christian journey do you find says easy, but does hard?

 

 

 

 

 

Live, Love, Lead

…temptation to get stuck in fear and self-pity reinforces why we must pause only long enough to restore our proper vision.  Many times, the external obstacles in our path are not as heavy as the internal ones. When we’re struggling with life’s challenges, the great limitation we face may come from the issues of our heart. If we’re not guarding and protecting what God has placed within our hearts, then we lose our vision and find it difficult to persevere. The vision you have for your life must be protected in your heart. When you encounter a difficult path, you must keep your eyes on the prize. –Brian Houston’s Live, Love, Lead

Loving this book!

Be a Jonah…try, try again!

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.  Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”  The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.   Jonah 3:1-5 

There are several things about today’s Bible passage that pique my interest.

First, Nineveh was a large city. Large enough that it took THREE days to walk through it. That’s Big!

Also of interest is the fact that the Ninevites believed Jonah when he finally got around to speaking to them about God and the destruction that was coming. They believed him so thoroughly that they prepared their hearts for punishment, even as they hoped for mercy.

The Ninevites quick decision to take action is impressive, I think. Once they heard what God was planning for them, they immediately stopped their evils ways, confessed their wrongs, and fasted and prayed, going several days without food, nor water.  The king of Nineveh even ordered that the cattle go on a fast with the rest of the city.  Everyone in Nineveh stopped what they were doing and prayed, prayed earnestly, to the God of Jonah, Yahweh.

Can you imagine the noise the cattle made when they’d gone just one day without food or water? The wailing that must have produced–I bet the commotion put goose bumps on arms all over town–and I bet it only intensified after the sun went down!  No sleep for anyone in Nineveh until this sitch had been dealt with properly.  No sleep!

The most amazing thing about this passage for me, though, is the fact that…

God gave Jonah a second chance!

 A second change, people!!!!  How good is our God!

Like Jonah, we let the Lord down, don’t we?

Like Jonah, we run in the opposite direction from His will for us, sometimes.

Like Jonah, we care about our own skin before we care about other’s.

Like Jonah, we find serving God in ways that are relevant to him, troublesome for us.

Like Jonah, we’ve failed God when he’s called us the first time, and like Jonah, we need that second chance. 

Today, if you know anyone like Jonah, will you pray for him or her? Will you ask God to give them a second chance?  Will you ask Him to put them in a spot where they’re motivated to do what He wants them to do, even if that means rough times for them?

Will you pray for their inner fortitude, strength, and faith in the only true God?  If you will, you’ll need fortification to do that job, right?  A touch from God?!  Let’s pray…

Who do you know that is a Jonah, in need of a second chance?  When have you been in need of the same?

 

 

Healing Words Speaking Grace

The following is an excerpt from Cyndy Sherwood’s devotional, Healing Words.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9a

“I have hung my hope on this truth more times than I can count. When I was remembering the horrible abuse of my childhood, his grace was sufficient. Later, when my step-daughter took her life, his grace was sufficient. When my husband had no work, his grace was sufficient. 

It is in the hard times we can most easily see his unlimited resources and his tender heart toward us.  He delights in taking care of us during adversity.  It also gives God pleasure to do great things through unlikely people.  When he accomplishes his work through weak people it reveals his unlimited power.”

Cyndy goes on to talk about grace as “a dynamic expression of the divine personality, rather than as a static attribute of God’s nature,” which is The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible’s definition of grace.  Cyndy believes that when God transfers His power into our lives, then, we get a glimpse of His grace as it was meant to operate in our world.  “When God is working in and through us,” she says, “that is His grace.”

I love Cyndy’s description of grace in her devotional.  It speaks to partnership, and intimacy, and the give-and-take that accompanies demonstrations of God’s grace in my life.

We give our weakness to God and He fills us with His power!

Today, if you’re facing a lion, a bear, or a shadow of fear…so that you’re not sure whether you can finish what God’s given you to do or not, won’t you reach out to Him and ask for a little grace to get you through?

He’s a good, good father, and he love, love, love, loves his kids.  Today, let’s trust God a little bit more in our weakness.

What do you think about grace? How do you define grace in your life?

 

Reviewing Romans

I posted yesterday that I’m moving on with my Bible reading, and using my Bible Jar to let God direct my reading. His pick?  Ezekiel!

Ezekiel AGAIN, I should say!

This is my SECOND time reading Ezekiel in three months’ time.  Believe me, left to my own devices, I would not have picked this book to read even once, let alone TWO times, but I’m sure there is a message in there for me somewhere; one especially relevant to where I am in my faith journey right now.  I suspect it has to do with speaking boldly about the other side of grace.  You know it, right? That side of grace that is not gold-plated or fun to experience, or anything we could call human success.

