Friday, April 21, 2017

NO VACANCY !!

 
I haven’t flown anywhere in the last 10 years. Because I’m old and my arms get tired.  I’m sorry, sometimes I become a little ditzy listening to the spectacular news reporting of incidents where airplane powers-that-be have hauled allegedly innocent people off planes.  People have been threatened with handcuffs if they don’t leave, because somebody more “important” is boarding.  The plane has overbooked.  Folks are booted off if their baby is behaving, well, like a baby.  These passengers have tickets in hand.  Nevertheless, bump, off ya go.  I do understand that “small print” is involved, so yes, the airline ivory tower can reverse our destiny, no matter how kindly, or rudely, we may protest. Maybe the polite thing to do would be to send a preemptory “no vacancy” text to passengers to prevent boarding trauma.  At any rate, I’ve decided that possibly I might enjoy cross-country dunebuggy travel, the better to appreciate roadside scenery.

Actually, this overbooking isn’t a new-fangled idea.  Remember when there was a No Vacancy sign at the inn for Jesus’ parents (Luke 2:7)?  They were booted to less desirable accommodations.  Remember when Jesus spoke to the Jews, telling them that although they were descendants of Abraham, “My word has no place in you” (John 8:37)?  Sadly, there was “no room” for His word in most people’s hearts that were already overbooked and overflowing with earthly things.  He was the Son of Man, and He had no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20).

You know what occurred to me?  I suspect that some people harbor a secret fear, that they step through heaven’s door and then hear the booming voice, “We don’t have room for you, somebody more important than you just showed up, we overbooked heaven.  Sorry about that, but out you go!”

I confess that, as a baby Christian, that thought was dancing around in the back of my mind.  Thankfully, His very Word rooted out that unsettling fear.

My God, I am so humbled that You have securely and permanently saved me.  It’s not because I bought myself a ticket to heaven, but because my Jesus bought it for me.  By Your grace, I have been permanently saved (Ephesians 2:8).  It’s not because I’m important, but because You are sovereignly important (John 1:12).  You do not change (Malachi 3:6) and my Jesus does not change (Hebrews 13:8), so once You saved me, You will never boot me out.   You have not sneaked any “small print” into my heavenly boarding pass contract that could be reason for my expulsion. Because of my Jesus, I have permanently “passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

“Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:3).

 

 

 

 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

WHAT YOU LOOKIN' AT?




If you’ve ever been owned by a cat, you can identify with that sometimes creepy feeling that comes from a kitty unblinkingly staring at you with its intense guilt-and-fear-inducing glare, and you swear that kitty must be an alien subversively implanted in your house, like “pod people,” only cute, and with fur.

In a somewhat related way, decades ago, my 3-year-old brother once had a one-sided conversation with another small child in the grocery store.  He was installed in the cart seat when I heard him sternly say, “you quit looking at me, boy!”  Sure enough, another kid in a cart seat was looking at my brother.  No clue why, just staring him down.  And little brother repeated his demand, “quit looking at me!”

Yessiree, there’s just something about being stared at that automatically makes us defensive and on-edge, saying, “what are you looking at?”

In His ever-perfect timing, the Lord brought these instances to my mind while I was reading in Luke 22:61 about Peter’s three-time denial of Christ right before the crucifixion.  And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” He then remembered the Lord’s prophecy, causing him to fall to his knees and repent.  He didn’t have to ponder why Jesus was looking at him.

Tell me, have you ever felt the Lord “look” at you?  I have.  For instance, in moments of weakness, I’ve denied knowing Him by not taking opportunities to introduce him to others.  And then I see Him “looking” at me with His words -– “whoever is ashamed of Me … whoever denies Me” (Mark 8:38; Matthew 10:33).

