Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Round and Round We Go

Recently, my daughter was telling me some discipline issues she was facing with one of her children.  As I listened, I had a nostalgic feeling.  

From generation to generation, all parents face the same things—and round and round we go.  

Parents endeavor to train their children to be valuable law-abiding members of society.   When we are in the trenches of child-rearing, sometimes we feel alone and desperate.  We love our children and only want what is best for them all the days of their lives.

Our parent, God the Father, also only wants what's best for His children.  

The present social climax we face today is similar to the round and round we go through in parenting.  In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, the people of the day faced something that has been going round and round for generations.  And yes, we are currently experiencing this same thing today.  

It’s an age-old problem.  People try to defend and make excuses for why they believe things that are against the teaching of God's Word.  

In Isaiah 5:20, these words were written centuries ago.  Yet, the warning is as real to us today as it was then.      

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, 
who put darkness for light and light for darkness, 
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. 

God has given us His Word, the Bible, as our guide to help us stand strong even when the culture is pushing us to conform.  In the book of Isaiah, God’s Word gives warning to a nation that replaced good for evil. 

In Romans 12:2 we are reminded in the New Testament, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." 

These Old and New Testament warnings tell us, we cannot conform to this world.   Even if it means we stand alone. 

Here are a few things we can do to help us avoid calling good evil or evil good.
  • Daily commit to crucifying your own fleshly wants and desires and be sure your passions align with the Word.  
  • Daily make a decision to refrain from sin that will pollute you through the eyes, heart, mind, ears, etc.
  • God has set a standard—we must choose to live by His standard if we are to be called the Children of God.  
  • Break the spiritual chains that bind us through unforgiveness, selfishness, stubbornness, pride, etc. 

Call sin what it is and don’t make excuses 
or round and round we go!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Love Story

Romantic Comedies are my favorite kind of movie.  There’s nothing as good as a love story.  When I tell my children about how their father and I met and fell in love or tell my grandchildren how their parents met and fell in love there’s always warm smiles and happy giggles.
That’s because everyone loves a good love story.

One of the first Bible verses that I remember putting to memory as a child was John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believed in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”  

This verse is the foundation of the greatest love story ever told. 

When it comes to love, there’s a difference between knowing about love and experiencing love. The same is true regarding knowing about God’s love and experiencing His love firsthand.  

The kind of love we see in John 3:16 is referring to God’s love which is eternal not a temporal love like we see in earthly relationships.  

Because we are earthlings, and we understand best earthly relationships, God in His wisdom included a beautiful book in the Bible to help us better grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. (Eph 3:18)

The main focus of this book of the Bible is the love of the bridegroom for the bride and the love of the bride for the bridegroom.  The Song of Solomon is a beautiful analogy of Christ and the Church (His Bride) passionately seeking to find one another.  

Song of Solomon 3:4 is often used in weddings as a reminder of the promise of love and commitment between husband and wife—for life.  

I have found the one, whom my soul loves, 
I held him and would not let go...

This verse is a beautiful reminder to us to stay true and hold on to our first love—Jesus.  Once we have found Him—don’t let go.

That’s my love story and yours too if you’ve ever made a commitment to Christ.  If you haven’t, now would be the time to pray this prayer. 

 Lord Jesus, I’m tired of the sin struggle in my life. My choices have not led me to good places or the right relationships. So today, I confess my need for You. Lord, I ask you to forgive me. I’m sorry for the things I’ve done that have been displeasing to you. Today, I’ve found the one my soul has been longing for in you Jesus, I want to cling to you and never let go.  Take control of my life.  In Jesus Name I pray.  Amen.  

And now your Love Story has begun.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

In Conclusion

I love endings.  

When I was a child sitting in church, I waited with anticipation to hear one of these popular pastoral phrases;  

"In Conclusion..."  

"My last point is..."   

"As I close..."  

Even in my childish mind, I was aware that this meant the end was near.  Church service was almost over.  

I love a good conclusion.

When I watch a predictable Hallmark movie, okay maybe they're all predictable, I get bogged down because I already know the outcome.  I want to say, "Hurry up, already.  Let’s get to the happy ever after.”  

These movies all start out with two people in conflict.  Let's say that she's mad at him because he didn't follow her to the Yukon where she works her way to the top of a huge ski resort franchise.  

Of course, less than 15-minutes into the movie, she must return to her hometown to scope out buying the town's ski lodge that is owned by “ta-da” her ex.  

Are you still with me?

Once they are reacquainted in their childhood hometown, she softens towards him.  This usually happens at exactly 60 minutes into the movie.  

