|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!
|Posted on March 21, 2020 at 8:30 AM||comments (0)|
With all the time I seem to have had on my hands this past week, Grace Notes was prepared really early. In fact, I’m even several weeks ahead, because, in times of trouble and in times of joy, God speaks to me through writing. And sometimes, when I’ve found a real place of complete obedience, He writes through me.
That process happened in the very early hours of this morning. My mind woke up fully alert, and I kept hearing the phrase “shelter in place.” I’ve been pretty resentful of that order because I’m not a woman who is happy puttering around the house or finding busy work to do. Staying put brings on more anxiety than it does comfort.
But as I began to think about the word “shelter” it brought to my mind Psalm 91. When I was a young girl, that was the first long passage that I was asked to memorize. The words mesmerized my mind and comforted me through many times of trial in my life.
It starts “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” It doesn’t read better in any translation of the bible than it does in the New King James. But I love that The Living Bible says, “We live within the shadow of the Almighty, sheltered by the God who is above all Gods.”
If we’re going to shelter in place, is there any better place than under the protection of our Father? The passage goes on to state “This I declare, that He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I am trusting Him.” The King James says, “He is my refuge and my fortress.”
The picture that the Psalmist paints is eloquent and complete. “Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler.” That’s someone who pursues wild fowl to kill and devour it. “And from the perilous pestilence.” The dictionary defines “pestilence” as a fatal epidemic disease, especially bubonic plague. So, scripture tells us God is watching out for the seen and the unseen dangers.
Verse four says “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge.” As in the natural world a bird parent would do, God encourages us to shelter in place under His protection. Nestled under His great arms, covered, safe, protected. He is saying that before anything can come against us, He will draw us into Him and protect us from harm.
What scripture doesn’t say is that the pestilence and pursuer doesn’t exist. We’re not promised a world where there isn’t any disease or dysfunction. But I can tell you that God didn’t bring it to us to “teach us a lesson” or “get us back in line,” as some are teaching these days.
Yes – He wants us to turn to Him. Yes – He wants us to understand that our shelter is under the cover of His wings. Yes – He allows us to make a real mess of the world without interfering. But it makes absolutely no sense that He would create this pandemic and then promise to comfort us through it.
The dangers and traps around us will grow and wane, come and go; but what remains constant is God’s love for us and His willingness to protect and cover us with His great grace and love. To say that we are living through this time of disease because of the sinfulness of our world is saying that we are living under condemnation. And we know from scripture that God doesn’t condemn us.
In Romans 8, Paul wrote to the Jews and the Gentiles alike, explaining God’s plan of salvation for all His children. He starts by saying “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus… Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” In other words, God saved us from ourselves, if we’ll only accept that salvation for what it is – a gift.
Suffering, pain, strife, disease, death – that’s all in the world. We are bound to be affected by it, because we are bound by our fleshly bodies. But we have hope, and we have shelter. Paul was eloquent in his address to the Church. He asked the questions “who will condemn us? Christ? No! For He is the one who died for us… and who can keep Christ’s love from us? When we have trouble or calamity, when we are hunted down or destroyed, is it because He doesn’t love us anymore? If we’re hungry or penniless or in danger or threatened with death, has God deserted us? In the final verses of chapter 8 Paul offers this answer.
“No, for the Scriptures tell us for His sake we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day—we are like sheep awaiting slaughter; but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us. For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the power of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are – high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean – nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when He died for us.”
For those of you who are old enough to remember, let me quote the famous radio broadcaster, Paul Harvey. “And now you know the rest of the story.”
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on March 7, 2020 at 7:35 AM||comments (0)|
Just before the Israelites entered the promised land, Moses addressed them in a series of farewell messages. His final instructions must have been bittersweet for him and must have been filled with so much urgency and meaning. He’d led them all this way, and now they were going to move on without him.
In Deuteronomy, he tells them to “think constantly about the commandments I am giving you today. You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 TLB).
We know that what we say has power. Scripture tells us that our tongues pour out deadly poison that has the power to destroy or to bring life. In James we’re given the analogy of the authority our tongues have – “a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A great forest can be set on fire by one tiny spark” (James 3).
Yet, we are told to talk to our children about the ways of our heavenly Father. We are given the overall commandment to go into the world and preach the Gospel. While we are required to be careful in the use of spoken language, we are also told to keep using it, not stand idly by while other voices shout around us.
Research shows that we remember better what we speak aloud. When a parent reads a bedtime story to a child night after night, the parent has a better memory of the story than the child does. Why? Because the child heard it, but the parent spoke it.
The caution about not using our tongues in careless ways is not just because of the damage we do to others, but because of the damage we do to ourselves. We remember what we say. It sinks into us and becomes part of the neuropathways in our brain.