My precious Lord Jesus, as I walk with You through this Easter week, I marvel at Your finished work on the Cross.  Everything You did glorified Father God by Your obedience to Him.  I see how important it is that I not only be looking at Your words in Scripture, but that I humble myself to be looked at by You, that You tenderize my sometimes stubborn and weak heart to be obedient to You, to be repentant of my sins, knowing that You are faithful and just to forgive me.  I know why You are looking at me.  It is to prompt me to obedience by pointing others to You alone for forgiveness of sins and to be reconciled to the Father. How I look forward to an eternity spent with You under Your merciful and loving gaze.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

WHATEVER YOU DO ...


My mother was born with artsy-crafty genetics on steroids. No object is safe from her bedazzling, sewing, or painting talent. Numerous attempts were made by both of us to activate my own gene, but it soon became apparent that mine was dead on arrival. It also became apparent that, as a teenager, I needed, what’s the word ... oh yeah, motivation! I had a tendency to do things halfway. If at all. I believe the biblical definition is “sluggard.”
This was probably mom’s motivation decades ago in presenting me with her wee painted rock emblazoned with “do it right.” She figured I’d carry it with me for the rest of my life and become encouraged to be sluggardly no longer. I have indeed carried it with me. Sad to say, the admonition to do things completely and correctly didn’t kick in until a few decades later. 
I’ve recently noticed several t.v. commercials pushing the idea that doing things halfway is never a good idea. I suspect the marketing directors’ moms were behind this. Offering a rain-drenched person half an umbrella, or painting only half the house, is rather obvious slothfulness. Diagnosing a problem, but not fixing it, such as a dentist telling a patient that he has a really bad cavity, then walking away, is downright cruel. Or telling homeowners that their house is infested with termites, but too bad, you’re on their own! The lesson is that people must be willing to do things completely, to do things right!
Mom’s desire that I not be a sluggard finally found its way into me via Scripture. Once the Lord saved me, I found it very comforting to know that Jesus was never a sluggard, that He didn’t have to be prodded and reminded by His Father “to finish the work” given Him (John 4:34). He didn't just diagnose our sinfulness, and then tell us, "you're outta luck, bye-bye!"  On the cross, when He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), His work was complete and it was right. Salvation was secured at that moment, to God’s glory.
My Jesus, how I thank You that You set Your face to do what You came to do. In Scripture, and by Your eternal life, You are an example for me. I’ve learned that whatever my hand finds to do, I’m to do it with all my might; that whatever I do, do my work heartily, as for the Lord; and that I not be lacking in diligence, serving You (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Colossians 3:23; Romans 12:11). I praise and thank You, that everything You do throughout all eternity is right.

Friday, January 20, 2017

NOT MINE!


 
Hashtags + snarky comments = how to do life in today’s world.  For some people.

Of course, I myself am not a snarky person.  Well, hardly ever.   And let me also say that I never-ever spout political commentaries.  Until today, because hashtags and politics seem to collide and procreate quite often on social media, and it’s just too hard to resist tiptoeing through the hashtags.

One of the most viral was the #notmypresident cerebral joy fest.  It’s yuge!  Uh-oh, I just snarked, didn’t I?  Well, anyway, no matter who the political contenders are, some of the townspeople are inclined to rise up with pitchforks and torches and if they can’t run him/her outta town, at least they express their dismay with great gusto, and marching.  Why?  Because the townspeople refuse to have someone as their leader with whom they disagree mightily.  Doesn’t matter if the contender is ultimately elected fair-and-square (or unfair-and-unsquared), the people still insist that this person is #notmypresident.

And since nothing is new under the sun, I believe that long before social media and hashtags ever existed, that same thought process was in townspeople’s minds, regardless if the leader was an elected president, a king, or a despicable ruler.  In the people’s minds, they’re muttering, “#notmine!”  But ya know what?  This rebellious attitude of refusing to acknowledge leaders is the same as refusing God’s sovereignty. "The Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and He sets over it whomever He wishes" (Daniel 5:21).

Remember Pharaoh?  What was his attitude toward God?  Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?  I do not know the Lord!” (Exodus 5:2).  Yep, #notmylord. 

