Move That Mountain

“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”  (Mark 11:23)

wood pile goneI’ve never known what do to with this scripture. Is it meant to be taken literally or figuratively?  Well, when the wood arrived this scripture came to mind.

The pile was fit for boldness, so I asked the Lord to send the angels and then I pointed at that gynormous heap and declared: “Mountain be moved!”  Then I added, “Over by the garage, please.”

One first angel appeared the next week: Autumn.  She worked hard for an afternoon.  The pile shrunk – a little.  Then she had a brilliant idea to ask the youth group to help as a ministry to the widow.  Today they came.

The mountain has moved!

Ten boys, aged 3 to 16, and one grown-up angel named Jen, worked from 10:00 until 2:00.  I ordered a sheet pizza and wings and we took a break for lunch.  They did an awesome job and I must have said “thank you” a hundred times.

But the sweetest story was just to unfold.  When Brady, Bob, and Jonathan’s dad came to pick them up I went to the car to thank the parents for sharing their kids with me.  Dad got out of the car and said,  “You don’t remember me because I was just a teenager at the time, but you came to sing at Jack Moore’s church and I was there.”

He continued to tell me how I spoke into his life and that he always remembered hearing me sing “In the Garden”.  “You were a tremendous blessing to me,” he said.

Think about it . . . twenty-plus years later, his sons are at my house blessing me!
wood stackedOh the little seeds we sow.  One never knows the gardens they help to grow.

I shared the story with my son, and he told me one even more amazing.  About two years ago, he was at Wegman’s in the checkout line when a woman in front of him discovered her wallet was not in her purse.  Her “mountain” was in her grocery cart.  My son quietly gave the clerk his debit card.  She burst into tears and thanked him profusely.  But that wasn’t the end of the story . . .

Probably a year later, a young man came walking down the linear parkway behind the farm and ‘happened’ to meet my son.  They struck up a friendship and the young man ended up being a valuable volunteer with the ‘mountain’ of work during the farm’s corn maze that fall.

“I’m going to bring my mom some time.  She’d love this,” said the young man.

And he did.  When she saw whose farm it was, she burst into tears.  Because she was the woman at Wegman’s!

“You’ll never know how much your kindness changed my life,” she said throwing her arms around him.

My son’s unselfish generosity turned out to be a huge blessing back to him.  Not only did the young man return, day after day, to work as a volunteer, his mother came, too.

We never know how valuable are the seeds we sow.  There are three important things to remember in God’s Kingdom:  sow freely, without expectation of return, and often . . . then maybe you’ll see your mountains moved, too!

 

 

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Trusting Acceptance

wait for gramma 72As the last sock and shirt was packed, I left the toys strewn across the floor to pick up later, and bundled the kids in the car.  Mommy was coming home after visiting her sister in California.  She’d trusted me with her precious babies for a whole week, and I’d accepted the challenge.

James and Hazel were at camp, so for most of the time I only had Owen (15), Chapel (3) and Everett (7).  Owen was working on a college history course, so every day I took the two little guys on an adventure so he could study.  We went to the beach, the Strong Museum of Play, the Jump club, the pool, the playground  . . .  It was CONSTANT activity.

On the last day, I’d decided not to tell them mom was coming soon.  We’d just gotten settled back at their house when she came bursting through the door.  The explosion of joy could be heard clear to Heaven.  Then, moments later, daddy came in with the kids from camp. The kids went nuts jumping and hugging each other. Everyone was talking at once.  It was a Kodak moment.

I stayed briefly but left so them could reconnect. Driving home I could feel a strange mixture of relief and sadness. I loved the happy routine complete with peanut butter and jelly packed lunches and extra laundry.  Part of me feels young again when I’m caring for the kids.

The next morning the house seemed especially empty. I retreated to the swing for a little while before church.  I felt so torn.  One part of me was glad I was relieved of the responsibility, the other part of me was dreading the aloneness.

Lord, please help me to accept where You have me now.

At church, I shared briefly with Pastor Don.  He shared about Nobel Prize winner  Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s book, The Gulag Archipelago. During his time in Soviet prison  he observed how some believers survived and others did not.  The ones that lived constantly hoping for things to change – didn’t make it.  The ones that  accepted where God had them – survived.

Acceptance: the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.  Willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation.

Then it occurred to me:

God has me right where He wants me – or I’d be somewhere else.

Contentment is a treasure that hides in the folds of trusting acceptance.  Fighting against our circumstances, or constantly wishing for change only breeds discontent and unrest.  Learning to embrace where God has you is challenging at times,  but then we have to ask ourselves:  Do we believe God is in control of our lives?  We either trust Him – or we don’t.

