Thursday, December 31, 2009

My New Years Prayer

Oh God in Heaven;

Help your church in America…to wake up,

To struggle,

To strive,

To get down on our knees and seek your face and your will.

To teach your Word, not needing to be taught the basics over and over again.

To reach for the meat of the Word, not a bunch of strained baby food.

To turn off the anesthetizing affect of Television, and to actually meditate on your word and pray.

God please help us;

To actually take up our crosses and suffer for the sake of the Gospel.

Let us develop calluses on our knees and a worn spot on the rug from praying.

Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, let us stop being a “dysfunctional family” and put our eyes on Jesus; only He is the author and perfecter of our faith…There is absolute Truth and it is Jesus…the only way to the Father…not Opra, Obama, or Deepak Chopra.

Join with me this last day of this decade, at the beginning of a new year…not with revelry and idolatry, immorality and drunkenness…but humbly before God with fasting and prayer.

Remember what the Lord said to Solomon; “…I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.”(2 Chronicles 12-15)

Remember also what James wrote; “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:8-10)

Oh God, have mercy on your people; we have not loved you with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We have turned to other gods to worship and serve them. Forgive us Lord, for we repent. Cleanse us from all unrighteousness and create in us a new heart, a heart to strive after you and your will; for our lives, for our neighbors and for our country. Help us to serve you in newness of life. Help us to sacrifice for the sake of building your Kingdom. And in everything Lord, may you alone get the glory and honor, and praise.

In the name of Your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Gratias"






I sit in the house of God;

Awaiting the music in celebration of your birth, Lord Jesus.
Wondering what the angels sounded like.

“When thou didst say, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to Thee, Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek.”

The music begins—rising in praise and then quiets…
All is still.

I wait, I hear my breathing and a rustle of programs,
A cough, a whisper…

Then the small sound, quite, tender;
Capturing my soul.

The blending of voices lifting to the heavens;
Soaring-
“Gloria in excelsis Deo…Et en terra pax hominibus.”

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,
And the government will be upon his shoulders.”

Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
Miserere nobis.

“Joy to the world the Lord has come!”
We all sing joyously,
The woman next to me, with rejoicing,
Wraps her arms around me, in an embrace saying “Merry Christmas.”

And the only sound is a baby crying.

Gratias

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Star

A couple of weeks ago I attended a showing of a DVD at the church I attend. It was about the Star of Bethlehem and the actual facts about it. The gentleman running the show is a PhD in information technology and has personally "back checked" the information presented in the program. His word is "It is accurate."

As we approach Christmas and hear claims again about the pagan roots of the dates we celebrate, I urge you to check out the web site or better yet, get a copy of this remarkable DVD. It will settle once and for all the questions. And for those drawn to Natural Theology, who are looking for a "bridge" into God's word and the revelation of our Lord, Jesus Christ; I believe that this is it.

The DVD is "The Star of Bethlehem" and is produced by Stephen McEveety of "Passion of the Christ" fame.

The web site is www.bethlehemstar.net

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"The Real Thing?"

In our quest in the church in America for the next greatest experience…the best worship and non-confrontational preaching; keep the message simple to draw in the most new members and be “relevant”; I challenge you to carefully read this article on the “…Real Thing…” desired by most European Christians.
Definitely food for thought.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wisdom or Foolishness?

Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?...We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! (1 Corinthians 4:6-7, 10 NIV emphasis added)

(seems I cannot add my foot note here, so I will use a preface instead...I am making a presupposition that I am speaking to Evangelical Christians from within the reformed traditions--and within what is generally understood as "Orthodoxy"--and I know even there we can get pretty flakey)

You know that as we faithfully follow our Lord Jesus Christ, we will find that in study of the Word of God our minds will become “renewed” ( see Romans 12:2). We will have the Spirit of God reveal knowledge to us. But here is the tricky part—as we move in our circles in the kingdom of God on earth—where the vast majority (sad to say) do not read their Bibles—you will have, possibly, deeper insight into scripture than most Christians.

The immediate prideful temptation is to start thinking you are “something”, because the “special” knowledge that God is giving you.

This is a trap—and sad to say, I see some “teachers” of the Word of God, Christian Philosophy and Theology--falling into it. I see in reading some books the taint of arrogance. I understand if you are presenting a scholarly paper/book where your research has led you to a new conclusion or an interesting and important insight into the bible, you are excited to share your point of view—but not to the exclusion of all others . When I read commentaries, text books, or scholarly paper and see the attitude that, “My answer is the only answer—all others are wrong” or the other is “Only my university/seminary is teaching the classed that you need”; this is the most deadly trap of all. This prevents any growth, development or discussion—and causes stagnation. Then, as entertaining as debate can be, it quickly can slide down hill into name calling (heretic seems to be the most favorite choice). See this great blog by C. Michael Patton on “old school” advice on how dissention within the body of Christ should be handled.

This is the same trap that is going on right now in the scientific community over Intelligent Design. Because of the lack of real discussion, the actual scientific method is stymied, and possibly the next great break-through in medicine could be blocked—all because of a lack of discussion and openness to new ideas.

As all of us work hard to study, and develop our knowledge; we must always remember where all this ability between our ears comes from! IT IS A GIFT FROM GOD. If we give in to prideful arrogance, we become the stumbling blocks to others—ether by people seeking more knowledge and giving up, either by thinking they will never understand—or people who will put those of us with this knowledge on a “pedestal” that ONLY God should be on. You need to remember that it doesn’t matter how many books you have written, or debates won, papers peer reviewed, what university you teach at, how big your church is…Remember this…We all put our pants on one leg at a time, and we are all nothing but dust in the end…we will be gone and even the ground will not remember us. We are here to build up the Kingdom of God—not our own kingdoms.

If we are in any teaching position—we need to encourage and build up the confidence of our students with the express purpose that they can develop the wisdom from God for themselves through the guiding of the Holy Spirit.

We need to teach the sheep to become shepherds!

Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given me I say to every on of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Friday, November 27, 2009

Standing Firm

Ephesians 6:13-18 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm. Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which your will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one, and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God , with all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit; and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petitions for all the saints.