Ungodly and unrighteous men “suppress the truth in unrighteousness …; even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks …; they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer” (Romans 1:18, 21, 28).  In other words, I want what I want, and if God doesn’t agree with me, well then, He’s #notmygod.  Frankly, the hashtag attitude is all through Scripture.  Men are wise in their own eyes, and if anyone, especially God, doesn't measure up, gets the hashtag eye roll.

My God, I know that You have forgiven me for my pre-salvation eyerolls at You, and my prideful rejection of You.  I refused to acknowledge Your sovereignty, and I refused to trust You.  I am eternally thankful that You saved me.  Please keep me from being wise in my own eyes, not expecting You to bow to my wishes, and to trust You daily, regardless of my personal and/or worldly circumstances.  I know that this earthly life is but a blip in time.  I want to be continually looking up in anticipation of that day when I’m face to face with my Lord Jesus Who saved me. And every day, I will humbly honor You as #myGod.

Monday, December 19, 2016

AM I BOTHERING YOU?




Over the last few years, my husband and I have become caretakers for my parents.  Their common refrain is, “I don’t want to be a bother!” They’re sure that they’re depriving us of a much more exciting life. They think they’re doing us a favor by trying to do things themselves (like driving!) instead of asking us. They don’t always tell us when one of them has taken a tumble, or spent several days searching for a lost object, or botched a recipe. They want to appear as strong and independent as possible. As much as we try to help them understand that it is a privilege, a gift from God, to care for them, they still worry about being bothersome to my husband and me. So now I sabotage their worry by walking in the door bearing groceries and start right off by whining to them, “you’re right, you guys really ARE a bother, we could be extreme sporting in his-and-hers barrels over Niagara Falls!” Thankfully, despite weak eyes, ears, and knees, they still have a strong sense of humor.
You know what just occurred to me? I wonder if sometimes I have that same mindset towards God, of not wanting to be a bother to Him by prayer, petition, intercession, or fellowshipping. Do I ever think that I’m doing Him a favor by not telling Him when I mess up, because I suspect He’s probably busier with more important things, and because I want to appear strong and independent? Do I really think I’m making His life easier by trying to handle everything myself?
My loving Father, You already know everything about me and my life, so why would I even consider holding anything back from You, the Creator of all things? Is anything a bother to You, too difficult for You? No. I thank You that I was given the right, through belief in Christ, to be called Your adopted child (John 1:12-13). In this Christmas season, and every day thereafter, I thank You for the scriptural reminders that my Jesus reconciled me to You (Romans 5:10), gifting me with bold and confident access to You, through Him, in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18, 3:12).  It is a privilege and a gift from Youto care for me!
Every day, You regularly call Your children to draw near to You. What a relief, and how I praise You, that because of the gift of Your Son, I know that I can never a bother to You!

Monday, December 12, 2016

FAKE NEWS, MR. ROGERS, AND ITCHING EARS



My hubs and I don’t have cable, nor do we subscribe to a newspaper.  We get our news from a limited regular-tv supply, not to mention the invaluable social media daily tsunami.  Most of this is ignored, and rightly so, because we’ve become aware recently of something hilariously labeled as “fake news.”  Apparently, somebody out there achieves great self-glory by spreading false information in such a way that people actually believe it to be true.  The icky fake people must be in a constant state of helpless giggling as they consider the potential gullibility of total strangers, passing on this creative “journalism” as truth, thereby causing their victims to not care about actual true truth at all.  Therefore, I took it upon myself to discover that one “ground-zero” person who is at the bottom of all this.  And now, after months of excrutiatingly thorough work, there will be a one-hour t.v. spectacular where I’ll share with you who’s responsible.  But you don’t want to wait that long, so here ya go --

It’s Mr. Rogers!  You thought he was deceased, didn’t you?  Nooooo, he’s still alive, skulking in back-room tobacco shops, wearing camouflage overalls, scribbling incendiary fake political commentaries, endorsed by the Russians who pay him in chocolate cigarettes and vodka, and

Wow, this is really fun, I see why people do it.  I sit here grinning to myself that gullible people will be reading this on social media, commenting with shock-face emojis, and sharing it with all their friends.  What a power surge!

