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As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is His love...  and as far as sunrise is from sunset, He has separated us from our sins! Psalm 103

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GOD'S SENSE OF HUMOR

Posted on February 27, 2021 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

We have to acknowledge that God has a sense of humor. Otherwise, how would we explain the giraffe? Stick legs, bulbous body, teeny tiny head on the top of all of it, and eye lashes that belong on a run-way model.

 

Or how about the simple honeybee? There’s a popular misconception that bees shouldn’t be able to fly, but it can’t be true because we see them do it all the time. With those chubby bodies and little wings it surely doesn’t seem aerodynamically possible, but the science behind it shows that they achieve lift because of the way they move their wings. Each spin of their tiny little wings generates a mini-hurricane that allows them to accomplish the seemingly impossible feat.

 

And then there’s you and me. Could there be any more imperfect creature than humankind? We come in all sizes, shapes, colors and varieties. Though we function similarly, there is certainly no way to predict our behavior or our response to any given situation.

 

Paul summed it up perfectly in Romans 7:15 when he said “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to—what I hate.” Even we can’t understand or predict our behavior.

 

And yet God loves us.

 

Not just loves us, but chases after us time and again. Through every stumble, every bad decision and every ugly behavior, God’s love for us in unconditional and unending. There’s absolutely nothing we can do to make Him love us more. And thankfully, nothing we do will make Him love us less.

 

Oh, He will respond to our bad behavior! Sometimes with a chuckle as He picks us up and dusts us off, sometimes with tears because He has to let us wallow around a bit in our own filth. But always with forgiveness and grace.

 

We act like it’s irreverent to assign humor to God, or any emotion - but He is real and relational. If He weren’t how could He possibly come back and rescue us time and again. He created us, and our world, for the whole gambit of emotions. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there’s a time for everything… including a time to cry, laugh, grieve, dance, hug…

 

We are created in the image of God. He understands those varieties of feelings because He shares them. We spend so much time keeping Him up in heaven – aloof, unattainable, sitting on His gold throne and not accessible to us – we forget that He had the humor to create us, and everything around us, just as we are. All God desires is relationship with us. Not one of subservience or fear, but one that is real and intimate. If He feels unreachable, it’s because we’re looking too far away. He’s always right near us, waiting for the moment when we call.

 

When my mom died, I found a little stash of memorabilia she had left. Pictures and notes to each of us kids, school programs and reports cards, and other little memories that she had held dear. And I found a letter that instructed me how to take care of her financial matters like the life insurance policy, which bills to pay and what I needed to do to keep the family afloat. Because she cared about both – the precious and the mundane. Looking through that file made me see my mom in a whole different way. Not just as my mom, but as a real person.

 

God left us all with a book of love letters written to inspire, make us laugh, make us understand and to instruct us through the most difficult times of our lives. That’s not a Father who has no discernable emotion, and just rules through fear. That’s a Dad who loves us with all our flaws and just wants us to love Him back in the same way. And when we access that file, we see Him in a whole new way.

 

If you haven’t figured out how to relate to God on a real level, you just need to open that book of love letters. He certainly has a sense of humor and a desire to show us the real Him. He just wants relationship. Why else would He keep on loving us imperfect funny little humans?

 

Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne.

 

Regret

Posted on February 20, 2021 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Regret can be a powerful and debilitating emotion. The older we get, the more it can affect our thinking and our response to the world around us. When we look back at the many choices we’ve made throughout our lives who doesn’t wonder about opportunities wasted, open doors walked past, or wreckage left behind. Like a ghost trying to haunt us, if we allow it to, we can wish our lives away on thoughts of the things we should have done differently.

 

As our bodies begin to fail in ways we never predicted, we wonder why God would waste robust health on the young. Clearly we didn’t appreciate the miraculous workings of our young bodies until there were so many everyday things we could no longer do. How does time slip through our hands so quickly?

 

Even knowing what we do about our place in the Kingdom, we can’t help but wonder at how much more we could have accomplished had we just understood the fragile nature of these tents that we occupy here on earth. Regrets. What we could have done, what we missed, the roads not taken as poet Robert Frost said.

 

But despite our insecurities about our failing bodies, and all the resulting physical limitations we may be coping with, we can stand on the promises of God. Isaiah 46:4, my all-time favorite verse, says “Even to your old age I am He.” In other words, we may change but He does not. He is forever our Abba Father, the source of everything we will ever need.

