Thursday, April 19, 2018

BIG ENOUGH

One billion trillion.  Stars in the universeThat's just an estimate.  That's just what scientists think.  They haven't actually traveled the universe and counted each star, each sun. There are probably way more than a billion trillion.  One billion.. what is one billion?  A billion is one thousand millions.  A trillion is one thousand billions. These are astronomical numbers. I cannot imagine the magnificent greatness of that, much less the majesty of the One Who created it all.

This week I read a verse I had never noticed before - "He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name." (Psalm 147:4). What exactly does that mean? I mean, exactly translated? I mean, someone doing an in depth study of each word? It means - He knows how many stars there are and took the time to name each star and he knows the number and the name He named every star.

OK.. so.. so.. so what? So... how great is this God who can count and number more than a billion trillion things? I forget the names of people who attend my church, and I go to a small church. God numbers and names the stars.  And remembers the number and name. 

This reminds us that we have been given more than we can imagine...to have the mind-boggling privilege, through Jesus, of BOLDLY, CONFIDENTLY approaching the Throne of this MAGNIFICENT, MAJESTIC, ALMIGHTY GOD. I mean, why does God even bother with us? What kind of LOVE is this?

Jesus told us more about the nature of God when He told the people that God sees to it that the ravens are fed and that the lily's of the field is the way God decorates and clothes GRASS. (Luke 12). 

OK... so..so..so what? So Jesus point was to remind the people that if God - OUR FATHER - cares enough to feed birds and decorate grass.. HOW MUCH MORE DOES HE CARE ABOUT US - AND - THE THINGS WE CARE ABOUT?

FINALLY.. GETTING BACK TO PSALM 147....

The verse BEFORE the one about God naming the stars reads: "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3) I am encouraged when I have the most infantile, basic hint of understanding about how great and mighty and majestic and awesome my Father in Heaven is... AND YET...
HE HAS HEALED MY BROKEN HEART.
HE HAS HEALED THE WOUNDS MY BROKEN HEART GAVE ME.

I want you to be encouraged also.  He is SO BIG that He numbers and names every star.

IS HE BIG ENOUGH TO HEAL YOU? HE IS.
IS HE BIG ENOUGH TO PROTECT YOU? HE IS.
IS HE BIG ENOUGH TO FORGIVE YOU? HE IS.
IS HE BIG ENOUGH TO UNDO YOUR MISTAKES? HE IS.

He is SO LOVING that He also sees each broken heart.
He is SO FILLED WITH COMPASSION that He heals each broken heart.
He is SO MERCIFUL that he binds the wounds and the pain and the consequences of the broken hearted.

BE ENCOURAGED TODAY....
God is 
BIG ENOUGH 
to care about 
THE SMALLEST DETAILS OF YOUR LIFE.


"Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit."

Psalm 147:5
    

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

BLAMING BARUCH

They were God's people... and they were terrified... TERRIFIED.. of the Babylonians... (and who can blame them?)and wanted to escape from Israel and go to Egypt...where they assumed they would be safe.  

As they were on their way... already kind of deciding what they thought they SHOULD do.. they approached Jeremiah to ask him to inquire of God.. Should they go? Should they stay in Judah? This is a curious thing that they did - because they had already started out to go to Egypt. If I were Jeremiah I might have asked them,"Why are you asking? It seems like your mind is already made up and your feet are already following the path you have decided is the right thing to do." 

Furthermore, they told Jeremiah, "May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God." (Jeremiah 42:5-6).

Jeremiah inquires of the Lord. God tells Jeremiah to tell the people to stay in the land.. their land..His land... and if they do He will bless them and build them up and prosper them.

The people reject what Jeremiah tells them that God has told him.  They accuse him of lying and being influenced by his scribe, Baruch.  And they accuse Baruch of lying because he wants them to be handed over to the Babylonians and killed. What they never ask themselves is, "Why would Baruch want that for us?" and "How can we possibly know what Baruch is thinking or saying and why we think Jeremiah would be influenced by it?"

What?
So they disobey, go to Egypt and are destroyed and led in to captivity.

Sad story. So what?

Have you ever met people who say they want God's will but they have already started to go in the direction they want to go?  

I have.

