Love, Love, Love, Love!

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2

Excellence does not require perfection.  Henry James 

LOVE

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.  1 Corinthians 13 MSG 

What does it mean to never give up in our love for others?  What shape has that kind of persistent love taken in your life?  Are you still at it…still loving, regardless of the circumstances, and despite the fact that love is not returned to you in kind?  If you are, you are following in your Father’s footsteps.

You are doing what God has called all Christians to do, and here’s the best news about that:

You don’t have to love perfectly to love well!

In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth he said that love never gives up.

It never quits.

It never retreats.

It never grows fatigued.

It never slumbers.

It never stops wanting the best for that one God pointed to and commanded:  Love Him! Love Her! Love them!

Paul did not say our love would be perfectly given or perfectly received.  He simply said that when we’re in relationship with God and Jesus is powering our love, it will not fizzle out or fade away.  It might be tough to get love right sometimes, and God knows that, which is why He’s given us loads of opportunities to practice, practice, practice this valuable skill.

Today, if you feel a little deficient in your love ability, why not lean in to God and ask Him for another fill-up of His love? He never turns us away when love is on our minds, so go ahead, ask, receive, and then give.  It’s His way…it’s our privilege.

When have you been challenged to love the unlovable?  How did that turn out?

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Reality TV & God’s Mighty Power

safari-dave-elephants-sunset

And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst. Zechariah 2:5

I’m a big fan of reality TV. I know, I know, there’s nothing real about reality TV, but I still like it. 😊  I once saw a reality TV show filmed in Africa where the contestants in a game were living on the plains. You know the plains, right?

That place where big, burly, hungry lions roam.

That place where elephants push down anything in their path.

That place where barricades have to be erected around campsites, and fires must be kept burning all night to ward off predators.

That scene of a 10 or 12 foot high fence of tangled tree branches encircling a camp was the first thing that came to mind when I read today’s verse from Zechariah.

The picture below gives you a little sense for what the height and structure of the barricade was during that African game play.

(I apologize for the crazy looking guy in the picture, I couldn’t find one without him).

I will be to her (Jerusalem), a wall of fire all around…

The promise that God made to the holy city in ancient times still applies to you and me today when we identify ourselves as Christians. In the same way that the Lord Almighty protected Jerusalem and lived as the glory in her midst, He desires to live in our lives and keep us safe today. The problem with making that truth a reality in our lives is that we sometimes don’t trust that God will protect us, provide for us, or use His power for good in our lives. We doubt His promises, and as a result His character is marred in our minds. The constant influx of information that goes into our brains from outside influences is to blame for most of the confusion we feel about God, but some of it is also due to lazy thinking that cause us to look at frail humanity and imagine that God is like us. He’s not!

This year it is my hope that we would early and often go to war with the evil influences that tend to make us jaded regarding the Lord. May God be as much a wall of fire to our minds and hearts as He once was to His holy city. And may we, like those contestants on the reality TV show I saw, learn to sleep soundly through the darkest of nights knowing God has our backs. When He’s got the night watch, we have nothing to fear!

What are you most afraid of at this time in your life?  How has that fear shaped the way you view the Lord and His mighty power?

 

 romans-6_14

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. Romans 6:12-13

…sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14

Would you read the verses above one more time before continuing on with this blog post?

Thanks!

Did you notice when you reread the verse the number of action words that are in it?
Don’t let sin reign…
Don’t offer yourself to evil…

But rather…
Offer yourselves to God.
Offer every part of yourself to him!

Amazing how active this command becomes when you really look at what it’s saying, right? And the promise and hope it provides—amazing!

Sin shall no longer be your master!

No longer!

Never again!

Sin will not have that power over you!

Maybe, like me, you can remember those days when sin had mastery over you. Those days were filled with unruly attitudes and unbridled behaviors.

Lies were told.

Promises broken.

Gossip flew out of unholy lips, and money, well, money was king.
Me and hubs, we scrounged to get it, became greedy in order to keep it, and squandered it on ourselves, never thinking of others.

That was before Love broke through!

Once our hearts were broken; once the Son came up over our horizon; once the price of redemption was paid, everything changed for my husband and me. Sin was no longer our master. Now, we could choose.

Now, we could see what had previously been hidden.

Now, we knew our mission…to tell everyone about our wonderful Jesus and what he’d done for us.

Light.

Hope.

Possibility…

…and sometimes challenges, I won’t lie.

But these were all ours, these blessings and growing pains, and now life got really exciting, really fast.

I guess what I’m saying in all this is that there is a new year coming, and I want to see as many friends and family (and even strangers), as possible come to the knowledge of another way of living. A way that is the Way.