 

And the scripture goes on to say “I will carry you. I have made and I will bear; even I will carry and I will deliver you.” These days, when our backs our feeling a little less than capable of carrying any burden at all, that’s no empty phrase – it’s a promise that can sustain and hold us upright during the seemingly unfair progression of time.

 

And we can be assured that even when the world would try and “retire” us out to pasture, God doesn’t ever view us as used up. Abraham, the father of the 12 tribes of Israel was 100 years old when his son, Israel, was born. His wife, Sarah, was 90 years old when her womb, long passed childbearing, was opened and the promised child was planted inside of her. Her very body regenerated to accommodate the promises of God, and she was even able to nurse the child so he could thrive.

 

On the other side of our physical timeline, the young shepherd boy, David, was chosen to lead a Nation when God called him to be King, uniting all the tribes of Israel under a single monarch. Even through his moral failures God used Him in mighty ways, saying he was a “man after God’s own heart.”

 

When we begin to feel used up we need to remember that God doesn’t operate on a continuum that is bound by the laws of our physical bodies or abilities. And He’s not expecting perfection. On the day of Pentecost after Jesus ascended into heaven, God’s power was made available to us through the workings of the Holy Spirit in us.

 

The power that loosed the chains of death, healed the lame, caused the blind to see and who raised Jesus from the grave lives in you and I. Romans 8:11 says “And if the Spirit of God, who raised up Jesus from the dead, lives in you, He will make your dying bodies live again after you die, by means of this same Holy Spirit living within you.” That means, He also restores us to eternal life, despite the fragility of our earthly bodies.

 

Even when my husband’s health was failing, if asked how he was doing would reply “I’m still kicking, just not as high.” Regret is only valuable if we use it to avoid future mistakes. A steady diet of looking over our shoulder keeps us from walking in the authority we have by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the new covenant extended to us. We may not kick as high, but thanks to the power of God we are never too old to kick Satan’s backside.

 

Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne.

 

Confused?

Posted on February 13, 2021 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Samuel Chadwick, turn of the century Wesleyan minister, said “Confusion and impotence are the inevitable results when the wisdom and resources of the world are substituted for the presence and power of the Spirit.”

 

Today we are facing some of the most challenging times we’ve ever known. There are opinions flying, video’s being posted, credibility questioned and rumors running rampant. It is incredibly easy to jump on the bandwagon of one side or the other, and let our anger and outrage override good sense. The result, inevitably, is turmoil and division – and not just between us and the world – but between each other.

 

When these types of battles rage, the only one who wins is the Enemy. 1 Peter 5:8 warns us to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prows around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” He doesn’t care who is sitting on the right side of the argument. He only cares that there are sides. Because he knows full well that we are weaker when we are divided. We can’t afford to allow Satan to weaken us with fear and confusion.

 

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “… though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Even if we disagree on the issues of the day, our behavior and attitude must be united by our abiding knowledge that real change only comes with humbleness, unity and by seeking God’s face.

 

We have three strong weapons that we must keep at the ready. When faced with an issue, our primary response should be to ask the Holy Spirit to guide our thinking. Jesus left Him here to direct and teach us, but that’s only possible if we first invite Him into the situation. Otherwise, whether the information is fundamentally true or not, Satan is the one who has hold of our response.

 

Next, we have to test the validity of the speaker. What is the motivation and the nature of the person or organization who has written, recorded, documented whatever information is being conveyed? Do we see the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives? Is their behavior and history one that would make us believe they can be trusted? And I’m not just talking about titles, party affiliations, or charisma. I’m talking about a real and verifiable walk with God. If there isn’t solid evidence of that, everything has to be questioned, no matter how convenient or brightly wrapped the packaging is.

 

And finally, do their claims bring order or just more chaos? Is there a scriptural foundation for the information being funneled, or is it designed to bring more confusion and division? 1 Corinthians 14:33 tells us that the God we serve is not one of confusion, but of peace. Even when we’re in the right, there are times when God just tells us we must stand down and let Him do the work. Because continued bickering only sends a message that we don’t trust God to be able to work through every situation.