God hasn’t lost track of you . . . He’s with you . . . right where you are.

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The Economy of the Kingdom Starts with the Impossible

Yesterday, I came home with a load of groceries, pulled into my driveway and found this . . .

wood pilewood pile 2I’d ordered a load of pallet wood for the wood stove, but never did I imagine anything this huge.  “Lord . . .” I sighed as I stared in awe at the mountain of work ahead.

My son pulled up the driveway behind me, rolled down his window,  “Gee mom, what are you going to do with all this wood?” Not waiting for my answer, the doors flew open and out streamed the grandkids.  “Can you watch them while I run an errand?”

I put the groceries away and tried to enlist some brawn for the task.  They stacked for a few minutes.  “We’re hungry . . .”  I dropped my gloves and motioned inside. By the time I cleaned the kitchen their dad returned and they were gone.

 

On the swing this morning, in the shadow of my wood pile, I tried focusing on the Word.  Turning to John 6, I was instantly struck by how matter-of-fact is the presentation of the   feeding of the 5,000.

A grassy field filled with over 5,000 hungry people. No money to buy food.  This was an impossible situation . . .  but it was no problem for Jesus. He operated out of the economy of the Kingdom.

The economy of the Kingdom starts with the impossible.

An economy represents the of wealth and resources of a nation. We can no longer face the problems of today depending on the economy of this world.  We have too much week left at the end of the paycheck.  Too many problems left at the end of your strength.  Life is handing us one insurmountable problem after another.  We have to choose which economy will we work from.

God’s Got Good News.  We have to learn how to step into the adventurous story God is writing.  In the God’s economy, each impossibility is an opportunity for the miraculous.

The feeding of the 5,000 has some delightful pointers:

1.  Five loaves – Clearly not enough.  But, wait . . . five is the number of grace. It’s no coincidence that God chose this number.  It’s key. We have to depend on His resources, not our own.

2. “Make the people sit down,”   Take a posture of faith. A whirling mind breeds fear. The disciples first went to Jesus.  Then they did exactly what He said – even if it didn’t seem to make sense.

3. “When He had given thanks . . .” Another key to stepping into the economy of the Kingdom is expressed gratitude.  As citizens of God’s Kingdom we can give thanks in the face of a mountain because our lives, and our circumstances, are in Christ.

4. “Gather the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”  Jesus cherished the tiny offering, as insufficient as it was in face of the need.  When we place. even the little faith we might have, into the hands of Jesus, it is precious to Him, and it will never be wasted.

Regarding my wood pile . . . I hear Him saying: “Slow and steady  . . . wait and see.”  The miracle is beginning to take shape.  One of many . . .

wood pile 3

 

 

 

 

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Step Into His Story

grand tetonAs an inspiring writer, I know how challenging it is to place a reader IN the middle of a scene, instead of simply telling them about it. It’s the difference between believing the   Grand Teton Mountains are real because you’ve seen a photo vs actually being there.

A good writer makes you see and feel what’s happening by creating a picture so real you can almost smell the wild flowers and feel the crisp mountain air against your skin.

teton wildflowerToo much of our experience as Christians is like looking at a photo . . . we believe it’s real, but we don’t know how to experience it.

Jesus wants us to learn how to step into the story He is writing – become fully engaged – know, by daily experience, the truth that sets us free.  He wants us to experience a life wrapped with grace, to know personally, the Love that finds no limitation.

I haven’t written in a while because I’ve been covered with the worst case of poison ivy I’ve ever had.  I’ll spare you the details, but believe me, two rounds of Prednisone, antihistamines, and multiple tubes of anti-itch cream only touched the edges of my blistering “itch”.

At the peak of misery, I faced a weekend that would test my normal resolve.  Not only was it the weekend for our Creative Hands community Art, Antique and Attic Treasure sale – in MY garage, it was also my granddaughter’s thirteenth birthday . . . parties. 

(There’s no such thing as one birthday party in this family.  Our dearly departed, Uncle Fred, started a tradition he called his birthday triduum.  A triduum is a three-day observance in the Catholic faith like Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  This was Fred’s humor.  He believed his birthday deserved as least three parties.

My sweet, new-teen, didn’t realize she was in the flow of such deep family tradition.  Friday was the all girl sleep-over at her house.  Saturday was a tent sleepover with all the cousins in our back fields.  Then, last but not least, after two nights of no sleep, we were all scheduled to go to Stoney Brook Park for a picnic. (with 10,000 other hot, sweaty people – and their dogs.)