There comes a place in all our walks with God that we reach a spiritual impasse with people. We all realize that we are called to a difficult path, narrow and hard—but with the clear goal ahead of us—the heavenly Kingdom. But we travel a hard road; it is as I often say “a tough row to hoe.” Taking up our crosses daily to follow Jesus is difficult and demanding. In our country rarely are we as Christians the victims of persecution of any kind. But there are a few of us that do experience it. This becomes the challenge; to “love your neighbor” with out being a victim. When you have been the victim of mockery for your faith, put down for being “narrow minded” and publicly belittled, what do you do? When you truly have done all to stand, what do you do?

First: you truly forgive—as an act of your will—with this in mind; the person attacking you is not in control of themselves, they are run by the enemy. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 is written “…the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving…” So what you are being attacked by is the enemy running the person. Remember what Jesus said “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do”, these pitiful persons truly do not know what they are doing.

Second: Don’t take matters into your own hands! Trust God. Just be firm and offer a service if you can to your enemy as written in Romans 12:14 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not.” Try to understand what their point of view is, and in that way you might be able to win them to your side, or at least, reach some common ground.

Finally, when attacked for your beliefs—you stand. You learn your apologetics, and you proclaim the truth of the Gospel. But understand before this you “…pray at all times…” and be ready! At this point you have to remember that “greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world.” When you have done everything and you stand firm in your faith using the Word of God, proclaiming the gospel, you leave the results up to God.

Now in my life; God has up to now brought me successfully through points one and two—He has given me victory in situations without my actually having to “proclaim the gospel” part. Just my actions were enough. All that is going to change soon; I don’t know when, but in God’s timing. I will prepare—fast and pray—but I have reached the point where I MUST stand firm and proclaim the Word of God, for it is the most loving, obedient, and merciful thing for me to do. But in doing this my heart must be true to God, not to wash my hands of the situation in a “well, that’s over with, I gave it my best shot” and feel justified; but humbly seek God’s will in this—to truly love this person as God does—and wants them to receive the truth, and repent. This dose not involve “warm fuzzy” feelings—quite the opposite—this is serving God.

“And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.” [Amen] Ephesians 6:19

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Simplicity

“Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free…”


At my break last night I had another co-worker come to me and say, “Lisa, my hands hurt, could you give me a massage?” As I worked the knots out of her hand, another woman said “Lisa, do my hand too”…so after work, I sat in the cafeteria and massaged her arms and wrists and hands. I asked her if she could cut down on the overtime to lessen her pain. She told me her husband is not able to work right now, so she had to work the over time to make the house payments. I asked, “Is it a big house?” Her response was “Oh yes!” I said “well then, get a smaller house.” She looked at me with confusion, that I would even suggest that.

I work with a lot of immigrants, and I see how quickly they internalize the idea of the “American Dream”. As our fore-fathers longed for and created a great land of freedom with the vision that one could escape the oppression of kings and serfdom to have a life of freedom and a little land, worship God and live simply; with thankfulness to God for all he provides. But look how this has changed in America today. The definition of the “American Dream” means to make millions anyway you can, have an enviable house, drive a Lexus, have your kids wearing FUBU and Nike (or what ever the brand) and to not have those kids work…just let them receive what you give them. We are taught the greatness of having a super credit rating, that being in debt is a blessing, and we should work harder to have the best toys on the block.

I am surrounded by people who want the finer things in life…at the cost of their own health. They have made themselves slaves. If I ask any of my co-workers, “do you suffer from pain?” the answer will uniformly be “Yes”.

Now, understand that as I write this—even my arms are stiff, and the muscles are tight. But I know that by Monday my arms won’t hurt and I will be rested and ready for another week. I know that by the end of next week, my wrists will be sore…doing assembly line work is hard on the body; that simply is the nature of the job.

But when we make our lusts for “finer” things our goal in life, truly it will destroy us.

24"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. 25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6:24-32)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cheap Grace

Here is a link to an article from American Vision, by Eric Rauch. Read through it and I think you will get the point.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shepherd or Farmer

John 10:11-15 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”


Let’s talk about sheep for a minute. If you haven’t spent any time around farm animals let me explain a few things about sheep. Other than turkeys, sheep hands-down are one of the most stupid creatures in God’s creation. But one thing that they can be trained and habituated to do is to follow the voice of the shepherd.

A “old school” shepherd spends all his time with his charges—he names them, talks to them, and knows them as individuals; even tells them apart when anyone else would see no difference. And if anyone else tries to talk to or lead the sheep, the sheep will scatter in a panic. Only with the familiar voice of their shepherd will they calmly follow him in trust to the good places to graze. Sheep have a total trust and dependence on the shepherd. Those sheep know that safety and security, food and drink, comes through the protection and leading of their shepherd.

Sheep nowadays are put in fenced in pastures made of a wire fence called “box-wire”. But the farmers know that the fencing cannot have “squares” bigger than a sheep’s head—if a sheep can get his head through the squares in the fence, he will squeeze his whole body through and escape. Farmers are all about profit margins like everyone else; so they just number the animals—sheep are a commodity after all—and if a few are lost to predators you just write it off.


So my point here, if you see where I am going with this; ask yourself who is the “good shepherd”?


And who is the “farmer”?


Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. (Psalm 95:6-7)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Contentment

Today I spent some time thinking on the subject of contentment. In my own life, I seem to have come to a place in my walk with God where I find that I am in a place of great contentment. So I tried to figure out what has made such a difference. I am not saying I am some great example of the virtues, for I am not. I don’t hold some extraordinary powers of faith. Yes, God has brought me through some terrible trials, and I have seen the growth after the fact. In doing a “survey” of my life right now, I see so clearly that my needs are met…with out any doubt. I have a roof over my head, a very comfy bed, nice cloths, a full refrigerator, a paid for car, a good job, I’m doing well in school, I now have some really interesting friends…and no TV hookup! I am not enslaved by cable, and the hundreds of advertisements telling me of things I simply cannot live without—every 5 minutes. I am not bombarded with a miasma of commercials and sound bites subtly saying I simply cannot compete with the “Jones” with out the latest and greatest way to empty my wallet. I don’t worry about depression, I don’t worry about wearing the latest’s designer label clothes, or the right deodorant/perfume, nor worry that I can’t catch the “right” man; and no one is implying that there is anything wrong with curling up with a good book! (Yes, Amazon.com loves me!) My life is more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined—all without having Television.
Just so you know, I have now gone nearly two years cable free, and my personal library continues to grow, and I have never been more prolific as a painter. It is truly amazing how much you can accomplish with out extraneous “noise” in your life.

Why not join me?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What's in a Name?

