|Posted on July 4, 2020 at 2:05 PM||comments (0)|
Is our walk with the Lord anyone else’s business? As much as we would like it to be, the answer to that question isn’t a simple yes or no. We live in a society that can be judgmental, and criticism without understanding often seem to be the rule rather than the exception. No one wants to hear someone else’s opinion about their personal life, and nothing is more personal to us than our relationship with God, so it’s easy to assume that it’s simply no one else’s business.
But while our relationship with God is deep, personal and permanent, and one that only He can judge, how we display that relationship in our day to day behavior is subject to speculation by a very critical world.
Scripture tells us to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). But who defines what is evil? And more importantly, is it the same today as it was when Paul communicated this in the New Testament days?
First we need to step away from the misconception that the word “appearance,” as it’s used here, means something that is seen with the eye. In this case the word literally translates more as “form.” So, the scripture is actually telling us to avoid any form of evil. Good advice no matter who you are.
Having said that, Jesus was very clear in His teachings that we need to lead others to Him by our example more than our words. In Matthew 17:24-27 He tells us Peter that in order to “not cause offense” they will pay their taxes. Jesus knew that allowing ourselves to be subject to government, following the rules, making decisions that reflect good morals and a strong sense of personal ethics speaks to our character. And our character is a direct reflection of God in us.
And, in Corinthians 8:9, we’re taught that we are to avoid doing things that others might think is wrong simply because it could cause another brother to stumble. Do we think that God doesn’t know that the world is going to be looking for a way to blame us, and so be hypervigilant to every little thing Christians say or do? Of course He knew that. Which is why He also knew the world would know us by our love. And that love is displayed by our willingness to give up our own little liberties for the greater plan of leading others to salvation.
We are called to lead a life that exemplifies the humility, sensitivity, honor and awareness of others that Jesus showed. Sometimes we have to give up our own rights for the good of others. The passage in Corinthians finishes by saying “beware lest this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.”
The bottom line is that we Christians have a higher standard to live up to. In Romans 12 we’re told to “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” That means those who believe as we do, and those who don’t. It takes some humility to recognize that we’re subject to the world’s opinion of us. But just remember that while you may be subject to its opinion, at the end of the day you’ll only answer to the judgement of God.
The world is watching, and we must be prepared to be a mirror that reflects the nature of our Father. Our finances need to be in order, we can’t cheat our employers on our timecards or by “borrowing” resources that don’t belong to us. We can’t lie to get out of sticky situations, and we can’t throw angry words and social media posts around like everyone else. We don’t have the luxury of being angry and belligerent when someone has wronged us, or being part of gossipy and unproductive chatter. Because we’re better than the rest of society? Not at all. It’s simply because we are called to a life that is a reflection of the God we serve.
Our Christian walk is the business of everyone around us because it is the tool that God uses to reach everyone around us. Everything we do is a testimony (bad or good). And if we have to sacrifice some of our personal freedoms to be God’s mouthpiece, we should be okay with that. Compared to the sacrifice that was already made for us, it’s a small enough price to pay.
Be blessed, my Friends. God is on the throne.
|Posted on May 23, 2020 at 8:00 AM||comments (0)|
Do you wonder sometimes when God is going to show up? I mean, seriously, I say He will all the time… other Pastors, Evangelists, teachers and scholars say it. But, in the midst of your messy life, are you wondering to yourself, ‘Ok, but when?”
Well first of all, let’s level set a bit. Even though we quite frequently use this phrase, God doesn’t have to show up because He never really leaves us. In the pagan cultures talked about in scripture (and mythology), they believed their gods lived far away on some other plain. They weren’t accessible without the proper “incentive” to intervene in human lives, and even then it was really iffy just what they would do.
Now God doesn’t have an address on Hollywood and Vine, but we know He’s with us all the time because that’s what scripture promises. And, as a bonus, He sent the Holy Spirit to be here on earth with us. God is always watching and assessing every move, every intake of breath, every desire and need.