 

The world shouldn’t mistake our meekness for weakness, but having the loudest and most angry voice doesn’t make us the victor. We can insist on being right, spending our resources on useless arguments that are not going to change the outcome, or we can begin to work towards diffusing the anger that is fueling the fire, and ask God to help us bring about the lasting change we long for.

 

Our strength isn’t found in heated rhetoric, but in the eternal power of our Father who fights every battle for us. Isaiah 54:17 tells us that “no weapon that is fashioned against us shall succeed, and we shall refute every tongue that rises against us in judgement. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from Me, declares the LORD.”

 

Let’s not allow the ‘wisdom and the resources of the world’ strip us of our peace, nor of our deep and abiding knowledge that at the end of the day we win! God said it and we believe it.

 

Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne.

 

Judge Not

Posted on February 6, 2021 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

When did we decide we were qualified to be both judge and jury on every single topic? Oh, we tell ourselves we’re not, but the reality is that, realize it or not, we make ourselves feel better by comparing our actions and beliefs with those around us. And no matter how hard we try and fight that embarrassing human trait, it sticks like glue.

I’m sure that’s why scripture has so thoroughly covered the topic. Matthew 7:1 clearly and simply says “judge not lest you be judged.” And everywhere Jesus taught, he warned against getting trapped by an attitude that made us focus more on someone elses’ bad thinking while ignoring our own. But in spite of the clarity of the words we seem to be increasingly intolerant of our fellow sojourners here on earth.

We can mask it however we want to. We really “prayed up and read-up” Christians may even call it truth, or standing up for biblical principles, but the reality is that we aren’t qualified to judge, measure or even criticize each other. We are only called to love.

Does that mean we can’t answer the question of whether something is sin? Of course not! But should we feel entitled to determine for someone else what their walk with God should look like? Of course not! We are unqualified bystanders when it comes to judging someone else.

And Scripture is very clear about who is qualified. Psalm 50:6 says Let the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is Judge. And in Psalm 9:8 we’re told He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgements for the people in uprightness.

The truth is, because we can’t know someone’s motivations or relationship with God, and we will certainly never be completely righteous while here on earth, we aren’t equipped to decide anyone’s ultimate fate, or even their day to day walk. The Old Testament is full of passages that clearly tell us that only God is the judge of humankind. And the New Testament tells us He committed that authority over to His Son after the Resurrection (Matthew 28:18).

We must pull anger and condemnation from the equation when dealing with those around us. No matter what we think, that is way over our pay grade. Because when we view the world we must remember that God’s end goal has always been restoration not separation.

Self-preservation may require us to distance ourselves from those around us who are living in a way that is contrary to God’s plan or damaging to our own walk. But we should still strive, ultimately, for reconciliation. Unbelievers need to be shown who Christ is and be reconciled to Him, and believers need to mature in Christ and be reconciled to each other. That won’t happen if we simply walk away or respond with self-righteousness.

Don't misunderstand -- I'm not saying that sin isn't sin. Or worse, that there is no sin. I’m not even saying what someone else is thinking or doing might not be wrong. But we can’t beat or berate someone into right thinking. They must be led, with love and Holy Spirit discernment, into recognizing the areas of their life that God may need to clean up.

 

If we see someone stumbling and we believe that what they are doing is completely contrary to what God wants, we can pray for them, reach a hand out, or even council them if they ask for it. And if it’s affecting us we should certainly approach them with it. But we better do all of that with the humble spirit that acknowledges our own weaknesses. And we need to avoid that "plank" in our own eye. It's easy to tell ourselves that we are acting in "righteous" indignation, when really there's very little about us that is righteous at all.

 

Ultimately each of us will work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. But that will happen when we're faced with God, not with each other. Here on earth our only task is to bring others into fellowship with God, and to model the love and humbleness that Jesus taught.

 

Before God can truly heal our land – and us - we need to begin seeking His heart when dealing with one another, so we are educating, not annihilating.

Be blessed, my friend.  God is on the throne!

 

Time to Reset

Posted on January 23, 2021 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

What do you say God really needs from us? Worship, praise, offerings? If you think about it, He really has the power and authority to achieve anything. And He certainly doesn’t need any help from the flawed and inconsistent children that we’ve proven ourselves to be. I guess the answer is simply, ‘nothing’. He doesn’t need anything from us. But there is so much he wants from us. Craves, really.

