Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Vanishing Vapor

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” – James 4:13-15

I woke up late today – 6:30 instead of before 5 o’clock.  I had my usual hug from my sweet hubby at the coffee pot.  I came back to my desk to study and saw my work email was open, which is not as it should be on a Sunday.  I typically do not check work email on the weekend.  But today I did.  I had an email from our management saying that one of my coworkers past away at his home on Friday. 
Bruce Jones had been one of the first hired by the company, and was near retirement.  Everyone who knew Bruce liked him.  He was just that kind of guy.  He would start every conversation he had with me by telling me how great a developer I was and how I was his favorite, which was all flattery for sure!  But that was his way of letting me know he had respect for me, and admired me.  I was always willing to help Bruce with anything he needed.  We all want to be around people that make us feel good.

The last time I spoke to Bruce was late Wednesday afternoon.  He had worked till 1:00am that morning on several frustrating issues at a new client, and I could hear the exhaustion in his voice.  But there he was, physically and mentally exhausted, and still on the job!  He was trying to resolve another issue and had called me for help. 
We talked for over an hour, and he was too tired to understand the issue and solution and that just frustrated him even more.  His one goal was to give the client what they wanted and he was fueled by that energy alone.  But even during that call, he found time to build up another guy that works for us and called him “THE MAN”, and was truly speaking of his respect for the guy.  Bruce loved his work, but maybe too much.

Today, none of that matters.  Today sales prices, discount codes and discount groups mean nothing to Bruce.   Installing software packages with success no longer equals success.  Today what matters most is only what Bruce did with Jesus.  It breaks my heart not knowing who Jesus was to Bruce. 
James talks about how we pursue our own plans without regard to Gods.  He says in James 4:13-15 that we say “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”, making our own plans to fulfill our own lives.  But then he warns that “you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”  James says we should always be mindful of God’s will in our lives, saying “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 

We take life for granted.  We plan out our days, weeks, months, and years.  We set reminders on our calendars for things to come.  We look toward our own retirement, hoping to not be like Bruce and work up to the day of our death.  We save, we plan, and we push to fulfill our goals.  What James is saying is not that it is wrong to have plans - but that it is wrong to be so arrogant as to leave God out of them. 
God is the giver of time, every second of each day.  Yet of all to whom we give the excuse “I don’t have time”, God is the one we give it to most often.  “I don’t have time to go to church.”  “I don’t have time to read my Bible.”  “I don’t have time to pray.”  “I don’t have time for God.”    How can we tell the giver of time that we do not have time for Him?  How ungrateful we are, and how arrogant that we would assume He would continue to bless us with hours, days, and years filled with our ignoring Him.

Friends, it is as James said.  Life is just a vapor, and one day yours will vanish away unexpectedly, just as Bruce’s did this past Friday.  But eternity is forever, and there is a life after death.  Yours is determined by what you do with Jesus in this life.  Is He your Lord and Savior, or is He just someone in the Bible?  Take time to get to know Him while you still can. Make plans for your eternity – not just your life – and include God in both sets of plans. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Whipping Boy

“He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:3-5

When I was growing up there were certain parts of the story of Jesus’ torture and crucifixion that to be honest, I just didn’t want to hear!  Singing “There’s Power in the Blood” sounded gross to me, and hearing about how they tore out his beard made me nauseous.  No one wants to hear about these gross things!” I would think.  But then I was told about the whipping boy.
During the 15th and 16th centuries a prince would be schooled and trained by highly educated men who would often find the prince unwilling to do his schoolwork or cooperate with his tutors.  To put it bluntly, the prince was spoiled!  He wasn’t used to having to do what he didn’t want to do.  And because he was under the king’s authority, no one was allowed to punish him except the king, who would often be away at war, or fulfilling other duties. 

To punish the spoiled prince, they gave him a friend.  The friend would be a daily companion, with him constantly, someone he would come to love.  When the prince needed discipline, they would bring in the friend, and whip the friend, hence the name “whipping boy” was given to the friend.  Out of love for the friend, the prince would do his work and behave as he should to prevent the whipping boy from enduring the pain of his transgressions.
Jesus was chosen by God to be our whipping boy.  He didn’t choose him because He could not discipline us, but because He loved us too much to give us what we truly deserved – hell.  Isaiah 43:25 says “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, FOR MY OWN SAKE.”  God never wants to give us what we deserved because He loves us and longs for our love in return.  But a debt is a debt, and we created a great debt of sin.

