Monday, December 29, 2014

Here Comes 2015

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What if?

You can say it any way you’d like. You can tack on anything imaginable.

What will you imagine?

Human nature often begs us to imagine something bad or negative to finish the question with, such as, “What if – something bad happens to me or to my children or my finances, etc…?”

But, what if – it’s something good? What if it’s something great?

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God’s Word tells us it IS something great! “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9 (KJV) The writer is quoting Isaiah 64:4 from the Old Testament.

Our frail, human hearts can’t even begin to image all the good God has for us; good things, good plans, good beyond our finite comprehension. He does go on to say in verse 10, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

So, though we can’t imagine it without divine intervention, we can know what God has in store for us. And we can be reassured that it’s all good. A verse that many consider to be their favorite is in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” In the NIV we read, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

I’ve included both versions because I want us to know that God’s thoughts toward us include His plans for us. He didn’t just map out our lives and then walk away, hoping we get it right. He’s here with us every single step of the way, unfolding His plans and loving us, whether we allow ourselves to accept and feel that love or not.

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Our pastor defines imagination as image-formations; the images we form in our minds. When we allow God to take hold of the images we form there, we can see the good; our minds won’t always impulsively run toward the bad. Instead of what if something bad happens today, we can ask, what if something great happens? Then, we can begin to dwell on the good and form good images. Ah, yes, my favorite scripture instructs us to do that: think on the good things!  (In case you don’t know it yet, that’s Philippians 4:8.)

Even humanists that don’t call on the Name of Jesus chime in with the knowledge that what we think will determine what we are. (“for as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7 NIV)

I count at least seven times in scripture where Jesus asks, “What do you think?” (Mt 17:25, 18:12, 21:28, 22:17, 22:42, Luke 10:36 and 13:4)

How cool is it that He cares about what we think? He cares about it, because He knows the power involved with our thoughts and words.

When we form images in our minds around what could happen today or tomorrow – or this coming year, 2015, what will we allow? Yes, again, I bring up choice. We get to choose what we allow into our minds!

What if – [negative] = worry
What if – [positive] = peace
Which would you rather live in, worry or peace?

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“…for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” – 2 Timothy 1:12 (KJV)

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21 (KJV)

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultess before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” – Jude 1:24-25 (KJV)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Rejoice Much?

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The other day while pondering the book of Luke, reading many of the stories therein with fresh eyes, chapter 15 humbled me and brought me to my knees with rejoicing my heart has needed for a long time.

Years ago, I turned my back on God; some might call it backsliding, who knows what others may call it. It vexed me terribly that I could do such a thing. I repented, I cried, I groveled, I rose up and followed Jesus again, more quietly.

Satan beat me up with scriptures like Luke 9:62 (Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.") And, Romans 11:21-23 (For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.....) And Hebrews 10:26-31 (For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins.....)

Scriptures that should have brought the God-kind-of-peace didn’t quite rescue me from the guilt and shame the enemy pours over us; 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

As I wrestled with the enemy, I'd say things like: "Well, I don't care, Satan, I'm going to serve God anyway, I'm going to praise Him and love Him and honor Him and share Him....and if, in the end, He chooses not to let me into His kingdom, that's His right, I submit myself to God, therefore, now flee from me!" (James 4:7)

While reading the story of the prodigal son with a seasoned heart and yearning that’s been growing, I realized that, years ago, when I repented of my sinfulness, I came back to God just as the prodigal son went back to his father, asking, not to be treated as a son, but as a servant, hoping for morsels that even the animals might receive.....

In verse 21 we see the prodigal son say to his father, just as he’d rehearsed, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

My heart began to dance with delight as revelation flooded my being. This story came alive inside of me!

How did his father respond? Did he delegate this wayward son to the outer fields to tend sheep or to the servants lodging? No! The very next verse his father’s response comes with so much joy and excitement he can barely contain it.

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“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (verses 22-24)

Can you feel his father’s excitement? I CAN!

Just as his father dismissed the idea of treating his son as merely a servant, MY FATHER, didn't consider it either. I AM AND ALWAYS WILL BE -------- HIS DAUGHTER, whom He loves unconditionally!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Choosing to Cling

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 During a wedding the other day, my mind wandered a bit; my eyes were drawn to a statue of Mary. Unlike any statue of her I’ve seen, I can’t even find a photo of this statue on line, the one pictured is not it. Her face was sculpted to capture love and compassion, yet it was filled with wonder and questions. She held a crown of thorns in her hands, clutched to her heart.

