Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year ~ New Thing!

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19

I love reality TV shows that are about people cleaning out their clutter. Two favorites were always, "Clean House" and "Clean Sweep". These were shows where a team of experts come into the homes of people with hoarding issues and help them clean and organize their space.  Often their attachment to clutter has become so extreme it is holding them back in life ~ in jobs, relationships, health, overall quality of life. They cannot move forward emotionally because they cannot see to take the next step. Their clutter is holding them captive.

One thing the experts always make the participants do on every episode is to sort their stuff. 

In Isaiah, the Jews were being held captive in Babylon. The people wanted their life back. They wanted their land, their customs, their familiar surroundings. Their stuff. Their clutter? Isaiah comes to them and says, "Forget all that stuff. God is about to do something new, but you are so focused on the past you can't see it."

Maybe 2012 was a fabulous year for you. Maybe it was the worst year of your life. Maybe it was just a BUSY year. Whatever it was, it ends tomorrow and we will have the proverbial clean slate of a new year. What will we do with it?  What new thing does God want to do IN you in 2013? What new thing does He want to do THROUGH you in 2013?

Paul says in Philippians 3:13 we are to "forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead." Maybe that means we just need to sort our clutter. We need to examine those things in our lives that are holding us back ~ in our job, relationships, health, quality of life...and most of all our relationship with our Creator. He is always up to something new and if we don't sort the clutter we may not perceive it. 

So I challenge you to create piles for sorting:

KEEP = Those things that are positively influencing your life and deepening your relationship with God. Those things that you feel God has called you to do without a doubt. 

SELL/DONATE = Those things that are good, but maybe need to be delegated to someone else because it is just not your time to do them. Sometimes when we do something we are not intended to do, we not only stress out ourselves, but we prevent someone else from receiving a blessing as well. When you pass the mantle on to someone else, they receive their intended blessing and you receive the blessing of less stress, too!

TRASH = Negative attitudes, words, things that are negatively affecting your life, your relationship with God, and your relationship with others. They just need to go!

The New Year is upon us and it is chock full of potential and new adventures. The Israelites wanted their old life back, but for the time being, God told them no. He was directing them to a different path. Maybe this year you will walk a different path, too.
  • Walk it with a positive outlook, not filled with regret.
  • Don't let the enemy keep you trapped in the past. Remember God's mercies are new EVERY morning (Lam. 3:22-23). He does not want you trapped, He wants to bring you out into a spacious place (Ps 18:19)
  • Walk in trust and faith, not fear and doubt.
Every day wake up and say, "This is the day the Lord has made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

What new thing is God up to in your life this year?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Love's Pure Light

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12

I have a confession. 

I have been more than a little 'bah humbug' this year. I don't really know why. We are settled in our new house this year. Grandkids have come and gone and are still coming and going. It's been a beautiful, tropical Florida Christmas season. We did a great program at our church. And, yet, I'm just not feelin' it... 

Until tonight.

Tonight was our annual Christmas Eve candlelight service at church. It is undeniably one of my favorite services every year and is always packed. Tonight was no different. 

During the weeks leading up to the holiday, our pastor has been preaching a series of sermons called "The Light of Christmas" from the first chapter of John. Our Christmas musical was also themed around the light. And tonight, I saw the light.

Because I was singing with our Praise Team on the platform, I had a bird's eye view of the entire sanctuary. The lights were dimmed at the end and our pastors came forward with lit candles while we began to sing "Silent Night". They each lit a few candles and then those few lit a few candles. From where I was standing, I could see where the light was and see where the patches of darkness remained. As the flame was handed off from person to person, the darkness diminished and the light grew. There was a lump growing in my throat, too. At one point I just stopped and watched....overcome by the beauty of it.

As the light in the sanctuary overtook the darkness, it occurred to me that before me was a picture of how God intended His light to be spread to all the world. One person at a time, handing off the flame, again and again until every little pocket of darkness is dispelled. 

I am not a young woman. I have been to many candlelight services. I have sung "Silent Night" hundreds of times. Tonight was one of those nights when I just saw it all with fresh eyes. Especially when we got to the last verse:

Silent Night, Holy Night
Son of God, Love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.

This season is the celebration of the dawn of God's plan for redeeming man found in the pure light of His Son. There is much darkness in this world, it is up to us to spread the Light.

May you be blessed with the radiant beams of God's pure light and love this Christmas and may you know the redeeming grace that began that night! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jars of Clay

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us."  2 Corinthians 4:7

Jars of clay... Why not etched crystal? Or for that matter, what about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? This little light of mine could shine through crystal - and just think what  beautiful pattern it would make glowing through the etched sides. Gold is sparkly and attractive. Everybody just loves gold. So why does it have to be a jar of clay?

In 2 Kings 4, the widow who only had a bit of oil came to Elisha for help. He told her to go and collect jars. Can you imagine what it must have taken for her to go to her neighbors and ask for their jars? They had to know she was in trouble financially. No doubt there was more than one conversation at dinner tables that night about the widow woman coming to ask for jars. I mean, she had nothing to put in them. Whatever, did she want with jars? But she was obedient and she humbled herself and she asked for jars.

The problem with this little light of mine is that it tends to be a bit prideful. Unfortunately, putting it in a crystal vase might make it look pretty for a time, but it will never shine brightly enough to get me out of the way. Gold sparkles, but the focus is the gold and the focus needs to be on the light.

Jars of clay... The finish is dull. They crack and break easily. They don't draw anyone's attention necessarily - but they are functional. They hold oil. And a little bit of oil can fill a lot of jars when God is doing the pouring. Enough to get you out of trouble. Enough to make all your neighbors talk about something besides you.  Enough to let everyone know you had nothing to do with what happened in your life and God had everything to do with it.


I am a jar of clay and I am filled with a treasure. My vessel is incredibly flawed, but God has chosen to fill such a humble container with a priceless cargo. My vessel is broken in places and cracked in others. It sits a little crooked. But out through the top and through the cracks in the sides and through all the broken pieces, a light brighter than this little light of mine shines. It is the glory of God. Though the jar of me does not seem outwardly to be a masterpiece, I am His workmanship (Eph 2:10) and I was created to do good works that He prepared for me to do.

What little thing do I have that God can pour out like oil through me? What good works?
  • I have a little money. I can give to His work. Fund a missionary. Sponsor a child through Compassion.  I can just make it available for whatever he wants to do with it. 
  • I have a little writing ability. I can keep writing this blog and pray that in time at least one person will read it and realize they need Jesus.
  • I have a little teaching ability. I can teach a Bible study and be open to alternative places to have it other than in church. 
  • Best of all, is the little I don't even recognize, yet. The widow knew she had a little oil but she had no idea what she really had until it was revealed to her by the prophet and demonstrated to her by God. The little she had saved her. 
So, I make my jar of clay available and I ask God to do something in me that has no reasonable explanation. I ask God to fill it and to make me humble and obedient when He is ready to pour it out.

