Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Letting Go of the Tiny Hand



Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” – Psalms 56:3


I think both of my kids would agree that I’m an overly protective mom.  Sure, I worry about the big things that would harm their life, but I also worry about the small things, the insignificant-in-the-long-run things. 

When Lev was a little toddler, he fell and busted his lip on the coffee table.  I called the doctor.  I didn’t just call him, I was crying and upset and just wanted the bleeding to STOP.  But in retrospect, it wasn’t life threatening.  It was just a heart broken mom seeing her baby bleed for the first time.

When Gabby was small we had a white cat that came and decided to stay.  It bit her one day, and I cried with her.  The cat was rehomed.  And when was life flighted to Vanderbilt at 5 years old, I thought my world was going to end.  But it didn’t.  God took over.  Little Aubree would continually say to me what I always said to her, “Don’t Fall!”  I worried about her scrapping a knee or hitting her head.    And not only does Pearl hold my or Pops hand when going down the stairs, but when she gets to the bottom she looks back to hold mine for me to come down the stairs saying “Gramma, I help you”.  My worrisome thoughts rubbed off on them all through the years it seems.

All this time I thought I was dealing with anxiety, being overly protective, maybe not even letting my kids just be kids.  But I was able to let go.  I realize that when I was able to let them do their own thing, it was hard, but I didn’t do it alone.  A friend of mine told me once that God is the best babysitter you can have because He’s with your kids all the time, He loves them as His own, and He is all powerful.  When I was afraid for them, like when Gabby moved to college in a dorm room all alone, or when Lev went to boot camp, I could let go and remember that God sees them when I don’t.  I spend a lot of time praying for their heath, happiness, and protection from evil, and leave it all in God’s hands because He can do what I cannot.  It’s common sense, is it not?

Today I’m still trusting Him.  I cannot travel Lev, Kristan, and Pearl.  I have so many things I can and do worry about with them being so far away.  But, when I am afraid, I move my thoughts to the baby sitter, our Sovereign God.  He sees what lies ahead not only within their view as they travel, but for miles into the future.  He knows where every evil lurks.  He changes the course of lives to protect them.  I refuse to dwell on the things that could happen, because life has taught me that the majority of them never do!  God is a great Father, and He watches over His children out of a love so deep mine cannot compare.

I know there are parents reading that are getting ready to send their kids to kindergarten for the first time, and that is hard to do when they’ve been with you every day of their life.  I know that there are other parents who are sending their kids to camp and they’ll be away from home for a full week for the first time.  And yet other parents are preparing to pack up their teens and move them to college, sometimes far away.  All of these steps require you to let go of their hand, let go of control over their coming and going, trust them to be who they have been raise to be.  But as you let go of that little hand, take hold of God’s mighty hand.  When you are afraid, trust him.  His love for them is even greater than yours.  His control is stronger than yours.  And His presence is closer than yours.    

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Be Still and Trust





“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalms 46:10

It’s easy to get discouraged.  It’s so easy to feel depressed, anxious, and let down by all that goes on around us every day.  After meditating on this verse this morning, I’ve come to realize that we go through all those feelings because we don’t stop when we’re given those thoughts of discouragement and refocus to realize WHO is in control.

I’ve had many years of being a child of God, and I’m grateful for His hand over me to shadow me from the evil of this world.  But there are still times when I get discouraged, when things don’t seem to be working out the way I want.  At those times my first instinct has turned to ‘what can I do?’.  My independent nature, which this world would applaud, is my worst enemy in times like this.  It leads to putting the weight of the world on my shoulders and crumbling me to the ground.  I feel helpless, unable to do anything that will suffice to stop the worries and stress.

But is that God’s will?  Is it His will that I would worry, be anxious, have heart palpitations, bad dreams, and sleepless nights? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

His words are very clear.  “BE STILL”.  Don’t worry, don’t focus on the bad, don’t let your mind take over.

“KNOW THAT I AM GOD”.  Oh, you can’t really gain the full value of that statement without knowing that God operates from love for His children.  Knowing that He is God, almighty, ever present, ever loving, never forsaking, with buckets of grace that I cannot empty, and that He loves me and seeks the best for me...that’s what allows me to do that He says and “BE STILL”.

I don’t have to have life figured out.  I don’t have to know what the weeks ahead or even years ahead will bring in my health, my job, my family, my friends, my nation, or anything else!  I just need to TRUST God.  His love and His power can be my shield from all anxiety.  Every worry can begin and end in a split second – defeated – when I trust Him.

