Sunrise

Have you ever bought someone a gift for Christmas or a birthday but couldn’t wait to give it?   That’s me.  Something in me just can’t wait to share that joy. I want to see and feel the excitement. Have you ever done that only to be disappointed in the others reaction?  That happens to me a lot. What I think is awesome is just ok to someone else and the joy goes out the door.

This morning when I looked at the color of the sky as the sun rose, it was beautiful. I looked at it, then began reading and looking at something else. When I looked at the sky again the colors had changed. The thought came to me that the sunrise was a gift to me. God waited all night to display this to me and I treated it like a bad gift.  I said my thank you but failed to bask in the beauty. I failed to stay with the view until it changed. It’s like having ice cream and laying it on the table to eat later instead of enjoying it now.

Lord, please forgive me.

 

The prize

Memorizing scripture is challenging. It’s not something I find easy, but I’m determined. I know it’s doable.

Having said this, I’m in Phil 3 and Paul is talking about running to win. Different translations will use words like pressing, striving, reaching.  Paul is “in it to win it”.  My mind went to 4-H.  I don’t of any other competition where it’s all about the prize. It’s not about beating someone else, it’s just about getting that champion or grand champion ribbon, at least that’s my observation.  It’s about winning the prize.

For some reason this paragraph has been difficult to memorize.  Paul says he hasn’t arrived yet but he’s still going.  Forgetting the stuff that’s behind and reaching to what’s ahead. He never takes his eyes off the prize.  That makes me think of the amazing race and the crazy stuff people put themselves through to win a million dollars. I wonder, what am I willing to go through for the “high calling of God”.  Just what is the high calling of God.

I don’t have to perform rediculous stunts or bath a pig in order to get salvation or the gift of eternal life.  God’s love is not dependent on my performance. So, what is this prize Paul is so determined to win?  Paul will tell you, he suffered. Sometimes I have to read it over and over to get the magnitude of how much he suffered. I think I gloss over reading it because he seems to tell his experiences with joy. He was shipwrecked, beaten, thrown into prison, abandoned, went hungry, not to mention fighting through the cold of winter or heat of summer. He mentions these thing but doesn’t make a big deal about them. He doesn’t show us his scars. He doesn’t give the details that I would. It’s almost like he says it was no big deal. So why? What prize could ever be worth that kind of suffering if it wasn’t necessary?  He had the promise of eternal life and He possessed all of the Holy Spirit he was ever going to get. What was this prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

It was love. Love that goes beyond my comprehension. Love that sacrifices for others. Paul fell in love with Jesus when he met him face to face on the road to Damascus. Paul fell in love with friends God gave him as he began his faith walk. Peter, Barnabus, Timothy, Appollus, Priscilla And Aquilla. As the companions grew in number he fell in love with the church. More and more people he could share the gospel with. When Paul’s earthly “high calling” was complete, He wrote it down so his letters could be read today and still lead others to know Jesus, who he was willing to give up every earthly thing for.

Paul knew there was a prize waiting for him in heaven. It wasn’t a crown, believe me no crown is worth what he went through to get. It wasn’t a mansion, though those things are promised. The real prize is God Himself. He is worthy. He is worth it.

 

 