Everything is going amazing until one hour and thirty minutes in--it happens, she misinterprets his actions.  She becomes incensed about something she saw him do or heard another person say about him.  This is when she runs back to the Yukon to her amazing and powerful yet lonely life.  Only to be suddenly surprised by the truth about what really happened and now we’re at exactly one hour and 45 minutes into the movie.  

The shocking truth that she was wrong about what she saw or heard gives her only 15 minutes to rush back into his life in time to embrace as the long-awaited snowfall begins just in time to save the town's crippled ski economy.    

The End.

I'll be honest...sometimes I fast forward to the last 10 minutes to confirm what I already know--they end up together.  I do this especially if I have more than five Christmas movies on my DVR at one time.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 does a great job of getting us to the end without the need of a fast forward moment.  It is a no-frills verse, yet it gets to the heart of the matter.  It even says, here is the conclusion.  That said, you know I love this verse.

Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.

In Conclusion...
  • Fear God
  • Keep His Commandments
  • This is the Duty of ALL Mankind

The End!

 Boom and mic drop…

You're Welcome!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

On Guard

When I became a mother and held my newborn son the first time, something fierce rose up within me that was not there before. 

Whatever this intense feeling was, I had it bad.  At that moment, I knew I would protect my child whatever the cost.  
Shortly after giving birth, I was officially diagnosed with "Mama Bear" syndrome.  It comes from the Latin words "Don't touch my child or you'll pay dearly."  

When I walked out of the hospital and entered the world with my tiny son wrapped in his warm blanket, an overwhelming responsibility to care for him, protect him and keep him safe transformed me.  I would go so far as to say, I was solemnly sworn in as his personal guard.  

Now, after three children and ten grandchildren, I am on guard all the time!
As powerful as the need to guard and protect my children and grandchildren is, God has given me, and you, something dear that He has asked us to protect with the same passion.  

In Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) it says, Guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life.

In the Bible, there is a story of a father and son that show us how one’s life can get off course when we are not on guard.  

Solomon chose to turn away from God after allowing sin and disobedience to rule his life.  It's ironic that it was Solomon who oversaw the building of the temple and palace, yet with his own hands, he destroyed all that he built by not guarding his own heart.  And just like that, the course of his life was forever changed when he embraced a life of idolatry.  All the good he had done was destroyed.    

Then look at King David, Solomon's father, David had allowed sin into his life when he took another man's wife.  He did not guard his heart or mind.  Then he followed this up with murder.  But unlike Solomon, David chose a path of repentance.  He hated the damage he had done to his heart, and he pleaded with the Lord to make him clean again.  (Psalms 51)

What would happen if I learned to guard my hearts with the same passion and fervor, that I have to protect my children?   

Could this mean we'd have to fully and completely follow and devote ourselves to the Lord?  

  • No compromise when sin comes knocking.  
  • Don't make a comfortable place for sin to take up residence.  
  • Don't give sin a pass or excuse it as acceptable.  
  • Be wise about the things that you struggle with and stay far away from them.  
Sin will destroy your heart and alter the course of your life.   

So be On Guard!

P.S. But, if you do mess up--repent and ask God to make you new again. 

Then back On Guard!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

No Place I'd Rather Be

As a child, there was no place I'd rather be than... Camping!  Yup.  It's one of my fondest young memories.   

As a child, I loved everything about camping from the pre-trip packing to setting up the campsite.  

I couldn't wait to go swimming in the lake or have dinner on paper plates at the picnic table.  Sleeping in a sleeping bag and singing around the campfire were wonderful.  The best thing about camping was being with my family.

As great as camping was there is one thing that surpasses that experience by far. 

As a young adult, I put Psalm 27:4 to memory because this verse tells best my favorite place to be.     

One thing I ask from the Lord,   
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord    
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord    
and to seek him in his temple.

There are distractions around every corner of our lives.  Things that pull our focus from the importance of gathering together as Believers.  Things like sporting events, weariness, work opportunities, and kid's school or sporting activities.  

With all the allures of the world, there's still No Place I'd Rather Be than worshiping the Lord with God's people together at church.  

I hope I never forget the fond memories of camping as a child, but far better than those memories is the priority my parents placed on teaching me the value of coming together in a place of worship with God's people.   

My parents created an appetite for the things of the Lord early in my life.  Camping holds great memories, but camping happened only one week each year.   Whereas, being with God’s people was year around and multiple times each week.  Coming together as Believers, cultivated in me a desire to dwell in the house of the Lord.  

Now that I’m in my 60’s, there is No Place I’d Rather Be dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A Scent of Water

There are certain smells that bring good memories like springtime. 