If that leaves you wanting to have a face to face with the Holy Spirit, just look as far as your own heart and spirit. Before leaving for heaven, Jesus told the disciples that He “asked His Father to give us a Helper to be with us always. He is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor recognizes Him. But you recognize Him (Jesus says), because He lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17).
Before leaving them for the final time, Jesus went on to comfort his grieving friends. In verse 26 He told them “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all the things that I said to you.”
So unlike the idols and gods that pagan cultures are banking on, the real God stays here (in the person of the Holy Spirit), to go through every triumph and tragedy that we experience. And, unlike the false gods, He doesn’t require any material gift to favor us with His strength and blessing.
The Babylonian culture sacrificed its virgins and infants in order to appease a god that was never flesh and bone. In spite of copious amounts of specially raised and slaughtered swine, they never heard from the idols made by man’s hands. The manufactured statues remained silent and without soul, unable to give anything in return for the fervent prayers of the people. Not unlike us, those people were putting their hope in something material rather than the Eternal.
No doubt, our God does demand a sacrifice of sorts – but not one with any monetary value. He would never ask that you choose between Him and your child, or insist on the slaughter of innocents in order to be appeased or bribed into behavior. In fact, He is the only one who made the ultimate sacrifice of His own precious Son.
God is looking for us to give up something, but it’s not material possessions, money, time, or the things we think we desperately can’t live without. Don’t get me wrong – He does want us to freely give Him those things. But what He really longs for is for us to give up our hearts. God desires the sacrifice of us.
Most times, people say “I can’t give up this or that, it’s too hard.” Generally, they’re talking about something that is harming them – drugs, cigarettes, a destructive lifestyle, a dysfunctional relationship, a job. But none of those things are the surrender that God’s looking for. When you simply give yourself to Him, He’ll clean up the rest of the mess.
God doesn’t ask you to surrender so He can manipulate or change who you are. Remember, you were created in His perfect image. He wants you to give up so He can start moving on your behalf. God wants you healthy, happy, and most of all SATISFIED!
If you think you don’t even know how to start, begin here: Romans 8:26 says “In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, the Spirit Himself intercedes for us…”. Don’t know what to say? Don’t know what to even ask for anymore? The Holy Spirit does.
We don’t need to worry about what material ‘things’ we’ll have to give up when we give our hearts and lives over to God. He only wants the good in us, but He will accept the bad too. Because God knows that when we have truly surrendered, He will be able to begin working on the things we crave, all the stuff we think we can’ t live without, but that don’t work for our good. He will begin rebuilding us to a new and wonderful 2.0 version, complete with all the equipment we need – like the armor of God – to get through this crazy life.
Let me warn you, though. Whether you’re a new Christian or a seasoned Believer, when you begin to let it all go and allow God to be in control, amazing things will begin to happen. If you ask for revival, you better make sure you’re ready to be revived! Because that’s what God will do
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on May 16, 2020 at 8:00 AM||comments (0)|
When disasters strike it leaves us feeling vulnerable. Trauma in our lives can mark us and instill us with doubt and insecurities about our place in this world, and our own ability to cope. No matter how strong our faith is or how much we have seen God move in the midst of disaster, we can still have doubts. It’s just human nature to get tangled up in worry about the future. Our anxiety is greatly shaped by the past. You’re not a poor Christian if you are scared and anxious! You’re just a run of the mill person, who has been through a tough time.
The world works on the theory that strength is the most valued commodity. We are taught from a young age that we need to “toughen up” and learn to be strong at all costs. Unfortunately, the price tag for the callouses we build over hearts, can turn out to be a loss of compassion for ourselves and others. And it can cause us to forget that real strength doesn’t necessarily come from within – it comes from God in us. Often, those who seem the toughest on the outside are just the ones with the hardest shell.
