The Shadow Tells All

Cover off, God’s parable on!

Child of the 50’s that I am, I still remember the radio (what’s that, you ask?) detective program titled “The Shadow,” and the slogan that came at the beginning of every program: “Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man? The Shadow knows!” This morning I finally went out to the back yard to hit the elliptical on the porch around 7:15, already warm with the sun rising above the mountains. As I “loped” along to my inspirational music on my phone, I noticed the shadow of something long and thick in the pool. Hmmm…what could that be from? Peering intently into the pool, I saw a small twig floating. Aha! Not a snake or a log after all – just a small, twisted twig.

Two thoughts immediately came to me :

1: Sometimes people like to “cast a large shadow” before others, looking larger than they are, and I know that’s out of an actual sense of inferiority/invalidation/lack of importance. When you examine that person, you see the truth that they aren’t as “big” as they like to project they are. Hmm… have I ever done that, Jesus?

2: I’m a pretty small twig in the grand scheme of things, as are my sisters and brothers in Christ, but even a twig, with the Light of the World behind it, can make an important “reflection” and impact if and when the shadow we “cast” is the shadow of the redemptive work of Jesus on the Cross. Hmm… does my life really count for you and your Kingdom, Jesus?

Fast forward two hours to the Monday worship intercession group. Today we’re very much in 1 Corinthians 2: 2-16 (Amplified Version):

“As for myself, brethren, when I came to you, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony and evidence or mystery and secret of God {concerning what He has done through Christ for the salvation of men} in lofty words of eloquence or human philosophy and wisdom, for I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified… So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (human philosophy), but in the power of God….For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord so as to guide and instruct Him and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.”

I realized God’s thought to me through that stick fit with what we were focusing on today: our own humility and “twig” stature, and yet God loves us so much that HE gives us thoughts from HIS own mind, heart and being, so the “shadow” we cast in our thoughts, words, and actions bears, conveys, and prayerfully reveals the mind and heart of Jesus to others! We all agreed we’re quite happy to be “twigs”!

Fast forward to one o’clock, after the meeting, when I zipped down to the grocery store to pick up a few things. Yay, I found a parking space under a tree, and I waited for the young man gathering up the shopping carts to walk across the lane and get to the side of the building. For whatever reason (nudge), when I walked to the sidewalk, he was still there, going back for a few more carts. I told him thanks for doing his job and getting carts for us in the hot sun, and that began a small conversation about working out in the heat. I shared about a job where I had to do that, and said again I appreciated his work. He told me he doesn’t make much money at the job and rarely hears thanks, and I went on my way.

But that nagging nudge inside me told me our conversation wasn’t over, so after shopping and checking out, I saw him again pushing some carts toward the storefront. I turned my cart and walked toward him, and gave him a single dollar, telling him it came from Jesus, small as it was. He expressed his appreciation, then said, “This isn’t the job I want to have forever. I actually studied music in college, and I write music.
That’s what I want to do for a living someday.”

I asked if I could pray with him, and I did, asking the Creator who put that gift in the young man to open doors of opportunity for him to walk in his gifting and calling. He said, “You must be a hard-core Christian,” and I just smiled and told him I love Jesus and like to pass God’s love along to others. Oh, kind Creator God, I truly hope and pray what that young man, whose name I don’t even know, saw Jesus, not me, in that brief shadow this twig prayerfully, hopefully cast today! I may never see him again or hear the outcome of the words I know God’s Holy Spirit gave me to encourage him, but that’s okay. I’m a twig who casts a shadow of the Cross of Jesus, and that’s all that matters.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father… FOR IT IS GOD WHO WORKS IN YOU TO WILL AND TO ACT ACCORDING TO HIS GOOD PURPOSES.” Philippians 2: 1-11, 13 (NIV)

A “… but God….” for you to pray and think about today: Father God, I am just a small twig in the great scheme of things, BUT you’ve invested some of yourself in me, in my abilities, inclinations, gifts and heart. It’s really YOU living through me anyway, so help me feel YOUR nudges and know that being “just a twig” is meaningful when YOU’re with me and love through me. Give me courage to know and simply live before others, so YOU can __________________________________________________________________________, and remind me always that it’s YOU behind me, casting the powerful, meaningful, purposeful shadow! Jesus’ Name, with thanks, by the Holy Spirit, for God’s Glory and victories and transforming love in the lives of others AND me, amen!