After the sale,  I was exhausted. Sunday morning, the grandkids emerged from the fields with all their gear, it was my job to miraculously mobilize myself  to manufacture a  sausage, eggs and pancakes feast.  They sat dazed, their eyes glazed over from sleeplessness, but still consumed a dozen and a half eggs, two boxes of sausage, and a bag of pancake mix.

After cleaning up the kitchen, I retreated to my swing to itch and cry for help.

“Lord,  I’m not going to make it through this trip to the park if You don’t help me.”

Imagine my surprise when He whispered:  “Step into My joy.”

It was as if all the lightbulbs in my exhausted, itchy brain turned on at once.  He was inviting me into His action scene.  He didn’t give me a lifeless word, He invited me to step into the story.

Step into what you need . . .

It was like a cloak dropping around a set of chilly shoulders . . . making what is believed to chase away the cold into an actual experience of warmth.  And so it was, the minute I needed strength I’d say . . .  “Jesus, I step into Your joy.”

What do you struggle with?  What is the “itch” that drives your unrest?  What part of  God’s story do you need to experience?

Father, we need to learn how to step into our inheritance in Christ.  We need to experience the truth that sets us free . . . not just hear it.  Father, help us to step into Your story, written in Christ.  Amen.

 

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Holy Strength

scarletScarlet got worse as the evening progressed.  I sat beside her on the floor of the laundry room feeling totally helpless.  Her paralysis was increasing.

Of course I prayed . . . until I could pray, and cry no more.  Then, from deep in the folds of my faith came song.  I sang over her and worshiped the Lord.  She seemed to quiet down.  I think she was blind, but she could hear my voice.

Exhausted, I closed the door and went to bed.  At 1:30 a.m. I woke up, got dressed immediately as if I was in auto-pilot.  Ten minutes later, we were on our way to the hospital for the third time in 24-hours.

Surprisingly, I felt strong.  I could remember the same peculiar strength at other crisis moments in my life.  A strength beyond anything normal, deeper, without disciplined thought or determination.  Holy, pure strength, void of all stoicism.

I felt the same supernatural resolve when, as a new widow, I had to put my beloved dog, Molly, down.  I felt it when I leaned over my mother-in-law at St. John’s Hospital moments before she passed.  It came that time I was greeted by a nurse and a nun on the second floor of Hyland Hospital, with the news that my mom had died moments before.  It coursed through me, with a force beyond human understanding, as I administered oxygen and morphine to my husband.  It wrapped around me when my father died and this young Christian heard the Lord’s voice for the first time, “Seek Me when you are feeling strong, don’t wait until you’re feeling weak.”

Yes, the strength of the Lord cannot be described or duplicated.  The strength of the Lord makes even the saddest moments bearable, makes you know that something, Someone, beyond yourself, is carrying and sustaining you.

“There really isn’t anything more we can do for her,” said the Vet.  “She’s very distressed and this would be the kindest choice.”

I knew it was time, but still I staggered at the thought that I would ever hold such power.  What would I want if it were me?  Will I, in my lifetime, ever hear those words spoken over me? Will it become politically correct to end a life and call it kindness, masked in a cloak of  carnal “mercy?”

“I agree,” I said, as the vet handed me a box of tissue.  It was over quickly. I hugged the doctor, thanked the staff and walked out of the hospital empty-handed.

Driving home in silence I felt numb, with a raw sadness I’d felt many times before.

It’s just a cat . . . I tried to tell myself . . .

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A Good Word Makes Glad

Scarlet by chair w webWhen I heard her yowl I sprang from my bed.  The minute I saw her lying in the middle of the rug I knew this was not going to be any ordinary night.  By 3:00 a.m., my son and I were driving down the deserted streets of Henrietta to the Veterinary Emergency.

Scarlet’s eyes were swollen shut and she was breathing with an open mouth – not a good sign.  We assumed she’d been stung in her mouth by a bee.  They gave her a shot of Benadryl, and $175 later, we pulled into the driveway again.  It was just getting light.

I placed her on my bed and immediately fell asleep.  Two hours later I lifted her from my bed and tried to place her on the floor.  She couldn’t stand-up.  Her legs wouldn’t work and she just flopped over on her side.

Five hours later, with no improvement, I drove her back to the hospital.  Four hours later, I brought her home with a list of guesses.  “It can either be a brain tumor, a parasite that has migrated to her brain, or she’s got something similar to vertigo. Let’s hope for the later,” she said.

After giving her a shot for nausea, and some hydration, we returned home – to wait.