THE OTHER SIDE OF GRACE

The other side of grace is punishment, and while we might do all we can to mitigate it or down right avoid it, the truth is that there are things to learn in the wood shed we cannot learn anywhere else.  Valuable things.  Timely things.  God-things!

I will be sharing some of my impressions from the book of Ezekiel once I’ve gotten into it a little further.  For now, I want to share some of what struck me as important as I read through Romans, the last book of the Bible God directed me to read.

I LOVE/HATE PAUL’S EPISTLES

I love Romans. I love Acts. I love/hate the Apostle Paul’s writings!

I love how Paul says what he thinks—exactly what he thinks–but I hate that he seems like a chauvinist sometimes.  I can say that here, because this is my blog, and it’s how I’ve honestly felt in the past when reading Paul’s work.  Today, I’m okay with who he was and what he wrote, because I can see what he says in greater context and so I don’t get so offended as I once did.  I don’t have time for all the drama involved in fighting Paul on the subject of women and how he chooses to address them in Scripture. His opinions are his (and sometimes God’s), and I’m okay with Paul being Paul at this juncture in life.  Why not?  We all add something different to the faith recipe, right?  And Paul has added a lot of spice, so I’m more likely to applaud him than dis him these days.

BUT I DIGRESS

What I really wanted to share here today is my thoughts, my significant thoughts, on the book of Romans. Here goes. I think…

Sin is awful and uncontrollable in/by us, but thankfully Jesus can handle it.

Anyone absorbed in self, ignores God.

Ignoring God causes a hobbling in my spirit, even as it displeases him.  A lose/lose proposition.

We need to give our old life a decent burial, and get on with the adventure!

Mercy is God’s thing! He grants grace to us, and not the other way ‘round.

God sets everything right between Him and us when we 1. Call upon Him for help. 2. Trust in Him to provide help. 3.  Release and relinquish those things we’d previously been holding on to that get between God and us. 4.  Practice intimacy with Him.

God will not walk away from Israel, even though she walks away from Him.  There still exists a fierce minority in Israel that trusts God, and they will be the agents of peace that partner with God when the broken olive branch (broke through disobedience), gets grafted back in.  If their break meant a grafting for the Gentiles, just imagine what their being grafted back onto the trunk [God], will mean for the world.  An explosion of power unseen before!

Placing your everyday life in God’s hands makes it possible for amazing things to happen in your life.

We should run from evil as fast as we can.

We don’t bring goodness to God, that He should be grateful to us. He brings it to us—and we SHOULD be grateful to Him!

We serve God best when we do so authentically.

Problems with being authentic begin with human pride, and are not the work of God.

We need to practice being second fiddle until we get really, really good at it!

[side note: a friend recently said something to the effect of, “I love people who race others to get to the bottom of the pile.”  I think she’s onto something there.  God first, others next, us last—always.]

Others need to be loved by us as well as we love ourselves.

It profits us nothing to be greedy—we will all kneel at the same place and time in the end.

Welcome those who don’t see things as you do, and don’t let something as temporary as food divide you.

If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you teach, then the way you’re living (or teaching), is wrong.

Jesus took on the troubles of the troubled, and stayed true to God’s purpose. Do likewise.

Hospitality is important, don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Love on others, complimenting those who deserve it [and I would add, need it].

What is your favorite passage from Romans?  Why do you love it so??

 

Ezekiel!

Happy Monday, everyone!

I’m beginning my week with writing about my quiet time once again, and the prayer jar I’ve talked about in the past.  Last Friday I finished up my reading in Romans, and was jones-in’ for my next pick from the prayer jar, but wanted to wait until another busy weekend had passed before I drew a new tab.

Can I say I’m loving the way this thing is going?  I’m loving how God is directing my Bible reading!!

I rubbed my eyes awake this morning with one thought on my mind, picking another tab from the jar.  I was so excited.

I prayed, then picked, and do you know what my finger found?

Ezekiel! 

Again!

This will be my SECOND reading from the book of Ezekiel in three months-time.  I think God must have a message for me in this peculiar book of prophecy.

Such an odd little book, but here I go…

Do you have a systematic way for reading through God’s Word?  What is your favorite passage from the book of Ezekiel?

What if strength is my only option?

Because change is on my mind, and I know with it comes adversity, I wanted to share a blog post I read this morning that spoke to both, borrowed from The Seeds of Life website.