Ok, enough of that.  Because right now, I’m thinking of the whole fake news issue from a different angle, and it’s giving me wheezes.

Just as there are sneaky people with questionable motives spreading false information to the undiscerning public, there are also people passing themselves off as biblically literate preachers and teachers, taking advantage of many gullible itching-ear people who actually prefer this fake news instead of the Good News, the true gospel.  And why would these fake teachers want to do this?  Because of the one self-glorifying individual behind it all, and it’s not Mr. Rogers.  It is the ground-zero “father of lies” (John 8:44).  He’s the one who, from the beginning, purred, “Indeed, has God said …?” (Genesis 3:1).

Fake news/gospel says:  God is love (and nothing else depressing), and He loves everybody because you’re all so sweet and adorable.  You’re definitely going to heaven, whatever that is, because you’re so good.  And the more money you give and the more niceness you show to others, the more you’ve earned your place in heaven.  Jesus is one road, AND so are Buddha, Mary, and reincarnation!  It all works out in the end, so don’t worry, be happy!”

Good news/gospel says:  God is love (and holiness and everything else awe-inspiring).  And He says that no one is good, no not one.  We are all disgustingly dead in our sins.  The one true God arranged for our salvation by faith alone, through His grace alone, NOT our own good works.  The Lord Jesus Christ is the only Way and the only Truth, and only He accomplished our salvation on the Cross, reconciling us to God.  And only by genuine on-our-knees repentance before God, do we receive forgiveness for our sins, and freedom from our sins.  It’s a narrow road.  Only those who come to Christ, and know Him personally, will see Him as He is, to live with Him eternally.  We’re justified, sanctified, and glorified.  Buddha, Mary, and reincarnation are hopelessly inept and incapable.  If you depend on them, you have much to worry about.”

My God and my Savior, how I thank You for Your true words in Scripture, and through the Holy Spirit, giving me discernment, and the desire to exercise that discernment, keeping me from being a woman of itching ears.  I don’t want to believe things that only make me feel good about myself and ignorant of eternity.  I want to treasure in my heart Your words that convict, encourage, comfort, and keep me hand-in-hand with You through eternity.  I praise You according to Your excellent greatness (Psalm 150:2).


Sunday, November 13, 2016

VARMINTS, CRITTERS, AND BIG RED MOONS


A few years ago, we were blessed to behold one of God’s more unusual creations on our back deck -- a varmint that carries the official scientific name of “Nutria,” which sounds like a faux sweetener to me. Said Nutria looks like a combination of a beaver and a Jurassic rat, and it belongs in Louisiana marshes, so what it’s doing in the Midwest, I dunno. We're accustomed to seeing feral cats, and the occasional skunk or raccoon, but this varmint was totally unexpected. It’s good to get shook up occasionally, especially as a retired person. It keeps the blood pumping.
There are many other critters that we take for granted, like cute little ladybugs, delicate butterflies, and pretty green inchworms. But the rare sight of a jungle-sized spider weaving its trap on my deck causes shock and awe, and a desire to move to Antarctica, where there are only frozen spiders.
It’s easy sometimes to take for granted the daily sun-sets, and moon-rises. I’ll never forget the day when my “laissez-faire” attitude towards the created universe was immediately changed. We were driving home on our hilly road, and there was a harvest moon so huge, blazingly orange, and low on the horizon that I swore it had landed ON the street in front of us. My heart almost stopped for the extreme beauty, and yes, even fear of God’s creation!
I’ve come to realize that in daily Bible readings, it can be easy, through repetition, to take for granted the sovereignty of God, and the eternality and dominion of Christ. It’s important for me to stop occasionally, and meditate on the times that people in the Bible actually fell on their faces when confronted with the majesty and holiness of God (Genesis 17:3), and of the preincarnate and risen Christ (Ezekiel 1:28, Revelation 1:17). There will come a day when “at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10).
Lord Jesus, may I never become a spiritual sluggard, thus taking You and Your sovereign authority for granted. Thank You for getting me “shook up” once in a while, to keep the proper perspective of humility before You, and to keep my “spiritual blood” pumping.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