I am a jar of clay... 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Leaving Your Nets

Matthew 4:20 "AT ONCE they left their nets and followed Him (Jesus)." 

Matthew 4:20 records the response of Peter and Andrew to the call of Jesus to be his disciples. They literally walked off the job and into ministry. We have the advantage of viewing this story with hindsight and the scripture, but Peter and Andrew were in the moment...

Jesus was a hometown boy, a carpenter. He hadn't really started his ministry, yet. Surely he had been preaching in the area and the disciples knew what kind of man he was. But still...

Fishing was a major industry around the Sea of Galilee and most fisherman belonged to family owned business. Can you imagine old Zebedee's face when somebody walked in his "office" and told him Peter and Andrew had taken off with the new preacher? How do you go home and tell your wife that you walked off the job for a ministry with no pay? How do you feed your kids? Their security was gone. Their income was gone. Possibly a few relationships went south. These weren't just a couple of guys with  no other responsibilities. These were grown men with families to think about. And yet....they left their nets to follow Him.

We have a sweet couple from our church who are sold out to Jesus...literally. They sold everything they had and moved to Papua New Guinea to work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. They left their nets and went to the jungle. Before they left, they gave a presentation during our House of Prayer Service. Afterward, I hugged Cheryl and said, "Sometimes, I think I'd like to sell everything and go somewhere." (Don't ever say things like that out loud). The next time I saw her at church she said, "They need nurses." Alrighty then....

I recounted the conversation to my husband and he said, "Would you really go that far from your grandkids for that long?" Well, would I? (Place pregnant pause here) .... I'm working on it.

Or maybe, I can follow and just bring my net with me. How about that? The trouble with nets is you tend to get tangled up in them. They drag you down. You fill them up with other things that distract you. And then before you know it you are back to following your own desires and missing the blessing of God.

Truthfully, today, I do not feel called to any place that would require me selling out materially. But I need to be so sold out spiritually that I would go AT ONCE, if He calls me. 

In order to do that, I need first to focus on His promises. In Joshua 14, when the spies went into the promised land, all but two focused on the giants. Only Caleb and Joshua remembered what the others forgot - the land came with a promise. There may be giants in my way, but if I am obedient and stand on the promises of God, He will provide for me and my family.

I also have to have faith that overcomes my fear. Again, in Joshua 14, it says that when the others saw the giants their hearts "melted with fear". I don't recall anywhere that it says Joshua and Caleb were NOT afraid, but they were willing to trust God in spite of their fears. I may be afraid if God calls me out, but as long I as trust Him to take care of me, I will have His blessing.

I imagine Peter and Andrew had some fear, but they stepped out on faith, focused on the promised Messiah and were blessed beyond measure. 

Could I leave my grandchildren? My children? The comforts of home? The internet? Job security? It wouldn't be easy. I would be afraid. But "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:13)

Will I go if He calls me? 

Yes, I'm pretty sure I will.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Keeping Christmas

I have no idea who wrote this. My mother was thumbing through my grandmother's old Bible and found it typed (with an OLD style typewriter) on a little sheet of paper, tucked in between the pages...

There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas Day, and that is keeping Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you?
To ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world?
To own that the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life?
Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children?
To remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old?
To stop asking how much your friends like you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough?
To try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you?
To trim your lamp so it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you?
To make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open?
Are you willing to do these things even for a day?

Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world ~ stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death ~ and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of Eternal Love?

Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always?

But you can never keep it alone.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

He Who Began a Good Work...

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ returns." Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

Just a short food for thought note tonight...

I am reading the passages from 2 Kings on the life of Elisha as part of my new Bible study. From this, I am learning how to have more faith and to believe God for bigger things. Elisha did some wild things!

As I was sitting, meditating and praying over what I had read, the scripture above came to me. It occurred to me that God began a good work in Elisha's life many years before Jesus was even born, but it is still not completed. It won't be completed until Jesus returns. Elisha is still living out the purpose for his life through the pages of scripture and the lives of believers that still hear his teaching. Isn't that amazing?

What is more amazing to me is that this is what God has planned for each of us. Long after we are gone, God will still be working out the purpose for our lives in the lives of others and the legacy we leave. 

What do you think about that?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

So Long, Mediocrity!

Recently, I wrote a post about living large. I mentioned in that post that every where I turned, I was being confronted with motivation toward something called 'supernatural living'. This is what I want. I don't want a mediocre, run of the mill life. I want a greater life.

As our fall Bible study wound down at my church, I began looking around for something to fill the time between now and our spring studies. I came across Melissa Taylor's online Bible study of the book "Greater" by Pastor Steven Furtick. I had never done an online study of this kind before but I decided to give it a try. I believe this study will be the next step for me in learning what supernatural or greater living can be.

The book by Pastor Furtick begins with John 14:12. "I tell you for certain that if you have faith in Me, you will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father." (CEV) This is Jesus talking. How can we possibly do greater things than He did while He was on this earth? He raised people from the dead, for Pete's sake! How do you do greater than that?!

I am far from understanding the entire concept and I am sure this will be a growth process for me in the months and years to come, but I am ready to learn what Jesus was talking about. Ready to move on toward the greater life He has for me.

There are a few things I DO understand so far:

When Jesus said He was returning to the Father, it was so the Holy Spirit could come. This is the same Spirit of God that lives in me! In order to live a supernatural or greater life, I have to give Him free reign. It is not me doing greater things than Jesus did, it is Jesus and His Spirit working though me.

This is not a life that I will live. This is a life that Jesus will live through me. In John 15, Jesus gave the example of the vine and the branches. If Jesus is the true vine (and He is), and my branch is attached to Him, it is His life that is flowing though me.

Now, I have an orange tree in my back yard. Right now it is loaded down with ripe oranges. I have not noted the branches running to and fro from one program to the next trying to find the most effective way to bear the most fruit. They just hang there - absorbing the life from the trunk - and do what comes naturally. Bear fruit. I just need to hang on to Him and let Him do what comes naturally.

I also need to retool my thinking of what constitutes fruit. I believe in our success driven society where everything is measured in numbers, we tend to measure our fruit by the number of people we have actually led to Christ. DO NOT misunderstand me. I firmly believe we should be sharing the gospel at every opportunity. But since salvation is not up to us, this seems like a faulty measure of our fruit bearing efforts.

God gives us a definition of fruit in Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law." (NIV). If I am letting this greater life of Christ flow through me, this is what my life will look like. This is the fruit I will bear, and as I do I will attract others.