A question to think about is what’s in a name really? Human beings are famous for labeling one another. I mean just think how we classify one another everyday: over-achiever, under-achiever, blue-collar, white-collar, dreamer, type A personality, studious, go-getter…and I could go on...you get the idea.

But how does God label us?


Abraham’s offspring (Galatians 3:29)

A royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9)

Children of God (Romans 8:16)

Ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20)

All of these labels are magnificent and praise worthy. These should make us feel thankful to our Heavenly Father that he should love us so much that he would call us by these wonderful names.

Yet there is one label that we are not given but we must choose for ourselves:

Slave

“…You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)


So what name do you want?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Old Rugged Cross

This from the book Christ and the Fine Arts by Cynthia Pearl Maus (1938) New York, NY: Harper & Brothers Publishers.


The Old Rugged Cross


Among the great hymns of the Church that center in the theme of the cross, none, perhaps, has had more widespread popularity than “The Old Rugged Cross.” Which was written by the Reverend George Bennard, and for which copyright was secured in 1913…It portrays the story of what happened on the cross—the shedding of the blood of God’s only begotten Son for the sins of the world—as He hung suspended there. For crucifixion, in the time of Jesus, was the most cruel an disgraceful method of killing that human skill knew how to devise, and the cross itself associated with all that was vile and unholy. Today the cross is cherished wherever Christianity has gone, because it became through suffering of the sinless son of God the emblem of humanity’s redemption from sin and degradation.


On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame,
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Chorus

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.


Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me,
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above,
To bear it to dark Calvary.

Chorus

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see
For ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

Chorus

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share

(pp 415-417)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sound Bites and Pascal

This was sent to me today and I feel led to share it:


From a daily devotional called Sound Bites


"I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
Therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5-6 NRSV)

Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing nether God nor our own sinfulness makes for false peace and the absence of truth. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance, because He shows us both God and our own wretchedness and He brings true peace.

Adapted from Blaise Pascal

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Which Will You Choose?

What is the definition love?

If we define love the way the world does, it could be summed up by the visual of a pink chenille robe and warm slippers; add to that a box of the finest chocolates and of course a dozen red roses. To be fully indulged in all you do in life…that is true love.

What is God’s definition of love?

A splintered, blood and tissue covered Roman cross; a woven circlet of thorn-bush branches and three large iron spikes. To give up your life to set others free…that is true love.

So what definition of love will you choose?

“…If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me; for whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luke 9:23-25)

“Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Radical Trust

In going through some of the toughest trials I have ever encountered in the last several weeks, I have come to the conclusion that to “radically” trust God is one of the hardest things I have ever encountered. I have faced both the spiritual battles and the physical battles…my sanity and my health. How much am I really able to submit to God’s will for my life. And the answer I have decided on was to truly trust God; no matter what.

I decided that even if I was to be poured out like a “drink offering”, another words, to be wasted and never used to build the kingdom of God, I will submit to God’s will for my life, and trust him. So I say like Paul “The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom, to him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 18)

You know that the prophet Jeremiah was thrown in a cistern, beaten, and ultimately dragged off to Egypt with the escapees to die where God did not want them to go. So in knowing that history, what did Jeremiah ultimately achieve? Prophecy? Some great inspirational scripture? Or is the actual answer to be known at some time in Glory?

It does not matter.

Never the less, not my will, but Thy will be done.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jesus Cannot Be "Labelled"

This essay is from the book Ring of Truth (1967) by J.B. Phillips.

Jesus cannot be “labelled.” Yet woe betide any man who tries to fit this man into any political or humanitarian slot! Those pacifists who would claim him as their champion would do well to remember that it was a soldier, a Roman commissioned officer, who most evoked the admiration of Jesus. The parable of the talents is enough to show that Jesus recognized the fundamental inequality of men in ability and possessions. The stories of Jesus abound in such inequalities, in the difference between master and man, hard working and lazy, prudent and improvident. It is true that he denounced hypocrisy, exploitation, and lack of compassion. But he made no attempt, as probably Judas Iscariot hoped, to make himself a national champion. The “other-worldly” aspect of his teaching cannot be fairly ignored. “My kingdom,” he insisted, “is not of this world.” Yet it had already “come upon men unawares” and was even then “among” or “within” them. The way men treated one another in this world was of paramount importance, but Jesus recognized the obvious unfairness and injustice in the here-and-now. In the end, justice would be done and be seen to be done, but not in this time-and-space world. Jesus was no sentimental “do-gooder,” and he spoke quite unequivocally about rewards and punishments “in the world to come.” He declared that a man who harmed one of his “little ones” would be better off dead. Some of the most terrifying words ever written in the New Testament are put into the mouth of Jesus. Yet they are not threats or menaces but warnings given in deadly earnest by the incarnation of unsentimental love.

What I am concerned with here is not to write a new life of Jesus, but to set down my witness to the continued shocks which his words and deeds gave me as I approached the Gospels uninsulated by the familiar cover of beautiful language. The figure who emerged is quite unlike the Jesus of conventional piety, and even more unlike that imagined hero whom members of various causes claim as their champion. What we are so often confronted with today is a “processed” Jesus. Every element that we feel is not consonant with our “image” of him is removed, and the result is more insipid and unsatisfying than the worst of processed food.(pp 90-92)

So my personal parting shot here is to ask as in the song by Todd Agnew, “What Jesus do you serve?”

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Ninety and Nine


















There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold,
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold;
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care,
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer “This of mine
has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep
I go to the desert to find My sheep,
I go the desert to find My sheep.”

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Or how dark was the night that
The Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry—
Sick and helpless, and ready to die,
Sick and helpless, and ready to die.

“Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way
That mark out the mountain’s track?”
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.
“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They are pierced tonight by many a thorn,
They are pierced tonight by many a thorn.”

But all through the mountains, thunder riv’n.
And up from the rocky steep,
There rose a cry to the gate of heav’n,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep.”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!”

--Elisabeth C. Clephane

From the anthology
Christ and the Fine Arts (1959)
Cynthia Pearl Maus

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Niceness or Love?

Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

You know, it amazes me how as Christians we can be so nice to absolute strangers. We strive to let our light shine to all men—we work to be identified as believers by our “niceness” quotient. By golly we really know how to be pleasant and kind to shop clerks, business contacts, people we pass on the sidewalk—you name it; we’ve got the lock on kindness to strangers and being that bright “light”…Yep—we could be made of spun sugar!

