Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors ….

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A “chance encounter” at the park…

I  felt so disappointed when I  was forced to go to work full-time and couldn’t continue helping with the Women’s Ministry at my church, something I’d done and  loved for over ten years at that church and ten years at a prior church. I felt like I’d lost a  limb, like a part of my self and heart had been cut out. Sincethen,though, in retrospect and for the past three years in ever-increasing reality, I see that ministry is everywhere a Christian is. Some of my past blog posts have been about God showing up, “connecting the dots”  to bring my life and someone else’s alongside each other for a few minutes, months,or years.

Changing direction one morning, walking downhill instead of uphill, I “coincidentally” met a woman, a pastor’s wife, that was truly a God encounter, and now we’ve been friends and helping with the church they’re planting for the past two years. “Coincidentally” the friend of mine who bought the king-size bed I needed to sell and advertised on Facebook put me in contact with people in the company she works for now, and  I’ve been  able to put stories from my friends in wonderful little devotional gift books. It brings me such joy to share their “God encounter” stories with thousands of people I’ll never meet, bringing them encouragement  that God will show up in their lives, too!

Recently I needed to grab a fast dinner down at a  mall and then run to Sears to look for a tool for my husband, all to “constructively kill time” while I waited to go back to a friend’s house to hear the youth choir she leads. As I turned down the arm of the mall to head for Sears, a young woman at a skin care kiosk called out to ask me if I’d try a sample. I stopped, we began chatting, and that began a half-hour conversation on Yeshua and why  yes, she could still be Jewish (she’s from Israel) and receive him as her Messiah.  I told her I’d bring her acopy of my book, but she was surprised the next day when I did. How will God use our meeting? I have no idea. That’s His business; mine was to stop in the mall and  share Christ’s love and Word. Yes, this is the second time I’ve shared with transplanted Israeli Jews at  kiosks in a mall!

The cashier at the grocery store, passers-by on the walking path, people in parking lots, homeless people in the park …. Truly, ministry is EVERYWHERE, and truly we’re called to be ambassadors for/disciples of Jesus whenever and wherever, however and with whomever the opportunity presents itself – or rather, wherever,whenever, however with whomever God’s Holy Spirit  opens a conversational doorway. Did the tragedy in my life that closed the Women’s Ministry door in my life close the door to my ministry? Not by a  long shot! Just  because you don’t  stand behind a pulpit (showing my age) or stand on the platform on Sunday morning, does that mean YOU aren’t called in ministry? NOT BY A LONG SHOT!  If you love  Jesus and call him your Savior and Lord, YOU ARE CALLED TO MINISTRY in sharing Christ’s  love, his tangtible  practical  help, his  encouragement, even his warning if need be, wherever, whenever, however, and with whomever God’s Spirit brings across your  path.

NO EXCUSES! You are able to tell anyone what Jesus means to you, what God’s done for you, and your testimony may be the open doorway or signpost to their own walk with the Lord Jesus.  Jesus COMMANDS us:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13: 34-35

All the Lord asks is that you show HIS love, however, wherever, whenever, with whomever you can, “And they’ll know we are Christian by our love!” More importantly, they’ll meet  Jesus through our love, through YOUR love demonstrated even the next time you step out your door and walk down the street! And you know what? You’ll  feel God’s affirmation OF and joy IN you when you do!

 
A ”… but…” to pray: Father God, I’ve  never seen myself as a preacher or a missionary, but that doesn’t matter in showing and sharing YOUR love, so give me  the courage and give me the strong nudge, Holy Spirit (because I can be nervous or just plain dense!) to step out in faith and ________________________________ knowing YOU will do andhave the power to do  whatever YOU want to do after I step  up to YOUR opening, in Jesus Name, amen. Holy Spirit, I’m listening ____________________________________________________________

 

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What HE calls me…

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I’ve been called some nasty names behind my back because of my love for Jesus. And no, it’s not “religion” (gag); it’s LOVE in relationship. Well, short and sweet today, here’s what God has told me HE calls me (and HIS Word is true, faithful, loving, Righteous, Holy, alive and active, strong!):

you will be called by a new name
    that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
    a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
No longer will they call you Deserted,
    or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,[a]
    and your land Beulah[b];
for the Lord will take delight in you,
    and your land will be married.
As a young man marries a young woman,
    so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
    so will your God rejoice over you….The Lord has made proclamation
    to the ends of the earth:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your Savior comes!
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.’”
12 They will be called the Holy People,
    the Redeemed of the Lord;
and you will be called Sought After,
    the City No Longer Deserted.   
Isaiah 62: 3-5, 12 NIV

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
    foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
    you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.

