Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Winning Team

Many years ago, I was a camp counselor for elementary girls at our church campgrounds.  My group of twelve girls went crazy for a camp competition to find these toy army men that were hidden all over the campgrounds. 
Or it is possible that I may have totally surrendered to my competitive spirit and drove those girls like a team of mules.  
In truth, the camp director later said that he had never had a team search with so much enthusiasm.  At the end of the camp, he gave me one of the army men as a souvenir   That was when I realized, I may have gone a bit overboard. 

A sense of power took over me as I worked with my team to collect those army men.  The first one, then the second and so on until our team had the most men.  I remember checking in with the director throughout the week to be sure we were winning.  Something powerful was taking place in me each time the director reinforced to me that my team was in first place.  

Me and my campers walked around that campground like a team of winners.  We had the most army men.  We knew it and all the other campers knew it too.  

Our team was fearless, smart and victorious.  On the closing day of camp, when the camp director announced that our team won, we went crazy with excitement.  

There is something empowering about being on the winning team.  

In 2 Kings 6:16, (MEV) Elisha said this, “Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than with them.”

In this Bible story, the army of Aram came to capture Elisha.   His servant was afraid because they were grossly outnumbered by their enemy.  Elisha prayed for the Lord to open the eyes of his servant.  Then the servant was able to see what Elisha saw.  The hills were full of horses and chariots of fire. (6:17) 

Initially, the servant of Elisha didn't realize that he was on the winning team, and he was fearful.   Then when his eyes were opened, he became aware of what team he really was on.  

The same is true for us, we need only open our eyes to the knowledge that we are on heaven’s winning team, and we have the power of the forces of heaven behind us.

Whatever fears you may be facing today, may these words resonate with you, There are more with us than with them.  As Believers, we have the dominion and power of Heaven on our side. 

We are on the winning team.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Right or Wrong?

Most people’s views can be summed up in one of three colors; black, white or gray.   Black or white referrers to how we interpret right and wrong.  It’s either one or the other with no place in between unless you find yourself in the gray zone.  (...and you know who you are.)

Choosing to be firmly rooted and unmovable in your views can be a very happy place if you are the only human being living on the whole planet.  But, as soon as another person arrives, there will be an opinion different than yours--sooner or later.  

...and how are you going to handle that?

Here's how Adam, the first person on earth, handled it.  

God said, "It’s not good for you to be alone," So he made Eve for Adam and he was ecstatically happy with his gift.  Until he made a bad choice.  Then Adam said to God, “This woman YOU gave me, made me do it.”  (My paraphrase.)

Hum?  It sounds like Adam was neither black or white when it came to his own disobedience.  By blaming Eve, he wanted a pass into the safety of the gray zone.

In 1 Kings 3:9 (ERV) King Solomon said, “…So I ask you to give me the wisdom to rule and judge them well and to help me know the difference between right and wrong. Without such great wisdom, it would be impossible to rule this great nation.”

In King Solomon's request to God, there was no mention of the gray zone when he said, “Help me know the difference between right and wrong.”    

What King Solomon didn't ask was, "Help me to keep everyone happy or help me to compromise to keep the peace."

Solomon's powerful prayer is a reminder to us today that we need to ask God for help, direction, and wisdom in all our decision making.  

And when we mess up, (and that’s a given) we shouldn’t blame it on someone else.

“Dear Jesus, Help me know the difference between right and wrong, and when I’m wrong, help me make it right.”










Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How much did that cost?

I know it's rude to ask how much something costs, but it's a curiosity that we all have.  

Most of us have the decorum to hold back, but sometimes in the right situation, I've been known to ask this question, "How much did that cost?"

Recently, I bought a new (to me) old desk off of Facebook Marketplace.  I didn't want to pay any more than the budget I had set for myself.  Then the negotiations began, I ended up paying $10 above my budget because I saw potential in the old desk.  I knew I could clean it up, repair it, and the desk would be beautiful.  It turned out to be an easy job with the help of Old English and some wood glue. 


I bet you'd like to know what I paid for it!

When you are the one paying for something--you tend to value it differently.  Don't get me wrong, free stuff is great, but when you put down your hard-earned money, that purchase is all the more precious.

King David understood this principle.  In 2 Samuel 24:24, he was preparing to make an offering to God.  Araunah saw it was the King who was interested in making a purchase, and he wanted to give him the grain for his offering to bless the king, but David said this.  

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

We don't practice burnt offerings like they did in the old testament, but there is an offering that we do practice today that will cost us something.  It's the offering of true worship.

Remember the woman who anointed Jesus feet with the costly perfume, that cost her something.  Not only did it cost her money, but she took some criticism for her offering of worship--but she still poured her offering out on the feet of Jesus.  

What is the cost of your worship?  