Isaiah 53:3-5 says Jesus was despised, hated, ignored by man.  His life was full of painful moments of rejection.  We saw His suffering but hid our faces from Him.  We didn’t want to look at what we caused, and still don’t!  He bore our grieves and sins, and yet we see Him as whipped by God instead of whipped by ourselves.  Verse 5 says “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
Our response in return should be as the prince to the whipping boy.  We should devote ourselves to serving God in such a way as to never cause Jesus pain, and continually show Him our love.

The bloody stripes, the cuts, the pulled out beard, the holes in His hands and feet from the nails....they’re really not gross when you know what they’re all about.  These are signs of love, the love of a friend willing to die for us to prevent being separated from us.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Your Past Does Not Determine Your Future

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”” – Revelation 21:5

There’s a common misconception among both Christians who have become distant from God, and non-believers that you have to “get better” before God will again accept you.  You have to be able to come to Him in a less sinful state, cleaned up by your own means.  These folks tell themselves – and sometimes others - things like:
“I’ve got to quit smoking and drinking first, and then I’ll be saved.”

“I’ll get back in church when life is easier and not so busy.”

“I can’t come back into fellowship with God’s people.  They know where I’ve been!”

The whole idea that God expects more out of you than you can currently give is nothing more than a lie straight from the lips of the father of lies himself, satan.  We all have to come to God in the same way – just as we are.  Your past does not cancel out what God wants to do in your future.  Postponing your future is the best effort satan can put forth to keep you where you are – apart from God, and apart from a better life.

Do you need proof? Do you really not believe that God can wipe away the mess of your past and receive you as you are?  Hebrews 11 tells of some of God’s most faithful people, His chosen ones.  But their lives were messed up! 

Abraham lived in fear that someone would kill him to take his wife Sarah from him.  He lied – not once, but twice – saying she was his sister (Genesis 20:1-18), and even had his wife lie and say that he was her brother.  Yet God forgot their past.  God promised Abraham, in his old age, that he would father a great nation, and his people would be a numerous as the stars.  Sarah, in her old age, God blessed with a son, Isaac.  From these two began the birth of God’s people, the Jews, under the covenant promise he made to Abraham.

Moses murdered a man (Exodus 2:12), and ran from Egypt to escape punishment for his crime.  But God forgave him, and used Moses to free the Jews from Egypt, and lead them through the wilderness. God even granted him to walk through the parted Red Sea to escape the Egyptians, who wanted to kill him!

Rahab was a prostitute (Joshua 6:25).  But even in her sinful state, God used Rahab to save the spies sent from Israel into her hometown of Jericho.  When God caused the walls of Jericho to fall, He saved Rahab, and all that were in her house.  But it didn’t stop there.  Read the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1:2-16 and you’ll find Rahab.  Yes, God saw fit to allow her to be one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ.

Samson was a womanizer.  But even in his sinful state, God granted him great strength and used him to kill many Philistines, who were the enemy of the Jews.  Even when Samson’s sins got him into a fight with the Philistines and they poked out his eyes and made him much like a circus side-show, God showed up and answered his prayer and allowed him to pull the building he was tied to down on the Philistines and kill them and himself (Judges 16:28-30).

Jacob stole his Brother Esau’s birthright (Genesis 25:33), and ran to another country to escape Esau.  Yet God visited him on his way back and wrestled with him all night (Genesis 32:22-32), then giving him a blessing.  He fathered the 12 tribes of Israel.

David was just a shepherd, sleeping in the fields with the smelly sheep.  But God sent Samuel the prophet to anoint him to be King of Israel.  David went on to be King, and then became an adulterer, conceived a child out of marriage, and had the woman’s husband murdered to cover up his sin (2 Samuel 11:1-7).  But God forgave him, and said that he was a man after His own heart! (Acts 13:22)

The Apostle Paul was a murderer and torturer of Christians.  Yet God changes his life, gave him salvation, and allowed him to deliver the good news of Jesus Christ to thousands of Gentiles. He wrote 13 books of the New Testament.

If God is anything, if any one characteristic conveys who He truly is, it’s that He loves. He loves without condition.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God didn’t say “Clean yourself up, get rid of those bad habits, and then come to me, and let’s talk about redemption.”  Satan says that.

God didn’t say “Sorry, but I don’t forgive those who divorce their husbands and wives.  You’ll have to stop being a Christian now.”  Satan says that.