 

When He first formed us He had already done a tremendous amount of work creating a gorgeous universe filled with everything our physical bodies would need. And God wasn’t just a workman who designed a functional environment with sterile walls and hard surfaces. He was an artist who sculpted a world of vibrant colors and invigorating smells and sensations. From the crashing waves on the rocky coastland, to the breathtaking sight of a newborn foal taking its first breath, everything was done with precision and thought – for our comfort and pleasure.

 

But then, when all that creating was done, He formed His most cherished piece yet. Us. He formed us in His image with a specific goal in mind. And more than anything, He longed for a family of humanity that He could bless, and that would bless Him.

 

We spend an inordinate amount of time tearing down all that God put together. From the very environment around us, each other, and ourselves. We become so consumed with trying to understand why everything is broken, we can’t accept the fact that we’ve all been involved in the destruction.

 

This week we have another opportunity to be better than we have been. Our new President and Vice President have been inaugurated into office. However we feel about that, the votes have been counted and we are being asked to turn the page. And we have never needed a re-set more than we do right now. Now is the time to try and give God what He originally longed for – a human family that would image Him and His nature. A family that would work together to continue the legacy of this beautiful world He created for us.

 

With all the chaos in our country - economic downturn, racial unrest, political division and the current health crisis – today more than ever we must find a way to lay down our weapons and reach out our hands. Not giving up our core beliefs or our rights, but to extend a hand of peace and to show we are the image of God we were designed to be.

 

And along with the others already serving, we must decide to be the heroes that God wants us to be, refusing to spread division and bitterness – instead reaching out with words that comfort and prayers that will bring healing to our broken land. We know that there are deeply flawed attitudes that need to be shifted in our nation, but we will never achieve the victory over them by allowing ourselves to respond with lawlessness or violence. It’s never right, on any side, or for any reason.

 

We need to find our own personal heroes. Those individuals of faith who have modeled humility and servanthood their whole lives. Whether it’s the janitor at church, or an esteemed evangelist, those are the examples we need to look to when we’re deciding how we will respond. And look to the life of Jesus.

 

Matthew 8:1-4 talks about a leper who needed to be healed. In spite of the risk to His own health, and the popular beliefs of the current day, scripture tells us “Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Now is the time for us to reach out to those who suffer from the disease of a bigoted upbringing, selfish ambition or godless intentions. We can be that healing touch that shows the love of God in spite of someone’s current diseased condition.

 

Most importantly, as a body we must lift our prayers and petitions to the Father to heal our land and bring back stability. We know that whatever happens on earth, it is under the loving control of God. He hears us and will honor our fervent and humble requests. Romans 13:1 assures us that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. We can rest easy in the promise of His sovereign rule, and His overwhelming and relentless love for us.

Be blessed my Friend.  God is on the throne.

Thrive!

Posted on January 17, 2021 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I have a sweet old dog named Sissie. She is aptly named, because at nearly 18 years old she is absolutely terrified of everything. No matter what she’s doing or where she is, she simply trembles in abject fear. She loves me more than anyone else in the world, and her eyes look up at me longingly, but she is too afraid to allow me to pick her up without stiffening, even though I know she craves the connection.

 

I got her when she was less than a year old, saved from an abusive home by a kind and nurturing Rescue. When I was looking for a new dog, I was really wanting a small puppy that would be able to travel with my husband and I on our evangelistic journeys. I was also craving companionship and connection from home, and the bigger dogs couldn’t travel with us in the RV. I was sure I could simply love her into feeling safe.

 

In reality, I only picked her out of the dozens of dogs offered because she looked so terrified and out of place. I saw her there huddling in the corner of the enclosure, with the other dogs playing and milling around her, head tucked into the corner – eyes shut tight – and knew I had to take her home.

 

I thought that given time, she would come around and start to heal. I was certain that she would be able to get past her terror and begin to thrive and enjoy her new safe environment. But here we are 17 years later and she still shakes at every movement and hides under every chair. When I know she needs affection, I have to get down on her level and gently coax her with comforting words. No matter how much she wants it, she can’t get past the fear and seek me out for love.

 

Whatever happened to her in her past, she was never able to let go of it enough to fully embrace her future. While she’s lived a loved life in my home -- she is always safe and comfortable, has a full belly and warm bed every night, she’s never felt the complete joy and abandon that could have been hers had she let go of her fear.