8 “For I, the Lord, love justice;    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.In my faithfulness I will reward my people    and make an everlasting covenant with them.9 Their descendants will be known among the nations    and their offspring among the peoples.All who see them will acknowledge    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.” Isaiah 61: 3-9
You are altogether beautiful, my darling;    there is no flaw in you. Song of Songs 4:7 NIV
From the ends of the earth I call to you,    I call as my heart grows faint;    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.3 For you have been my refuge,    a strong tower against the foe.4 I long to dwell in your tent forever    and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.[b]5 For you, God, have heard my vows;    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.Psalm 61: 2-5 NIV
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last-and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. John 15: 12-17 NIV
And these words aren’t just for me; they’re for everyone who calls  Jesus/Yeshua  Savior, Redeemer, Lord, God, King, Lion of Judah, Lamb of God, Friend
Now HIS question to YOU is, are YOU a friend TO Him? Does anybody know it?  Can anybody see it? Have you – here comes the ”scary” challenge to “church people” – TOLD anybody (yes with your words so they don’t  just think you’re a nice person) who HE is to you (including why JESUS IN you MAKES you “nicer” than you could be by yourself!!!!) and who HE could be and wants to be to them? Do other people know you’re free to bless them – even the ones who call you names – because Jesus says you’re HIS, delighted in and chosen?
We love to sing “What a friend we have in Jesus,” so how about loving to sing ”What friend I am to Jesus, all his greatness/goodness/mercy to proclaim! What  privilege to carry out His love to praise His name!”
Just sayin’……. myself included, maybe today we should all get OFF our “…BUT…” ’s  and live like HE matters!

 

Why should I love _____ if they don’t love me?

This question came up in one of the first Divorce Care classes I attended at my church. Ironically, the church name included the words ” of Grace,” and the first thought that came into my mind after I heard that question as I sat in a room filled with broken-hearted Christians was another question, “Why shouldn’t I love, when God could ask that same question of all of us, yet loves us all even when we didn’t and don’t love him?”

Here I go again, writing on the only thing worth writing about: the relentless,  implausible, passionate, selfless, giving love of God, dramatically and emphatically and irrefutably shown by Jesus – Y’shua,Isa, or whatever you call him in your language – living out God’s  love, dying on the Cross for each one of us out of God’s love, and rising again in the eternal life he offers us out of God’s love. If I sound like a broken record, I don’t care. All I truly care about is helping others see, understand,  apprehend and grab onto that love waiting abundantly for them to receive.

As I walked this morning, the email I received from Truth For Life would not let go or let up in my spirit, heart and mind. Here it is, words of Charles H. Spurgeon following words of John the Beloved and Jesus, that clearly express my reasons for writing anything, reasons for acting practically out of Christ’s love for people who couldn’t possibly give me anything in return, my reason for being:

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:17-21 NIV

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.    Matthew 5: 43-48 NIV

Why should I love someone who doesn’t love me? If the words above aren’t enough to answer that question for you, I hope Charles Spurgeon’s may make the answer even clearer:

Passion to Save Souls

Truth For Life

DAILY DEVOTIONAL DECEMBER 7, 2016

I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
1 Corinthians 9:22

“Paul’s great object was not merely to instruct and to improve, but to save. Anything short of this would have disappointed him; he desired to see men renewed in heart, forgiven, sanctified, in fact saved. Have our Christian efforts been aimed at anything below this great objective? Then let us correct our ways, for what good will it be at the last great day to have taught and moralized men if they appear before God unsaved? If through life we have sought inferior objects and forgotten that men needed to be saved, then we will be held accountable.

Paul knew the ruin of man’s natural state and did not try to educate him, but to save him; he saw men sinking to hell and did not talk of refining them, but of saving from the wrath to come. To accomplish their salvation, he gave himself up with untiring zeal to spreading the Gospel, to warning and beseeching men to be reconciled to God. His prayers were persistent and his labors incessant. His consuming passion, his ambition, his calling was to save souls. He became a servant to all men, working for them, feeling a woe within him if he did not preach the Gospel. He laid aside his preferences to prevent prejudice; he submitted his will in things indifferent, and if men would just receive the Gospel, he raised no questions about forms or ceremonies. The Gospel was the one all-important business with him. If he might save some, he would be content. This was the crown for which he extended himself, the sole and sufficient reward of all his labors and self-denials.