Joy

A few of years ago I bought this child scarecrow. It was a little body with straw arms and legs wearing overalls and a shirt with no head, on a stand. I decided it needed a head so I bot this doll head kids use to play with makeup, hair, and nails. The head was just the right size for this body. Now the assembly of this little gal made me laugh.  I put a sign around her neck and placed her next to the neighbors corn field back near the woods in the middle of nowhere. When they began to harvest crops the man in the tractor waved at her two laps around before he realized she was a doll and her sign said “hi farmer”.  This  made a lot of people laugh. She’s just a funny little girl doll.  So, I named her Joy.  I stuck her in a corner for a couple of years and couldn’t really think of anything else to do with her.  About a month ago I decided to put her out side by our ugly water meter.  I left her there a few days then I moved her across the road, behind a fence and gave her an umbrella because it was raining. I took her from there and put her by the pond sitting in a chair fishing.  I just keep finding places to put her and she always makes me laugh. Lots of people say she’s scarey, some says it’s just weird, but it has been so much fun. Today she’s on a tricycle near our driveway.  Now, this may be weird, but people are going to pass and wonder where Joy will be next and what she’ll be doing. Weird, but funny.  This morning I read a quote that said “it’s ok to have a busy life, but it’s crazy to have a busy soul”.  A busy soul has no time for nonsense, or laughter.  A busy soul lives on a schedule and worries about many things.   Psalm 23 is about a journey with a guide. The tour is planned, a scenic route with streams and green pastures, and it’s full of adventure and mystery.  He shows me things like clouds that look like animals, stars falling from the sky then just vanishing, rocks big and small with holes, sunsets that are never the same and flowers sticking out of snow. Some things just make you say hmmmm, or Praise you Lord. No explaination.  It just is.  Our guide, our shepherd says be still, quiet your soul.  We can push and shove our way from one place to the next just trying to make it through the day in order to do the same thing again tomorrow. We don’t think we have time for joy. Joy is weird and scarey, especially if you haven’t experienced it.  I suppose if Jesus weren’t Lord we’d be telling Him those clouds are scary, that rock is just weird.  Why did you put that flower there?  And, we’d fail to find the Joy in our journey.

He rejoices over you with singing

Zeph 3:17 tells us the Lord sings over us. Did you ever wonder what He sings?

I can only imagine God’s songs through human mindset so I figure He makes up His own word, but since Jesus fully experienced humanity He also understands our music trends past and present.  I think He sings songs I can’t comprehend but also some familiar ones.

2 Chronicles 20:19 tell of the people singing praises and for some reason we are told they were singing loud. I find that humorous. It wasn’t with inside voices, or church choir music, they were belting it out with outside voices. I think when God sings over me He has to use that outside voice or I won’t hear Him over all the other noises.

His song is unique to me. I can hear it, but to others it may sound like thunder, or be muted, or muffled, like when He spoke to Saul in Acts 22:9, others were present but they never heard what He was saying.

Nevertheless, scripture says He sings.  Picture with me God vying for the attention of Hs lost child that has never heard a church song. In his Kenny Rogers voice He sings you were always on my mind.  Or, what if He wakes some 65 year old grandma with a hit song from her teenage years that says I want to hold your hand.  Or, perhaps your a great grandma that lived during the war time and in His Irving Berlin voice He uses His inside voice to sing I’ll be loving you, Always, Always.

I love this picture as it comes to me.  Elijah has just lifted off in a chariot of fire and though Elisha’s heart is broken, he hears He’s got a ticket to ride, and he don’t care.

The list just keeps on going, how about I can’t stop loving you by Ray Charles, and He could definetly sing to me a few lines from Your Cheating Heart by Hank Williams.

We all know songs past and present that God could sing over us with a few tweaks here and there.  I remember when rap first started making the charts and, not to be outdone by the secular the Christians came out with a rap called “get you a Bible”.

He sings over us, He sings over me. Head lifted high belting it out.  He created music.  Even if we make the words worldly He wrote the song first. He wrote She loves me yeah, yeah, yeah, before the Beatles thought about it.  And, when Jason Crabb wrote “when He was on the cross, I was on His mind”. He had already written “You were always on my mind.”

The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty to save. He will delight in you.  He will quiet you with His love.  He will rejoice over you with singing. Zeph 3:17.

Father, forgive them

This time of year many pastors begin series of sermons that lead up to Easter.  One pastor I like to listen to is using the last words Jesus spoke before He died. The phrase,” Father forgive them for they know not what they do”, is one of those statements. When I hear that phrase I think of the beatings, the mocking, the stripping, and the hammering. When He  says this, I think of the crowd that surrounded Him prior to and during his death. What I don’t typically think is that, He was talking about me.