FALLING OFF THE WAGON




Y'all try not to be jealous, but … I am the Queen of Klutz.  Most of my acquaintances know that I accidentally knock elbows, knees, and forehead all over my house, into walls and into furniture.  I’ve fallen off chairs, off my bicycle, off my front porch into a rose bush, and I even fell into an open grave once.  Don’t ask.

I’ve also learned that it’s possible to fall in other ways.  Falling off the proverbial “wagon” means, in my case, falling off a carefully-constructed diet plan.  This year I’ve been eating almost exclusively healthy food.  Yet when confronted with a huge chocolate cake, I tripped over its 6-foot shadow and fell face first into that pile of gooey wonderfulness.  That’s certainly not MY fault.  Is it?  Surely, being klutzy, and falling off things into other things, can be blamed upon The Fall!?  Good, we agree, now I feel better.

HowEVer … it’s occurred to me that sometimes, maybe, perchance … I don’t just fall off the wagon, nor am I pushed off by enablers with ornery tendencies.  I hate to say it out loud, but there are those rare times when instead of falling, I actually dive into temptations and sins headfirst, whooping with glee all the way down, like extreme bungee-cord jumping.  I hear certain people (sometimes just my own voice) chirp to me, “ya gotta have fun sometimes!”   And shoving away any common sense at all, I yell, “okay!!” and off I leap into my sin du’jour where wallowing commences.

I don’t think there’s anything in Scripture specifically against pastry sin (well, okay, there’s gluttony).  There’s plenty about using discernment in hanging out with (alleged) friends who may enjoy leading me astray (Proverbs 22:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:33).  Isn’t it interesting how we want to blame somebody else?  How about Eve!  Because just as she saw and lusted, then dove headlong into sin, I’m also prone to leaping off my sanctification wagon.  Yeah, it’s all her fault.

My loving, patient Lord Jesus, although it’s depressing to know that sometimes I obstinately choose to sin, it’s so mega-comforting to know that You understand.  You were tempted because You shared in flesh and blood, yet without sin (Hebrews 2:18).  My Jesus, please cause me, on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis to choose NOT to dive into sin, but into your grace.  Help me not to walk according to the flesh, but by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).  And how I praise You for the blessed reminder that there is now no condemnation in You, because You have set me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2).  Just as the Holy Spirit intercedes for me from within, so do You intercede for me from above (Romans 8:26, 34).  As I walk with You through the rest of my days, I anticipate less spiritual klutziness, so no more blaming allowed!