An Improbable Avenue from an Omnipotent God

God’s grace to me and others, recorded in these books!

How in the world does God make these improbable connections? Ah, He’s omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. Still, God’s “weaving” humbles and flabbergasts me! All I intended to do was sell a king-size mattress set I didn’t need, trying first through my Facebook friends. And yay, the woman who managed the bookstore at my previous church messaged me that she wanted to buy it, so down they came and loaded it up. She asked me, “You used to write for Donna Partow, didn’t you?” Yes, after the senior pastor’s wife connected me with Donna because she knew I’d written books with the senior pastor of a previous church, I did put together two leaders’ guides for two of Donna’s books, a high honor to me because I highly respect Donna’s world-wide speaking and her faith that drives her.

I was still surprised when she contacted me just a week or two later. I didn’t know 1) that she was working now for a Christian publishing company and 2) that they needed more writers and 3) that Dana thought to mention my name to her co-workers! I drove up, interviewed with the staff, and began writing small gift devotional books for Christian Publishing Group. Holy socks, all that from selling a mattress? Yesterday I got thenexst six title they want me to work on!

My true delight in putting these books together is that I get to share stories from my friends of God moving in their lives. Yes, God moves for, in, and through His ordinary people through everyday events just as powerfully as through big-name preachers and evangelists! And my editor has remarked that these real, ordinary people stories are making their books more powerful than they’ve ever been, enough so that they’re selling out and going into reprint! What a Mighty God we serve!

Oh the matchless grace, kindness, power, sovereign authority and loving goodness of our Savior Jesus and Almighty God and Holy Spirit, our triune God! Not infrequently I’m flat on my face in my spirit, and sometimes literally on the floor, in awed amazement at the work God’s entrusted to me! As the worship song goes, “Who am I that the Lord of all the Earth would care to know my name,care to feel my worth? Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star would choose to light the way for this ever-wandering heart? Not because of who I am, but because of WHO YOU Are!”

I’m nobody more gifted or special than you are; I’m just the girl God created me to be. Many of you have giftings and talents and Knowledge and abilities beyond my capacities, and ya know what”? God wants to use YOU, too, just the way HE created you, for his improbably amazing works through ordinary people, and extraordinary God who chooses to love us and live in and through us when we come to him in awareness of our sins and wrongdoing and thinking, in repentance, wanting God’s forgiveness and help, and looking for and receiving his great merciful forgiveness, cleansing, healing, and righteousness through Jesus’ death on the cross for every single soul on Earth who will come to him and his indescribable gift.

These books, found on the Living Grace website, are the hearts, lives, spritis, awe and wonder of people loved by the matchless love of God through Jesus,and I do hope you can find them share them with family and friends, and yes, send me YOUR own stories of God in your life to richly, powerfully bless and encourage other ordinary people, children of a matchless, extraordinarily loving and giving Heavenly Father God! I couldn’t have possibly orchestrated this miracle myself, BUT GOD DID!

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” Romans 11: 13

O the Depth of Love Divine

The United Methodist Hymnal Number 627
Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788 
Music: Carlton R. Young 
Tune: STOOKEY, Meter: 76.76.77.76


1. O the depth of love divine, 
the unfathomable grace! 
Who shall say how bread and wine 
God into us conveys! 
How the bread his flesh imparts, 
how the wine transmits his blood, 
fills his faithful people’s hearts 
with all the life of God! 

2. Let the wisest mortals show 
how we the grace receive; 
feeble elements bestow 
a power not theirs to give. 
Who explains the wondrous way, 
how through these the virtue came? 
These the virtue did convey, 
yet still remain the same. 