I have good memories of opening the door on that first warm morning after a long cold winter and breathing in the warm morning air of spring.  The smell of dirt is in the air.  

I don't know why this makes me remember my childhood fondly, but it does.  The ground after a fresh rain mingled with the warm air is a sweet aroma, maybe I like it best because it's the announcement that winter is over and something new is coming.   

The smell of homemade bread baking is another great memory from my childhood.  After a long hard day of third grade, my grandma would have homemade bread baking, and when I opened the door that awesome smell would greet me.  All the trials of third grade would be left behind.  My favorite part was the heel (end piece) dripping with butter.  The smell would fill the house with its goodness.  

Or what about the smell of flowers.  The fragrant aroma seems to come from nowhere and you breathe it in deeply and sigh.  I don't believe that I've ever received a rose, and didn't immediately lift that flower to my nose and breathe in the aroma.

Yes, smells bring good feelings and good memories, but they can also do so much more according to God's Word.
In Job 14:9, in the GW translation, it says, merely a scent of water will make it sprout and grow branches like a plant.

What is that “scent of water” that awakens you spiritually causing dried and dying branches to sprout and grow? 

For me, it can be as simple as:

  • ·      Hearing someone pray with power and authority
  • ·      The truth of God's Word spoken and rightly divided 
  • ·      The phrase of a song sung at a time of need 
  • ·      The touch of someone who comes alongside you in your distress 
All of these are like the “scent of water” to the spiritually wounded. 

Take a deep breath and breathe in all that God has for you.  I can smell the “scent of water."

Can you?  

This "scent of water" brings life to the dying.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Take My Hand

Over the past 20 years, I have been the wedding planner for our church.  My main job as the wedding planner is to get everyone in the wedding party from Point A to Point B in a seamless flow.  This is what I hope will happen, but that's not what always does happen. 
For example, my worst nightmare--the aisle runner.   I really hate those things.  I'm praying the whole time the poor person chosen to pull that tangled mess down the aisle, doesn't end up with a disaster. 
During the procession, I've seen bridesmaids who have tripped on their dresses, dropped their flowers, and stood in the wrong place at the altar.
And let's not forget about the fainting groomsman.  That's always a crowd-pleaser. 
What about the children in the wedding party?  They are always the wildcard.   You never know what’s going to happen when they start their journey down the aisle.  I’ve seen children drop to the floor in a pool of tears and have to be carried away in a heap, while others have bolted down the aisle like contenders for the Olympics.
All of these distractions quickly vanish when the bride enters.  All eyes are on her as she is escorted in by her father or someone of significance in her life.  While everyone's eyes gaze on her, my favorite place to look is directly at the face of the groom.  

When he sees his future wife enter, his expression reveals the emotion in his heart and that joy is priceless.
The bride's entrance is a pronouncement that she is choosing him.  Her movement towards him says I trust you.  I come willingly.  I love you.  
In reply, his face is saying, I accept you.  I'm here for you.  I love you.

The book of Esther is the story of a brave queen.  There are so many aspects of this story worthy of mention, but there is one above all others that speaks to me of courage, love, and acceptance.

Esther is confronted with a difficult decision that could put her own life in danger.  Her choice to go into the King uninvited could very well mean her death as is clearly stated in Esther 4:16.

“I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” 

Esther's willingness to die to save her endangered people shows her strength of character to stand against the tide.  There are occasions in life when we must take a stand, even when that stand is unpopular. 

In the next chapter, Esther 5:2 (TLB) says this:

 And when he saw Queen Esther 

standing there in the inner court, He welcomed her, 

Holding out the golden scepter to her.  

So, Esther approached and touched its tip.

This has always been one of my favorite verses in the book of Esther.  There is a slight similarity between Esther coming into the King and the wedding ceremony of today.  It is a beautiful act of acceptance as the husband extends his hand to his bride and she puts her hand in his.  This simple gesture is a show to all who are watching that he accepts her.

The difference between a wedding today and Esther presenting herself uninvited to the King was that Esther knew if the King did not raise his scepter to her, she would be put to death for coming into his presence uninvited.

This story causes another King to come to mind--another Husband whose laws are vastly different than the King of Esther's time.  

This other King has no restrictions about those who come into His presence.  With Him, that royal scepter is always extended to whosoever will.  This King's joy overflows at the sight of His bride.

This Husband-King is Jesus and He's saying to us now and forever...

"Take My Hand."

Therefore, let us confidently approach the throne of grace

to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.
Hebrews 4:16 (NET Bible)


Round and Round We Go

Recently, my daughter was telling me some discipline issues she was facing with one of her children.    As  I listened, I had a nostal...