If we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, the answer isn’t to say nothing at all. We need to track down where the bitter words are coming from, change that, and then speak in the ways we are instructed to. Paul said “I believed and therefore I spoke.” What do we believe? Are we confident in our faith and in our knowledge of God’s commandments?
Victory doesn’t have to go to the loudest or most aggressive voice in the room. “Wisdom comes from heaven, pure and full of quiet gentleness.” That passage (again in James 3) reminds us that wisdom is “peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds. It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere.”
We can’t be afraid to have our say. It’s our primary job – the one Jesus left us with when he went back up to be with his Father – to go out and speak about the Good News of salvation. And to speak God’s commandments into the hearts of our children and a wicked world.
We’re coming to a time soon, with an election on the horizon, where we’ll have to make our voices heard. We must speak out against injustice, stand up for what’s Godly and right, and let the world know that we have a voice. In this time where the squeaky wheel and most belligerent often get the last word, we will have to make sure our gentle and pure voices are heard above the noise.
But most importantly, let’s make sure that “from the abundance of our hearts, our mouths are speaking.” We are called to be the light of the world. That means a beacon that draws others to Christ, not a warning flasher that causes them to want to stay away.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on February 29, 2020 at 7:35 AM||comments (0)|
I talk a lot about God’s great reset button. That’s because without it, we’d all be lost. There is no one who is capable of loving God enough to follow His requirements for our lives 24-7. That’s not to say He’s some mighty dictator who wants to control and direct us without thought, but His love for us is so great, His concern for our welfare and happiness so strong, that He knows what we need moment to moment – even before we know what that is.
Unfortunately, we have very little attention span, and no ability to stay on track. So, without His grace and direction, it would be a world devoid of order or light. We would inevitably begin a spin that would take us into complete darkness, with no mighty hand to pull us back where we need to be.
Thank God for that reset button! 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside” (Living Bible translation). But the New King James is much more eloquent and expressive. It says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things become new.” All things become new! That’s the real key. We are changed – not just on the inside, although the heart change is miraculous, we are also changed on the outside. Oh, we may not look different (except that lightness that shines from inside us), but what we do, the things we say, the way we look at the world around us… all changed.
That’s because, even though it’s hard for us to put words to it, God has (as it states in the very next verse) “reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ…”. That word “reconciled” means He has balanced the ledger, making our debts and our credits equal. We’re back to our starting point with a new opportunity to live our best lives! Thus, a complete reset.
But He doesn’t stop there. Verse 18 goes on to tell us that we have been “given the ministry of reconciliation.” That means, simply, pass it on! God leveled the playing field by taking on our sin when He allowed His son to be sacrificed for us.
My NIV Quest Study Bible Notes say “Ever since sin separated us from God, God has been re-establishing humankind’s relationship with Him. God sent Jesus to die for our sin, making it possible for us to be His friends (or in His fellowship) again. In one sense, reconciliation is already done; in another sense, it’s necessary to tell people about it. Both are part of the ministry of reconciliation.”
I would go beyond that and say that, if we truly want to embrace this new creature that we are, we must not only tell others about what God offers, but we must extend the same grace to everyone who has harmed us. But that’s the hard part, right?
The pain that others inflict on us can be deep and generational. Our anger and bitterness can even be justified, but there is only one way to heal the wound and walk away from the bondage of it. We must let God exorcise it, remove the pain and the power it has over us, then open the festering sore to the light so it can be healed from the inside out.
Then we are asked to embrace the second meaning of the word, reconcile. We are called to restore harmony, to accept what we have been unwilling to forgive or accept. That doesn’t mean we have to allow someone to continue to hurt us, and it doesn’t suggest that we forget what was done. It simply says that, if we’re going to find peace, we have to walk past the past.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shared some of His best-known teachings, including what we now call the Beatitudes. The third, found in Matthew 5:5 says “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.”
In this context, “blessed” in the original Greek, simply means happy! God just wants us to have a joyful life. And if being “meek” doesn’t quite cut it for you, understand that the Greek word (praeis) simply means mildness, gentleness of spirit, humility. It means that, although our anger may be justified, we refrain from exercising it – or living in it – both for our benefit and for the benefit of someone else. He makes us new, and we choose to stay that way.
In Ephesians Paul also taught meekness urging us to “live a life worthy of the calling we have received.” It’s not an easy task, but I know that whatever has been done to us by those who caused pain (intentional or not), is less than the sacrifice and pain that Christ bore on our behalf. He surely deserved none of it. And holding onto the hurt only steals our peace.
It’s a journey, this life of ours. Forgiveness (of ourselves and others) is a choice we will have to make every day. But at the end of it, what reward!
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!