3. How can spirits heavenward rise, 
by earthly matter fed, 
drink herewith divine supplies 
and eat immortal bread? 
Ask the Father’s wisdom how: 
Christ who did the means ordain; 
angels round our altars bow 
to search it out, in vain. 

4. Sure and real is the grace, 
the manner be unknown; 
only meet us in thy ways 
and perfect us in one. 
Let us taste the heavenly powers, 
Lord, we ask for nothing more. 
Thine to bless,’ tis only ours 
to wonder and adore. 

On No One’s Coat tails…

“I see a generational line of pastors and teachers in your family line. I feel a sense of culmination to this point in history, that you are facing a giant, a battle, which has been ordained that you should fight ….” She’d never met me before, had no idea who I am, and yet the words Charity spoke were solid, right on.  How could she know there are pastors and preachers in my mother’s mother’s  family line, including my great-Uncle, and many before him?

Even with this heritage,though, I know that I know that I  know that I can’t call myself Christian because any of my ancestors were.Christianity is not an ethnicity, not an inheritance passed down by your parents. Sitting for decades in  church doesn’tmake you Christian any more than sitting weekly in the garage makes you a car or  wading in the ocean till you’re pruny makes you a tuna! Christianity, being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, not just a lip-service pew sitter, comes down to one thing and one thing only: a personal choice to acknowledge that 1)yes, I am a sinner,  2)yes, sin (even one) separates me from relationship with a Holy God, 3) no, I can’t  possibly DO anything to merit  God’s grace 4) Jesus made  the ONe and ONLY fully adequate, fully covering, fully atoning sacrifice of his own life on the cross to pay the  Blood price for my forgiveness required by my sins and 5) I have to REPENT AND CHOOSE and daily choose  to live in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice  for me,  receiving God’s unmerited grace, favor, unfathomable mercy, forgiveness and matchless love.

MY SINS – CHRIST’S DEATH ON THE CROSS. What an almost unimaginably priceless, inconceivably costly gift, freely given by Jesus! And all I have to do is agree with God  that I’m a sinner in desperate need of His grace to receive it  and walk forever, here and in Eternity, in joyful fellowship and relationship with My Righteous Father God Almighty! No, that doesn’ t give me license to keep on willfully sinning. What a slap in the face to Jesus that would  be, to think I could presume upon his boundless,  pure  mercy and live in a way that dishonors, trivializes,  and disgraces God’s costly  gift to me! I receive his unmerited grace, mercy, forgiveness  and love, and out of reverential gratitude and eternal thanks, I choose  to live to please, honor, serve and worship God Almighty, helped daily by God’s Holy Spirit present with me.Do I blow  it sometimes? Yes, and then I’m right back on my knees confessing, repenting, and staying in relationship with God as his chosen daughter. Yes, God chose every single one of us before the foundations of the Earth, that we should come to know his boundless love and live in fellowship with HIM. And yes, God “recklessly” gave us the freedom to accept His Gift or go our own  way, trusting in our own goodness, which God’s Word says is like filthy rags, instead of in the freely given Righteous Blood of Jesus ALONE.

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long. Who do YOU choose  to worship, choose, revere,love,  follow, and trust?  Today I quote an entire chapter. These aren’t just my thoughts, but  thoughts straight from God’s Holy Spirit, yes through a human being, but not humanly reasoned out! We’d think  “religion” is enough. God knows how inadequate anything  but the Blood of Jesus truly is (my bold):

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’[a]

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
    after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds.”[b]

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
    I will remember no more.”[c]

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

A Call to Persevere in Faith

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”[e] 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”[f]

38 And,

“But my righteous[g] one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”[h]

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Hebrews 10 NIV
Who in their  right mind would refuse boundless  love and grace,  freely given, despite their failures, rebellion and weaknesses?
10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep.  John 10: 10-15 NIV
NO  “But’s…” about it: not Great Uncle Cyrus,  not great-great-grandpa whoever, no building, no just  words creed, no mindlessly recited prayers, nothing and NO ONE and NO WAY but Jesus, now and forever, PRICELESS LOVE, amen!