You know what I want to do every time I see that orange tree in my back yard? Go pick one and eat it! That tree doesn't have to call me over - I am attracted by the beautiful fruit it displays. I can hardly resist it! If my life bears attractive fruit, it should stimulate curiosity from others. People will want to know what is different about me. They will want to "taste and see that the Lord is good". (Ps. 34:8)

Lastly, we need to think about what Jesus thinks is greater, not what the world thinks is greater. Perhaps being a world renowned author and speaker to thousands is not in my future. That does not mean I am not doing great things for God. Perhaps for Him, my place is something smaller but equally important in His kingdom. Success in God's culture does not necessarily line up with what we think of as success in the world's culture.

I am looking forward over the next few weeks and months to learning what God has to show me and getting started on this journey to a greater life.

Journey along?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Shine On!

Several months ago, as we were moving headlong into the election season, I published a post highlighting Daniel's prayer for the nation of Israel. On this day after the election, my reflection turns to the second half of Daniel 9 - the answer to his prayer.

In verse 20, Daniel says, "I was still confessing my sins and those of all Israel to the LORD my God, and I was praying for the good of His holy mountain, when Gabriel suddenly came flying in...". Can you even imagine! If I were in the middle of a prayer and Gabriel decided to drop by, I don't think a vision would be necessary! I would just die right there! What particularly catches my attention here is that Daniel was STILL confessing. He was making sure every last sin was accounted for. Not only for himself, but for the nation of Israel, too. We have much to ask forgiveness for and this nation is not going to change without the continual confession of God's people. No political candidate is our saviour. Only Jesus is our Saviour and only He will turn the heart of this nation around.

As Gabriel begins to talk to Daniel, he describes a vision of the future. I will not get into minute details of that here because it can be very confusing. What I will tell you is that he gave Daniel a timeline for future events in Israel's history that can be calculated down to the exact day. He told Daniel there would be a certain number of years from the decree to rebuild the temple until the Messiah was presented. From the day Artaxerxes issued the decree until the day that Jesus road into Jerusalem on the donkey was EXACTLY that number of years. Not one day more. Not one day less.

What implication can this possibly have for you and I? On the day after a difficult election, when many are confused and concerned, we can KNOW this:
  1. God is in control of history. All through Scripture we see example after example of God using pagan kings to accomplish His purpose. We can take heart in knowing that no matter who thinks they are in control, God is using them to accomplish His purpose and plan in history.
  2. God's promises are dependable. All of the past prophecy in Scripture has been fulfilled 100%. This can only lead us to the conclusion that all future prophecy will be fulfilled, too. We know the end of the story!
  3. God's timing is precise. God has a plan and there is a precise time schedule for that plan. We do not know all of the exact events and where they land on God's calendar, but He has given us signs to watch for in His Word. We can know that we are currently exactly where He has placed us for this time. Who knows? Maybe like Esther, you and I are here 'for such a time as this'.
  4. Jesus is the undeniable King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No one else could have fulfilled this prophecy as Gabriel described it. Jesus is the only one who fit the bill. He is the Messiah and He is coming back for His bride!
Are these dark days? Maybe. If your candidate lost, you might see them that way. If your candidate won, maybe not. Either way, Christians are called to be salt and light and as Dr. Lewis said in his blog this morning, "the darker the night, the brighter the light shines!"  Shine on!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Stop and Watch the Ducks

There are days when you cannot go any further. You simply cannot fathom taking one more step. Sometimes it happens physically, sometimes emotionally, but there you are...stuck.
This happened to me today in the most literal sense. My daughter and her friend asked me to go for a walk and I agreed. Mind you they are much younger than I am and exercise hasn't been on the top of my activities list for awhile, but what the far can three miles be?
To add to the lack of forethought on my part, you have to understand that I have had an artificial hip for the last 11 years. Normally, this is not a hindrance, but now and then it can create a problem.
So today, we start out on our walk. I actually made it over two miles before the pain in my thigh literally stopped my in my tracks. Because of the hip, I experience a condition called iliotibial band syndrome. I'm told it is common in patients with artificial hips. To make a very long explanation of what happens short ~ it causes PAIN. Extreme pain. Stop you dead can't take another step pain. Almost faint where you are pain. And it isn't gradual. You are fine one minute and seeing stars on the next step. Shortly into our third mile today, this is precisely what happened to me. I could go no further. I was leaning on my daughter and her friend. After a few minutes, I hobbled ~ such an understatement ~ a little further down the path to a place where they could easily come back for me with the car. There they settled me on the grass with my water and left me to wait.
Ah...waiting.... Not our favorite thing to do most days.  What on earth do we do while we wait?
I could have sat there and pouted because I had to have an artificial hip shortly before my 40th birthday. I could have beat myself up for trying to overdo it the first time out in awhile. I could have been frustrated over my inability to finish what I started or impatient with the kids for taking so long... But there was a cool breeze blowing ~ a first subtle hint of fall in the air. I was on a beautiful grassy bank beside what amounted to a drainage canal from the lake, but looked a lot like a peaceful little pond. And I had eight mallard ducks to keep me company ~ swimming blissfully and feeding in the water.

I called  my daughter and told her to bring my camera
and some bread when she came back.
For about a half an hour, I just sat there, enjoying the peace of the moment. Relaxing. Watching. Being thankful for this opportunity to enjoy the creation around me. Having a moment with God just enjoying His ducks.
Sometimes, the pain of life is chronic ~ we live with it day in and day out. Other times we are blindsided by intense pain that paralyzes us. Often, when you get to a place in life where you feel like you are stuck the world tells you "Just keep going" or "Push through the pain, you'll get there". The world wants you to ignore the pain that is trying to sideline you and keep walking. If I had done that today, I could have seriously injured my leg or at least made it more difficult to recover from the recent flare up. And I would have missed a beautiful blessing from God.
It could be that your pain, whether physical or emotional or both, is telling you to take a break. Sit down and take a deep breath. Rest the part of you that is injured. Don't wallow in it ~ give it a rest! Look around you and enjoy all the things you miss while you are running headlong through your life focused on your pain. Even Jesus took time to get away from the crowds and just spend quiet time with the Father. He invites us to join Him. "Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Mark 6:31
Some days you just need to stop and watch the ducks...or smell the roses....or whatever you have handy.
Just look what I would have missed.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Living Large