Dear reader, have you and I lived to win souls to this extent? Are we possessed with the same all-absorbing desire? If not, why not? Jesus died for sinners. Can we not live for them? Where is our tenderness? Where is our love for Christ, if we do not seek His honor in the salvation of men? Lord Jesus, saturate us through and through with an undying zeal for the souls of men.”

  • Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2003, Good News Publishers and used by Truth For Life with written permission.
When people look at me curiously whenever I affirm that I love one who yes, did hurtful things to me out of that person’s own wounding and sometimes admittedly I let it happen, enabled unknowingly out of my ignorance, all I can say is Jesus loves me unconditionally, or rather I receive his unconditional love when I do the one condition God requires: repent for the sins I know I’ve committed and then receive out of gratitude the gift of forgiveness Jesus’ death and resurrection give me. How can I live out of less than the way my Lord and  Master and the Lover of my soul lived and died and gave his all for me?
I’m not Jesus, and I can’t be the Holy Spirit to anybody, and sometimes the wisest love is tough love that lets natural consequences bring the loved one to repent and seek God. But I can pray for those who don’t love me, who don’t know Jesus, and in fact must live sacrificially, reverentially, gratefully, compassionately, forgivingly, lovingly if I presume to call myself  by the name  of Jesus, Christian.
A”…BUT…” to pray: Oh, Father God, Lord Jesus, I admit its hard for me to love _____________________________________________ and sometimes I’d rather ask for “justice,” but justice is your business, not mine. My one call is to live like Jesus so that other people can see you are real, true, and alive in me, so Lord Jesus, when I have a hard time loving _________________, please help me to ______________________
______________________________ and give me wisdom to know how to show that,  and when and how to employ “tough love”, not bitterness, so that my love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that I may be able to discern what is good and best. And always, Lord, help me to sense, know, believe YOUR love FOR me, so I can act out of a heart filled with YOU. In Jesus’ name, Holy Spirit, I’m listening ______________________________________________img_1267

There Is Only One

 

img_1348My dad made me this silver cross inset with my birthstone – for a reason!

I still vividly remember the day I was checking out at the grocery store and the checker asked me about the cross necklace I was wearing, “Is that just jewelry, or are you really a Christian?”  His piercing questions has stayed with me for nearly four decades, because it’s the question that eventually comes to each of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus: is it just a name we wear, or do we really give the authority and purpose of our life over to the purposes of Jesus, the One Lord and Savior, and God’s Kingdom. If people don’t ask us that question here, God certainly will one day.

I’ve been a daughter, sister, student, wife, mother, teacher, speaker, writer, call center answerer, reservations agent, bank receptionist, Cub Scout Den Leader, and playground argument-controller, but in all these things, the One Thing that is true about me is that I call Jesus, Y’shua, both the Savior and Lord of my life.Whether I’m praying with that checker who asked me his question about my necklace to see if I would actually pray with him,  or mediating the ongoing arguments between Isaac and Sheila on the playground, or speaking to women in classes at church (where it’s easy), or finding recycled junk for Cub Scout crafts, or at the Zoo showing visiting kids from schools how amazingly interwoven and inter-dependent and precisely fit for their niches the world’s creatures are, or encouraging a learning-disabled boy in his conquest of fractions, or tucking my sons into bed at night, or holding my tongue when my husband tries to pick a fight and loving him anyway, the over-arching question to me every minute of every day is, “Is that just a facade you wear, or is Jesus truly Lord of your life, ALL of your life?”

That is, in truth, the one question that will eventually matter to each one of us. I’ve long believed that, if Jesus isn’t everything to me, then he’s nothing at all to me. All of history, all of life comes down to what I/we believe and accept as vital in our own lives  about the Cross of Calvary and the One who was nailed to it to pay for the sins of all mankind.

Who is Jesus?

 “For he (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Jesus),  in whom we have redemption,the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[a] your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” Colossians 1:13-23 NIV

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “So what?” you ask. ” What does that matter?”