God didn’t say “You’ve been in jail, you’ve hurt innocent people, you’ve harmed those I love, and I’m not going to accept your apology.”  Satan says that.

God didn’t say “You’re addicted to alcohol and drugs, and you have no right being in my house without leaving your addictions first.”  Satan says that.

Friends, God says, through His Son Jesus, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.(Matthew 11:28-29)”  He offers a better way of life – now – just as you are.

Your past is your past, and we all have one.  I dare you to try to find a single Christian who doesn’t have sin in their past.  God says they don’t exist.  Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Oh sure, their sins might not be as evident as yours, and they might not be a socially unacceptable.  But God says that we’re all sinners in need of a savior.  We’re all in need of Him.

He will give you rest.  Rest from your past, rest from your reputation, rest from those voices in your head that shout out how unworthy you are.  He gives rest.  If you want a better life – it’s yours for the taking!  It truly is.  You just have to accept that He is your answer. He really is all that He says He is.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” – Psalms 34:8


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sovereign God and Oklahoma

“Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.  You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”  But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”  Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” – Romans 9:18-21

It is hard to reconcile a God that we know is all-loving with the events of yesterday’s tornados in Oklahoma.  As the death count rises, and more stories of being buried in the rubble of homes and buildings are told, we want to find a reason for this tragic event.  We would prefer to cast the blame for this on “mother nature”, global warming, Satan, and other entities both real and imaginary. We want to give God an out rather than believe He would do this.

But the fact is that God is sovereign over everything He created.  This too came from the hands of our loving God, whose character is not just love, but also wrathful (Isaiah 26:21), who seeks revenge for His children (Romans 12:17-21), who punishes those He loves (Hebrews 12:6), who blesses and curses as He chooses (Romans 9:18). 

When faced with unexplainable tragedy, we want to find a reason.  Often we do further harm by placing blame on those affected with statements about how they were sinful, or how it’s due to our nation’s sin.  But let us be reminded that Job was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1).”  Even though Job was without sin he was not spared from natural disasters. Fire fell from Heaven and burned up his sheep and servants, and it was a great wind that hit the house his children were in and destroyed it, killing them all (Job 1:16-19).

Job’s friends came to “comfort” him afterward.  They accused him of having sinned, and of the disasters being the results of God’s wrath.  In Job 5:17 his friend Eliphaz says to Job “Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.” His friend Zophar said to him in Job 11:6 “Know therefore that God exacts from you less than your iniquity deserves”, expressing that Job’s sin was worthy of far worse than losing all he owned, his children, and his health!  His friend Bildad was so bold as to question Job’s relationship with God, saying in Job 18:21, “this is the place of him who does not know God.” Job’s young friend Elihu calls Job a hypocrite, and says in Job 34:35-37 “Job speaks without knowledge, his words are without wisdom.  Oh, that Job were tried to the utmost, because his answers are like those of wicked men! For he adds rebellion to his sin;”.  But remember what God said?  He said Job was “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil”. 

The tragedies that happened in Job’s life were not due to his sin, and we cannot claim that the tornado damage and loss of lives in Oklahoma were due to theirs or this nations.  The fact is, we do not understand God’s ways.  His ways and His thoughts are incomprehensible to those of us who live time bounded lives in this small little corner of the world (Isaiah 55:9).  It would be nothing less than arrogance to claim to understand God’s ways.

What should our actions be toward God after yesterday’s events?  Worship.  It is nothing less that He deserves, regardless of what He brings to our lives.  He is GOD.  He is our Chief Authority, our Sovereign God.

“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” – Job 1:20-22

We cannot charge God with any wrong either.  All we can do is help those that are hurting.

Father God, we love you, and we exalt you now.  Our hearts are broken.  We don’t desire to understand the horror that has hit our brothers and sisters in Oklahoma.  We desire that you comfort them, and grant them all they need to recover emotionally, physically, and financially.  We ask you to make us vessels of your love to them.  We ask you to show us ways to help them and love them as you would have us show your love to them now.  Father, fill the hearts of parents and loved ones who have lost children, family, and friends, with joy unspeakable.  We bow to your Sovereign authority over us, and beg for mercy and grace.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.