Yesterday was a hot tea and movie kind of day for me. Home alone, just me and the TV...
One of the movies I watched was "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". The very abbreviated story line here is there are a group of British retirees who can't afford to live in England so they end up retiring to this "hotel" for the elderly in India. Of course, when they arrive it was not what they expected. Although, I disagreed with the way most of the adult issues were handled in the  movie, it was very interesting to me to watch how the characters either embraced or rejected the very different culture they found themselves immersed in and how they dealt with their prejudices and stereotypes.
The one line of the movie that leapt out at me was in a scene near the end when the young Indian man who manages the hotel is trying to convince his mother why he should not sell the hotel and give up the love of his life for an arranged marriage and a better job in Delhi. She tells him his life would be better if he would just do what she wants him to. He replies to her, "Not better, smaller."
It seems over the last few months there has been a recurring theme to my Bible study, quiet times, etc. Ever had that happen? Where it seems like no matter where you turn, you are getting the same message? Every teacher you listen to...everything you read say the same thing? In my experience, that is when you need to listen.
The theme that has come up over and over for me lately, has been "supernatural living". Beth Moore in the Nehemiah Daniel study...on the radio...Dr. Lewis just this morning. All talking about supernatural living. Living large.
What in the world does it mean? I claim to be no expert because I'm not sure I have really lived there for much of my life. I KNOW that it means living by faith. But honestly, that sounds trite almost. It shouldn't - but it just has such a churchy sound to it. I say that I live by faith. I say that I believe God will take care of me. But does my life demonstrate that I am living by faith...expecting a large, or does it reflect that I am moving along in my own strength doing the things that I could do on my own, anyway?
Ever have one of those Bible verses that you have heard all your life to the point that you say it without even thinking about it much less what it means? How about this one: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phil 4:13
Lets say it again. "I can do ALL THINGS through CHRIST who STRENGTHENS me."
Again. "I CAN DO all things THROUGH CHRIST who strengthens ME."
I can, I really can! Not in my strength but in His! Living in faith! "Nothing is impossible with God!"
I am not there. Right now, I am not living the large life. I am living the safe life. I want to live the supernatural life that God has for me, but I am not there.
So I ask myself:
What do I need to do - surrender - change to get there?
What goals do I need to set higher? Too high? God high?
Where has he been leading me that I have been digging in my heels? Hmmmm?
I don't have answers, yet. I see glimpses - feel nudges - but not the whole picture. I know I need to get Abraham who set out without knowing where he was going. I need to keep pursuing God for direction and be willing to be obedient when He gives it. It is a work in progress, but God who has begun a good work in me, will be faithful to complete it.
There is a quote frequently attributed to Voltaire that says, "Good is the enemy of the best." In the movie, Sonny's mother wanted good for him, but what he wanted was something larger. I do not want to settle for a good life, if God has a larger life out there for me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Confessions of a Glutton

My name is Judie and I am a glutton. Sounds kind of gross doesn't it? It is.

In order to write this, I did a quick word study on the word "gluttony". I found some things I did not know, and dispelled one belief that I thought I knew but I was wrong. What do you know about that? I will try to share as quickly as possible...

Raise your hand if you believe the "Seven Deadly Sins" are in the Bible....I DID TOO! But guess what? The seven deadly sins were a list compiled by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century. (I just love learning this kind of stuff!) His list included:

  • Pride - because all other sins arise from pride. It makes one want to be more important than others.
  • Envy - wanting something someone else has.
  • Gluttony - overindulgence to the point of waste - nuff said.
  • Lust - obsessive or excessive thoughts of a sexual nature.
  • Anger - uncontrolled feelings of hatred.
  • Greed - wanting more earthly possessions to the point of obsession.
  • Sloth - Laziness - also the failure to love God with all your heart and soul.
I know what you are doing. You are quickly turning to your concordance because you know its there. You will undoubtedly come up with Proverbs 6:16-19: "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers." See? Detestable, but not deadly. And not a mention of gluttony in the list!

Before we breathe a sigh of relief, let me assure you there are plenty of other verses that relate to gluttony in scripture. The one that jumped out at me was Proverbs 23:2, "..put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite." Yikes! I'm going to choose to believe that that is an example of the hyperbole Dr. Lewis was talking about in his sermon this past Sunday! But then there is Philippians 3... in verses 18 & 19 it talks of those who live as enemies of Christ. It says their god is their stomach. Ouch! I just like to eat. I don't want to be an enemy of Christ! 

The problem today, is that with all of the emphasis on being thin and eating right, gluttony has still become an acceptable sin. I'm not doing drugs, or smoking, or drinking. I'm just eating...and eating...and eating. In our Daniel Bible study we are talking about the culture of Babylon that surrounds us. Part of that culture was over indulgence and we have bought it hook, line, and sinker.

Any of you who have known me for a long period of time, know that this has been a struggle I have dealt with for many years. I have lost hundreds ( no exaggeration ) of pounds. I make many excuses.
  • Its genetic - I was born this way. Many of the women in our family are obese. It is just something I can't help. I'm fat. It's who I am.
  • Its environmental - I was taught to eat good southern cooking. Paula Deen, butter, bread, fried chicken. You know the drill.
  • It's my husbands fault. Don't laugh. This is a challenge at our house because I am married to a picky, meat and potatoes guy. Seems pointless to make a meal for him and another one for me....
  • I would rather be fat and enjoy the foods I like. Now we may be getting closer to the truth. 
The simple fact is - I choose what I put in my mouth. No one controls that but me.

Titus 2:11-13 

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,           (This is like the 'Just Say No' verse from the Bible).

I Corinthians 3:16-17
Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

I am sacred. I am God's temple. With God's help I can control what passes through my mouth. I can be forgiven, but I have to repent and that repentance has to be reflected in a change. There are so many more verses I could list here, but you are tired of reading this by now. Just know that this blog was for me, but if it inspires you, I am all for it. With God's help, I am going to get this thing back under control.

I would like to publish a little disclaimer at the end here. There are always folks who tend to go to the extreme. I believe God expects us to use judgement and moderation in all things. This is not meant to give license to anorexia, starving yourself, or pushing your body to the breaking point in exercise. I see so many beautiful young women torturing themselves over their body image because the culture tells them that they are not thin enough when, in fact, they are a wonderful, healthy weight. If you are that person, all the above applies to you, too, only kind of in reverse. God's temple needs to be properly nourished - not starved or over fed. 