There is a balance in what we teach our children, and in our own self-image. We must be resilient and tough, there’s no doubt about that. It’s a rough world, and there are many roadblocks and pitfalls that are just waiting to trip us up. Not to mention that Satan is looking for every opportunity to knock us into the nearest ditch. And if we’re so soft that we let every thorn on the path stop us, we’ll never make any progress.
The blessing is in the fact that God doesn’t just leave us to our own devices. In fact, Scripture (and personal experience) show us that when we’re the weakest, that’s when God can work the most effectively. In fact, God will allow us to have experiences that shake us to the core – or conditions that cause us to have to toughen up – because that’s what makes us whole, and what causes us to turn to Him.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about a physical condition that is a “thorn in his side.” We’re not told what it is, nor do we really need to know. We all have some thorns of our own, whether it’s an addiction, a physical or mental illness, or some kind of disability. Even skewed thinking, selfishness, pride, or a lack of humility can be a tripping point. There isn’t anyone who doesn’t struggle with something, no matter how deeply and thoroughly they may have learned to cover it up, or package it as functional behavior.
Paul says he “asked God three times to make him well again. Each time He [God] said No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people” [Verses 8-9a]. Paul goes on to say he’s happy to live with the ‘thorn,’ even though it causes others to mock and persecute him. At the end of verse 10 he states, “for when I am weak, then I am strong—the less I have, the more I depend on Him.”
I don’t know how happy we really are to live with the troubles and trials—particularly when they become so challenging that we can’t see an end. But the promise and protection of God is where our respite comes from. God’s strength is embedded in His character. It doesn’t mean that He wants to keep us under His thumb or make us hobbled and ineffective. It just means that He wants us to rely on Him for those moments when we can’t cope.
His Word doesn’t say that He will protect us from every single challenge in life, but that He will help us endure. And His strength will carry us over the roughest parts of our lives. Psalms 18:2 says “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer. My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
We tend to think that our salvation means we’re given a fortress where life’s bad things can’t ever penetrate. What a disappointment it can be to discover that we’re subject to all the same battles as the rest of humanity. But when we do learn to lean on God, to allow ourselves to expose our weaknesses and rely on Him, we will find a new well of strength and comfort.
That’s what we need to teach ourselves, our children, and the world. And by the way, we need to let the Enemy know as well that, when he begins to sling arrows our way, our shield is God. We need to talk, walk and live the promise that we can “Fear not, for He is with us. We don’t need to be dismayed, for He IS our God. He will strengthen us, Yes. He will help us; He will uphold us with His righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). We can pray that promise. Put our name, our family problems, and our situation on notice, and see how God shows up.
Every morning, every challenge, we can say to the enemy, “I’m not going to be afraid, because God’s with me. I don’t need to worry for He is MY God. He will strengthen me. Yes. He will help me. He is upholding me with His righteous right hand. Take that, Satan!” Will that always change our situation? Perhaps not. But it will always change our attitude and our ability to endure. Because when we begin to speak the promises of God, He responds with love, giving us whatever measure of strength we need to thrive.
To the best of our ability we must embrace (or at least accept with grace) the many struggles and learn to look to the real source of our strength. Because, to quote an old song, His strength is perfect when our strength is gone.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on May 9, 2020 at 8:00 AM||comments (0)|
How many times have you longed for, prayed for, petitioned God for something – then received it – only to find out it’s more trouble than it’s worth? Maybe that “thing” isn’t a problem all the time, but enough that you start to ask yourself if it’s more burden than blessing. We are just so fickle by nature.
Like all children, we rarely know what’s really good for us. We may think we do in the moment, but the reality is that our attention spans are about as long as a gnat’s. We either forget how much trouble this or that can be, or we romanticize previous experiences in order to plug up some gaping hole we are feeling. Forgetting that the plug will eventually give way and we’ll still be dealing with the same old underlying issue.