But what about our own family?

Here I am talking about our spiritual family—the body of Christ.
We are so sure of the need to tell our brothers and sisters how things are and should be, no mater how harsh—after all, don’t they have to love us unconditionally? I can be rude to my family…because they are already saved; does it matter what I say to my family in Christ? I mean, God is in control anyway—He’ll fix it, won’t He?

But what does Jesus say? In John 13:34-35 Jesus says “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sounds more like we have to love our own “family” first and then all men (the rest of the world) will know we are His disciples!

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all thing, endures all things. Love never fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Milk or Meat?

Hebrews 5:12 "For though by this this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food."

You know it is interesting that some very smart people who are wise to the scams out in the world(e.g. the phone calls trying to sell you something,Internet scams to get into your bank account,or to get your social security card number) can sit in a pew or chair on Sunday morning and blindly listen to what is being taught and never question it. People seem to have the idea that faith in God has to be a "blind" faith and never questioned. The same people who will look for every dotted "i" or crossed "t" in a contract or warranty wait for the "Man of God" to feed them their weekly dose of the Bible, and never read it themselves nor do they check to see if what they were told is even correct. During the sermon, do we even ask if what we are being taught equates to what we know of the nature of God? Or do we even know anything about the nature of God?

God said "'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,'declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying know the Lord, for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them'..."

But instead, after the coming of the New Covenant with the shed blood of Jesus our Lord and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit...two thousand years later, we as a body are still wanting "milk". We want our scripture spoon fed to us, a little at a time. Is it any wonder that some of these "off the wall" off-shoot religions get started!

You know, even God says in his word "...Test me now in this..." and in another place "...taste and see..." and again referring to God, "His invisible attributes...have been clearly seen..." Now, do you even know if I am using these verses in the proper context? Do you even know where these verses are? Do you even care?

In this posting, the only verse I referenced was the opening verse. I challenge you to look up the verse referenced in this post. I am not asking for a response, but will you check? When you attend what ever service you attend this weekend...will you check the verses for yourself and see if they are used in context.

Please, don't just make a "blind" commitment to your faith; know why you believe.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Road Maps

John 14:26 “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

I was heading down to a new friend’s house a couple of weeks ago and so I just went to Yahoo maps and printed off a map of her neighborhood, thinking, “No problem, I can find this.” After five miles out of my way, and two consecutive wrong turns, I found her house…then upon leaving and trying to head for home, made a couple more “long-cuts” to get back to the highway.

Last week having to deliver dinner to a new, but home bound member of my church…I again looked up the address on Yahoo maps; but this time I requested step-by-step directions. Wow, what a difference; it was so easy, I didn’t make any wrong turns, and I found the apartment with out any problems. As I was contemplating this, I said; “ That was so easy! I didn’t get lost at all…what a breeze!”

Then it occurred to me…you know we all have a road map for life; and it is called the Bible. And with that “map” we can all get to were we need to be…but if we had step-by-step directions…some one to tell us which highway to turn on or remind us that up at this intersection we need to take a right; that would make the whole journey a joy, not a trial and struggle.

As Christians we have our own step-by-step directions; the Holy Spirit, who will lead us into all truth. In Isaiah 30:21 it is written, ”Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying ‘This is the way; walk in it’”

With the map for our lives, the Bible; we need specific direction and orientations that are just for us…because each of us are starting at a different point in our unique journeys in life; but we are all headed to the same destination. When we meditate and study the Word of God, it truly is “…a Lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). So we will have a clear, and lighted path and directions to where we are headed.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Traditions

We have many traditions in this country—each of the ethnic groups that make up this wonderful country we call America bring a wealth of diversity that makes up the great quilt that we have stitched together. This is the very “fiber” (sorry!) that makes this country such a great land.

And I believe that the most important and sought after tradition within this land we call the United States of America is the protected right of equality.

As written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776 in our Declaration of Independence are these words:

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…”

Now we all agree that our founding fathers based our country's ideals, laws, and form of government on a Judeo-Christian world view.

But according to the traditions of 1776, who were created “equal”?

The answer is literate, well educated, white men.

Now—as we live in the beginning of the 21st century—how do we now interpret the words written in 1776?

Every human being on this earth is created equal in the eyes of God.

So our “traditions” have changed and not the words of the Declaration of Independence.

But we now have a more complete understanding of the intent of the wording used by Thomas Jefferson.

Now, let us shift to the Bible…

If Jesus set us free from the curse of the law—why do we insist with in the body of Christ to continue with “dead” traditions? Why are we not walking in the fullness of Galatians 3:28 which says:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Jesus when speaking to the Pharisees and scribes had this to say:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: Justice and mercy and faithfulness but these are the things you should have done with out neglected the other. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24)

Are we holding to the traditions or do we look to the nature of God which is:

“…Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

So in the body of Christ, are we going to continue what we think is “traditional” within the church, or will we bravely walk in the love of Christ?

Remember the last line of our Pledge of Allegiance states:

“…WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.”

And Jesus said “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine: and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:31-32, 36)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What Brings an Artist the Most Joy?


What brings an artist the most joy?

To have a vision of a complete work of art,
and to savor the process
of completing the vision,
and then sharing the vision
with others.

In the creation of the universe
God is the Master Artist;
He had a vision-

He said "Let there be Light"

In the full spectrum. (visible and invisible)

A wondrous universe;

in all its form, color
and variety,

The utter extravagance of it all.

I believe He could have created everything in an instant;
but because He Loves the Artistic process of creating—

Molding

Shaping

Crafting

Painting

He is savoring the process

knowing that it IS good.

He started it,
He is guiding it,
He is a part of it.

God can see the completed Vision.

So with Love and great Joy,
He is trying to share
the completed Vision
with us,
His most wonderful creation!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mosaics

In my meditation with the Lord this morning, I began to see my self-- you know my real self. I was horrified. All I could see was a network of horrendous scars, some shinny white and ropey, some jagged and purplish red…but hundreds and hundreds of them. I cried out, “Lord, I am so hideous, I am so ugly.” “This is awful, Lord I can’t stand it--please help me--take them away.” “Oh Jesus help.”

Then Jesus said, “No, Lisa you are beautiful--you need those scars.” And He asked me, “How do you make a mosaic?”