Love you All!!!!   Judie

P.S. If anyone is interested in a more complete list of scriptures, let me know and I will gather and post at a later date.  JB

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Life We Leave Our Children

Today, we are going to reach way back into Judah's history and take a look at one of her kings, Hezekiah.
Hezekiah seemed to be one of the good kings. His father, Ahaz, was a truly evil king who allowed every kind of idolatry but who actually nailed the doors to the temple shut. (This one sentence probably begs a whole other post about religious "tolerance" and how Christians are treated in America). When Hezekiah came to power, he came as a reformer. He cleaned house politically, tore down the foreign altars, reopened and cleaned the temple, reinstated the Passover celebration. There was a revival in Judah.
Unfortunately, Hezekiah was a short sighted man who only dealt with problems in the short term and he also developed a little problem of pride. After being spared by God from what should have been a terminal illness, Hezekiah entertains visitors from Babylon. (Babylon at this time was an up and coming empire, but students of history will remember that future relationships with this nation would not bode well for the Jews.) Hezekiah was so prideful and confident, that he took the envoy from Babylon all over the palace and temple and even showed him the treasury. He showed him everything. He was cozying up to the enemy.
Upon learning of Hezekiah's actions, the prophet Isaiah basically went off on him and then prophesied that some day, the Babylonians would return and take away everything as well as taking the people captive. (Is 39) One hundred years later they did exactly that.
What was Hezekiah's response? "It's ok because it isn't going to happen in my lifetime." What? Excuse me? Makes you just want to take him and shake some sense into him doesn't it? Unfortunately, I am afraid this kind of apathetic attitude reflects the attitude that many Christians have had over the past 40 - 50 years. Either that, or a bit of a pollyanna outlook that thinks things aren't as bad as they sound.

Today, many of us are facing the future wondering what kind of country/world we are leaving for our children and grandchildren. The economic uncertainty is astounding. The future of Christianity as a major religion seems shaky at best.
As we face what is shaping up to be a contentious election, we must examine ourselves and ask what we can do to change the future. The problem is not with the people in the White House, or Congress, or any other elected office. The problem is with the people who put them there. The issues in America are not going to change if the hearts of the people don't change - no matter who sits in the Oval Office.
I'm not saying we shouldn't vote or that we don't need a change in leadership. I absolutely believe we should and we do. But I believe, as Christians, we can't just fight for a political change and then sit back with a sigh of relief and enjoy life. We need to be working diligently to plant the seeds of change that will affect this country for years to come. We must be evangelizing in the name of Jesus - taking the message of TRUE "hope and change" to a nation in desperate need of revival. We have to be discipling individuals in the faith so that their covictions go with them for a lifetime - not just for an election. We need to be as passionate about the Gospel as we are about our political candidate!!!! And we need to think about how our decisions will affect our descendants for years to come, if Jesus doesn't come to get us all first.
Do you know what happened to Judah? As soon as Hezekiah died and Manasseh came to power, up went the idols and they were right back where they started. Over in Babylon, the story was being told of the treasure in Judah - handed down from generation to generation. One hundred years later, they came and got it along with some of the finest young men in Jerusalem. See "Faithful in a Faithless Generation". 
Let's don't do this to our kids. Let's give them a future they can live with and we can be proud of. Let's give them Jesus. Then no matter where they live or who is in office, they will have the best hope of all.

2 Kings 16: 20 - 20:21; 2 Chronicles 28:27 - 32:33; Isaiah 36:1 - 39:8

Monday, August 20, 2012

Daniel's Prayer: A Prayer for a Nation!

In the ninth chapter of Daniel, he prays for the nation of Israel. I cannot improve on his words except to say that this would be a great prayer to personalize and pray for our nation. It is a little lengthy, but worth the read. I will put a few brief notes at the end.

Daniel 9:3-19

I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. I prayer to the LORD my God and confessed:

     "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings (President), our princes (Congress, etc), and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
     Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame - the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem (Washington) and all Israel (America), both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. O LORD, we and our kings, our princes, and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you . The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and dturned away, refusing to obey you.
     Therefore, the curses and sworn judgements written in the Law of Moses, the servand of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem . Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
     Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we hae sinned, we have done wrong. O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
     Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."

1. Note Daniel's humility in the beginning. He places himself in an attitude of humility and mourning.
2. Daniel includes himself with all Israel. Even though, he led an exemplary life, he confesses his sin along with the rest of the nation. All of the pronouns are plural.
3. Israel was punished according to Deuteronomy 28. Even though we are no longer under the law, we can still experience the judgement of God if we do not turn back as a nation.
4. Daniel finished with intensity. Note the exclamation points. Listen! Forgive! Hear! Act! He is begging God with everything he has to act on behalf of his country.
5. In the verses following his prayer, we find that God answered his prayer AS SOON AS HE BEGAN TO PRAY because Daniel was highly esteemed. This message came from an angel of God. God highly esteemed Daniel! Oh, that we would live our lives in such a way that we would be esteemed of God!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Faithful In A Faithless Generation

I have been reading the book of Daniel in preparation for starting a Bible study on that book this coming Sunday. As I look at the life of this man who endured so much, I am convicted by his life.

As a young man, Daniel was taken captive from his home never to return. Although he lived in a foreign land under some crazy rulers, he never wavered in his faith or his dedication to God. He could have given in, gone with the flow, taken the comfortable route. Given his talents and abilities, he still might have exceled and been successful, but he would have missed the blessing of God. Daniel was ridiculed and persecuted for his beliefs, but he perservered and was blessed by God every time.

Christians are living in a difficult time. We may not be living in a foreign land, but in many ways our culture is trying to take us captive. The recent Chick-fil-A debacle is a prime example. One man, expressing his opinion supporting his beliefs, started a nationwide firestorm. This week, the Family Research Council was accused of "hate speech" and labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Group because of their support of traditional family values. They were violently attacked and a security guard was killed at their facility. (Don't know if the gunmen knew that the head of FRC is a Marine, but anyone else wanting to try this might want to think twice...) Anyone who listens to the news, knows how the media feels about the "religious right", as conservative Christians have been labeled.

How do we respond? Maybe we can take something from Daniel:

  • Daniel lived under and worked for some political leaders that he did not agree with. From the very first chapter, Daniel stands up for his rights by not eating the king's food. He is always respectful and diplomatic, but never compromised his values. We have to stand up and be counted. We cannot sit quietly by and just absorb the "food" the culture sets before us. This will not be popular with many, but we are called to be set apart.
  • Daniel lived in a polytheistic culture where tolerance was expected but not returned. Remember the golden statue? Nebuchudnezzar wanted everyone to worship him. You could worship other gods if you wanted, but you were forced to worship the statue, too. Daniel isn't specifically mentioned in this story, but his best friends are and they didn't bow down to the culture. They stood for their religious rights and almost lost their lives for it. Favorite verse from Daniel is in this chapter. "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we want you to know, O king, that WE WILL NOT SERVE YOUR GODS or worship the image of gold you have set up." Daniel 3:17-18. We will pass through the fire. We must remain faithful to our God and not give in to cultural pressure.
  • Daniel was persecuted for his beliefs. In chapter 6, he encounters some jealous co-workers because he got the promotion they wanted. They decide to dig up some dirt on Daniel ~ negative campaigning if you will. Here is the great thing about Daniel - they couldn't find any. Daniel lived such a life of integrity before them that they could not find anything to present to the king. In order to get to him, they chose the one thing that they knew he wouldn't compromise...his faith. They literally talked the king into passing a law that they KNEW Daniel would break. No one could pray to any "god" but King Darius. No way Daniel would pray to Darius and he continued to pray to God. He was cast into the lions den for his trouble, but God saved him once again. As we stand for our faith, we should strive to live such a life of integrity that those around us can find nothing negative in our behavior. Tall order...but "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phil. 4:13
Because Daniel was faithful, he prospered in spite of his circumstances and late in his life, God gave him spectacular visions related to end time prophecy.