Walk with me through each day, Father God.  Keep me wrapped in your love as a warm blanket that guards my thoughts and heart from all that could come against me.  Let me hide in you from all that I would otherwise worry and stress about.  Even in the valley Father, let me find peace.  Amen.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul:’ – Psalm 23:2-3


Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Lesson on Violence in the World



"And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” - Mark 5:2-6

If you are concerned with the violence in this world, you should be concerned with the spirituality of this world. Take a lesson from this man whom no chains could bind. He was evil unleashed on the world. There was nothing and no one that could stop him. School shootings? He could have done it. Abusive to children? All within his capabilities. Murderous, deceitful, thievery, there was nothing that he would not do that was evil.

He was also suffering within who he was. He would cut himself and abuse himself, cry out in misery and pain. He lived among the tombs, probably wishing his own death would take him from his pain. And yet, no one could, or would, help him.

But...JESUS.

At the first sight of Jesus, the man didn't run away. He ran TO Jesus. He worshipped him. And not understanding the love within Jesus for him, he first thought Jesus was there, as the demons were, to torment him.

Yet, Jesus didn't do that. Jesus freed him! He sent the demons into a herd of pigs and they ran off a cliff to death.

Friends, if we want to do ANYTHING to make a lasting effect on the violence in our world now, we have to start with the hearts of those who are violent. We have to start with the children in preschool who will slap another child, the children in 3rd grade who will steal from another and deny it, the children who live on the streets, the children who find their happiness in drugs. We have to seek out those that are hurting and help them find Jesus and find freedom from the chains within them that bind them to the evil in their hearts.

The hands do not craft evil, so removing weapons doesn't fix it. Another weapon will come along.

The brain does not craft evil. All the gun safety, bullying prevention classes, equal rights messages, and etc. will not fix it.

The heart is where evil begins. A heart that does not love itself can never love another. A heart that does not love itself has never found the joy of Christ, and learned their self-value to the One who made Heaven and Earth. Change the heart - and you've stopped evil.

I'd like you to consider this from now on when confronted with someone who you find even a spec of evil in. Think about what they're missing and get them there. "Love one another even as I have loved you" was the message of Christ. Instead of showing anger, show love. Instead of turning your back in disgust, show love. Instead of condemning them to a life of self-hate, self-harm, bullying, violence, and worse - LOVE THEM. Show them Christ. His Love can change the world.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Four Men in the Fire


 

“So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace.  The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”  They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” 

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire,  and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.  Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” – Daniel 3:21-29

 

I believe God is in control of everything.  I believe He is almighty.  I believe He keeps all kinds of evil on a short leash.  I believe that the things that happen in this world are either ordained by Him, or allowed by Him, as in the life of Job.    

He could have easily saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fire.  He could have put out the fire, but He didn’t.  He could have pulled them up into a chariot as He did Elijah.  He could have sent an army of angels to close up the furnace. But He did not.

Instead, He allowed those that threw them into the fire to die from the flames, proving it was hot enough to kill, and then let His three children be thrown into the fire like yesterday’s trash.    

Instead of preventing the fire, which would not have even made the Babylonian Times paper of the day, He chose to go through it with them. There were four men, walking around in the fire. FOUR!  Think about that. 

What did it do for the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?  They had tremendous faith already.  They told Nebuchadnezzar that even if God did not deliver them from the fire, they would not serve his gods or worship his images of gold.  How do you think they responded when they saw the Son of God, man number four, in the fire with them?  Friends, I doubt anything later on in their life could have caused their faith to be diminished.  In fact, I think it grew even greater. 

What did that do to the faith of Nebuchadnezzar?  I can tell you what it did!  It converted him!  He became a believer!

Friends, struggles and trials are meant to draw us to Him, and draw others.  If live was a cakewalk, we’d never pray, never cry out, never see our need for a Father that will go through the fire with us.  And no, God doesn’t give the toughest struggles to the toughest of His children.  He treats us all equally.  It’s not about you and what you can take, it’s about you reaching out to Him.    

The struggle isn’t about our persecution.  It’s about how we walk through them.  It’s about a God that wants us to draw closer and closer and closer to Him until we can see Him in the fire.  It’s about who learns from our struggles what a great God we serve.  It’s about Him.  It’s about His love for mankind.

God still walks through the fires with us.  Sometimes He pulls us through without even the smell of smoke. Sometimes He chooses to let us bear a burden to show others how strong our faith is. 