They ask you what you think and when you offer them God's Word they reject it. 
They "Blame Baruch"...they refuse to accept that God's Word is God's Word and blame the Bible as an unacceptable answer to what they have already decided to do.  

IT'S TRUE THAT SOMETIMES... we all face TERRIFYING BABYLONIANS... we face things that we cannot control.. we cannot overcome.. .we are convinced it will destroy us.

So we run to Egypt.. we run to what makes sense.. what we can control.. because we refuse to believe God is good and can protect us... WHERE WE ARE.. IN THE MIDDLE OF WHAT WE ARE FACING.

The Babylonians were cruel and destructive. No one can blame them for being afraid.
So is cancer.
So is betrayal.
So is death.
So is financial fear.
So is rejection.
So is the world.
So are the leaders of our nations.

It's natural to be afraid of and affected by those things.

It seems unnatural to trust an unseen Being who doesn't let us hear His voice when we want to. 
We want to trust ourselves.
It makes sense to take matters in to our own hands.

You don't have to believe the Bible is God's Word.
You don't have to believe He will walk with you, next to you, help you. You don't have to WAIT until the victory is evident.
You don't have to ask the Holy Spirit to help your actions conform to what the Bible says.

You can take matters in to your own hands - or trust your life in to the Hand of God. That's your choice also.

God's Word is God's Word... And in it He makes promises that will never be broken.  He gives assurance that no matter what you are walking through, He is walking right next to you.

And you have been given the freedom - BY GOD - to believe it and receive and live it.. or not.

Many people say they want to know God's will, but when the Bible seems to indicate that the path they are on is not the path God has offered them.... they brush it off as words from an archaic Book.

Blaming Baruch is often the first step toward our own demise.











Sunday, February 4, 2018

THE SEASON CHANGER

Just like most of the country, this has been a very cold winter here in Tennessee.  In the twenty years I have lived here, I don't remember it being this cold for THIS LONG.  This year, winter is longer. It is colder. It is harder. 

When I was younger I don't think I fully grasped three truths about seasons.

1. I have no control to keep or change the season I am in.
2. Seasons change. 
3. I have to change with the seasons.   

Here's some stuff I have learned. 

"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons;"                (Daniel 2:20-21)

When seasons change, I can tend to panic because I don't like change. I fear the unknown.  I finally came to understand that just because I am not in control doesn't mean things are OUT OF control. Just because I don't like change, doesn't mean change isn't necessary.  

And ultimately in every season I must always remember that The Season Changer is God Himself.  And my choice - which He allows me to have - is whether I will trust His love in every season or not. 

I cannot explain the reason that we have seasons of suffering, or seasons of grief, or seasons of pain.  Long ago, I resigned as God's Public Relations Representative. I used to feel it was my responsibility to make God look good to people who thought God looked bad. Who did I think I was?  Only the Holy Spirit can explain the ways of God to someone who is confused. And only to someone who wants His answer. Only His Word, revealed by the Holy Spirit, gives us any true answers.  

I cannot explain the ways of The Season Changer. I can only explain that when I have asked Him, He has been there in the difficult cold winters of life. I can only proclaim that although there is rain, He brings life. Sometimes I can see the growth that results from a difficult time. And sometimes, I cannot.   Although there is pain, He brings healing.  When I have sinned, He has forgiven. What I have destroyed through pride and selfishness.. He has repaired.  When I felt lost, He continued to lead. When I let go of Him, He held on to me.

Why? I don't know why.. except that He is faithful. He is love.
He is in control. 
Even when life seems out of control.  

The only way to make it through each season of life is to put your life in to hands of The Season Changer.  And to ask for the otherworldly faith to endure and believe while you are enduring.

You can choose to believe me.
Or not.
You can choose to call out to Him.
Or not.

In a few weeks, for sure, I will be picking daffodils and putting them in vases all around my house.  This I know before I even see it. 

""Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord"
Psalm 40:4










Friday, January 12, 2018

BEARS WILL BE BEARS

I saw a quote on Facebook the other day that made me laugh. It read:  
"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger - except for bears.  Bears will kill you." 

The reason it is funny is because it is so obvious. OF COURSE A BEAR WILL KILL YOU.  