 

I wonder how many of us that can be said of. We walk out of addiction, an abusive relationship, poverty or fear, and are living a life that is comfortable -- but certainly not the life of joy that we are entitled to. In His great love, God tries over and over to come down to our level and coax us, but we can’t trust Him enough to let go of the memories of our past. We survive, but we do not thrive.

 

But God didn’t just promise our survival, He promised us joy. Not just once, and not just if we’re perfect, but over and over and all the time. Romans 12:12 says “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

 

The very act of looking to hope as a reason to rejoice tells us that nothing is ever going to be perfect. In fact, we’re told we will have to be patient at the inevitable trouble, but our antidote from the cares of life is to give them to the Father in prayer. That’s a pretty complete prescription.

 

But first, we have to let go of the baggage that’s holding us back. Every breath we take, every moment we live is a new shot at happiness. That is, of course, if we’re willing to let go of the old pain that has us bound up. To hold on to the past is to, in effect, presume that God can’t change us or our circumstances. But Isaiah 46:18-19 tells us “do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I [GOD], will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

There is no hurt God can’t heal, no wound He is unwilling to bind up, and no dysfunction He won’t use or remove in order to make us effective and joyful in our journey here. We can survive our lives, much like my Sissie, fearful of everything around us – waiting for the next horrible thing to happen or being ineffective because we’re unable to take any kind of risk. Or we can grab onto the joy that we are promised, walk in the authority He has given us – and thrive!

 

Today is the day to be who God intended you to be, because tomorrow is just not promised. As Psalm 118:24 says “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

 

Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!

Death where is your sting?

Posted on January 10, 2021 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

This week I received the very sad news that my good friend had gone home to be with the Lord, a victim of Covid. While I rejoice at the victory of his homegoing, I am also grieving with his sweet wife and family. One of our own Grace families lost their father recently, and we celebrated his life, but that doesn’t make the process any more comprehensible.

We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t want to ask ‘why’. What good can be found in a death that happens way too soon, and in a way that seems unfair and arbitrary? Does God not pay attention or love us enough to know how our hearts will be shattered and broken, or is someone else’s good of more importance that ours? In the midst of grief, the hard questions don’t seem to have any answer.

But knowing my friend I can’t help but wonder if some nurses’ life was cheered and touched by his unrelenting humor. Or if, in some small way, his death didn’t cause another person to be more cautious in how they go through their day-to-day activities – maybe even saving someone else’s life. I know everything that happens in this world has a ripple effect.

It seems we all know someone who is struggling with death and loss during this unprecedented time. Our hope can be swallowed up in the headlines -- our faith tested by the unknown. With the massive numbers of sick and suffering it’s difficult to not question God’s motives. How can we hang on to the belief that we’re not being punished or victimized by His anger?

It’s an unfathomable question and there are no easy answers except the one give to us by God’s provision and in His own loss. 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 asks “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

While I can’t begin to answer the ‘why’ questions, I can certainly answer the question of whether this is a way that God is venting His justifiable anger. Simply put, no! When we suffer, God suffers. We are His children whom He has chased down and restored over and over again -- from the moment He created and breathed life into the first man. He understands the devastation of grief better than any of us, and in His infinite love He weeps over our sin as much as He does our pain. [Hebrews 4:15, Luke 19:41] How can we presume God would punish us for that which He understands?

I’m not just stringing words together but have walked this cold and lonely road myself. I can’t promise that the answers will come in this life, but I can tell you that in every situation God has plan for our life and for our death. In a world of more than 7.5 billion people it’s easy to feel insignificant and small, but we are never inconsequential to our Father. Jeremiah 1:5a tells us that “before He formed us in our mother’s womb, He knew us.” More than that, we’re promised that “the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” [Psalm 33:11]

I don’t know your loss or your grief specifically, but I know the God we serve. If we can’t hold to one other promise, let’s hold to this: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [Psalm 147:3]. Joy will come again though it may take some time.

Beyond the pain here, we can hold onto the victory that God has guaranteed through the death of Christ. Revelation 21:4 tells us “He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away.”

Let me leave you with the lyrics to a wonderful old hymn, written by Jim Hill.