If you’re in the fire, look around.  He is there.  He will never forsake His children (Joshua 1:5).  He is always there.   

Monday, February 12, 2018

Five Stones and Faith



He picked up five stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.” – 1 Samuel 17:4

The story of David and Goliath says that he picked up 5 stones, and put them into a pouch and went out with his sling.  But he also took with him his shepherd’s staff.

If you don’t know about the staff, you don’t know how he truly killed the giant.  Let’s just think about this.  How often have you heard of a man being killed by one rock? Hmm?  How often have you heard of a young boy with a slingshot using it as a weapon in a homicide?  Yea, it’s pretty far from what we see as reality, right?  If this appeared on the 6 o’clock news tonight it would be with a heading like ‘Incredible story of a young man who killed a villain who was tormenting their town with just one small rock.  More on that in our newscast.” It’s unexplainable!

Unexplainable, that is, until you realized what the staff represents.  The Shepherd’s staff was a tool of warfare for a shepherd.  It was used to fight off predators from the sheep he was entrusted to protect.  When a fight was done, they would often carve into the staff a history of what they had fought.  It was sort of like the old gun shooters notching their belts for the number of kills. For David, these were his credentials given to King Saul to allow him to go to war single handedly against the giant.  In 1 Samuel 17: 34-37 he tells Saul:

“I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death.  I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God!  The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

Lions and Bears defected, the giant wasn’t that scary to this young man.  Can you imagine being as bold as to chase down a lion or a bear and club it to death?  If you read that last sentence again you’ll see where his boldness came from.  David didn’t put his faith in rocks or wooden objects.  His faith was in God, and that was his true weapon!  He realized that it was the Lord who had fought those battles, and delivered him.  He was ready for the next battle because he again had faith that God would deliver him.

Friends, every single day we fight a battle.  There are battles inside us for our will over God’s will, battles around us for us to conform to the world, battles in the workplace for us to be silent and conceal our faith, battles in the marketplace for us to devote ourselves to the desires of the world.  Here a battle, there a battle, battles battles everywhere! More often than we should, we all lose battles. 

Today, remember you do not fight those battles alone.  You’re a tool in the hands of Mighty God.  If you will submit to Him, He will win those battles for you.  Pray and stay in touch with him.  Keep your faith in Him.  We can often lose faith in ourselves and our abilities to fight the temptations we face.  But when we recall, when we pull out from our memories of all the things He has conquered for us, the carvings on our shepherd’s staff, we realize that there is no fight God isn’t strengthening us to fight.  There is no time when He will send us to war alone.  You CAN do ALL things THROUGH CHRIST who gives you UNEXPLAINABLE strength! (Philippians 4:13)

Now, go out and watch the enemy tremble! Raise a victory banner over each of your battles! God has empowered you to fight!

Happy Monday Ya’ll!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Eyes Wide Open


“By now Balaam realized that the Lord was determined to bless Israel, so he did not resort to divination as before. Instead, he turned and looked out toward the wilderness, where he saw the people of Israel camped, tribe by tribe. Then the Spirit of God came upon him,  and this is the message he delivered: “This is the message of Balaam son of Beor, the message of the man whose eyes see clearly, the message of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who bows down with eyes wide open:” – Numbers 24: 1-4

Throughout God’s Word you can read the word EYE.  But if you’ll notice, it has two meanings.  Most commonly, we hear of the physical eye with which we see.  Exodus 21:24 refers to “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, and the story of Samson in Judges 16 talks about how the Philistines gouged out his eyes.  Yes, our eyes are very important to our wellbeing, but perhaps not as important as the second type of “eye”.

If you read through the Bible carefully, you will find that the eye also refers to spiritual knowledge revealed.  Back as far as Genesis 3:5 Satan told Eve that “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it” referring to the fruit of the forbidden tree.  They were already seeing, but not spiritually.  Psalms 119:18 speaks of these eyes of the soul saying “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.”  Balaam speaks in Numbers 24 after the Holy Spirit rested on him that God has given him “eyes wide open” that He would bless Israel.  The book of Revelation uses the phrase “and I saw” ten times in John’s description of the vision of Heaven he saw.  While he did not see with physical eyes, God allowed him to see it with spiritual eyes.  I Corinthians 2:9 speaks of what Heaven will be like and says ““Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

The singular “eye” is the spiritual eye.  Jesus says in Matthew 6:22 “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” The very next verse speaks of the eye being evil and the body in turn being dark, pointing to the spiritual eye and light is a metaphor for wisdom.