“Well,” I said, “you take hundreds of glass pieces and place them in a way that it creates a picture.”

“And what holds them together?”

“Grout” I said.

Then the Lord said to me “So I took all the shattered pieces of your life, and used the scars to hold them together, so step back and look again; do you see the picture or the grout lines?”

Truthfully, I don’t yet see the “picture” yet…but in time I believe I will.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Electric Chimes or Rams' Horns

From the book Grace Confounding; a poem by Amos Niven Wilder (1972)

The following advertisement in support of church attendance was published in Reader’s Digest, vol.77, no. 459 (July 1960)

“Sure you vote, pay taxes, work hard, make money, and have made out a will. But you must do something more to become a first-class citizen. You must experience the benefits that come from going to church regularly. Your children will respect you more. Your neighbor will look up not just across to you. Your community will recognize you as a participant, not just a passer-by. Your country will be stronger, for you will enforce that spiritual fabric so essential to its continuing welfare. But the person who will benefit most is you. You will get the stimulation and reward of understanding the brotherhood of man, this dignity that the individual can derive from worship. You will equip yourself to cope with all the complications that eternally face us all. You will make the other167 hours each week truly worth living. See for yourself—next Sunday.”


Yes, go to church next Sunday,
take time out on Vanity Fair,
enter into the hurricane eye
while the winds blow outside.
But don’t leave the world behind you,
take it in with you:
after all, it was here with God’s word
that it was all set in motion.

“Take your family to church next Sunday.”
(Compel them to come in” Luke 14:23)
No, better just tell them where you are going,
remember that generation gap.
Join the parade on Fifth Avenue or Main Street.
Rather, join the ancient procession through the
wilderness,
the trek as old as Abraham.
Fall in with the tribes that moved through the desert
and knew the scorpions and the manna.
Elbow the shadows in the catacombs
and those who gathered in the Cevennes,
The proscribed and the harried of all lands,
With the stigma of the Cross or the star of David,
or the armband of the resistance.
Company with the pilgrims of all times.
Hear the sound not of the new electric chimes
But of the ancient rams’ horns.

Yes, “go to church on Sunday,”
But why not also on some other day when there is
no one there?
Or on some week night when there is a church
meeting:
perhaps you can help change the hymn book
or get rid of that chromo by Hofmann,
or help vote the church into a merger and out of
existence into a larger life.
And don’t think too much of that dignity
or sink too far into the foam-rubber seats or the organ tremolo.

Go up to Zion: hear the angels sing and look through
the trapdoor into Abaddon.
Go through the door not only with the Smiths
and the Jones,
with the garage man and the banker,
but with David and Isaiah, Peter and Thomas,
Mary and Martha.
Kneel not only with your neighbors, benign
or distracted,
but with Hagar and Job, Anna and Stephen;
yes, with Jephthah’s daughter, immolated for a vow
(she is still with us),
and with Rizpah whose sons were impaled as an
expiation (she may be sitting next to you),
with the Magdalen and Ananias and Judas.

Look on the Seven Lamps of the Apocalypse
and consider the guttering torches of time.
See where the flickering candle flares and drips,
Fly the immense eclipse.
Go not to be tranquillized
but to be exorcised.

Yes, go to church and to Mt. Zion,
To the assembly of the first-born
And in innumerable company of angles,
keeping holiday with songs—but with fear
and trembling.
Draw near to the holy mountain
as to Sinai enveloped in smoke
with its tremors and flowing lava.
Behind the familiar eleven o’clock exercises
are ancient congregations and glories,
voices and paeans and chariots of fire,
And a great white throne.

To draw near is to take your life in your hand.
Going to church is like approaching an open volcano
where the world is molten
and hearts are sifted.
The altar is like a third rail that spatter sparks,
the sanctuary is like the chamber next the
atomic oven:
there are invisible rays and you leave your
watch outside.

Go, therefore, not to be tranquillized
but to be exorcised.
Follow the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud
with exultation and abandon,
with fear and trembling,
for the zeal of the Lord of Hosts
whether in the streets or the council chamber,
whether in the school or the sanctuary
waits not on the circumspect
and the flames of love
both bless and consume.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Heart of Love


Lord God in heaven;


-You have opened my eyes,

To see the glory of your creation.


-You have given me ears,

To hear Your praises sung all around me.


-You have set me free,

To live life for all it’s worth.


Please give me the understanding of your heart of love,

So I can put it all together

And give it all back to you.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"...These brothers of Mine..."

Matthew25:31-40 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory and all the angels with Him then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and he will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. The King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and cloth You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

I would like to write about a subject that is for me a passion. That is ministering to people who are marginalized by today’s society. These are human being made in the imago Dei, the image of God; yet are considered non-productive or even burdens on society. Mainly I am referring to the elderly, the chronically ill and the disabled.

In our franticly paced lives, we have to feel productive at all times. If we aren’t multi-tasking we are not managing our time effectively. We are always responsibly paying our bills, taxes and saving for kid’s college tuition and our own retirement. Yep, we’ve got things well in control. We drive the kids to school or soccer practice, and we turn a blind eye to the “bum” (excuse me “homeless person”) on the corner with a sign. We go to church on Sunday and wonder in passing where the “old couple” who sit in the back are; but the thought passes. We see a news program about people suffering from “chronic fatigue syndrome” and think, “oh, another ‘designer disease’, it’s all in their heads”.

Why should we be concerned for these people? After all, isn’t that what the government is for? And really, I don’t want to pay anymore taxes to support people who are nothing more that burdens on society, they should be doing something productive. After all, isn’t it written “those who don’t work don’t eat”? I mean really, we have Medicaid and disability insurance for people like that, don’t we?

Now, I am making an assumption who my “audience” is. So I am speaking to Christians. Right; now as my friend and pastor says “Ok, do you have your feet on the floor?” What does Jesus teach concerning care of the “least of these”? And truly what does it mean to care? Do you think we always have to “throw money” at a problem. No, sports fans, God is asking for something much more important…You! Your time…the most valuable thing God gives you. An investment of yourself! Can you not find 1 or 2 hours a week to visit someone in a nursing home? And in this era of instant messaging, do you still know how to write a letter? Why not start a correspondence with someone house bound? Could you take the time to send a note? What about volunteering at the local homeless shelter once a week?