My heart was breaking to see my sweet Scarlet so, so sick.  “What should I do, Lord?  You know what is going on.  Please show me,” I cried.

My Bible was sitting next to me on the end table so I picked it up and randomly opened it.  My eyes fell on Proverbs 12:10.  This is what I read, “The righteous man regards the life of his animal.”

“Oh, Lord . . .” I gasped.  I knew He was telling me to just keep watching her, to be attentive and trust Him with the outcome.

That was all I needed to feel totally confident the Lord was on board and leading me every step.

Proverbs 12:25 says “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”  

“A good word . . .”  isn’t that what it takes to make it through tough times?  That simple verse replaced the anxiety I had in my heart and gave me a steady, solid peace.  However the decisions ahead might fall, I have assurance that He is with me and will not miss His leading.

Scarlet is resting comfortably on a special bed in my laundry room.  She’s home, she’s safe, and she’s in the Lord’s hands.

Isn’t it wonderful that we serve such a personal God who even knows the page we need to  turn to for the “good word” we need.  I never knew that scripture existed – but I can assure you, I’ll never forget it.

scarlet closeup w web

 

 

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“Good Morning, Lord. What Are We Going to do Today?

My friend shared a sweet thought.  “The first thing I do when I open my eyes each morning is say, ‘Good morning, Lord.  What are we going to do today?”

Something clicked inside me.  I usually say good-morning, Lord, but it was the second part that caught my attention.

At this stage of my life, most of the time I can plan my days as I choose.  I really liked her suggestion and decided to make it mine.  With coffee in hand, I went to the swing the next morning and prayed, “What are we going to do today, Lord?”

water guns 2The phone rang almost immediately, “Can you watch some kids today?”asked my daughter-in-law.

Okay Lord?   “Sure,” I responded.  “Why not.”

In no time at all, in came four “little ones” 12, 8, 7, and 3.  An hour later, there was a knock at the door. Two more Mimlets came in ages 12 and 9, AND a friend.

Okay Lord ?   “Come on in.”

One giant loaf of bread, 1 jar of peanut butter, 2/3’s jar of jelly, seven apples, a bag of  cheese sticks and a half-bag of cookies later . . . I sat staring at my crust sandwich and thinking, did I hear Your right, Lord?  I felt Him smile.

Then the squirt-guns came out.  Now I had seven soaked Mimlets, a pile of  muddy white towels, a pile of wet shoes and all I heard “That was great, WE’RE HUNGRY.”

It never helps to remind them they only ate an hour ago.  “Sorry, we’re out of bread.  How ’bout I make popcorn?”

That night I crunched some random popcorn pieces as I walked to my bed and folded into the sheets  at 8:30, exhausted, and happy. I had the sense I’d truly done the Lord’s work.

The next morning I said, “Good morning, Lord.” Hesitated for a moment and said, “What are we going to do today?”

Guess what my son brought home that day . . .  a PUPPY!”

odie2I looked down at the eleven week old German Shepherd, totally speechless.  Okay Lord ?

odie3

After twenty-four hours with Odie, I was in love.  “He’s such a fine dog,” I told my son.”I wish I knew more so I can help with the training.”

“Don’t feel bad,” he said, “just because he has papers and you don’t.”

We had a good laugh as I disengaged my shoe from his mouth.

Yesterday, I said, “Good morning, Lord, what are we going to do today?”  I looked at my overgrown garden from the porch swing and felt the urge to pull weeds.  I knew this had to be God.  It’s the first time all summer my back didn’t kick up a fuss.  When I crawled into bed that night, I was happy for all the work that got done  . . . only, I noticed how itchy I was. . .

Yep . . . you guessed it . . .Poison Ivy!  At least I can say I was doing the Lord’s work.

It’s so easy to equate “doing the Lord’s work” with some type of religious activity: prayer, study, visiting the sick etc.  I’m seeing His work is life, ordinary life – lived with Him.  Whether it’s tending Mimlets, helping to train a puppy, and yes, even poison ivy . . . everything is good when you walk with a Good God.

 

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Do You Have the Mark of God?

NYS-Notary-SealProof of ownership is often displayed in a mark, or seal, showing the owner’s name, title and domain of authority.  Like a signature on a painting. Even my cat, Scarlet, understands marking property.  That’s why she carefully rubs her face on me to let the world know – I’m her property.

When my son brought his puppy for a visit, Scarlet got nervous.  She watched me gush scarlet faceover the dog and when he left, she started rubbing her face on me again.  I couldn’t even work because she was rubbing her face on the keyboard and computer screen, too.