With our spiritual eye, we can see things far greater than the physical one can show us.  Spiritual sight comes through faith when God’s grace provides it.  Sometimes it comes in the chaos of life that we could not otherwise overcome.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a deep belief that is so strong that it is established in your heart even before you see it with your eyes, like that of an expectant mother who knows the sex of her child before it’s born without seeing it. 

I’ve been struggling lately with feelings of complacency, depression, lack of passion and problems making decisions.  I’m going through a phase of life that I think we all go through in our careers where we feel the need to make changes.  We want to fulfill God’s plan for our life, and also to see what else is out there for us.  My career has taken some different turns in the past few years, and I’ve seen God’s hand leading me away from what is tried and true.  I’m finally at a point that I believe I can “see” with spiritual eyes what He has in store for me.  Because of that I’m going to put in a lot of time chasing that goal.  I ask for everyone’s prayers as I go through this journey.  I need your prayers for clarity of my spiritual sight.  To walk away from what I know and discover something new is tough.  It’s uncertain.  But God has given me eyes to understand it – eyes wide open. If I find that He does not walk with me through that, then I’ll know that isn’t the path He has chosen for me, and I rest in His promise that He will complete the work He started in me and that He does have a plan for my future both here, and hereafter. 
 
May God give you all eyes wide open.

 

 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Mountains and Valleys


 
Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” – Isaiah 40:4-5

Our lives are filled with highs and lows.  Lately all around me there seem to be lows.  There are sick friends, children fighting horrible diseases, destruction of strong families, financial struggles, and the list goes on and on.  As I drove home yesterday God showed me something.  As I drove in the dark, which is something I don’t often do because I can’t see well at night, I was following Don’s tail lights.  But if he went down a hill before I did, I couldn’t see him.  I’d have to just follow in faith – and then a few seconds later, there he would be. 

Going through life is much like that.  We are sometimes in such a low that we cannot see over the mountains that surround us.  Or we’re on such a high mountain top, with everything right in our little world that we don’t see what’s coming up the mountain to drag us back down. 

Today, regardless of where you are – a mountain or a valley – realize these three things, and find your joy and hope.

First, God is never taken by surprise.  Isaiah 46:9-10 says that God has declared the end from the beginning.  He is omniscient, knowing all actualities and possibilities.  We walk through this life not knowing what the next moment will bring, much like my driving in the dark.  But we can all have faith that God has seen them already, and is leading us to them, and through them. 

Secondly, realize God has a plan for your entire life filled with mountain highs and desperate valleys – and it’s a good plan!  Jeremiah 29:11 says that His plan for us are for good, not evil, and they offer us a future and hope.  He knew us before we were even formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5), every cell of our body was part of His perfect construction plan.  Every moment, every single day is designed for you with a purpose that only the plan maker can fully grasp.   He will complete that plan, as stated in Philippians 1:6 “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”.  Look at the paths of people like Moses, David, Joseph, and Jacob in the Bible.  Their lives overflowed with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  But they became great because they leaned on God in the difficult times, and continued to follow him. 

Lastly, find hope in knowing that one day, God has promised to raise the valleys, lower the mountains,  make the crooked times in your life straight, and the rough places smooth.  One day you will see and know why your life plan was filled with potholes and ditches, as well as elevated days (Isaiah 40:4-5).  The glory of God will be revealed in your life if you continue to follow His lead.    

Looking back at my ride home last night, I’m grateful to have had Don’s tail lights to follow.  His vision is clear, and he drives home at night all week long.  He’s experienced at handling the dark, and knows where the hills are and the valleys, and the curves and crooks, the entire way home.  Likewise, God knows where we’re going to hit a bump and a curve will come out of nowhere.  Those are good reasons to follow Him closely.  What better guide can you have through this life than to follow the one who holds the blueprinted plan of your life?  Lean on Him in prayer in the tough times and praise Him in the good times.

 

 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Can We Be Holy?