The initial excitement of that new house (substitute job, car, relationship, ministry), can quickly fade in the day to day realities of maintenance. We picture situations so differently than they actually turn out to be. Sure, there are moments of ecstasy and joy, times that look exactly like we pictured them, but it’s always hard work to maintain something that’s worthwhile. And that’s where our dreams crash and burn – when the fantasy meets reality.
Think of it this way. If you suddenly found you owned a mythical unicorn – tall, white, flowing mane, huge horn coming up from its forehead, a beautiful creature you had longed for since you were small. For a moment you would be stunned by the blessing of seeing it standing there in your backyard. How could you have been so favored as to have acquired this gorgeous and amazing animal? You might picture yourself riding him (her?) through the town, waving at all your friends, knowing that they were just green with envy.
But then you’re faced with real issue of what to feed the unicorn. Not only what to feed it, but how much it eats! Which leads to the resulting issue of cleaning up after it (you know what I mean). And how will you deal with it if it gets hurt or sick? I mean, really, who knows anything about unicorns? And what if you get hurt or sick? Is there someone you can trust with the unicorn until you’ve recovered? Or worse yet, who will take care of it if you don’t survive? After all, it’s YOUR unicorn and you are responsible.
And just like that, the blessing is a burden.
So, does that mean we should never ask God for anything? Of course not! But it does mean that we should be very open to whatever blessing God has in mind for us. If we ask for a home and find that we don’t get the very one we longed for, perhaps it’s because God has something else in mind. When we pray for a husband, a child, a better job, we must be open to listening to God’s response, and understanding that He will do everything in the right time. Waiting on God. Not something anyone is particularly good at.
And, just because God gives us something we’ve asked for, does that mean it’s ours exclusively or forever? And will He will just hand it over and walk away? God doesn’t deal in the temporary, His mind is on the eternal. And that’s what He’s teaching us.
The hardest thing for us to do is to shift our focus from the temporary (anything involving our human condition), to the eternal (the things of God). 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing (the temporary human condition), yet the inward man (our eternal soul) is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction (I know – it doesn’t always feel light to us) which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
We just don't always see it... Sometimes, when we ask God for something, He says no. We may not understand why, but that’s because we can’t see beyond the horizon. And sometimes He just says “not now,” causing us to wait for God to move in whatever way He knows will be best for us. But this we do know… He will always work out everything for the best result, even when we can’t see or understand it.
Instead of looking into the backyard at the beautiful unicorn, sometimes we have to look up and away from the temporary desires of our heart, the impermanent situation of our lives, and allow God to work for our eternal benefit. Because “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on May 2, 2020 at 8:00 AM||comments (0)|
In the eighth chapter of Nehemiah, there is a day of celebration documented. The year is about 430 BC, and the people of Judah had returned from exile in Babylonia to rebuild the temple under God’s instruction and direction.
The scene opens as everyone, right down to the women and children, gather together to spend the day listening as Ezra begins reading the law of Moses to the people. He starts out by praising God for the reunion, and for the work that is about to be done.
Hour after hour people stand listening to him read the “Revelation of God,” as the Message Bible translates the title. Nehemiah, the governor was there, along with scholars, ministers, priests, and everyday citizens. The people were so moved by the laws they had broken they began weeping and wailing, but Ezra hushed them saying:
“Don’t cry on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God – it is a time to celebrate with a hearty meal and to send presents to those in need, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. You must not be dejected and sad!” Nehemiah 8:10 & 11
We are very much like our ancestors. In spite of the blessings in our lives, and on the cusp of victory, we can find a reason to mourn. If we spend too much time looking back at all the things we should have done, we can miss the joy of the triumph.
But also like them – we have a day of celebration coming. We may not have a specific date to the end of the enforced isolation, or a solid vaccination for the virus that is sweeping our world, but we have the same promise that they did. The joy of the Lord is our strength!
Verse 12 says “So the people went away to eat a festive meal and to send presents; it was a time of great and joyful celebration because they could hear and understand God’s words.” That word “understand,” when translated means to discern, perceive, grasp, consider, regard; be perceptive, have insight. It comes from the word bin, and is derived from the noun binah, meaning “understand.” In this case, we know that spiritual revival did not come until the people clearly understood the text that had been shared [Strong’s #995].
