Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Come Just as You Are

From the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David the son of Abraham...

"...Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar..." Matthew 1:3
"...Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab..." Matthew 1:5a
"...Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth..." Matthew 1:5b
"...David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife..." Matthew 1:6

Think genealogies are boring? Guess again. All kinds of gems in this one...

First of all, just the fact that women are mentioned at all is huge. In the Jewish culture, no one traced their bloodline through a female. It was a patriarchal society - all about who your daddy was. But then there is the fact that it was these women...women with a past...women with a skeleton or two in their closets. Let's open their doors...

Tamar's story is in Genesis 38. She was a widow and the daughter in law of Judah. He didn't want to marry her off to another son so he sent her home to her father, which was very shameful for a woman in that day. She ended up pretending to be a prostitute in order to trick her father in law into sleeping with her and getting her pregnant so he had to fulfill his obligation to her. Interesting...

Rahab's story is in Joshua 2. She was a prostitute who lived by the walls of Jericho. Well, we should all remember from Sunday School what happened to those walls, but because she saved the lives of the Jewish spies she was blessed and her life was spared.

Ruth gets a whole book all her own. She was a foreigner who initially probably worshipped other gods. Her husband was Jewish and married her against Jewish law. When he died, she decided to go back to Israel with her mother in law rather than staying in her own land. And she lived happily ever after...

Uriah's wife, the infamous Bathsheba, is immortalized in 2 Samuel 11. She committed adultery with the king,  which resulted in a pregnancy, which ended up getting her husband killed. She lost her baby as a result.

Do these sound like the kind of women that would be in the family line of the Messiah? Oh, yes! These are exactly the kind of people He came for. The kind of people He came to redeem. The kind of people He could hold up as examples and say, "See, I changed their lives. Why do you think I can't do it for you?"

Maybe you identify with one of these women. Maybe you don't. They are everywhere, though, the prostitutes, the adulterers, the foreigners. How do we treat them?

I just finished reading a book called "The Scent of Water" by Naomi Zacharias. Near the end of her book she writes:
"Interestingly enough,  Jesus reserved His strongest words not for the unwed mother, the woman in prostitution, the one who committed adultery, the one who is divorced, and all those who wear obvious and great scarlet letters of moral failure. And interestingly enough, Satan did not fall from heaven for any of those reasons; the fallen angel descended from the heights of heaven because of pride. Jesus saved His strongest words for the self-righteous, for it was the heart of an individual that earned His concern. The truth is that we are all flawed and in need of redemption, or the grandest rescue. And the miracle is that He brings beauty not in spite of but through our flaws."
Long ago, I was convicted that we cannot ask people to clean up their act and then come to church, come to Jesus. We need to go to them, accept them where they are, give them some hope, and let Jesus clean them up.

Are you looking down your nose at anybody? Think they are not good enough? Think they need to get it together before you want to get involved? Or are you reaching out to them right where they are? That's what Jesus did and it's what He calls us to do everyday.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Scriptures to Pray for Our Soldiers

This is a list of scriptures I have been compiling to pray over Jared as he is deployed. Of course, I also pray it for his friends and those who are deployed in his unit with him. Thought some of you might like to use them as well. I will continue to update as I come across more.

Psalm 140 remains my favorite. The entire Psalm can be crafted into a prayer and is so right on for what they are dealing with.

