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 22, 2017

WHAT KIND OF PERSON TAKES CREDIT FOR ANOTHER PERSON'S GIFT???

Can you imagine how you would feel if you went out of your way, and sacrificed greatly, to buy someone a gift.. something they really needed.. and offered it to them on Christmas Day... and as their faces lit up with joy.. and their hearts were overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift... 

SOMEONE ELSE... RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE.. AND AS YOU LISTENED... TOOK CREDIT FOR IT??? 

Decades ago...God taught me an important lesson about giving gifts and getting the credit for it.   We were in church one Sunday morning and there were two boys - about six and eight years old -  in the pew in front of us. It was cold outside and their clothing was threadbare. It was a large church and I didn't really know the mom or her boys.  I didn't have to know them to see they needed some clothes. I had a debate with the Lord right there.  I explained to Him that our family was also very tight financially -  and -  while I wanted to help these boys, I did not have the funds. The next day, an unexpected check arrived for $275.00. It's like the Lord whispered, "There's your funds." 

So my husband and I went to the store immediately and spent every dollar buying those two boys new and warmer clothes.  We drove to the church and handed the bags to the church secretary with the instructions that she NOT tell the Mom WHO bought the clothes.  She agreed.  I felt good inside.

The following Weds. night at church, the pastor asked if anyone had anything to thank God about. The woman stood, with tears in her eyes, and explained what this gift meant to her and her boys.  She said "I want to thank whoever did this for us. I can never thank you enough." And she sat down. 

MY HEART WAS ABOUT TO EXPLODE WITH JOY.  I was happy...UNTIL... UNTIL... UNTIL... another woman stood up right after her and said "I'm so happy to hear that your family was blessed by what I bought them" and on and on and on.   
 WHAT??? SHE'S TAKING CREDIT FOR MY GIFT?  
What kind of woman takes credit for another person's gift???

It was all I could do to stay in my seat. 

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I said I didn't want any credit for the good deed.. and now I was being challenged to put my money where my mouth was.  It's one thing to not want the credit, but quite another thing to have to remain silent while someone else TAKES THE CREDIT. 

As it turns out, the woman who took credit for my good deed had purchased two scarves for the boys.  Two scarves??  She took MY credit for two scarves??? The nerve!  I gave ALL I HAD.. I gave THE EXTRA MONEY WE COULD HAVE SPENT ON OURSELVES.  $275.00 WAS a whole lot of money.  That woman's gift DID NOT COMPARE TO MY GIFT.. OR MY SACRIFICE.  And she was taking - AND GETTING - THE CREDIT FOR IT.  It's true I didn't want the credit but I never considered that someone else would take it.  

"Ahhhh... Lord... that's how You feel sometimes?  When I think I have accomplished something without You?  When I think I have something that You have not supplied?  When I take credit for Your gifts to me?"

Christmas is the time we remember the gift God gave us when He sent Jesus.   It cost Jesus EVERYTHING.   E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.
So that I could have everything He has.
So that I could be everything He is.
We are all NOTHING WITHOUT HIM.

As I walk though life, hidden in Him, I must always remember that whatever I have, I have because of Jesus.  Whatever I do, I do because of Jesus.  Whatever I am, I am because of Jesus.

Whatever we have, whatever we accomplish, whatever good we spread, whatever LIFE we announce to the world.. is ALL BECAUSE JESUS WAS WILLING TO GIVE UP HIS LIFE SO THAT WE COULD HAVE IT.  

God remains silent while we take His credit.  AS IF.. anyone's voice, or musical skills, or ability to make money or service to others is done IN OUR OWN STRENGTH.  AS IF.. someone's pleasing sound voice is what is drawing the listener to God AND NOT the conviction and drawing power of The Holy Spirit.  AS IF, our advancement at our jobs is all because of our own wisdom, and not because of the favor of the Lord.  AS IF it has nothing to do with the GIFT of GOD... that we would be NOTHING without THE GIFT OF GOD - Jesus.

CHRISTMAS IS THE DAY TO REMEMBER THAT ANY GIFT WE HAVE, ANY GIFT WE GIVE AND ANY ABILITY TO HAVE AND GIVE THE GIFTS WE HAVE AND GIVE IS BECAUSE God was willing to become a baby.   

JUST BECAUSE SOME OF US TAKE THE CREDIT, 
DOESN'T  MEAN WE DESERVE IT.


What kind of person takes credit for Another Person's Gift?


"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
James 1:17

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.