My mind wandered further to imagine her, collapsed to the ground, holding the crucified, dead body of her Son, having gently removed the crown of thorns from His bloody head, setting it aside to wiped blood and tears from His precious face. No doubt her breaking heart wept, even if she didn’t have the physical strength left to sob over his ravaged body.

It didn’t help that I was already emotional, simply because I was at a wedding, but, I fought back my tears. If it was my son, I believe I’d be holding him to myself for as long as I could.

Even as we stand beside a loved one, laid out at their funeral, longing to hold them in our arms one more time, our heart breaks in a way we could never have imagined before. We may cling to memories, or even to a token of their lives.

What did Mary cling to? Did she clutch that crown of thorns? Did she grapple in the sand for the bloody nails that held Him to the Cross? Did she reach deeply into her understanding of what God had spoken to her through an angel and displayed before her throughout the years? Did she pull out God’s strength through a joy miraculously placed in her heart? She recognized her own salvation at the announcement of her pregnancy (Luke 1:47); did she have an even greater revelation at the finality of His death when He uttered, “It is finished”? (John 19:30) By His grace and mercy, did God allow her a glimpse of eternity, removing the veil of time so she could see her son sitting at the right hand of her Father? (Acts 2:33)

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We don’t know. Imagine what we will, we don’t know.

What do you cling to and clutch to your heart that connects you with your Savior? Or what is it you run from? (I suppose Mary could have thrown that crown of thorns in anger and run from the bloody scene that had just unfolded before her.)

Perhaps, it’s not something tangible, but a memory. Maybe the memory is so vague you can’t even put your finger on it. Or maybe this is an easy question, the memory or point of contact is illuminated in your mind as you read this.

Whatever it is, it’s something that penetrated your heart; whether the pierce was a prick like that from a thorn, or broke your heart wide open; you let Jesus peek into the places there where no one else is welcome - your secret place. Could it make a difference if you shared your treasure with someone else; if you told them how Jesus brought His Light to your darkness?

If you’ve never asked Jesus into that private place, perhaps it just feels like your heart has been beaten up, broken, cracked and stomped on; crushed till it’s unrecognizable, dark and lifeless. That’s how it will remain until you allow the Light of Jesus Christ to redeem you; to bring life from lifelessness.

The whole point to the Christmas story is that Jesus took on flesh to be like us, so that we could find life in His Spirit and be like Him.

Find a quiet place and think on this. Ask Him to show you your heart, if it’s filled with His Light – share it! If it’s still filled with pain and sorrow and anger and grief, it’s time to invite Him in to help you find the courage to forgive those who’ve hurt and betrayed you, and the courage to accept His forgiveness for your sin (“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” -Romans 3:23-24/If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. -1 John 1:9 NIV)

Yes, it will mean allowing yourself to become vulnerable. But, He’s not going to blab your secrets to the world. It’s all between you and Him…… if you’re not quite sure how to pray, ask Him. He’ll meet you right where you’re at.

His Word (the Bible) is filled with promises for those who believe Him. Find your promises today.

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Saturday, December 6, 2014


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“When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But, because you say so, I will let down the nets.” – Luke 5:4-5 (NIV)

Personally, I find Peter’s words to be extremely powerful. How often do we mentally argue with God because we’ve already done what we believe He’s telling us to do again? How often do we fail to obey, simply because we don’t see the point in the actions required? How often does it look to us that God doesn’t know what He’s talking about?

Maybe I’m alone in this. But, sometimes, it seems to me that God really isn’t all that much in control. Now, I realize that’s largely because I cannot see the “big picture”. If thread had eyes to see, each stitch in a quilt or garment wouldn’t make sense at all if the thread could not see the entire creation from their vantage point.

But, Peter, though weary beyond measure, in his attempt to have faith and relinquish control of how he thought things should work, obeyed Jesus, saying, “…but because You say so…..”

Though I can’t remember the circumstances, I can recall rolling my eyes when instructed to do things that didn’t make sense to me. Whether it was a parent, my husband or a teacher giving instruction, it didn’t matter. What they were advising made no sense to me at all. But, because they said so – I complied. Someone I loved or respected gave a directive, and I, perhaps begrudgingly, did what they asked. At this moment, I don’t recall any “aha” moments when what seemed like nonsense to me proved to be beneficial, but, I complied because of love or respect.

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Of course, in the very next verse of scripture, we’re immediately told about the phenomenal haul of fish Peter and his co-laborers pulled in together, almost sinking their boats. They saw right away that Jesus knew His stuff; He could be trusted. Seeing the rewards of complying with His instruction, Peter was awe-struck by whatever it was this man Jesus compelled. Did Jesus put the fish there? Did He just know they’d be there? Did He somehow draw the fish to the nets? Was this wisdom, heavenly power or magic of some sort?