“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)  “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By him we also have access by faith into this grace in which we now stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2) “There is no no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

Why does that matter? Why does Jesus matter? I’ve never flat-out stated this in any of my posts before, but there is a literal Hell- existence apart from, without the Presence of God, which will be pure torment –  and there is a literal Heaven – eternally forever vibrantly alive in the glorious, joyfully loving Presence of God. You WILL be in one existence or the other after your body dies, because God made the spirit within you to live forever. You have only two possible destinations, and there is only ONE WAY to be united in love with God forever: through the freely given blood of Jesus poured out paying the penalty for your sin (which “earns” you Hell) on the Cross. So I ask you:

1) Are you a sinner, incapable in and of yourself to be so totally holy and pure and sinless at all times that you DESERVE on your own merits to have a living relationship with the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Transcendent, Immutable, Holy, Pure, Righteous and Just and Merciful Creator of all things?  I KNOW I’m not, and I answered that question Jesus put to me on February 20, 1972: “You know I died for the world, but do you know I died for YOU?” In the decades since I’ve seen even more clearly and potently why I needed and need everyday a Savior whose purity and righteousness and mercy covers every dumb, stupid, selfish,thoughtless or angry thing I have ever or will ever do, think, or  say. THAT alone, Jesus’ Blood on the cross and His resurrection from the grave is THE ONLY WAY to a living, vibrant, everlasting relationship with God Almighty forever, adopted as His child, back in the relationship He intended all of mankind to have with Him when He created life. (and no, the pronoun “he” doesn’t bother me a bit or sound sexist at all, ladies. My earthly father was a “he”  and I have no trouble believing that God created both he-s and she-s out of the totality of His nature)

2) Can you get over yourself enough to accept and gladly cling to the ONE perfect substitutionary sacrifice to cover ALL of your sins? Can you deal with the fact that there is nothing you can do,  absolutely nothing, to “make” yourself acceptable to a purely Holy God? That is SO hard for us “You can do it – pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get it done” Americans, and I’d venture to guess, for every person on the planet who would LIKE to be acceptable completely to God on her or his own merits.

3) Can you believe that yes, God loves you passionately even in your imperfections and sin, loves you enough to offer Himself through Jesus as the ONE open door into relationship and fellowship with Him? Can you humble yourself and swallow your pride enough to gladly receive a freely given gift you couldn’t possible afford to “buy” for yourself?

4) If you responded “yes” to questions 1-3, can you accept that living in relationship with God through Jesus changes, must change if you truly mean to be God’s child, the way you relate to people  and possessions and position in life?

Someone dear to me said to me, “Jesus dying on the cross never meant to me what it means to you, and  I knew it would come back one day to ‘bite me.'” If Jesus is nothing and no one more than merely a historical figure, then that statement might make sense. Everyone agrees that Plato, Socrates, Julius Caesar, and Thomas Edison actually lived, and Plato, and Socrates wrote some interesting philosophy, Julius Caesar left  journals of his conquests, and we can read notes of Edison’s experiments with electricity, which did make a profound change in our daily lives.  But if you only believe that jesus existed as an historical figure and said some things worth considering, then you have no idea who Jesus was and is.

Neither Plato, Socrates, Caesar nor Edison have the power and the authority to  bring you into a genuine, living, joyfully connected in love and life-transforming relationship with the Author and Creator of the universe. Jesus dying on the cross is the One most singularly meaningful, vital, pivotal point of human history, and if it means only something in theory or a fact of history of little personal importance to you, then I wonder if it means anything at all to you, or more pointedly, if Jesus means nothing to you. If you went forward at an altar call at a church or crusade because intellectually it sounded like a good thing to do, something like buying flood insurance if you live near a river, then you entirely missed the most vital, crucial question of your life: do you know that, on your own merits, you can never be “a pretty good person” enough to genuinely know, encounter, be in relationship with THE perfectly holy Good who intentionally made you out of elements common to all matter but with an eternal spirit waiting to know Him as the Father who loves and longs for you?

Peter explained to Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Caesarea who was a God-seeking man, “Jesus…commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:42-44 NIV

And  Paul proclaimed, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4: 12 NIV

What does “saved” mean? It means entering into an eternal relationship with Everlasting God, the verdict on all the dumb, thoughtless, hurtful, selfish, cruel, mindless things you’ve ever done that do keep you apart from the perfectly sinless God rendered “NOT guilty” only, solely, completely because the sinless Jesus paid the penalty for ALL of the sin of ALL mankind, if only we individually recognize our desperate, yes desperate, need and personal inadequacy and receive that astounding free gift of love. Only one God, only one Jesus, his exact representation in a human body, only ONE WAY to relationship with God through Jesus.