I think of what Jesus did at the cross was for me personally, but it was also for everyone else.  When I look at the events that led up to His death, the crowds, the miracles, and every story recorded His last 3 years before He was crucified, they are then moments. I wasn’t personally there. But, when I realize everything since creation was leading up to this it becomes more personal. The life of everyone was planned out before we were ever created.  The story of Abraham is recorded for us to read.  Abraham’s life was mapped out befor He was ever born.  His life, like ours, consisted of belief, failure, repentance, forgiveness. 4000 years later, Jesus died for Abraham.   Moses has a similar story, he believes in God, obeys God, messes up, repents, is forgiven. Moses dies and goes to Heaven because Jesus died for Moses. His life had been mapped out before he was born.  We can look at all the Old Testament stories and we find believers and non believers. Jesus died for them all. We see those who were obedient and those who weren’t and we read about the consequences.  We read about what happened and thousands of years later Jesus died for their sin.  Everthing they did involved faith in a Savior that would one day come and right every wrong.  Everything was mapped  out before it happened, and then it was recorded for us to read. Fast forward 2000 years after Jesus came and we find “us”.  Our lives have been mapped out. Every sin, every victory, every failure, every repentance, and forgiveness.  The only difference in the then and the now is The Old Testament stories are complete from beginning of life to end, but our stories are still midstream.  We know our beginning, those who are believers know our ending its the middles that are mysteries.  Some people may wonder why do I need to do anything if it’s already been mapped out what my story will be. It’s because we get to write our own stories. We get to choose our middle.  The theme of the story is God loves you. The plot is all about Him drawing you to Himself. Your story is all about how you respond to Him.  My story is all about grace and Jesus saying Father forgive her for she knows not what she is doing. That includes conscious and subconscious sins.  Jesus died for me before I was ever born, before I had ever committed any sin. he didn’t just die for the sin I am currently aware of but all my sin. When Jesus made that statement, he was praying for every believer and pleading for every nonbeliever. It was a prayer for David when he slept with Bathsheba, a prayer for the Hebrews that made the golden calf, a prayer for Eve as she ate the fruit, a prayer for Pilot, for the soldier who hammered the nails, a prayer for Billy Graham, and for Donald Trump. Jesus didn’t just die for those who would repent and come to know Him, but He died for those who would never acknowledge Him.  We are writing our storiies, but He knows how it’s going to end.  When Jesus died, he was between two criminals. One believed, the other didn’t. Jesus was in the middle and He died for them both.

My visit with a young lady is what prompted these thoughts. She had been in jail 6 years ago for drugs.  She accepted Jesus and for 6 years she was clean.  I reminded her of the day she professed Jesus and how He was with her during her time incarcerated.  Through tears she said, “He must be so disappointed in me”.  I explained to her that when Jesus died for her, she hadn’t even been born yet and He knew when she became a believer every time she would fail. He wasn’t shocked or disappointed and He will do everything to get her back where she belongs.

The prayer, “father forgive them” is for everyone, but the Fathers “yes” depends on us and how we respond.  Do we believe?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fasting

I struggle with fasting.  I have trouble understanding it.  Why do I need to give up food to pray?  I have a good relationship with the Lord.  I can even be praying while I eat. I could actually go on and on with an argument as to why this just don’t make sense to me.  I’m sorta like the kid whose mom tells to make their bed and the response is, what’s the logic in it. In just a few hrs. it’s  going to be messed up again.  There’s no use to argue about it and it boils down to “because I said so”.

