Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hidden Tears

Who knows the sorrows hidden behind joyful smiles and the kisses blown across the miles? Who sees the sadness creep in when loneliness stalks the vulnerable? Who shares in the grief of the broken heart? Who understands the misunderstood? Who reaches out to the lost and the weary? Who watches over the miserable and sings over the barren? Who stands beside the confused and deluded? Who holds onto the desperate? Who speaks to lies and calls them powerless? Who, of Himself, sheds light into total darkness? Who alone, can turn over the dry, parched dirt left unattended and bring life from death?
If you’ve been overlooked, discarded, betrayed; if you’ve died at your own hand or the hand of another, grasp at hope; claw your way to clasp hands with life; cling to what you can’t yet see, but dare to believe.
Where is land more parched than in the valley of death?
May I be - “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” – Mark 1:3 (NIV)
May you see that:
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. – John 12:24 (NIV)
And that:
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6 (NLV)
Despair is sometimes along the path to wholeness; it need not be more than a side trail we get lost on for a moment. Lies are but temptations to look to the left or to the right, keep your eyes on the prize.
If someone tells you that God will meet you halfway, shake it off and know that He will meet you right where you’re at, before you move an inch to help yourself, He is there, reaching His hand out to you –

In Matthew 14 there’s a story I want you to look at closely and consider where you fit in.
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” – Matthew 14:25-33 (NIV)

I trust that you'll see it, you'll hear His voice.   –More importantly, God trusts you.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Christmas Story