Sin doesn’t have to rule your life. Not anymore. There is a new path available to you, a new way to walk in this world. A new and exciting life of integrity rests just beyond your choice. Will you walk in that new way in 2018? If you do, I promise you’ll never want to go back!

Back to what? Greed. Disappointment. Guilt that you just can’t shake off, because you know deep inside that you’re not living right, not making the best decisions, not being generous, not forgiving anyone, let alone yourself.

Sin creates bondage, whether we realize it or not.

Turn the tables on sin this year. Let it be THE year of renewal, rebirth, redemption and do-overs. Jesus is waiting to help you get started. Contact me if you need to know how. I’ve seen the forest and I’ve seen the trees, but the mountain top—Oh yeah, the view from up there is magnificent!!! Find out for yourself. Reach out to me in the comments section below, leaving an email where I can contact you, and I will.

Know, there is a better way. Find it, now!

Did you once live with sin as your master? What changed for you, and how do you live life now?

 

Adoration: The Gift

I was reading a devotional this morning by Sheila Walsh; an excerpt from her book, 5 Minutes with Jesus: Making Today Matter. The devotional focused on worship. It made the point that we don’t have to be rich, or powerful, or connected, or beautiful, or literate, or even of any certain age or scholarly achievement to worship the Lord.

Woohoo! Aren’t you glad?

The practice of worship, the privilege of it, is a gift our God in all wisdom has given to everyone.

Without exception, all of us can bow our heads, bend our knees, assume a posture of humility and speak out praise to God, in worship and adoration of Him. And we can do it anytime, any place, and with or without the company of others.

Our means of worship are endless.

What amazes me even further about worship is its value for us, God’s creation. Taking time to acknowledge the majesty of the Savior and thank Him for being our King can be a game-changer for us. It can birth joy. It can calm spirits. It can call back serenity where once there was none. Worship will, when practiced, strengthen our service to God, even as it reaffirms our standing in His kingdom. Today, let’s make time to worship.

O come, let us adore Him–Christ, the Lord!

I urge you, brothers and sister, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

Cruel Savior

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Looking for my daily infusion of hope this morning, I opened my Bible to Hebrews 4 and read vs 15, then did a double take.

I’d read the verse wrong. The message I received in my brain was, “We have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses…” I shook my head. What?! I went back and read it again, and again it said, “We have a high priest who is unable…”  That’s not right, I said to myself, and of course it’s wasn’t. Funny, what the brain can do to you before an infusion of caffeine.

The jarring reality of what this world would look like if we didn’t have a Savior able to empathize with our weakness, though, was a thought that lingered with me long after my mistake.

What if Jesus was a harsh Savior?
What if He cracked a whip over our backs every day?
What if He couldn’t or wouldn’t understand how susceptible we are to sin?
What if He didn’t come looking for us when we’re lost and alone?
What if He couldn’t care less about our pain?

What if He only cared about how low we’d go when He passed by, and wonder if it was never low enough?

What if Jesus looked the other way when we were tempted, or tearful, or tested beyond our ability to resist? What would life look like for us then? And wonder if we had no choice but to serve Him. Wonder if we hated Him, and He us, what would that do to us? What kind of life would we live then?

Today, I’m eternally thankful for a baby born in a manger, and that His birth was a divine act of mercy; that He grew up understanding a sacrifice would be necessary, and that He was willing to make it for me. I’m thankful that when I cry out, Jesus listens and not only listens, but understands and responds.

In the courtroom of heaven one day, I will have Jesus standing and defending me. How grateful I am for that promise that He will never leave me, never forsake me.

Today, I’m grateful for a high priest who is able to empathize with my weaknesses–for admittedly, they are legion. This reality is my only hope for my future.

How about you?  Are you glad for a Savior who understands?

5 IMPORTANT ACTIONS TO TAKE WHEN YOU’RE IN DEEP TROUBLE

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42_7

I had a friend share with me his afflictions this week.  A pipe broke overhead, above his newly remodeled kitchen, causing him to spend two of his banked vacation days making repairs.  Deep called to deep as he fixed one problem only to discover another quickly taking its place.  In his troubles, Psalm 42 seemed to apply.

I’ve been there–in that place where deep calls to deep and troubles multiple like blow flies around a nasty pool of stagnant water.  Blow follows blow, until misfortunes “come not in single file, but in battalions.” Do you know what I mean?

All your waves and breakers have swept over me, the Psalmist wrote.