Honey, if you say you are a Christian and you are proud of the fact that you tithe and attend regularly and read a little Bible and don’t cuss and are pleasant and kind to people just like you (see Matthew 5:46)…even giving an encouraging Bible verse to co-workers who are having a tough day…What do you think will happen when you face Jesus in heaven? Do you realize that even Judas Iscariot cast out demons?

Matthew 7:21-23 “ Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you…’”

So what are you going to do?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Weeding the Garden



Isaiah 51:3 Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and sound of a melody.

I am so excited! I now have my very own ministry! Yep, I now minister to the rose garden at my church. I am including a before picture so you get the idea. The gardens around the church have not been really cared for in well over three years (and frankly I think longer than that), but although it is going to be a ton of work; I am so glad to have the chance to do this. And I had forgotten how much I enjoy gardening and the outdoor physical work…I grew up on a small farm and did spend years working on horse farms…so I do know a little about caring for gardens.

But as I got started with the first section of weeding and pruning, I realized that this is why I need to be patient in my own life and with the desire I have to serve God, I am not ready. Like this garden, I have been un-weeded and un-pruned for over 12 years. I had a few straggly blooms bravely trying to come out, but for the most part I have been fallow. Now I am back with the Lord, and the real work has to begin; the weeding, and pruning, and re-planting…the list is huge and will take a long time. If you get the picture of a fallow field, un-planted for years; you have weeds, small unplanned trees, briars and rocks brought up by the frost. So my spirit is a mess. But on the bright side, if you know anything about farming, you know that the “soil” of my life actually has had a rest and now with clearing will be ready to be used. But like the garden; the clearing will take time.

So maybe an analogy can be like planting perennials…First year is resting, second year is root growth and third year is top growth…So we’ll see.

John 15:1-2 I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

On Rainbows

From the Targums of Palestine on the Book of Genesis (see Genesis 9:11-17)

And I will establish my covenant with you, and will not again cause all flesh to perish by the waters of a flood; and there shall not again be a flood to destroy the earth.

And the Lord said, this is the sign of the covenant which I establish between My Word and between you and every living soul that is with you to the generations of the world. I have set My Bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of the covenant between My Word and the earth.

And it shall be that when I spread out My glorious cloud over the earth the bow shall be seen in the day (time) while the sun is not sunk (or hidden) in a cloud. And I will remember My covenant.

…And the bow shall be in the cloud, and I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between the Word of the Lord and every living soul of all flesh that is on the earth.

Let’s think a little about rainbows for a minute. Now they definitely bring out the “wow” factor. Any time you see one, you automatically say “wow”…Now think back a moment to Noah, and the generations after Noah. I am sure for a while, whenever Noah or his family saw a dark cloud, they wondered, “Is this it?” or “Will it (the flood) happen again?” And yes, it would rain, and like here in Colorado, I’m sure some rains were “gully washers”. The terrifying flashes of lightning and the rolling booms of the thunder that you can feel. Yet, as the storm passes, and the rain is just beginning to subside, sunlight breaks through the clouds and suddenly in the distance with dark clouds behind it; a spectacular, glowing bow of luminous color. A “token” the Targums say, the NAS says a “sign”; God remembering an everlasting covenant.

Now, we live under a “New Covenant” and just as everlasting.

“And it was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, the sun being obscured;” (Luke 23:45)

Yet we now have a new “token” an empty cross, the more perfect “sign” that the dark clouds of the storm frame, showing the beauty of the victory, and highlighted by the pure bright light of God shining for us.

Yes, the storms we have to live through are dark, and sometimes we think that they will never end; we ask “God will you deliver me?” Yet on one lonely hill, with dark clouds behind it, the victory was won. So we know and we have this confidence, not only an empty cross, but an empty tomb…the ultimate storm was conquered…Death!

The Apostle Paul wrote, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death: in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14)

So, we can press on with the “token” of the empty cross before us always; and not just after the storm. Now that is the ultimate “wow” factor.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Defining Refining

Zechariah 13:9” This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ’The Lord is our God.’”(Today’s New International Version)

According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary; the definition of refine is “to make fine or pure; free from impurities, dross, alloy, sediment: purify; clarify” (2009)

Do you know how gold and silver are refined? The ore is first heated to extreme temperatures (2000 degrees) to leave you with an ore charge. This lump; which is a mix of lead, silver and gold, is then placed into a special crucible called a cupel. This is then put back into an oven and heated again to over 1700 degrees and the impurities (mostly lead) are burned off. You are then left with a bead of gold mixed with silver. (The Gold Vault, 2001)

So when the heat is turned up in our lives; remember what God is trying to do for us. Romans 8:17-18 says,” Now if we are children [of God], then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His suffering in order that we may also share in His glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

So what is God trying to reveal in you?

Jesus, help me to see how you are purifying me my taking me through the furnace. I know if I trust You, You will bring me out the other side of this fiery trial. And like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I will not even have the smell of smoke on me! Amen

Friday, May 29, 2009

What is the Right Path?

“I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old; I will meditate on all Thy work, and muse on Thy deeds. Thy way, O God is holy; What god is great like you God? Thou art the God who workest wonders…”
“Thy way was in the sea, and Thy paths in the mighty waters and Thy footprints may not be known. Thou didst lead thy people like a flock,…” (Psalm 77:11-14, 19-20)

After another round of being tested and finally having the hamster-wheel of doubts and questions silenced; I am left with the single question, “What is the right path?”

One possible answer is this: Following your dreams and goals while remembering Jesus by praying daily and going to church once a week…that will keep you on the right path. After all, you are a Christian and that means that as long as you go to church and pray, you get to decide what you do in your life. Then Jesus will help you do what ever you want to do.

Another possible answer is this: You think you are given a goal for your life by Jesus, and you make that your destination. You fix your eyes on the goal, while praying to Jesus to help you reach the goal. You submit to Jesus and rely on Him to work through you to reach the goal you think that He has given you. You and Jesus become a team to reach the destination.

Now there may be other answers, I’m sure an infinite number…but I have one final answer.

I make Jesus the path, the dream, the goal…the final destination. My entire focus is on You Lord, and nothing else. I ask myself now, “So how do I do that?” and “What does that look like?”

Now I am truly lost…Now comes the fullness of walking by faith…Because I can not use any references. I can not look to anyone else, because I am unique; no one else looks like me, no one else can be me; and therefore there is no one else that is like me enough that I can follow. I have no one to use as an example.