Scripture takes me to the feeding of 5,000.  This huge crowd of people came to hear and see Jesus. He had been healing people miraculously, and He had a message of hope, and some, but not all, believed He was the Son of God, the promised Messiah. This crowd was full of believers, spectators, skeptics, and unbelievers. It was mealtime and people were getting hungry, babies were getting restless, and kids were starting to whine. Jesus has the people to sit on the grass while he prepares lunch.  There is no big screen so everyone can watch this miracle take place.  He simply takes this bun, gives thanks, takes the fish, gives thanks, and then starts making sandwiches. The disciples start handing out the sandwiches and they just keep multiplying.  How did He do that?  Some knew, some didn’t care, some thought the Sisco truck was hiding in the back somewhere. The believers, the spectators, the skeptic, and the unbelievers.  The people eat, they stay, they listen to Him, they respond. That evening Jesus tells His disciple to go to the other side of the lake. He wants some alone time and He will join them later. They take the last boat across as the people watch and everyone goes there own way.  Jesus just seemed to disappear. Next day when the people realized the disciples are on the other side and they couldn’t find Jesus, they get in boats and cross the lake too.  Something was weird though. The disciples had left in the last boat on shore and no other boats had came in until that morning; however Jesus was on the other side. How did He get there?  The believers knew, Jesus was not bound by time or space, the spectators and skeptics were scratching their heads, coming up with different theories, and the non believers were certain he had hid a dingy somewhere in the bushes, or whatever.   They all were waiting for the food giveaway, but lunch came and Jesus begins to explain, I gave you food yesterday that sustains your body, but today you are hungry again.  Your souls get hungry too, and I am the food that will sustain your souls and will last forever.  Some got it, they believed, they stayed and took in His every Word, some still weren’t sure, others were just mad because He didn’t have any more sandwhiches. I’m pretty sure most of the people left. Jesus even asked His disciples, “are you going to leave too? ”

What on earth does this have to do with fasting?  When we go without food, hunger comes. The longer we go the hungrier we get, and then the mind games start. We think about food, we can smell it, we can see it, we crave it. Jesus wants me to crave Him the way a hungry man craves food. In some cases we fast because of a great need.  For Esther it was saving her people, for Jehoshphat, it was a battle, for Jesus it was a different kind of battle, a battle with Satan.  God gives us strength in our weakest moments when we understand He is all we need.  Fasting is not a ploy to get God to do what we want Him to. It’s totally surrendering to Him and trusting Him regardless of the outcome.  Will you still follow me even when there are no sandwhiches?

So, why do I struggle with this so much. I am surrendered to Him. Why do I have to give something up. I got all of Jesus when I repented and surrendered to Him. Fasting is not about getting more of Him but of me giving more of myself to Him. It’s not an act of proving to Him I’m serious because He knows my heart and motives better than I know myself.  I can wear myself out explaining why this fast thing is not a good idea, it makes no logical sense, and sometimes it may boil down to one thing  “just because I said so”.  Will you be obedient?

I wrote this whole thing and that last statement made me cry.

 

 

 

Come as a Child (continued)

The theme continued as I was next reminded to come to Him as a child.  A child has no issue with persistent asking, mom, mom, hey mom. They have no issue with the boldness either.  They will interrupt a phone conversation or stand outside the bathroom door.  Mom, mom, hey mom.

Jesus uses the picture of us becoming like children. I hope you are familiar with these stories. When the disciples say who’s the greatest, he takes a child.  In Mark he says unless you become like little children…  He even refers to His disciples as little children, or babes which God had revealed power to, and in Matthew He says out of the mouths of babes, you have perfected praise.  This is how  He wants us to come to Him.

A tired and fussy baby will wear a parent down until they finally take that baby in their arms and rock them to sleep.  How many mamma’s have heard a desperate child call out in the middle of the night and instantly fly into the child’s room like super man, to explosive vomiting.  Our Father hears our desperate cries the same way.  Or, how many have heard this one, “can I sleep with you”, or “will you lay down with me”, “would you tell me a story” ?  I can’t help but believe God is saying, yes come to me like that ( without the vomit).

We are His children.  He will never turn us away.  Somehow we think we have adult issues now, a wayward child, bills we can’t pay, pain, sickness, but in all our adult needs maybe all we need to pray is Jesus, will you lay down with me?  Will you hold me?  Tell me a story or sing me a song.

When  I was a little girl I dropped an egg.  I started crying and I looked to my older sister and said, “Alice, can you fix this”.  Big sisters can fix everything and clean up messes.  How much more our Heavenly Father wants to fix our brokenness and clean our messes.  We just need to Ask.  Jesus, will you fix this?

Come as a child

 

God often communicates with His people in themes.  Many times what we hear in Bible study will be something you just heard on a radio program, or maybe you read a scripture and later in the day that same scripture pops up on Facebook.  I sometimes think it’s Gods way of telling us to pay attention.  Parents often have to repeat themselves to their children and eventually will frustratingly say ” I’m not telling you again….. “.