Monday, May 20, 2013

The Same Love

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 15:5-6

I love going to Christian music concerts.   There’s no feeling like being in worship with hundreds or sometimes thousands of people who want to worship so badly that they sacrificed time and money to be there.  People are kinder there, and smiles are everywhere.  Though everyone wants to get to their seat, you don’t see people rushing through and stepping on each other to get here.  People don’t get angry at the long lines to get in.  Everyone has the same goal – to glorify God. 

Yesterday at church we were singing a lyric that I’ve sung hundreds of times, but this time God connected me with its true meaning.  I got choked up because I knew God had delivered a sweet nugget of understanding to me.  The lyric, which is from Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God”, says:

“How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God”

Here’s the nugget: When we all sing together of God’s greatness, which is worship, THEN we will all see His greatness manifested in us, and around us. 

Romans 15:5-6 says Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When with one mind, one mouth, all together, like-minded, sharing the same goal, we come together to glorify God - the room changes. 

Have you ever been in a situation where a certain person walks into a room and suddenly everyone is happier, brighter, and more joyful?  It may have been at work when a person who had retired comes back for a visit.  It may have been when a joy-filled, loving person shows up at a ball game to cheer on her favorite team.  It may be the newborn baby that comes into the room, or the one that’s been desperately sick and returned from the hospital.  What causes that feeling of joy and comfort?  Is it not that we are feeling love and all feeling it together?

James 4:8 says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  Worship brings Him near, even if it’s your individual worship alone in your own quiet time with God.  But let a group of His children worship together, and His presence can be felt filling the room.  Looking around at those worshipping yesterday as we sang, it was evident that God had drawn near.  It’s a beautiful thing to see people loving God, and His love shining on their faces. 

This is His will for us, to be united at heart in love for Him.  When we all love God, then we have true fellowship with Him and each other.  There’s an old hymn that says “Bless be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love”.  It’s what Jesus prayed for us in John 17:20-23, saying “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.  Three times Jesus prays that we will be ONE – united.  The tie that binds us together is love – our love for Him, His love for us, and our love for each other.

Philippians 2:1-2 says, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, FULFILL MY JOY by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” This is how we fulfill His joy – by being like-minded, having the same love, being in one accord and one mind.  And when that joy fills a room – you can feel it in your heart as your heart grows warmer with that awesome feeling of loving and being loved.  That is the greatness of God – His overwhelming love.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sold Out


Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” – Matthew 13:44

There was a furniture store in the town I grew up in that would go “out of business” at least once a year.  They would say they were going to sell out, and then a few weeks after their “going out of business” sale, the son would buy the business from the father, or vice versa.  It was a marketing plan, aimed at convincing everyone that heard of their selling out to come in and buy furniture.  As I read Matthew 13:44 this morning, it occurred to me that we are often like that furniture store. 

In Matthew 13:44 we read of a man who discovered the Kingdom of Heaven as a man that discovered a field.  Recognizing how valuable it was, that it was the most important thing of all, he was overjoyed at what he had found and sold all that he had and bought it.  The man was sold out to God, completely leaving his old life behind. 

There’s a statistic I heard this past weekend that 80% of all Americans believe in God.  But to believe and not to follow is not really believing.   If we truly believed in God, we would believe His word, we would realize that our lives here are short, and eternity last much longer.  We would be planning for eternity instead of retirement.  We would be seeking to know God, who He is, what makes Him smile, what makes Him cry, what makes Him proud of us, knowing we will one day be faced with Him on the judgment seat.  We would be sold out.  But instead, like the furniture store, we have the pretense of being sold out.

Most Christians in America do two things, and only two things.  They go to church, and they tithe.  They don’t read their Bibles on their own, and they don’t pray regularly.  Before you read that and feel accomplished because you do more than most, ask yourself if this is the measurement you want to use.  Are you really doing that great if you just skim by a little above what the average Christian does? 

We give our tithes because that’s what God wants from us.  But we’re not going to be like the widow who gave from her poverty instead of her wealth.  We’re not going to give till it hurts.  Our sacrifice doesn’t cost us as much as it should.  In fact, for most of us, we’re blessed so far above the tithe we are to give that it isn’t sacrifice at all.  We see it more as paying a bill that’s due than a way of worshipping God.  We’re content giving our 10% and never even give God a tip as we would the waitress at our Sunday lunch table.  We settle for doing what is expected.

We attend church because we think that’s what God wants from us.  At least, it is what people expect of a Christian.  So we sit on a pew once a week, expecting God to one day say “well done, my good and faithful servant”.  But have we served Him – really served Him - if we have not fed the hungry, cared for the widows, or visited those in prison?  Have we served by sitting?

