Life Is Uncertain…

As much as we think we have our days and months planned out, deep down inside we know that we really don’t know what’s next. My friend’s co-worker received word this week that her brother had dropped dead. No warning. Life is uncertain…
20150730_125154Really? Eat dessert first!?! Yes, I realize this is debatably good theology.  Yet, I think Abba at least smiles at this pillow and the idea.

Too often we take ourselves far too seriously. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man [woman], but the purpose if the Lord will be established.” Psalm 37:4 tells us, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

I often write here about tougher topics like our calling to Christ likeness, grief, making tough choices and the challenges of following the King of Kings. Today, I encourage you that at least occasionally we should “eat dessert first.”

God loves us, cares for us, and wants s to enjoy life and enjoy Him! So, I encourage you to let your proverbial or literal hair down and relax…look around you. Take a breath, even two deep ones. Think about what you like to do. Know that God made you to enjoy it!

Abba, Thank you for loving us. Thank you for the gift of life and all you have created around us. Thank you that our lives are not uncertain to you. Thank you for your many promises to provide for and delight us! Open our eyes to the wonders around us. Amen

I bless you with the knowledge of God’s complete approval of you! May you know in your inner being that Christ died on the cross for everything you may have done that is not approved and you are completely accepted! I bless you with the freedom to “eat dessert first” whatever that looks like for you!.. Because God is Good and His love endures forever.

 

Chickadees And Persecution

Fear not!

One day this spring, before “leaf-out day,” I was blessed to capture these chickadees preparing their nests for the next generation! They pecked quite a series of holes in these Birch trees. I watched in awe as these little birds worked, flying in and out more times than I could count. They worked and God provided the materials to get it done with only the cost of labor. As I delighted in the demonstration of God’s beauty, love, faithfulness and creativity, I was reminded of Jesus talking about God providing for us…so I looked it up. I was surprised to see it in context:DSC_0686_2 - Version 2

Have No Fear

Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

DSC_0685_2 - Version 2So often these verses are used to encourage us in “simple” needs. I was struck by the way these amazing promises of God’s love and care of us are sandwiched between the command to not be afraid of persecution on one side and our need to have unwavering dedication to God in the face of that persecution. Great promises in disturbing context.

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My first pass at this post was to use those promises without the context, making this a “cute” and “light” topic as we enjoy the photos of God’s creation. But I could not do that in light of our world today. The full context in Matthew 10 is one of violence and choice!

As our culture continues to shift, we will have more and more choices to make. Will we choose to please people, by going with the flow of the changing culture that denies God and His word? Or will we choose to please the one who made us by depending on Him to help us demonstrate sacrificial love instead of responding in anger, pain and hate?

Yes, we have to choose whether to blend in with the culture around us or stand for God. Choosing to stand for God will cost at times, but God promises to provide for us…like he does daily for the sparrows and the chickadees.
DSC_0684_2 - Version 2Today in my current life of ease I choose to follow my loving Creator. Today, I pray to stand with Him when it is not so easy, knowing I can not do it without Him fulfilling these promises, because I know if I am left with my power alone, I am weak. I hope and pray I remain faithful. I cling to His words:

“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows! [And many Chickadees!] …everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,”

I bless you with the knowledge that you are loved and valued by our Creator. You were born with a destiny to be a light to the world. You exist to allow God to love you, and love you, and love you, then love you some more! And when you are saturated with that perfect, unconditional love, you can let it overflow to others…in all circumstances. I bless you with the strength and courage to choose to stand in truth, grace and love in good times and hard times. Because Abba values you more than many chickadees!

 

 

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Optional reading. Here is a fuller context to the sparrow verses. Pretty? not exactly. Inviting? Not exactly. Hard to hear? Yes. Ask Holy Spirit to breathe on you if you choose to read it. And FEAR NOT!

Persecution Will Come

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

Have No Fear

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Not Peace, but a Sword

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Did You Get The Memo?

Who is in control...

If you are like me, I go about life as if I know what is going to happen today, tomorrow and, well nearly every day. I make my plans and execute them to the best of my ability. One thing I have little control over though, I am usually not the only one involved. Often enough other ‘participants’ did not “get my memo” that I am in control. =}

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Who’s in control?

It might be a no-show at an appointment, or a traffic jam that delays me, something broken or someone who interferes. I might get sick or a death in someone’s family can alter my plans. In reality, the possibilities are endless. So why do I think I am in control?

Several reasons I suppose, but the primary one is because we all are created in the image of the Creator God. And that, more often than not, gives us a sense of wanting to take charge…to put it nicely.

Yes our Creator placed us each on earth to rule and to reign over the little patch of responsibility and influence entrusted to each individual. We each have family, jobs, gifts and talents and areas of influence where we live our daily lives. By trial and error we learn how to work for our own good, the good of others and to fulfill our Creator’s reasons for calling us and placing us where we are. None of it by accident.

What I/we too often forget is: Who put us here, and why.

We are here to reflect the image of the Living God as only we can. There are no two of us alike. Each one represents and reflects our Creator as only we can. God is counting on us…. He knows we can not do it without the sacrifice of Jesus to connect us directly to our creator and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit when we surrender to their goodness.

It is that surrender that hands control of our every day lives to God.