Luke 5:8 shows us just how much fear Peter felt, when he, falling to Jesus’ feet, declared, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

Like Adam and Eve felt exposed in the Garden of Eden and tried to hide from the presence of God when they disobeyed Him, Peter now felt naked before this Man, Jesus and wanted to hide from Him.

Fortunately, Peter didn’t run and hide, he and the other disciples with him took heed to the next words they heard from this new Master, “Don’t be afraid.” (v 10)

How often we need this reassurance from God to not be afraid! Yet, He always provides the peace and reassurance we need in our hour of crisis. Yes, we still have the option to panic and run the other direction. But, we’re rewarded greatly when, instead, we run into His arms, whether we’re still panicking or not.

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Just a few verses later we read where a leprous man encounters Jesus and quite boldly approaches Him, falling with humility, his face to the ground, insisting, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” (Luke 5:12-13 NIV)

How does Jesus respond? Can you imagine all the love in the universe being focused as light through a magnifying glass, shining straight into this man as Jesus says, “I am willing, be clean!” and seeing that immediately the leprosy left him?

In my own walk with Jesus, I’ve murmured the same words, while reading through Luke one day in the late 80s. My heart was black with sin, rebellion and betrayal, and I wept, Lord, if You’re willing, You can make me clean…..” Before even another breath could enter my lungs, I felt the release of all my guilt and anguish as He lovingly poured into me, “I AM willing, be clean…..”

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What is it that you don’t understand? Can you find the faith (even as small as a mustard seed) to submit to God anyways, and say something along the lines of, “…not my will, but Yours, O God….”? Can you muster the strength and courage to allow the idea that your understanding isn’t going to solve the dilemma you’re in right now? But, perhaps…….God is greater than your understanding?

Are you…..willing?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Just Wrap Me In Cellophane, Pink Please!

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Do we ask? Generally, no; we jump in with both feet – flesh and all.

Quite frankly, most of what I blog about relates to me, personally, whether you’d think so or not. I uncover my flesh for the entire world to see. In my own way, I guess, I’m creating my own version of intimacy with you all. If you’ve read many of my posts, you know my favorite definition of the word intimacy is: in-to-me-see. Bluntly put, I’m allowing you to see into me, whether you reciprocate or not.

I’m not cloaked with a heavy mantle, I sit here wrapped in cellophane (pink please). If you look back over my posts you’ll see a picture of how I’m growing in Christ. I’m not light years ahead of the game. I may be right beside you, perhaps one step ahead or a whole block or two behind.

We all take certain steps faster than others and we all come up against those steps that stir up great hesitation. It’s not a race. I rejoice that we’re walking together in The Way!

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We’re not quite as self-centered as we used to be.
We’re not quite as controlling.
We’re not quite as arrogant.
We’re not quite as mean.
We’re a little more loving.
We’re a little more giving.
We’re a little more patient.
We’re a little more faithful.

We pray. We get into God’s Word more often and more diligently, more intently and with greater understanding.

Yet, we can be caught dragging our feet. Me? Sometimes I trip on them, yes – both of them!

Do we ask? Do I ask? Not always. Why? Grrrr…..

Too often I want to jump in and fix things or give my incredible words of wise instruction before even asking what God wants done in a given situation. I presume to know what God’s doing in everyone else’s life….. (Surely I’m not alone in this, right?)

Praise God that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1)

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I need to be asking what God wants of me, every single time; nothing more and nothing less. More from me won’t make things better, I might be intruding on what God’s trying to do in the lives of others.

Sometimes God wants others to step up. If I was a millionaire and every time a need arose in the lives around me, and I met that need, no one else in my circle would learn to give. They’d get mighty good at the receiving part, though.

Sometimes the words I speak into a situation are the last things the person in need wants to hear. God knows their frame of mind and what they need to hear and when; I do not always know that. As a matter of fact, in and of myself, I probably never know that.

Whether it’s words or actions required on my part, I need God’s instruction before I open my mouth.

Eventually, we’ll come to a place in Christ where we’ll hear His voice even before our own. But, the God kind of self-control and humility must come into play. If we allow the Holy Spirit of God to live inside of us, we need to recognize that He’s not a decoration on the walls of our heart. He needs to be granted our permission to speak and move through us!

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” - Galatians 5:22-23 (KJV)

Fruit is cultivated; it doesn’t just spontaneously appear on the vine or tree. Praise God we are planted in His royal garden, where He cultivates His fruit according to His plans and purposes in us – making us more and more like Him every day.