In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus speaks of judgment day when all will be gathered to Him and He sits on the throne.  The righteous and the unrighteous will be divided as sheep and goats.  To the righteous, not those that sat on a pew, God will say “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’  To the unrighteous He says “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;  I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me. He doesn’t mention going to church as one of the things that made Him proud of the righteous or disappointed in the unrighteous. 

We’ve accepted what Man calls “Christianity” and neglected what God intends it to be.  We judge ourselves by the wrong ruler.  To try to please God and Man is like trying to play baseball on a football field.  The rules are just not the same!

Even now, some will read this and feel that feeding the poor, clothing those who need clothes and visiting widows isn’t their work but someone else’s.  We feel that this is going “overboard”.  We feel that this is for those that are “called” to that kind of work.  But it is our calling!  James 4:17 says him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin”.  God shouldn’t have to twist your arm and give you confirmation to get you to do something good for someone else.  Being a Christian is being Christ-like.  Jesus Christ is a giver, a healer, a provider, a friend – even closer than a brother.

Until we are sold out, giving all we have for the kingdom of God, I don’t think we deserve to be known by the name of Jesus Christ as “Christians”.  Isn’t that as misleading as the furniture store that continually went “out of business”?

Monday, May 13, 2013


"Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. " - Rev. 21:5-6

We often get into ruts that seem incredibly difficult to pull out of. It's days of same old-same old, and nights of tossing and turning, wishing for something better, something to be happy about, something to lift our joy out of the ashes. To that God reminds us "Behold, I make all things new." All new things begin with Him - not with us. HE makes all things new.

Back when I was in school we wrote our reports on paper instead of having them print out of a computer. Sometimes I'd invest hours in a page only to mess it up at the bottom - in INK. When you mess up, you don't try to repair the page, but you start over. You might can use what you have to make something new, but you throw the old flawed page away, and start a new one. Sometimes we need to take a cold hard look at our lives, keep what we can salvage, and crumple up and toss away the stuff that's messed up, and let God make it new.

He is a God of new beginnings, the Restorer of what satan has stolen from us, whether it's years, relationships, or broken hearts. He makes ALL THINGS new, but asking Him to do it alone without being willing to crumple up the old, won't work. To receive something new, you have to be willing to let go of the past. You have to fully let go of ownership of your failures and forgive yourself. Sometimes you also have to let go of broken dreams. Let go! Toss it away! Let Him begin a new work.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5

God goes way back with us – further than anyone - even to before each of us was born.  He knew us BEFORE He made us, BEFORE we existed as we know and understand existence.  Think about that for a minute.
He didn’t just know about us, but He knew US - individually.  He knew what we are like, the sound of our voice, the color of our hair, the size of our hands, the shape of our smiles, the sound of our sneeze, the quirk of our laughter.  He knew about our uniquely good qualities and gifted us with them.  He also knew our uniquely bad qualities and where we would have weaknesses.  Yet, He loved us anyway, and decided to give us life.  We were not accidents or randomly made.  Nothing is accidental with God.  We were each, individually, planned.  We were planned by the same God that placed 228 muscles in the head of a caterpillar.  We were planned by the same God that decided which trees should have blossoms and which should only have leaves.  We were designed with intricate detail according to His individual blue print for each of us.

All other relationships we can have are trivial compared to the relationship we can have with God.  He’s known us from before life got in the way of living.  He knows the date when we had our very first heartbeat, and He has heard each one since.  He knows the date when we will have our last heartbeat, and He will hear that one as well.
But His plan did not end when we were born.  Our creation was just “Phase 1” of a greater project: our life.  He says in Jeremiah 1:5 of Jeremiah that He set him apart, and ordained him to be a prophet.  But He didn’t just set Jeremiah apart and determine His future.  He set each of us apart to a specific plan as well.  Ephesians 2:10 says For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  It’s not just about Jeremiah, and not just about prophets or preachers, it’s about each of us.  WE are HIS workmanship – made by Him.  WE were created to be IN CHRIST, with a purpose.  God prepared a plan for each of our lives BEFORE we were born.