So when I feel like other people or circumstances did not “get my memo” that “I am in control”… I pause, let God remind me as gently or as forcefully as needed to get me back in surrender mode. I get God’s memo: “I love you, I see you, I know you, I love you and I have all of this under my control! Do Not Fear!”

This does not mean that I do nothing or that I am a prisoner with no choice. I get to choose. This does mean I can do it my way and probably mess things up, or I can listen to God and do it His way. His perspective is complete and He knows me intimately. I have His life instruction manual from the Word of God and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to guide me to use the fullness of my being to represent God as only I can.

I love it when God chooses me with all my experiences and idiosyncrasies to blend with His plans to carry out His purposes. That is when I feel the pleasure of my maker!

Abba, I thank you for being The Good God! I thank you for being worthy of all my trust faith and life. I thank you that every breath I breath comes from you! I thank you for knowing every day of my life before even one of them existed. I thank you for loving me no matter what and for letting me chose to love and trust you or not.  

I need you! I desire with all my heart to walk in your ways to bring glory to your name. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…in my life first… then increasingly in every sphere of influence you call me to. AMEN

Letting Go Of Stuff, Not Memories

Trusting God

I am moving. I am not a hoarder, but 18 years in a three bedroom house, much of it with four people, there is a lot of “stuff” to be sorted, pitched, donated to charities, given to friends who will use and appreciate the stuff. My brain is fried by the end of the day. And my heart?19a3cc6d-15a6-433b-8156-8081e147017c

While there are moments of facing memories of all kinds each day, there is a relief when I let go of stuff!  Two full dumpster bags, plus extra bags of trash and furniture on the curb, seemingly innumerable bags to charities and the smiles of delight on friends faces when I give them things they prayed for or are significant to them….I feel the pleasure of God too.

How does this relate to trusting God? Webster’s first definition of trust is: “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.” When I let go of things, I am acting on my proven and growing trust that God is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc. My Creator loves me and promises to care for me. I have tested Him and found Him trustworthy. I grow in that trust as I practice it.

One of the cool things is, as learn to I trust God more, God and I create more and better memories together. And as I sort through things, I find treasures that I forgot about! Some to keep, some to pass along, but all reminders of the trustworthiness of my Loving Abba. Today, I found a DVD set of photos I had scanned a couple of years ago, but miss-placed. Yesterday I found some cloth from Chad that was a gift for teaching and praying there. That was an amazing trip! Thank you Abba for the memories!

How, specifically, do you find is God reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.? Take a moment to remember at least one time you knew God must have been the one who acted for you. I’d love to hear from you! 

Let Freedom Reign

Thankful for freedom offered

On this Independence Day weekend I am grateful for the offer of freedom in this country and even more for the spiritual freedom God offers us. The interesting thing about freedom is that it is not exactly free. DSC_0148

Someone has to pay the price for it, whether in personal service or in paying for others to fight in our place. There is always sacrifice on some level. The external fight against tyranny takes place at the arenas of open debate, polling places and sometimes on the battlefields. The interior battle for freedom is complete on the cross and in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is offered freely to us. His sacrifice paid our debt to God but we individually need to accept this gift and continue in the process of choosing to walk in freedom.

We do this by forgiving. We forgive others who have hurt us. We forgive ourselves once we realize how we have harmed others or ourselves. We forgive God. He never did anything wrong, but we sometimes blame the one who made us with love as His primary motivation, for things we imagine are His fault. Our perspective is so small we really can’t understand, and we feel the need for a scapegoat, afraid to take responsibility ourselves.

Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is releasing, letting go of offense. Yes, once we release, we often do forget. And that is ideal. But there are times when trust is not restored. The one we release does not change, so they are not safe people to be around. In some cases it is actually foolish to forget. We can leave ourselves open to future harm. Forgiveness does not depend on the offender. It is something only I can do in my heart and mind.

God’s authority to forgive is established by Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection. The process of freedom through forgiveness is simple to learn, but again, it is not really free. It does cost us. It costs us our life as we give our complete allegiance to God as we accept His payment on our behalf. We have been bought with a price, by the one who loved us so much He refused to spend eternity without us. He sent His son to die in our place.

Our creator has given us free will. That means we always have a choice to follow His ways or ours. This is crucial because without the ability to choose we are like robots. We are created in love and for love. preprogrammed to obey is not a demonstration of real love. When we choose to forgive we choose freedom and intimacy with the one who formed us and knows us completely.

Do I believe it? Do you? I do, but it has taken time and experiences to convince my naturally doubting mind and heart. The pains that are natural consequences resulting from my own wanderings away from the truth, compounded by the wanderings from the truth, or ignorance of it by others in my life have given me many opportunities to question the goodness of God.

Choosing forgiveness is not often easy. The brave in heart fight for personal freedom through forgiveness. For those who think they are not brave, God sends help to bring you along.

This weekend is set aside to celebrate the hard-fought independence of our nation. I challenge you to fight for personal freedom. Choose to forgive everyone God brings to mind when you ask, including yourself and God. No great introspection needed. Just a simple question. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our need to forgive. Then release the offender to let Abba deal with them.

If no one comes to mind then you are good for today. 

Celebrate our FREEDOM!