 

“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16

I didn’t get far in my Bible study this morning.  I got to the opening page of BibleGateway.Com, and this was the verse of the day.  I’ve read it many times, but what does Holy REALLY mean?  I looked it up.  According to Strong’s Concordance (G40), it means to be “pure, sinless, upright, holy”.  Reading further it states that it means “distinctly of God pre-eminently”, “such as a kiss is a sign of the purest love”.  
But can we mere mortals be holy?  The answer, simply put is YES.  We have the ability in our own bodies to be holy.  Look at Enoch, who walked so closely with God that he didn’t experience death (Hebrews 11:5), but was taken up with God.  Look at Job, who is said to have been “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1).  These real human beings, just like we are.  They lived lives in this world just like we do with daily chores and jobs, health issues, problems of all kinds, and they were “pure, sinless, upright, holy”, and demonstrated in their lives that they were distinctly of God.

I also do not believe we would have been commanded to be holy if it were not possible.  God’s words in this verse first appear in Leviticus 11: 44-45, when God himself says: “For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth.  For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”  
Consecrate yourselves, setting yourselves apart, is what God desires of us.  He desires that “you shall be holy for I am holy”.

I believe as a people we have chosen to believe this is impossible rather than defining the source of the problem.  We do not want to fully obey God.  Obedience, at 100%, would be holiness.  But in our own wills lies those seeds of sin that we haven’t pulled out of the garden where we grow.  We choose to act out on our anger.  We choose to be greedy.  We choose to be prideful.  We choose to slander.  In all our sins, we have a choice, and we choose sin.

Sanctification is a word we rarely hear.  It means to be “set apart for Holy purpose”.  The Christian life of growth is supposed to occur in phases.  Just as humans we go through the phases of newborn, childhood, and adulthood, we are to go through the spiritual growth stages.  We’re to move from justification (being made right with God by Christ, 1 John 3:1), to Sanctification (obeying God’s will and being set apart for Him, 1 John 3:3) to Glorification (face to face with God, 1 John 3:2). What occurs is we receive Christ’s justification, but somewhere along the way we stop in the path of sanctification, choosing our own sinful will over God’s.  Grace steps in and allows us to remain His, for we are saved by Grace and not by our works (2 Timothy 1:9).  But our growth, like children who are never given proper foods to grow strong and healthy, stops. 

Friends, let’s all examine ourselves.  Are we growing?  Or are we frail and unhealthy children?  If we’re not growing holier by applying His Holy Word and His Will to our lives, then we’re not becoming holy.  While the command may sound impossible, we need to remember that with God…all things… are possible.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Tree of Life



“And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” – Genesis 2:9 

I was going through my personal email this morning, which is usually filled with store ads.  One had a necklace called the “Tree of Life”.  It was a pretty thing, with a gemstone wrapped in wire in the shape of a tree.  On the back the wire was wrapped in an endless circle.  God speaks through my email, I supposeJ, because he had a lot to say about this.

For many, the tree of life fades into the background of what they know of trees in the Garden of Eden.  There were two significant trees in the original home of mankind.  The Tree of Life showed God’s love to us, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil shows our love of God. 

Our love of God should have made us obedient.  But as we all know, we failed that test – big time!  When Eve and Adam rebelled against God’s command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they brought evil into the world.  In a perfect world that was sin free - except for satan and his demons - they started a rebellion against God’s will. 

The Tree of Life still stood in the Garden of Eden after they rebelled.  In fact, it’s the reason they were forced out of the garden.  This tree provided eternal health.  In Genesis 3:22-24 God says “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”,  therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.  So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”

On the surface, that may not look like a tree that shows God’s love to us.  But consider what would have happened if we had lived forever with sin.  Eating of the Tree of Life would have given us the ability to “live forever”.  But – we would have lived with sin – and sin would have abounded!  Since God has no fellowship with sin, we would have lived without God. 

Imagine a world where we were all left to our own sin, a world where depravity and evil reign freely.  A world where justice, mercy, and love were nowhere to be found.  Friends, the world is a sinful place today, but we cannot even grasp what it would be like without God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The Tree of Life was taken from us out of God’s endless love for us. He placed a flames around it to keep us from the tree so that we would have the ability to die, and not live forever.  But God did not stop there.  Through Jesus, He gives us back the ability to live forever.  John 3:16 clearly states how that can happen to you:  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.   Believe in Him.  It’s not just a vocal belief, or an “I’ll try anything once” kind of belief.  It’s faith.  As my grandmother said to me, “Pray to God and tell Him you believe Jesus was His Son, and that if you die, you want Him to take you to Heaven.”  Full faith in God doesn’t happen overnight.  We all grow in faith as we walk with Him.  But it all starts with that simple prayer and a simple belief in Christ as His Son, sent to save us.