Scripture lets us know God never gets tired of us.  He reminds me over and over He’s not ignoring my prayers.  There are some prayers I’ve been praying for years.  Sometimes it starts to feel like certain requests are just not to be and I need to give it a rest. I feel like He recently reminded me “don’t give up”, the end of the story is not yet

My sister and her husband were awakened a few nights ago by the ringing of their doorbell. It was after midnight and they were asleep not even sure if it was a dream or actual event. It was a cold and rainy/icy. They got dressed and went to the doorbut by the time they got there all they could see was a dim beam from a flashlight headed down the road.  Being followers of Christ they had no choice but to get in their car and find this wayfaring stranger and see what on earth they were up to.

They found a young man, covered with tattoos, dripping wet and cold, who had walked at least 5 miles hoping to find someone still up that would be willing to help him get his car out of a ditch.  He had slid off the road and even though he had a cell phone, in these parts there was no service.  This is not a heavily populated area so there wasn’t a lot of homes to choose from.

My sister and brother-in-law got dressed in their outdoor winter attire, got the atv out and drove the county road to where the young mans car was. They pulled him out successfully, the story ended and a couple days later the man came back and thanked them.

The envent instantly reminded me of Luke 11:5-12.  It’s the story of the neighbor that persistently knocks on the door to get a loaf of bread. It’s kind of a funny story to me.  What was so urgent about a loaf of bread that couldn’t wait till morning.  Never the less the neighbor gets up and gives the bread.  The parable came to life in my sisters story.

Two days later I’m listening to a sermon and the title is obstacles to prayer.  Guess what the scripture passage was.  Luke 11:1-12 and 18:1-8.  God says keep asking, keep knocking.  Some things just require persistence and a never give up attitude.  He reminds me faith is believing what we cannot see, and even if the end result is not my plan He is still in control. He is a good good Father and He has no intention of giving me a scorpion when I ask Him for bread.  I can trust Him.

 

 

Words

I recently had a conversation with some friends about how society has trivialized the word love. We love everybody and everything. I couldn’t help but think of the Pharisees.  The bible uses love in 3 forms phileo, eros, and agape. Well, if 3 is good then more is better. So we just love everything.

The word Awesome means inducing Awe, overwhelming feeling of reverance and admiration, or fear, an awesome sight.  Somehow awesome has became an every day word, but what if every time we heard that word we instantly thought of Jesus. He is the one thing in life that is truly awesome.

One of my friends said she tries to never say tomorrow.  She is a nurse and has a deep sense that none of us are promised tomorrow. (James 4:13-14)

She also avoids the word “I promise”.   How easy to say, “that’s awesome”.  What is wrong with us?  The book of James is full of instructions on what should and should not come out of our mouths and that we should think before we speak.

As Christians we have created a vocabulary of Christian cuss words.  For instance crap, or Holy crap, where did that come from?  We substitute omg with oh my gosh while the world uses God. We say “freakin” instead of the other f word. I have really began to notice more church people just dropping the Christian charade and just saying the actual word.

So, what’s the big deal.  Well, the biggest deal is the Bible says, let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, and it also tells us we are to be set apart and different from the world.

“Just sayin”.

 

 

Guilty as Charged

There are many things that determine the outcome of a court hearing.      Things like  what are you charged with, how good is your lawyer, is this a repeat offense, or even what the mood of the judge may be.  Do you have money to pay a bail fee and do you have anyone to vouch for you.

I often hear complaints and comparisons.  The idea that someone with a greater crime received a lighter sentence than mine.  We cry injustice because the sentence doesn’t match the crime.  I would like to share a story with you about the greatest injustice of all time.  It’s a true story about a woman who received a death sentence from what we would consider petty theft.

To begin with this woman was beautiful and she had it all, the looks, the perfect husband, the most beautiful home and gardens that could be found anywhere. The woman was a believer.  She wasn’t some immoral heathen but a woman with a relationship with God, however she had one flaw.  She wasn’t content with everything she had.  How can you not be content with perfection?  She was not the one in control,  God was.  So, to show Him that He could not control her, she made one bad choice.   She stole an apple.  So whats the big deal?  She disobeyed a rule, and at the time she thought it was a stupid rule.