There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come

No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye

All is peace forever more on that happy golden shore

What a day, glorious day that will be

There'll be no sorrows there and no more burdens to bear

No more sickness and no more pain, no more parting over there

And forever I will be with the One who died for me

What a day, glorious day that will be

What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see

When I look upon His face the One who saved me by His grace

When He takes me by the hand and leads me to the Promised Land

What a day, glorious day that will be

 

Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!

 

New Year Reset

Posted on January 4, 2021 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

This is the first Sunday of a brand spanking new year, and the first Grace Notes too. I’m not sure we’ve ever needed a reset more desperately than we do this year. All around us we’re watching as the world writhes and groans. Where do we find peace? Where do we find justice? Where do we find some kind of relief from the overwhelming grief and fear?

 

As Christians, we know the answer is under the wings of the Almighty, as it tells us in Psalm 91. But if I’m completely transparent with myself and you, I have to admit how inadequate and hard to grasp that thought can be in the middle of this battle. I know! That probably makes me a terrible Believer and perhaps even a worse Pastor, right?

 

I don’t think so. It makes me honest and human – and I know I’m not alone in feeling these things. I take comfort in the fact that God understands and mourns the brokenness of our times right along with us. Beyond that, I’m completely convinced He doesn’t hold it against us. You see, the trouble in this world isn’t because God has abandoned or judged us, as some would like to claim. It’s not even because the Enemy has a stranglehold on the earth. I am convinced that what we’re going through is birth pains. And, as any mother can tell you, that is never without pain, blood, messiness and fear. But it is also a source of incredible joy.

 

That upcoming joy is also why we have is hope. The unrelenting, unending, unchanging knowledge that God is preparing a home for us where none of these issues will have any authority. When the New Jerusalem is birthed, that’s where we’ll fellowship with Him, living in a utopia where there will be no illness or sadness, and where we will see our loved ones again. It may seem far away at times, but we know it’s there.

 

So in the meantime, for however long it takes, we are being called on to make sure we extend that hope to everyone around us. The world may be in chaos, but we still have a job to do. Looking to the future, we must rely on the promises left to us in Scripture, and work on our relationship with God to ensure we’re doing our part to clean up this mess and prepare for the final chapter.

 

What better time is there to do that than at the start of a brand spanking new year? Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV) says “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

 

Instead of making a new year’s resolution to spend more time in exercise, or to lose weight or pray more (things we should be doing anyway), let’s just focus on one goal: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

 

If we can just let go of the mess of 2020 and look to the amazing future God has planned – ‘pressing on toward the goal’ – we will find ourselves happier, healthier, and more productive in all ways.

 

I know we all thought the end of 2020 would see some kind of miraculous relief. In reality, we’re still looking at a fairly hazy future, but we have the assurance that the fog is going to lift because God has promised that He will rescue and relieve His people. Isaiah 40:31 says “they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

 

Eye’s straight ahead and focused on God, Church. That’s how we must enter the new year. God never gives up on us, so let’s not make the mistake of ever giving up on Him.

 

Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!

The Gift

Posted on December 26, 2020 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

In John 3:16, one of our most beloved verses, we’re told of the most amazing gift that could ever have been given to us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him won’t perish but will have everlasting life.”

Now that’s a gift that can’t ever be surpassed. And it’s also something that, once given and accepted, can never be taken from us. It doesn’t matter what kind of craziness is going on in the world, it will never be stolen, confiscated, restricted or rescinded. And to receive it, all we’re asked to do is have a believing faith in the gift of Christ’s birth, sacrificial death and resurrection. Simple and complete.

I don’t know about you, but Christmas looked a little different for me this year. There was no party, no Christmas program at church, and I was thriftier in what I spent. But this year was no less precious than any other I’ve celebrated. In fact, because finances were less available than time, everything was more meaningful. To give something painstakingly thought out, whether purchased or created, is a blessing to the one receiving and to the one giving.

I believe that’s how God looks at it too. He could just set the world back on its heels, wipe everything out and start again. He’s had to do it before, and it wouldn’t be a difficult task for Him. But instead, He put together a plan, made a sacrifice that had meaning on so many levels, then offered it to us to receive in whatever measure we are willing. You see, it’s not just about the gift. It’s also about our desire to reach for it.