But since I am made in the image of God, the imago Dei, I do have an example…the only one perfect person in whose image I am made. Jesus; the Word Made Flesh, the Christ… Fully God/fully human.

So that is the right path.

And if I know the destination, which is Jesus; then I don’t have to worry what happens along the way.

So as I am given choices of things to do and ideas to pursue; when reaching these junctures in the road I will ask myself the one key question: “How will this help me to get to my destination?”

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Need Patience...Right Now!

Luke 8:15 (Amp.) But as for that [seed]in the good soil, these are [the people] who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in a just (noble, virtuous) and worthy heart, and steadily bring forth fruit with patience.

While having lunch just the other day with my father, I made the comment, “Well, I just need to be patient.” To which my father replied, “Well, you certainly don’t get that from me!”

So I started thinking about patience. Obviously patience is not genetic; it seems that the only way we get patience is as a part of the gifts of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23 “…love, joy, peace, patience…” Clearly, patience is a part of the “fruit of the Spirit.”

But what is patience?

The dictionary definition is “...The capacity to endure hardship, difficulty or inconvenience with out complaint. Patience emphasizes calmness, self-control, and the willingness or ability to tolerate delay.” (Houghton Mifflin on line dictionary)

So as I face “hardship, difficulty or inconvenience”, how much do I trust God? Do I really understand that in all these things that I have to face, God really is in control. Can I take a deep breath, and try to find the lesson in a particular trial, or maybe the particular trial is to simply test my patience. So where is my faith?

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

But I find that as I exercise my faith in God, it does tend to lower my blood pressure if I simply remind myself that God really does know what He is doing (even if I am clueless!)

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bringing it with me, or leaving it behind?

Genesis 12:1
Now the Lord said to Abram, Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house to the land which I will show you;

You know, I had an interesting thought today…as I was gazing across a large expanse of Kentucky Blue grass lawn…I reflected on the fact that here we are in high desert plateau and often in drought conditions, and obviously an East-coast person brought their idea of what landscaping should be like in the fairly inhospitable climate of Colorado. The thought then hit me, you know so often we say we want to “leave it all behind us”… yet what do we do but bring it all with us.

We say we need a change…but do we really mean it?
Exodus 2:23 “…And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God.”

So again we all know the story…The plagues, and the Passover and the ultimate deliverance...The children of Israel set free from 400 years of slavery…(my “slavery” was only 20 years or so) and in the desert, after seeing miracle after miracle…still the people complained “…Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat , when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill the whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:3)

Lord, really it was easier when I was in bondage…I didn’t have to think, I had the excuse of slavery…really Lord, this freedom thing is just not what it is cracked up to be…I’ve never worked so hard at being free. Wow, I don’t want to try; I’ll just go back to slavery, because it was easier. I was content! (I really didn’t cry for help) I don’t want to trust you…I need the old, familiar routine…You know the old saw, “better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”

Like that grand expanse of lawn, I want things to look the same, feel the same…be the same. But I have to walk in the New Life; and that means a whole new way of living in obedience to God. So I need to evaluate the climate, and challenges, And I must realize that this is a whole new way of life…so how about switching to drought tolerant plants?

Hebrews 12:12-13 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Battle?

Psalm 71:1-4
In Thee, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed. In Thy righteousness deliver me, and rescue me; incline Thine ear to me, and save me. Be Thou to me a rock of habitation, to which I may continually come; Thou hast given commandment to save me, for Thou art my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man.

How do you know when to be aggressive and when do you submit? As a woman I was hammered into the mold of “always” submitting to the perceived authority of men. Unfortunately for me, it was pretty much in all things.

Now praise God, I understand boundaries; and my worth as a human being. But with the new confidence as a person with worth and value in the eyes of God; I want to go over board, to press my rights…Basically to do things in my own strength. I want to force other people to “see my worth”, to stand my ground and fight for my rights. I want people to see my gifting and my calling. Of course this leads me right into a vision of my future as one unrelenting battle; as I have to face obstacle after obstacle, without any support; on my own. And I quail in the face of that –Oh God, how can you ask me to face this future?

Then I remember John 16:33 where Jesus reminds me, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

And I take heart; Jesus, You have overcome! You won the victory! I don’t have to struggle. I just walk forward- and You will take away the barriers and obstacles. The peace that passes all understanding washed over me, and I feel the familiar joy rising up in me as I remember the chorus of my favorite hymn:

Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness.
Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.[i]

*Amen*

[i] Chisholm & Runyan (1951) Great is Thy Faithfulness, Hope Publishing Co.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Portrait of a Servant

This is a devotional posted in one of my classes by Stanley Lawson, a youth pastor in an Ethiopian Church in Colorado. He gave me permission to use this.

“But is must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life – a ransom for many,” Mark 10:43-45 (Holman Christian Study Bible,2003)

We don’t have a lot of domestic servants in the United States. Over the last century the numbers have dwindled. The idea of being in total service to another human brings back images of slavery and Uncle Tom, in the United States we tend to frown on that sort of thing. Not so in other countries. Many of the Ethiopians that I “serve” as a Pastor once had domestic servants. In Ethiopia servants are very affordable. A small wage, no worry of heath care, social security or a servants union; many are just glad to have a roof over their heads and consistent meals. I have heard what it is like to have someone waiting on you, sounds like fun. Someone to fetch your slippers, wash your hands for you, even clean your feet. Some of my Ethiopian friends confess how poorly they treated the people that served them. Now they are ashamed of the behavior, but then it was quite common after all they were just servants.

Taking the form of a bond–servant…(Phil.2:7) Jesus understood His rightful place yet for all of us He left His place. He took the place of a bond servant, a slave, and then He served, even to the point of death. I often wondered what that service must have looked like and then I read 1 Corinthians 13 again. Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish, is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things , believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corithians13:4-7). Each of these actions of love to me also provides a picture of what it really means to be a servant. In fact I can even substitute the word love with servant and it still makes full sense. A servant does not envy or boast , is not conceited or act improperly, is not selfish , not easily provoked…bears ,believes , hopes and endures. This person, who could do such things, would be the very best servant. Jesus said He came to serve and not be served (Matt. 20:28) Later as a testimony of what is means to be a leader He turned the tables and said you had to serve and to be a slave (Mark 10:43,44) He also said to follow Him you had to deny yourself…all these thing are submissive acts of a servant. Can I do that?