Friday, September 30, 2016

FROM YOUR LIPS TO GOD'S EARS


 
Remember days of yore, when you were a kid sitting around the campfire, whispering phrases in each other’s ears just to hear what kind of gobbledy-gook the sentence turned into at the end? Fun, wasn’t it?
Now, transfer this to adulthood, only there’s not 25 kids, but just you and another person trying to have a conversation. And it seems that when the words leave your lips, they take on a whole different shape and meaning by the time they enter the other person's ears, and confusion runs rampant, and you wonder why this person is so rude and annoying and insensitive!
Sometimes there may be legitimate reasons. I remember an eon ago, being a kid with teensy ability to stay focused. Mom would do her best to explain to me why baking toys in the oven was a bad idea. I heard only the first few words, because I was pondering whether or not a certain doll would fit down the toilet. I just wasn’t that interested in being obedient to mom, because I could only focus on having more fun.
Now that my parents are elderly, it’s apparent that words can misfire because of a genuine inability to hear well. Although occasionally, I detect “selective” hearing between them. One of them deliberately refuses to hear what’s being said because it conflicts with personal desire. I now see that life can certainly be a “circle” of confusion and misspent words.
So, it’s one thing to audibly hear words, and quite another to comprehend, to take the words into the mind and heart, to want to know what the speaker intends, to follow through, and to fellowship. And now I’m wondering to myself -- how do I hear His words?
What if I reverse the saying “from my lips to God’s ears” (meaning the speaker hopes that God hears and will answer) and consider it from His point of view, “from God’s lips to my ears.” If He’s speaking to me from His Word, and I’m not really hearing Him, is it because I’m preoccupied with the worldly “lust of the flesh and the eyes” (1 John 2:16)? Or because I’m choosing not to be obedient because His will conflicts with mine? Or because I’m listening to everyone else’s ideas instead of His divine wisdom?
My loving Father, please forgive me for annoying and grieving You by my rudeness and insensitivity. May I never, for even a minute, be like the people You warned through the prophet who “stopped their ears from hearing” (Zechariah 7:11), or turn my “ears away from the truth” (2 Timothy 4:4) in favor of a myth, or hear my Jesus’ commands and have no desire to be obedient (Matthew 7:26). You told the disciples to listen to Your Son (Matthew 17:5). You don’t mumble, Your words are very clear. I have no genuine excuses for hearing “yakkity-yak” noises from Scripture. You want me to know Your heart’s desire for me, and for me to have a joyful obedience to, and fellowship with You in return. I’m so thankful for Your continuing patience, truth, and wisdom, even in the midst of my “selective” hearing.

Friday, August 5, 2016

ARE WE COMFY?


Back in my youthful days, I used to wear size 7-1/2 shoes.  Over time, something sinister, like gravity, has taken hold, and now my average shoe is a whopping size 9.  Since “comfort” is now my middle name, no 6-inch pointy-toed pinching instruments of torture for me.  No sirree, gimme shoes with stretchy fabric and marshmallowy insoles.

Yes, being comfortable seems to become more important the older I get.  I want things to be easy, not hard, I want to feel good, not bad.  I had a friend once say, “what is life, if not to be comfortable?”  I remember cringing at that remark … yet, here I am, craving comfort in my shoes, my pillows, and my car.

But thankfully, the Lord loves me so much that He’s spent the last 3 decades teaching me that life is more than squooshy comfort.  As I’m learning to know Him, I’ve found that sometimes His Word is not comfortable at ALL.  In fact, more often than not, it “pinches” my heart. And the crazy thing is, this is one area where I actually WANT to be somewhat uncomfortable.

So I need to check myself, as I do my daily reading.  Am I looking only for the “comfortable” verses?  Or do I want to experience growing pains from His words?  If I’m opening myself to Him as I read, and ask to be taught and convicted of sin, I know that He will do it.  He certainly wants me to be comfortable and secure in His love, promises, and salvation.  But beyond that, He also desires that I grow up in Christ (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 4:15).  That means being willing to accept conviction and discipline.  I am blessed when He chastens me (Psalm 94:2).  He reproves me because He loves me, as His child (Proverb 3:11, 12).  Therefore, I accept the pinching of my soul and not reject it.

My compassionate, loving, and reproving Father, how I thank You that You have planted me into a church that doesn’t offer pinch-free sermons so that I can feel good about my sins (and no comfy spiritual shoes to walk through that very wide door to hell).  You have given me brothers and sisters in Christ who are able and willing to be the “Nathans” in my life (2 Samuel 12).  You didn’t save me just so I could have a comfortable life on this earth.  You saved me to glorify You, to grow in Christ, to do Your work which You have prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10), and ultimately, to be like You, and with You, for all eternity.  I praise You, that you have “opened my lips that my mouth may declare Your praise” (Psalm 51:15).