Every message I’ve ever spoken, every post and book I’ve ever written, every conversation with someone (strangers included) that culminated in a prayer, every turkey sandwich I’ve taken to the homeless, every child I’ve helped to master fractions or spelling, every preschooler I’ve hugged, every hello and thanks and calling a clerk by name, everything I’ve done somehow reflects, positively  or negatively,  my relationship to Jesus and how I answer the question of his importance to me. Oh, for sure some days I’ve blown it, and blown it big-time; that’s precisely why I NEED Jesus. But my aim, my goal, my fervent hope is that I can be a vessel through whom God can move in love, validation, hope, occasionally confrontation in love,  acceptance, encouragement, and God’s truth lifted, lived, and illuminated in Jesus. Amen,  amen to the One Thing that matters.

Who is Jesus to you? How do you answer that one question? How will you live out your answer if it truly changes everything for you?

everlasting love_t_nv_2

A “…BUT…” to pray (even if you’ve prayed this before): Almighty God, loving

Father, I see how truly impossible it is for me to ever be “good enough” or do enough to earn or merit making my own way into relationship with you, but you created me for that kind of relationship. I see that something is very wrong, out of order with your original design for me even if I’ve “followed the rules” for the most part and even if I’m a “pretty good person.” Even if all that is true of me, I’m not without sin, flaw, beyond angry remarks or hurtful thoughts, like when I _______________________________. BUT when I come to you through Jesus’ death on the cross, you don’t see me through my sin; you see me through Jesus’ love, so God, right now I’m saying ______________________________________________________________ , accepting the gift of Jesus not as my “flood insurance” but as the one who loves me incredibly enough to die for me, the only one who could do this, now not just my salvation but the Lord and King and rightful guide of my life, and I say a glad thank you, God, thank you, Jesus, thank you that you _________________________ so now I know I can ____________________________! In Jesus’ name, hallelujah, and Holy Spirit, speak to me now and be alive within me forever ___________________________________________.

Of rocks and “rolls”…

poppin_fresh_pillsbury_doughboy copyright Pillsbury

Oh, drat, a rock in the toe of my Tevas!   Occupational hazard when you’re walking on a street in the foothills in the desert. But instantly a thought flashed into my consciousness, a thought of all the people of old who walked deliberately with a rock in their shoes where it would hurt the most to show God their penitence and piety, to do penance for their sins. I thought of the people I’ve read and heard about who crawled on their hands and knees to a shrine, arriving bloody to show God how sorry they were for things they’d done. And just as quickly I thought of the scornful taunts Jesus endured, the crown of thorns on his head, 39 lashes of the whip that Jesus took for me, the nails in his wrists and feet, the spear through his heart. Who in the world would I think I was to think anything I could do to cause myself pain could in ANY way add to or make more sufficient what Jesus did for me?

Before I throw any of those stones in my shoe at those people, though, Lord knows, and the Lord does know, how quick I am to self-flagellate with regrets, “if only’s,” all too conscious of the mistakes I’ve made even inadvertently. It’s a twisted form of pride masquerading as humility, and it does God absolutely no honor at all for the ALL-SUFFICIENT sacrifice He made for me through Jesus.

“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.’

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. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:1-10 NIV

https://youtu.be/XgjJ_CR9oEY

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,

nor will he harbor his anger forever;

he does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

 as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

 As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

 for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

 The life of mortals is like grass,

they flourish like a flower of the field; 

the wind blows over it and it is gone,

and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting

the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,

and his righteousness with their children’s children—

with those who keep his covenant

and remember to obey his precepts. Psalm 103: 8-18 NIV

 

 

Jesus told us to go make disciples, not penance:

 

 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 16-20 NIV

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give…. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matthew 10: 6-8, 42 NIV

THAT is my reverence, that is my response, that is my job description now. Soo …I sensibly, gratefully took off my shoe, shook out the pebble, and thought about the responses God does want from me for his freely given totally all-sufficient gift of forgiveness. Stones? I could sweep them from my neighbor’s sidewalk. I could buy some new tennis shoes for a child who has to walk barefoot to school. Crawl on my knees? I could gladly bend down and reach under my car to get the ball the neighbor kids accidentally rolled onto my driveway.

Give a cup of cold water? Here is where the rubber meets the road, the gratitude and freedom sets me truly free. I could take a jug of ice water down to the homeless people in the park, hand out cups of cold water, say, “In Jesus’ name I bring you this water,” as if I, the blessed, was stooping down to them, the oppressed, out of my own magnanimity, and think I’d fulfilled righteousness – but that would be just another disguised stone in my shoe. In truth and honestly, you know what I’ve learned in the last five months? That wouldn’t be the right thing to do at all … unless I sat down with those people, looked them in the eye, asked their names, understood their heartaches and frustrations and their own perhaps deeply held self-condemnation, listened to their stories, ate one of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I’d brought with them as I listened, held their hands and prayed with the ones who wanted prayer.