About 20 years ago, during a difficult time in my life, I was listening to a song with these words, "You don't know the cost of my praise." (Alabaster Box)

My father-in-law was dying and I was far away from him in another state.  He had been an amazing, generous and kind person to me for the 25-years he was my father-in-law.   As I listened to the words of that song, I began to worship the Lord.  

Instead of asking the Lord for anything, I worshiped.  In those moments of deep sadness, I didn't want to worship, but it was all I could do.  I was sad, brokenhearted, but God had another plan.  He met me in my worship and comforted me in a way only His presence can.  

Are you going through a situation where you don't feel much like worshiping the Lord?  Remember what King David said and remember the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus.  Their praise cost them something.  

No matter what is happening in your life right now--find time to worship Him.  Even if it cost you.

No one knows the cost of your praise. 












Wednesday, November 13, 2019

It's all about the heart!

Have you ever looked at someone's outward appearance and made a determination based on that?

I have.  Not proud of this--but it's true.

I've looked at people who were dressed poorly and decided they were lazy and choose poverty over hard work.

I've seen married couples or those dating and wondered what does he see in her or she in him.  What brought them together?

I've met people in group settings and made a snap judgment that she's too loud or he's too bossy.  Come on, I know, I'm not alone in this.

Actually, if you have felt as I have, we're not alone.

In 1 Samuel, David was passed over by his own father.  Jesse, the father of David, called all his sons to be examined by the Prophet Samuel as the possible successor to King Saul.  But guess who was overlooked?  Jesse's youngest son, David, remained in the fields tending the sheep.  His father and brothers didn't even consider him a worthy contender for the job.

David was unaware that he wasn't being considered and the reason was mostly due to the way he looked.    Each time Jesse brought another son to be examined by the Prophet, Samuel thought surely this will be the one.

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things human beings look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."  I Samuel 16:7

I'm not proud of the occasions when I've judged on the outward appearance before I allowed myself to become familiar with the depth of a person's character.  In this Bible story, I'm sad to say, I identify more with Jesse here than God.  Many times, I've been guilty of looking at only the outward.

What I've learned on these occasions is another's kindness in action has the power to change what I see with my eyes.  The spiritual depth of a person has a way of blinding me to outward imperfections.  One's virtue is better than cosmetic surgery, makeup or a diet.

I'm so thankful that when God the Father looks at me--and you--it's the heart that he sees not the wrinkles, crooked teeth, age spots, gray hair, bald head, weight, posture, or the style of clothes we wear.

It's all about the heart, so guard it well.





Wednesday, November 6, 2019

How can I make this better?

Election Day was yesterday. I hope you voted!  

In my circle of influence and from my own perspective, I can see things that are wrong.   I may not have a perfect solution for making everything better, but I like to think I try to do the right thing.  

The book of Ruth was written during the times of the Judges.  This was a time when everyone did what was right in their own eyes.  That sounds like our society today.  In the time of the Judges, this question was seldom heard, How can I make this better?  

Then the book of Ruth appears as an oasis in the desert--a story of hope, in times of spiritual darkness.  Ruth's story shows us that in spite of what we saw in the book of Judges with the evil and wickedness, there are people of principle and faith to be found.  

For the sake of keeping this short, there is one thing that I want to look at in this book--the kinsman-redeemer.  Even though scripture does not record it, I believe Boaz could have easily asked this question when he heard of the plight of Ruth, How can I make this better?

In Ruth 3:8-13, when Ruth goes to Boaz in the night, he is asleep on the threshing floor.  Women who frequented these kinds of places were not of good reputation.  But it is here, in these verses that we see Boaz awakened and he is given the opportunity to make Ruth's world a better place.  

At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” 
And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” 
And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”  
Ruth 3:8-13 ESV

If you are not familiar with the rest of Ruth and Boza's story, here it is in bullet points. 
  • Boaz sends Ruth home with her shawl full of grain.  
  • He goes to the gate of the city where business is transacted and does some shrewd dealings to win her hand.  
  • In the end, Boaz becomes Ruth's kinsman-redeemer and marries her.
  • They have a son.
  • She becomes part of the birth line that leads us to Jesus, who is our kinsman redeemer.  
Boaz's act of love to redeem Ruth and make her life better is what Jesus did for us.  This is not recorded in scripture verbatim, but I like to imagine it could have gone something like this.  Our kinsman-redeemer, who is Jesus, could have asked this question to God the father when he saw the devastation of mankind.  "How can I make this better?"

We were all like Ruth, without protection in a dangerous place and like Boaz who took the corner of his garment and covered Ruth, Christ has become our Kinsman-redeemer and covered us with His own blood and became our protection.

We may not be able to right the wrongs of this lost world with a single vote in a public election, but I know my Kinsman-Redeemer has a plan to bring all enemies under His feet and in His time.  

Jesus will make all things right again.  









Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Living with the Enemy

I hate shopping with indecisive friends.  They can't seem to make a decision about what to buy, and they keep looking and looking and looking.  They refuse to settle for less than what they want. 
  