How was Daniel able to remain faithful? First of all, he had an active, intimate relationship with God. He prayed daily - three times a day. Secondly, he remembered that God was in control. No matter what happened he trusted that God would only do what was best, even if it cost him his life. Also, Daniel knew he had a purpose in life. He knew God had placed him where he was and he was determined to serve Him no matter what. Lastly, he knew God is faithful. As Daniel's life grew longer, so did his history with the Lord and he knew God would be faithful to him - how could he be any less faithful in return?

Daniel and his friends give us a marvelous example of commitment, intergrity, and faithfulness when faced with a faithless culture. May we learn from their example and stand for Christ in the midst of the faithless culture by which we are surrounded. Let's let our voice be heard!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

There Is Hope

I have been leading/participating in a Bible Study on the book of Nehemiah for the past seven weeks. Tonight will mark our last session.

I have to say, the book doesn't end particularly well. As was typical of Israel's history, they had repented and made an agreement with God. But at the very end of Nehemiah, once again they backslide into sin. The book ends with Nehemiah beating people up and pulling out their hair. Not a stellar "the end".

It is difficult to study Nehemiah without taking a look into the book of Ezra as well. These two guys were contemporaries and both were responsible for leading groups from Babylon back to Jerusalem. Just from reading their books, it seems to me that these two were as different as night and day. While Nehemiah was the organizer, the planner, the administrator, Ezra was more the spiritual leader, the priest. Together they were able to accomplish much toward rebuilding Jerusalem. Beautiful view of the body of Christ ~ but that is for another post.

In the last chapter of Nehemiah and chapters 9 and 10 of Ezra, we have differing viewpoints of the same occurrence. The people have made a commitment to God to keep their race pure and have fallen back into the sin of intermarriage (along with a vast array of other faults). It is at this point that Nehemiah goes postal on the offenders. Ezra's response in chapter 9 of his book is vastly different. He tore his tunic (an expression of grief/repentance), tore out his own hair and beard (again an outward expression of sorrow over sin albeit a painful one). Then the Bible says, he sat appalled.

When on earth was the last time we sat appalled over sin? When was the last time we saw something that just made us sit and wonder in sorrow over what we have done or seen? We have so much stimulation coming at us through the media and much of it has a negative effect on our conscience. I will be the first to say I love a good crime drama. Every time I watch, I witness a murder or some kind of mayhem done to another person. Do I become so desensitized to these images that it doesn't even bother me anymore? The same goes for sex, adultery, drinking, abuse, etc. Even if, in our hearts we know its wrong, we become so used to tuning it out or off that when we experience the same behavior in real life, it has no effect on us any longer. We just never seemed to be appalled anymore.

Once he was through sitting appalled, when it was time for evening sacrifice, Ezra moved to a position of even greater humility. He got on his knees, spread his hands out before God and spent the next nine verses (in our Bible) confessing and begging forgiveness. Verse 1 of chapter 10 says he was throwing himself down before the house of God weeping. His repentance and response to sin was so demonstative that he drew a large crowd. His repentance led others to repentance. Often, we are too ashamed of what we have done or we are too embarrased to "carry on" so in the presence of others. But it may be this very admission of guilt, prayer for repentance that someone else needs to see.

The wonderful thing in all of this is forgiveness. In verse 2 of Ezra 10, Shecaniah says, "We have been unfaithful to our God..." Yes they had. Yes we have. All of us. Every last one. "But in spite of this, there is still hope..." Yes there is. For all of us. Every last one.

Nehemiah 9:17 says "You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love." There is hope. John 3:16 says "God SO loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes on Him might have eternal life." There is hope.

Whatever you have done. Whatever you have seen. Wherever you have been. There is hope. Nothing is impossible with God.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Kitty Prayers

It is hard for me to pray. For whatever reason I just don't feel I have ever been very good at it. I'm not really sure what " good at it" is supposed to be or if there really is a formula, but it just doesn't come naturally to me. I have heard the sermons, done the journaling series, read books, and on and on.

Over the years, I have come to journal my prayers more than just saying them. Writing is a more natural activity to me than conversing. I know some of you who know me find that difficult to believe, but there it is. I buy a pretty book and really awesome pens (simple things amuse me) and it is so much more enjoyable to sit and write.

And now here's the rub (literally): I have a cat. If you have ever owned a cat, you understand the dilemma. As soon as I sit down with my Bible and a pen or my iPad, she is on top of me. She absolutely adores pens. She chases them, bats at them, chews them, and if is the one I am trying to write with all the better.

If she isn't playing with my pen, she is trying to insert herself between me and whatever I'm working on. Reading my Bible - she's on top of it. Writing in a journal - she is after the pen. Working on my iPad - she is on my lap between my fingers and the screen. Or maybe she is just rubbing against me somewhere, loving me, wanting to be with me.

First instinct is to shove her away so I can continue what I am doing. More often than not, we compromise with her on the arm of the chair or behind my head. Sometimes, I just have to stop and be with her. Hmmmmm.

How like my relationship with God some days. Sometimes, I would rather just push Him aside and get on with my agenda. Could this be having an adverse effect on our ability to communicate? Other days, I compromise. I let God sit close by along as He doesn't interrupt MY journaling or Bible study....or tv....or reading...or....

But what if just put it all down and would just BE with Him. Allowing Him to love me, purring in the lap of His love? What if I just nestled up to Him and loved on Him? Surely our communication would improve...kitty prayers...


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One More Thing About CFA, Gay Rights, and Freedom of Speech

I do not usually use this blog as a soapbox, but I have been biting my tongue the last couple of days until I think it is bleeding... AND since I have Freedom of Speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, I can do what I want with it.

Here's the thing. I, too, think the whole Chick fil A thing has gotten out of hand. Before all my conservative, Christian friends fall over in apoplectic fits, let me explain. I think it has gotten out of hand because the issue at the center of the debate has become clouded in all of the anti this or that rhetoric that has resulted.