Now, lest you think I am being “holier than thou” here, let me hasten to admit it took me over 50 years to come to this realization. Yes, I pick up math pretty quickly, but in some of the things of God, I’m a terribly slow learner. Fifty years ago I went with the other junior high and high school girls in our World Friendship Girls group, the junior version of the Women’s Society of Christian Service at our church to the Wesley Center downtown. We’d spent weeks blowing out dozens of eggs, dying the shells, filling them with confetti and gluing crepe paper frills on top to make cascarones for people at the center to give out as prizes in the game booths at their fund-raising fall fair. But did I ever strike up a conversation with any of the girls at the center? Yes we put on an overnight slumber party for the girls, but did I ever get the phone number of a girl so I could talk to her again or take her to the movies with me sometime?

It took me over 50 years to finally get it that God wanted me to sit down with Harlan and Betty in the park, learn who they are, treat them as equals, laugh with them, and pray for them as we ate together. I am a slow learner, but I hope, like “Poppin’ Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy,” or rather like “Little Poppy,” I’m still soft and pliable enough in God’s hands, even at my advanced age, for the Lord to poke me in the belly sometimes. When he does, I hope I can and will giggle, or at least smile, that God is still concerned about me and loves me enough to keep conforming me more to his heart, his compassion, his truth, his passions, what matters to his heart.

I guess I’m not “done” yet ….

https://youtu.be/RnpoD0hlqpQ “The Scandal of Grace”

 

Grace, what have you done?

Murdered for me on that cross

Accused in absence of wrong

My sin washed away in your blood

Too much to make sense of it all

I know that your love breaks my fall

The scandal of grace, you died in my place

So my soul will live

Chorus:

Oh to be like you

(To) Give all I have just to know you

Jesus, there’s no one besides you

Forever the hope in my heart

Death, where is your sting?

Your power is as dead as my sin

The cross has taught me to live

In mercy, my heart now to sing

The day and its trouble shall come

I know that your strength is enough

The scandal of grace, you died in my place

So my soul will live

And it’s all because of you, Jesus

It’s all because of you, Jesus

It’s all because of your love

And my soul will live

Chorus:

Oh to be like you

(To) Give all I have just to know you

Jesus, there’s no one besides you

Forever the hope in my heart

 

Any rocks you need to shake out of your shoe today?

Need a loving poke in your belly? God, our Father God, gladly, kindly will.

 

A “…BUT…”to pray: Oh, Father God, loving Lord, I see now that I’ve held onto shame, guilt, regret over _______________________________ BUT you truly, absolutely, forever removed that from me when Jesus took it upon himself. Jesus, I won’t minimize what you did for me by trying to ”make up for it” by my own actions, so God, I will thankfully, gladly let you _________________________________________________ in me, through me, for me. yes, please poke me in the belly when I need to be more pliable and ____________________________. I know I’m not ”done” yet, so Holy Spirit, I’m listening _______________. In Jesus’ name, make it so, amen!

 

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“Leave your table looking like …”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA(No, I am not scolding him; I’m actually praying a blessing on each child)

Reward, success and insight come in the  strangest places.

In the third week one of my least favorite jobs, I listened to the assistant principal decisively tell the room full of fifth graders that if they didn’t clean up their table and sweep the floor after their lunch period,before the sixth graders came in, they’d be sitting in his office. That went over like the proverbial lead balloon, and I thought, “I’d better find another way to inspire these kids  or it’s  going to be a very, very long semester for us all.” I give the Holy Spirit credit for the  thought that came to me. I began going table to table, cheerfully and positively telling the boys, “You’re young men of valor,courage, integrity, commitment, teamwork, strength, and honor. I know you want to leave your table looking like a man of that true strength was sitting here,” and to the girls, I said, “You’re beautiful young women of honor, virtue, strength, courage, compassion and kindness. I know you want to leave your table looking like that kind of  beautiful woman was sitting here.”

Completely puzzled looks met me, but I simply smiled and moved to the next table,and  repeated the process for every grade level that came into the multi-purpose room for lunch. One eighth-grade  girl had the surprised confidence to respond, “Miss Jackson, nobody ever talks to us like that!”