The woman knew there would be consequences for her choice but she could not fathom how bad those consequences would end up being.  Her father just so happened to be the Judge.  She had never experienced his discipline for she had never disobeyed before.  He had given her everything with one exception, that apple.  He had even warned her of the consequences, DEATH.  Well, she had never experienced death and perhaps never had a full understanding of it.  Actually, she never believed He would follow through.  She never trusted her father or His love for her and that was at the root of her issues.  She couldn’t understand that she was subject to Him. She believed she was His equal and if He made rules so could she.  However, it didn’t turn out so well

After she bit into that forbidden fruit, she realized what she had done. She had disobeyed.  What she did, brought a curse upon everything good.  Because man was created from the earth, the earth became cursed.  She realizes in some way she is no longer perfect and she tries to cover herself, to hide from what she did, but the garment could not protect her from the elements of the now cursed earth.  Her father called to her. He knew what she had done but His love and mercy prevented Him from just striking her down immediately.  He asks her what she did and she uses the excuse that she was deceived.  He was heartbroken.  How could He carry out this punishment upon his own child, the one He had created?

Because He is just, he could not relent on the judgment of the crime.  The sentence for the crime had already been established.  The wages of sin is death.  Since she did not conceive what that meant, her father took one of the animals, one of her pets for she loved them all, and He explained to her that the garment she made could not hide her shame nor could it protect her from thing that would come as a result of her disobedience.    She had to watch as Her father slaughtered the animal.  She watched the blood drain from the body and the life fade away.  He then took the fur, and covered her. A constant reminder that she could not cover herself or what she did, that could only be done by her loving father.

She then had to move out of her perfect beautiful environment and settle in the outskirts where she would now have to work hard for everything she had including food.  She would no longer take walks with her dad even though He would come to her whenever she called, the relationship became different.

Then she experienced an excruciating pain when she delivered her son.  She had never experienced pain before.  The pain would not take her life however, and she would soon forget the pain when she saw she had given birth to a child.  She then experienced the parent/child love.  The love like her father had always given to her. Unconditional love. But, her son grew and began to show signs of rebellion, signs of her own characteristics of selfishness and self-reliance.  That same attitude that says You are not the boss of me and I will be my own God.  This strong-willed son had a brother.  A sweet and much more obedient though not perfect brother.  One day the rebellious son killed his brother in a fit of jealous rage.

She had experienced heartache when the animal was killed but this was far greater.  The life of her own son, and she understood this was her fault.  She had allowed sin to enter into the world when she took that apple.  These were just a few of the consequences from her one bad decision.  She somehow knew that the clothes she wore covered her guilt and her shame but the blood of an animal would never suffice for the sin of a person.  The only true justice would come when another human died.  She began to understand death.  She began to watch her body grow old and weak and she knew she would one day die.  She would go back to the ground from which she was taken, but the justice had not been served.  She understood that she was guilty of the crime and that nothing she could do would ever suffice or erase what she did.  She could not pay for her crime because she was guilty, and deserved it all.  Her Father knew that too.  There was only one thing that could be done.  He would take on flesh, live a perfect life with no sin, and He would pay the penalty.  He would die the death she deserved.  The innocent would die for the guilty.

And so, He did.  But, to die was only one part of the story.  He created us to have a relationship with us.  The father/child relationship.  A relationship that includes love and laughter, joy and contentment.  He created us to walk in the garden with and talk about “stuff”, and if He just died that would do away with sin and humanity.  But, if he defeats death by coming back to life after the sin and disobedience has been dealt with, we get to start over.  Perfection restored and sin abolished, and that is what happened.

For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

So, next time you hear a story of how the sentences doesn’t seem to match the crime. Think about Eve. We have all sinned, and we all deserve death.  No matter what happens to us on this earth, we all get better than we deserve, and in the end, every  believer is promised eternal life in a world that has been restored to its perfect existence.  If you are not a believer, in the end, you will get what you deserve.