We are God’s property.  His name is God Almighty. His title is Creator, Lord of All,  and His domain is heaven and earth with all its inhabitants.

How do we wear the mark of God’s ownership?

We can’t understand that until we understand His love.  He loved us so much, and His desire for sons and daughters was so great He made the ultimate sacrifice and sent His only Son to redeem us from the curse that separated us from Him.  As I meditate on this I’m struck by three things:

We’re valuable.

God wouldn’t give His Son for a nobody.  Every soul is precious to the Father.  Even when we were yet sinners.  One thing I learn from that is never – ever – denigrate myself or someone else.  I should never belittle or speak ill of God’s property.

I went shopping for clothes yesterday. It was painfully eye-opening. I was angry, disgusted and started badmouthing myself.  Until the Holy Spirit whispered, “But, You’re mine.”

We will only treat good what we value. The road to personal wholeness is first paved with embracing the value God places on us.

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God.”

“Behold” is better described as: SEE, observe, look at, gaze at, regard, contemplate, inspect.  It’s a word of great exclamation.

Think of the joy it brings our Father when we believe in, and value what He values.

We were loved before the worlds were made.

I love my kids, but I didn’t love them before they were born.  I might have loved the idea of children, but I didn’t know them and love them as I did after they were born.

” . . . He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world . . .”  (Ephesians 1:4)

God didn’t start loving you the day you were born, He was carrying you in His heart the whole time He planned the creation of the world!

See how foolish it is to think we can earn God’s love. We were loved first.  We don’t have to  clean up, get it right, do good, and please God, in order to be loved?  We please God believing we are loved.  All our good flows from that.

Wearing the mark of God.

scarlet closeup w webMy Scarlet wants her scent on me.  Forgive me for such a lame analogy, but so does God.

We wear His mark when we wear His attributes. Does kindness, long-suffering, righteousness and holiness mark our lives?  Do people know we are Christians by our love? Do you wear the sweet aroma of Christ – or the pungent scent of the world?

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. . .” (2 Corinthians 2:15)

Father, please forgive us for speaking ill of Your property.  Forgive us for treating lightly Your love.  Forgive us for the many ways we wear the mark of the world.  We bow before You, dear Lord, and ask Your forgiveness for our lukewarmness and casual attitude. We need Your oil in the lamps we trim as we watch for Your appearance. We want to wear the attributes of Christ.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

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Do Your Need a Handle of Hope?

hope whispers 72“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” ( Genesis 50:20)

Recently, my nine-year old grandson became very ill while on vacation.  They rushed him to emergency.  He was transferred to a children’s hospital and spent days in intensive care. He was a very sick little boy.  What was thought to be dehydration turned into a much more serious, life-altering, event.

If you’re a grandparent, you can understand what I mean when I say I was a mess. My thoughts naturally rushed to all the negatives, and the worse that could happen.  I wanted to be right there, to do something – anything – to help. Instead, I was hundreds of miles away.

We should never say: “all I could do is pray,” because it’s the best we can do.  I had to throw myself on the Lord and believe that not only are we in Christ, as believers, so are all our circumstances.  There is nothing that we have to face without access to His love, His wisdom, His fellowship, and His presence.

Years ago, I used to ride the bus to the inner city for classes.  Sometimes the bus was full and I’d have to stand.  In those days, there was a strap handle anchored to the ceiling of the bus.  When the bus turned a corner you would still sway, but you wouldn’t fall.

Steadying my emotions was not an easy task, but when a friend said, “Remember, what the devil has planned for evil, God will use for good.”  A light suddenly went on.

That verse became my handle of hope. When fear would swell, I’d say it out loud.  I even put it to music so I could sing it over his circumstances.

Faith rose in my heart as emotion took second place to conviction.

God’s Word steadies us, confirms us, keeps us on our feet through every dip and turn.  He is so faithful to give us a handle of hope in every crisis.  I’ve already seen God’s goodness in just the immediate care my grandson received,  and that what could have easily happened – didn’t.  I seen the goodness of the Lord through the people who have responded with encouragement and prayer.

Each one of us has a personal story being written by a good God, who never leaves us or forsakes us – and who works all things for our good.

Father, I pray for those reading this today.  You know the details of what they are facing.  Please, Papa, give them a handle of hope to grab on to.  Steady their hearts as you steadied mine.  Thank you for your kindness and comfort.  Nothing can thwart the plans you have for us.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

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Are you subtly yielding to fear?

chick in hand

We’re in His hands.