Have you ever put thought into a special present for someone, then had them appear unimpressed by your offering? Generally that seems to happen with children. They don’t understand the value of the perfect gift, or what it takes to find it. So they would rather have the box than the expensive toy inside. But sometimes we just miss the mark, perhaps because we don’t know the recipient as well as we thought or got caught up in our good intentions.

I know I’ve received things that were so “not me” that I wondered what the giver was thinking. Were they gifting something they wanted or did they just not know me? I once received an electric potato peeler. It was an expensive gift, but the reason he gave it was because his job was to peel the potato’s for our family meals. Suffice to say it was a learning experience for him. ��

But the gift that God offers is not ‘one size fits all.’ Salvation means something different for everyone who receives it. The rescue that is offered is eternal -- not something that will wear out, expire or become obsolete. And it was prepared individually for you and me, in spite of the fact that it’s available to the whole world. The Giver knows us intimately and completely. Scripture tells us that He even knows the number of hairs on our head, so surely He knows exactly what the gift needs to look like for each of us.

I couldn’t help but notice that Christmas lights went up particularly early this year. In this broken world of ours many people would like to be mad at God and blame Him for the chaos and pain around us. But we all know where the dysfunction actually comes from; and admit it or not, we know where the relief will come from as well. Like children, we ignore the beautiful contents of our life and concentrate only on the packaging.

Despite the goodness of God’s gift there’s no possible way for us to really reciprocate. It’s freely given, and nothing is expected in return. Once we grasp the gift, unwrap it, and let it affect us, there’s no possible way it will ever be taken back. So how could we possibly repay that but by our loyal love and belief?

This season let’s take a minute to remember that the difficulties of 2020 were not from God, but the cure for them can be found in the promises and favor that He is offering us. Zephaniah 3:17 says “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” Now that’s a gift!

Be blessed, my friend.  God is on the throne!

Bobbie

 

Born of God and Son of Man

Posted on December 20, 2020 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

When God first created mankind, it was in the hope that He would have someone to commune with here on earth. The master design was that we would create with Him and the Heavenly Host a perfect civilization where there would be fellowship, harmony, peace, and beauty.

We’ve pretty made a mess of that through the centuries, and 2020 is a strong reminder of what happens when we’re out of the will of God. But instead of focusing on the many horrors of this year or those of generations past, we can look at one thing that has never changed. The redemptive love of God that continues today with relentless energy and unwavering devotion to us.

Even when His creation chose temporary temptations in Eden, He began work on a plan to restore us to Him. Despite the sin that festered and rotted society forcing Him to wipe out the generations in a flood, God kept a seed sheltered to rebuild. Then, when His arrogant children again tried to subvert His will at the tower of Babel, God put a permanent solution in place that would ensure an eventual return to the design He had originally mapped out. And it started not with fire and fury, but with the birth of a Messiah.

Isaiah 9:6-7 prophesied “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

There are two accounts in Scripture of the actual birth of Jesus – in Matthew 1 and Luke 2. Both are simple and eloquent in their accounting of the event. In Luke we’re told that messengers appeared to some shepherds that were out tending their sheep outside the small town of Bethlehem. The angels told them “don’t be afraid, we bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

In Matthew, we simply read a quiet account of how Joseph, the earthly (but not biological) father of Jesus was informed of the impending birth. Again a messenger appeared and said “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Two things stand out. The first words to everyone in this redemption story is “don’t be afraid.” We spend a lot of time today being afraid. The world around us is in complete turmoil. The political climate is hot and unsteady, our very health is threatened, our way of life has been altered and compromised and chaos seems to have claimed everyone’s thinking.

But we can stand on the promises in the second part of this message. From the prophesy in Isaiah to the proclamation at the time of Christ’s birth, we are reminded that He was sent to save us. He is our Counselor when we’re confused, our Mighty God when we have no direction, our Everlasting Father who will not abandon us, and the Prince of Peace who will rebuke chaos and restore this world to its original design.

As we head into Christmas, let me leave you with the lyrics to a beautiful worship anthem written by Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash and Matt Redman:

Born of God and Son of man – there before the world began

Born to suffer, born to save, born to raise us from the grave

Christ the everlasting Lord – HE SHALL REIGN FOREVERMORE

Noel, Noel – Come and see what God has done

Noel, Noel – the story of amazing love

The light of the world, given for us – Noel

 

Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!

 


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