Whatever this historic time means, and I know there are many schools of thought, one thing is certain. God is giving us an opportunity for new understanding. We have time to spend in His Word, in prayer, learning to understand His nature. We have time with our families to read the Word out loud to them, to teach those who may not yet grasp the will and ways of God. And we have the chance to learn from our mistakes and create a plan to move forward in strength and unity. And we have an ability to reach out in kindness to those around us who don’t share our good fortune, either materially or spiritually.
There has been a hush over the world these past five weeks. We’re already seeing changes and healing in the physical environment as a result of less traffic and pollution. While living shoulder to shoulder may be getting on our last nerve, we are also learning things about our families we may never have understood. And now we have the chance to fill the silence that blankets the earth with weeping or with praise.
The book of Nehemiah teaches us that the joy of the Lord is a powerful source of strength. When we raise our voices in worship to the Father, we are creating a shelter over our families, our communities, our countries and our world. When we choose to be the voice that shouts praises, and not dissension, we are truly extending the hands of God to those who don’t yet understand His goodness. And we have the opportunity to usher in the spiritual revival that this world desperately needs.
The time is coming when our feasting will begin. For most of us it will likely be called a potluck and worship service, but a celebration nevertheless. In the meantime, let’s start a tidal wave of joyous sound. When we begin to worship with our mouths, the heavens will hear and respond.
In 2 Chronicles 7:14 God tells us that “if My people (that’s you and me) who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
It’s time to raise our voices and let God know that we get it. We don’t do that in wailing, mourning, or gnashing of teeth – but in celebration and joy for the victory that is about to be ours.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on April 25, 2020 at 8:15 AM||comments (0)|
I love the saying, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” In fact, I did my very best to hold tightly to that thought after my husband passed away. In the initial stages of grief, I had many regrets of the things I wished I had done differently. But, with the passage of time, the pain began to soften into longing and I was better able to celebrate the precious moments we did have together.
I was surprised to find that no one is sure who first coined the phrase, since it’s used in some many situations and places – wall art, quilts, funerals, weddings – and in just about everything Hobby Lobby produces. The earliest evidence seems to be in a 1989 booklet written for dancers by Vicki Corona. It’s buried within her warning that, although rehearsals are often grueling, the joy is in the dance itself and not the preparation.
The poet Philip James Bailey first released his magnum opus “Festus” in 1839. In an expanded version published in the US in 1853 he wrote “We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; In feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heartthrobs. He most lives who thinks most – feels the noblest – acts the best.”
The enemy would love to snare us in a trap of self-accusation. He wants to keep bringing back to our minds all the old hurts, regrets, and pain. And we, creatures of habit that we are, can easily become tangled up in the web of “wishing our lives away.” It’s infinitely easier to keep rooted in our mess than it is to pull ourselves up and out of it.
But in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Christ tells us that, once we have given the mess over to Him, “we are a new creation.” In fact, we’re promised that all that old junk is gone. The second half of the verse states “old things (that means thinking, patterns, sins, and all manner of stinky-ness) are passed away; behold, all things become new.”
We have the choice to drive down the road watching the rear view mirror, or to make the decision that we can’t change the past, and so keep our eyes trained on the promises ahead of us. There comes a point where punishing ourselves over who we were quits being a way to stay on track, and becomes an excuse to stand still. We get the victory over the current battle, but don’t want to trust God enough to acknowledge that He will also fight the entire war with us.
I have days of regretful nostalgia. I think that’s just human nature, particularly as time gets shorter and we know we’ve lived the majority of our lives. It would be impossible to not wonder what could have happened if we’d made different choices along the way. But speculating about it, and drowning in regret, are two very different things.