With all the stuff happening in the world it’s easy to start yielding to fear.  It’s subtle, but I believe it can accumulate and led us off the path.

I talked to a dear brother about the state of affairs, and he told me about a brother he met who works in national security. When he asked the brother what he thought about what was happening in the nation, this was his reply:

“Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not unto your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

As a Christian who knows what’s happening behind the scenes, it’s it awesome that he answered the question with Scripture.

Isn’t that what we should do?

I have allowed myself to listen to too many discussions about how the evil plans of men are ruining this country.  I’ve read articles that are not edifying one bit.  It’s hard to avoid what’s in-your-face,  but  . . . We must beware and not give way to a spirit of fear.

The enemy of our souls wants us wrapped in fear and making decisions based on fear.  This is not how Jesus modeled the way we are to live.  Fear clouds our minds, renders our faith of none-effect,  and makes it hard to hear the One we most need to hear.

He didn’t give us a spirit of fear, He gave us the Holy Spirit.  That’s the only “spirit” we should be listening to.We must answer the news of the hour with God’s word.

That’s what Jesus modeled, so that’s what we should do.

fawn w verse 72“Do not be anxious about anything but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (even of current events!) will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  

Jesus knew the suffering ahead.  He didn’t wring His hands, He rent His heart before His Father.  Jesus had to depend on the same Holy Spirit He has given us.

I’m not saying stick your head in the sand.  I’m not saying don’t prepare. I’m saying beware how you hear, and guard against fear.

Let’s dwell on the Word, not what’s on the internet.  Let’s stop studying how bad is bad and drink in how good is God.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” ( 1 Peter 5:6-7)

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.  His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.”  (Psalm 112:7)

“Let not your heart be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.”  (John 14:1)

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Salty Lives Create Thirst

salt shakers“It’s MY TURN!” came a little voice from the porch.

“NO! I want to go FIRST,” said his brother.

I stuck my head out the screen door to see what was going on.  Two of my “Mimlets” (grandkids)  were having a tug-a-war with a bottle of bubbles.  I refereed the situation and peace returned.

In Mark 9:33, Jesus asks his disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?” They didn’t want to answer him because they’d been arguing about who was the greatest.  I can just imagine the conversation, “I’m gonna be first!  That’s not fair, you get all the attention.”

Then Jesus says something that every one of us has to wrestle with to understand and apply.  “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  

My six-year old “Mimlet” joined a summer soccer team for the first time. When it came time to hand out the special team shirts (which is the coolest part) the coach discovered he was short one. The little boy left without a shirt began to cry his eyes out.  Without being prompted, my grandson took his shirt off and gave it to his team-mate.  He played the rest of the game draped in the coach’s x-large shirt tied in a knot at the waist so he wouldn’t trip.

“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last . . .”  

Jesus takes a little child in his arms and says, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me . . .”

But the disciples continue to wrangle about position, only this time with a new angle: “We saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

Can’t you picture a group of children excluding the new kid on the block?  “You can’t play in our fort because you’re not one of us.”  Sounds silly, but Jesus let’s us know the same selfish spirit is behind all sin.

Jesus continues: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off . . .and if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it   out . . .” (a portion from Mark 9:42-48)

Then Jesus concludes with, “Everyone will be salted with fire.”  

Salt and fire have similar properties.  They remove what is perishable, separating what is decaying from that which is sound. They are both transforming.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

The last line: ” . . . be at peace with each other” bookends with Mark 9:35 “If anyone wants to be  first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  

salt shaker 2We have to have ” . . .salt within ourselves” before we can be salt and light in the world.  There will be no peace in our relationships, no sprinkling the salt of grace and love, if we don’t first allow the Holy Spirit to purify the selfishness in our hearts.  We must put to death those things in us that are decayed and perishing.

Choosing “to be last” doesn’t mean we keep running to the end of the line.  It’s having a heart of humility and meekness, an inviting grace of the soul that will yield to the will of God over the rights and comforts of our flesh.

It’s being willing to give the shirt you really wanted, to a friend.

Father, sprinkle us with Your purifying fire.  May we live salty lives that will make others thirst for You.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Don’t Point the Finger, We’re ALL on the List

pointing fingerHave you noticed when you point a finger there are three fingers pointing back at you?  It’s  good to consider before judging someone.

When children are unruly, we look to the parents. When a nation is unruly, we look to the church.  That’s just how it goes.

I’m not going to speak to the issue of gay marriage here, but I do want to address the fingers that are pointing back at the church, because that’s where we have the greatest power for change.

Who will not inherit to Kingdom of God?