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle, each of us being a puzzle piece, with one space that fits each of us perfectly.  It’s a space designed by God, for each of us individually.  When we’re in that plan, life is perfectly fitted around us.  We “fit in”.  We are content, and at rest with life.  But when we try to fit Him into our plans, choosing a different ‘puzzle space’ or plan, things aren’t always smooth and easy.  We don’t always “fit in”.  Taking on a different plan for our life is more like hammering a jigsaw piece into place.  It may go down into the spot made for another puzzle piece, but the puzzle isn’t the same, not even for those that are fitting around it.  It’s uncomfortable and unsatisfying.
Jeremiah 29:11 says For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” How arrogant we are to think we can plan our own lives when God has had one for us since before we were born, and has predestined our plan in His great plan for life.  How much more successful we would be, not just financially or in happiness or relationships, but successful in the fullest sense of gratification, if we would seek His plan for our lives first.  How much more content, satisfied, and at peace we would be if we found the place where we “fit in”.

So many of us start new chapters in our lives at this time of year.  We graduate from high school or college, we get married, move to another town, or we take on new jobs and new careers.  This is the time to seek Him and seek His plan.  Only His plan will bring contentment, peace, and joy to our lives, and give us that feeling of fitting in. 

Friday, May 10, 2013


Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.” – Proverbs 31:28-31

In my honest opinion (of which I have many!), there is no higher calling than to be a mother.  God granting us His very own children to feed, love, and raise to love Him is a great responsibility.  He’s blessed me twice, having both a son and daughter that I love more than words can say.  But have I done a good job raising them?  Have I been a Proverbs 31 mother?  Eh…they haven’t called me “blessed” yet. But I’m not done yet! The Proverbs 31 mother is a hard act to follow.
We’re told that she is trustworthy.  Her husband doesn’t have to be suspicious of her actions, and she seeks to give him a good name, not tear him down.  Is there anything uglier than a woman who will openly criticize her husband?  Ladies, that’s like smearing mud on your own face.  You married the guy! In my grandmother’s words, if you can’t say something good – shut up.  Her husband is known in the gates”, and it should be that he’s known for his good qualities and his wife’s praise.

The Proverbs 31 mom doesn’t sit at home watching soap operas, eating bon-bons, and gossiping (ouch!).  She works!  She invests, she profits from her labor.  She provides for her family.  She buys fabric and makes them clothes, sells clothes to others, buys land and plants it, buys and cooks their food, and works late into the night, “her lamp does not go out by night”, to care for the family God gave her.  This woman makes sure her love for her family is shown in how she provides for them. 
Ladies, the old idea of the husband being the provider is just that – an idea.  It was never meant to be a burden placed solely on his shoulders.  Two become one – and half that load is yours to bear.  He is your head, your authority in the home.  But you have a job to do for him and your children.  Yes, sometimes it’s a thankless job with comments like ‘I don’t eat broccoli!’ and ‘This meatloaf is terrible!’, but it’s still your job, and a way you show you care.

The Proverbs 31 woman isn’t a petite little thing who can’t lift the groceries without pulling a muscle.  (I’m feeling the need to work out now!)  She “girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms.”  Yeah, she’s buff.  You’ve got to keep yourself fit in order to continue doing the things you need to do.  Good health is your personal responsibility to those that love you.  It’s not just for you, and it’s not for your looks for sure!  It’s so that you can continue to take care of them, and keep up the pace.
She doesn’t stop the care wagon at her own front door either.  “She extends her hand to the poor”, and she “reaches out to the needy”.  Do you see your children becoming selfish, and self-centered?  Try showing charity to others.  They learn by watching us.  The next time you see a homeless person on the street, take them a sack of burgers or a sub.  Your kids will soon feel the joy that you feel in helping others, and do the same thing.  Do you have a friend having trouble making ends meet?  God shouldn’t have to ask you, give you a sign, or twist your arm to tell you to help your friends.  If you show love to others, you get love in return.  Do you want your children to be loved?  Show them how to love.

She raises her children to be respectful, and behave well.  She “watches over the ways of her household".  I’m amused by moms that choose not to discipline their children. Moms, that makes about as much sense as an army without a leader and regulations.  How successful would any company be if each employee were allowed to do his own thing and not be held accountable?  We all need consequences for our actions – cause and effect.  The one reason I don’t stick my hand into the pretty, pretty fire is that I know it’s going to burn! How did I learn that?  I got burned a few times!  Teach your children that there are positive effects to their positive behavior, and negative effects to their negative behavior.  If not for yourself, do it for those of us that will have to live with them when they leave your house! We are to raise our children to be the kind of people God wants them to be.  God punishes the children He loves (Proverbs 3:12).  Shouldn’t we do the same?
Mrs. 31 is a sharp dressed woman, and makes sure her kids are too.  “All her household is clothed with scarlet.  She makes tapestry for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.”  Ladies, there’s no excuse for being a Wal-Mart mess – even if it is just a quick run to the grocery!  Your family should not be embarrassed to be seen with you, okay?  Fix your hair, fix your face, and change out of your pajamas and house shoes, and look like someone they would want to introduce to their friends.  (Unless, of course, you are seeking to punish your children.  I find a good threat of coming to the school in my “everyday” look can do wonders! J) 