The Hammer
by Helen Williams more than a few years ago....
Since Mary and Joseph had been turned away from all the inns and told they could stay in a barn and that their child could sleep in the newly made manger when he was born, that’s where they found themselves the next morning. Their child had been born late in the night, a boy child. They named him Jesus. He lay quietly on a bed of hay in the manger. As Mary sat there watching him sleep, she couldn’t help but notice what a beautiful manger it was. Considering it was built to hold hay for the cows, she wondered why its maker took such care and put so much delicate work into it. Her husband, being a carpenter, might know. She called it to his attention and asked him why he thought the carpenter that built it would have made it so ornate.
‘Well, either he just takes a lot of pride in his work, no matter what he’s making, or he had nothing much else to do and decided to put all that detail there to keep himself busy. Or perhaps God told him that our child – His child, would lay there. Only the carpenter himself knows. And yes, he did a wonderful job on it. But we’ll probably never know who made it, dear.’
As he was answering Mary some straw from the hayloft sifted through the boards and they heard a rustling coming from above.
‘But then again,’ he whispered, ‘one never knows.’
He tiptoed around to the steps that led to the hayloft and as quietly as he could, climbed them. When he got to the top he boldly asked, ‘Who’s up here?’
He waited for an answer. At first there was silence. But when he saw the straw moving, he asked, ‘Shall I come see for myself?’
At that, the straw moved a lot and from it emerged an old man. He tried to stand, but lost his footing and sat down.
‘Hello, master. It is only I, the keeper of the animals. I mean you no harm. I sleep here alone. I’ll be on my way about with my chores now.’
He got up and hobbled to the top of the steps as Joseph descended. He came down slowly. By the time he reached the last step, Mary eagerly asked him if he knew who had made the beautiful manger.
He nodded his head. ‘It was I, ma’am.’
Mary noticed that even though he was on the ground now, he didn’t stand up straight. She complimented the craftsmanship he’d so skillfully used on the manger but had to ask, ‘Why did you make it so special? A manger is for animals to eat from. You made it look like a piece of furniture for a king’s house.’
‘Ah yes, ma’am. I did make furniture for the king’s palace, and he did like it to be perfect. I can still work as well as I used to, even though I’m all bent over now. So my work carries on. Though the only job I could get was here. You see ma’am, once you’ve worked for the king and been let go, no one wants you. I’m a reproach among men and they don’t even know why. The king didn’t like the way I look. When I was young and strong looking they liked to have me as the king’s carpenter. But as I’ve aged, time has not been so kind to me. The longer I live, the more bent over I stay. When the king dismissed me no one would even look at me. I felt as though he’d spit on me. All I managed to bring with me was that big ol’ hammer there.’
He pointed it out. ‘So now, you must know that God’s hand is upon me for me to make such a craft using such a big hammer. The other tools I use, I’ve made myself. They too are meager, but that big hammer was once in the king’s carpenter shop. I guess it’s rather special to me. I worked there a long time.’
As he rambled on, he came nearer to the baby and was straining his neck to see him. Joseph sat down behind Mary, putting his hand on her shoulder. They both smiled at the man. Mary asked, ‘Would you like to see our baby? Come closer. He seems to have awakened by your voice, but he’ll not cry.’
‘Why, his eyes are opened and he’s just a newborn. I’ve never seen the likes of him,’ he chuckled. ‘It looks as though he’s looking right up at me, almost as if he knows me. Cute little boy. What did you name him?’
Joseph spoke up, ‘His name is Jesus. Come closer. Would you like to hold him?’
‘Oh, you can’t trust my back. I don’t think I should.’ But there was a look of yearning in his eyes.
‘God’s hand is upon you, remember? You said so yourself. Pick him up and hold him close,’ Mary said.
The old man came closer and bent over to pick him up, praying he’d be able to hold the boy Jesus. As he stood up, he kept straightening himself to a standing position. At first he didn’t even realize he stood up straight, as he did in his youth. He smiled at the child and talked to him ever so quietly. He looked at Mary and said, ‘If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was trying to tell me that he knows me. Just the wishing of an old man…’ His voice trailed off.
Suddenly realizing he was standing tall, he exclaimed, ‘Why, little Jesus, if you could see me now! I’m standing again! It’s a miracle!’
He held the baby close to himself and began to dance around the room. Joseph smiled at Mary and she said, ‘It’s not the first one to happen in this barn.’
After returning the baby to the manger, the man said, ‘I’m blessed by the hand of God, indeed. I can’t repay God for the miracle He’s done in my, but I do want you to take my hammer with you when you go. I want you to teach this young child to be a good carpenter. As he grows, show him how to bring life to something as simple as a piece of wood. And tell him about me when he’s older. And tell him about the manger. And, I wish I could tell him myself. If you were going to be around for a while, I’d make him something to take with him, from me. But I’m sure you’ll be moving on shortly here. So take the hammer, please. The hammer reminded me of when I worked for the king. But my walk will remind everyone that I walk for the king, now.
His eyes gleamed with joy and delight.
Joseph accepted the hammer from the old man and promised that it would be Jesus’ to use as he grew, knowing that he’d have to be quite a little man to swing that hammer. It was a big one, indeed.
When Jesus was big enough to swing the hammer, the first thing he made was a manger for his donkey to eat from. He took time and care and lovingly made it after the pattern his mother had described so many times. When he’d completed his work, he called his mother to see it. He led her by the hand into the workshop where he and his father worked so diligently. She was proud of his work and her eyes filled with tears.
Jesus said, ‘Mother, if my donkey can come into the house, we can keep it there! It does look beautiful enough for a king’s house, doesn’t it?’
‘It sure does, my son. But the donkey stays outside. We’ll keep the manger forever. It will remind us how our heavenly Father wants us humbled before Him, so He can lift us up with His blessings. The manger you laid in was truly a blessing, to me, as well as to the old man. I wanted you to have the best, but God wanted you to be born in a barn. But in the midst of that barn, He let us know that He was there with us. Oh my Jesus, I love you.’ She hugged him tight.
As Jesus grew older, he grew in the wisdom of God and in love. He always showed his love, never esteeming himself more highly than others. He knew that it was better to give than to receive and he knew that he would give the ultimate display of love at the appointed time. He knew that when you lend, expect not to receive back what you’ve lent. And he always gave his best, which is why when a city boy came out to where Jesus lived, looking for the biggest and heaviest hammer he could find, Jesus gave him his.
The boy told him, ‘My father is the biggest man in the city and he has a big job to do. I told him that I would find just the right hammer for the job and I’ll keep looking until I do.’
Jesus stopped him and said, ‘Why did you promise to find this special hammer for your father?’
‘Wouldn’t you?’ the boy replied. ‘Besides,’ he added with a whisper, ‘if I do bring home the perfect hammer, he won’t send my mother and me away.’
Jesus told him, ‘Well, you’ll need a little help to carry my hammer. It’s very big; just right for that big job. I’ll help you carry it.’
They walked together for almost a mile. Pointing, the boy announced, ‘There’s my father. We live over there. He will be please. Would you like to meet him? Come on.’
The boy ran ahead of Jesus, calling to his father. Looking up, he saw them coming.
‘I’ve found the biggest and best hammer for you, Father!’
His father looked at Jesus and furrowed his brow. ‘Do I know you? You look so familiar. Your look says you know me.’
‘No,’ Jesus replied, ‘you don’t know me yet.’
He handed him the hammer and shook his other hand. After Jesus turned to walk away, the man looked at his hand, the one that held onto Jesus’, running his fingers over the palm as if he were feeling for something.
‘He was a big man, wasn’t he, Father? He sure had a big hammer, and he gave it to us, Father!’
Years later on a hill called Golgotha, Jesus saw that hammer again, and it was being used for a big job alright. After the soldier swing the last blow of the hammer, he looked at the man he was nailing to the cross. His eyes filled with horror as he recognized his face. He fell to his knees but quickly got back up before anyone would realize that his heart was being pierced. It seemed like forever as he looked into Jesus’ eyes, everything he’d ever done came up in his mind. He felt so helpless and he somehow knew why.
Jesus said to him, so quietly that no one else heard, ‘Now, you know me. And yes, I’ve always known you, and I love you.’
It was no coincidence that his marriage was mended from the day he received that.
It was no coincidence that his son was standing there beside him, also in a Roman soldier’s uniform.
He dropped the hammer and walked away from the cross, looking back only once. In his heart he grieved. But he knew that God knew of his grief when Jesus cried aloud from the cross in the air, ‘Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.’
He followed after the disciples – forgiven and alive for the first time in his life.