We ARE the Body of Christ

 

Wow,  and again, wow. God proves his Word is true, alive, active, and powerful.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” …. 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. Corinthians 12: 12-21,25-27 ESV

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4: 15-16 ESV

Yesterday morning just before I awoke, God’sHoly Spirit put a face and a name into my consciousness: the face of a Believer I’d met about five years ago, briefly knew, and hadn’t seen or heard from since then. Immediately I woke up and wondered why God brought that face and name into my spirit and mind. My first thought was this person might  need prayer, God’s help in something, or perhaps to know God was thinking about him and wanted him to clearly know and trust  that God was hearing his prayers and moving to answer them.

I’m two cell phones away from the one I had five years ago, and some of my contacts got lost in the transitions,so I had no way to contact this person. I  thought I remembered the church he attended then, looked it up online, and called and left a message with the receptionist, who said she’d pass the message along to the  right person on staff. Still the God encounter stayed fresh in my mind all day, and last night I thought to check an online social site to see if he was there. Sure enough, so  I sent a friend request,which he replied to shortly after.

Gathering my courage – and yes, I  need it at the times I sense  God wants to share something with someone else through me (still saying yay, Jessica, for  that “accidental” meeting in the street, and Cate, for “coincidentally” sitting behind you and Len at church that one Sunday morning, that connected dots to connect me with some amazing  sisters in Christ !) –  I messaged him with  the story about God waking me up  with his face and name in my thoughts. Wow, God! He responded with two issues he’s  been praying about recently. So …. I “coincidentally” me him in 2013-ish, lost contact, and five years later God plants a prayer in my spirit when I  didn’t know for sure that’s why God nudged me???!!!

Holy, Sovereign Lord Jesus, truly YOU  are the head of YOUR BODY the church, and we ARE all members of each other, connected by the same “neurons” and ”central nervous system” and “BLOOD flow.”  Why, oh why, do we ever  focus on our doctrinal differences or ignore God’s call to  minister/deliver/do/send something from our HEAD JESUS to another “cell” in the body? If God puts a brother or sister in Christ (or for Heaven’s true sake, an unbeliever or neighbor or that person in the grocery store or on the walking path) as a blip on your “radar” and into your thoughts, even if his voice is a whisper or a “hmmm….” or a whoosh in a dream, listen, ask our Head/LORD Jesus, and then GO! SPEAK! SHARE! GIVE! DO! DARE TO BELIEVE YOU ARE HEARING GOD’S VOICE, AND YOUR LIFE MATTERS TO THE WELL-BEING OF THE ENTIRE BODY OF JESUS CHRIST!

Other people,  total strangers, have relayed God’s messages to encourage me, and every one of them (Don, Charity, Karen, Joyce, Jasmine, Joy, Jane, Gary, Wei Wei, Clarissa, Gary,  Steve … and unknown intercessors  and the lady I never  met at  Living Water  Church  who sent the index card to me via Benjamin) has blessed me and helped me to stand on the waves with Jesus in the storms in my life and not go under.

So, cells of Christ Jesus’ WHOLE BODY, get over yourself and your uncertainty and “what if I make a fool of myself or they think  I’m weird” insecurity, belong to JESUS THE KING, stay connected, hear him, come alive and BE there for each other through HIM!

The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. Isaiah 50: 4 NASB                                                

and “A disciple of Christ is one who (1) believes his doctrine, (2) rests on his sacrifice,(this does not mean rests from living as/does nothing as an active servant and messenger of Jesus) (3) imbibes his spirit, and (4) imitates his example” (www.biblestudytools.com)3101 mathētḗs (from math-, the “mental effort needed to think something through”) – properly, a learner; a disciple, a follower of Christ who learns the doctrines of Scripture and the lifestyle they require; someone catechized with proper instruction from the Bible with its necessary follow-through (life-applications).     biblehub.com/greek/3101.htm

He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven…. 2: 9 for in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority… 2: 13-14When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Colossians 1: 14-23, 2: 9, 13-14 NASB

So “sent ones, imitators of jesus’ example” are you going?  And Denny,  I’m glad I got  the message for you, and yes, God hears the prayers  of your heart and wants you to know so!