Can I go along and be patient when I am suffering, be kind when I am hurt, not envy when I do not have, not boast or be prideful when other think me less. Can I not tally the wrongs people do to me waiting for them to be punished? Can I endure? I confess, apart form Christ I cannot. Many times when I am wronged I want to lash out, correct, even punish but not say “Father Forgive them.” I am not talking of being a doormat here. What I am saying is though I may have the power or the right; can I choose to react in love, like a servant. Do you really want to know if you are able to be a servant? How do you react when you are treated like one?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Problem with Short Cuts

Romans 12:3
For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you; do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.(TNIV)

Let me give you a little background about me…about a year and a half ago God “really” set me free. In this freedom, I found out that despite what I was always told, I am smart. Yes, when I was a child I over-heard a conversation that went “don’t be so hard on Lisa, she just doesn’t understand math.” So to me, I figured that I was stupid about everything (you know, “dumb blond”). Now understand, I am not looking for sympathy…just so you understand where I am coming from.

Now fast forward to February this year; and being back in college…when I heard God tell me very clearly “study philosophy”…to which I immediately replied;”but Lord, I don’t have time!” But I started acquiring some books (which I have just barely started, time management not being one of my strong suits). And much to my surprise, two weeks ago; who shows up at our Wednesday bible study, but a friend of our pastor’s…a semi-retired philosophy professor. So after a couple of absolutely fascinating discussions, and a really cool paper he emailed me, he hands me another book to read. But all the while, I’m thinking…you know, I can just pick his brain and maybe just skip reading all these books (but understand I do love to read) and I can take a short cut. So we start to exchange emails…and I get complemented for my insightful questions, so getting bolder I start picking holes in his answers (whoops) because I was having fun trying to start an argument…So the last email was another paper to read and a caution to be careful, and completely ignored my smart-allick silly arguments.

So as God continued to deal with me through this whole thing…I get the message…finding out I’m smart is not so I can be ridiculous at a whole new level, but to be patient and spend time learning and allowing God to give me wisdom to apply to the new things I am learning. Because like the parable of the seed…If I spring up quickly, I’ll just burn up because I have no depth of roots; but if am good soil and allow the seed to grow up gradually, I’ll receive the hundred fold harvest.

But I can almost use “epistemological” in a complete sentence!

Proverbs 4:7-9
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gifts,Treasures and Gold

Isaiah 54:11-12
O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, behold I will set your stones in antimony. And your foundations I will lay in sapphires. Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, and your gates of crystal, and your entire wall of precious stones.

I have been thinking about the gifts that God has given me, and I think of them as if they are precious stones. Some are already cut gems, beautiful and sparkling. Others are still in the rough cut state, waiting for finishing; but I can see the potential there. And the last I found originally as a hard black rock, but when the outer cover began to chip off, it revealed a gorgeous stone under the garbage; and I didn’t even know it was there.

OK, so now I see these gems; what do I do with them? I see how God is refining me, like gold. He is taking me through the purification process; but that will leave me as an ingot of gold…Pretty but not terribly useful. Just like these gems are; pretty to look at but what do you do with them?

So that’s where I give the whole thing to God…Because He is not only the refiner; He is also the Master Craftsman. So He can create out of the gifts He has given me something useful for the building up of the Kingdom of God…Not to bring me glory, but to bring Him glory.

An interesting thought; as I was meditating on the idea of “less of me, more of Him”; and as believers, we are all compared over and over again to gold…Did you know that gold is so malleable that it can be hammered into sheets so thin that you can see through them.

So am I willing to be so “thin” that God’s light can shine through?

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.(TNIV)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Consider Joy?

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)


You know, with all the junk I’ve had to face this week; I finally blew a fuse. I threw a tantrum with God. Alright, what I was actually doing was yelling at God (and not for the first time either).


Somewhere along the line, it has gotten into my head, that if I hear God’s voice, and obey; things will go right…Right now! In other words, I think that things will work out according to my expectations. I mean really; according to Romans 12:2 my mind is “renewed” and I (of course) will know what God’s will is… what His “good and perfect will” is for any given situation. So like a child, I think, well I’ve been a good girl, so God will reward me…Right?


So when I get done exhausting myself yelling and crying that it’s not fair, and comparing my life to the Prophet Jeremiah (yeah I was really whining), I call a friend of mine to get some sympathy. So she just stops me cold when she quietly says to me, “Lisa, I thank God for my husband, and my house, and my job; but if I lose my husband, lose my house and lose my job, I will still thank Him.”


I hung up the phone and repented.


“But as for me, my prayer is to Thee, O Lord, at an acceptable time, O God, in the greatness of Thy lovingkindness, answer me with Thy saving truth. (Psalm 69:13,emphasis mine)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Do I have ears to hear?

Proverbs 3:5-6 lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge [submit to] Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. (The Amplified Bible)


It has been made abundantly clear to me, that because of the gifts the Lord has given to me (a fair measure of intelligence) that I have gotten to the point where I am answering questions about scripture from my own understanding (The comment that was told to me was,” Lisa, that was all from your head, and absolutely nothing from the Spirit”). So my latest “assignment” from God right now is to sit down, and shut up…and just listen. To have “ears to hear”. I’ve spent so much time over the years studying the bible-that I know it pretty well. At times I can be a walking, talking concordance. If some one asks the question” Do you know where to find the scripture that says…?” Invariably I pipe right up and answer the question. So I manage to single handedly build myself up as some kind of biblical know-it-all and I shut down anyone else from even taking a crack at coming up with the answer (relying on my own insight). Not a real good way to build the body of Christ.


It is amazing to see that at last weeks Wednesday bible study, I kept quiet. I let everyone else add their comments. It was amazing to watch…everyone participated, even people who usually don’t speak up. The insights brought forward were great. It was a very productive study (and very Spirit lead). Wow, that was embarrassing…and my pastor (the gentleman that he is) never said a word…yeah, he knows what is going on (he was the one to give the comment!). I had not been being sensitive to the “still small voice” within me that had been saying “Lisa, please be quiet”, until it took someone to tell me to just shut up! As the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:20-22 “But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. (New American Standard) And by my being an over-bearing, pain in the butt, no one else would even try; why should anyone else try to answer if I always know the answer. I was quenching the Spirit. OK, I learned my lesson…so for the foreseeable future, I’ll just sit there and be quiet. I just remember that Proverbs 17:28 says; Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is counted prudent. OUCH!