No one posts sarcastic posts on social media about how irritating bear behavior has become. There aren't long articles about the shock associated with their bear-like propensity toward eating people.  There is no pious judgment of the Bear Population on Planet Earth. Nope. They are bears. They are acting like bears.  When we venture in to Bear Territory we expect to be eaten alive. We never expect the bears to change their nature.  Bears will be bears. The End.  

Sometimes...I wonder.....when I see my Christian brothers and sisters so offended at the way sinners continue to sin on earth.. I wonder at their surprise.  I wonder why they are taking the time to express their disapproval of it all.  I cringe at their venomous posts and rants about how evil our society is. I want to ask, "You're surprised?  As if God allowed His Only Son to become sin for us..  because.. because.. why?  Because we are basically nice people who have a bad attitude now and then?"  

Uhhhh.. no.  All of us..in our natural state are separated FOREVER from a HOLY GOD.  WITHOUT HOPE. WITHOUT A FUTURE.  As we sing and praise and worship God together, isn't it because we are so thankful that HE SAVED US?  Doesn't the mercy of God take your breath away?  Of all people on earth, the Body of Christ should be the first ones to have compassion on a sinful world.  To grasp that they are sinning because they are sinners.. just like we were.  

The exasperated exclamations of utter disgust at the diabolical hearts of men and women is sad to me.. coming from the mouths of people called to speak of Jesus.  Their disappointment in our leaders.  Their utter shock that sinners are sinning, and are cold-hearted and selfish, arrogant, rebellious, hard-hearted creatures.  The belief that they are justified in being disgusted by it all.  When...in reality...


The World is Acting Like The World

Everyone accepts that when you go in to the forest, a bear is going to want to eat you.The bears are acting like bears.  In the same way - 

The world is acting like the world. 

When we open our mouths... the Good News should be flowing from it.  God already knows the world is sinful - more than we do.  God already sent Jesus to pay for the depravity called humanity.  All He asks us to do is to tell others about His Son. He knows the world is sinful.  The world knows the world is sinful.  
The world is acting like the world.

When we speak we should speak "worthy words."  It should be to say, "Jesus loves you. Jesus died for you.  Jesus is alive and at God's throne right now. He wants to heal you, your heart, your mind. He wants to set you free from the anger, the hate, the jealousy, the rage."

God is LONGING to forgive.   And expecting us to tell them so.
We are the ones who are called to tell them the GOOD NEWS. 

Bears will be bears.
Sinners will sin.
Only God can change a heart.
Only you can let Him.
Why do we keep silent?

OPEN YOUR MOUTH TODAY.. to tell someone that there is hope in Jesus. 

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation."(Colossians 1:21-22)



Friday, December 29, 2017

STUPID MISTAKES

“Stupid mistake” is a redundant phrase if there ever was one. There is no such thing as a “smart mistake”. Lots of highly intelligent people have made lots of stupid mistakes. According to some, the stupidest kind of stupid mistake is when the person who is making the stupid mistake “should have known better.” People who “should have known better” become people (according to the Perfect Ones) who have “made their bed and now have to lay in it.” ("lie"in it?)  You made your bed. Now lay in it and SHUT UP.
Which is why Psalm 107 is one of my favorites. It starts out by advising “the redeemed of the Lord” to do something. What does it tell them to do? “Tell their story!” This is the OPPOSITE OF SHUTTING UP. They are to TELL THEIR STORY.What story? The story of how “HE redeemed them from the hand of The Foe.” (v2). People like:
  1. The Wandering Ones (v.4-7) They couldn’t find a place to settle, they are never a part of society. They never have a home. The outcasts. The losers. The unemployed. The drifters. They never had enough money. Or food. And their lives were “ebbing away.” To the world, these people didn’t only make mistakes - they WERE mistakes. WHEN THEY CRIED TO THE LORD IN THEIR DISTRESS - GOD HEARD THEM and DELIVERED THEM. And led them to a place to settle, to feel secure and cared for.
  2. The Rebellious Ones. (v. 10-16). These people are the epitome of the “should have known better people.” They knew God’s commands and rebelled and despised His plans. As a result, they were in darkness. They sat as prisoners in chains. Their labor in life was bitter and difficult. They were getting what they deserved. But when they cried to the Lord in their distress, He saved them from utter darkness and BROKE AWAY THEIR CHAINS. He gave them what they did not deserve- FREEDOM AND LIGHT.
  3. The Paying The Consequences of Sin Ones.(v. 17-22) These people had rebelled so completely that they become “fools” as in the “fool has said in his heart there is no God.” GOD? They never gave Him, His Law, His Will a thought. So completely did they disregard God that their choices caused their physical state to bring them to the “gates of death.” When they “cried to the Lord in their trouble” He sent His Word and HEALED THEM. He gave them what they did not deserve - HEALING AND LIFE.
  4. The Storm Survivors.(v. 23-32) These people didn’t make any mistakes, but as they went about their lives they hit a ferocious storm. The mistake they COULD HAVE MADE is to think that God had abandoned them in the storm. They cried out to the Lord and He “stilled the storm to a whisper, and the waves of the sea were hushed.”
No matter the storm, no matter the consequences, no matter the dark days our mistakes bring us
the stupidest mistake we can ever make is to think that any stupid mistake disqualifies us from calling out to the Lord. 
He will hear and He will deliver.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story -
those He redeemed from the hand of the foe...” Psalm 107:1-2
(Feel free to share your story of how the Lord has redeemed you.)
foe...” Psalm 107:1-2
(Feel free to share your story of how the Lord has redeemed you.)