We can’t possibly think that God, who sent His only Son to pay the debt for all the mistakes we’ve made – before, by the way, we were even born – wouldn’t also make provision for everything ahead of us. Should we repay that sacrifice by refusing to walk into His promise of a rich and blessing-filled future?
Isaiah 46:4 says “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” We will inevitably age, get to the end of the runway without having done everything we wanted to, and long to change what is behind us. But God has promised that He will walk through every moment with us - from the second He planted us in our mother’s womb, to the very last breath we pull into our lungs.
Let’s not waste too much time wondering what we should have done differently and focus on what God would ask us to do next.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on April 18, 2020 at 8:05 AM||comments (0)|
I don’t know how you’re spending your days in isolation, but much of my time seems to be filled with random musings as I sit in my quiet house, watching the families across the street toss around a football or smell the barbecue wafting from others’ back yards.
On the other hand, I’ve had an amazing time of “enforced” staycation. My house is immaculate, my office files are on the way to perfect alignment, even my oven is clean. Most importantly, I’ve had a re-igniting of my passion to worship with my church and a new longing to be with my family.
I can’t help but wonder what isolation with others feels like though. I’m sure, in spite of what it looks like from out my front window, there are challenges. The old saying can be true… “familiarity breeds contempt.”
That phrase was most recently made popular by writer, Mark Twain, when describing our tendency to begin to look down on those who are closest to us. It seems the more of their weaknesses we see, the more we de-value their strengths.
The very things that made us attracted to our mates – his quirky sense of humor, her crooked smile or tendency to laugh in the wrong places – can become irritating with the passage of time. What once seemed precious can become just one more annoyance in a life filled with them.
Seriously, I sometimes wear myself out, let alone trying to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of another (or many other) human beings. Is that just because I know myself so well? Perhaps that’s why, as time goes on, the little eccentricities of others begin to grate on us. We just know them too well.
It’s a good thing God doesn’t feel that way. Because not only did He create us from the top strand of our baby fine hair to our oddly shaped big toenail, but He knows everything about us -- including those things we've spent a lifetime hiding. Most especially, He knows the why’s of everything we do.
He has seen the outside forces that have shaped our attitudes, our beliefs about ourselves, and our resulting actions. He has an inside track on what motivates us, and what breaks us down. God has witnessed all our comings and goings (Psalm 121) both “now and forevermore.”
Several mornings ago I was looking in my 50x’s magnification make-up mirror trying to smooth out the wrinkles and spots. I contoured, highlighted, plucked and colored. Then I put on my glasses to see… yikes! All that work and I still looked like a pretty average 60-something-year old woman, with lines and scars earned legitimately through a lifetime of work, worry, laughter and tears. I could try and cover up what was showing on the outside, but I couldn’t change how life had marked me.
In Psalm 51, we see David’s very sweet and humble plea for God to forgive him for his sins. First he acknowledges his transgressions, pulling back the covers on all the secrets and the lies he has presented to the world. Then he acknowledges that he can’t cover up anything from God.
In verse 6 David says, “… You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” Later he pleas, “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
We can cover up our most embarrassing flaws, keeping them hidden from the world – even our closest family and friends. But God has been there beginning to end, and there is no hiding from Him. He knows our ‘comings and our goings’ and loves us anyway. And if we’re willing to acknowledge and uncover – He will provide healing even in the most diseased and painful parts of us.
God wants transparency from the inside out. There is no isolating from Him because He remains with us throughout every moment. Not judging, but loving, nudging, encouraging, mourning and rejoicing through every nano-second of our lives. Even in the moments when we turn our back, He never moves away or gets fed up enough to let us go. He is infinitely patient, waiting for us to call on Him.
Isolation is a relative term, because no matter how far we distance ourselves, we’re never separated from God. But don’t let that scare you. As I say all the time, “you are not defined by your worst moment, because God’s not finished with you yet.”