The issue at the center of the controversy is not gay rights. To my knowledge CFA has never had a discrimination issue and, in spite of a post on Facebook that turned out to be a hoax, they will hire homosexual employees. They do support conservative, traditional family organizations. There are lots of businesses that support LGBT organizations. Any of them in the news this week?

Mr. Cathy was not making a statement on CFA business practice in his interview with the Baptist Press. When asked a direct question regarding his PERSONAL BELIEF about traditional marriage, he stated that he supported it. He also stated that he thanked God that everyone in the Cathy family was still married to their first wife. So, I guess all the divorcees should be up in arms, too. Oh...wait...that includes me....

The issue here is Freedom of Speech, and as such, we should all be concerned about the discussion that has been occurring. I have gay friends and family members some of whom have made remarks on Facebook and in other venues that are in opposition to my beliefs. I don't agree, but I respect their right to exercise their freedom of speech. I have not "unfriended" anyone to date because they have posted a pro-gay comment. Nor have I blasted them for voicing their opinion. I do not want to limit their freedoms of speech because any time we take away the rights of others we lose some of our own. The flip side is - I should be able to express my opinion with the same respect.

Even a writer for Huffington Post (a liberal publication that I read as little as possible because it negatively affects my BP) said that although he staunchly disagreed with Mr. Cathy's comment (yes, he called him a bigot) that he supported his right to make the comment and that he should not be denied the opportunity to open a business anywhere as long as he operates within EOE hiring guidelines.

As I said, I have gay friends and family members. My opinion on their lifestyle (which is no secret or surprise to them) does not affect my love for them as individuals. We have a daughter who is gay. We love her and her partner. We enjoy their company. We have never rejected them or "disowned" them. We pray for them. They are always respectful of our beliefs when they are in our home.

This whole issue is not about being anti anything except censorship. Yes, I support Chick Fil A because I agree with their stand on family values. But mostly I support an individuals right to stand up for what they believe in whether I agree with it or not.

That is all.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 30, 2012

All Creation Speaks

In the event that reading about the creation events in Genesis or just looking at the world around you doesn't inspire you to praise, take a little time to read Psalm 104. This poem, by an unknown author, describes in poetic detail what is documented in the first chapters of Genesis.

I love the opening of this psalm. I can only imagine the psalmist struggling for words to ascribe the appropriate attributes to God. Before he even starts recounting the creation story, he is beside himself with praise. "O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty." v1. Again, I think the translation understates the sentiment and I think the sentence should end with an exclamation point! Many earthly kings are great by human standards and clothed majestically, but the psalmist goes on to tell us that God is clothed in light, the heavens are His tent, the clouds are His chariots and He rides on the wings of the wind. That is some serious splendor and majesty.

My son and his family have started a tradition. It started out with one saying "I love you" and the other saying "I love you more". They kept trying to one up each other in the love department until they finally settled on the ultimate. Now when one of them says "I love you" the other will respond "I love you one plus anything you say". You can't get any more love than that! The description of God's splendor and majesty should be "He has splendor and majesty one plus anything you infinity and beyond!" Or as Ephesians 3:20 would tell us, "more than we can ask or imagine". That should either drive us to our knees or to our feet in praise right there.

But the psalmist isn't done. He begins to describe how God created in v.5 and I have to stop at the very first sentence. "He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved." This really is a statement of God's sovereignty. Even though, the earth will eventually be destroyed and even now seems out of control. It is in His hands until the end. Praise the Lord!

For the next 18 verses our psalmist describes creation. Then, in verse 24, he marvels at the vastness and diversity of creation. He says that God was wise when He made all of it. Now, you may look at the person who sits next to you at work (or maybe at home) and wonder where the wisdom was in that. We need to put on God colored glasses (instead of rose colored) and look at people through His lens. We have to remember that Christ died for every individual on this planet and that God loves them as He loves us. Every creature is unique whether they have special talents or special needs, abilities or disabilities...God created each in His wisdom. Praise the Lord!

The last thing this psalmist does is to describe God's watchcare over His creation. He provides, protects, sustains. "For in Him we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28. He is our very breath. Praise the Lord!

After all of his poetry and descriptions, the psalmist returns to his attitude of praise. He vows to sing praise to God for as long as he lives. He prays that his thoughts will be pleasing to God.

When we look at the creation we are surrounded with and contemplate God's sovereignty, how can we do less?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

You Are A Masterpiece!

I have always considered myself fairly creative. I am somewhat musically inclined. I love to draw. There have been times when I did crafts and scrapbooking, etc. and there are things I would love to learn to do better ~ like photography. I also like to can be the judge of my talent in that department.

Tonight, I was reading the first chapter of Genesis and was awed anew at the creativity of our God. Realizing that when He started creating the world - the universe - none of it existed other than in His mind. I look at the hugeness and complexity of our universe - galaxies, stars, solar systems. Then proceed from there all the way down to the smallest particles - cells, atoms, protons, neutrons. Do you have an idea of the complexity of a single cell in your body? Not to mention all the bodies of all the other animals some with very minute differences in cell structures that make them entirely different creatures? And, of course, everything in between. "Who can fathom the mind of God?"

Not only is He creative, He is orderly. Everything created in a specific order so that creation was building upon itself. No living creatures or plants until He had the whole water and light situation worked out.

In the end, on the final day, He said, "Let's make man!" Humankind. I've often wondered why He did this. We have caused Him nothing but trouble from day one it seems. Yet, He did - not out of need but as an expression of His love. After He created man, He looked at all He had done and He thought it was VERY good. I think there should be a much bigger superlative than that there, but I honestly can't think of a strong enough part of speech to describe God's handiwork.

I know a lot of people - most people - including me who struggle with self image. We constantly are down on ourselves because we don't like the color of our eyes, or our hair, or the shape of our rear end, too tall, too get the picture. But God LOVES you! He made you. Criticizing yourself is like criticizing God's handiwork and Genesis 1:31 says God's handiwork is very good. I love a verse in Ephesians 2:10:
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Did you know the Greek word for workmanship is 'poema'? Look familiar? It means poem or masterpiece. God is writing His poem on you and on me!

Now, I'm not giving us all permission not to try and improve on things we need to work on. There are always areas for growth and improvement. What I am trying to say is...start where you are and accept where you are today. Ask God to show you places you need to change and then allow Him to write your poem verse by verse. Even the great poets started with blank slates. Know that God loves you just like you are because He made you! You ARE a masterpiece!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

ALL Have Sinned...

Romans 3:23 "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God."