Those waves and breakers can do more damage than the strongest tornado, destroy more property that the most powerful tsunami, and send us thrashing into the murky flow of a Mississippi delta at flood stage, were it not for God holding us back.  The only wise response to such an occurrence is prayer, because the truth is…

Discipline does come to us from the Lord sometimes.
Difficult things do happen.
We sometimes invite the rod of correction to snap across our back.
Pipes break, but more disconcerting than broken pipes are broken lives!

What should our response be when deep calls to deep and the flood is threatening to pull us under?

David’s response to trouble, observed by the Psalmist, was to remember the Lord and the good times of the past. This is an important part of God’s remedy for deep pain, especially when it comes at his command. If He sends the troubles, he can sweep them away. Make sense?

During his difficult time, David remembered—brought together in his memory—that relationship he had always shared with the Lord. He acted out of his memories concerning God in five important ways.

FIVE IMPORTANT ACTIONS TO TAKE WHEN YOU’RE IN DEEP TROUBLE

When in deep trouble, David did this:

1. He remembered God’s goodness.
2. He recalled the joy of better times.
3. He recounted the depth of God’s unfailing love.
4. He honestly expressed his grief and sorrow.
5. He prayed, believing that God would hear and help in his distress.

David may not have always done the right thing before God, but he was always honest with God about the wrong he had done. David had integrity. Maybe not in the moment. Maybe not even in the short run. But when it mattered, David acted rightly before God, confessing his wrong doings and seeking forgiveness from the One he knew loved him and wanted more than he to have a king sit on the throne that acted justly before and with the people.

How do you “get by” when deep calls to deep in your life?  Can you tell us how prayer and faithfulness, believing God is the Master of Grace, got you through a crisis of trouble in your life? Do tell.

 

Listening to Crowder’s song, Forgiven, we gain a great appreciation for our piece in Christ’s ultimate suffering and the need for forgiveness.  The “deed” may have been done 2,000 years ago, but if it were to be re-enacted today we have assurance from God that the outcome would be the same.

We, humanity, are culpable!

The good news about a bad decision made centuries before we were born is that forgiveness stretches so far.  All the way back to that moment. All the way forward to today.  We have forgiveness from the only One who has the power and authority, even the right to give it–Jesus Christ!

Jesus has never wanted anything more than he wants you

Likewise, our Lord has never longed for anything more than he longs for them.

He set all of creation aside in favor of winning the greater prize. YOU are loved, cherished, redeemed, and forgiven. Remember that today!

When have you been forgiven?  Who do you need to forgive?

 

 

stubborn donkey

Speaking of stubborn animals…

The story of Balaam’s donkey found in Numbers 22 in the Bible can be a pretty funny one on its face. For the uninitiated, it has some weird elements: a group of Rambo Moabites, a stubborn donkey, an invisible threat, and a Master who sees things others don’t and talks to his animals as if they were answering back.

If you weren’t seeing things from Balaam’s perspective in the story, you’d think him nuts, insane; a crazy kook of a man.

We’re not always good at pegging the origins of our opposition, and we’re not always good at seeing what God’s doing in and through us.

When you read the “rest of the story” concerning Balaam, you begin to see that indecision and greed were two confusing factors for the seer. They can be problems for us too. The bigger issue though, is a matter of spiritual acuity. Are we seeing God for who he really is, or is our image of Him muddled and confused by the trappings of this world?

When things get confusing and we’re struggling to understand, that’s when its time to create a little white space in our lives. We need to add some margin. We need to reevaluate our priorities, and we may need to get quiet before God for a minute or two.

We can do anything for a minute or two, right?

Stop. Breathe. Ponder. Meditate.

Ask!

God, “What’s going on here?”

Be still and know that He is God.

When your mind wanders gently move back to the task at hand-listening.
If a thought won’t leave, surrender it.
If a name has popped into your head, acknowledge it and say a quick prayer, then return.
Keep returning for that whole 60 seconds.
It’s just a minute, right?

In the beginning, as that new habit of meditation is forming, remember:  it’s just one minute.

Today, let’s listen.

Wait. Agree. Obey.

It may be that you have an angel standing in your way, charged with protecting you from you.

Don’t beat the donkey that’s always faithfully served your needs.
Don’t resist the God who’s always loved you well.
Don’t push away the help that has been provided for you, sometimes by hurdles and frustrations.

How many tragic accidents on the highway have been avoided by batteries that were dead, tires that went flat, and starters that wouldn’t ignite?  Maybe delays and frustrations are for our good.

When have you been frustrated in your plans, only to find it a blessing in the end? What do you hate most about waiting?

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

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?