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on April 11, 2020 at 8:05 AM||comments (0)|
I can’t remember an Easter that I didn’t spend in church. This year, with a pandemic looming over our heads, and all the resultant confusion, it’s easy to allow it to eclipse what this day really means.
I’m going to miss all the festivities. No Easter production at church, the end to weeks and weeks of planning, no big dinner with my family, eating more than is comfortable, then laughing, playing music and tossing around a ball until we’re hungry again.
Oh, there was always a sacred element to the celebration. Easter is my favorite sacred holiday simply because of the greatness of it’s meaning. We commemorate the death of Jesus on Good Friday, but on Easter – He rose again!
While I’m going to miss all the food and fun, I’m not sorry that I’ve had more time to focus on isolation these past weeks. Can you imagine how isolated Jesus felt? He knew He would be going through an obscene and hideously painful ordeal. Yet, on the night before He was taken, when He asked His best friends to keep Him company while He came to grips with it, they couldn’t manage to stay awake long enough to comfort Him.
And when Jesus was brought before the Government for judgement, the very people that He came to save chanted out “Crucify Him!” when Pilate would have spared His life. In John 19 we’re told Jesus “carried His own cross” to be crucified.
In time, when the suffering was so great, Jesus even cried out to His Father, saying “Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani,” which means why hast Thou forsaken me? For the first and last time, He was feeling separation from God. Because Jesus had taken our sin upon Himself, even God the Father had to turn His back and allow the sacrifice. The heavens wept, but there was no turning back.
His mother and His friends stood near the cross, but He hung alone. Oh, there was a thief hanging on either side of him, and He comforted one when asked, but He alone was innocent. When Jesus saw His mother there, His thoughts were on her as He said “Woman, here is your son,” entrusting her care to a disciple whom He loved.
Near the end of the brutality of His suffering, when Jesus knew the prophesy had been finished, He said “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (John 19:28-30).
Those words – It Is Finished! He wasn’t saying “my suffering is now done,” as we sometimes think. In the Greek, the phrase ‘it is finished’ translates as Tetelestai. My friend sent me a beautiful short teaching on the phrase. Although I don’t know who wrote it, I was able to verify the information. It says, in part:
[This phrase ‘It is finished’ is ] found only in the Gospel of John. This is an accounting word which means ‘paid in full’…It’s different from the past tense which looks back to an event and says, “This happened.” The perfect tense adds the idea that “This happened, and it is still in effect today.”
We may be feeling isolation, but we are not alone. In Hebrews 13:5b, God promises “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Even while He had to turn His back on His Son for a moment, it was in order to make provision for us for eternity.
And even while Jesus was feeling deep sorrow and loneliness, He knew He was bearing it for our benefit. There’s an old song (written by Ronald Michael Payne and Ronnie Hinson) that says:
He knew me, yet He loved me
He whose glory makes the heavens shine
So unworthy of such mercy
Yet when He was on the cross
I was on His mind
Be blessed my friend. You are on God's mind!
|Posted on April 4, 2020 at 8:05 AM||comments (0)|
Typically, this is the Sunday we would be sharing the sacrament of Communion together. Communion is an intimate connection. The Latin root of the word means “fellowship, mutual participation, or sharing.” So, it seems like it might be hard to do while we’re “social distancing.” But really, the communion is not with one another, but with God.
We know that the sacrament of Communion is just a symbol – acknowledging the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for us. On the night before He was betrayed, Jesus shared His request that we remember it forever. Luke 22 says when “Christ had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples saying “This is My body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of Me.”
Later, when Paul was teaching the bickering church at Corinth, he reminded them of this sacrifice. The Corinthian believers were behaving in immature ways, with one foot in the sanctuary and one foot in the pagan world around them. He warned them of practicing Communion as a ritual that had no meaning, striving to help bring them back to a place where God was first.
Paul says “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you… on the same night Jesus was betrayed He took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me’.”