I’ve often felt like others weren’t as thrilled with the changes I’ve made as I was, but I’ve learned that I can’t let that stop me from changing.  Change is inevitable. Adversity, too.  Best we learn how to make of them the best that we can, because change is a constant, and adversity isn’t going away anytime soon.  Right?!

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.  

Let me hear your thoughts on the subject: Change or Adversity, either one, and how you rose above your circumstances to find a new you that you liked better than the old one.

I’m all ears, so share freely….

Now, this, from The Seeds 4 Life website

When have you made a planned change in your life? What made you decide THEN was the right time to change?

 

Change Challenge

Some of you know I’ve joined a CHANGE CHALLENGE this month. Actually, this challenge will last through July and August of 2017.  What it amounts to is a daily challenge to CHANGE up my habits and try new things. I love it, because I get to decide where the challenge will take me over the next two months.

I get to decide what I want to change-up in my life each day.

I get to decide what is important enough to me to be changed.

I get to have a hand in creating a new Lori by the time autumnal tones take over northeastern PA this year.

I’m excited about the challenge and the changes/chances I’m expecting to take over the next six weeks, so naturally I wanted to share a few of the more significant ones with my readers.

Today is July 12th 2017, but really only Day 7 of the challenge, because we started this thing after the July 4th holiday.

My change made last night has me feeling pretty special and needed, and loved this morning.  Here’s what I experienced when I decided to do a new things last night:

Day 12 Change Challenge:

My life changed when I went to VBS and served as a helper last night.

I have not helped out during VBS in decades. Little kids on hectic schedules is not my thing.

I like organization. structure. thoughtful processes. adult conversation.

Still, I “think” I did okay with the kiddos last night. I will share that I was delighted by some of the kids in the group to which I was assigned. One little boy in particular…so cute, so tired, so distracted, and so I-can’t-keep-my-hands-off-others-adorable sticks out in my mind as my reason for being at VBS last night.

Isn’t it grand that God calls us to the ones that need us most?

Or do we need them?  Hmmmm, there’s some food for thought.

Either way, I was undone by that lil cutie. I probably won’t be able to help out with VBS again this week (that scheduled organization thing that rules my life is happening), but last night…yeah, last night was nice.

As an aside to all the talk about my feelings, this:  One little glamour girl decided to decorate her hard hat with a load of bling.  It caught my eye and my camera lens, so I’m going to share a picture of that hat and the line up I found it in last night.

So. Much. Bedazzling.  I love it!!!

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Do you help out with VBS at your church in the summer time? What is your favorite all-time memory of VBS from childhood?

The Real jesus

Lately, I’ve been feeling the need to talk about the real Jesus with my readers and friends.

I’ve felt like the world is giving people a different impression of Jesus than what the Bible says about him.

I’ve felt like revisionist history has taken over, and fake news is everywhere, and that it is impacting the work of the church as we try to make lives better.

Jesus makes lives better.

I heard a quote concerning Polycarp yesterday. He was a noble saint of God, a disciple of the Apostle John, and an early church leader and bridge to early Christianity who at some point was asked to puff some incense into the air and repeat the phrase, “Caesar is Lord.” He refused.

Polycarp was a threat to his world and government, so he had to die.

The government of Polycarp’s day told him it he didn’t honor Caesar above Christ, he would be first tortured, then killed by being burned at the stake.  His response:  “Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” He then prayed a prayer that accepted his fate, requested he be found worthy to die among the martyrs, and praised God for bringing him to this place in life.

He praised God, people. Praised Him!!!!

Eusebiau adds: “When he had offered up his amen and had finished his prayer, the firemen lighted the fire.”

I’m impressed with how Polycarp could rise to a place of gratefulness when facing his torturer’s flame.  I believe he was able to face his fate with confidence and be counted among the martyrs for two reasons: 1. The courage the Holy Spirit gives upon our conversion is no joke. We are able to do, while in Christ, things we could never do before He came to reign in our lives.  2.  Polycarp had been looking for a way to honor his Savior his whole life, and knew this way would be the way that would be remembered.  He was right. This act of love outlived any other sacrifice he might have made in the past, and it led others to follow his example in the future.

I’m struck by the way Jesus coming into our lives has the power to completely change who we are as people.  Those who once served out of duty, after being saved, have a whole new heart and way of behaving in this world.  I only hope that I can have the courage of Polycarp when Jesus asks me to do something noble and requiring bravery.

The real Jesus gives us opportunities to serve him in powerful ways.  What will you do with yours?

Do you feel like the world is trying to hide the truth about the real Jesus from us?  Do you know who is behind that kind of masqu