Friday, December 8, 2017

THE WOMAN WALKING ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD


My husband and I were driving down a country road near our home in Pennsylvania. It was August, 1991. To say it was a hot day does not fully describe the suffocating, gates-of-Hell humidity or the feeling of being a cookie baking in a 900 degree oven when standing outside. It was HOT, HOT, HOT. As we drove, we came up behind a woman who was walking on our side of the road. The road was surrounded by fields of corn. Just hot, sticky, mosquito infested fields. And there she was, walking. I felt bad for her. I whispered a quick prayer for her and thanked God for an air-conditioned car... all at the same time. And then I forgot all about her. 
I should mention that my husband and I were about to open an inner-city church in less than a month.  He was going to be a pastor and I was going to be a pastor's wife. WOW.  God had opened doors for us to be affiliated with a huge, church in another state and they were serving as our overseers. We were thrilled about God giving us the opportunity to serve Him that way.
I don’t remember where we were going that day, but it was about an hour south of our home in Camp Hill. About three hours later we were driving home on the same road. We came up to a small grocery store/gas station and my husband made a last-minute decision to stop and get gas. As we pulled in to the gas station, the woman who was walking on the side of the road three hours earlier was walking in the other direction now and was exactly where we were stopping. 
Three hours earlier I’d prayed for her and three hours later she was right in front of my face. She was walking right by the gas station.
I walked up to her and offered to buy her something to drink. She immediately accepted my offer. I felt good watching her drink an ice-cold soft drink. I bought her a second one. She was not a well cared for woman. Her face was dirty and pimpled, she was missing multiple teeth, her hair was long and sweaty and stringy, and her clothes were worn. She smelled bad. MY plan for our interaction was to buy her whatever she wanted in that small grocery store, and then be on my way. God had a different plan.
“Is there anything else you want?”, I asked. “Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?” 
“Are you going anywhere near Camp Hill? I could use a ride home.” 
What? She wanted a ride? In our car? Now? Really? Really Lord? You want me to let her drive in our car? Lord, she might be a serial killer. I don’t want her in our car. She’s all sweaty and stinky. I’m afraid of her a little, Lord.
I said “Sure. Hop in.” 
As my husband drove, I turned to speak to her. I’d like to say it was because of interest and concern, but the truth is, I wanted to be sure to be able to disarm her if she took out a gun or a knife. She was explaining that she had walked to visit her boyfriend who was in prison. She was telling me stuff and I was half-listening and half-watching for her robbery and/or murder attempt. And then He spoke:
“Would you lay down and give up your life to serve and minister to her?” I thought, “Duh, Lord. We are laying down and giving up our lives to serve and minister to her and people like her. Of course. YES!” Proud of my humble answer, I continued to listen to her speak. And then He spoke again:
“Would you give up your actual life just for her? Your physical life? Just so that she could live forever?”  Ahhh.... well now, that was a more difficult question. I considered it. I considered dying at thirty-nine years of age for JUST this woman.... and my answer to God was that IF by my death... and through HER testimony.. MANY, MANY, MANY would come to Him...(and someone might write a book and do a movie about my sacrifice?) then my answer was “YES. I would physically die just for her... assuming of course my death would have a GREAT, GREAT, AMAZING IMPACT on kazillions of souls.”  Proud of my humble answer, I thought the questions were over. And then He spoke again:
“Would you give your son’s life? Would you allow your son’s life - his physical life - to be given just for this woman?” This question sucked the air out of my heart. Why would You ask such a thing?  Why would You require such a thing?  My son? My only son? My only child? The joy of my life? Philip? Philip? My most precious treasure on earth? No matter how many ways I tried to create a scenario where allowing Philip to die for this woman made sense or would be worth it - I could not find one. For a couple of million souls? No.  My son? I wished I had a different answer, but who can lie to God?  So.. I gave Him my  honest answer:
“No."
And then He spoke His last two words to me. 