Have you yet to hold that hammer in your hand?
The house the King desires to live in is your heart.
What have you let Him build there – with His hammer?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In The Choosing - Choose Well

There’s practical fear, a gift of God; that fear that protects us from impending danger.
There’s a reverent fear, such as the fear of the Lord.
Then there’s the fear the enemy uses to enslave us.

Today, via DVD, Charles Stanley taught from Isaiah 41:10-13* and said, "Fear doesn’t fit you, don’t put it on." He also said that we’re not to live in fear while we live around things that cause fear. When you hear bad news, take your mind off of what you fear and quickly refocus on this: “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV)
We are defined by what we fear; absurd, but true. If you’re afraid of tight spaces, you’re claustrophobic. Arachnophobics fear spiders. And those who fear failure are usually called failures.
Are you afraid you won’t be able to find a new job or that the relationship you’re in won’t last? Are you afraid your children will get hurt? Sometimes we don’t even know what we’re afraid of.
Mr. Stanley listed six sources of the enslaving kind of fear the enemy brings: sin - its consequences; fears we’ve been taught (consciously or subconsciously); our imagination; ignorance of God’s Word; doubt – disregarding God’s promises; and poor self-image. We could talk quite a bit on each one.
But this is where communication with God is essential. We can ask Him anything, from what am I so afraid of, to where did this fear come from? And His answers may come more quickly than you think they will. What is He saying to you? Don’t seek what He’s telling someone else, seek Him, and seek His will for your life. I could take your fear and search the scriptures for what God says about it. But that’s exactly what He wants you to do. Then choose to believe what He says.
*Isaiah 41:10-13 (NIV) - So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Actively Waiting

No one is beyond the reach of God’s almighty hands, filled with grace and mercy. Nor is anyone’s self-righteousness great enough to pass from this world to the next without torment.

We all fall in that middle ground – the place where God reaches out to, with love beyond measure and limitless compassion, to give us His righteousness. By His kindness, He draws us to repentance – because at some point, we turned away from Him. Though most of us have tasted that sting of rejection, unlike us, He never turns away; He never gives up on us. As long as there’s breath in our lungs (both of which He’s provided for us,) He waits. He actively waits. While He waits for us, He calls to us. He reaches out to us. He sustains us. He blesses us. He protects us. He shows Himself to us all day long, even in our sleep. Though we ignore Him and refuse to acknowledge Him at every turn, still, He waits.

After a gardener plants his seed, he actively waits for his harvest – watering and fertilizing and hoeing and anticipating….
After a woman discovers she’s pregnant, she actively waits for her child’s arrival – providing nourishment, preparing herself for delivery, excitedly making preparations to care for the child, anticipating….
God has planted His seed in us. He actively waits for us to come to Him. With greater anticipation than the gardener or the mother, He waits.
He waits, simply, for us to return to Him.

Monday, December 5, 2011


How can we say we love God, and know in our heart we hate our brother?

We can’t. Plain and simple, if we harbor hatred in our heart, we don’t love God.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)

Did someone come to mind as you read the opening line? Is there someone you secretly can’t stand? That you judge or are jealous of or cringe when you see?

If so, it’s past time to pray about it and forgive this person. Because God’s own Word says that you cannot love Him, while hating your brother or sister.
I’m not talking about hating a murderer or a rapist that denounces God with his every breath. We can talk about them at another time.

But right now, there’s a brother or sister in the faith that feels the strain of relationship with you and God is calling upon you to do something about it. He’s probably dealing with their heart, too, if it’s any consolation to you. Step out in faith, obey God and trust Him to do His part.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

God is quite clear. To truly have intimate fellowship with Him, we must be at peace with and love our brothers and sisters. We’re to gather together

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Clinging to My ... Teddy

There are things in life we hang on to much too tightly; whether a child with his teddy - for comfort, security and friendship or a mother with her child - to love and protect them.

But even scripture tells us to let go. Luke 14:33 says, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” That can be a hard truth to digest.

What I cling to, for whatever reason, becomes used, damaged, controlled and eventually, useless. But when given up to God, He alone can set them free and heal them and multiply them and be glorified in them and through them.

I picture a child with a teddy bear that’s loved so much it goes everywhere the child goes, it gets dirty and loses an eye or gets an ear ripped off, needs to be re-stitched from time to time, the stuffing becomes flat and it’s fur gets dingy and faded from washings. The bear isn’t abused on purpose, but our human love has a way of wearing things out.

Why do we hold on so tightly? Do we really believe we need that teddy, that God won’t be our security? Do we believe our children need us more than they need God? Or that we can serve and protect them better than He can?

The bottom line is; what do we believe about God?

Do we believe God is Who He says He is and will do what He says He’ll do – or not?

This morning I asked myself that question and started to answer, “I do, but….” No. Either I do – or I don’t.

“Our greatest single difficulty in following God may come at this point of full surrender.” –Henry Blackaby, (Experiencing God workbook, page 158)