A  big “…BUT…” to pray and move: Oh, God, Lord Jesus, yes I’m just one person, one hash mark on the census chart and anonymous face on the street to other people, BUT YOU ARE LORD AND GOD AND GOOD, ALIVE AND MOVING, CARING, LOVING, AND SPEAKING, and Jesus, YOU ARE MY LORD,  MASTER, TEACHER AND EXAMPLE,  AS WELL AS THE ONE WHO MAKES ME ABLE, so help me get over my own ______________________________________________, and if some people think I’m weird, so be it, for the sake of those WONDERFUL times when you truly do want-long-desire for me  to carry your words, your Word, your love, your truth, your hope, your caring, your “Hey, I do see and hear you” to another person to spread YOUR glory, victories, hope, encouragement, faith and  persevering, pursuing, relentless love to people bobbing in the waves and storms who need what YOU can say and do and share and give through me your hose, your empty bucket, your vessel today, in Jesus’ name, by Your Holy Spriit, give me the guts to do it, Soli  Deo Gloria, amen!

Gethsemane again

This morning as I spread jelly on a bagel, I heard stinging words that were hurled at me over a piece of toast years ago. Rather than launch me into anger,  those words – thank you, Jesus –  brought me back to a truth I realized many years ago, though it isn’t written into the Gospels. I’m not even sure this truth hit me at Easter, but when it  hit me, I fell to the floor in worship.

Think, Christian, of your Redeemer and Savior King kneeling in the dirt beneath the olive trees that night. Think of the lies, challenges to his identity, insults and slurs hurled against him by the “religious” power structure – just listen, and remember:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.But  Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8: 3-11 NIV

The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away. Matthew 16: 1-4 NIV

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19: 3-9

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him.25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your feet.”’[e]

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22: 15-46 NIV

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.  Luke 18: 31-34 NIV

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2: 23-25 NIV

Scripture enough, truth enough to remind us that throughout his ministry, Jesus was continually challenged, “traps”laid out to trip him up by the “religious” leaders who saw him as a  threat to their power base. Baseless,  senseless, unreasonable, self-centered, irrational, and yes, flat-out evil. These are the very ones Jesus came to save, to spill his blood for and redeem IF ONLY they  would recognize their sins and need of his atoning Blood, IF ONLY they would turn in true repentance and reverence to him, turn in true gratitude at least, if not in awe and wonder at such selfless, sacrificial, dauntless, courageous, relentless, passionate  love. What, if not this kind of love, would cause the ONE who knew HE WAS THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB OF GOD to cry out FOR the people he would suffer and die for:

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23: 37-39 NIV

So what thought came to me about  the thoughts of Jesus as he knelt there in Gethsemane? HE SAW YOU! HE SAW ME! HE KNEW OUR LOVE, HEARD OUR PRAYERS, HEARD OUR SONGS OF THANKS AND PRAISE! That’s what helped Jesus stay  the course and walk through the insults, the agony, the weight of OUR sin falling on HIM: that  we would see the truth,  embrace it  with joy and run to HIS forgiving, gracrious, merciful, true love!

And what was his grief? THAT SO MANY  WOULD NEVER SEE, NEVER RECOGNIZE, NEVER KNOW, NEVER UNDERSTAND, NEVER COME TO HIS LOVE FOR THEM! Oh, I feel that  same anguish! 

That’s the sole,  singular reason I write this blog: to tesitfy to GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST JESUS in fervent hope that some  who don’t know HIM may read this, see and  hear Him, and come to HIS passionate love for them. And so that those of us, you who read this and know HIM, may be encouraged to run with the great GOOD NEWS THAT JESUS SAVES! Don’t hide your lamp under a  bushel! Don’t say someone else will do it! Don’t say it isn’t your  calling, because IT IS YOUR CALLING! However you are grace-gifted, it is your calling! MAKE  JESUS KNOWN! MAKE  HIS LOVE AND TRUTH FAMOUS! DON’T STOP TILL THE WHOLE WORLD HEARS – even your neighbor, even your brother-in-law, even your boss, even that person who hurls insults at you.