“Do you not know that the unrighteous and the  wrongdoers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived (misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexuality, nor cheats (swindlers and thieves), nor greedy graspers, nor drunkards, nor foul-mouthed revilers and slanderers, nor extortioners and robbers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10 Amplified Bible)

Homosexuality is only ONE of FOURTEEN no-no’s.  God doesn’t condone any of these activities.  We all have our opinions, but we can’t blame the collapse of this nation on the gays when we have 13 other sins active, married, and in leadership, in our churches.

Revelations 21:8 gives us shivers when it includes: cowardly, faithless, and liars.

I think Paul is making the point that the church needs to check its own baggage before going after someone else’s.

Immorality, of any kind, defiles the Church. Are we grieving this?  Are we raging in the media about greed? That’s considered idolatry. How about self-promotion vs God-promotion, is that being discussed?  What about bringing the culture of the world into our churches to attract young people vs seeking the culture of the Kingdom and letting the Holy Spirit attract them . . . are we discussing this?  Are we discussing  heterosexual immorality?

Why aren’t we discussing the absence of God’s Presence in so much of our “christian” activities?  Have we noticed there  are far more than three fingers pointing back at us?

The key is no one can inherit the Kingdom of God in the strength of our own morality.  Just try never glorying in your own achievements, or gossiping, or judging your brother, or telling lies.  Some of the most ‘godly’ appearing Christians can be absolutely murderous with their tongues.

We’re ALL on the LIST of those unworthy to inherit the Kingdom

Before we heap every gay person onto the ‘lost’ pile we need to consider a few things:

1. God loves and died for ALL  . . . while we were yet sinners.

2. Are we being examples of Christ?

3. We love people because they breathe – not because they agree with us.

We all need to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  We all have to answer to God for our behavior.  We all need to repent and change – every one of us from the top down.

If we judged Paul by his background we’d have to cut a third of the New Testament out of the Bible.  A self-righteous murderer, and a pillar in his religious circle, who deeply believed killing the followers of Jesus was doing God’s work.

God took care of Paul.  Knocked him off his high horse, blinded him for three days – then gave him new eyes, new lens, and look what happened.  That’s love.

Father, forgive us, and give us Your eyes.  Amen.

 

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God Doesn’t Want To Give Us That

blocks1My nine-year old grandson asks his dad, “Can I have $25?  I want to buy you a really neat Father’s Day present.”  My son willingly gives him the cash, as well as a trip to the mall.

Grandson emerges with a package from the Lego store.  On Father’s Day he explains, “I knew you would really love this dinosaur Lego set because I don’t have one.”

What a picture of our Heavenly Father.  He supplies all we need so we have something to give back to Him.  Everything comes from Him, and He receives great pleasure in seeing us enjoy life.

Our God is an outrageously open-handed God. He is so generous, so kind, so gracious, that He delights to overwhelm us with His love at every turn.

The only things God doesn’t want to give us are those things His Son, Jesus, purchased on Calvary: every sin, every foul thought and intention, all our anxiety and fear, every single hurtful piece from our history, every negative part of our old nature . . . you can’t have them . . . He bought them.  They’re His. He wants to keep them.

I was attempting to take the i-pad from my grandson one day,  because he’d been on it long enough.  He resisted.  “You can’t have it, you didn’t pay for this. It’s mine.”  All cheeky-ness aside,  I insisted he go outside and play – because it’s good for him.

The next time I was struggling with anxiety I heard a familiar voice in my head:  “You can’t have it, I paid for it.  It’s mine.”

This stopped me in my tracks, putting the cross into a practical perspective I hadn’t realized before. God is constantly teaching us, isn’t He?  (Even in the challenging moments with our beloved children.) Our Papa is very firm about what is good for us, as I was with my grandson.

Even when I wanted to go the familiar way of anxiety and discouragement, He said,

“No, you can’t have that. I paid for that and I’m keeping it.”

He continued.  “This is the day I have made for you to enjoy . . . here’s some joy, now go buy a day you can return to Me with love.”

Not only did Jesus purchase all the bad stuff, He purchased all the good stuff.  Everything in our lives, once we’re born again, has a different slant.  Now we’re  holiness focused instead of sin focused.  There is a big difference.  We still take sin seriously, and confess it, but then quickly walk on with confidence in the new nature He has given.

DSC01055God is not watching us with a scolding eye.  He is watching for every opportunity to teach us how to walk like Jesus.  That’s love, not law.

Let’s go to our Father today and say, “Papa, thank you for the strength You’ve given us today.  Help us give back to You a day of praise.”