The Tree of Life is given back to those that believe in Christ and accept Him as their Savior.  One of the most beautiful passages in the Bible is about this tree in Revelation 22: 1-5:

“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.  They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.  There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”

For those of us that have accepted Christ as our Savior, our eternity has already begun.  Like the endless circle on the back of that neckless, our live is endless – eternal – as John 3:16 says.  While our bodies will die, our soul will never experience death.  But for those that have not received Him, the clock is ticking.  Jesus says in Revelation 22:10-11 “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.  He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”  There’s a time coming when Christ will return and there will be no more choice of Jesus given to those that have failed to receive Him.  The righteous, those who have received his atonement for sin, will remain righteous.  But those that are unjust, will never be justified.  Friends, you have no promise of tomorrow.  This just may be the last chance you have to make a choice to receive Christ.  Your eternity could begin today.

And yes, I bought the necklace.  It’ll be a nice birthday present for someone.  J

 

  



Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Mothers Pain, A Father's Love


Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” – Luke 2:34-35


I recently read a mother of a man my age reminding her son to bundle up when he was flying home from a hot climate and to land in bitter cold.  It warmed my heart because I could relate to her feeling of love for her child.  The heart of a mother is always with her child.  Whether they are close or far away, we are always caring, loving, and worrying about our children. My own kids laugh because when they leave the house I always say “be careful”…as if they would be completely reckless if I didn’t utter those words! But that’s part of the caring for them. Sometimes, even when they’re in their 20’s, you can’t quite let go of their little hands in your heart.

Mary was no different.  This young girl who gave birth to Jesus had already endured such pain to this point in the story of His birth.  She’d no doubt been shamed by those that knew of her pregnancy.  She’d had to leave her family to travel with Joseph, her fiancĂ©.  Riding a donkey as tradition says, or walking (the scripture doesn’t say which) on her trip to Bethlehem at full pregnancy could not have been a comfortable one.  And having a child in a filthy barn full of animals without even a midwife was surely not how she imagined to give birth to the Son of God!  Yet, this was the plan for her life, and she accepted it. 

But can you imagine how she must have felt hearing Simeon in the temple express to her what she already knew! He told her that her child was the Christ!  Oh how she must have glowed, filled with love that only a mother can feel when she looks at her child. 

But then to hear Simeon tell her that “yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul ALSO”, must have taken the breath from her.  After all, the angel that announced her pregnancy had said she was blessed among women, favored by God, the mother of the “Son of the Highest”, and God was going to place Him on the throne of David. There was no mention of swords!

Moms, for a moment imagine yourself in her shoes.  You have your baby in your arms, now about 40 days old, full of innocence.  You go to the temple, a place to connect with God.  Then a total stranger, yet one that is renowned as a prophet, tells you that your son will be pierced with a sword – and your own soul too?  What would you do?  I believe I’d take my child and go into hiding, protecting him throughout all his days from such a fate.  A mother will do anything to protect her child, including give her own life. 

From His very birth, the love for Christ separated people.  It separated Mary from her family as her love for him was greater than her shame.  It separated Joseph from his hometown of Bethlehem when in his love for Christ, they fled to Egypt to prevent Him from being killed by Herod.  It separated the disciples that followed and loved Jesus from the rioting crowd that wanted Christ crucified.  And even today, it separates families, nations, and continues to create war. 

The good of God is at war with the evil of the world.  For Christ to be our Savior, there has to be something to be saved from. But what He is saving us from is ourselves – our own evil. 

You see, there were other mothers in the crowd at the crucifixion too.  Jesus’ sword pierced side no doubt ripped through Mary’s heart and pierced hers as well, just as the prophecy of Simeon had foretold.  But there was no sympathy from the other mothers.  Yet as strong as her love was for Jesus on that day, there was one love expressed that was even greater than that of His mother.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13

The love of Christ will always be the strongest love we can receive.  It took becoming a mother for me to realize what true love really is.  But I am convinced that the love of God is greater.  I cannot imagine the love of God, giving His son, allowing Him to leave the glory of Heaven where He was worshipped by angels, to save me from myself.  That kind of love is beyond my full understanding. 

Christmas can be a difficult time for many.  This year, rather than focusing on the stress of buying and giving, cooking and serving, coming and going, take time to rest.  Meditate on the love of the God that holds the universe in place.  He loves you enough to give His Son, to watch Him suffer and die, just so that He could love you eternally.  May that love bring your heart joy!