This is why about 25 of us ordinary  women gather every Monday morning to fervently sing and declare Scripture and passionately

pray for three hours for ALL THE WORLD TO KNOW THE AMAZING GRACE AND  SAVING  LOVE  OF GOD IN JESUS, OUR REDEEMER, SAVIOR, FRIEND, GOD AND KING!  Here’s  an ordinary  guy singing what we ordinary  girls  sing. Oh ordinary person, come to and lift up  your EXTRAORDINARY SAVIOR AND GOD!

Today, pray your own honest “…BUT GOD…” Lord, Jesus, Savior, I confess I’ve held back and not shared your love when I could, and I don’t know  why it scares me, unless I fear the rejection of people more than the approval of God. I’ve kept quiet, BUT NOW AS YOU HELP ME I WILL_______________________________________________________________, and Holy Spirit,  speak LOUD and CLEAR to me, in Jesus’ name, AMEN!

 

I Stand Amazed in the Presence ……

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It was simple. It was clear. It was filled with welcoming, acceptance, warmth and unity: people literally from all over the world meeting together in a park to celebrate the Resurrection and our oneness in the love and family of Christ. So it was no problem for me to invite passers-by to join us. Soon the chairs were  taken, and  folks sat on the stone wall around the meeting area, singing, listening to the singing, and listening to God’s clear invitation into the transformation of new life in Christ. I was  blessed,and I do mean blessed, to be able to talk to some of the people watching and passing by who didn’t know ”us” or why we were there.

One young woman from Asia chatted with me and I shared that we aren’t about religion, about forms anyways and traditions, as much as about the ONE who unites us all, traditional, Charismatic, high liturgy, non-denominational: Jesus, in relationship  with him, receiving God’s boundless love  through Christ. She said she sensed that,sensed a peace and love in me (which is Christ, not me!)  and knew this meeting must be about love. With plenty of food, why shouldn’t I/we invite people just walking by to come sit and eat with us and welcome them into the love we know and feel and walk in: not just  feel-good “limerence” love, but TRANSFORMATIONAL passionate, powerful love strong enough to change us from “world/leaf-eating simply existing caterpillars” into the new creation, significance and God’s purpose filled, Jesus-Holy Spirit-indwelling “butterfly” sons and daughters of God we were created to be?

This is one short post, but I don’t have to expound at length on the truth that Jesus WAS there with us,  yes in and through each ordinary people other, undeniably loving and extending  his hand and hope and value. I do truly pray these people will come again  on Sunday nights where the group  meets in Brian and Jessica’s house, just to sing and fellowship, and feel welcomed. nothing high  falutin’ , just the love of God in Jesus Christ.

10 He (Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1: 10-14 N

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 Living Bible

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4: 10-11 NIV

What more do we need?

The women in this music video aren’t religious fanatics: they’re the ransomed, the redeemed,the sinners saved by grace, transformed to significance, purpose, and passion to see others find this same incalculable love, by unconditional  love through the  righteous Blood of Jesus and the unending love of  our Creator Almighty Father God!

Family, friends, please sing this at my “graduation party”!

The only “…BUT…” to pray today is BUT GOD ALMIGHTY AND JESUS LOVE ME, this I know, ENOUGH TO SUFFER, DIE AND RISE TO LIFE FOR ME!

Stones of Remembrance: I Will Testify To Love

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”… Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day….On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea[b] when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4: 1-7, 9, 19-24 NIV

That’s what this blog is: stones of remembrance I place here to testify to God’s goodness in my life. So today I HAVE TO add this stone to the stack here  that  I truly pray is an altar to the faithfulness of God. About three weeks ago I “accidentally” ended up in a coffee shop about twenty minutes  before my son got there to met me  for breakfast. His friends had suggested the spot, so I drove  downtown on a very low-cloud-covered unusual day for metro Phoenix, guided by my Google maps to take a route I wouldn’thave  chosen,and the first event happened going north on the 101 (instead of west on the  202 as I would have done) : a heart-shaped  hole in the clouds ahead of me. Seriously,  a heart-shaped hole that morphed into an even more  heart-shaped  hole as I watched it above the freeway. Law-abiding driver  that I am, I didn’t grab my phone to take a picture of it to show you here. Yes, God Almighty was speaking love to me!