Paul warned the Church to examine themselves before receiving Communion. To take it with all seriousness, letting go of unforgiveness for others and asking God to forgive them of any sin in their own lives. That’s not to say that the act of Communion will wipe away our sins, but it is an opportunity to refresh our lives and recommit to that very intimacy that we need, and that God craves.
Our world is going through a great upheaval right now. It’s easy to focus on what’s going wrong and forget Who can make it right. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says “If My people (that means you and me), who are called by My name (by birthright or adoption), will humbles themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
I don’t believe this pandemic is a punishment from God, but I do believe He will use this opportunity to remind us to level-set. We have more opportunity than most of us can remember to spend time in the Word, to fellowship (at a safe distance) with our family and friends, and to pray in unity for God’s hand over our Nation and our world.
On this first Sabbath of April, the month when we also celebrate and honor Jesus for His great sacrifice on the cross, let’s take a moment to break bread together and remember what He did for us. You don’t have to be in a church sanctuary to take Communion. Get a piece of bread, and small bit of juice (or even water), hold them up to the heavens and say “thank you, God, for sending Your Son. Thank You, Jesus, for Your great sacrifice to make me blameless. Forgive me of my trespasses, as I will forgive those who have trespassed against me. I remember.”
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on March 28, 2020 at 8:05 AM||comments (0)|
There’s an old song that Southern Gospel family group, The Whisnants, made popular. It says:
High upon the mountain, the sun is shining bright
My heart is filled with gladness here above the cares of life
But I’ve just come through the valley of trouble fear and pain
It was there I came to know my God enough to stand and say
Even in the valley God is good
Even in the valley He is faithful and true
He carries His children through like He said He would
Even in the valley God is good
I think we’re learning so much during this season of struggle. I’ve never known a time, even in the worst moments of my life, when things seemed quite so uncertain -- supplies, finances, our very way of life. But even in the middle of this upheaval I’m also seeing many little kindnesses and blessings.
After the earthquake of 1989, during 9-11, in the aftermath of the devastating wildfires of the last several years, and the financial crash of 2008 -- we saw folks pulling together and pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. At least in those horrific events, once the damage was done, we could begin to rebuild.
That’s not to say the mourning and the pain didn’t last long beyond the initial incident, but there was a bottom where we could land and start looking up for a way out. And we had an enemy we could name.
This time, we’re facing a siege. The answer may not come in a day or a week. Who do we blame? A germ, the Government, a supply chain, another country? Not only is our faith being stretched, but also our stamina.
These are pivotal times, and I’m beginning to understand what faith is really all about. It’s not about problem solving, or even in believing that God will come to our rescue and our aid. Those are things that most of us have already embraced, and God has proven Himself faithful over and over. But there must be another lesson that He is trying to teach us in all of this, because this time IS different.
We’re seeing an unprecedented number of churches streaming their services, individual people worshiping and sharing on Facebook or Instagram or other platforms. Stories, both little and huge, of people doing the right thing and stretching out a helping hand to those around them -- practicing generosity. I’m so blessed by the prevailing attitude folks have of sharing and reaching out (hoarders and politics aside).
But I’m especially moved by the depth of longing I see in everyone around me to congregate with one another – particularly Believers. There’s nothing like having something restricted to make us crave it even more. It’s evident when we’re trying to diet, when someone we love is distanced from us, when our children leave home and go off to college or into the military, and when we’re told we can’t meet to have a church service. I can’t help but wonder if that craving won’t make us more appreciative of the privileges we were taking for granted.
Psalm 34:1 says “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Even during this long time of uncertainty, we must continually praise Him. Whether our struggle lasts for a moment, or lasts for a lifetime, our relief will be found in lifting our voices in worship. Not for just for this time, but with every thought and every word. The rest of that song says:
This road of life has led you to a valley of defeat
You wonder if the Father has heard your desperate plea
There is hope in that rugged place where tears of sorrow dwell
Can’t you hear Him gently whispering
“I’m here and all is well?”
All is well! It may not be what we’re used to, but even in the valley God is good.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!