Heavenly Father, teach us how to walk on this side of the cross.  Teach us how to live and breathe, and move in the new nature You’ve given us. Thank you for giving us just what we need to have a good day – and we’ll give back to You all the praise.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Why Do We Beat Ourselves Up?

Have you ever backhanded a compliment or argued with someone trying to say something nice about you?  If someone told me I looked thinner, I’d be inclined to wise-crack, “Yeah, well don’t come too close, if these buttons blow you’ll get hurt.”

Seriously, why do we beat up on ourselves?

I think it’s a basic lack of understanding of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ . . .”

When we are born again, we become a brand new person. The old person was crucified with Christ, buried with Christ  and resurrected a totally new creation, never having existed before.

Negative self image? We just have to ask,  “Which self am I listening to?”  The old one, or the new one?  It seems foolish to let a dead man do the talking.

Ephesians 4:24 says, ” . . . be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.  Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, (and with yourself!) . . .”

We are not to be sin minded.  We all mess up, miss the mark, sin, but God is holiness minded. Once we confess our sin, we move on.  His emphasis will always be on the behavior of the new man.

I know what happens when we mess up . . . we tend to agree with the enemy that we’re bad, that we’ll never change or can’t do anything right.  Instead, let’s try this:

“Father, forgive me for what I did. I thank You, Papa, that that is not the behavior of the new nature You have given me in Christ. Now, I reckon myself dead to that sin and alive to Christ.  I am a new creation made in Your image.  I am seated with You in heavenly places in Christ.  Holy Spirit thank you for showing me I was wrong.  Now, by faith, I put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.  Amen.”

The greatest gift we can give the Lord is to embrace, believe, and lay hold of, what He accomplished for us on Calvary.

The world it low self-esteem, but there’s no reason to feel that way if you’ve in Christ . . because now our worth is measured by His righteousness, not our own.

If we are hidden in Christ, what does the Father see when He looks at us?  Shouldn’t we try to see ourselves the same way?

No more beating up on ourselves.

Lord, You make us burst with joy when we see that we are complete in You.  I am so grateful that You said, “It is finished!”  No more veils.  No more shame.  No  inner agony.  I rejoice in this hope – we will not lose heart…we are all together lovely in You.  Free from the past.  Free from all condemnation… rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!

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Faint Farm Smells Teach

cow

Meet Rusty.

I just returned last night from an excellent class on Spiritual warfare, led by Randy Baker.  I was sitting among seasoned prayer warriors in God’s army and, though relatively new to this type of prayer, I was excited to ‘get-started’ first thing in the morning.

Faint scents of farm life wafted through the air as I sat on my swing at 5:00 a.m.  Fresh out of bed, still in the staring mode, I opened my notes from class ready to apply what I had learned.

Suddenly, I was in the middle of a daydream.  I was single-handedly trying to lead a dozen, 600-800 lb. cows to the back pasture.  (interesting how God uses even the smells of your immediate surroundings to teach us)

The cows were delighted with their sudden freedom and quickly bolted in all directions.  I did NOT know what I was doing.  The farther they scattered, the more I panicked.   I started running back and forth, hooting and hollering trying to make them go according to my plan, but they would not co-operate.  Soon, there were cattle all over the place.

Farmer Kyle would know just what to do to move those cattle, and they know his voice, not mine.

2 Corinthians 10:5  came to mind.  Here it is, in context, from the Phillips New Testament:

“Now I (Paul) am going to appeal to you personally, by the gentleness and sympathy of Christ himself. . . For I am afraid otherwise that I shall have to do some plain speaking to those of you who will persist in reckoning that our activities are on the purely human level. The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.”

cow 2Our good intentions have no power. To pray in Jesus name, we must be sure it’s what He is saying.

Intercession is birthed from the center of worship.  From the seat of devotion He drops into our minds what He wants us to pray about.

Our great Intercessor, Jesus Christ, will inspire our prayers as we wait upon His lead.  From this place, we find the words to declare, and the prayers to pray.

The best thing I received from the class was a fresh determination to make it a priority to sit with Jesus every day, and co-labor with Him in prayer, and in worshiping the Father.  May His Kingdom come . . . on earth as it is in Heaven.

chickFather, we place ourselves in Your loving hands.  Forgive us for acting in our own strength.  Forgive us for trying to herd our activities, on all levels, with fleshly determination. Only You have the authority to lead.   I submit myself to you today.  Be the leader of every thought, prayer and activity.  We love You, Lord.  In Jesus name, Amen.

photos were taken at the Lehigh Valley Outpost, Rush, NY
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