Psalm 3: Be his shield, sustain him, strike his enemies on the jaw.
Psalm 4: Shine Your face on him, make him to dwell in safety - to sleep in peace.
Psalm 5: Let him take refuge in You - spread Your protection over him. Surround him with Your favor as with a shield. (Love this one!)
Psalm 9: Cause his enemies to turn back - to stumble and perish before him. Be his stronghold in times of trouble.
Psalm 17: Keep him as the apple of Your eye, hide him in the shadow of Your wings from the wicked who assail him and the enemies who surround him.
Psalm 18: Arm him with strength, make his way perfect. Train his hands for battle. Arm him with strength for battle.
Exodus 23: 27+: Send Your terror ahead of him. Throw his enemies into confusion so that they turn their backs and run.
Psalm 27: Be his strength and salvation. Keep him from fear. Be the stronghold of his life. When his enemies and foes attack - make them stumble and fall.
Psalm 28: Be his strength and his shield.
Psalm 32: Be his hiding place, protect him from trouble, surround him with songs of deliverance. (Another favorite)
Psalm 35: Do not be far from him - fight for him - let his enemies fall into their own traps. (YES!)
Psalm 41: Deliver him in times of trouble. Protect him and preserve his life. Do not surrender him to the desire of his foes. Raise him up. Do not allow his enemy to triumph over him.
Deut 11:25: Do not let any man stand against him - put fear and terror of them in the land - wherever they go.
Genesis 28:15: Watch over him wherever he goes and bring him back to this land (home). Do not leave him...
Isaiah 25:4: Be his refuge in distress, bad weather, heat and cold.
Psalm 54:7: Deliver him from all of his troubles. Let his eyes look in triumph on his foes.
Deut 31:6: I pray that he and his friends would be strong and courageous - not afraid or terrified. Go with them - do not leave or forsake them.
Psalm 62:8: Help him to trust in You at all times, be his refuge, let him pour out his heart to You.
Psalm 70: May those who seek his life be put to shame and confusion.
Psalm 71: Be his rock and refuge. Deliver him from the hand of the wicked, evil and cruel men.
Psalm 72: I pray that desert tribes would bow before him and his enemies will lick the dust :-) That he will live long and that people will ever pray for him and bless him all day long.
Psalm 91: Save him from the fowler's snare. Cover him with your feathers, be his refuge. I pray that he would not fear the terror of night, pestilence or plague. That no harm would befall him - no disaster will come near his tent. Be with him in trouble - deliver him and honor him.
Psalm 108: Give aid against his enemy. Help him to gain victory - trample down his enemies.
Psalm 112:8: Keep his heart secure - help him to have no fear. May he look in triumph on his foes.
Psalm 116: Save him. May his soul be at rest. Deliver his soul from death, his eyes from tears, and his feet from stumbling. Let him walk before You in the land of the living.
Psalm 118: Be his helper. Let him look in triumph on his enemies. Cut off those who surround him. Be his strength and his song. Let shouts of joy and victory surround his tent. May he not die, but live to proclaim what You have done. Grant him success.
Psalm 121: May his help come from You. May he not slip. Watch over his life, keep him from harm and watch over all of his coming and going.
Hebrews 13:6: Be his helper. May he not be afraid - what can man do to him?
Psalm 138: 7-8: Stretch out Your hand against his foes - save him with Your right hand. Fulfill Your purpose for him.
Psalm 141:8-10: Keep his eyes fixed on You. Keep him from snares and traps set for him. May the wicked fall into their own traps while he passes by in safety. May their rulers be thrown down from the cliffs.
Psalm 142: Rescue him from those who pursue him.
Psalm 143: Show him the way to go. Rescue him out of trouble. Destroy his foes. May he be Your servant.
Psalm 144: Be his Rock. Train his hands for war and his fingers for battle. Be his fortress, stronghold, deliverer, shield.
Isaiah 40:30-31: Strengthen him when he is weary.
Isaiah 41: Strengthen him. Uphold him wth Your righteous right had. May those who wage war against him be as nothing. Help him.
Jeremiah 31:2: Let him find favor in the desert. Give him rest.
Lord, you answered David's prayers in the Psalms and protected him from Saul's army, from his sons, from the armies of other nations - You are the same God now that You were then and we know You can do it again.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

He Touched Me

Mark 1:40-41 "A leper came to him, begging on his knees, 'If you want to, you can cleanse me.' Deeply moved, Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, 'I want to. Be clean.'" (The Message)

In the time of Jesus, leprosy was a curse in more ways than one. Certainly, the primitive medical knowlege that they had did not contain the information that a simple antibiotic was the cure. Once you had it, you were sentenced to a long, disfiguring and painful death. It also made those who bore it to be social outcasts. Because of the contagious nature of the disease, those afflicted were considered "unclean", sent to live outside the city, they were ostracized from any kind of social setting. Everywhere they went, they had to cry out, "Unclean! Unclean!" to prevent others from coming into contact with them. Often, people would throw stones or other objects to keep them from coming too close.

I don't know how long the man in the first chapter of Mark had been sick. However long it was, it was too long. For him to approach Jesus so directly indicates his desperation. He was willing to break the laws of the day in an attempt to be healed. He didn't ask Jesus for healing - he stated it. You CAN heal me...if you want to.

I absolutely love the next picture that the scripture gives us of our Saviour. He was "deeply moved". It hurt him to see the suffering of this man and his desperation for healing. He touched him. This was a move completely off the charts! This man had leprosy. He was unclean. Jesus TOUCHED him. I wonder how long it had been since he had felt the touch of another human being? Days? Weeks? Months? Then Jesus said, "I want to." He wanted to heal him - wanted to see him whole.

All of us are spiritual lepers. We all should have been running around crying, "Unclean! Unclean!".

"But God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

In the midst of our sin and depravity - our uncleaness - God was deeply moved. "For God SO loved the world..." (John 3:16) He sees our desperation for healing and it MOVES Him. He reached out and touched us in our sin. "He became flesh and dwelt among us". And what is more, He wanted to do all of this.

When was the last time you pictured God being moved to tears over YOU? The last time you thought that He wanted to make you whole? The last time you fell at His feet and asked Him to touch you? He will, you know....He wants to.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Be Sympathetic

Hebrews 4: 15-16 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in out time of need."