ALL have sinned....oh, yes, they have...WE have. Is there any difference in sin? Well, that depends on who you ask. But if you ask God...the answer is a resounding "NO". In our human minds, there is a difference. I do not view myself as nearly as bad as the murderer on the nightly news or the terrorist that just blew up a bunch of buildings and hundreds or thousands of people with it. In my little pea brain, compared to that - I'm a great person! The key is in the verse above, though. From Billy Graham to Osama bin Ladin and everyone in between, to God, sin is sin because it causes us all to come up short. It separates us from Him. It interferes with our relationship.

Romans 6:23a says, "The wages of sin is death.." Ouch. Not the wages for capital murder, or rape, or child abuse. Just sin. In my post from April 6, I mentioned two things that we have difficulty grasping that prevent us from realizing how desperate we are for a Savior:
  • The Holiness of God
  • The Complete Depravity of Our Sin.
We can't imagine how truly good God is, and, therefore, we cannot grasp how truly bad we are.

There are a couple of questions that occurred to me this week and how we are able to answer these questions DO make a difference in our sin (or so it seems to me).

1. Is my sin intentional? Do I sin when I mess up, or do I just do what I want regardless of what God may think about it? In Romans 6:1-10, Paul makes several statements that should make us think twice about the things we choose to bring into our lives.
v.1-2 "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!" (In another version, it says, "May it never be!").
v. 6   "Our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with.."
v. 6   "We should no longer be slaves to sin."
v.11  "Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus."
v. 12 " Do not let sin reign in your mortal body."
Everyone messes up, that is what forgiveness is for. But we should never be intentionally setting out to enjoy the things that put Christ on the cross. As Christians, we cannot be mastered by sin.

2. When I sin, am I repentant or do I make excuses? Jesus said in Luke 13:3 that "Unless you repent, you too will all perish." In Acts 17:30, Paul tells us that "God commands all people everywhere to repent." If I simply allow my sin to run rampant in my life and I am never repentant, I can never cross that bridge into God's presence because He cannot tolerate my sin. The only way He will see me is on my knees in repentance.

Why do these questions make a difference? Because if my sin is not intentional, or at least attempting to not be, and I am repentant when I do sin, my sins are FORGIVEN! The second half of Romans 6:23 says the "free gift of God is eternal life." Sin kills us, but God gives us LIFE. Psalm 103:12 (GOD'S WORD Translation) says "As far as the east is from the west- that is how far he has removed our rebellious acts from himself." I love that this version uses the term rebellious acts, because that is essentially what sin is whether it is intentional or not.
One more story and I will sum up. This past week in my Bible study, I watched a video of a young woman's testimony. This was a sweet Christian girl, wife and mom. She was active in church and ministry. Then she went on a mission trip into the Amazon jungle and when confronted with the neediness of the people, yet, overwhelmed with their gratitiude for everything God provided no matter how small, she was completely broken. She was so repentant for her own selfishness that she could not stop sobbing. She was a "good person" but she still had rebelliousness in her heart.
Are your sins forgiven? Are you repentant? Are you allowing God to remove your rebellious acts? I encourage you to ask His forgiveness. Freedom from sin is a wonderful thing and it is possible ONLY through the grace of God.
If this post has prompted you to ask for God's forgiveness, or to ask Him to be your Saviour for the very first time, I would love for you to post a comment and let me know. God loves much He died for you. What will you do with that?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rainy Days and Mondays....

Well, if you live in or are visiting the state of Florida right now, you would have to be seriously challenged in some way not to realize we are in the midst of a Tropical Storm ~ Debby would be her name and she is moving SLOW. It has been interesting to note the differing opinions on Debby being posted on Facebook. Some are posting fears and concerns along with links to news of every tragic situation associated with flooding and tornados. Some are just tired of the dreary weather and ready for the rain to go away. Others are simply thankful for the rain in whatever form it comes.

It is also interesting to watch people as they experience the bands of thunderstorms that keep washing across the state. It seems like whenever the clouds part and we see those precious rays of sunshine, folks are almost wanting to rush outside and stand basking in the sun before the next row of clouds comes by.

This past weekend I had almost 30 people at my house for lunch ~ 14 were children ~ 13 were under the age of 10. It was raining...Hard.

What do you do with 13 little kids in the rainy weather....?

You give em a big beach ball and a slip n slide, put a swimsuit on em, and put them in the yard.

In life there will be rainy days. Illness, death, loss of a job, moving to a new place, a difficult child or a marriage that ends in divorce could seem like tropical storm force rain. What do we do with rainy days when they arrive?
  • Maybe you face them with fear. Fear of the unknown, the future, the consequences...Focusing on the rain to the point of distraction from everything else.
  • Maybe you just trudge through hoping that eventually they will go away.
  • Or just maybe, you learn to play in the rain...
Paul says in Philippians 4:11-12 "...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty, I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether I am well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Paul had some seriously rainy days. Early on in his letter to the Philippians he talked of joy in suffering. His whole letter is about joy. And he wrote it in prison. That's a rainy day.

How does one learn to play in the rain? How do we find joy in suffering? By basking in the Son. Paul couldn't have experienced the joy and contentment in suffering if he didn't have a relationship with Jesus. And not just any relationship, but an incredibly personal and intimate one. A relationship that caused him to spend his waking hours before the Lord in worship and service.

So I encourage you ~ implore you ~ to bask in the light of His love today. Spend time with Him, worship Him, read His Word. Then when the rainy days come, you can play in the rain.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

In July of 1863, near Gettysburg, PA - a fierce battle was fought during the Civil War. Although the battle at Gettysburg has often been recognized as the turning point of the war, it was also one of the most devastating and deadliest. Over the course of three days, there were approximately 60,000 casualties and 8000 deaths ~ all American soldiers.

On November 19, 1863, there was another gathering at Gettysburg. This time the fighting was over (though the war would continue two more years) and the battle site was being dedicated as a cemetary and war memorial. An orator by the name of Edward Everett stood to speak that day and delivered a speech of nearly two and a half hours. Virtually no one remembers what he said. Then President Lincoln stood to speak and though his words were few, the thoughts he gave on behalf of the dead are forever engrained in our history and our memories. Even today, there are no better words to commemorate Memorial Day than the Gettysburg Address:

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brough forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us ~ that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion ~ that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Thank you, Mr. President.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Life Lessons from Mike

These are things everyone should know according to Mike Storter ~ written in his own hand ~ as read by Rev. Tommy Warnock:

Pizza is a breakfast food.

Los sientos means "I'm sorry" in Puerto Rico.
(In a lot of Central FL, too)

Why would you make tea and not put sugar in it?
(People make tea and don't add sugar?)

The Bible is still as relevant as it ever was.
(Yes, it is)

If you are a believer, you need to act like it.
(Yes, you do)