“I did.”
He became a stranger to me. “THIS is what You mean when You say, ‘Love’..THIS is LOVE?” It was alien to me. I could not comprehend that Love. I did not have that kind of love. What I had been identifying as “love” wasn’t even close to what He feels for me. For us. What love is this? When we got home, I fell to my knees in broken repentance. “Father, I know nothing about love. Teach me. Fill me. Change me.“  
From that day until this moment, I remember that whatever I do... whenever I do it... has to be whatever it takes to who ever needs to take it.  I cannot have that kind of LOVE unless I allow Him to cultivate it in me.  In every situation, with every person I know... nice, not-nice, good, not-good, pure or evil.. He is teaching me love. 

I AM LEARNING LOVE. It takes another Power from Another Place. 

I am thankful I do not need to give my son because He has given His.

Monday, November 27, 2017

THIS PRESENT PLAYGROUND

My son, Philip, was about five years old. Directly across the street from where we lived was a magnificent playground.  It was heaven-on-earth for a five-year-old boy.  There were swings, and slides, and a huge sand pit.  I could sit on the balcony and watch him play with his friends.   They drove trucks in the sand, they made mountains out of the sand and destroyed them with their trucks.  They spent time swinging on the swings.  It was a good season in the life of my son.. and me.  He spent every spare moment outside, in the fresh air, playing with other children. 

One day, as he played there, I called him inside.  We were leaving to go away for a few days.He needed to come inside, get cleaned up, and change his clothes.  He didn't want to. He wanted to stay and play.  He came inside but it was not with a good attitude.  He did not ASK to leave the playground - I decided it was time for him to leave.  As we drove away from home, he looked with longing at his friends, who did not have a mean Mommy and Daddy like he did.
The next day, we arrived at Disneyworld.  There is no way to describe the look on the face of my child as we walked down Main Street, as he saw the characters walking the streets and we walked through the castle.  To add joy to his euphoria, we would leave the Magic Kingdom during the heat of the afternoons, and go back to the swimming pool at our hotel, and jump in the water, and swim. After a short daily nap, we'd go back to the Magic Kingdom until midnight.  It was like heaven on earth. There was no other moments in his brief existence on earth that Philip had known such a perfect, joyful existence. 

During our days as Disneyworld, if one his his neighborhood friends had called him and said, "Philip, we miss you being here at the playground.  Please leave where ever you are and come back here now. We miss you!"  I imagine he'd say something close to, "Are you serious? You cannot believe how utterly amazing my life is, and the unbelievable things I am seeing and doing. That playground doesn't even come close. My mom and dad are the BEST!"

God taught me something all those decades ago about where I am and where I'm going.

We are living in a little playground now.  It's called earth.  Although we know it isn't perfect, we want to stay here.  We want to live here.  We do not want what we do not see.  

God has bigger and better things waiting. It is insulting to even compare it to something as insignificant as Disneyworld.  It's beyond our present comprehension as we live in this present playground. 

But we have to leave this playground to get there.  
No one gets to stay here forever.  We don't decide.  God does.

This present playground is not all there is.  
God is good.  And He loves His children.


“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,and no mind has imagined what God has prepared  for those who love him.”  

1 Corinthians 2:9