Once I went shopping with a friend who was looking for shoes.  It was unbearable.  After two hours, we left the mall without shoes.  

My favorite pair of shoes are from a garage sale for .50 cents.  I love those shoes.  

Some people are unwilling to settle for anything except exactly what they are looking for, or in other words—they won’t compromise.  

I’ve compromised plenty in life.  I shop at secondhand stores, dumpster dive, Craigslist, Marketplace and on garbage day I'm super excited at the thought of finding some free trash at the curb that I can repurpose.  After I haul the broken thing from someone's garbage home, two weeks later, it's back out to the road because--IT WAS TRASH! 

Of course, I would rather have new and perfect, but I’ve learned to settle for less than the best.  

Spiritually speaking, this is not a great plan.  In the book of Judges, God’s people practiced this same kind of principle of settling for less.  Throughout the book of Judges, they chose to compromise.  It was easier than being obedient.   Living with their enemy became familiar and comfortable--until it wasn’t.  

And when their lives became unbearable, the Children of Israel would cry out to the Lord, and He would hear their cries.  

I wonder why did the Children of Israel settle for less than the best and put themselves through so much heartache.

Judges 2:1-3 tells us what happens when we choose compromise over obedience.

 The angel of the LORD…said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, `I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now, therefore, I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be [thorns] in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you."

These scriptures are a stark warning to God's people that their choice to live with their enemy would have consequences.  

I think the question here is, why would they choose to live with the enemy over being obedient to God? 

Disobedience is a choice.  Compromise is a choice.  When we ask, why did the Children of Israel compromise and why do I compromise?  We may not like the answer.  

Could it be because we don’t believe God’s Word enough?  Or maybe we don’t believe in the consequences – the grave consequences of our actions.

Possibly, we have memory problems.   In Judges, the people had short memories.  They refuse to learn from past mistakes.  Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

There is an illustration of a frog who jumps into a pan of water, as the temperature gradually increases to boiling, at some point, you’d think the frog would jump out of the ever increassing hot water.  Not so, instead, the frog grows more accustomed to the temperature until it is too late.

God does not ask us to do anything that He will not give us the strength to do.  Obedience to His Word is within our power.

Living with the enemy may seem fun, familiar and comfortable--until it isn’t.  

When we choose to do the right things, God will give us the strength to stand firm.   

Don't settle for less.  Don't compromise.  You don't have to live with the enemy anymore!


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Home Sweet Home


In June of 2000, we bought the house that we live in now.  Once the ink was dry on the dotted line, we took possession of our property.  It felt good to walk into our home all those years ago, knowing it was ours. 

I can still remember unpacking dishes, putting them away and saying, "I don't ever want to do this again."  

At that time, we had moved, I'm estimating, over 20 times.  These moves took us places like Florida, Boston, North Dakota, Missouri, and different locations in Michigan on the westside, eastside, south, and north.  

That number doesn't even count the moves we made during our seven years in the Philippines.

Now, the very thought of packing up a house and moving actually sends a lightning bolt of fear coursing through my veins.  Over the past 20-years, we have discussed downsizing, but nothing ever materialized from the many discussions except the inner panic I felt at the very thought of it.

In Joshua 1:11, the children of Israel were facing another move of their own.  They had lived in one place for over 400 years (Egypt).  Then they were homeless (so-to-speak) for 40-years in the wilderness.  But, in the opening chapter of Joshua, the Children of Israel were on the cusp of their "Home Sweet Home."    A promised place of their own to possess.

"Go through the camp and tell the people, 
'Get your provisions ready. 
Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in 
and take possession of the land 
the LORD your God is giving you for your own.'"  
Joshua 1:11

Joshua had previously seen the promised land.  He was one of the twelve spies that originally went in to scout things out.  He was not unaware of what lied ahead.  
  • He knew there were giants, and he also knew the land flowed with milk and honey.  
  • He knew that possessing the land wasn't going to be easy, but he was ready to claim his inheritance.  
  • He knew there would be battles ahead, but he also was not afraid.  He had put his trust in the Lord.  
After all,
  • Giants can be conquered – remember the story of David.
  • Strongholds can be pulled down – remember the story of Gideon.
  • The battle belongs to the Lord - remember the story of King Jehoshaphat.

Whatever you are facing today, determine in your heart that you will possess the land that the Lord has given to us.

He has promised us...
  • Forgiveness
  • Redemption
  • Everlasting Love
  • A sound mind
  • Strength
  • Peace
  • Fullness of Joy
  • Authority over your enemy 
  • A Heavenly Home
  • …and so much more…

Victory is yours!   Time to possess the Land—Home Sweet Home.


The Winning Team

Many years ago, I was a camp counselor for elementary girls at our church campgrounds.  My group of twelve girls went crazy for a camp ...