“Well, I’m going to tell you that until you believe it!” I  replied,  and her face lit up. Encouraged, I repeated the process for the rest of the week, for fun throwing in situations to the boys like, “You’re the pit crew, and you want to take care of  this ‘car’ and leave the pit ready for the next crew, looking like dedicated, capable,  smart, honorable men were just here,”and similar  girl-themed situations for the girls. Table after table, boys raised their hands and asked if they could be pit boss, and girls asked if they could be the head attendant at the coronation.

For three weeks,  grade by grade, twenty-minute lunch period by  period, I repeated character affirmations to the girls and boys, young men and women, from fourth grade up to seniors in high school, and in those three weeks, something wonderful happened: children started asking me for the rags, spray bottles, and brooms.  No threats of detention, no raised voice, no wagging  finger, just an affirming call to be someone higher, greater, and to have the power to lead by a servant-hearted example of true strength and grace. The assistant principal was surprised by how clean the room and tables were, I was enormously glad  that my venture worked, the students  felt good about themselves, and even more importantly and delightfully, I began to develop good relationships  with quite a few of the children.

It occurred to me at the same time that I was also telling myself something important about myself, as well as others: this is precisely what Father God wants for us and from us as His  children: to conduct  ourselves in such a way that  we leave our corners of the world looking like women of inner beauty, valor, value, honor, strength, kindness and compassion were “sitting here,”and men of courage,  strength, integrity, commitment, teamwork,  and honor were “sitting here.”

There was not time and no place in the multi-purpose room for, “It’s not my job. Oooh! That’s yucky! I don’t want to. Somebody else can.” May I propose that there is no time and no place in our  families, friendships, relationships, work associations, neighborhoods, churches, cities or world  for those kinds of self-centered, self-serving, weak, uncaring, and flatly irresponsible attitudes either. God may not call us into his “office” or wag his finger in our  faces, but we can be assured of  this certainty the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman believers:

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Romans 14:10-12 NIV

Sadly I see a spirit of taking offense and entitlement rising in our nation, perverting the idea of individual liberty (which ought to include individual accountability and responsibility) into narcissism. This  attitude is nothing new,and sadly, it isn’t limited to immature children. Jesus dealt with this attitude among his disciples.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

“We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 35-45 NIV

We should take  Jesus’ words very seriously, but can we put the same affirmative spin on this command that I put on cleaning up the lunch tables? Can we live out our lives in the strength, beauty, dignity, honor, commitment, kindness, and courage of  humbled service, knowing how it positively impacts others,  how glad it makes our Father God, and how much  true strength, validation, and outright joy we will find within ourselves when we live our lives with an eager, enthusiastic, “May I please have the rag and spray bottle?” attitude? If it was good enough for Jesus,  theKing of KingsandLord of Lords …. then there is true greatness in  every act of giving, listening, sharing, forgiving, mess-cleaning helping, and walking alongside one another.

And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23: 9-12 NIV

I know the children  at that school with a high academic reputation were and are not  simply brains to be filled, but lives to positively, affirmingly, enthusiastically shape for a lifetime of real valor, courage, strength, kindness, beauty, dignity, commitment, compassion,and serving.

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A “…BUT…” to pray: Father God,I  admit I’ve looked down on people who work at jobs like ______________________ and I’ve drawn back from_______________________ because I thought it would be yucky,time-consuming,  no fun, someone else’s job, beneath, or __________________. I seen I have missed opportunities to rise to true strength and dignity, integrity, honor, courage,inner beauty,commitment, and compassion,  BUT you never tell me it’s too late or I’ve missed and messed up too much. Awaken me to opportunities to live  my life in Christlike ways. Holy Spirit, what could I to today,this week? Where and for whom could I “leave this home,job, relationship, community, world looking like a man/woman of  those  values was ‘sitting here’?” ______________________________________________________________ Please  remind me to pick up the “broom”  or ask for the “spray bottle” where and when I can, and help me remember that bending and sweeping and wiping and serving lifts me up to the greatest I could possibly be within me, not justified by works, but reflecting the character and powerful love of Jesus.

I AmNot the Ocean

surfer-waveSurfing caught on like crazy when I was a teen, and in sand-locked Arizona, how we all looked forward to a summer trip to the California coast. Surfers still wait on beaches all over the world for the “perfect wave” to ride in to shore, proving their prowess over the waves. I remember singing this song when my two sons were in Cub Scouts:

Super California surfer, expert on the ocean.
Even though the most of them
Do not use suntan lotion.
When they hit the waves too hard
They always cause a motion.
Super California surfer, expert on the ocean.