I got to share HIS love as I waited for Emily,  the barista, to pour my green iced tea, inspired by the Apple photo on the TV on the wall of Hong Kong harbor to ask her,   “Would you like to hear about a miracle that happened  there?” as I pointed to the skyscrapers on the TV. No one else was there, so I had time to share the miracle birth of  my granddaughter and the miracle of me being able to FIND my family when I had  no way to contact them, a miracle God set up nine years earlier (thank you again, Julia, and your mother, too).

Emily knew it was no accident that I was there; I knew it, too,  and that became more apparent over the course of the hour or so we were there. “Coincidentally,” I “happened” to have a photo book of my granddaughter’s first weeks, in the bag of Valentine goodies I had  for my younger son. The book had been my late mother’s copy, and I’ve had it for eight years. Why did I  only think to give it to Ethan that morning? All I can think is that THAT was God’s timing and intention to speak HIS incredible love to Emily (and to me in the process).

Fast forward three weeks. A new song copied on my voice memos on my phone that morning,  I’m at a Mental Health and the Gospel conference in Tempe. Wow! Sunday morning  services should be this transparent, honest, open, shame-free and  healing! YES, every one of us is born a sinner,and YES, JESUS’ sacrifice on the cross is MORE than enough to atone for it all when we run to embrace His  lavish, implausible, incomprehensible, relentless  love and mercy, so we can be FREE to be REAL with each other and find healing. I got a nudge to eat my box lunch in  my car and then head to another East-Valley church, where I knew there was a prayer room. I thought I knew why I was going: to play and sing and fling that song as a worship “rock” in my “sling,”  BUT GOD…… had another purpose.

I’d noticed a young woman come into the sanctuary earlier. Okay, she was there to pray, too;  that was obvious by the  spot where she knelt. I  did my thing, turned to leave,and got another nudge to go over to her and gently share that I wanted to stand with her in agreement for her prayers. I walked over, briefly said I wanted to add my prayers to hers, and she smiled, so I put my hand on her arm and prayed for her, including for the healing I assumed she needed, given the walker parked beside her.  Her eyes widened, and  she asked, “How did you do that? I felt the Holy Spirit!” I quickly assured her that I hadn’t done a THING; who she felt was THE HOLY SPIRIT  just pouring out of one very empty bucket.

Note: she wasn’t a member of that church. Ursula had come to attend a group, but the meeting she was looking for wasn’t happening that day! So…. we both “happened” to be in the same place at the same time…. Oh the depth of the wonder of the glorious mercies of God! We knelt together, shared honestly and  transparently for probably twenty minutes, and LOVE met us there! I practically needed her walker to rise and walk, trembling,  across the sanctuary to go to my car. THIS LOVE! THIS LIVING LOVE! THIS HOLY FIRE OF BURNING DESIRE FOR EVERY ONE OF US TO KNOW HIM!

What does this mean for you? Do you have any idea how very, very, very much God wants to lavish HIS FATHER LOVE on you and in you – just as you are right now, humanity and scars and weaknesses and  mess-ups and all  – because HE IS LOVE?!!! I need to remember this as much as every one of you reading this does: I AM CHERISHED BY ALMIGHTY GOD –  so as I put yet another  stone upon this altar to God’s amazing faithfulness in my life, will you kneel with me, search your heart for a stone you can add, or ask for one to be able to place on your own pile, and worship a FATHOMLESS LOVE who has a name – JESUS – with me?

I may feel unloved, useless, worthless and invalidated when people reject me, BUT GOD SAYS I AM DEEPLY LOVED, and that’s YOUR “…but…” to pray today!

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