But it’s more than what she does and how she looks that makes the Proverbs 31 woman who she is – the perfect mom.  It’s in her character.  She wears her strength and honor as accessories, showing what real beauty is all about.  When she speaks, it’s with wisdom and kindness.  She’s not idle – ever.  She’s the woman her husband brags to others about, and not just her cooking – but the whole package.  She’s the best of the best, and “excels them all”. 
But most of all, she fears God, and for this, she is praised.  She doesn’t do all these things just for her family, but out of a love and respect for God.  So what if the meatloaf wasn’t a hit! So what if the broccoli sits cold on the plate!  Colossians 3:23-24 says “whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance”.  God likes your meatloaf because He knows it was your greatest attempt serve through your love for Him, and your family.

hildren are a gift – a precious gift from God (Psalms 127:3).  Should we love the gift and not the giver?  A Proverbs 31 woman values God as the highest authority over her, and she lives and breathes for His glory.  This is why she corrects her children, watches over them, concerns herself with who they hang out with, looks out for their needs, plans their future, wipes their snotty noses, and does everything she does. 

No, I’m not a Proverbs 31 mother, but my work is not done.  Nor will it be done as long as I live. One thing I do know about the job of “mom” is that it is without end.  You can never be considered a failure, nor be considered a success because your work isn’t done till your children are gone home to God. All you can do is keep trying, keep raising, keep working, and keep loving.  And perhaps that’s the benefit of it all.  You get to keep being called “mom”. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Do you need a reason to believe in God?

(an exerpt from Francis Chan's book "Crazy Love")

“Did you know that a caterpillar has 228 separate and distinct muscles in its head?  That’s quite a few, for a bug.  The average elm tree has approximately 6 million leaves on it.  And your heart generates enough pressure as it pumps blood throughout your body that it could squirt blood up to 30 feet. (I’ve never tried this, and I don’t recommend it.)

Have you ever through about how diverse and creative God is?  He didn’t have to make hundreds of kinds of bananas, but He did. He didn’t have to put 3,000 different species of trees within one square mile in the Amazon jungle, but He did.  God didn’t have to create so many kinds of laughter.  Think about the different sounds of your friends’ laughter – wheezes, snorts, silent, loud, obnoxious.

How about the way plants defy gravity by drawing water upward from the ground into their stems and veins?  Or did you know that spiders produce three kinds of silk?  When they build their webs, they create sixty feet of silk in one hour, simultaneously producing special oil on their feet that prevents them from sticking to their own web. (Most of us hate spiders, but sixty feet an hour deserves some respect!) Coral plants are so sensitive that they can die if the water temperature varies by even one or two degrees.

Did you know that when you get goose bumps, the hair in your follicles is actually helping you stay warmer by trapping body heat?  Or what about the simple fact that plants take in carbon dioxide (which is harmful to us) and produce oxygen (which we need to survive)?  I’m sure you knew that, but have you ever marveled at it?  And these same poison-swallowing, life-giving plants came from tiny seeds that were placed in the dirt.  Some were watered, some weren’t; but after a few days they poked through the soil and out into the warm sunlight.  

Whatever God’s reason for such diversity, creativity, and sophistication in the universe, on earth, in our own bodies, the point of it all is His glory.  God’s art speaks of Himself, reflecting who He is and what He is like.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” – Psalms 19:1-4

This is why we’re called to worship Him.  His art, His handiwork, and His creation all echo the truth that He is glorious.  There is no other like Him.  He is the King of Kings, the Beginning and the End, the One who was and is and is to come. I know you’ve heard this before, but I don’t want you to miss it.

I sometimes struggle with how to properly respond to God’s magnitude in a world bent on ignoring or merely tolerating Him.  But know this: God will not be tolerated.  He instructs us to worship and fear Him.”

-        Francis Chan, “Crazy Love”