Um didle iddle iddle um diddle lie,
Um didle iddle iddle um diddle lie,

Because I was afraid to surf
When I was just a lad,
My father took my board away
And told me I was bad.
But when I learned the word
That every surfer knows,
The biggest word you ever heard,
And this is how it goes…

Super California surfer, expert on the ocean.
Even though the most of them
Do not use suntan lotion.
When they hit the waves too hard
They always cause a motion.
Super California surfer, expert on the ocean.

But … what would a surfer be without the ocean?

sand-surfing

Woo-hoo! Shoot the, um, dune. Catch a dune  and you’re sitting on top of the … sand.

What possible spiritual meaning can this have?  To my horror, and very likely to all of our collective horror, I’ve watched our culture become more and more narcissistic, everything  drive by MY desires, MY happiness, MY  needs,  MY wants, MY opinion, MY point of view, MY definition of __________, MY success.

Take another look at the  ocean. For  that matter, take a look at  your big toe. Did you create that? Can you in any way cause your big toe to suddenly change shape, size, or by the mere exercise of your will, color your toenail? Did you create hydrogen and oxygen atoms? Did you create a  large spinning rock with molten iron core, cover it with a crust of  decomposed  rocks called soil, scoop out canyons and seabeds? When’s the last time you gave life to a dead ant, much less make an ant and give it life?

If you (and I) can’t create an atom of  anything out of nothing, create by mere though a single grain of sand, give life to a dead ant or make living ant to begin with, then why do you/I/we  feel so powerful when you/I/we ride a board on a wave? Why do you/I/we feel such a need to assert our own desires, “self-actualization,”  MY will MY way in MY time, and reaching for possessions and earthly “happiness” as TRUTH and RIGHTLY DESERVED RIGHT? Who do you/I/we think you/I/we  are/am?

Genesis 1: 1-5 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Genesis 1: 13-14 And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear [a child,] when I am [so] old?’ Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son”

1 Chronicles 29:11 – Thine, O LORD, [is] the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all [that is] in the heaven and in the earth [is thine]; thine [is] the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.

 

Deuteronomy 32:39
‘See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.

Psalm 18:31
For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God,

Psalm 62:11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,

Isaiah 45: 4-6“For the sake of Jacob My servant, And Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor Though you have not known Me. “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other,…

Colossians 1:15-18 (speaking of Jesus)   He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him—all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers—all things were created through him and for him. He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him.  He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead so that he himself may become first in all things.

Ephesians 1: 18-22 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength  he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,  far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

Someone I cared about deeply said to me, “I know God hates _______, BUT I WANT _______” and to my abject horror, that sounded all too much like the words of someone else  who was handsome and gifted and honored by God until he wanted things his way:

How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate:“Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the man who made the world a wilderness,who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?” Isaiah 14: 12-17

I couldn’t do a thing to change that person’s heart or mind. I am NOT the ocean.  I can’t create one  molecule of water. Neither can I save anyone’s soul. What I can do, and what I’m called to do (and so are you if you call Jesus your Lord and Savior)  is  ride  the wave of God’s Presence and His Spirit in my life, speak  what He has spoken to me, share all the  good things God has done for me, and show His love, forgiveness, grace, truth, healing power, compassion, and relentlessly giving heart  to as many people as  I possibly can. That will no doubt irritate the heck out of the one who said, “I will…but I’d rather take  a  spill in the ocean of God’s grace and love than try to surf on the sand in  Hell by pressing, pushing, shoving, and demanding my own  will, way, and  honor.

1 Peter 5: 5-7 And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, so that in due time He may exalt you. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.…

So…Super God, I’m just a  surfer;YOU have made the ocean.
Even though we thump our chests and  make quite a commotion.
Help me ride your waves of love and  show your grace in motion,
Super God,  make me a super servant on your ocean!

 

A “..BUT…” to pray: Oh God, I’ve taken you for granted. I’ve looked and pushed for my own happiness apart from  the joy of simply being yours, I’ve sometimes used others by ________________________________ in order to exalt  or promote myself in ___________________________________. That is wrong, flat-out sin,and I repent of it.  Show me how and where I have offended your sovereignty and will, Father God:_____________________________________________________. Lord Jesus, help me to lift you high above all others in my life, your will above my own. Holy Spirit, open the eyes of my heart and the ears of my spirit to hear  your voice and see your hand in my life. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,(including the enemy of  my soul) for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God;may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.(Psalm 143:8-10)

Speak to me, Holy Spirit; I’m listening____________________________________

 

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