      I have been going through a difficult time. That is one reason the blog entries have been somewhat sporadic. There are days I don't want to write and there are others that I don't feel that I could come up with a positive or uplifting word to say. It has been hard.
     We all go through seasons of life where things are just not as they should be. During those times, we need someone who can come along side us and support us in our difficulty. I am not talking about condoning sin, or not holding someone accountable for a wrongdoing. I am simply talking about being there in the hard times.
     Recently, I confessed to someone that I had been having just such a time. I expected support and love and understanding and, instead, I felt a little like I got a sermon. Almost, a "man up and be more like Jesus" kind of spiel. In her own way, I think she was trying to hold me accountable for an action and give me a solution to my problem, but what I needed most at that moment was a friend.
    Imagine my relief, a few days later when I spoke to another woman in my church about the things I have been experiencing and she said, "I know exactly how you feel, I have been there. It will be my privilege to pray for you." And do you know, the next week, I felt so much better!
    In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon tells us there is a time for everything. A time to embrace and a time to refrain (v5), a time to be silent and a time to speak (v7). We need to ask the Holy Spirit for discernment when interacting with those around us for which way we need to respond. We need to respond with His direction and in His time. We also need to think about what the other person is going through and put ourselves in their place.
     Jesus is sympathetic. He knows what we go through. He was human. And because He knows, He is able to extend grace and mercy to those who ask Him for it. As His hands and feet on earth, should we do anything less?

"Dear Jesus, Help me not to speak rashly or harshly or without thinking to those around me. Help me to respond to every encounter with You in mind. Help me to extend Your grace and Your  mercy to those I interact with daily. Help me to be sympathetic."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Jared's Birthday

  Twenty-seven years ago today at this time (7:41 pm), my first child was about two hours old. He was a stunning baby - no prejudice at all on my part, you understand. I used to hear a lot of "he's too pretty to be a boy" and " wish I had eyelashes like that" and "what beautiful hair" among other varied comments on his appearance.  
     Around age three, he had a school picture taken at preschool at our church. He looked like the picture of innocence. Huge blue eyes looking at the camera. So cute he could just rip your heart out....That was about the time he kicked a hole in the bathroom wall and got himself kicked out...of the church
     I wish I  could say that was an isolated incident and that all the years after that were smooth sailing. Not so. We fought our way all the way through high school and I spent days wondering and nights crying about what would ever become of him.
     I distinctly remember a day, though, a particularly difficult day - when I watched him walking up the little road to his grandma and grandpa's house. He must have been around 8 or 9. I was standing alone as he walked away, but I heard a voice as clearly as if someone were standing with me saying, "He's going to be okay." (I'm getting chill bumps as I write this.) There were many times after, that I was sure I had misheard or mistook what that voice said. Many other times that I clung to it like a life line, because I believed the Lord knew how difficult it had been and would be and he wanted me to know it was not in vain.
     He met the girl of his dreams, they got married, had three girls within the first three years of their marriage. They have struggled and had a lot of hard times. Somewhere in the middle of the struggles, though, they both came back to Jesus. I remember when he called to tell me he had decided to enlist in the Army for a second time. I asked him if this was what he really wanted to do. I reminded him that he now had a wife and children. It was different this time. He responded to me by saying, "We've been doing '40 Days of Purpose' at our church. Rick Warren talks about doing what you are called to do. I really believe that I am called to be a soldier." Recently, we had a very similar conversation where he re-iterated that same sentiment.
     Today, he turns 27 and he is in Afghanistan. It is hard. For him and for us. But I can say without any hesitancy in my heart, that today, everything we ever went through was worth it. He is an exceptional young man with an exceptional wife and three ENORMOUSLY exceptional daughters. (Again, no prejudice) And I could not be prouder. He is now fighting the hard fight and laying down his life everyday. And I am still clinging to that life line that "He is going to be okay."
      My prayer for his birthday this year: "The Lord will keep you from all harm- He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." Psalm 121:7-8

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lessons Learned In Choir Practice

Acts 16:22-26 "The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severly flogged, the were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly, there was a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. AT ONCE all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose."
     I've really slacked off on going to choir practice lately. I have EVERY "legitimate" excuse: I have not been feeling well, I'm tired, I work long hours, I am at the church every Tuesday for FAITH, and besides, I already know all the songs, anyway. What it all comes down to is this - I didn't feel like it. I just didn't want to go.
     This past Wednesday, I went with selfish motives. I was there to meet some people who were going to contribute to a little project my son has going. I was going to see them before choir, sing a couple of songs, and slip out early.
     It didn't work out that way. I got caught in conversation and practice had already started when I came in. I had no choice but to stay until the bitter end.
     About half way through, we started to sing "I Will Rise". How can I not worship as I sing about the day He will call my name and I will rise to meet Him face to face? Then came "We Will Remember". What an awesome reminder of the FIRST time He called my name and all He has done in my life since then.
     We finished up with "I Bless Your Name". This song is based on the Acts 16 scripture about Paul and Silas. In the midst of tremendous personal pain and great persecution, they made a choice to worship God. They worshipped Him while they were still in pain. They didn't worship Him after their chains fell off - their chains fell off after they worshipped.
     Bro. Pete finished with a devotional called "Unfettered Worship" from Psalm 98 about just worshipping God freely and with abandon. For me, it was a worship service. I was still tired, preoccupied with work, and, yes, I sang most of the songs from memory. But what a reminder that worship can happen anywhere, at any time, under any circumstances...even in choir practice.
     I guess it isn't just about knowing the songs....